Pastor Steals 167 Grand, Judge Lets It Go

Leniency was on a judge’s mind in Grand Rapids, Michigan, yesterday. He ordered the defendants in the case to merely pay back the money they pilfered. No jailtime necessary.

I’m sure such a slight slap on the wrist has nothing to do with the divine calling of the accused.

Arthur Pearson, the fired former pastor of the Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church, and the removed church secretary Gerolanita Bailey, were told they have 48 months to pay back a combined total of more than $220,000.

Former Grand Rapids pastor, church secretary will repay $220,000 taken from church, judge vows | MLive.com

Pearson is accused of taking some $167,000 that he used to give himself raises and bonuses of as much as $20,000. He used the church credit card for personal expenses at several area retail stores and restaurants, including the Electric Cheetah, Macy’s, Victoria’s Secret and Hearthstone Bistro, according to the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office.

Bailey used more than $60,000 in church money to pay utility and cable bills for herself and family members and wrote checks intended for personal use.

Among the allegations laid out following an audit of church finances was that Bailey diverted $6,100 to Comcast, $7,300 to Sprint, $10,000 for a Capital One credit card and about $18,000 taken in written checks to “cash” or herself. This embezzlement went on between 2008 and 2012.

Such representatives of God may well be accelerating the pace at which Americans identify as “nones” — having no particular religion.

The experience divided the Franklin Street SE church, causing membership to plummet and leaving the church without a full-time pastor for the last year and a half.

Dirty Ex-Cop With Prison Record Turns Pastor. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

In 2009, when pastor Guadalupe “Lupe” Davila first ascended the pulpit of the Primera Iglesia Bautista Camino al Cielo, in El Mirage, Ariz., money and valuables started disappearing with vexing regularity.

The Phoenix New Times explains:

Tens of thousands of dollars in cash, building materials, and new appliances for the church’s kitchen were donated. Even though he was asked repeatedly, Davila refused to provide records about how the money was spent.

False Profit_ How an El Mirage Preacher Swindled Followers - Page 1 - News - Phoenix - Phoenix New Times

A group of concerned church members finally did a little investigating the other day, rifling through Davila’s church office and packing up his belongings. They wanted him out.

A DVD showing a topless woman pressing her forearm and hand against her breasts fell out of a tome interpreting the Bible’s book of Revelations.

Revelations — geddit? Nice touch, pastor!

Filthy Porn Stars,” read church member Donna Hennig, quoting the DVD’s title. “Eight hours [long]! Oh, my . . . Can you believe this? Well, we shouldn’t be surprised.”

But that’s the least of it.

Church members and volunteers learned that Davila emptied nearly $3,000 in donations from a bank account established to improve the learning center for neighborhood children. They also learned that he used an invalid tax-exempt identification number to collect free food and other donations from local retailers, including Costco.

They discovered that Davila, a former Goodyear police officer, spent about five months in a federal prison for stealing about $6,000 from an undercover operation targeting drug dealers and gang members.

Could a crooked cop also be a crooked pastor? But, but — Davila is ordained! A man of the cloth! A follower of Christ! He would never violate his promises to the Lord!

Strike that.

Davila … carried on sexual relationships with at least two church members. One of the young women was his secret lover for about two years, but she ended the relationship after realizing he had other mistresses at the same time. When she broke things off and stopped attending church, Davila barraged her with calls, text messages, and e-mails.

Even after she obtained an order of protection against him, he sent her more than a hundred erratic texts — one minute telling her he missed her and that God loves her and the next calling her a “fucking bitch” and a “fucking liar.” In some, he wrote that he was “unsettled with remorse” and that he’d pray for her.

His congregation has now changed the locks as well as the name of the church; and Davila, with any luck, is going to spend some more time in prison to contemplate the similarities between being a peddler of religion and being a con man.

The Power of Christ Compelled Him: Bible Beater Beat Daughter to Death in Exorcism

Via Yahoo News:

A Virginia man was convicted earlier this week in the death of a 2-year-old who died during a 2011 exorcism. Eder Guzman-Rodriguez beat his daughter Jocelyn to death in an attempt to rid her of the demon he believed was inside her.

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Police summoned to the scene encountered several people holding Bibles outside the home, where Guzman-Rodriguez stated that he had also become possessed by a “bad spirit” when he punched and choked Jocelyn to death. The girl was found on a bed, wrapped in a blanket surrounded by Bibles.

Priest Fapping in Church? (Video)

This guy may just be getting a little bit too much comfort from his rod and staff. In the middle of Mass, no less.

[source]

Church Won’t Pay Back Taxes, Promotes Blight

Dateline Easton, Pennsylvania:

Easton plans to seize numerous properties owned by the Rock Church on Fifth Street in order to collect on $30,000 to $40,000 in back taxes and water bills.

That’s according to the Morning Call, which interviewed city officials who say they are tired of battling the church over its bills and zoning violations at its properties.

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Churches get big tax breaks that no other entity automatically qualifies for. Apparently even those greatly reduced financial obligations are too much for the church to pay without claiming it is being unfairly targeted.

The church — through a subsidiary — owns numerous properties in the neighborhood, including the Hooper House at 501 Northampton St.

That building is believed to be the oldest residence in Easton, but has been vacant since 1979, when the church bought it. In the summer of 2011, the city put it on its list of blighted properties.

[image via Easton Patch]

Just Another Day in Godland

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Gotta Love This Catholic Pedo’s T-Shirt

From the New Jersey Star-Ledger:

A public school teacher in Newark has agreed to the revocation of his teaching certificates over allegations that he repeatedly groped teenage boys in the 1970s and 1980s, when he was engaged in active ministry as a Roman Catholic priest.

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The Rev. John Capparelli reached a settlement with the State Board of Examiners, the body that regulates teachers, ahead of a scheduled hearing before an administrative law judge earlier this month. The revocation takes effect today.

(image by Robert Sciarrino via the Star Ledger)

Lover of Christ Hangs & Burns Bible-Chewing Dog

How this for a response to a pup’s natural impulses?

Authorities have charged a South Carolina woman with felony animal cruelty, saying she hanged her nephew’s [one-year-old] pit bull from a tree with an electrical cord and burned its body because the dog chewed on her Bible.

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Animal control officers said Monday that 65-year-old Miriam Smith told them she killed a female dog named Diamond because it was a “devil dog” and she worried it could harm neighborhood children.  …

Authorities say the remains of the dog were found under a pile of grass with part of an electrical cord around its neck.

It wouldn’t be nice to fantasize about strangling Smith with an electrical cord while angry dogs tear at her flesh, would it? No sirree Bob, it sure wouldn’t.

Child Abuse at Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries: Catholic Asylum Staff Robbed and Raped 30,000 ‘Wayward’ Girls For More than 100 Years

This story was hard to write. Hard to type, even. I had to unclench my fists a few times.

Twenty years ago, shock washed over Ireland. After the Catholic Church sold a parcel of a North Dublin convent’s grounds to a commercial developer, and the construction dig began, 155 bodies were discovered in unmarked graves. The place had been a Magdalene asylum for “wayward girls.” Apparently, inmates who met an early end had been buried in secret — many without a death certificate, without notification of parents or other family, and all without the dignity of even the simplest grave marker.

Initially conceived as rehabilitation centers for prostitutes, the Magdalene asylums — also known as the Magdalene Laundries for the “women’s work” slave labor expected of the residents — eventually grew into houses of horror. The girls, some not even teens, were forced to work seven days a week without pay. The short-term treatment intended by the founders eventually gave way to long-term incarceration. Though conditions varied from one asylum to the next, a strict code of silence was in place for most of the day throughout the Magdalene system. Long prayer sessions were mandatory.

Worse, for over a hundred years, beatings and sexual abuse are thought to have been endemic.

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Continue reading my piece over at the Friendly Atheist.

Oz Priest: ‘Finders Keepers Losers Weepers’

Classy!

When Clyde and Lesley Bevan were told the $6500 gold and diamond bracelet they had lost months ago had been found, they were delighted and grateful to the person who picked it up in a carpark.

Their happiness turned into incredulity when the finder told them he now owned the jewellery under a law that allows finders to keep unclaimed lost property after two months.

He said he would give Mr and Mrs Bevan the bracelet but only if they made a claim under their insurance policy and gave him half the payout.

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The couple were surprised when they discovered the finder was a clergyman, the Rev. Terry McAuliffe, of St Paul’s Anglican Church in City Beach.

The Rev. McAuliffe, who said he was a former lawyer, explained he was simply offering to share his windfall with the Bevans.

“It would be nice to keep it but I felt it would be best to get it back to them,” he said. “They can get it back for 50 per cent.”

Ultimately, McAuliffe was overruled by his higher-ups, who made him give the bracelet back to the couple. They have apologized on his behalf.

[photo via the West Australian]

Priest and Catholic Teacher Jailed for Child Rape

In Philadelphia, Father Charles Engelhardt and Bernard Shero were sentenced to serious jailtime for child molestation.

A judge has sentenced a Roman Catholic priest to six to 12 years in prison and a former teacher to eight to 16 years in a sex-abuse case that brought down a Philadelphia church official.

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The verdict supports accounts by a 24-year-old policeman’s son that he was sexually abused by the Engelhardt between 1998 and 1999 and Shero, a former sixth-grade teacher, in 2000 when he was an altar boy.

The victim’s 2009 complaint provided the hook for Philadelphia prosecutors to bring the nation’s first criminal charges against a U.S. church official for allegedly covering up sexual abuse by priests.

The same accuser has also brought down another robed pedophile.

The sexual abuse complaints [earlier] led to the conviction of Monsignor William Lynn, who had transferred Avery to the parish despite concerns he was a pedophile.

The Upstairs Lounge Gay Massacre Remembered — And Then Some

Yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of the biggest LGBT massacre in U.S. history. The horrendous fire that tore through the Upstairs Lounge, a gay bar in New Orleans, also claimed the lives of 32 patrons, including that of Bill Larson, the pastor of the city’s first fledgling gay church.

For me, this photo started my interest in the crime.

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That’s Larson. He got stuck in the safety bars on the windows and burned alive while horrified passersby looked on. It’s one of the most indelible news pictures I’ve ever seen. It made me want to learn all there is to know about the crime.

Oddly enough, that wasn’t so simple. There wasn’t nearly as much written about the fire as you might expect considering the brutality of the attack and the large number of victims. Why? In large part because it happened in 1973, when gay people were still widely considered icky at best and god-mocking evildoers at worst. It seems for all the world that the news media, by and large, thought it better to pretend that gays don’t exist; and that journalists and politicians expressed their disapproval through silence. Consider:

The few respectable news organizations that deigned to cover the tragedy made little of the fact that the majority of the victims had been gay, while talk-radio hosts tended to take a jocular or sneering tone: What do we bury them in? Fruit jars, sniggered one, on the air, only a day after the massacre.

Other, smaller disasters resulted in City Hall press conferences, or statements of condolence by the governor; but no civil authorities publicly spoke out about the fire, other than to mumble about needed improvements to the city’s fire code.

Continuing this pattern of neglect, the New Orleans police department appeared lackluster about the investigation (the officers involved denied it). The detectives wouldn’t even acknowledge that it was an arson case, saying the cause of the fire was of “undetermined origin.” No one was ever charged with the crime

That’s from the piece I wrote about the arson for The Friendly Atheist, here.

Point of clarification: the fire may not have been a hate crime, and we shouldn’t jump to that conclusion. The most likely suspect was a frequent visitor to the Upstairs Lounge, a man with mental issues called Rodger Nunez, who may have been gay himself. There’s a persistent rumor that he was asked to leave the bar — and came back to exact a terrible revenge. We’ll never know; Nunez killed himself a year later.

Anyway, I put the topic on my calendar months ago, for publication on June 24, expecting it to draw little interest. I couldn’t see major news media covering it.

Happily, I was wrong. As of today, Google confirms, there’s easily three times the volume of coverage there was a few months ago. Time magazine, this week, has a pretty solid feature piece on the catastrophe. A new documentary film about the Upstairs Lounge, by the movie maker Royd Anderson,  just premiered. A news team at the New Orleans Times-Picayune produced both a written remembrance and a video piece. I was interviewed about my own story yesterday by a Washington DC radio host who has an audience all over the Northeastern U.S.

And … I just learned that my piece drew the highest number of page views I’ve yet garnered in my so-called blogging career — somewhere north of 250,000 (a quarter of a million) hits.

That’s wonderful. The horror of that day, and the stupid prejudice with which the gay victims were treated even in death, deserves to be remembered.