Phil Zuckerman: Lack of faith doesn’t increase gun violence

This op-ed first appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Aug. 11 and is reprinted with permission of the author.

By Phil Zuckerman

I

Phil Zuckerman

n the wake of yet another and another and another mass shooting in America — with at least 34 dead in Gilroy, El Paso and Dayton — Mike Huckabee, the former governor turned pundit, repeated his go-to response: Gun violence in our country is all about waning belief in God.

As he piously proclaimed in a recent televised interview: “The common denominator in all of this is . . . disconnecting from God. A lot of our country [is] utterly disconnected from any sense of identity with their creator.” Huckabee was even more explicit after the Sandy Hook mass shooting in 2012 that killed 26, including many young children. Such violence occurs, he said, because “we have systematically removed God from our schools.”

Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, is far from alone in holding this view. After the latest mass shootings, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said on “Fox and Friends” that if Americans don’t adequately praise God, the result will be continued carnage.

So, there you have it: Mass shootings in America are the direct result of people not having enough active faith in God.

The interesting thing about this hypothesis is that it is easy to test. You’ve got an independent variable (faith in God) and a dependent variable (gun violence). The hypothesis put forth by Huckabee and other Christian moralizers comes down to this: When a given society has a higher amount of faith in God, the rate of gun violence should be correspondingly lower. Conversely, the lower the amount of faith in God, the higher the rate of gun violence.

But social science finds the exact opposite correlation.

The facts show that strong faith in God does not diminish gun violence, nor does a lack of such faith increase gun violence.

Here’s one crystal-clear example: Faith in God is extremely high in the Philippines. One study found that the country “leads the world” in terms of its strength of faith in God, with 94 percent of people there saying they have always believed in God. Comparatively, the Czech Republic is one of the most atheistic nations in the world, with only about 20 percent of Czechs believing in God. According to Huckabee’s hypothesis, violence and murder rates should be much worse in the Czech Republic and much better in the Philippines.

But the reality is different: The murder rate in the Philippines is nearly 10 times higher than it is in the Czech Republic, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

This same correlation holds true for nearly every country in the world: Those with the strongest rates of belief in God — such as El Salvador, Colombia, Honduras, Jamaica, and Yemen — tend to experience the most violence, while those with the lowest rates — such as Japan, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, New Zealand and Australia — tend to experience the lowest levels of violence.

Are there exceptions? Yes. For example, New Zealand experienced a horrific mass shooting in March. Norway did as well, in 2011. But when looking at averages and correlations over time, the statistical relationship they reveal is unambiguous: Huckabee’s hypothesis doesn’t hold water.

By any standard measure, the safest countries in the world are highly secularized nations like Iceland, Denmark, Canada, Slovenia and South Korea — where faith in God is very low. And the most dangerous countries include fervently faithful places such as the Central African Republic, Syria, Sudan, Venezuela and Belize — places steeped in faith in God.

But the analysis can also be applied closer to home, to the 50 states. According to the Pew Religious Landscape survey, the states with the strongest levels of faith in God include Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Oklahoma. Those with the lowest levels of belief in God are Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, Alaska, Oregon and California. And, as expected, when it comes to homicide rates and violent crime rates in general, the least faithful states in America tend to experience far less than the most faithful.

Of course, there are many different reasons that some nations — or states — have higher rates of violence. For instance, higher rates of gun ownership have been tied to higher rates of domestic homicides. Factors like economics, politics, culture and a host of other aspects of social life also play their part.

But that’s the point. People’s relationship with the divine doesn’t have much, if anything, to do with it. Huckabee’s hypothesis needs to be rejected not only because it is statistically incorrect, but because it’s also inhumane: By blaming mass shootings on a lack of God worship, he is implicitly asserting that the many victims of gun violence, well, deserved it.

On average, about 13,000 Americans are killed by guns every year. And every day, approximately seven children are killed by guns. Such endless carnage and horror will only stop with sane laws and ethical policies.

Faith in God will do nothing to end the epidemic of mass shootings in America, save perhaps to serve as a balm for the souls of the many Americans forced to weep at funerals for victims of gun violence.

FFRF Member Phil Zuckerman is a professor of sociology and secular studies at Pitzer College and author of the forthcoming book, What it Means to be Moral.

They Said What? (September 2019)

There are only God-given rights protected by the Constitution. If you don’t believe in the one true God, there is nothing to protect.

Craig Northcott, the district attorney general of Coffee County, Tenn., asserting that Muslims have “no constitutional rights.”

The Washington Post, 6-5-19


Let every demonic network that has aligned itself against the purpose, against the calling of President Trump, let it be broken, let it be torn down in the name of Jesus.

Paula White, President Trump’s spiritual adviser, in the opening prayer before his campaign kickoff rally in Orlando, Fla.

The Hill, 6-18-19


We live in a society where homosexuals lecture us on morals, transvestites lecture us on human biology, baby killers lecture us on human rights and socialists lecture us on economics. . . . By giving the minority more rights than the majority. I hate to think of the country my grandkids will live in unless somehow we change and I think that will take a revolution. . . .The only way to change it would be to kill the problem out. I know it’s bad to say but without killing them out there’s no way to fix it.

Mark Chambers, mayor of Carbon Hill, Ala., in a Facebook post. He later apologized in another Facebook post.

WBRC, 6-4-19


[It’s] an affront to almighty God.

Alfonso Cirulli, Barnegat, N.J., mayor, in a campaign to end a law that brings an LGBT curriculum into schools.

Asbury Park Press, 8-7-19


This is what happens when you have someone who doesn’t fear the Lord, who doesn’t fear God.

“Fox & Friends” host Ainsley Earhardt, blaming the mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, on atheism, in effect.

Fox News, 8-6-19


We’ve got to put Jesus and God before everything else. And if we don’t do that, we’re going to be brought down to our knees again.

Tommy Tuberville, the former head football coach at Auburn University and a candidate running for Senate from Alabama, at a campaign stop in Montgomery. In 2015, FFRF highlighted Tuberville in its “Pray to Play” exposé on chaplain programs that foisted Christianity on public university athletes.

AL.com, 7-23-19


It is true that George County is a community that is predominantly Christian faith-based. While this is the case, the accusations that are being directed at our county by an organization that has not invested into the heart of our community should first take the time to inquire about the meaning and purpose attached to our 19/20 theme. We do not argue that the cross historically represents Christian faith, likewise, it represents: life and protection.

Pam Touchard, superintendent of George County Public Schools, in an op-ed posted on the George County Times’ Facebook page in response to FFRF’s request to remove religious displays from school property.

Facebook, 8-2-19


He is, without a doubt, the most biblical president I have ever seen. I’m going to repeat that: He is the most biblical president I have ever seen in what he does. His actions are remarkable and I would ask the audience to please pray for him continually.

Former U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, talking about President Trump on the American Pastors Network’s “Stand In The Gap” radio program.

Right Wing Watch, 7-29-19


The rate of marriage between U.S. Jews and non-Jews means the Jewish people have “lost 6 million people” and is like a “second Holocaust.”

Rafi Peretz, Israel’s minister of education, in a July 1 cabinet meeting that was attended by Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

New York Post, 7-9-19


Prayer has been fundamental to our country from the very get-go. Our country is founded on prayer. The Declaration of Independence says we hold these truths self-evident that we are endowed by our creator, which is referencing God.

Raymond Grim, a member of the Surprise, Ariz., Parks and Recreation Commission, after the City Council voted to allow religious invocations before meetings.

Your Valley News, 7-8-19

Crankmail (September 2019)

Here are some of the latest hits and missives from nonmembers who perhaps didn’t get a proper education. Printed as received.

Ohio school: What is wrong with all of you. Moaing about a 10 commandment display in a ohio school. Just because some looser does not like. I won’t it down. 92 years on the wall. Boo Hoo Moron’s. I will try to find a lawyer to sue to put it back up. Go get a real job. Quit whinning about everything. This is why the U.SA is going down the drain. Because looser’s like your group and similar ones. Socialist-Atheist etc Go Get a real Job. It discriminates to those who like it. Also put the bibles back in hospital’s and hotel’s. If you don’t wan’t to read it, don’t open it. I would say have a good one but in this case have a bunch of bad ones. — Carl Pielmeier

Losers: Your horrible work at New Philadelphia Ohio school: You should get a real job instead of infringing on the rights of others. Your position is a joke to humanity. Have you ever had a job where you have accountability or just prey on others? — Nick Cullen

Abortions: SHAME ON YOU PEOPLE!! YOU DON’T TWIST GOD’S WORD FOR YOUR OWN AGENDA!!! YOU PEOPLE TWISTING GODS WORDS TO APPROVE OF ABORTIONS, WILL ANSWER TO GOD COME JUDGMENT DAY!!! STOP TELLING PEOPLE THAT GOD IS FOR ABORTION!!!! ONE OF HIS COMMANDMENTS IS “THOU SHALT NOT KILL” & ABORTION IS MURDER!!! — Candi Byrum

FUSD Resilience in Education Program: I don’t understand why you are involving yourselves in something not even in your state let alone that doesn’t affect you. Personally I see no problem with religion in schools but since so many people nowadays have such a problem with it and the pledge of allegiance, they are not allowed in schools. I do have a problem with you complaining and threatening possible lawsuit for chaplains to be reading to students. How freaking ridiculous is that? Just because a chaplain is reading to our children doesn’t mean religion is being inserted into school. Other people read at the schools also. — Jennifer Gage-Reyes

Our money: Well,if you guys hate the phrase ‘In God We Trust’ on our money,I would suggest that you don’t use it. There,solves your problem. Go to Canada. — Michael Putignano

Hell awaits: FFRF is evil. There is a God. His name is Jesus and if you don’t acknowledge him as the Almighty son of God and Lord of your life you will burn in hell for eternity. — Bill Wright

Learn our history: Our country was founded on the Bible. Freedom of religion is about Not being jailed due to one believeing a different church from the church of the day…. NOT BADGERING PEOPLE for believing in our FATHER GOD in Heaven. In fact what YOU ALL are doing is EXACTLY why “separation of church and state is in our constitution. It is put there to Protect citizens who believe in GOD!…. so they are not forced to believe in one Christian religion over another. You all need to do some in depth studies of American History. — Juliana Linzey

Leave us alone: Curious why your group feels the need to take down things that have been around for ages, I.e 10 commandments plaque etc… why can’t you just ignore? I think your group is vile but I don’t rant and rave that you talk about atheism. If you are so sure of your beliefs why can’t you just let things be? — Meg Walsh

Freedom OF religion: You people have it all wrong, the constitution gives you the freedom to practice any religion, or none at all as you do. If we were free from religion there would be no churches, no celebrating atheism or devil worship. All of those things are given to us from the constitution, freedom to practice any religion, NOT freedom from religion. I’d love to know what you think of my view as I believe it is constitutionally correct. While you may not believe in the bible or the Curran I’d like to know what you think of the law. Anxiously awaiting your response, — David Haugh

Comment: What a bunch of MINDLESS ROBOTS you people are. — Mary Thomas

Your Sick: Your very sick people — Bob Smit

God: WHY DONT YOU BELIEVE GOD EXISTS — Joshua Pryce

You are an evil organization: You want to silence and oppress Christians! In the name of God you will be dammed! You will go straight to Hell!! the USA was founded on Christian values…the freedom of speech and religion comes from the values Jesus Christ taught us NOT your BS lack of values! Long live Jesus Christ…you can go to HELL! — Horacio Rodriguez

Haters: Why are you discriminating Christianity: Why is it that you hate Jesus Christ so much? — Alex Velez

Evil incarnate: Dan, you’re a true servant for the Prince of Darkness. I can hear your “Go Satan!” chants from here. — Eric Wood

Photos, cartoons, illustrations (September 2019)

Letterbox (September 2019)

I ‘Freethought’ at the gym. Where do you?

I just got home from a long vacation to a pile of mail. I dug through everything, hoping there would be a copy of Freethought Today waiting for me. Happy to find it, I took it to the gym with me, looking forward to reading it on the stationary bike. Whenever I get a new issue, I take with me so I can read it during the down times of my day when not much is going on.

I had two thoughts that came to me as I read:

First, I am out and proud, and always take off the outer cover sheet from the paper, so the title is clearly visible to anyone that sees me reading. I look forward to the day when Freethought Today can be delivered like any other magazine, with the cover exposed, and that there are no more FFRF members that have to be discreet about their membership!

Second, I would like to see a small section of the paper that is titled, “Where do you Freethought?” Members could send in a photo of where they read their paper. I’ll start it with the attached photo: I “Freethought” at the gym.

Keep up the great work!

John Fisher
Washington


Hobby Lobby tries to hoodwink the public

I opened up my e-edition of the Pantagraph newspaper (from Bloomington-Normal, Ill.) on July 4 and was aghast to see Hobby Lobby’s full-page ad spewing its nonsense about Christianity and our nation. Hobby Lobby can spend its money any way it wants, but I hate to see the public hoodwinked. I had received FFRF’s “Is America a Christian Nation?” pamphlet, so I thought of FFRF when I saw the ad.

Bill Rasmussen
Illinois


History, tradition no excuse for court rulings

I read FFRF’s article “Bladensburg cross decision a shameful legacy for Supreme Court.” This decision, relying on “history” to excuse an obvious Establishment Clause violation, seems to be part of a pattern. The Greece v. Galloway decision also relied on history and tradition, as have several others.

If history and tradition had been significant considerations in decisions by past courts, we would still have racially segregated public schools, poll taxes and literacy tests as barriers to voting, and cops beating “confessions” out of subjects. Those past decisions instead relied on reason, logic and the golden rule, as applied to principles stated in the Constitution. This current court is using history and tradition as excuses to allow blatant violations to continue, which creates a “might makes right” attitude.

Justice Samuel Alito’s claim that “the passage of time gives rise to a strong presumption of constitutionality” is flat-out dishonest. The Constitution says nothing about accepting violations after some time limit. These “histories” and “traditions” were established at a time when the unconstitutional Christian dominance of society and government was unquestioned. That dominance is now being questioned and we need to call out the Supreme Court’s Christian mullahs: Stop making excuses that allow the violations to go on. Continued excuse-making will cost the court even more of its credibility.

Lee Helms
Michigan 


Was Jesus gay? He was still bachelor at 33

I enjoyed Brian Bolton’s informative article on the blatant hypocrisy of evangelical Christians regarding their opposition to legal rights for the LBGTQ community on “biblical grounds.” Among other items, Bolton noted the reluctance of these religious bigots to address the ambiguous nature of Jesus’ sexuality based on what can be gleaned from the gospels. In addition to what Bolton noted, there is another aspect of Jesus’ life that should alarm fundamentalists and support the notion that he may have been gay. At a time when most Jews were expected to marry and have children soon after they reached puberty, Jesus was still a bachelor at age 33, along with most, if not all, of his disciples. Mary must have been one very disappointed Jewish mother!

Dennis Middlebrooks
New York


Cross is definitely a Christian symbol

The Supreme Court’s decision in American Legion v. American Humanist Association ruled that a huge cross can stand as a WWI memorial on public land in Maryland. I was upset after reading Samuel Alito’s opinion that such an old cross was not a religious symbol. I have heard such opinions my whole life about crosses, Christmas, and all manner of obvious Christian symbols and practices. Even as a child, I recognized these absurd statements as expressions of privilege — Christians get to make the rules. The consequences were always just as clear — non-Christians are not full Americans. It is disheartening to get this from the Supreme Court. Allowing symbols from other religions as condolence attempts at inclusivity always struck me as patronizing. They only reinforce the primacy of Christianity in the United States.

I recognize the Constitution as an aspirational document, and that we must continuously fight for freedom from religion. My grade school civics tells me the way to fight Supreme Court decisions is for Congress to pass laws against them. There was talk in 2016 of electing candidates to contravene Citizens United in this way. Sadly, those elections did not turn out so well. What can individuals and FFRF do against this latest development?

Mitchell Dushay
California


Canada, too, has issues of state-church separation

I am a Canadian member of FFRF and I am very supportive of your work. It’s very reassuring to know you’re out there, especially for ex-fundies like me.

I watch “Ask an Atheist” and “Freethought Matters” videos a couple of times a week and I realize the American problem is different from the Canadian one. You have a constitution that provides a legal basis for the separation of church and state and, therefore, you can bring legal action directly to the issue. In contrast, Canada has developed a culture that allows for greater diversity and is less reactionary to the multitude of opinions but, on the other hand, it’s not like the old mythologies have disappeared. Beliefs, faith, doctrines and traditions are more in the closet, yet they still affect political, civic, public and group behavior and decision-making.

The situation in Quebec is one I would recommend that FFRF highlight because of the recent legislation to deny anyone from wearing religious symbols if one works in a government office or in an agency funded by the government. The exception is the wearing of small Christian crosses on necklaces. That’s OK, but a hijab is not? Most of us know that this effort is a thinly disguised ploy to restrict Islam by stopping Muslim women from wearing burkas and hijabs and other facial or head coverings in public.

All the while this debate is going on, there is a giant cross on the wall of the provincial legislature. It is jaw-dropping to see this huge, blatant Christian symbol in the background during news items on TV as they defend legislation to eliminate religious symbols! The official response to questions about it is, “Oh, that’s not religious — it’s traditional and historic.”

Canada is a long way away from putting nativity scenes on public property and the Ten Commandments in courthouses and schools, but we aren’t out of the woods yet. Your encouragement, support and action will always be appreciated.

Jay Moore
Waterloo, Ontario


‘The bible’ should not be used in the singular

There is no such thing as “the bible,” so it is wrong to use it. Give me your definition of the “bible” and then I can show you. Generically, the bible is the word of a god or gods. Considering there are about 10 major versions of the bible and about 100 different translated versions in English alone, there cannot be “the bible.” When someone says to me, the “bible,” I ask what version. I don’t let someone believe that there is only one Christianity based on their bible version because they are stealing the narrative.

David Detterich
California


Display adds religion where it shouldn’t be

During Memorial Day this year, the U.S. Department of State’s Charleston Regional Center’s display honoring our nation’s fallen soldiers moves the heartache from the personal to the political.

The display is a table with a place setting for someone who will not return, whose absence is grieved: a glass waiting to be filled, a folded flag memorializing their sacrifice, and . . . a bible?

For those who made the ultimate sacrifice, was their sacrifice any less if they did not share Christian beliefs?

For those who suffer from the loss of a loved one in the military, is their suffering any less if their loved one did not share Christian beliefs?

For those who died defending our country, is the debt of gratitude we owe them any less if they died not sharing Christian beliefs?

Please, remember all who made that sacrifice, not just those who shared a particular religious belief.

Richard Cook
Arkansas


It’s never too late to become a Life Member

I’ll make this short and sweet. Having just turned 91, it seems I need to show more my gratitude for the work you do. I’m giving this check to become a Lifetime Member to help in some small way. I have already included FFRF (along with other worthwhile organizations) in my will.

Martin Stern
Texas


Excited about return of ‘Freethought Matters’

I am delighted to know that there will be a second season of the “Freethought Matters” TV show. There is hope for Sunday mornings!

Keep up the good work!

Martin Snelus
California


Prayer didn’t get us to the moon, science did

I just published my memoir of my years at NASA in Houston working on Apollo missions. It’s titled, When We Landed on the Moon.

Along with many other engineers, I spent long hours, sometimes literally 24-hour days, working on Apollo 8. The mission was a triumph of human ingenuity, genius and intense hard work. So, when the astronauts read bible verses while orbiting the moon, I was outraged and betrayed. Prayer didn’t get us to the moon — science and technology did. That magnificent and very human achievement was denigrated in favor of the childish creation myth of a primitive people.

At least I got the chance to blow off some steam about it in my book!

David Dvorkin
Colorado


Abortion T-shirt has a very moving message

The National Network of Abortion Funds sent me a T-shirt that has one of the most moving statements ever: “Everyone loves someone who had an abortion.”

I wear this shirt to the mall in Torrance, Calif., and the response from women and young girls has been overwhelming. I’m a 71-year-old male.

Damian Walters
California


John Fisher holds up a copy of Freethought Today at his gym.

POW/MIA displays are for remembrance

At remembrance displays in a VA medical center, fundamentalist Christians put religious scripture in the middle of those memorials to publicly proselytize religious beliefs. The hospital refused to remove it when veterans, including Christians, complained. A lawsuit was then filed to prevent this unconstitutional government endorsement and promotion of religion.

Originated in 1967 by a group of our Vietnam War combats pilots, the POW/MIA display purpose was (and is) to leave a place at the dinner table for those military comrades. It has always been about remembrance, not religion.

In response to the lawsuit, the VA wrote a new policy, presumably permitting this religious intrusion on the secular remembrance display, which is nothing more than unconstitutional malfeasance because it:

• Disobeys the First Amendment, prohibiting our government from endorsing or promoting a religion and requiring government neutrality regarding religion.

• Distracts from memorial remembrance by promoting religion not shared by all POWs, MIAs or military veterans.

• Disrespects millions of Americans who are not fundamentalist Christians.

Brig. Gen. John Compere, (Retired)
Texas

Black Collar Crime (September 2019)

Compiled by Bill Dunn

Arrested / Charged

Raymond M. Vliet Jr., Flint, MI: Embezzlement from a vulnerable adult $20,000 or more but less than $50,000 and stealing or removing a financial transaction device. Vliet, pastor at Old Beth-el General Baptist Church, is accused of using a power of attorney he obtained from a 91-year-old church member with dementia to take out loans for a pontoon boat and Jeep and cashing in a $4,000 life insurance policy.

“The pastor couldn’t get the loan in his [own] name because he had such a poor credit rating,” said Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell. Source: mlive.com, 7-16-19.

Jacek Ploch, 38, Coventry, RI: Driving under the influence. Ploch, a native of Poland and pastor at Our Lady of Czestochowa and St. Vincent de Paul Catholic parishes, was arrested about 9:30 p.m. after he struck a pedestrian with a 2018 Jeep Wrangler. His blood-alcohol content was higher than 0.15%, an affidavit said. The pedestrian was hospitalized in stable condition. Source: Providence Journal, 7-16-19

Gregory Dow, 60, Manheim, PA: 4 federal counts of engaging in an explicit sex act with a minor in a foreign country. Dow is accused of assaulting girls between 2013-17 at an orphanage he founded in 2008 in Boito, Kenya, where he had moved with his wife and 6 children. “[Dow] purported to be a Christian missionary who would care for these orphans,” said U.S. Attorney William McSwain.

Dow started the home independent of a mission organization but with financial support of churches and church members. Doug Lamb, pastor of Life Gate Church in Elizabethtown, the first church to support Dow, previously said he thought Dow was innocent.

Dow fled to the U.S. after Kenyan authorities issued an arrest warrant in September 2017. Investigators noted in court filings that he pleaded guilty in 1996 to sexually assaulting a girl in Iowa and was a registered sex offender for 10 years. Source: lancasteronline.com, 7-13-19

Jason W. Keller, 42, Pfafftown, NC: 10 counts of sexual activity with a student. Keller is accused of having sex with a female student 10 times between August 2008 and May 2009 when he was an assistant principal at Union Grove Christian School in Lexington and a worship leader at his unidentified church. The case, originally brought in 2009, was dismissed but new information from the alleged victim caused it to be reopened recently.

Also arrested by Davidson County authorities in an unrelated case was Matthew R. Hendrix, 36, Mocksville. Hendrix, a youth leader and Sunday school teacher at an unidentified church, is charged with statutory sex offense with a child by an adult, statutory rape of a child by an adult and 2 counts of indecent liberties with a child. Hendrix allegedly violated a 12-year-old girl who attended the church between June 15-25. Source: Lexington Dispatch, 7-12-19

Dean Kaplan, 35, Kensington, Australia: Counts of using a carriage service to access and make available child pornographic material and 2 counts of possessing child pornographic material. Kaplan has worked as a fitness instructor at the 800-student Emanuel School in the Sydney suburb of Randwick since 2016. It’s affiliated with the New South Wales Jewish Communal Appeal.

Kaplan also runs his own business, Get a Grip Personal Training, and gained some local renown after appearing on the TV program “Dating In the Dark.” Source: Morning Herald, 7-10-19

Joseph “Jack” Baker, 57, Waterford, MI: Criminal sexual conduct first degree/sexual penetration with a person under 13. Baker, pastor at St. Perpetual Catholic Parish, is the 6th priest charged as part of a state probe of abuse within the Catholic Church.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Dana Nessel, state attorney general. “Our clergy abuse investigative team is working day and night to review the hundreds of thousands of pages of documents and files seized from all seven of Michigan’s dioceses last fall.” Source: mlive.com, 7-8-19

Stephen A. Morris, 61, Four Oaks, NC: 5 counts each of statutory rape/sex offense and indecent liberties with a child. Morris, pastor of Oliver’s Grove Baptist Church, allegedly engaged in sex acts with a 13-year-old girl, now 19, in 2013-14. She didn’t come forward until June. Source: Daily Record, 7-8-19

Jerry Thareparambil, aka Father George, 40, Perumbadam, India, was taken into custody after parents of 7 children filed sexual abuse complaints. Thareparambil, a Catholic priest, is director of a facility that provides shelter and education to boys from poor families. It’s run by the Order of Discalced Carmelites. Source: Onmanorama, 7-7-19

Karey M. Heyward, 34, N. Charleston, SC: Criminal sexual conduct with a minor. Heyward, lead pastor at Eternity Church, is accused of lewd acts in a home from 2012-15. He also served with the Coastal Crisis Chaplaincy. The alleged victim’s mother spoke at the bond hearing: “I was heartbroken for my daughter. You have trust as a pastor, trust as a protector.” Source: WCSC, 7-6-19

Timothy M. Crowley, 70, Tempe, AZ: 8 counts of criminal sexual conduct alleged between 1986-90 at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Ann Arbor, MI, where Crowley was pastor. He was defrocked in 2015 and lives in a retirement home.

It’s alleged he repeatedly gave an altar boy cigarettes and alcohol and forced him to watch pornography while Crowley masturbated. The Diocese of Lansing settled a suit for $200,000 in 1993. The diocese shared information about Crowley with the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office that same year but the case was dropped at the request of the boy’s family. Source: mlive.com, 7-5-19

Shannon Griffin, 49, Burbank, IL: Grooming, sexual assault, solicitation of child pornography and distribution of harmful materials. Griffin, a kindergarten teacher at Jordan Baptist School, allegedly sent nude images of her showering to 2 students, boys ages 15 and 16, with text saying “Come on in.”

She’s accused of having sex with the younger boy at least 5 times starting with the initial encounter in 2013 and giving him a bottle of Maker’s Mark bourbon, said prosecutor Kyle Gruca. The alleged conduct continued until 2018. Griffin is married to the pastor who runs the school and has 3 adult daughters. Source: Chicago Tribune, 7-4-19

William C. Claveria, 32, Toronto: 22 counts related to abuse of at least 3 prepubescent children at 2 Filipino churches, where he allegedly recorded sexual assaults and shared them online. Detective Constable Don Bai said Claveria met the children in 2018 while attending Pentecostal services at Word & Life Christian Assembly and Jesus Reigns Forever International Ministry. Source: CTV, 7-4-19

Gabe R. Gilbert, 19, S. Jordan, UT: 5 counts of aggravated sexual extortion of a child and 4 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor. Gilbert allegedly coerced dozens of teen girls with threats into sending him nude images of themselves. When police went to interview him in March, they discovered he’d left in October 2018 to serve a mission with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Mexico.

One girl reported using using Snapchat to talk to “Ethan Parker” after he friended her and commented, “Tbh I’m horny asf would you be willing to help me out?” The girl told him no and “Ethan” responded, “I will Photoshop your face onto nudes and send them out.”

Investigators discovered about 50 potential victims. After a 14-year-old refused to send photos, “Ethan” said, “I hope your house has good security … I’m sending out your location and username … to as many creeps on the web as I can find.” Source: KTVX, 7-2-19

John T. Martin, 41, Florence, AL: 4 counts of 1st-degree sexual abuse. Martin, pastor at Lighthouse Baptist Church, told the congregation in June that he had “disgraced his family name because he had sex with two boys,” a church representative told authorities.

One boy, “in either 6th or 7th grade,” was assaulted several times, said a case summary from the Lauderdale County sheriff. The boy alleged Martin showed him nude photos of himself while on a public school bus Martin drove and frequently texted to ask if he had touched himself that day.

The church condemns LGBTQ people, as it explains in an online FAQ: “We believe that God has commanded that no intimate sexual activity be engaged in outside of a marriage between a man and a woman. We believe that any form of homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality, bestiality, incest, fornication, adultery, and pornography are sinful perversions of God’s gift of sex. We believe that God disapproves of and forbids any attempt to alter one’s gender by surgery or appearance.” Source: al.com. 7-1-19

Carlos S. Duran, 37, Las Vegas, NM: 2 counts of child abuse. Duran, pastor at Mountain View Fellowship, is accused of striking 2 boys and throwing one of them to the ground in June at the Baptist church because they were misbehaving. Arriving at the scene, police Officer Estevan Varela called an ambulance and the boy was taken to the hospital.

Duran was charged in 2004 with aggravated assault and battery with a deadly weapon and criminal damage to property. Source: New Mexican, 6-28-19

Arthur Ivey, 59, Quincy, FL: 2 counts of lewd and lascivious behavior on a minor. Ivey, pastor at Friendship Primitive Baptist Church, is accused of inappropriately touching 3 children at a child welfare facility. One said the alleged abuse had gone on for nearly 2 years. Source: Tallahassee Democrat, 6-25-19

Mark S. Witt, 69, and Jason Witt, 37, Somerset, PA: Failing to report child abuse. The Witts, father and son, are ordained ministers who operate Teen Quest Ranch, a Christian youth camp. It’s alleged that a 16-year-old boy assaulted an 11-year-old girl in a cabin in March while 2 male teens watched.

State Trooper Sondra Haberl said in an affidavit that the Witts “are mandated reporters that were informed of the abuse in May and did not make a report on the child’s behalf.” A relative of a participant notified police about the incident June 3.

Haberl said she questioned Jason Witt on June 12, when he allegedly said he only learned of the incident in early May “when Mark Witt told him.” Source: Tribune-Review, 6-25-19

Francisco J. Bautista Ávalos, Mexico City: Suspicion of murder. Bautista, pastor at Christ the Savior Catholic Church, was arrested after parish deacon Leonardo Avendaño’s body was found June 13 in his pickup truck. Bautista offered the funeral Mass for Avendaño, 29.

After interviewing him, police noted inconsistencies in his statement and discovered he’d met the victim late the night before he went missing. They were seen together on surveillance footage outside the church. Avendaño’s family believes he was murdered to stop him from going public with certain accusations.

Avendaño had recently graduated from Intercontinental University with a master’s in psychoanalysis and had earlier completed a bachelor’s in theology, hoping to become a priest. Source: National Catholic Reporter/Mexico News Daily, 6-20-19

Afshin Yaghtin, 47, Spokane, WA: Obstructing an officer. Yaghtin, pastor at New Covenant Baptist Church, was arrested while protesting Drag Queen Story Hour at the Spokane Public Library, the only person arrested at the organized protest.

Police Sgt. Terry Preuninger said Yaghtin was given numerous opportunities to stay in the designated protest area but refused. He and others yelled slurs like “sodomites” while about 50 children headed into the library.

Andrea Tate, event co-coordinator, said she’s never received so much pushback during the year and a half she’s been reading. “I’m sure a lot of children are going home and asking what a sodomite is,” she said. Source: Spokesman-Review, 6-19-19

Kwabena Asiamah, 50, Nyamebekyere, Ghana: Rape. Asiamah, an elder at Christ Apostolic Church International, is a fugitive after being accused of impregnating his 15-year-old stepdaughter. He’s also alleged to have bribed the girl with 10 cedi (about $2) to not say anything or he would stop paying her school fees. Source: Ghana Web, 6-19-19

Mitchell H. Conte, 35, Lincoln City, OR: 2 counts each of 2nd-degree sexual abuse, luring a minor, online sexual corruption of a child, 3rd-degree sodomy and contributing to the sexual delinquency of a minor. Conte, pastor at Oceanlake Christian Church until last November, is accused of having sex with a 15-year-old girl who babysat his daughters, ages 4 and 6.

The girl’s brother saw some explicit text messages and told their father. Conte was also affiliated with Life Change Church and helped run the Spooky Spectacular at Taft Elementary School last Halloween. Source: Lincoln City Homepage, 6-13-19

Sentenced

Chuck Kormanski, 57, Bellefonte, PA: 11½ to 23½ months in the county jail, 5 years’ probation, 350 hours of community service and $167,000 in restitution after pleading guilty to 10 counts of theft by unlawful taking. Kormanski admitted stealing the money over a 7-year-period from St. John’s Lutheran Church, where he was treasurer and wrote 379 checks to himself.

He also owned Pappy Chuck’s Candy Shoppe until it closed last December. He has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Source: WTAJ, 7-9-19

Jordan Baird, 28, Manassas, VA: 3 years in prison and 3 years’ probation after pleading guilty to 2 counts of indecent acts with a child by a custodian. The victim was 16 in 2014 when Baird, youth pastor at The Life Church, put her hand on his genitals and asked for oral sex.

He’s married and has a 5-year-old daughter. At sentencing his wife told the court that he’s a changed man. Baird’s brother and father have both been head pastors at the church.

Baird was convicted in 2018 of electronic solicitation of a minor and 5 counts of indecent liberties with a minor involving another 16-year-old girl and was sentenced to 10 years, but all but 8 months were suspended. Testimony from other girls allegedly molested was barred by the judge as prejudicial.

The mother of the victim in that case told a reporter that Baird should have admitted guilt when he was arrested several years ago. She and others allege that church leaders portrayed victims as liars. The case prompted a new law that makes clergy mandatory reporters of child abuse. It went into effect July 1. Source: Fox5 DC, 7-8-19

Mark Aderholt, 47, Columbia, SC: 30 days in jail, 24 months’ probation and a $4,000 fine after pleading guilty to misdemeanor assault causing bodily injury. He was initially charged with 4 counts of sexual assault of a child under 17 that allegedly occurred in 1996 against a 16-year-old girl.

The victim told the court she met him online while seeking help to organize a See You at the Pole event at her high school. He was then a 25-year-old Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary student. He served as a missionary with the International Mission Board from 2000-08 and on the staffs of 2 Arkansas churches. When arrested in 2018 he served on staff of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Source: Baptist Standard, 7-2-19

Anthony Haynes, 40, Toledo, OH: Life in prison after a jury found him guilty of sex trafficking of a minor, sexual exploitation of a minor and obstructing a sex-trafficking investigation. The victim, now 19, testified that Haynes, pastor of Greater Life Christian Center, had sex with her starting when she was 14.

“When she had sex with him, she got money. When she didn’t have sex with him, she got nothing,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Alissa Sterling. She had moved in with the Haynes family, which includes 5 other children, after her mother could no longer care for her.

Prosecutors said the grooming started shortly after she moved in when Haynes took her to a woman’s apartment, where he and the woman performed oral sex on each other in front of the girl. About a week later the woman performed oral sex on the girl at Haynes’ church, the victim testified. Haynes also coerced her into having sex with 2 other pastors who were sentenced earlier to life and 17½ years respectively. Source: Toledo Blade, 6-28-19

Civil Lawsuits Filed

Michael Wight, Fargo, ND, the Catholic Diocese of Fargo and the Texas-based Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity are being sued for at least $50,000 by Kateri Marion, 33, who alleges Wight sexually assaulted her while he was pastor at St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Belcourt on the Ft. Berthold Indian Reservation. Marion is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.

Wight, 52, was assigned to St. Ann’s in 2016 from the Society of Our Lady in Corpus Christi. The suit alleges he tried to touch Marion sexually during confession in July 2016: “Kateri tried to pull away. [Wight] would not let her, and instead [he] held Kateri close and shortly thereafter [he] ejaculated.”

Marion has a history of being neglected and abused and went to church almost daily, she said at a press conference. She said she reported the alleged abuse to Belcourt police “immediately” but was told several days later that she should let the church handle it. Belcourt police referred questions to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Aberdeen, SD. Source: Grand Forks Herald, 7-11-19

Renee Bach and her religious nonprofit Serving His Children (SHC), which has ignored a 2015 order to stop operating, are accused in a suit filed in Uganda of operating a medical facility without a license. Plaintiffs are the Women’s Probono Initiative (WPI), which promotes human rights, and Gimbo Zubeda and Kakai Annet, who allege the defendants’ actions led to the deaths of 2 of their children.

The suit alleges that Bach, 30, Bedford, VA, and SHC “unlawfully practiced medicine and offered medical services to unsuspecting vulnerable children.” According to WPI, Zubeda and Annet were led to believe that Bach was a physician and that she was often seen “wearing a white coat, a stethoscope and often administered medications to children in her care.”

SHC was registered with the government in 2010 as a rehabilitation center with a focus on addressing malnutrition. Its website now makes no mention of Bach, who isn’t listed as part of “Our Team” despite founding the organization. Two former SHC employees also thought Bach was a doctor, according to affidavits supporting the suit, saying they had observed Bach in a “clinical coat” and assumed she was a medical professional.

A group called No White Saviors has been campaigning for SHC to be shut down. In a 2018 anonymous article on medium.com, a member self-described as a white American volunteer wrote, “Initially, I admired Renee for her sacrifice and tireless commitment to children battling malnutrition. It was not until January 2014 that my perspective really started to change.” She went on to describe how Bach allegedly got a boy “fat and healthy and then sent him home without so much as any consideration for the root cause of his malnutrition.”

Bach denies all the allegations and said she’s always had only good intentions. She and SHC are represented by attorney David Gibbs III, founder of the National Center for Life and Liberty (“Standing with Churches Across America”) in Largo, FL. Source: CNN/Daily Mail, 7-4-19

Civil Lawsuits Settled

The Catholic Diocese of Little Rock confirmed that it paid $790,000 to 5 men who accused Arkansas priest John J. McDaniel of sexually abusing them in the early 1970s when they were between 12 and 15 years old. Plaintiffs’ attorney Josh Gillispie said the settlement didn’t include nondisclosure agreements, which allows the men to speak freely about their experiences.

“The reason we are doing this is because my clients want other victims to know that they are not alone,” Gillispie said. “These five guys lived into their 50s and early 60s thinking they were alone, which added on and compounded the suffering over the years.”

All Souls Parish’s insurance covered $250,000 of the settlement and diocesan insurance paid for the rest. Source: Democrat-Gazette, 6-28-19

The Catholic Diocese of New Ulm in Minnesota has reached a $34 million settlement in its bankruptcy case with 93 people who say they were sexually abused by priests and others, the diocese and an attorney representing survivors said. Attorney Jeff Anderson, who represents many of the survivors, said the settlement includes contribution of $8 million from the diocese and its parishes with the rest coming from insurance carriers. If the bankruptcy court approves the plan, the survivors will vote, and then their claims will be evaluated to determine award amounts for the individuals.

Four other Minnesota dioceses have already filed for bankruptcy or announced the intention to file. Source: AP, 6-26-19

Legal Developments

A new Tennessee law to protect children from sexual predators and human traffickers took effect July 1, including removing the statute of limitations for felony sex crimes in certain circumstances. The law applies if the victim is under 13 or ages 13-17 when the crime occurred and is reported before their 23rd birthday. 

If victims were 13-17 years old and didn’t report before turning 23, the statute of limitations is 25 years from their 18th birthday. After those 25 years, the case can proceed if there is corroborating evidence of allegations or similar acts by the defendant. The law also increases the time for civil claims involving child sexual abuse to be filed from 7 to 15 years after the victim turns 18.

Commenting on the law, Joanna Yoder said she was raised “in a very strict Mennonite community over in Pulaski and was sexually abused from the time I was 3 until I was 21 by five members of my community.” She now lives in Pennsylvania but came to Nashville to watch Gov. Bill Lee sign the bill. “It felt very monumental to be there,” Yoder said. Source: WZTV, 7-1-19

“[M]ore than one child was a victim of sexual abuse by the alleged maltreator” at a preschool operated by Washington Hebrew Congregation, according to a cease-and-desist letter sent by the District of Columbia superintendent of education to the synagogue in June.

The Reform congregation, founded in 1852, is one of the city’s most prominent Jewish institutions. Eight families allege preschool teacher Jordan Silverman molested children ages 2-4 from March 2016 to August 2018 and have sued.

The letter instructs the school to comply with a plan to correct the violations. The school “knowingly” violated a requirement that at least 2 teachers should supervise students at all times, it said. Source: The Legal Herald, 7-1-19

The Church of Scientology International, its Religious Technology Center, “ecclesiastical leader” David Miscavige and 25 unnamed co-respondents are being sued by “Jane Doe,” who alleges retaliation, child abuse, human trafficking, libel, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress involving her and other former members.

Doe alleges she was raised in the church from birth and at age 15 became Miscavige’s personal steward before being removed in 2015 and placed in an isolation program called “the Hole” because she knew too much about Miscavige’s marital problems. She escaped in 2016 in the trunk of a car driven by a non-Scientologist actor with whom she was assigned to produce promotional videos, the complaint says. Source: NBC, 6-19-19

William Weaver, 69, Lakewood, NJ, minister of Linden Presbyterian Church for 39 years, is accused of sexual assault, sexual battery, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, misrepresentation and gross negligence in a suit filed by 3 men and a woman. He was scheduled to face his accusers at an internal church trial in January for “multiple acts of idolatry and sexual misconduct” but renounced the jurisdiction of the presbytery the day before the trial was to start.

The male plaintiffs allege Weaver performed oral sex on them to remove evil spirits. The suit alleges the woman, “H.C.,” was about 35 during incidents in 2005-06 and that Weaver once “raised Plaintiff’s shirt and pulled down her pants so that he could place his hand on her navel, which he began to suck” for about a minute before spitting out a small metal ball, showing it to her and claiming it was a “hit.” Source: nj.com, 6-18-19

The Catholic Archdiocese of Newark, NJ, is being sued by about 135 former employees of the now-closed St. James Hospital in Newark who allege they lost their pensions because the archdiocese intentionally underfunded and removed assets from the plan, resulting in it going broke.

Retirees stopped receiving pension checks in November 2017 and those who hadn’t started taking payments never got any money. The archdiocese claims that after the hospital was sold in 2008 it did not have responsibility for the plan.

The suit alleges that the archdiocese failed to transfer the pension liability to the new owner despite telling retirees their benefits wouldn’t be affected. The suit cites a letter in which the archdiocese said “The Pension Plan was fully funded and you will receive, when due, the full amount of your vested retirement benefit.” Source: nj.com 6-13-19

Allegations

The Christian Academy in Japan, a suburban Tokyo school founded in 1950 as a boarding school for the children of Christian missionaries, is investigating 66 cases of alleged physical and sexual abuse of students by faculty, mostly in the 1960s and ’70s. An alumni group representative said she’s aware of cases as early as the late 1950s and as recent as the 1990s.

A statement on the school’s website from top administrator Anda Foxwell said the school “did not provide the nurturing and caring environment for children that we should have provided.” And although some of the stories she’s heard are secondhand, she said “I didn’t doubt the experiences.” The academy no longer has a boarding program. Source: Religion News Service, 7-12-19

The Catholic Diocese of Yakima, WA, released a list of 21 priests and deacons with substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor. Most of the men are dead and none of the others remain in any official position that puts them in contact with children or other members of the public, church officials claim. Source: Tri-City Herald, 7-10-19

The Catholic Diocese of Providence, RI, released the names of 50 priests and deacons credibly accused of sexually abusing minors since 1950. The list includes the names of 31 deceased clergy and 19 who are still alive but removed from the ministry and was compiled by retired State Police Maj. Kevin O’Brien, who directs the diocese’s Office of Compliance.

The Attorney General’s Office plans to cross-reference the list with previous allegations and disclosures, said spokeswoman Kristy dosReis. “While release of this list is a step forward, we do not view it as the end of the process,” she said in a statement. Source: NY Post, 7-1-19

The names of 11 Wyoming Catholic priests are on a list released by the Diocese of Cheyenne for substantiated sexual abuse allegations. First on the list is Gerald F. Chleborad, 84, who now lives in Colorado and was accused of molesting 3 teen boys in 1984-85, 1995 and 2003. The most recent allegation was made to the church in 2016, according to the diocese. Chleborad’s alleged abuse of 3 different adolescent boys took place over a period of 20 years.

While Chleborad was a priest in Jackson in 1995, he was charged with public lewdness in Sandy, UT. Security video in a store recorded him touching a coat sleeve on a rack with his penis. A spokesperson at the time said Chleborad was placed on leave and “has met with Bishop Joseph Hart and will be receiving counseling.” Source: News & Guide, 6-25-19

Removed / Resigned

Joseph H. Metzger III, Norfolk, VA, was suspended from his duties as pastor of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Parish by the Diocese of Richmond due to a violation of the code of conduct involving minors, which reportedly doesn’t involve sexual abuse. The complaint was reported to law enforcement. Metzger was also placed on temporary leave last December because of similar conduct violations and had just been reassigned July 1. Source: WAVY, 7-15-19

Catholic priest William McFarlane, who serves Nativity of Our Lord Parish and St. Gabriel Parish in Chicago, was “asked to step aside from ministry” after the Archdiocese of Chicago was notified of an allegation of sexual abuse. It’s not known if the accuser was a minor in 1997 at the time of the alleged abuse, which was before McFarlane entered the seminary, the archdiocese said. Source: Sun-Times, 7-13-19

The Catholic Diocese of Lansing, MI, suspended William Auth from the ministry due to “serious concerns” about the financial management of a nonprofit he runs. Auth is affiliated with the Oblates of Saint Francis de Sales. Bishop Earl Boyea also banned Auth from asking people in the diocese to help fund Maya Indian Missions, an Ann Arbor-based nonprofit he runs that was founded in 1998. Source: State Journal, 7-11-19

John C. Miller, Ross, PA, was placed on leave as an ordained Catholic deacon at St. Teresa of Avila Parish due to allegations he tried to kiss an underage girl in 2016. The Diocese of Pittsburgh received the allegation in 2018 and has forwarded the case to the Vatican. Source: Post-Gazette, 7-10-19

Joe Townsend, Broken Arrow, OK, was placed on leave as pastor of St. Benedict Catholic Church during a probe of alleged sexual misconduct involving a minor. He was ordained in 1988 and has served at St. Benedict since 2007. When Bishop David Konderla announced new priest appointments in April 2018, Townsend was listed as beginning a “sabbatical experience for one year.” Source: Tulsa World, 7-6-19

John Duffell, 75, retired as a Catholic priest after he was removed as pastor of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Parish in New York City. A source close Duffell said the allegation involved misconduct over a period of years. At a 2011 conference at Fordham University, Duffell allegedly told a participant to lie to church authorities about his same-sex attraction in order to be accepted in the seminary. Source: Catholic News Agency, 7-5-19

Bernard Preynat, a retired Catholic priest in his 70s, committed “criminal acts of sexual character against minors under 16,” a French church tribunal ruled in stripping him of his clerical status. Preynat has confessed to abusing Boy Scouts during the 1970s and 1980s and his criminal trial is pending.

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, 68, Lyon, was convicted earlier this year of failing to report Preynat to police and was sentenced to 6 months’ incarceration, suspended, and was fined €45,000 ($50,600). Source: AP, 7-4-19

Biodun Fatoyinbo, Abuja, Nigeria, leader of the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly, announced he was taking a leave of absence from the pulpit to “submit to the concerns of [his] spiritual mentors.” The Pentecostal leader is known as “the Gucci pastor” for his expensive taste in clothes and cars.

Busola Dakolo, a mother of 2 married to musician Timi Dakolo, recently accused Fatoyinbo of raping her when she was 16 after grooming her when she attended his fellowship group called the Divine Delight Club. A week after the initial rape in her home, she alleged, he raped her on the hood of his Mercedes, then said, “You’ll be fine. This thing is not a new thing. Men of God do this.”

Several days after Dakolo’s allegation, a woman who worked as an au pair for the pastor and his wife alleged he raped her in 2017. Fatoyinbo denies the allegations. The Coalition of Public Interest Lawyers and Advocates has written Mohanned Adamu, inspector general of police, asking him to ensure justice is served. Source: The Guardian/Premium Times, 7-1-19

Joseph V. Arevalo, 81, Babylon, NY, who has been living at St. Joseph Catholic Church, “has voluntarily stepped away from ministry and will not present himself as a priest” while an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor in the 1990s is investigated, a Diocese of Rockville Centre statement said. Arevalo, who was ordained in the Philippines, has served in the diocese since the 1970s. Source: Newsday, 6-30-19

Jack Herron, pastor at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Fargo, ND, was suspended after a woman alleged he touched her inappropriately while she was a teen in the 1970s. She reported it to the Diocese of Fargo in early 2018. Herron is retired and has been serving as a hospital chaplain outside the diocese. Source: Redwood Falls Gazette, 6-28-19

Jeff Gatlin, 51, Louisville, KY, resigned as pastor at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Parish after being accused of “inappropriate picture taking” of students during a May 13 school field day. The school serves K-8 students.

While Archdiocese of Louisville spokeswoman Cecelia Price said photos “showed nothing inappropriate,” other complaints surfaced during the investigation. In a May 31 email to parishioners, interim pastor Joe Graffis and parish administrator Scott U’Sellis wrote that Gatlin was “getting the help he needs dealing with chemical dependency and depression.” Source: Courier Journal, 6-25-19

Abdullah Patel, Gloucester, UK, was suspended as imam at Masjid Umar mosque and deputy head teacher at Al-Ashraf primary school for alleged comments he made about Zionists and about women, who he said needed “to be smarter” to avoid being sexually assaulted. His advice to women: “Don’t be alone with a man!”

A mosque statement said it had chosen to give Patel “some time away” while it investigated. Source: The Guardian, 6-19-19

Email: [email protected]

Benson cartoon

FFRF on the road

FFRF’s 42nd annual convention schedule

Friday, October 18

Morning Open House

Pre-convention event

9:30 -11:30 AM Open House

Freethought Hall in Downtown Madison

(Free, but reservations required!)

Early registration opens

Complimentary pastries, juice, hot beverages, Champagne, OJ, Mimosas


Afternoon Formal Opening 

Monona Terrace Community &  Convention Center

Monona Terrace, 1 John Nolen Dr.

Madison Ballroom

Noon Registration re-opens

(continues throughout convention) 

Sales tables open in the Madison Ballroom

1:00 PM Short Welcome

“The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism Is Un-American”

Andrew Seidel

Book signing during break

1:30 PM Henry H. Zumach Freedom From Religious Fundamentalism Award

Rachel Laser accepts on behalf of Americans United

2:00 PM A Conversation with Sarah Vowell with Dan Barker, followed by Q&A

3:00 PM BREAK — Refreshments (lobby)

Book signing for Sarah Vowell in ballroom

concurrent

3:30 PM “Godless Citizens in a Godly Republic: Atheists in American Public Life”

Authors R. Laurence  Moore & Isaac Kramnick

Book signing at 5 p.m.

4:15 PM Forward Award,  Nancy Northup,

Center for Reproductive Rights

5:00 PM DINNER BREAK

Buffet in Grand Terrace/Rooftop gardens

(ticketed event)

Book signing for Moore & Kramnick


      

Friday Evening Program

Madison Ballroom

7:00 PM Evening Welcome, Music

FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker & Annie Laurie Gaylor: Year in Review

Video speech: U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin

7:30 PM “Nothing Fails Like Prayer Award” Hemant Mehta

“Is Atheism Still Taboo in Politics?”

Hemant Mehta

8:00 PM God Gets His Annual Job Performance Review

Mrs. Betty Bowers (America’s Best Christian™) and Andrew Bradley

Complimentary gourmet cupcakes and hot beverages — Grand Terrace

10:15 PM Film: “Holy Hierarchy: The Religious Roots of Racism in America”

To be repeated at 12:15 p.m. Saturday


Saturday, October 19

All Saturday events held in Madison Ballroom, unless otherwise noted.

8:00 AM Nonprayer Breakfast (ticketed event) — Exhibit Hall A

9:00 AM Madison Ballroom

Sales tables open

9:30 AM Welcome Lisa Strand,

Music  Dan Barker

9:40 AM Film Preview, Jeremiah Camara,

Director, “Holy Hierarchy: The Religious

Roots of Racism in America”

10:00 AM Trio of  student essay winners

11:00 AM Battle of Church & State: Legal Accomplishments

FFRF Legal Staff & Mark Dann, FFRF lobbyist

Noon – 2:00 PM  LUNCH BREAK 

Optional Grab & Go Lunch

12:15 – 12:45 PM FILM SCREENING

“Holy Hierarchy: The Religious Roots of Racism in America”

2:00 PM Freethought Heroine Award

Mandisa Thomas

2:30 PM Avijit Roy Courage Award

Avinash Patil, on behalf of Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti

3:00 PM Emperor Has No Clothes Award

Anthony B. Pinn

3:30 PM BREAK

Book signing for Anthony Pinn

4:00 PM Leaving the Witness                     Amber Scorah

4:30 PM U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan


6:30 PM SATURDAY NIGHT DINNER

(Ticketed event) — Exhibit Hall A

Evening program in Madison Ballroom

8:00 PM “Clean Money Drawing”

8:30 PM An Evening with Trae Crowder, “Liberal Redneck”


Sunday, October 20

Annual Membership Meeting

Hall of Ideas FG

8:30 AM 

Complimentary pastries & hot beverages

9:00 AM Annual Membership meeting

Open to current FFRF members

Annual State Representatives meeting

Adjourn by Noon

Convention lineup nearly finalized

FFRF is happy to announce that author Amber Scorah and U.S. Rep Mark Pocan of Wisconsin will be speaking at FFRF’s 42nd annual convention. Also appearing via video will be U.S. Rep Jamie Raskin of Maryland.

Don’t forget to sign up now to join us in Madison, Wis., from Oct. 18-20 for the annual gathering of FFRF members. See details next page.

Scorah is author of the memoir Leaving the Witness, which documents her deconversion from her faith. Growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness, Amber moved to China to become an underground missionary. However, once there, she came to question the beliefs she had been taught and ended up leaving the religion. Amber then moved to New York City, where tragedy struck. Her 3-month-old son died on his first day in childcare. After suffering this loss, Amber became a parental leave advocate. Combining forces with a Republican mother, their bipartisan efforts brought the cause of parental leave to the forefront of the 2016 presidential campaign.

Rep. Pocan, who represents the district which includes Madison, serves as co-chair of  the Congressional Progressive Caucus and Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus. He is also a member of the Congressional Freethought Caucus, of which Rep. Raskin is a co-founder.

Raskin will provide a short speech via video in accepting FFRF’s Clarence Darrow Award for his advocacy and career as a constitutional law professor.

You’ll also get to listen to FFRF’s Legal Team report on the year’s legal highlights and victories.

FFRF will be honoring an assassinated Indian rationalist and his organization. Avinash Patil will be given the Avijit Roy Courage Award, which includes a crystal plaque and $5,000, on behalf of the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS), or the Committee to Eradicate Superstition in Maharashtra. It was founded in 1989 by Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, who was assassinated in 2013 at the age of 67. Patil has been the executive president of MANS since 2010.

Also speaking will be the impressive top three prize-winners of our college-bound high school senior essay contest: Aline Pham, Jacob McGee and Shiv Shah.

Other convention speakers include:

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, who will be receiving FFRF’s Forward Award.

Sarah Vowell, best-selling author of seven nonfiction books on American history and culture.

Steve Benson, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist and ex-Mormon, who will be on hand doing clever caricatures of convention guests as a fundraiser for FFRF.

Mandisa Thomas, founder and president of Black Nonbelievers, who will be named FFRF’s 2019 Freethought Heroine.

Isaac Kramnick & R. Laurence Moore, emeritus professors at Cornell University, who will discuss their book, Godless Citizens in a Godly Republic: Atheists in American Public Life.

Rachel Laser, president and CEO at American United for the Separation of Church and State, who will receive the Henry Zumach Freedom From Religious Fundamentalism Award on behalf of AU.

Hemant Mehta, editor of the FriendlyAtheist.com blog website.

Trae Crowder, who will perform his “Liberal Redneck” comedy act.

Deven Green and Andrew Bradley, the comedy duo of Mrs. Betty Bowers, America’s Best Christian, who will entertain with their act, “God Gets His Annual Performance Review.”

Anthony B. Pinn, who will be receiving FFRF’s Emperor Has No Clothes Award, is professor of religion at Rice University.

Andrew L. Seidel, the director of strategic response at FFRF, who recently released his book, The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism Is Un-American.

FFRF will be showing Jeremiah Camara’s movie, “Holy Hierarchy: The Religious Roots of Racism in America,” to mark the 400th anniversary of the introduction of slavery in North America.

Amber Scorah
U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan
US. Rep. Jamie Raskin

Visit Madison for FFRF’s irreverent conference!

Pre-registration closes on Monday, Oct. 7, at midnight. Mailed registration forms must received by this date. No convention meals may be ordered after Oct. 7, but there will be registration at the door.

Phone 1-800-335-4021 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Central weekdays. Or sign up at ffrf.org/convention2019.


Join the Freedom From Religion Foundation in Madison, Wis., for its 42nd annual convention from Oct. 18-20 at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center. For speakers and tentative schedule, see previous page.

General schedule

The pre-convention open house is Friday morning, Oct. 18 at Freethought Hall, FFRF’s national office.

The starting time of the convention, at the convention center (1 John Nolen Drive) is 1 p.m., Friday, Oct. 18, continuing through Saturday night. FFRF’s membership and state representative meetings take place Sunday morning, ending by noon.

The schedule includes irreverent music, FFRF book and merch sales tables and book signings, complimentary ice cream and beverages on Friday afternoon and complimentary Friday night dessert reception. Plus, there is the always-popular drawing for “clean” (pre-“In God We Trust”) currency on Saturday night.

Return the registration form on this page. It must be received no later than Oct. 7 if you plan to order meals. Or sign up at ffrf.org/convention2019.

Hotel reservations

FFRF is using three Madison hotels. The Hilton Madison, attached to the convention center, site of the convention, is the main hotel venue. The other two hotels offer overflow rooms, and require either a 3-block walk or driving or taking a free shuttle to the convention site. All hotels have blocks Thursday through Saturday nights, with a few more limited rooms Wednesday and Sunday nights.

Hilton Madison Monona Terrace, 9 E. Wilson St., Madison, WI 53703. Call 1-877-510-7465 or 414-935-5941, or visit bit.ly/2SPTPlz and mention “Freedom From Religion Foundation.” Rates are $185 (1-4 people), plus tax. Deadline is Monday, Sept. 16, for this rate. A self-parking garage is $17/day. Valet parking: $20/day.

Sheraton Madison Hotel, 706 John Nolen Drive, Madison, WI 53713. Call 866-716-8134 or 608-251-2300 or visit: reservations.com/hotel/sheraton-madison-hotel, mentioning “Freedom From Religion Foundation.” Rates are $156 (1-4 people), plus taxes and fees. Deadline is Wednesday, Sept. 18, for this rate. Parking is free and so is the shuttle to Monona Terrace, a 3-mile walk or 8-minute drive.

Park Hotel Madison, 22 S. Carroll St., Madison, WI 53703 (3 blocks from Monona Terrace). Call 800-279-8811 or 608-285-8000 or visit parkhotelmadison.com, mentioning “Freedom From Religion Foundation.” Rates are $194 (1-2 people, one bed); $214 (1-4 people, 2 beds); $254 (suite). Deadline is Tuesday, Sept. 17, for this r

Cartoonist Steve Benson will be drawing caricatures of attendees at FFRF’s convention in October as a fundraiser for FFRF.

ate. Two-night minimum length of stay. Guaranteed parking for one vehicle for overnight guests ($15 per night, valet only).

Food!

Complimentary receptions include light brunch fare at the Friday morning Freethought Hall Open House, complimentary ice cream and hot beverages Friday afternoon after the start of the convention and complimentary dessert reception with cupcakes and hot beverages at the conclusion of Friday night.

Optional meals include:

Friday Dinner Buffet, $35: Bucky’s Tailgate Buffet includes Wisconsin Waldorf salad, home-style potato salad, beer-boiled Johnsonville Bratwurst with sauerkraut and chopped fresh onion, grilled boneless chicken breast and black bean burgers.

Saturday Nonprayer Breakfast,  $20: Cheese & chive scrambled eggs, apple smoked bacon, rosemary wedge potatoes,  petite muffin assortment, chilled juice, coffee, tea and milk. Veggie/vegan/gluten-free substitutes available.

Saturday ‘Grab and Go’ Box Lunch, $25. For your convenience, we offer a box lunch containing deli-sliced turkey on fresh Kaiser roll, piece of whole fruit, cookie and chips. Vegetarian option is marinated grilled tempeh sandwich.

Saturday Dinner, $50: Roasted chicken breast with truffle glaze, potatoes, vegetable blend, dessert.