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« Condolences | Main | Different Timetables »

Religious Persecution

That is, persecution by a "religion." Keith Henson needs your help:

The petition I asked you to sign asks Schwarzenegger to pardon Keith or commute his sentence. Ask for what you want, but I think she is right that humanitarian and compassionate grounds are best right now, for whichever boon you wish to request.

His full name is Howard Keith Henson, awaiting a hearing in the Yavapai Superior Court, jailed in the Yavapai Detention Center, where last night he was kept awake till 2 while another inmate rolled around in agony from kidneystones, then was taken to the infirmary and given aspirin. Then Keith was awakened at 4 a.m. for blood pressure check and meds--which we're glad he got, but 2-4 hours of sleep a night in an extremely noisy dormitory, with no contact lens supplies to clean his lenses, and no blanket in a jail where even the young people complain of the cold (over airconditioned in the daytime, down to the 40s at night here in the mountains). His blood pressure has continued dangerously high for some days. The worst thing about Riverside, of course, where he appears to be headed now is not the weather or the lack of supplies (or having to write with only a stub of a pencil because pens or regular-sized pencils are not allowed) but the control of $cientology over the jail there.

I've categorized this as "Space" because Keith is one of the founders of the L-5 Society, and it is one of his passions (as well as extropianism in general). Unfortunately, so was taking on Scientology.

[Update a few minutes later]

Emailer Jim Bennett notes:

It's a good start. But this seems like a good First Amendment case if nothing else - it really doesn't seem like Keith had very good legal help.

Is there a pro-bono First-Amendment lawyer in the house? Where the hell (pardon my French) was the ACLU? Too busy fighting creches and ten-commandments placards, I guess...

Posted by Rand Simberg at May 15, 2007 01:45 PM
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petition link not working.

Posted by Bill Maron at May 15, 2007 01:51 PM

Sorry, should be good now.

Posted by Rand Simberg at May 15, 2007 01:57 PM

How do you get prison time for picketing - especially picketing wackos? What did he do, get on Tom Cruises hit list?

Posted by Kelly Starks at May 15, 2007 02:06 PM

You have to read the whole history. Apparently he was charged with "harassing" or "interfering" with a religion. The Ron worshipers seem to have a lot of influence with the Riverside County justice system, because it sounds like he was railroaded, and had an unfair trial.

Posted by Rand Simberg at May 15, 2007 02:22 PM

I should add that this wasn't really about picketing--it was revenge by the "church" for publishing some of its material on the Internet that they normally charge thousands of dollars for.

Posted by Rand Simberg at May 15, 2007 02:23 PM

Why do people only care about jailhouse conditions when it hits close to home? The state of affairs in America's jails and prisons is just shameful, and the human cost of injustices like this is bound to be much higher while that continues. But I don't blame corrections officials or elected leaders--they receive their priorities from the voting public--but rather, the voters themselves are largely responsible for the disgrace.

As present company often demonstrates, the public prefers that existing revenues be spent on priorities directly related to their personal interests, rather than meeting absolute obligations to people they consider unworthy, and of course tax increases are always and under all possible circumstances off the table.

It's unlikely Schwarzenegger will act on the petition unless someone with influence intervenes on Henson's behalf, and the poor writing and accusatory tone certainly doesn't help. But acting to improve general conditions may lessen the cost of future injustices.

Posted by Brian Swiderski at May 15, 2007 03:15 PM

Having a jail run by a religion just seems Not Right on so many levels...

Posted by at May 15, 2007 04:26 PM

There is no Yavapai county in California. There is one in Arizona (around Prescott).

Why is the Governator involved?

Posted by Flighterdoc at May 15, 2007 05:32 PM

Oh, never mind

Posted by Flighterdoc at May 15, 2007 05:35 PM

California's deficit is rapidly disappearing in spite of the fact that state spending has increased over 30% in the past three years. So much for the need for tax increases.

The California tax structure, by the way, is steeply progressive.

Spending on criminal justice as a share of the total has approximately tripled in the past 40 years.

Education, health, and social services dominate spending.

(My source for these facts, which took about ten seconds to find? The Legislative Analyst's Office of the state government.)

In other words, California already does everything that we are endlessly hectored about doing. As for the results, well, see for yourself.

Last one out of the blue states, turn off the lights.

Posted by Jay Manifold at May 15, 2007 05:46 PM


There are several different issues here: one is whether Keith Henson should be in jail for what he actually did; the second is whether anyone should be in jail for what Keith allegedly did; and the third is what jail conditions ought to be like for people who are clearly guilty of things that are generally considered to be crimes. Rand has always taken a clearly libertarian position on victimless crimes, and certainly one of the quickest, easiest, and cheapest (in fact, money-saving) ways to improve prison conditions is to stop jailing people for victimless crimes.

Posted by Jim Bennett at May 15, 2007 09:28 PM

Ahnold signed an extradition order allowing Henson to be taken out of California. Henson expected the governator to stand up for his rights, and was let down, bigtime.

Posted by Daryl Herbert at May 15, 2007 10:03 PM

I'll agree that the treatment of Keith Henson seems disgraceful. I'm skeptical of extropians/transhumanists' good sense, but even people I wonder about have the right to free speech. I'd extend that to Nazi's, and tranhumanists certainly are not as bad as those schmucks.

I read the pardon request, and find it rude, and poorly written. There is little need to insult a governor one would think, and I would expect such to be counterproductive which makes me wonder why it was done that way. So I won't sign that petition.

Nevertheless, I can say this here and now:

Free Keith Henson!

Posted by Tennwriter at May 16, 2007 08:07 AM

Seems to me that there is a good case for an organised boycott of Tom Cruise and John Travolta movies, starting right now.

This just goes to prove that Islam, although it's the biggest evil cult in the world, isn't the only one.

Posted by Fletcher Christian at May 16, 2007 07:56 PM

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