Did This Pastor Hire Homeless People to Firebomb His Ex-Girlfriend’s Home?

On Saturday, Mark Lewis, a suspect in a bizarre case involving stalking, a possible murder conspiracy, and arson, was released on bail of half a million dollars. On Sunday, he was back in the pulpit, giving moral pointers to his unfazed congregants.

Lewis is the pastor of the Fellowship Baptist Church in Vacaville, California. The church had taken a number of  homeless people under its wing, and police believe that he asked three of them to firebomb the home of his ex-girlfriend, Sarah Nottingham.

Early last Thursday morning, the trio, sans Lewis, allegedly went to the residence, in which three adults and three children were asleep, and threw a molotov cocktail through a bedroom window. The occupants were able to extinguish the fire before it got out of control.


Cops pulled over a suspicious-seeming car shortly after the attack.

Anthony Newbolt, 33, of Sacramento, Richerd Wright, 28, of Sacramento, and Kristen Broyles, 30, of Citrus Heights, were in the vehicle. Police said they obtained information and evidence implicating all three in the fire bombing on Chateau Circle.

Police said Newbolt and Broyles, both of whom had unrelated outstanding arrest warrants, told investigators that they had been staying at the Fellowship Baptist Church on Farrell Road in Vacaville because they are homeless. Police said the victim in the arson case has an active restraining order against the pastor of the church, Mark Lewis.

Nottingham broke up with Lewis last year.

Lewis, 39, was also named as a suspect in four separate incidents of harassment and vandalism against the arson victim since Christmas, police said.

Police said they seized evidence during the search, including a handgun and suspected methamphetamine. Detectives said they also found evidence implicating Lewis as a co-conspirator in the Thursday morning arson case.

So we have (1) a clear link between the alleged firebombers and the church led by pastor Lewis; (2) confirmation that they were in Lewis’ debt for letting them stay at the church; (3) police and victim allegations that Lewis was behind a campaign of stalking and harassment against Nottingham (which included damage to her car and a separate fire set to shrubbery on her property); (4) the fact that a terrified Nottingham had been granted a restraining order against Lewis; and (5) the police statement that as-yet unspecified physical evidence ties Lewis to the arson and attempted murder.

Why is Lewis even allowed back out on the streets?

His former lover has misgivings too, to put it mildly.

“That’s the sickest part about it, is that this man claims to be a man of God,” said ex-girlfriend Sarah Nottingham.

She says, ever since their breakup last year, Lewis has been trying to hurt her and her family. Nottingham says she has an active restraining order against the pastor for vandalizing her car and setting fire to her bushes.

I’m living in a nightmare. My kids are so scared. My son knows that this is his previous pastor that is threatening his mommy and his family,” said Nottingham.

In any normal business or organization, accusations such as the ones against Lewis would result in the suspect not showing up at work for a while, possibly until a trial conclusively establishes his guilt or innocence.

But Lewis, professing he didn’t do anything wrong (and we must remember that he is innocent until proven guilty), went right back to preaching, delivering his usual sermon on Sunday morning. It may have been about as memorable as the sermon before that:

Parishioners say the restraining order was served to Lewis last Sunday in the middle of a service, but say they don’t believe the charges and are standing by him.

The flock loves the pastor, that much is clear. And why not? I mean:

Pastor Mark[‘s] … love and excitement for Christ is contagious. Pastor not only preaches and teaches what God wants, but he lives it. … If you spend a few minutes talking to him, you’ll quickly realize that he is a man after God’s own heart.

I guess we’ll soon see about that.

Woman Slashes ‘Demon-Possessed’ Son’s Throat

From KFDM News in Texas:

A Houston-area woman has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for beating her 5-year-old son and slashing his throat in an effort to rid his body of demons.

A Montgomery County jury convicted Daphne Spurlock on Thursday of injury to a child.

The child’s father returned home in March 2012 to find him covered in blood. The boy spent a month in a hospital and then underwent many months of rehabilitation.


Spurlock, 45 at the time, told investigators she was reading the Bible with her son and realized he was possessed. She stomped on his chest and face and then cut him with a kitchen knife.

The jury heard the defendant’s insanity defense but still decided Spurlock knew right from wrong.

Ritual Circumciser Slices Off Baby’s Penis

When a Jewish circumcision makes the news or stirs discussion, it’s usually a metzitzah b’peh, wherein

mohels, after cutting away the child’s foreskin and tearing the membrane with their fingernailsplace their mouths on the boy’s penis to suck away the blood.

Metzitzah b’pehs are responsible for at least a dozen cases of herpes transmission — and two child deaths — in the U.S. alone.

But there are other risks to ritual circumcision, as the parents of a Pittsburgh infant found out. They are suing their mohel, Rabbi Mordechai Rosenberg, because he accidentally amputated their son’s penis.

A local rabbi is being sued after allegedly botching a bris, the traditional Jewish circumcision ritual, and severing a newborn boy’s penis.

The incident detailed in the lawsuit happened at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill within the last year.

The Jewish circumcision ceremony was performed by Pittsburgh Rabbi Mordechai Rosenberg – who is also a mohel.

Sometime during the bris, according to the lawsuit, Rosenberg severed the baby boy’s penis.

According to CBS Pittsburgh, the body part was reattached during an eight-hour surgery requiring six blood transfusions, and the boy was hospitalized for two months.

It probably won’t be known for years whether all is right with his genitalia, and whether his sexual functions survived unscathed. A certain amount of permanent nerve damage is highly possible.

On his website, Rabbi Rosenberg says he is recognized as a “certified mohel by the American Board of Ritual Circumcision.” His site also says “a doctor’s medical circumcision, usually performed in the hospital, is not considered valid according to Jewish law.”

Remarkably, absent any regulated standard for training or certification of ritual circumcisers, Rosenberg continues to perform the procedure.

[file photo via thefastertimes.com]

Iceland Halts Road Project to Protect Elves

Icelandic authorities have decided to halt a highway project out of concern that the new road will displace the local elf population.

Says the Independent:

Elf advocates have joined forces with environmentalists to urge the Icelandic Road and Coastal Commission and local authorities to abandon a highway project because it might disturb the creatures’ habitat.

The activists are particularly concerned about an elf church that sits on the potential site. … [T]he project has been halted until the Supreme Court of Iceland rules on a case brought by a group known as Friends of Lava.

The activists cite a cultural and environmental impact – including the plight of the elves – as a reason for regularly gathering hundreds of people to block workers from bulldozing the area.

I have to believe that the whole thing is a wind-up, a national running joke, a tongue-in-cheek folkloristic game played on outsiders.

Or not. When asked in a 2007 survey, 62 percent of Icelanders said they thought it was at least possible that the so-called Huldufólk (“hidden folk”) are real.

The best little Huldufólk nugget I found is this one, on Wikipedia:

Icelandic gardens often feature tiny wooden álfhól (elf houses) for elves/hidden people to live in. Some Icelanders have also built tiny churches to convert elves to Christianity.

Gnome more of this folly! In the interest of spreading rationality among the Icelandic elf community, I propose we finance itty-bitty libraries and stock them with teensy copies of Dawkins’ and Harris’s books. Who’s with me?

Pastor Defrauded Social Security For $150K

Screwing taxpayers out of $150,000? For more than 11 years, it was all in a day’s work for Pastor Pennell.

A former Brunswick [Maine] pastor waived indictment and pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court to theft of government money.

Carroll Freemont Pennell, 69, of Cushing, Texas, admitted that he lied about the income he received from the Word of God Fellowship Church to continue receiving disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. He also admitted that he instructed the church board to pay his wife, Glenna Pennell, the pastor’s salary.


In addition to theft of government money, Pennell was charged in August with conspiracy to commit Social Security fraud. He never entered a plea to the conspiracy charge because he was never indicted by a federal grand jury on that charge. The conspiracy charge is expected to be dropped when Pennell is sentenced. …

By pleading guilty to theft of government money, Pennell admitted that he received nearly $150,000 in illegal benefits between February 1999 and August 2010 when he converted to Social Security retirement benefits.

He could be looking at ten years in prison plus a quarter-million-dollar fine.

Pastor Swindles Home Depot Out of $111,000

I’ll let this story speak for itself:

A Queens man working at the Elmont (NY) Home Depot has been charged with using the company’s donation-matching program and a religious charity organization he controlled to steal in excess of $111,000 for his personal use.

A wooden cross over a stack of money with the words in god we trust besides it.

Alfred Williams, 57, was arrested by the Nassau County Police Department’s Crimes Against Property Squad as the result of a joint investigation with the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office and Home Depot investigators.

He was arraigned on a sealed grand jury indictment, and charged with second degree grand larceny, second degree attempted grand larceny, two counts of first degree identity theft. If convicted, he faces a maximum of five to 15 years in prison.

Williams … is the pastor and president of a small religious organization named “Faith Without Walls International Ministries” (FWW), which he registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit in 2004.

Meth and Bible Madness Lead to Fatal Exorcism; Killer Sentenced to Six Years in Prison

A Bible-besotted meth-head, Karla Kuhl, 36, was sentenced to just six year in prison for murdering a 68-year-old acquaintance, Patricia Medeiros, in what Kuhl claims was an exorcism brought on by religious mania.

A short time after her arrival, Kuhl got into an argument with Medeiros, then went into a bedroom to smoke meth with her boyfriend. …

Later, the defendant and victim argued again, but witnesses at the home said they heard Patricia’s voice become muffled toward the end of the squabble.


Kuhl’s boyfriend and Medeiros’s nephew, who also lived at the house, called police after finding the victim’s lifeless body on the living room couch covered by a blanket, a kitchen chair, a statue of the Virgin Mary and a bible.

Meanwhile, Kuhl fled, driving to a nearby church where she disrobed and doused herself in holy water, the prosecutor said.

Police located her later that day at her El Sobrante apartment where she gave an hours-long, drug-fueled confession in which she claimed she had performed an exorcism on Medeiros to rid her of “evil spirits,” O’Connell said. …

An autopsy found that the victim died of blunt force trauma and asphyxiation.

Meth and ________ (fill in the blank) don’t go well together, but combine meth with the drug that is religion and some bad shit’s gonna go down.

Pastor Caught Defrauding Medicare for $12M

A California church pastor is going to be admiring the inside of a federal prison for the next seven years.

Charles Agbu, 58, pleaded guilty last December to one count each of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and money laundering, according to the Department of Justice, which also prosecuted his daughter.

Carson pastor Charles Agbu

Agbu, who had served as pastor of Pilgrim Congregational Church in South Los Angeles, admitted he submitted fraudulent claims for highly specialized power wheelchairs and other equipment through a medical supply company he owned and operated, prosecutors said. …

According to court documents, Agbu and co-conspirators submitted about $12 million in false claims to Medicare and pocketed nearly $6 million on those claims. He also admitted laundering cash when he transferred more than $10,000 of the illicit Medicare funds between various bank accounts, prosecutors said.

Christian Trisha Paytas Contemplates Whether Dogs Are Mammals … and Have Brains

I’m reckoning with the possibility that this video is a giant windup. Then again, how would we know? It’s not like U.S. Christians are known for their firm grasp of basic biology.

It’s hard to pinpoint my favorite part, but I think it’s where she theorizes that she’s afraid of dogs because her “Christian intuition” is telling her that canines aren’t really God’s creatures.

My 11-year-old daughter responded to that without missing a beat: “Someone should tell her that dog is god spelled backwards.”

Anyway, watch and weep:

Missouri Pastor Cuckolds and Murders His Best Friend, Then Delivers His Stirring Eulogy

ABC News has the story of the sweet, sweet love that blossomed between Pastor David Love (pictured right) and Teresa Stone, a woman in his flock at the New Hope Baptist Church in Independence, Missouri.

There was just one little problem: Stone was married to Randy (pictured left), an insurance entrepreneur, with whom she had two kids. He thought she loved him, as he did her. A friend of the husband recalls that “[Randy] worshipped Teresa — she meant everything to him.”

Oh well. The heart wants what the heart wants. So Teresa and her secret beau plotted Randy Stone’s murder — any qualms assuaged by a tidy life-insurance payout that would soon fall into their lovin’ laps.

I guess they weren’t smart enough to try to make it look like an accident or a robbery. One night, the ordained man of God simply entered Randy’s office and shot him dead with the former Marine’s own handgun, which Teresa had given him access to.

Except for Randy Stone’s life, nothing was taken.

Oh, did I mention that Pastor Love was not just Randy and Teresa’s spiritual advisor, but also Randy’s best friend?

In both of those capacities, Love delivered a stirring eulogy at Randy’s funeral.

“We weep not just because of the separation of our loved one but because of the questions that death brings. Questions like why, why him? Why now?

There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

The charade ended soon after police found a handwritten love letter in Teresa’s trash, and began questioning her. The note said, in part,

“Happy Birthday Love. I am not in control of things yet but when we are fully together your birthday will always be exciting.”

It didn’t take the detectives long to determine that the letter had been written by David Love.

At trial, where the truth came out, the deadly couple were sentenced to prison. Love is now serving life (though he’ll be eligible for parole in 2036); Stone, who’d betrayed her lover just as she had her husband of almost two decades, testified against Love, and pleabargained her way to a term of just eight years.

ABC notes that

The church has a new pastor that the community has embraced and together they’re hoping to make new memories, no longer defined by Pastor Love’s mistakes.

His mistakes. That’s an interesting way of putting it. Do you think that if an atheist had committed cold-blooded murder, the media would be talking about “mistakes”? Such are the perks of being a God-man.

And remarkably, a God-man is still what Pastor Love claims to be. You see, he’s reinvented himself as prison preacher. He now leads large Bible-study groups, and teaches sinners the finer points of morality.

The Lord, mysterious ways — you know the drill.

[published earlier at the Friendly Atheist]

The Sex Lives of So-Called Godmen

There’s an interesting piece at Open The Magazine about so-called godmen (call them gurus or mystics if you want) who take sexual advantage of their disciples.

One example:

According to a 27-year-old girl, a software engineer based in Bangalore, she was made to perform rudrabhishek on a guru in Pune who she had trusted. This ritual required her to pour milk and honey on his penis and fellate him.



Her family members heard her cry out, but did not intervene because they assumed it was part of an occult ritual. The tantric had promised the family a change in their fortunes if they let him perform this hours-long exercise in isolation except for the company of a ‘pure soul’, which he convinced them resides in the bodies of adolescent virgin girls. The family volunteered their own 15-year-old daughter. The tantric left with assurances of a turn in the family’s luck. The girl was too dazed to say anything. Later, when she told them what had happened, the family refused to believe her.

Exorcist Buries Himself in Ritual, Accidentally Suffocates to Death

There’s no cure for this kind of crazy.

A Sri Lankan man died Thursday after a bizarre and botched ritual to drive out what he thought were evil spirits from a house outside the capital, police said. The man sacrificed a cat and was then buried in a shallow grave after instructing onlookers to dig him out once he gave a signal of pushing a sword he was carrying through the ground, police said. “Even after three hours, there was no sign of the sword coming up from the grave,” a local police official told AFP.

“That is when the onlookers decided to pull him out anyway, but he was unconscious,” the unnamed official said.

Spongebob buries Himself Alive

The 32-year-old man, identified by police as Maxi Castro, a local exorcist, was taken to hospital early Thursday morning but he had already died, the official said.

Pity. At least his survivors had a fresh grave all ready to go.

The man had been requested to drive out demons feared residing in the home of a school teacher at the village of Pelanwatte. “I saw him perform a ritual like this at a temple six months ago and invited him to check my property,” the teacher, Wasantha Bandara, told local radio station Shree FM. “He said I had bad luck because someone had sprinkled human ash at my house, but he could drive out evil spirits through this ritual.”

I do feel sorry for the cat.

Another fatal self-burial here: the victim-and-pepetrator thought it would bring “good luck.”