Germans Defy Good-Friday Ban on Dancing

If you dance on Good Friday in Germany, you’re breaking a federal law. Dance halls and party organizers risk a $650 fine if they break the ban.

Not everyone is taking the Tanzverbot (dance prohibition) lying down. Quite the opposite. Year after year, crowds of secular Germans (and maybe a few fun-loving believers too) take to the streets on Good Friday to have impromptu dance parties out in public. Watch the video, and let’s bust some moves!

Pastor Thins Herd, Ejects Members Over Money

Religious people often build tight-knit communities. Except when they don’t. This sounds like a delightful place:

Members of a Woodstock [Georgia] congregation said their former pastor locked them out and threatened to arrest them if he caught them on the property.


“Our former pastor has locked us out and we cannot get in and he said if he caught trespassing he would have us arrested,” said member Gloria Staton. The group said its been locked out for several months now, following a dispute with Pastor Willard Hambrick about money.

The best part of this story is the name of the House of God in question: All Welcome Baptist Church.

Uganda Priest Held in Quadruple Murder Case

An earthly representative of Christ is in custody in Uganda for allegedly taking part in a massacre of four people.

Five people including a Catholic priest in Isingiro district have been arrested and charged in court following the murder of four people [including a 9-year-old girl] in a suspected land wrangle.

Father Cleophas Ensiyaitu, a parish priest of Birunduma Parish in Rugaaga Sub-county, Mbarara Archdiocese was on Thursday charged with murder by the Isingiro Grade One magistrate, Patrick Talisuna  and remanded to Mbarara central prison. …

Martin Abilu, the Rwizi region Police commander, said police dog tracked suspects and led them to suspects’ homes.

Ritual Sucking of Baby Penises Unhealthy?

You think? Via Failed Messiah:

Israeli doctors have found a herpes (HSV-1) infection in a two-and-a-half-year-old boy they believe came from metzitzah b’peh, the direct mouth-to-bloody-penis sucking done by many mohels (and almost all hasidic mohels) just after cutting off the baby’s foreskin and ripping off the membrane under it. If correct, these doctors may have found the cause of what many believe to be the noticeably higher number of learning disabled children in hasidic communities.


More here, herehere, and here.

[image via Bigot Vanquisher]

Your Easter Crucifixion, Courtesy of Saudi Arabia

Via Jonathan Turley, an example of judicial overkill:

Saudi Arabia has long shocked the world with its medieval Sharia justice system, but nothing prepared most of us for the recent execution in Jazan, Saudi Arabia. Faced with Mohammed Rashad Khairi Hussein, a Yemeni man accused of murder and sodomy, the Sharia court ordered him first beheaded and then crucified. [emphasis added]

This is not the first such sentence under Sharia law. A man in 2009 was ordered beheaded and then crucified for being a gang leader.

To add to the fun, the Saudis could take the headless body down from the cross, stone it, hack it to pieces, then gather everything into a bag and burn it at the stake.

After all, when it comes to pleasing Allah, why do things half-assed?

sad a

By the way, both Saudi Arabia’s flag (left) and the country’s coat of arms (right) feature a sword, but I’m sure that’s entirely incidental to the Saudis’ peaceful faith.

Flock Shock: Pastor with Criminal Past Kills Again

Another day, another clergyman (and repeat offender) confesses to a violent crime:

A mid-Michigan minister charged with killing a young woman in her mobile home has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the case.

The Morning Sun of Mt. Pleasant reports 55-year-old John D. White entered the plea Thursday in Isabella County Circuit Court in Mt. Pleasant. He’s expected to serve more than 45 years in prison under an agreement with prosecutors. … Police say he confessed to killing 24-year-old Rebekah Gay on Oct. 31 as part of a sexual fantasy.


White’s fantasy centered on having sex with a corpse. He claims he can’t remember if he in fact defiled Rebekah Gay’s body after he killed her. He does recall hiding her remains in the woods.

In 2007,

[White was] released from prison, after serving nearly 12 years for manslaughter in the death of a 26-year-old woman in Kalamazoo County, according to the Michigan Corrections Department.

He had previously been sentenced to probation for choking and stabbing a 17-year-old Battle Creek girl in 1981.

Nice touch: The good reverend, after his latest killing but before his victim’s body was finally discovered, asked his flock to pray for the “missing” woman.

Also consider this facepalm-worthy fact: His small congregation knew about his past — and thought that it couldn’t possibly matter.

Church elder Donna Houghton certainly doesn’t seem plagued by any remorse or self-doubt. She prefers to think Gay’s death wasn’t her or her fellow believers’ fault, and she doesn’t even blame John White. It was [drum roll!] the devil whut did it.


“All kinds of people turn around and meet the Lord and they are a different person. He was doing a lot of good in the community. … He was doing a lot of good and Satan did not want him doing good and Satan got to him.”

Sorry ma’am, but I somehow doubt that Rebekah Gay, in her dying moments, thought that Satan was responsible for her life being snuffed out. Instead, she might have pointed the proverbial finger squarely at John White, and at the people who gave him a veneer of respectability and trustworthiness by knowingly appointing a serial violent offender as their godly pastor.

[John White mugshots via Jonathan Turley; arm wrestling image by ongchewpeng via Deviant Art.]

Egyptian Jon Stewart to be Arrested, Gagged

Imagine saying this on TV — in a country whose overwhelmingly Muslim and notoriously restive population put an Islamist president in office only last year.

“Anyone can form a group in the name of religion, assassinate in the name of religion, and then oops! Repent and fast for three months, and it will too pass in the name of religion.”

Seems a little risky, doesn’t it? That remark, and other instances of public mockery, have now caught up to Egyptian truth-teller Bassem Youssef, who has come to be known as Egypt’s Jon Stewart. An local prosecutor has just issued a warrant for Youssef’s arrest.

Mideast Egypt.JPEG-0967a copy

The warrant against Youssef is the latest in a series of legal actions against the comedian, whose widely-watched weekly show, “ElBernameg” or “The Program,” has become a platform for lampooning the government, opposition, media and clerics. He has also used his program to fact-check politicians.

The fast-paced show has attracted a wide viewership, while at the same time earning itself its fair share of detractors. Youssef has been a frequent target of lawsuits, most of them brought by Islamist lawyers who have accused him of “corrupting morals” or violating “religious principles.”

In other words, he’s our kind of guy. Here’s hoping Youssef will remain unscathed and unbowed.

[image via the Washington Post]

Texas Rev. Hornswoggle Loves Rape, Meth

As sex-crime pastors go, Terry Hornbuckle is virtually in a class by himself. He was briefly back in the news because he was denied parole the other day, after having served just seven years of his 15-year prison sentence.

We’ll refer to him as the Rev. Hornswoggle from here on out. That name just seems to fits better. See if you agree.


The parole request for the once prominent minister, who built a large nondenominational church in Arlington and mingled with celebrities, has been rejected. Hornswoggle, 51, founder of Agape Christian Fellowship, remains in prison serving his 15-year sentence for sexually assaulting three women, two of whom were members of his church. Testimony from his 2006 trial included details about how Hornbuckle drugged some of the women and smoked methamphetamine.

Hornswoggle’s trial, and the events that led him there, were memorable for all kinds of colorful details. The reverend, who asked people to address him as “bishop,” preached the “prosperity gospel.” He and his wife drove Mercedeses and Cadillac Escalades; they also lived in expensive homes and wore tailored clothes.

This lavish lifestyle had to be financed by his flock, so from the pulpit, week after week, Hornswoggle implored his 2,500 congregants to give their all to the church, which meant most especially the contents of their bank accounts. He shamed members in public, in front of everyone, if they didn’t tithe at least 10 percent of their incomes to his church.

One ex-fan said he vividly remembered

scrounging for change in his 400-square-foot apartment in north Arlington, terrified that something calamitous would happen to him if he didn’t come up with his tithe every week. “If I didn’t have that whole tithe,” he said, “either I was going to get struck down, or if I got too close to [the bishop] he would get killed.”

At the time of Hornswoggle’s trial for sexual assault, the Dallas Observer, which referred to him in one headline as “Reverend Freak,” reported myriad odd and embarrassing stories about him (embarrassing for normal people — it never became clear whether the good bishop himself was capable of such an emotion). For instance:

One time, Hornswoggle preached about bathing his adolescent daughter. “You men need to bathe your daughters,” he exhorted his members. “Clean ’em up good.”

Or how about this one:

One married church member, after a sexual encounter with Hornswoggle, began to complain of severe abdominal pain. A trip to the doctor revealed the problem: A metal cock ring — a sexual device used to prolong an erection — had been rammed deep into her abdominal cavity.

Another conquest was involuntary on the part of the bishop’s partner (in fact, he sexually assaulted a string of women, prosecutors said, although in the end he was convicted of raping only three). The encounter we’re referencing here involved a 17-year-old woman name Jocelyn, who’d drawn the bishop’s attention in part because a friend had told him that she might be gay. To get her back on God’s intended path, he gave her a muscle relaxant and liquor; she passed out, and then drifted in and out of consciousness as the Rev. Hornswoggle had his way with her.

He was convicted of three counts of sexual assault, drawing 15, 14, and 10 years in prison. The judge decided that Hornswoggle would be allowed to serve those sentences concurrently. There’s divine mercy for you.

[image via the Star Telegram]

Pastor Splits His Mate’s Face With an Axe

A hospital pastor living with a vicar. Two men of God. It rightly didn’t faze the people of Ubbergen, in the Netherlands, a country where marriage equality has long been a fact. Frank Jimmink and his husband, Dick Piersma, were by all accounts a well-liked couple.

Alas: Now Piersma (photo) is dead and Jimmink is in prison, accused of killing his soulmate with an axe [link in Dutch]. I suppose we could call it (pardon me) homocide.

So I Married an Axe Murderer: The victim and the home he shared with his killer.

So I Married an Axe Murderer: The victim and the home he shared with his killer.

According to Dutch prosecutors, the pastor made a full and immediate confession, and even offered police some insight into his thought process.

First, Jimmink said, he contemplated suicide, but decided he couldn’t inflict that kind of pain on his partner. Then, in another odd twist, he considered killing a number of old ladies, but rejected that plan too. Inspiration struck when he read about a Canadian porn actor who stabbed a friend to death with an icepick and dismembered the body.

But it was Wallander, a TV series about a Swedish homicide detective, that gave Jimmink the final push. The episode in question revolves around a series of mysterious axe murders. An axe is a very good weapon, the Dutch would-be slayer coolly decided. As his husband would soon find out, it certainly was an effective one.

One night last September, after Piersma had fallen asleep, Jimmink took an axe and wacked him on the back of the head with the blunt side; then the killer turned over the body and violently brought the blade down on his true love’s face.

Jimmink changed out of his bloody clothes, took a picture of his gruesome handiwork, pocketed the couple’s passports, and walked to the police station to turn himself in.

None of that made much sense — but then, that’s what religion and mental illness often have in common.

Jimmink is thought to have suffered from depression as well as jealousy and/or fear of abandonment. He claims diminished culpability, a kind of insanity defense.

The good pastor is looking at seven years in prison, and may subsequently spend time in forced psychiatric care. The Dutch court will render its verdict in two weeks.

[Bert van Manen is Moral Compass’ European Correspondent. Image via]

And They Hanged His Head From a Minaret

More Muslim infighting in Syria. Of course, it is political war as much as religious strife, but let’s get real: How can the faithful carry out such butchery if they make simultaneous claims about being moral and spiritual people? It never fails to boggle the mind.


Armed rebels beheaded a pro-government Muslim imam in Syria’s northern province of Aleppo, state media said Saturday. After beheading Sheikh Hasan Saif Addien, the armed groups hanged his head atop the minaret of al-Hasan Mosque in the strategic town of Sheikh Maksoud in northern Aleppo, the report said. … Attacks on pro-government clerics have recently become rampant in the rebels’ two-year-old revolt against President Bashar al- Assad.

On March 21, prominent Muslim scholar Mohammad Saed Ramadan al- Bouti and his grandson, along with 49 others, were killed by a suicide bomber who detonated himself inside al-Eman Mosque in al- Mazraa neighborhood of the capital Damascus. The deadly blast also left more than 80 people injured.

[image by Muharrem Akten via]

Cheating Teacher Fears the Law More Than God

The New York Times’ Michael Winerip details the stunning scale of the Atlanta test-score cheating scandal, and the equally jawdropping chutzpah of the teachers, principals, and administrators who participated in it. A Georgia grand jury indicted 35 educators yesterday.

What brought down the decade-long pack of lies was a two-and-a-half-year investigation led by a governor-appointed sleuth, Richard Hyde.

We’ll get to the God connection in a minute. First, let’s look at the massive deceit practiced in Atlanta’s public schools. Winerip calls it “the most widespread public school cheating scandal in memory.”

[Teachers] sat in a locked windowless room every afternoon during the week of state testing, raising students’ scores by erasing wrong answers and making them right. … Children who scored 1 on the state test out of a possible 4 became 2’s; 2’s became 3’s.

Some participants were cautious enough to wear gloves, so as not to leave fingerprints on the answer sheets.

The pressure to alter the test scores was passed down from up high (no, not that high). One of the 35 educators indicted on Friday was former district superintendent Beverly Hall, a public servant so imperious that she had her own security detail to drive her around Atlanta at a cost to taxpayers of six figures annually.

Ex-Atlanta Schools Chief Charged in Cheating Scandal -

Dr. Hall, who retired in 2011, was charged with racketeering, theft, influencing witnesses, conspiracy and making false statements. Prosecutors recommended a $7.5 million bond for her; she could face up to 45 years in prison. …

[The] test scores brought her fame — in 2009, the American Association of School Administrators named her superintendent of the year and Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, hosted her at the White House. And fortune — she earned more than $500,000 in performance bonuses while superintendent.

The motives of Hall’s subordinates were similar.

Teachers and principals whose students had high test scores received tenure and thousands of dollars in performance bonuses. Otherwise, as one teacher explained, it was “low score, out the door.”

Among the quantifiable negative effects of the cheating: Some of the schools suddenly scored so well that they no longer qualified for state and federal assistance. One of them, Parks Middle, lost $750,000 in aid, investigators said. While struggling schoolkids were getting fucked out of a proper education, the educators who knowingly failed them took home bonuses they weren’t entitled to.

Now, what does any of this have to do with religion? I was struck by this passage about Richard Hyde’s number-one witness, Jackie Parks, a third-grade teacher at Venetian Hills Elementary School.

For weeks that fall [of 2010], Mr. Hyde had been stonewalled and lied to by teachers at Venetian Hills including Ms. Parks, who at one point stood in her classroom doorway and blocked him from entering.

But day after day he returned to question people, and eventually his presence weighed so heavily on Ms. Parks that she said she felt a terrible need to confess her sins. “I wanted to repent,” she recalled in an interview. “I wanted to clear my conscience.”

And here Ms. Parks has occasion to flaunt a bit of piety.

When asked during an interview if she was surprised that out of Atlanta’s 100 schools, Mr. Hyde turned up at hers first, Ms. Parks said no. “I had a dream about it a few weeks before,” she said. “I saw people walking down the hall with yellow notepads. From time to time, God reveals things to me in dreams. I think God led Mr. Hyde to Venetian Hills,” she said.

Ethically, how she decided to come clean is a mixed bag, as far as I’m concerned. She gets point for having qualms, and for (belatedly) doing the right thing.

Nonetheless, we should note that despite Ms. Parks’ references to God and her conscience, neither of those forces compelled her to stop ripping off schoolchildren, parents, taxpayers, and society as a whole. For seven or eight years straight, God was apparently powerless against her decision, which she renewed day upon day, to perpetuate the fraud.

You know what stopped her in the end? A tenacious man with a investigator’s badge. The fear of a lot of legal hurt. In other words, man‘s law. Not God’s law.

So what does Jackie Parks’ example tell us about the morals that religions supposedly impart?

[image via the New York Times]

NY Muslim: Long Live Sharia, Behead the Gays!

I love how, as soon as the host suggests that his views are a little extreme, this caller plays the insulted-assclown card and claims that she is maligning his precious religion.

Not that she’s doing anything of the sort, but I actually see nothing wrong with maligning religion; especially this one, and especially this version of it. In fact, maligning and mocking radical Islam is what I’ll call a duty of decency. Join me.

By the way: A Muslim called Chris? Isn’t Chris short for Christian? No wonder he’s so confused.