You’re wondering who Shlomo Helbrans is, unless you followed the link. The link was to last night’s episode of The Fifth Estate, which was about yet another of these pretend religions that are really just games of “let’s go back to the far far past and play at being old-fashioned people with old-fashioned customs” combined with an excellent system for giving one man lots of nooky. This one is sort of kind of hyper-Orthodox Jewish, but only sort of kind of, and the more official hyper-Orthodox Jewish authorities frown on it with disdain. But meh – I don’t see how theirs is any better just because it’s not new. But still, the cult in question is the personal creation of Shlomo Helbrans.
Life in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Lev Tahor is supposed to be simple: the rules for dress, diet, schooling, marriage and worship are clearly defined and closely followed. But last November, in the middle of the night, about 200 members of the sect fled their homes in Quebec to start a new community in Chatham, Ontario, amid allegations of child neglect. Now the sect is fighting to keep more than a dozen children that a Quebec court ordered removed from their families. Recently released search warrants show Quebec provincial police have been investigating allegations of unlawful confinement and physical abuse of children within the sect, as well as marriage of underage girls to much older men.
Does that sound familiar? Hell yes it sounds familiar.
Their ongoing legal battles are raising an old dilemma: when does a group’s right to religious freedom get trumped by society’s obligation to protect children?