August 30, 2007

"Friends of Jesus" (Kenya) Demands Courts Overturn Christ's Conviction

No one religion has a monopoly on "the wacky." Extremism comes in every flavor, from Islam-derived shariah to Hasidic Jews throwing stones at cars driven in Brooklyn during their sabbath to grand high poobah witches leaving bags of animal entrails on the doorsteps of their rivals in Salem.

Another good example of how wacky — and violent — religious extremists can get comes to us today from Kenya, a country which seems to have become a breeding ground for bizarre and violent sects over the past couple of decades. This particular cult calls itself Friends of Jesus, or FOJ for short, and they're now demanding that the courts in Kenya reach back a couple of millennia to overturn the conviction of their friend by Pilate and declare the crucifiction illegal. What's more, they have a lawyer who makes a very interesting suggestion about the penalty for not recognizing that Jesus wasn't a criminal.

Jesus' conviction 'null, void'

Nairobi - A case on behalf of Jesus Christ has come knocking on Kenya's High Court door, lodged by a fervent Christian group who wants his conviction declared "null and void" and his Crucifixion "illegal." ...

The petition was filed on Monday with the court registrar, raising a novel set of jurisprudence quandaries - not the least of which involved the statute of limitations and whether the high court had jurisdiction over the "Son of God"...

Little is known about FOJ, which did not proselytise and was reticent about its numbers, saying they could not be counted in figures, but in "the many who are ready to heed the Jesus teaching and be his friend".

It was a Nairobi group that included lawyers and wealthy businessmen who viewed their worldly fortune in this east African country, where half the population lived below the poverty line as a gift from God.

Indindis said that they wanted "the court to declare Jesus' trial null and void ... because the (ancient) court that convicted Him was not properly constituted, the prosecutors violated the law of the time and the trial was a sham".

The FOJ's lawyer Humprey Odanga said Jesus' Crucifixion was a wrongful punishment for a trial based on charges of "blaspheming the Holy Spirit" and should be corrected by modern law...

The case had triggered a buzz in Kenyan legal circles that sounded at times stranger than fiction, with Kenyan attorneys conceding that - in pure legal terms - the FOJ's complaint was legitimate but disagreeing on whether it was admissible in Kenyan courts.

Nairobi constitutional lawyer Albert Kuloba, for one, said the "FOJ should have filed it in the International Criminal Court (in The Hague) which has the mandate to hear that case."..

However, the FOJ was determined. One member said: "We need the court to clarify, for the record, that Jesus was not a criminal. He advocated for the rule of law. Do you mean to worship a convicted criminal?"

And the group has carefully laid out its case.

Odanga said under the Torah, or Jewish law based notably on the Biblical Old Testament books of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy, if a man blasphemes the Holy Spirit he must be stoned to death.
There's an implication here that if one refuses to acknowledge that Jesus wasn't a criminal, one is blaspheming and should be stoned to death. That shouldn't come as much of a surprise to anyone who keeps abreast of other primitivist extremist faith-based organizations. Stoning has been a viable penalty for certain "crimes" (e.g., getting raped by one's cousin and attempting to report it) in Middle Eastern and other countries that have had the misfortune of being infested with Islamic fundamentalists. Why shouldn't we expect something similar from proponents of closely-related Christian fundamentalism as well?

The whole idea of needing to have a court case to overturn the conviction of a figure who may or may not have existed historically before the courts of a sovereign power that hasn't existed for more than 1,500 years in just as ridiculous. Who would represent either side? What kind of evidence could be produced for any of this, or even that it happened at all? This is precisely what one expects when one takes stories in some book as being factual on the basis of faith. Faith cannot produce facts; any competent legal system demands them. There is no place for testimony based on faith in a court of law outside of a religious court of law, which arguably isn't a legal body but a theological one. This isn't a case for the courts of Kenya, nor is it one for the International Criminal Court. This is something that perhaps could have been brought before the courts of the Inquisition, or perhaps could be debated between seminary students.

At some point, whatever is left of the civilized, rational world needs to stop giving in to the bizarre demands of cultists, regardless of the size of their cults' memberships. People like the Friends of Jesus deserve to be laughed at, and perhaps need to be medicated to stop the voices, and that's about it. Were it not for the threat of violence embodied in statements like that made by Odanga, there'd be no reason to pay attention to these sorts of loonies at all.

With Friends like these, who needs enemies?

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