This Week in Religious Insanity: Rastafarian “Prophets” Burned & Bludgeoned Priest, Nun & Worshippers to Drive Out Demons Infesting Vatican & Liberate Africans
Kim John and Francis Philip, Rastafarian “prophets” — sent by God to destroy the demons that “infest” the Vatican — already escaped the death penalty once. Now they (and we) are waiting to hear their fate (their sentences were supposed to come down today, but we haven’t heard anything yet).
Both pleaded guilty last week to slaughtering a nun and a priest and setting parishioners on fire during a New Year’s Eve Mass in St. Lucia in 2000.
The details are worse than the summary.
As recounted by the Court of Appeal of the Eastern Caribbean Court of Justice (St. Lucia) in 2007:
“The events of 31 December 2000, which caused great distress and public indignation in St Lucia, were not the subject of factual dispute. The appellants entered the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, the principal Roman Catholic church in Castries, about 7 am, while a mass was in progress. They were carrying jerry cans containing gasoline and timber posts with cloths tied to them which had been soaked with gasoline and set on fire. They commenced to attack members of the congregation and sprinkle gasoline on them and around the interior of the Cathedral. Father Gaillard intervened, whereupon John threw gasoline over him and set him on fire. Sister Egan approached the appellants, remonstrating with them, and John struck her three heavy blows on the head with the timber post which he was carrying. The appellants fled from the church, but were apprehended and arrested a short time later. Sister Egan died the same day from brain damage caused by the blows to her head. Father Gaillard was seriously burned and sustained in consequence a pulmonary embolism on 19 April 2001, from which he died that day.”
Sentenced to death in 2003, the killers saw their convictions overturned on the basis that they were insane, and were retried; both pleaded guilty to manslaughter last week. (According to Caribbean 360, “John and Philip no longer face the death penalty, since murder convicts whose appeals last longer than five years automatically face life sentences.”)
During the appeals process, John submitted a statement explaining his actions: “The reason why I did that is for equal rights and justice and for the Freedom of my nation. Around March of this year, 2000, I heard a voice which called out to me twice, ‘Ises’ which is my Rasta name. The voice came from near, I also heard it from far at the same time. When I heard the voice, it shook me from within so I fell down on my knees and started to give praise.” Philip gave a similar statement, which ended: “What happen in the church just had to happen and that was the time.”
The court noted: “The appellants are adherents of Rastafarianism. Rastafarians entertain an adverse view of the Roman Catholic Church, but the medical witnesses were not in agreement on the question whether the appellants’ views, which were hostile in the extreme to Roman Catholicism, diverged so far from mainstream Rastafarian philosophy as to constitute delusions.”
In another statement, John lamented the plight of “black people, Africans home and abroad, scattered in the four corners of the world under the sphere of colonialism, prejudices, selfish people, bare faced liars, under the European law led by Queen Elizabeth II and Pope John Paul II.
“We are children of the slaves, who were enslaved 400 years by the same European law and order which is the crown representative, England had in hand with the Vatican. … We promote deaths under the small license and resistance of Roman Catholic and the Crown.”
The rambling statement becomes more disjointed as it continues; e.g.: “We see the Blood banks, Red Cross sucking the blood of the sufferers every day for black people living in a strange land which they say they are St. Lucian’s and are not. They are Africans.
“We see blood transfusions, children born through mal nourishment [sic], while the big man is at his home, eating his Kellogg’s and Wheatabix for breakfast. For lunch, he drinks his champagne and crossing his legs and laugh, ‘ha, ha, ha’, because he makes the law.”
One of John’s greatest concerns, however, appears to be the inability to smoke marijuana freely: “We will burn down the city and all lock ups where we suffer our worst every day for the having marijuana in our possession and crack and cocaine, prostitution, guns, brutalization have been our dearest friend from society and if we not free to smoke, which belongs to I and I marijuana in peace away from your privacy, which we have none at this time, so we need to repatriate each other living in love on mountains where we will plant and be with creation once more.”
The statement ends with a threat: “We know that all guns are aiming at we but we will not give up the fight until equal rights and justice is given to the poor so burn a fire on the pope of Vatican and the Queen of England for crimes against humanity which is of the black race — African.”
The court of appeals detailed the results of a psych evaluation:
“In the course of his examination Phillip said that he had special powers and had missions to complete. He was the son of the Most High. He came from Ethiopia and one of the places that he went to execute his mission was infested with demons from the Vatican. Dr Crentsil asked him several times if he had auditory or visual hallucinations. Phillip answered variously Yes and No to the same question when repeated and said that he was directed by some people to do his mission. While Dr Crentsil was examining him Phillip was singing and chanting, which he said he was doing for directions.
“Dr Mahy stated that he had dealt with lots of cases involving Rastafarians and was well aware of their beliefs. He expressed the conclusion that neither appellant was under any delusion or suffering from any psychiatric disorder. He defined a delusion as an idea that is false, fixed and out of keeping with a culture, religion, ethnicity etc. Their beliefs were in his opinion consistent with Rastafarian philosophy and they knew what they were doing and the consequences of their actions. He was satisfied that they understood that it was against the law of the land to do what they did. He considered that the appellants’ expressed ideas about being freedom fighters, having a mission to liberate African people, and about the uplifting of the Caribbean people and the fall of wicked people, were normal Rastafarian language and an extension of their philosophy. … When John said that he heard a voice from the Most High, that was not a hallucination.”
A third doctor disagreed, and, assessing “Phillip as mildly mentally retarded and John as being in the average low range,” opined that the killers were were both suffering from “a delusional disorder, paranoid type” and implied that the two shared a folie á deux. He cited several statements by the men, e.g.:
John: “Roman rules Castries. Rome is right here. The Cathedral church in St Lucia is the Vatican. The Vatican is entirely evil. The Vatican is responsible for the bad things that happens in St Lucia. The Vatican exploits sufferers. The Cathedral church enforces [law] in St Lucia.”
Continued the court: “Professor Griffin considered that the appellants had faith superficial links with Rastafarianism, but in Phillip’s case the link went only as far as fragments of various songs. John told him that he had gotten visions from Haile Selassie which drove him to his knees, showing him the destruction of the wicked by fire.”
In addition, Philip “described himself as a freedom fighter, having a ‘mission’ from Jah Rastafari, connected with the liberation of people to whom he referred alternately as African and Rastafarian. His mission was inspired by a vision from His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie. He was chosen ‘from the beginning of time’. He believed that the Vatican was responsible for their enslavement and that his mission was to stop it. His mission was accomplished by putting down ‘obstacles’, the Vatican being the obstacle. His delusions did not allow remorse, fear for the future or change of heart. He said:
“‘They will call us criminal, but we know that we are right and perfect in the eyes of the Almighty, who are them to judge us … No innocent got hurt. The innocent could never suffer in this judgment.’”
In the end, we are reminded of Christopher Dorner: Regardless of the validity of any of his complaints, none of these men is a hero for his “cause.” No matter how you have been wronged, or perceive you have been wronged, resorting to murder does not make you a hero. It only makes you a murderer. And there is no redemption, ever, for the murder of innocents.
Ta-Nehisi Coates is one of the few journalists who is saying what needs to be said:
The urge to make myth, to try and redeem humans who commit immoral acts under the flag of moral causes, is understandable. It’s understandable in those who look at Jesse James and see not the straight white supremacist, but the scourge of greedy bankers and acquisitive industrialists against whom, it seemed, none could stand. And it’s more understandable among a people disproportionately brutalized by the police who look at Christopher Dorner, and see not a murderer but a plague on a police force that is, itself, above the law.
But those who would form hard arguments based on myth need to confront something — Christopher Dorner was a murderer:
Four days before her death, Monica Quan had news for her team. Quan, an assistant coach at Cal State Fullerton, held up her hand to show off an engagement ring. The players screamed and huddled around her for a closer look, head coach Marcia Foster recalled. Quan was as happy as her basketball players, and later said she wished she had recorded the moment. She loved to have pictures taken with her friends. She wanted a big wedding, and her fiance, Keith Lawrence, a public safety officer at USC, was trying to work extra hours to make it possible. …
And what of the families of Father Gaillard and Sister Egan? And what of the parishioners, who will bear lifelong, indelible scars, both physical and worse, for the “cause” of a couple of murderous religionists?
What did John and Philip’s horrific attack achieve?
What did Dorner’s murderous rampage achieve?
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