Is seems the Freedom From Religion Foundation is going after Harold Camping.
I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand sure, this guy should be made an example of but on the other hand, if people were dupped, than it is their own fault.
The full article can be read here and below. What are your thoughts? Should he be held accountable?
The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter, dated May 31, to California Attorney General Kamala Harris, saying "untold numbers of people" have been duped by Camping and Family Radio.
"Camping convinced droves of his loyal listeners and adherents that the end of the world was rapidly approaching and that people had only until May 21, 2011, to 'find' religion," FFRF wrote, as it asked Harris to launch a probe for fraud and deceit.
"Our organization seeks to hold Camping accountable in a more tangible way."
The organization, based in Madison, Wis., accuses 89-year-old Camping of capitalizing on his followers' fears and enlisting their pocketbooks in order to spread his doomsday message to the rest of the world, spending more than $100 million on ads.
FFRF is refusing to wait until November, when Family Radio's 2010 tax returns would be available to the public, to know how the millions of dollars in contributions have been allocated by Family Radio.
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"The California Attorney General's Office has a duty to protect the public from predatory charities, and we hereby request that the Charitable Trusts Section investigate and, if appropriate, take legal action against Family Stations Inc., for its potential fraudulent misuse of charitable assets."
Camping is president and co-founder of Family Stations Inc. Over the past few decades, the broadcaster has made several predictions about when the world would come to an end. In his latest forecast, Camping said May 21 would be the day true believers are raptured to heaven while the rest of the world suffers the beginning of Judgment Day.
After that day passed, Camping offered several excuses and revealed his new conviction that Judgment Day came on the world spiritually and not physically, as he had originally predicted, and that the rapture and apocalypse would happen on the same day – Oct. 21, 2011.
When pressed about money, Camping defended himself and the organization last month, maintaining that they are "absolutely honest" and that the money is being used wisely to spread the Gospel.
He said he works as a volunteer and doesn't receive compensation from Family Radio.
But several of Camping's followers have come out, revealing that they spent their life savings, contributed significantly or quit their jobs for the May 21 doomsday campaign. When asked to return the money to them, Camping replied, "Why would we return it?"
"We're not out of business. We still have to go another five months. ... Maybe by Oct. 21 we'll only have $10 left."
FFRF questioned whether Camping and Family Stations really even believed the prediction. Leading up to May 21, Family Radio requested an extension in Minnesota to file their nonprofit paperwork on Nov. 15, FFRF pointed out. Moreover, employees at Family Stations had fully expected to return to work the Monday after the supposed rapture date and continued to solicit donations.
Notably, a number of employees at Family Radio, including Matt Tuter, have said that most of them do not believe in Camping's predictions.
Nevertheless, FFRF contends that Camping may have committed deceit or fraud "in persuading his followers to donate often large sums of money to his organization based on a claim ... while objectively conducting his business as though he knew it to be untrue."
"The magnitude of the devastation wreaked upon the lives and livelihoods of Camping's and Family Stations' followers warrants attention by the office charged with protecting the public against the illegal actions of corporations and nonprofits," FFRF asserted in its letter.
"If self-proclaimed 'prophets' are fraudulently enriching their coffers at the expense of their impressionable members, the Attorney General's Office must take action."
Last month, Seattle Atheists also called for an investigation for fraud, noting the suicides and the negative impact that the May 21 rapture dud has had.
I don't think so, but I know I'm going to be in the minority. I think Camping is a despicable human being and think people should wake up and stop giving him money, but this kind of thing happens in churches all the time. Maybe not to this degree, but people are frequently encourage to give until it hurts and just trust their deity to take care of them. When you boil it down to the essence, religion is about money.
These folks aren't unlike hardcore gamblers, willing to bet the mortgage money (or the house) on a roll of the dice. You can't sue casinos because an idiot lost his rent money or his kids' college fund. I feel badly for those caught up in this, especially the kids, but I think FFR should spend its money elsewhere.
We can reason by analogy. The tobacco industry conducted a campaign of lies and fraud, intending to deceive the public for reasons of profit. They were sued, they lost, they paid.
Camping deceived the public and many people were injured thereby. The questions we have to ask are these:
1) Did Camping deceive intentionally? Did he intend harm?
Not only would it be difficult to prove that he did, but I rather suspect that he didn't.
2) Did his actions cause harm?
This is less difficult to prove. Some people were convinced by Camping and gave away all their possessions and money. That they were then not taken up by the non-existent Rapture caused them harm.
3) Was this harm a foreseeable result of his actions?
I believe he shouted fire in a crowded theater, and the case for criminal action would hinge on proving that he knew there was no fire. The case for civil action would be different, and I think it would hinge on the plaintiff proving that Camping's actions caused harm and that that harm was foreseeable, and the defense would hinge on proving that the alternative would have been worse and that Camping believed this and that he was reasonable to believe it. I don't think it's possible to prove that the Rapture, even if it's reasonable to believe it's imminent, necessitates the announcement of the Rapture and advice to do things like give up all your possessions, in the event that you might be wrong.
That said, I'm not even a little bit a lawyer and my musings are mostly based on having watched every season of the original Law & Order, plus a little bit of reading on the interwebs.
Armed robbers take advantage of those unable to physically defend themselves. That doesn't mean somebody shouldn't go after such criminals.
Scam artists take advantage of those unable to mentally defend themselves. That doesn't mean somebody shouldn't go after such criminals.
Maybe it's time to bring back the bunco unit. But it won't happen because there'd be no way to do it without going after all types of religion. (Not to mention the "alternative medicine" industry that seems to have been completely embraced by "big pharma".)