Crankmail (Jan/Feb 2021)

Well, FFRF’s detractors certainly had a field day after FFRF persuaded a Kansas school district to discontinue fundraising for Franklin Graham’s proselytizing Christian organization. Here is a very small sampling of the mail we got. (Printed as received. . . including an abundance of foul verbiage.) 

Ffrf: By keeping your mother fucking mouths shut about kids getting toys fromBGEA.does it make you feel good to take toys from children.you all are a bunch of bitches for doing that to that school.ill bet secretly you do pray to god. — Gordon L. Chambers

kids toys: What sort of sick fucks are you your hatred of religion has prompted you to send letters and take kids toys away? you seriously have to be some sick cock sucking mother fuckers. go fucking yourselves you fucking cunt whore pieces of shit. fucking dirty pieces of human shit — Robert Bailey

Kansas Christian: I will be donating $1000’s of dollars to to Liberty Middle School because of your harassment. Christians the world over do the most good for the poor and disenfranchised. Everyone knows it. — Cathy Goracke

assholes: go fuck yourselves ffrf,is it true all athiest women are sluts,if they would keep thier legs closed they wouldnt need to kill babies but then you dont believe in god so killing babies is ok.hopefully all athiest,liberals,progressives get covid and vanish from this planet,you people are a plague.liberal,athiest,progressives and dems are the biggest terrorist threats this country and constitution faces over all terrorist groups out there infact you fucking pigs are terrorist.so you think because damentia biden stole the election we are going to bow to fucking pig athiest,liberals and progressives go fuck your selves you pigs — Andy Konocki

xmas: you nasty cunts for stopping those kids from getting gilfs………i hope all you fuckers get shot …..you cunts — Wayne Beard

Kansas middle school: stick a crucifix up your ass until it comes out of the top of your skull — Mark Hittle

Evil Website: You are a evil place and should be removed from society. You will burn in hell for what you do to this great country. I hope and pray you lose every battle you try and do. My children will be taught there is a God which by the way there is a God so when you are on your death bed you will call out to God for sure. — Michael Wilson

Hey!: You really are a disgusting, piece of shit organization. You’re actions and fucking threats in Pratt, KS are reprehensible. Of course, we should all expect this from a fucked up state like Wisconsin and fucked up, Godless people like you are. ROT IN HELL — John Hoehn

Toys are bad: Did you karen motherfuckers really threaten a fucking school for collecting toys for less fortunate kids? Like are you fucking shitting me? what kind of absolute trashy fucking human shit are you? Hope y’all get run the fuck over & your families get covid. Scumy motherfuckers. — Janet Belfour

Fuck Off!: You can mind your own goddamn business is how you can assist me. Keep your nose and your bullshit out of Fannin county GA. If you don’t like it you can go fuck yourself. You goddamn liberal cunts!! — Geoff Parsons

Disgusting: Close your doors. After reading your page a bit and reading your website this is disgusting. You ARE the reason we have lost all morality in this world. You have a war on Christmas? Gtfo something that brings joy and happiness to so many you want to dismantle it? Im glad my parents hugged me enough to not hate someone with a different of opinion. — Patrick J. Henry

Celebrating the Winter Solstice Season 2020

Letterbox (Jan/Feb 2021)

State-church separation fight is no small feat

On a cold Sunday morning in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, our feet are toasty warm with our FFRF stockings and our minds are being stimulated with a new episode of “Freethought Matters.”

The opening of this episode is from President John Kennedy, the first Catholic elected president. In that campaign, he needed to assure Protestants and secularists he accepted the constitutional concept of separation of government and religion.

“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.”

FFRF is the premier organization today fighting every day for absolute separation of government and religion. “Freethought Matters” is central to the communication of that principal to everyday Americans. Thank you and keep up the good work.

Shirley Moll and Steve Petersen
Minnesota


Congrats to secular invocation winners

Congratulations to Sarah Ray and Ann Landman for their perseverance and courage in achieving the acceptance of their local city councils in Lake Wales, Fla., and Grand Junction, Colo., to allow them to give secular invocations. I hope that, in the not-too-distant future, all local and municipal governments in this country will adhere to what our founders intended to establish when they wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights — a permanent wall between religion and government.

Steve Taulbee
Maryland


Subtleties of Christian Nationalism at work

I received an email invitation from the Wall Street Journal. It’s a subtle but disturbing approach to establishing “trust” via covenant thinking, heavily influenced by David W. Miller, director of Faith and Work Initiative at Princeton. There is also a white paper link in the invitation. It seems to be an attempt to get corporate leadership to move in an ethical direction based on the “religious concepts” of ethics and trust. Unbelievably subtle.

And, the irony is that it’s sponsored by Philip Morris, the same company that spent millions during the 1950s and ’60s attempting to create distrust in the scientific research about the link between smoking and lung cancer. Kind of a dark history, indeed!

Michael Pettus
California


Black Collar Crime section is a must-read

I read in your December issue a letter from a reader suggesting that the paper should discontinue the Black Collar Crime section because he has no interest in the topic.

I completely disagree with his suggestion. Frankly, Black Collar Crime is the main reason I read Freethought Today. It is the way I learned of the crimes of four local clergy I went to school with or otherwise worked with in the past.

Please keep up the great work in this important section of your publication.

David Nason
Michigan

. . .

In the recent issue of Freethought Today, you printed a letter in which the writer stated that Freethought Today would be a better publication without the inclusion of Crankmail and Black Collar Crime. He stated he was “not interested in what these looney-tunes think and . . . less interested in what those creeps do to children and vulnerable adults.”

I disagree with him. In fact, my favorite part of Freethought Today is Crankmail and Black Collar Crime. I admit that my enjoyment does stem from schadenfreude at the knowledge that some people have paid for their crimes committed under the cover of their religious positions.

But, I also think these two sections are valuable because they instruct us as to the heinousness of these crimes and their perpetrators’ justification for their behavior on religious grounds. When I pass my Freethought Today on to friends, they always comment on the Crankmail and Black Collar Crime sections as being the most enlightening about the cause of separation of church and state. I would venture to say these sections open more eyes than more erudite and philosophical articles.

Georgellen Burnett
New Mexico


Scary flight was true test of the nonbeliever

About 10 years ago, I was flying out to Denver, and before boarding, I stopped in Hudson Books to grab something to read on the flight. I was very familiar with Christopher Hitchens’ work, but at the time I hadn’t gotten around to reading God Is Not Great. (It’s now so ragged and worn that it barely holds together.) I was pleasantly surprised to see it on the shelf, so I bought it.

The final approach to Denver International involved the worst thunderstorm I’d ever flown in, by far. I was thinking to myself, “How many of these passengers are praying their asses off for a safe landing, and here I am holding a book by one of the most prominent atheists of our generation?”

In several instances, I was all but certain the plane was going down, based on how turbulent it was. (Even the flight attendants were visibly terrified, which is never a good sign). That was my ultimate, “Well, I guess I’m all in” moment as a nonbeliever, and I can still remember it as vividly as if it happened yesterday. Obviously, the flight did land safely, but that was the closest thing to a “near-death experience” that I had ever encountered, and I decidedly was not praying to any deity to get me on the ground, but it happened anyway. Miracle? Hell no. Just amazing airmanship and modern technology.

Justin Pripusich
Illinois


FFRF does magnificent job with its fundraising

We have recently survived Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday. On that Tuesday, my inbox had at least 50 requests for donations. In addition to this, my snail mailbox has as many as a dozen requests on a daily basis thought the year.

I am grateful to the Freedom From Religion Foundation for not using those methods. Twice a year you make a general request for funds allowing us to choose how we want our money to be used. It appears to me that FFRF does a magnificent job raising money without wasting envelopes, stationery and postage. Thank you.

Dick Hewetson
California


FFRF is an invaluable ally, amazing nonprofit

FFRF has been an invaluable ally and asset to our local freethought community here in southeastern Wisconsin. On two separate occasions, FFRF lawyers have written letters in response to violations in our towns of the Establishment Clause. Both times were efficient and effective, with a very short response time.

In 2017, a teacher in the public school district festooned her classroom with bible quotes and other Christian propaganda. After many complaints and lengthy meetings with the principal failed to convince the school to remove the material, FFRF lawyers drafted a letter challenging the constitutionality of the displays and demanding their removal. The resulting investigation by the school district resulted in a sweep of all schools and the eventual removal of the offending material.

More recently, the Racine, Wis., county government was discovered to have been awarding $50,000 annually to an evangelical Christian nonprofit called Youth For Christ in the form of a community and cultural grant. Similarly, the obvious nature of this violation prompted a letter from the lawyers at FFRF.  Although the facts of the letter were denied by the county, the grant subsequently disappeared from the next budget, due to fiscal shortfalls.

FFRF is well-run on a rarely seen level. Beside its legal support, it is extremely available to aid local chapters and members, including making appearances, welcoming visits to Madison, and lending support of any kind to chapter efforts. Both administration and staff are unfailingly pleasant, kind, patient and responsive. Every year, FFRF hosts an extravagant convention in a different city around country for the benefit of all members, everywhere. 

With podcasts, TV shows, newspapers, original entertainment, a world-class headquarters, it’s hard to catalog all the ways in which this nonprofit serves its constituency and the nation. Its spokespeople routinely appear before Congress or on national news outlets to fight for the rights of all Americans, while simultaneously creating community and solidarity on a grassroots level for its members.

Keep up the amazing work!”

Rob Moore
Wisconsin


Unfortunately, ignorance still reigns supreme

While Oregon has among the highest percentage of “Nones” in the country, churches and religious salespeople still dominate this state.

Here in Eugene, there are well over 100 Christian churches and two Christian colleges. Most nonprofits are Christian-oriented. Yet, there’s hundreds of homeless folks living on the streets of Eugene in tents. The hypocrisy is mind-boggling.

Wouldn’t you think these Christian priests/ministers would feel obligated to house homeless people in their churches? These parasites don’t even pay property taxes! If they did, homeless shelters and other needed community projects could be funded.

Christian preschools, bible camps and Sunday schools are still screwing up the minds of children with fairy tales of sky gods and divinely inspired books of hate and warmongering. But we allow this brainwashing to continue because it’s supported by our government and ignorant parents/guardians unwilling or unable to think for themselves.

The major problem we’re facing today is that there are far too many gullible, submissive people accepting the lies of religious salespeople, billionaire psychopaths and corporate-funded politicians.

Robert Simms
Oregon


Thanks to those who support bodily autonomy

As a woman in my late 30s, and a longtime FFRF member, it was discouraging to read in the FFRF membership survey that 80 percent of respondents are 60 or older and 70 percent male.

However, it was heartening to read that 98.8 percent of the respondents support legal abortion and Roe v. Wade.

As a woman who has attended many protests for the right of bodily autonomy, I’ve often been dismayed at how few men are in attendance. A large thank you to the old(ish) men (and all other members) of FFRF for being much needed allies.

I terminated an unattended pregnancy only a few years ago in my mid-30s. At the clinic, I was provided with a couple of ibuprofen. Only people with a driver would be permitted to get the strong meds for the procedure. I was perfectly comfortable with my personal health decision, but I was too embarrassed to call a friend to pick me up. Years later, I mentioned my abortion to a friend. “Oh, yeah, I had one in my 20s,” she said.

Given that one out of four women terminate a pregnancy by age 45, her response should not have surprised me. A year later, my friends, when telling me about their clinic visits, hopefully were not surprised when I said, “Oh, yeah, me too.”

And, so, my fellow atheists, agnostics, humanists and freethinkers, thank you for helping normalize the normal and not letting the detriment of Christian supremacy affect your commitment to a person’s own bodily autonomy. I’m hoping for a day when none of us is uncomfortable calling our friend to pick us up, so we can have the good meds.

Name, state withheld


Circumcision should be added to mutilation bill

Contrary to FFRF’s recommendation, Donald Trump (or Joe Biden) should NOT sign HR 6100, the Stop Female Genital Mutilation Act of 2020. The president should send it back to Congress and demand that boys also be included in the ban. And, FFRF should immediately amend its position on infant genital mutilation to include all children, regardless of gender. How can it be not OK to mutilate little girls, yet be OK to mutilate little boys?

Jay Clem
California


I’m grateful to watch ‘Freethought Matters’

I was lucky enough to tune in to recent episodes of “Freethought Matters.” I knew nothing of Ann Druyan until that show, to say nothing of her work and marriage to Carl Sagan. Wow. What a delightful conversation you had with her. I loved it.

Then, I just happened to tune into your show with John Davidson. Wow again. I never knew he was a freethinker and was delighted to hear him sing and play guitar. What an interesting interview.

Anyway, I am so grateful for your show.

Marilyn Fisher
Wisconsin


Thanks to FFRF ‘atheists’ for county seal change

Michael Powers, county executive officer of California’s Ventura County, sent me a letter with the recently launched new logo, which doesn’t have images of the Ventura Mission, cross or of missionary Junipero Serra. An earlier story in the Ventura County Star newspaper noted that “atheists” had objected to the county seal. The new logo is nice, and it seems to count as a step forward — away from Christian imagery in civic life.

Mitchell Dushay
California


‘Theo-plagiarism’ worthy of adding to lexicon

The quote from President Trump in the November “They Said What?” section, thanking the Christian God for the treatment Trump got at Walter Reed Medical Center, is a perfect example of “theo-plagiarism,” the act of giving credit to one’s own hypothetical deity for work done by humans.

We’ve long needed a word to describe believers’ nasty habit of thanking their god(s) for firefighters putting out fires, doctors saving lives, search parties finding lost hikers, and so on. “Theo-plagiarism” seems to fit.

Lee Helms
Michigan


‘Freethought Matters’ showed me I’m not alone

I want to let you know how much I appreciate FFRF TV show “Freethought Matters.” I love the people you interview (including Ann Druyan), the music and the testimonials before and after. It has been my gateway to people who share my recently formed thoughts on religion and God, so I now feel comfortable identifying as an atheist.

Cheryl Thompson
Wisconsin

Editor’s note: FFRF’s TV show “Freethought Matters,” goes up on FFRF’s YouTube channel every Thursday and now airs in 13 major cities on Sundays. To find out if your city broadcasts it, check out ffrf.org/freethought-matters.


Devilishly good cake was as good as its name

I decided to try Paul Gaylor’s “Devilishly Good Chocolate Cake” recipe from the “World Famous Atheist Cookbook.” It was my first time making a cake from scratch, and indeed, it turned out devilishly good (especially with the marshmallow buttercream frosting I also made)!

Andrew C. Jones
Michigan


Arthur C. Clarke had it  right about religion

On Dec. 16, mention was made of Arthur C. Clarke in FFRF’s Freethought of the Day. So, I thought it was a good time to write the following for those FFRF members who are also science fiction fans.

Clarke, in The Songs of Distant Earth, made a clear statement about religion that I wholly agree with. The “task” referred to is the winnowing of all human thought into compact information to be sent electronically with colonists to a new planet. What should be included for a fresh human start and what deleted? No developed human brains were being sent (only genetic material, in a form unspecified, to be turned into humans by robots for the first generation), so this would truly be a clean start.

“The task was, of course, impossible as well as heartbreaking. With tears in their eyes the selection panels had thrown away the Veda, the bible, the Tripitaka, the Quran and all the immense body of literature — fiction and nonfiction — that was based upon them. Despite all the wealth of beauty and wisdom these words contained, they could not be allowed to reinfect virgin planets with the ancient poisons of religious hatred, belief in the supernatural, and the pious gibberish with which countless billions of men and women had once comforted themselves at the cost of addling their minds.”

So, throw religion out; it does more harm than good. What should be indisputably true is that religion is not genetic and that anyone has to be taught to be religious. It is not part of the human genome. It is a human meme that we choose to propagate. As Clarke says, don’t let that meme infect the universe.

Karla Martin
Washington


Shirley Moll and Steve Petersen of Minnesota show off their FFRF socks.

Will bigots ever accept same-sex marriages?

Some bigots are shrewd enough to argue that it is they who are the victims of bigotry. For example, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito complained that those who oppose same-sex marriage on the basis of their faith are unfairly called bigots by those who accept it.

If Alito had lived 100 years ago, I’m sure he’d have condemned anyone who accused faith-based opponents of interracial marriage as bigots. “Those against interracial marriages are not bigots,” he’d say. “No! They are defending a doctrine of their faith.”

Well, such marriages are legal now, and only the bigoted long for a return to the “good old days” when religiosity reigned supreme and imposed its will on all matters, including people’s most intimate behavior.  It is they who continue to insist that for a marriage to be legal, it must be between a man and a woman.

My only wish is that someday they’ll at least tolerate, if not accept,  same-sex marriage, as they now (I hope) tolerate interracial ones.

David Quintero
California

Black Collar Crime (Jan/Feb 2021)

Compiled by Bill Dunn

Arrested / Charged

Nathaniel S. Myers, 38, Clovis, CA: 6 counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child. It’s alleged Myers molested multiple children under age 14 during the last 18 years “while actively working” at an unnamed church and as a landscaper, said a press release from the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office.

Online sources list Steve and Peggy Myers as teaching pastors at SouthPoint Church in Fresno. A Facebook page lists Nate Stephen Myers as a Worship Team Member at SouthPoint from 1995 to the present.

It’s believed there’s “a strong possibility” he may have victimized other children, the release said. Source: Fresno Bee, 11-26-20

Robert McKenzie, 49, Brooklyn Park, MN: 2 counts of 3rd-degree criminal sexual conduct. It’s alleged that McKenzie, co-founder of Word of Faith Ministries, molested a 17-year-old girl inside a residence in November. The church holds services at a St. Louis Park hotel.

Court papers stated he admitted touching the girl inappropriately, saying he “had a perverted thought.” Source: WCCO, 11-25-20

Michael M. Penkava, 71, Crystal Lake, IL: Misdemeanor violating reporting provisions. Penkava, a Jehovah’s Witness church elder, is accused of failing to notify police about an allegation that a male congregant was sexually abusing a family member. Source: Northwest Herald, 11-25-20

Mark A. Korando Sr., 69, Costa Mesa, CA: 2 counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child with a foreign object, 3 counts of oral copulation or sexual penetration with a child 10 or younger, 2 counts of forcible lewd act on a child and 7 counts of lewd or lascivious acts with a child younger than 14.

Police said Korando volunteered for years as a chaperone for children at a church identified as located in the 1700 block of Baker Street. The only church in that vicinity is Mesa Verde United Methodist Church at 1701 Baker St.

His arrest for alleged assaults on 2 sisters, ages 12 and 14, about 2 years ago came after their mother contacted police in September. As a chaperone, Korando helped take church youth groups out of state on trips to provide services to needy people. Source: CBS-LA, 11-25-20

Timothy L. Waters, 39, Elizabethtown, KY: 1 count each of 1st-degree sexual abuse, 3rd-degree sodomy and 3rd-degree rape. Elder Ben Ashlock of The Driven Church said Waters had volunteered with the church’s youth about “one year, more or less.”

An arrest affidavit said Waters was “in a position of authority” when he allegedly had sexual contact with a 16-year-old girl on multiple occasions. Vine Grove Police Chief Kenny Mattingly said his department became aware of the situation when an officer encountered Waters and the girl at a city park. Source: News-Enterprise, 11-25-20

Moises Norberto-Guerrero, 43, Greenville, SC: Criminal sexual conduct with a minor and 2nd-degree assault and battery involving alleged incidents between 2008–19 with several victims. It’s alleged that Norberto-Guerrero, pastor at Iglesia Pentecostal Jehovah Jireh, inappropriately touched a 7-year-old who attended church services, said a report filed Oct. 19. Another alleged victim came forward Nov. 16 and told police that Norberto-Guerroro touched him sexually on multiple occasions. Source: WYFF, 11-25-20

Venkataramanappa, 68, Chickballapur, India: Sexual assault. The Hindu priest is accused of raping a 10-year-old girl after luring her into his house next to the temple with promises of snacks. “The girl was taken to a hospital for a medical examination where doctors confirmed that she was raped,” a senior police officer said. Source: The Hindu, 11-25-20

Jason Carpintero, 51, Salisbury, NC: 5 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor and indecent liberties with children. Carpintero, a high school teacher’s aide with ties to several churches, is suspected of crimes against at least 2 children not from the school.

Carpintero’s résumé says he received a divinity degree from Asbury Theological Seminary in 2008 and that he was a pastor at 5 Methodist parishes from 2000–08. The United Methodist Church’s online directory confirms several of those pastoral appointments as well as several more at other churches. Source: Daily Independent, 11-24-20

Ronnie Upshaw, Gainesville, FL: Obstruction without violence, breach of the peace and breaching a county noise ordinance. Upshaw, pastor at Church of God the Bibleway, was arrested after police received noise complaints from apartment residents about loud music and preaching.

After refusing to stop, Upshaw is heard in a video saying, “Come on take me to jail, I’m ready to go. Jesus is the savior, Jesus is lord, Jesus is Christ, Jesus is a hero.” Source: WCJB, 11-23-20

Jacob Ouellette, 24, N. Myrtle Beach, SC: 2 counts of criminal solicitation of a minor. “I regret to have to inform you that Jacob Ouellette, director of youth ministry at Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church and former employee at Holy Trinity Catholic School, has been arrested in connection with a multi-jurisdictional investigation targeting sexual exploitation of minors via the internet,” said a church statement.

He also volunteered at St. Andrew Catholic School for several months in 2019. Source: WBTW, 11-23-20

Andrey Kovalenko, 52, Bedford, OH: 10 counts of mail fraud. Kovalenko served as a priest at the Shrine of Mariapoch in Burton, St. John Byzantine Catholic Church in Solon and St. Eugene Byzantine Catholic Church in Bedford. The parishes are part of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma. He is a native Russian who emigrated to the U.S. in 1996.

He is accused of looting the churches’ accounts of nearly $399,000 from May 2014 through July 2018. Source: Plain Dealer, 11-21-20

Isaiah J. Thompson, 37, Ft. Smith, AR: 2 counts of rape of a minor under 14 years old. Thompson is accused of assaulting 2 male minors when he was a youth ministry volunteer.

One man alleged he was sexually involved with Thompson from the time he was 7 and Thompson was about 17 and that the abuse occurred for over 15 years. Another man who attended the church as a child alleged Thompson started molesting him when he was 12.

Thompson was affiliated pastorally with Christ for the World Pentecostal Church and Bobby Hogan Ministries until he was fired in 2018. Source: KARK, 11-20-20

Angela J. Wagner, 50, Elm Mott, TX: Theft of more than $150,000 but less than $300,000. Wagner, secretary/treasurer since 2013 at First Baptist Church, allegedly stole over $173,000 by using the church debit card for personal expenses.

Her attorney, Rod Goble, said Wagner is “very sorry for her actions” that started in February 2017, adding that she has cooperated with authorities from the start. Source: Tribune-Herald, 11-19-20

Shepard Bushiri, Pretoria, S. Africa: Money laundering, theft and fraud. Bushiri, founder of a church called the Enlightened Christian Gathering, was arrested in his native Malawi along with his wife and 2 others on charges involving alleged fraud totaling $6.6 million.

He claims to be able to cure HIV and blindness with “miracle oil” and promises to deliver his thousands of followers from poverty. Authorities in Botswana shut down his church. Source: BBC, 11-16-20

A prominent rabbi from central Israel was arrested for allegedly molesting several of his students. Two complaints have been filed against the rabbi, whose identity remains under embargo. Police are investigating if there are others wary of coming forward.

The rabbi denies the allegations. Followers claim it is the work of a rival Haredi rabbi. Source: Israel Hayom, 11-15-20

George Swain, 71, Boston: Rape of a child and indecent assault and battery of a child under the age of 14. Swain is pastor at Greater Victory Temple, a Pentecostal church.

“During the timeframe of 1997 to 2004, the defendant is charged with sexually assaulting these three children at the time repeatedly and over years,” said prosecutor Audrey Mark. “He also provided them money.” Source: WCBV, 11-14-20

Anthony Laterza, 70, Lakehurst, NJ: 3 counts of possession of child pornography. Laterza served as a deacon at St. John’s Catholic Church in 2019. A forensic review of electronic devices seized from his home revealed apparent images of child pornography, said prosecutor Bradley Billhimer. Source: Manchester Patch, 11-12-20

Codie Malesker, Hastings, NE: 5 counts of mail and wire fraud. The indictment alleges Malesker used his employment as an insurance agent, construction company partner and as a pastor and board member at Faith Community Tabernacle to file fraudulent claims of over $107,000 from 2013–17 and collect the proceeds.

The church website lists him as administrator, sound manager, Praise Team member and bass guitar player: “Bro. Malesker assists the church in all business aspects of the church. He also preaches.” Source: Journal-Star, 11-10-20

Johnny Monderen, 49, Colorado Springs, CO: Sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust, sexual exploitation of a child, misdemeanor menacing and unlawful display of sexually explicit matter.

Monderen, pastor at Church of the Son, is accused of assaults over a period of 3 years starting in 2017. It’s alleged assaults occurred after he would enter the child’s room when everyone was asleep and force the child to drink wine and beer. Source: KRDO, 11-2-20

Todd A. Foster, 52, McComb, MS: Carnal knowledge of a juvenile while he was a teacher and basketball coach in 2007 at Christian Life Academy in Baton Rouge, LA. Foster and his wife were pastors at The Well church in McComb before announcing in October they would be taking a sabbatical to “allow them a time of rest.”

Sara Gray-Foreman, Foster’s accuser, is a former Christian Life student who alleges he assaulted her at his home when she was 16. She told deputies she decided to report the incident because she learned he was leading The Well and feared what might happen to other children. Source: The Advocate, 11-2-20

Kevin F. Hite, 54, Radford, VA: Taking indecent liberties with a minor and 10 counts of unlawful carnal knowledge of a child aged 13 or 14. Hite, a church deacon and office administrator at HeartCry Missionary Society, allegedly had a sexual relationship with a girl, who is now a young adult, “over an extended period of time, beginning when the child was 13 years old.”

A search warrant alleges Hite admitted when interviewed by police that he and the girl exchanged nude photos, that he reserved a motel room for them and bought her a cellphone and paid for its service. Source: Roanoke Times, 11-1-20

Sean Higgins, 30, Palmyra, NJ: 28 criminal counts, including aggravated sexual assault and manufacturing child pornography. Higgins, youth pastor and music leader at Harbor Baptist Church and a teacher at Harbor Baptist Academy, is accused of posing as a teen girl named “Julie Miller” to trick unsuspecting boys on Snapchat and Instagram.

“When a boy would send a nude photo of himself, Higgins would instantly transform and warn the child, ‘I’ve got you,’ and threaten to circulate that photo if the child did not engage in additional sexual acts on camera for Higgins’s sick gratification,” prosecutor Scott Coffina said. Source: nj105.com, 10-30-20

Jarod Mills, 33, New Castle, OH: Importuning [requesting sexual services] and unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. Mills, pastor at Clifton Flats Alliance Church and an instructor at Butler County Community College, was among dozens of men arrested in a statewide anti-human trafficking operation.

The operation led to 109 victims being rescued and referred to social surfaces. Source: WKBN, 10-26-20

Edward Lilly, 70, Boothwyn, PA: 10 counts each of child pornography possession and depicting a minor child engaging in or simulating a prohibited sexual act and misdemeanor corruption of a minor. Lilly is pastor at the Christian Church of Chester, formerly White Rock Christian Church.

The alleged victim told police that in 2017 when she was 16, Lilly started to flirt with her at the market where she worked and that they began having sex after she turned 17. Lilly recorded the encounters on his cellphone. Source: Haverford Patch, 10-26-20

Pleaded / Convicted

Robert Shiflet, 50, Denton, TX: Pleaded guilty in federal court in Little Rock, AR, to 2 counts of transporting minors across state lines for unlawful sexual activity. Shiflet worked in Denton Bible Church youth ministry programs from 1995 to 2001.

According to the prosecutor, Shiflet assaulted a 15-year-old girl in 1997 on a church camping trip to the Buffalo National River in Arkansas. He also pleaded guilty to multiple assaults on a different girl in 2002–03 while working as a youth pastor in Little Rock. Source: Arkansas Times, 11-30-20

Manuel LaRosa-Lopez, 62, Richmond, TX: Pleaded guilty to 2 counts of indecency with a child. A plea bargain calls for him to serve 10 years in prison. La Rosa-Lopez admitted molesting a girl and a boy while he was a priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Conroe from the late 1990s to early 2000s.

Prosecutors said victims reported the abuse to church officials at the time but the allegations were never relayed to law enforcement. Source: KHOU, 11-17-20

Randolph Brown, 65, Cleveland: Pleaded guilty to 2 counts of compelling prostitution and was labeled a Tier II sex offender. Brown, pastor at Inner-City Missionary Baptist Church, was arrested in February 2020 in a sting targeting trafficking of underage girls who had run away from home. Source: WOIO, 11-12-20

Kent R.E. Whitney, 38, Newport Beach, CA: Pleaded guilty to mail fraud and filing a false federal income tax return. He used his Church of the Healthy Self in Westminster in a scam that took in $33 million and sent bogus reports to investors, prosecutors said.

He admitted to reporting his income in 2018 as $17,539 when it was actually at least $452,872. About $435,000 of that income came from the scam. Source: OC Register, 11-6-20

John Allen, 76, W. Manchester Township, PA: Pleaded guilty to indecent assault and corruption of minors for assaulting 2 altar boys between 1997 and 2002 when he was pastor at St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Church in Penbrook.

A plea bargain calls for him to serve 5 years’ probation. A state grand jury in 2018 identified Allen as one of 301 “predator priests.” The Diocese of Harrisburg expressed concern about his “sexual behavior” as far back as 1970. Source: York Daily Record, 11-5-20

Thomas Humphrey, 79, N. Amityville, NY: Guilty by jury of forcible touching. Humphrey, pastor at Hollywood Full Gospel Baptist Cathedral, was accused of sexual touching by a woman who worked with him producing a radio show on multiple occasions between April and September 2018. Source: Amityville Record, 10-29-20

Sentenced

Marcin Garbacz, 42, Rapid City, SD: 7 years and 9 months in federal prison for convictions on 50 counts of wire fraud, 9 counts of money laundering, transportation of stolen money and 5 counts of filing a false tax return.

Garbacz was ordered to pay $258,696 in restitution to the IRS and 3 Catholic parishes he served as pastor. He was accused of stealing from parish collections for several years and was arrested in May 2019 at the Seattle airport with a one-way ticket to his native Poland and more than $10,000 in cash.

At sentencing, he apologized to parishioners and said he was angry with Catholic doctrine that considers homosexuality to be “intrinsically disordered.” He identifies as gay.

He still faces federal charges of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place and receipt of child pornography. The indictment alleges he traveled abroad in 2011 to engage in sexual conduct with someone under age 18. Source: KEVN, 11-23-20

Tobias Tissen, Sarto, Manitoba: Fines of $1,296 on each of 2 convictions for violating COVID-19 restrictions. Tissen, pastor at the Church of God, said he felt “honored” to be fined “for doing something that God wants me to do.”

The church itself was fined $5,000 and 5 others were given individual tickets of $1,296 after the church tried to hold a large drive-in service. They were blocked by Mounties, which led to over 100 cars lined up trying to get into the parking lot.

Fines totaling $180,000 were issued to people and businesses throughout the province for breaking public health orders. The area in the vicinity of the Church of God has a COVID test positivity rate of 40%, among the highest in North America. Source: CBC, 11-23-20

Timothy J. Hallows, 62, Kaysville, UT: 46 months in prison with credit for 13 months already served in jail after pleading guilty to possession of child pornography. He admitted having images on his phone of prepubescent children being sexually assaulted by adults and sending them to a woman in the Philippines in November 2019.

Hallows, a father of 5, was bishop of the Wellington Ward in the Kaysville Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when arrested. A probable cause statement said Skype filed a complaint about a user who shared child sexual exploitation materials. The user’s screen name was “timhallows.”

Investigators found files containing videos and photos showing nude or partially clothed prepubescent girls, some of whom posed with nude adult males. Source: KSL, 11-18-20

Mona McGrady, 62, Sonora, CA: 4 years and 4 months in prison after being found guilty by jury of sexual penetration with a foreign object and 2 counts of lewd or lascivious acts with a child aged 14 or 15. McGrady, former volleyball coach and sports coordinator at Mother Lode Christian School, was acquitted on 8 similar counts.

In lengthy testimony, she denied molesting 2 students between 1995–97 and said she has never been gay. Tom McGrady, her husband of 36 years who also taught at Mother Lode, testified for the defense. “Jane Doe 2” testified but her allegations fell outside the statute of limitations. Source: Union Democrat, 11-17-20

Bret Welty, 49, Boise, ID: 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to sexual abuse of a child younger than 16. Welty, pastor at Hard Rock Revival Church, was accused of assaulting a 15-year-old girl in August 2019.

The girl was staying with Welty’s family for the weekend, as the “family believed that spending time at the pastor’s home would be helpful” because of anxiety and family problems she was having, prosecutors said. Welty had her undress and touched her sexually for between 30 and 60 minutes, only stopping when his wife knocked on the bedroom door. They’re now divorced.

Welty admitted having “struggled with such behaviors before” but never with someone as young as the victim, court documents said. Source: Lewiston Morning Tribune, 10-28-20

Edward S. Thompson, 40, Eugene, OR: 125 years in prison for convictions on 4 counts of rape, 5 counts of sex abuse and 1 count of sodomy. When arrested in 2018, he was a music ministry leader at Christ Fellowship Church and former member of the Eugene Faith Center.

The female victim, under age 12, told a counselor that Thompson molested her while babysitting for “as long as [she] could remember.” The affidavit stated the abuse occurred between 2012–18. Source: Register-Guard, 10-17-20

Civil Lawsuits Filed

The Catholic Archdiocese of Newark, NJ, is being sued by a woman who alleges she was sexually assaulted by 2 nuns when she was 8 in 1969 and in 1971 by a priest at Immaculate Conception Parish and School in Montclair. William Dowd, the priest, lives now in Brick and was removed from ministry nearly 2 decades ago before being reinstated in 2007 after a church trial. The archdiocese settled a suit last October filed by a man alleging Dowd molested him as a child. Dowd is chaplain for the New York Giants NFL franchise.

John Baldante, attorney for plaintiff Mary Joy Morgan, said she told a therapist about the abuse years ago and in 2018 reported it to a priest at the Montclair parish, now called St. Teresa of Calcutta.

The suit accuses Sr. Maria Michael Garner, a teacher and administrator at Immaculate Conception Elementary School, of abusing Morgan several times a week starting in 1969 and Sr. Alice Bernadette, of helping restrain her for Dowd in 1971. Both nuns are dead.

Dowd’s abuse continued until 1975, when Morgan transferred to another school, it’s alleged. Source: northjersey.com, 11-30-20

The Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, NY, and 3 bishops have been sued by the state Attorney General’s Office for cover-up of sexual abuse by priests. The state will try to use civil laws governing religious charities and their fiduciaries to prove the diocese failed to follow policies enacted in 2002 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The suit seeks restitution and institutional changes and a ban on former bishops Richard Malone and Edward Grosz from management roles in any charitable organization.

Attorney General Letitia James alleges the men used bureaucratic maneuvers to shelter more than 2 dozen priests accused of harming children. Edward Scharfenberger is named as a defendant in his capacity as current interim administrator of the diocese. Source: NY Times, 11-22-20

The Vatican’s Holy See is being sued by 4 plaintiffs, “JA Doe 50-53,” men who allege sexual abuse by defrocked Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. One plaintiff is a priest. Plaintiffs’ attorney Jeff Anderson said it’s the first time an active clergy member has sued the Holy See regarding abuse.

Three of the plaintiffs were parishioners who allege McCarrick, 90, abused them as youths in the 1980s. The priest alleges McCarrick assaulted him at a beach house in New Jersey in the 1990s and that a fellow priest told him to forget what happened “for the good of the church.” Source: WNBC, 11-20-20

Concordia Preparatory School (formerly Baltimore Lutheran School) in Towson, MD, and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod are being sued by a former student who alleges her reports of male student-athletes sexually assaulting and harassing her on campus in 2017–18 were ignored. Three similar suits were filed recently.

The plaintiff alleges as a freshman she was “cat-called” in hallways by males expressing a desire to have sex and that once she was lifted up with her legs pinned while she was grabbed and struck on her backside and thighs.

The girl later reported the assault to the headmaster, the dean of students and a guidance counselor, but no action was taken, according to the suit. The girl’s boyfriend, a Concordia alumnus, also wrote several emails to school officials calling for action on her behalf.

At least half a dozen female students met with administrators to report harassment, the suit alleges. The plaintiff later transferred to another school. Source: Baltimore Sun, 11-13-20

Civil Lawsuits Settled

Miracle Meadows School in Salem, W.VA, settled claims with 29 former students for $51.9 million. The claimants alleged to have suffered mental, sexual, and physical abuse by adults who ran the Christian boarding school founded in 1987 for at-risk and learning-disabled youth. It was shut down by the state in 2014.

School founder Susan Gayle Clark and the Seventh-day Adventist Church-North American Division were among the 14 defendants in the original suits filed in 2017. Clark pleaded guilty to child neglect, failure to report and obstruction of justice and received 6 months in jail and 5 years’ probation.

“The abuse suffered by these children would shock the conscience of any West Virginian,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Jesse Forbes. “They were stripped naked, handcuffed, sexually abused and kept in a 5-by-8-foot room with a coffee can for a toilet. This is the stuff straight from a horror movie.”

Although authorities mounted investigations as far back as 1999, it was hard to bring them to a conclusion since alleged perpetrators often came to the school on work visas and would be sent back to their home countries before they could be questioned. A state Supreme Court ruling in 2000 also limited officials’ access to medical records and their ability to interview students. Source: WV News, 11-12-20

Joseph Stone, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Starkville, MS, and head deacon Terry Miller were found liable by a civil trial jury for over $500,000 in damages in connection with a failed construction project that started in 2015.

The jury found that Stone and Miller conspired with the contractor and that Stone likely took kickbacks from the contractor, Donald Crowther, who has pleaded guilty to fraud. Source: WCBI, 11-4-20

Finances

The Catholic Diocese of Scranton, PA, paid $24.46 million to 213 survivors of sexual abuse through its Independent Survivors Compensation Program, now closed. Eleven offers were rejected by claimants, 25 offers remain outstanding and 46 were determined ineligible.

Accepting an offer means forfeiting the right to sue. The program was primarily funded by the sale of the diocese’s 3 long-term care facilities, which sold for about $26 million. Source: Diocese of Scranton, 10-29-20

Legal Developments

The Utah Supreme Court heard arguments in a case alleging 4 male elders of a Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation in Roy forced a 15-year-old girl to listen to a recording of a man raping her in 2008. Lower courts found the church was not liable under 1st Amendment protections.

The woman sued the elders, the church and its national organization, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, in 2016, alleging she cried, shook visibly and pleaded for them to stop as they played the recording intermittently for at least 4 hours in 2008.

She alleges she was 14 when the pepetrator, a fellow Jehovah’s Witness, 18, bullied her increasingly and began sexually assaulting her in 2007. She gave the congregation’s leaders a recording of one instance. The church tribunal’s goal was to extract a confession that she had voluntarily engaged in sex outside marriage, her attorneys contend.

“The allegation here is a mental and emotional equivalent of waterboarding,” Justice Deno Himonas said. “I’ve been a judge for a long time and a lawyer for a long time. I’ve never seen, in court, anything like this that’s alleged.”

Church lawyer Kara Porter argued that the tribunal was trying to determine if the girl had sinned, a process the government isn’t permitted to meddle in. Church attorneys previously said the teen could have walked out of the meeting with her parents. Source: Deseret News, 11-9-20

Roy N. Shoop, 55, Inola, OK, has now been accused of molestation by 5 girls in 3 states, all under age 16 and as young as 12, who make similar claims that they were working at Shoop’s farm or taking riding lessons from him when molested. Shoop is pastor at Cowboy Gatherin’ Church.

Sgt. Bo Williams of the Rogers County Sheriff’s Office said he believes all 5 were groomed. “Kidding and joking, subtle touches. Stuff like that. There were statements made that ‘Oh, that’s just Roy being handsy.’ ” Source: News on 6, 11-9-20

Allegations

The New Zealand Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse is hearing from 23 people abused while in the care of the Catholic and Anglican churches and the Salvation Army. Frances Tagaloa, 52, testified she was sexually abused between ages 5 and 7 by Brother Bede Fitton, a Marist Brothers teacher.

“Brother Bede would be fondling me or would want me to take my pants off and stand me up on a table and get me to read books. I was not sure what else he was doing because I was reading a book.”

Tagaloa said she started processing what happened to her as a child when she was 17. “It just seemed strange to me that I had to go back to the Marist Brothers, to the very organization that allowed the abuse to happen. I had to go back to them to try and see if they would fix it or do anything about it, and it made me quite fearful.” Source: Radio New Zealand, 11-30-20

George W. Rutler, 75, a prominent New York City Catholic priest, author and host on the Eternal Word Television Network, is accused of forcible touching by a Bronx woman, Ashley Gonzalez, 22, who worked as an overnight security guard at his parish, St. Michael the Archangel in Manhattan.

She was on her second day of the job Nov. 4 when she alleges she saw him watching gay pornography on an office computer. Rutler’s weekly newsletter is carried by Church Militant, a right-wing Catholic website that rails against homosexuality. Gonzalez has shared an 18-second video with media of him watching the porn.

“He looked at me with a smile, looked away, and he put his hand inside his pants, and he was playing with himself,” Gonzalez alleged. When she tried to leave, she said, “He aggressively threw himself on me and grabbed me sexually, aggressively, and I was fighting him off of me.”

The Archdiocese of New York said in a statement that Rutler denies acting inappropriately but “has voluntarily stepped aside from the parish and is not currently serving as a priest.”

“[T]he NYPD takes sexual assault and rape cases extremely seriously,” said a police statement about its investigation of the allegation. Source: Daily Beast, 11-28-20

A Vatican investigation revealed how defrocked Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, 90, rose through the Catholic hierarchy to become one of America’s most powerful prelates despite longstanding allegations of sexual misconduct that ultimately led to his downfall.

Pope John Paul II personally made the decision to appoint McCarrick,” the report said, despite receiving a letter from John O’Connor, the archbishop of New York, that summed up allegations that McCarrick engaged in sexual conduct with another priest in 1987, that he had committed pedophilia with his “nephews” and that he shared a bed with young adult men and seminarians.

“What is now known, through investigation undertaken for the preparation of the Report, is that three of the four American bishops provided inaccurate and incomplete information to the Holy See regarding McCarrick’s sexual conduct with young adults,” a summary said. Source: NY Times, 11-10-20

State investigators have named 97 priests credibly accused of sexually abusing children within Florida’s Catholic churches. Prosecutors set up a hotline for clergy sexual abuse in 2018 and received 260 tips.

Investigators concluded none of the 97 can be prosecuted because they are either dead or the statute of limitations has expired. The report also revealed 81 priests who were relocated to Florida after being credibly accused of sexual abuse in other parts of the country.

“I feel bad for the Florida victims of past church assaults,” said Eugene Rosenquest of the Florida chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “Are they now left to twist in the wind?”

The report underscores the need for statute of limitation reform, he said, and for a “look back window” law like New York’s. Source: News 4 Jax, 11-9-20

Removed / Resigned

Francis “Frank” Lawlor, administrator of Sacred Heart Catholic Parish in Pittsfield, MA, was placed on administrative leave by the Diocese of Springfield. The leave is effective immediately “pending the outcome of a private legal matter,” said a post on the diocese’s website.

According to a police report, Lawlor was charged with open and gross lewdness after urinating outside a sandwich shop on May 10. He had been asked to leave the shop because he was not wearing a mask and following COVID-19 restrictions.

An employee told police that Lawlor was “spraying pee all over.” Lawlor admitted urinating on some bushes because he “couldn’t hold it any longer.” The case is still pending. Source: Berkshire Eagle, 11-16-20

Carl Lentz, 41, was terminated as lead pastor of Hillsong East Coast, a megachurch in Manhattan, NY. An email from Hillsong founding pastor Brian Houston cited “leadership issues and breaches of trust, plus a recent revelation of moral failures.”

The church also cut ties with his wife, Laura Lentz, 40, Hillsong co-pastor. Houston and his wife founded the original Hillsong in 1983 in Australia. It now has locations in 28 countries and, pre-pandemic, had an average 150,000 weekly attendees.

Carl Lentz famously baptized singer Justin Bieber in a bathtub at the Manhattan home of Knicks player Tyson Chandler in 2015.

Lentz’s former lover Ranin Karim, 34, a fashion designer and native of Palestine, detailed her alleged affair with him in a news interview: “We were obsessed with each other. He was like a drug to me. I was a drug to him.” Source: Religion News Service/NY Post, 11-10-20

Other

Joel Kolko, 74, a New York rabbi accused of molesting students at the yeshiva where he taught for years, died of COVID-19 while on a visit to Israel. Yeshiva Torah Temimah in Brooklyn paid $2.1 million in 2016 to 2 former students who accused Kolko of sexual assault.

The boys were 6 at the time of the alleged abuse. The school is facing several more suits accusing Kolko of abuse. Source: JTA, 11-10-20

Paul Shanley, 89, a former Massachusetts Catholic priest who served 12 years in prison for raping a boy at a Newton church in the 1980s, died Oct. 28. A cause of death was not provided.

Shanley was a popular street priest who ministered to gay and troubled youths. Decades later, dozens of men came forward with abuse accusations. He was defrocked and moved to an apartment in Ware in 2017 after being released.

Shanley’s outing and conviction were partly attributable to the Boston Globe’s landmark 2002 investigation that raised questions about widespread abuse among clergy and whether Archdiocese of Boston officials had looked the other way. The reporting led to a Pulitzer Prize and the 2015 Oscar-winning film “Spotlight.” Source: NBC Boston, 11-6-20

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Clarence Darrow Award — Ed Asner: It’s not easy to challenge religion

Actor Ed Asner shows off the Clarence Darrow Award he received from FFRF in 2020.

Prolific and award-winning actor Ed Asner appeared via pre-recorded video at FFRF’s “Covid Convention” on Nov. 14.

Asner, who recently became part of FFRF’s Honorary Board, accepted FFRF’s 2020 Clarence Darrow Award.

Asner toured the country portraying William Jennings Bryan in a play about the Scopes Trial opposite John de Lancie (portraying Darrow), and has been an outspoken progressive activist. The award includes a bronze statuette, a miniature of the 7-foot statue by renowned sculptor Zenos Frudakis that FFRF erected on the lawn of the “Scopes Trial” courthouse in Dayton, Tenn.

Here is an edited transcript of his remarks:

By Ed Asner

This is a beautiful award. My God, it is beautiful. He is so embodied here. And being a junkman’s son, I can tell you, this is good metal. This is fine metal. You can’t get better metal than this. Unless you go to gold and silver and titanium, but we won’t go there. This comes from the heart, this is Clarence Darrow.

I was with your group in Wisconsin, and I felt the same way there that I feel with you now. You are brave, wonderful people, so essential to a democracy such as America, which needs you badly. It’s not easy to challenge religion in America, but it’s most necessary, very necessary.

And I want to say that Darrow put it so bluntly when he said the most humane thing we can do is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Keep doing it. You’re setting a great example for all freedom lovers. Thank you.

Freethinker of the Year Award — Ben Hart: I’m God and I have the license to prove it!

Ben Hart displays his 2020 Freethinker of the Year Award plaque.

Appearing in a pre-recorded video during FFRF’s “Covid Convention” on Nov. 14 was FFRF Member Ben Hart, who successfully sued Kentucky to get “IM GOD” on his license plates. Because of that, Hart earned FFRF’s 2020 Freethinker of the Year Award.

Here is an edited transcript of his acceptance speech:

By Ben Hart

My name is Ben Hart and I live in Independence, Ky., with my wonderful wife of 64 years, Yvonne Hart. I have been named Freethinker of the Year by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. And this is the nice plaque that they have given me. It’s a beauty. I’m very proud to have gotten it.

We moved to Independence from Cincinnati, just across the river. In February of 2016, I applied for the same personalized license plate I had in Ohio for over 12 years — “IM GOD.” The plates also included the phrase “One Nation Under God.” I had no trouble getting it in Ohio, so I didn’t expect to have any trouble getting it in Kentucky. A week later, I got a letter from the Kentucky Transportation Department rejecting my request, which said it was obscene and vulgar. So, of course, I got in touch with the Freedom From Religion Foundation. They sent a letter telling the Transportation Department that it was denying my First Amendment rights. The department replied that the plate wasn’t actually obscene and vulgar, but distracting. It still denied my request.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation then contacted the American Civil Liberties Union in Kentucky, and it agreed to take my case. Later that year, in November of 2016, the suit was filed in federal court. The BBC picked up the story and it went around the world in March of 2017. The Washington Post called for an interview; Fox News called for an interview.

The state filed for dismissal a full year later, but the judge denied the motion.

Finally, in January [2020], I was told my plate was on its way. I asked if it included the phrase “In God We Trust.” I was assured it did. 

Then I went to pick up the plate, but it didn’t have the phrase on it. I refused it and they ordered another one. I finally got it — “IM GOD” with the phrase “In God We Trust” on it — no extra charge.

I now have the most famous license plate in the world on the front of my Jeep and the most expensive license plate in the country on the rear, thanks to the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Kentucky American Civil Liberties Union. The state had to pay $150,000 in attorney fees to deny me my rights, and that, my friends, shows the power our Freedom From Religion Foundation has.

And for those who are wondering, I’m not the god of the bible — that’s the guy who drowned all the babies in the world. I’m the god of the dictionary. The American Heritage Dictionary has six definitions for “god.” Number five is “a very handsome man.” And my wife says I’m a very handsome man. And nobody argues with my wife.