Letterbox (Jan/Feb 2019)

Rationalist House in New Zealand

If in New Zealand, check out Rationalist House

On Dec. 5, while on vacation in New Zealand, I attended a monthly meeting of the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists at its headquarters in Rationalist House in Auckland. 

We had a good discussion about the state of atheism in the United States and New Zealand. I gave members of the group back copies of Freethought Today and was given copies of their long-running publication, The Open Society. They showed me their extensive library, which they believe to be the largest secular library in the southern hemisphere. It was an instructive discussion, as I learned about state-supported religious (Christian) instruction in public schools for which parents have to opt out rather than opt in. Also, the members were well aware of political events in the United States, to my great embarrassment. If you go to New Zealand and are interested, I suggest you contact the organization through its website and see about attending a meeting or stopping by Rationalist House.

Patrick McGinnis

Happy to know the young will continue to fight

I just want to tell you about the impact a photo in the November issue had on me. I had just gotten home from work and got my mail, which included that issue. As I waited for my dinner to heat up, I opened the paper and noticed the photo of a woman on a bench who seemed to be crying. Then I read the caption and started to cry myself. I, too, had the worst time during the Kavanaugh hearings, feeling horribly defeated and having frequent crying jags. I couldn’t stop thinking, “Who will fight on when I’m gone? I’m so damned tired. I’m 56 and don’t have enough time left.” I felt so much better knowing not only that others feel the same, but that younger folks will fight on. Please fight on. 

Stacey Hopkins

There should be day for atheists to come out

Your letter recalled my financial gift of years earlier to expand the beautiful Freethought Hall, making the building even more beautiful for supporters to experience and feel proud.

I’ve since learned that there is a day that has been designated as a coming-out day of sorts for the same-sex-preference community. I think it’s time to promote a new annual coming-out day for nonbelievers.  

Frank Dowding

Editor’s note: March 23 has been designated as “Atheist Coming Out Day” by Atheist Republic. Also, the first Thursday in May is the annual Day of Reason.

Steve Pinski should be given secular sainthood

I know. I know. Our crowd is not big into saints, but if we change the policy, I’d like to nominate for FFRF sainthood Steve Pinski, the Life Member featured in the December issue for donating a kidney to a complete stranger because it was “the right thing to do.” Oh, that we all could be so selfless and giving. A donation to FFRF in Steve’s honor is in the mail. And, Steve, if you are reading this, come see us in Memphis. The barbeque is on me.

Harry Freeman

Stamping out ‘In God We Trust’ on currency 

When I first became an avowed atheist, my first act of activism was to add an extra “O” to “In God We Trust” on cash to render “In Good We Trust.” Although this was amusing for a while, it was difficult to make it look nice or even legible.

Then I read in Freethought Today about the “In Reason We Trust” self-inking stamper sold by FFRF. I immediately ordered one, received it promptly, and merrily stamped my way through all the cash I had on hand. It was quick, easy and quite effective (although I’m still perfecting my aim to align it precisely on top of the offending phrase). 

I’m looking forward to the day I’m about to stamp a bill and find the alteration already there, either because my own bill has returned to me, or another person is out there stamping out inappropriate words on our currency. How will I know which it is? I guess that will be just another one of those unknowable, but delightful, things.

Joan Reisman-Brill
New York

Sunday mornings better with FFRF’s TV show

Over my lifetime, I have been a member of three varied forms of religious faith. Just testing the holy waters, you might say. Now I am an “ordained” freethinker, in large part because of FFRF.

As of late, I have been transfixed on Sunday mornings watching your show, “Freethought Matters.” I am spreading the word in the Northeast: Tune in! 

Gary Grubb
New Jersey

Editor’s note: View Sundays at 8:30 a.m. on WPIX-IND (Ch. 11) in the New York City area. Check out other areas at ffrf.org/freethoughtmatters.

Bedtime prayers can cause lifetime of fear

Come with me and put on these special glasses that allow one to peer deep into the past. There he is, about 70 years ago, kneeling by his bed. Little David is saying a prayer:

“Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray thee Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray thee Lord my soul to take.”

Put yourself in his pajamas. Imagine that you are as literal and believing as he is. Contemplate that prayer. Little David is scared. He knows he could die before he wakes. If he dies tonight, the Lord just might not take him, leaving him to suffer in hell. Maybe God will give him grace. Or Jesus could intercede on his behalf. They say Jesus loves little children. But Little David has never met Jesus. He has seen images of him hanging on a cross, nailed there, helpless. He is afraid that Jesus may not be of much assistance. And then there’s that place full of fire and brimstone. The devil stands there with his pitchfork while the demons dance around him and shovel coal into the huge fiery pit. People scream and writhe for a very long time. Forever.

Now that you’ve tried on these glasses and see what David saw, I think you’ll understand his world a little better. May you sleep well.

David Worl
New York

Engineers’ Creed needs some secular updating

I recently completed an online engineering ethics review and was reminded of the existence of the Engineers’ Creed:

“As a Professional Engineer, I dedicate my professional knowledge and skill to the advancement and betterment of human welfare.

I pledge:

• To give the utmost of performance.

• To participate in none but honest enterprise.

• To live and work according to the laws of man and the highest standards of professional conduct.

• To place service before profit, the honor and standing of the profession before personal advantage, and the public welfare above all other considerations.

In humility and with need for divine guidance, I make this pledge.

Adopted by National Society of Professional Engineers, June 1954.”

As much as I appreciate its promotional aspects, I believe the last sentence of the pledge should be modified by deleting “and with need for divine guidance.” 

As any reasonable person would agree, there is no evidence for an invisible, non-communicative being which is, or could be considered, theistically divine.

James R. Divine

Belief in a loving God shattered late in life

I was a Christian until just a few years ago. I attended Sunday School and church for most of my life, was in church youth groups and went to church summer camps. 

Skip to many, many, many years later, just a few years ago. (I’m now 93.)

My wife “came down” with Alzheimer’s/dementia. After a few years, I could no longer take care of her. We sold our condo so we could afford to move her into a memory care home.

One day, I looked at her and wondered: “Why her, God?” If God was so omnipotent, why would he allow such a thing to happen? She was righteous, kind, well-liked and attended church.

My belief in a kind and loving God was shattered. Then I was drawn in by the Ron Reagan “unabashed atheist” commercial I had seen on TV. 

I did a lot of thinking. So, I contacted FFRF and became a member. I received a few of your books. Ah, at last, some really good reading!

I now believe that humans created God, and humans wrote the bible from their own perspective.  

Bill Gibson

Is it better to lie through creed, or stay silent?

What if someone does not believe the words of the Apostle’s Creed? Must he/she say it anyway at a public event, such as during a president’s funeral service? In such a case, must he or she basically lie his way through this prayer? 

Specifically, what if:

• He does not believe in God, or consider anyone but his biological male parent his father? Must he pretend he does? 

• She does not recognize any supernatural “almighty,” or creator of heaven or Earth. In fact, she does not believe in any afterlife, no heaven or hell, nothing at all after death? Is it better to lie to keep up appearances? Do we not have freedom from as well as freedom of religion in America?

• He does not believe in Jesus Christ, or any of that business about “His only son, our Lord,” and all that babble about being conceived by some kind of woo woo holy spirit? 

• She can’t get her head around someone born of a virgin. Must she pretend to accept that 2 plus 2 equals 5, or something equally ridiculous? 

• He doesn’t believe that Jesus (or anybody for that matter) rose from the dead? Do all those leaders who affirmed this at President Bush’s memorial service think that someone literally rose from the dead? If not, are the prayer intoners either irrational, hypocritical or intimidated? 

• She does not believe in the Holy Catholic Church, has no idea what the communion of saints is all about or scoffs at the notion of life everlasting, which does not sound so appealing anyway? Does she proclaim what she does not believe anyway?

I’m in a curious position defending Donald Trump, a first for me, but there is a possibility that he was among the most honorable of all in attendance for remaining silent during the prayer. For once in his presidency, maybe he didn’t lie. Maybe. 

Donald B. Ardell

Birthday gift in honor, memory of FFRF founder

We’ve enclosed a gift to FFRF in memory of our friend, Anne Nicol Gaylor, and to honor her Nov. 25 birthday. She was a sweet tough lady and we were honored to be her friends.

Pat and Dan Cornwell

FFRF can confront, beat religious ‘authorities’

One thing I’ve noticed about religious spokespersons is that, no matter how much damage their religion is responsible for and despite its moral corruptions, they have the chutzpah to insist they’re moral authorities. They feel they have the right to dictate public morality. They have the audacity to insist on creating laws to override facts, based on the blatant assertion that what they believe is the only thing that matters! 

So, you can see why any moral person ought to support FFRF. It has the unmitigated boldness to confront those “unquestionable” God authorities by telling them the facts and beating them at their own game.

Keep up the good works.

Carl Scheiman


But, Praise the Lord’

I wrote this poem in memory of John Paul Gary Broadstreet (Oct. 5, 1977-Sept. 5, 1981), whose mother beat him for almost four years and, eventually, starved him to death in Elizabeth, Ind.

Oh, little one, the curse of birth that day.

Oh, little one, the price you had to pay.

Oh, little one, your life was no bouquet. 

Oh, little one, abuse was on its way.

But, praise the Lord, did Jesus feel your pain?

But, praise the Lord, Jesus sees you with disdain.                                                            

But, praise the Lord, divine love cannot explain.

But, praise the Lord, prayers to God in vain.

Oh, little one, if only I had known.

Oh, little one, the sound of breaking bones.

Oh, little one, abused before you had grown.

Oh, little one, the hours you had to moan.

But, praise the Lord, the Christian thing to do.

But, praise the Lord, preordained, this just for you.

But, praise the Lord, as a child, you had no clue.

But, praise the Lord, the bruises turning blackish blue.

Oh, little one, you just made it to 3.

Oh, little one, the starvation you could not flee.

Oh, little one, this God allowed this to be.

Oh, little one, God’s hell is your eternity.

But, praise the Lord, this God allows suffering.

But, praise the Lord, this God is not listening.

But, praise the Lord, this God is extremely mean.

But, praise the Lord, this God’s existence has not been seen.

Larry E. Farr

‘A Word Before Dying’ 

“What’s in a name, a word?”

A song, a message, a life, a bird

“Does the wayward child always come home?”

No, sometimes people just grow old, alone.

“That sounds awful. I just want to pretend.”

You do what you want to, the end’s still the end.

“Just please give me something. Even a belief is OK.”

Mythology and dogma, your intellect will pay.

“I don’t care of the price. The comfort’s what I need.”

You sold away your reason. Your body still bleeds.

“I can’t just be matter. Does any part live on?”

Only your children, your paintings, your song.

“OK, just give me one more small moment, then let me just breathe.”

I understand completely. None of us ever wants to leave.

Tracy Long
North Carolina

‘Microbes of the Ark’ 

Microbes of the Ark

Two of every kind

He didn’t forget bacteria

Left dinosaurs behind

Noah on the Ark

Checked off Ape to Zebra

Thought he had it finished then

Remembered the amoeba

And all of the bacteria

Must’ve put them in his boat

We have ’em living here today

These procaryotes

Microbes of the Ark

Two of every kind

He didn’t forget listeria

Left mastodons behind

Noah gathered up the germs

With teeny tiny tweezers

Seeing them proved difficult

For a 600-year-old geezer

All the little tiny things

Smaller than a centipede

Noah needed a microscope

Call the 16th Century!

Microbes of the Ark

Two of every kind

He didn’t forget clostridium

Left pterosaurs behind

Packed ’em in a petri dish

Agar was the substrate

With two species in each one

Took a million packing crates

Diptheria and whooping cough

In plates on the credenza

Then wondered why the family

Came down with influenza

Microbes of the Ark

Two of every kind

He didn’t forget chlamydia

Left stegosaurs behind

The smallpox germs he carried

Took 500 million souls

The world would be better

If he left ’em off his rolls

Thank you for the salmon

But why the salmonella?

Strep and staph, clostridium

Malaria, shigella?

Microbes of the Ark

Two of every kind

He didn’t forget bacteria

Left dinosaurs behind

WP Meyer

R.G. Price: The bible isn’t what Christians think it is

By R.G. Price


The bible is, in my opinion, the single most fascinating collection of writings known to humankind. What makes the bible so fascinating isn’t simply the writings themselves, but how those writings have been interpreted and understood over the generations. The bible is arguably both the most highly studied and highly misunderstood collection of literature ever produced.

It is, of course, popular for critics of Christianity to criticize the bible itself, but I feel that this criticism is misdirected and largely unfair to the original authors. You see, almost none of the writings in the bible were written with the intention of being interpreted the way that Christians have interpreted them, with the exception of perhaps a handful of the latest letters in the New Testament. Criticizing the bible is like criticizing ancient Greek mythology. It is, in many ways, highly unfair to the people who produced the writings in their time and place. The problem isn’t with the bible itself, but rather the Christian interpretation of its writings.

Indeed, the bible actually contains some of the most compelling evidence against the beliefs of Christianity. The latest generation of biblical scholarship is revealing that major Christian assumptions about how and why various texts of the bible were written are fundamentally wrong. Christianity as we know it really emerged in the second century as Romans came into contact with the so-called “gospel” stories. It has become clear that it was really the gospels themselves that led to the spread and adoption of Christianity. Prior to the writing of the gospels, “Christianity” was a tiny insignificant cult that would likely have died out in a very short period of time. It was the gospel stories that enamored audiences and convinced many Roman elites of the “divinity” of Jesus and “truth” of Jewish scriptures.

But where did these gospels come from? Who wrote them? Why were they written? It turns out that the Romans who founded the Christian religion had no idea where these writings came from. They completely misunderstood them, and essentially developed a religion based on the misinterpretation of a fictional story. That same misunderstanding also led them to fundamentally misunderstand the nature and origin of the Jewish scriptures, as well. This misunderstanding, of course, has fundamentally shaped Western civilization. But the problem lies in the Christian interpretation of these writings.

Recent scholarship provides compelling evidence that the story that launched Christianity — the Gospel of Mark — is entirely fictional. The person who wrote the story knew full well that nothing in the story was literally true and had no intention of trying to convince anyone that it was true. How can we know this? What modern textual analysis reveals is that virtually every passage in the Gospel of Mark is a literary allusion to other texts. 

Based on Paul

It is clear that the Jesus character in the Gospel of Mark is actually based on the writings by the apostle Paul. It is clear that whoever wrote the Gospel of Mark had read the letters of Paul and used Paul’s teachings for his Jesus character. In addition, the major plotline of the story follows the story of Elijah and Elisha from 1 and 2 Kings of the Jewish scriptures. Virtually every scene in the Gospel of Mark is developed from literary references to either the letters of Paul or to the Jewish scriptures, including the walking on water scene, the cleansing of the temple and the crucifixion itself.

It appears that the Gospel of Mark is a fictional story that was written in reaction to the First Jewish-Roman War that resulted in the sacking of Jerusalem and destruction of the temple in 70 CE. Growing evidence that the Gospel of Mark is an invented story based on literary references overturns centuries of mainstream biblical scholarship that saw the gospels as a record of some “oral tradition.” The idea that the gospels are records of an oral tradition that stretches back to the life of Jesus is still widespread, but that was always just a supposition, a hypothesis. The hypothesis of “oral traditions” is now disproved by solid evidence of literary dependency.

Once we recognize that the Gospel of Mark is a fictional story based on literary references, the whole Christian house of cards comes tumbling down. This is because all biographies of Jesus, the other gospels and later writings are clearly dependent on the Gospel of Mark. What has become clear is that many of the literary references employed by the author of Mark were copied into the other gospels and became the inspiration for the idea that Jesus was proven to have fulfilled prophecies. 

When we look at the case for Christianity made by Christian scholars in the second through fourth centuries, we see that the primary evidence that convinced them of the “truth” of the religion was the relationship between passages in the gospels and passages in the Jewish scriptures.  They interpreted these relationships as evidence of “prophecy fulfillment.” Roman elites believed heavily in prophecy at this time, and thus were convinced not only that Jesus was “proven” to be divine, but that the Jewish scriptures were proven to be divine as well, due to the fact that they had so “accurately predicted” the life and deeds of Jesus. They thought that this was all substantiated by the fact that the gospels were four “independent” accounts of Jesus’s life. As it turns out, modern scholarship shows that what we really have is a fictional story and three moderately altered copies of it.

Evidence of fiction

Ironically, what Christians believed was evidence of divinity is actually evidence of fictionality. The literary relationships between the gospels and the Jewish scriptures are the key evidence that disprove the historical veracity of the gospel narrative. But it goes beyond just the gospels. Critical analysis of biblical texts shows that the Christian understanding of virtually all of them is totally wrong. The letters of Paul, James, Jude and Hebrews in the New Testament all provide evidence that the Jesus being worshipped prior to the writing of the gospels was a spiritual being, not a person. Furthermore, “Old Testament” scholarship now shows that the works of the Old Testament were written long after Christians believed they were and are largely just as fanciful as the works of Greek and Roman mythology.

This understanding of biblical origins is not yet mainstream, but I believe it’s inevitable that it will eventually be, because the evidence supporting it is so substantial. Mainstream biblical scholarship today is still clinging to assumptions that have been largely disproved. Christianity is a religion that is fundamentally based on a specific interpretation of a specific collection of documents. The role of mainstream biblical scholarship has been largely to defend the fundamental Christian interpretation of those documents. But this isn’t a matter of faith, and it isn’t a nebulous question that is impossible to answer. Who, when, why and how these documents were written are questions that can be answered, and they are being answered. Growing evidence shows that the answers to those questions are at odds with foundational Christian assumptions.

I have faith that the evidence will win out, and when it does, it will shake the foundations of Christianity like nothing has before.

FFRF Member R.G. Price is a data analyst from Colorado and author of the recently published book Deciphering The Gospels Proves Jesus Never Existed.

Crankmail (Jan/Feb 2019)

Ah, yes. The holiday season brought with it the annual tradition of hating others for not believing as they do. Here are some of the “best” letters FFRF received from our detractors, printed as received.

Disgusting!: Shame. Shame . Shame . On you all. What a disgusting group of individuals you are. — Kellie Stoneberger Malcolm 

Go fuck yourselves:  I like my freedom of speech because faggots hate it.  Have a nice non godly day. —  George Lombardi

You’re wrong: LEAVE THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY ALONE!!! START YOUR OWN COUNTRY IF YOU DON’T WANT GOD IN IT!! Just because the Supreme Court got it wrong doesn’t mean we need to follow suit. — Tom McIntosh 

Ffrf losers: You nasty motherfuckers are the downfall off morality in our country. Piss off! — Michael George 

leave us alone: just quit causing trouble, leave thongs alone that have been parts of various communities — Geoff Westerman

Jesus is love: What the fuck is y’all problem Jesus is awesome and y’all will burn in hell for turning off the the cross how dare u be selfish and y’all probably love incest you man eating barbarians Jesus is awesome — Tom Johnson 

Dover: Leave the people in Dover Ohio alone you people are a bunch of communists Christmas is a catholic holiday [email protected] — Bob Roghoff

Sue me!: You people make me sick to my stomach. You are worse than the ACLU which also sucks. I have a huge nativity scene in my front yard right by the road. Care to sue me? Go ahead. I’ll fart in your face. — Gary Soskind

FFRF: How dare you … you’re all a bunch of oxygen whores. — Victoria Midgley-Roberts

Message for FFRF: The hi I in c u f u fufuf u do ufi for jf u dufufjfuc.fj ncjdgdkglhkdtsydudysydy — Bill May

You are not the majority!: You guys are a real piece of work. We are very small town. One person writes you and tells you they are offended because there is a nativity scene in front of our government building and you threaten to file a lawsuit against our town if we do not take it down? How dare you justify this change for one person. There are hundreds of people in our small town who have enjoyed the nativity scene in our town for many many years, and a godless organization like yours comes along and tears down tradition like it is nothing. Next time you have a problem with the way we celebrate our holidays, you can come to me personally and discuss it, don’t hind behind your lawyers like a bunch of pansies. I will be more than happy to set you straight on history and tradition. I am pretty sure you will treat this like another hate mail against your organization, but be for warned, mess with our town again and you will have to deal with me, and believe you me you will wish you believed in god. — John Kotula 

You afraid?: Why is this group so afraid of a God u don’t think exists? — Joshua Tessmer 

Light the cross: How dare you people come to my town and bully my town into removing certain things from the Christmas light display that has been there for years. If you dont like it, then dont drive through the park to see it. I have never understood why certain groups of people think they have the right to tell other people that there beliefs are wrong and you must follow my rules or else. In short you are wrong for what you did. Take your complaints and stay out others states business and stay out of Missouri, you have no claim and that cross will light again , God does not give you the right to takes or mess with the free will of the people all over, you woke a sleeping giant, and now you will most certainly feel the effects of the after math you have unleashed, the cross will light again. — James Roger Curtis 


We are good Christians: I am so sick of people like you that think because you think one way that everyone else should too. Well Im here to tell you that here in the south, we are good Christian people and for you to write a letter requesting our CROSS in the park to be taken down is sickening. WELL I think your website ,facebook and everything should taken down and banned because its all a fraud to get money. You are just another SCIENTOLOGY group. I know where I will go when I die, Sorry for you all your souls will burn in HELL. I hope people blow up your site wit their opinions. Keep your beliefs up there. Apparently the cold has gotten to your brains. We will just say that instead of what I really want to say. — Joan Moreland Rosmanitz 

Burn!: I hope you all burn in Hell you bunch of religiophobics. — Scott Walsh 

Better get Jesus: I cant express how much this group sucks!!!!!!! Ya’ll need Jesus lol lol — Stephen Bischoff

Go Away!: If you don’t believe in GOD get on a plane with a one way ticket to somewhere and never come back.! — Gordon L Chambers Jr.

Trying hard: In the Christmas season I try very hard to think good thoughts to organizations such as yours. It’s very tough. The rest of the year I just fantasize that your operation gets shut down. — John Shearson

Black Collar Crime (Jan/Feb 2019)

Compiled by Bill Dunn

Arrested / Charged

Waisake Tulavu, 46, Nasinu, Fiji: Sexual assault and 4 counts of rape. Tulavu, pastor at Agape Healing Ministry, is charged with assaults on women ages 22, 29 and 32 in 2018. Senior church member Sakiusa Nakutoro, 50, is also charged with raping the 29-year-old. Source: Fiji Sun, 12-10-18

Jerred C. Peacock, 34, Estero, FL: Unlawful sexual activity. Peacock, a youth pastor at Living Waters Church, is accused of touching a 17-year-old girl’s genitals and having her touch his at his home while his wife was at work between March and August 2018. Source: Naples Daily News, 12-8-18

Derek Boyce, 37, Woolwich, ME: 26 counts of gross sexual assault, unlawful sexual contact and sex abuse of a minor, stemming from allegations he had sex with a student at Pine Tree Academy, a Seventh-day Adventist school where he taught math. Court documents said the girl’s mother caught him engaging in a sex act with her daughter, 15, in her living room.

Boyce told police his relationship with the girl began after she sustained a sports injury and had been depressed. He said they messaged each other over social media. He told police the relationship started in May, and turned sexual in July. He said they met in a park and performed oral sex on each other. He told police they had sexual intercourse twice. Source: WGME, 12-6-18

Paul Dorr, 62, Ocheyedan, IA: Misdemeanor criminal mischief for publicly burning 4 LGBTQ-themed books he checked out from the Orange City Public Library. Dorr, director of a Christian group called Rescue the Perishing, burned the books live on Facebook in October.

“Orange City Library, you won’t be peddling this one anymore!” Dorr said as he pitched a book into the flames. “You should all be ashamed of yourselves and repent.” He said he would not reimburse the library for the books. Source: Sioux City Journal, 12-6-18

Jerry Friday, 61, Mt. Holly, NC: Statutory sex offense, felony dissemination of obscene material to a minor, 4 counts of felony indecent liberties with a child and 2 counts of misdemeanor sexual battery. Friday, pastor at New Providence Baptist Church, is charged with assaults on 3 juvenile victims on the church grounds and at private homes. Source: WBTV, 12-6-18

Kenneth Hendricks, 77, Naval, Philippines: Engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places. Hendricks, a Catholic priest, was arrested by American and Filipino agents at the Cathedral of Our Lady Rosary Parish. The case was brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Ohio, where Hendricks was previously based. Authorities have identified 10 male victims as young as 7, including some who allegedly lived with him. Source: Straits Times, 12-5-18

Jacop R. Hazlett, 28, W. Ashley, SC: 9 counts of criminal sexual conduct with a minor. Hazlett supervised children ages 3 to 5 in “the Tree House” at NewSpring Church. In video from Nov. 25, staff allegedly observed him escort a 3-year-old into the bathroom, take a photo of the child’s genitals and molest him.

Officials reviewing security footage allegedly identified 14 separate incidents involving boys in the same bathroom. NewSpring, with 15 campuses, is the largest church in the state. Source: Post & Courier, 12-3-18

Sixteen pastors from the Congregational Christian Church, Samoa’s largest church, have been charged with failure to file tax returns by the Ministry of Revenue. A law went into effect in January 2018 requiring tax payment on offerings from churchgoers. All denominations complied except the CCC, despite being given 11 months to comply. Source: RNZ Pacific, 11-26-18

Thomas Bruce, 53, Imperial, MO: 1st-degree murder, burglary, tampering with evidence, 3 counts each of sodomy and kidnapping and 8 counts of armed criminal action. Bruce, a Navy veteran who founded an evangelical Christian church called Calvary Chapel in 2003 and has been associated with several other Missouri ministries, is accused of forcing 3 women into a back room at Catholic Supply in Ballwin, exposing himself and ordering them to “perform deviant sexual acts on him,” a complaint alleged.

When a 53-year-old refused to comply, he shot her fatally in the head, the complaint said. Bruce, who expressed support publicly for President Trump and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, worked at Calvary Chapel until 2007. Source: USA Today, 11-23-18

Julien B. Williams, Tallahassee, FL: Grand theft involving more than $20,000 and attempting to use the ID of another person without consent. Williams, pastor at Abundant Living Faith Ministries, is accused of falsifying documents to gain control of 2 parishioners’ bank accounts, writing checks without permission and withdrawing money. Source: WCTV, 11-19-18

Jeff Countryman, 44, Clearwater, FL: Theft. Countryman is charged with stealing over $30,000 as pastor at Cape Christian Fellowship Church in Cape Coral from 2015-17 before transferring to Countryside Christian Church in Clearwater. Countryside Church leaders said he also stole about $15,000 there but repaid the money to avoid charges. That led to the Cape Christian probe. Source: WBBH, 11-19-18

Thomas E. Ericksen, 71, Minneapolis: Felony sexual abuse and 2 counts of felony sexual assault. Ericksen, who was removed from the Catholic priesthood in 1988, is charged with assaults on boys in Wisconsin in the early 1980s. The Diocese of Superior settled with his accusers in 1989 for several million dollars.

Ericksen admitted to a detective in June 2016 that he fondled 5 altar boys when he was pastor at St. Peter’s Parish in Winter and 2 other boys later while serving Rhinelander and Rice Lake parishes, the complaint alleges. Source: Sawyer County Record, 11-17-18

Onyedikachi Enebechi, 37, Brockton, MA: Simple assault and battery. Enebechi, pastor at Winner’s City Church, is charged with slapping a 5-year-old in the face during bible study for talking to his cousin. The boy’s mother, who was in a different room at the church, took a photo to document the redness on his cheek. The pastor told police he only nudged the boy with 2 fingers out of frustration. Source: WFXT, 11-15-18

Patrick J. Sasnett, 40, Ocala, FL: Home invasion. Sasnett, pastor of St. Paul AME Church, is charged with barging into a woman’s residence, physically assaulting her and taking 2 pairs of her shoes worth $1,500. The woman told police she and Sasnett had been in a relationship for 5 years that ended a month ago and that the shoes were a gift from him. Source: Star-Banner, 11-14-18

Charles W. Holt, 51, Reading, PA: Aggravated indecent assault, endangering the welfare of children and corruption of minors. Holt is charged with numerous assaults on a 17-year-old girl who was babysitting for him and his wife in 2001 when he was a youth pastor at Reading Evangelical Free Church. He’s now president of The Factory Ministries in Paradise. Source: WITF, 11-14-18

Holley Mills Morris, 56, Covington, TN: Theft over $60,000. Morris is accused of stealing over $117,000 as secretary at First United Methodist Church from March 2011 to December 2017. She started working at the church in 2001. Source: Covington Leader, 11-14-18 

Lothar K. Krauth, 80, Great Falls, MT: Receipt of child pornography. Krauth, who retired in 2014 as pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, allegedly received an online image Oct. 26 of a nude prepubescent male child.

Court records allege devices seized from Krauth had about 400 images of children engaged in sexually explicit conduct, with most depicting prepubescent children, some young as 2 or 3. Source: KXLH, 11-10-18

Jean J. Jeudy, 48, El Paso, TX: Sexual assault of a child and 2 counts of indecency with a child/sexual contact. Jeudy, pastor of Walk By Faith International Missionary Church, denies allegations of incidents in 2011 and told a reporter that the devil is behind them. Source: El Paso Times, 11-9-18

Santino Cantalupo, 40, Reno, NV: Extortion, soliciting prostitution and furnishing a minor with alcohol. Cantalupo, a founder of Imago Dei Church, allegedly targeted a University of Nevada student by using a false name on a dating app in September and October and bought her alcohol in hopes of obtaining sexual favors. It’s alleged he told her if she didn’t have sex with him, he would send screen shots of their text messages to her father. Source: KOLO, 11-8-18

Thomas D. Duncan, 27, Greer, SC: 10 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor. Duncan, part-time music director at Victor United Methodist Church, allegedly possessed child pornography. Source: Fox Carolina, 11-8-18

Urbano Vazquez, 46, Washington: Child sexual abuse. Vazquez, a pastor at Shrine of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, allegedly touched a girl’s breasts twice inside her shirt in the church in 2015 when she was 13. Since the initial claim, 2 other alleged victims have made similar accusations, the Archdiocese of Washington said in a statement. 

The archdiocese removed Moises Villalta as senior Sacred Heart pastor for not reporting abuse allegations. He and Vazquez are members of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin. Sonia M. Aquino, parish child protection coordinator, was also placed on administrative leave. Source: NBC4, 11-7-18

Rodney O. Harmon Jr., 33, Stockton, MD: 12 counts of statutory sexual assault and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. Harmon, youth director at Bayside Community Church, is accused of assaults on alleged victims ages 14 and 15 at a church retreat in August. He was jailed earlier for allegedly making and distributing pornographic videos and for sex acts involving 4 people, including 3 minors, between May 2017 and August 2018. Source: Lancaster Online, 11-7-18

Fernando Hernandez, 50, Brownwood, TX: Continuous sexual abuse of children. Hernandez, pastor at It’s A Challenge Church, is accused of molesting 4 minors, including a teen girl, between August 2010 and July 2018. Source: KTXS, 11-5-18

Daniel Goodloe, 25, W. Nashville, TN: 5 counts of sexual assault, including statutory rape by an authority figure. Goodloe was a youth pastor with Cross Point Church’s Dream Center until April 2018, said lead pastor Kevin Queen, adding that the church became aware of “a situation that occurred over a year ago that created reasonable suspicion on our part of inappropriate conduct” between Goodloe and a teen in the program.

He was one of the young adults secretly embedded among students at a Topeka high school in 2017 for the A&E documentary series “Undercover High” that aired in 2018. Source: WSMV, 11-1-18

Hurmiz R. Ishak, 63, Fraser, MI: 3 counts of criminal sexual conduct on a child. Ishak, a native of Iraq and a subdeacon for 21 years at St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church in Troy, is charged with assaulting a boy from the church between May 2017 and October 2018. The diocese says a subdeacon is “an elevated altar server.” Source: WDIV, 10-31-18

Stephen C. Brown, 61, Arlington, WA: Felony voyeurism. Brown, pastor at Seven Lakes Baptist Church and lead high school teacher at Arlington Christian, is charged with making cellphone videos that zoomed in on breasts, buttocks and crotches of unsuspecting women and girls. A faculty member allegedly found a thumb drive in the school parking lot that included views of Brown’s face while he was videoing. Source: KIRO, 10-31-18

Alastair Gray, 65, Keith, Scotland: Gray, interim pastor at St. Rufus Church, a Church of Scotland parish, is accused of assaulting a woman in October. Source: BBC, 10-30-18

Nicholas Chervyatiuk, 57, Chicago: Theft and financial exploitation of an elderly person with a disability. Chervyatiuk, pastor of Holy Patronage Church, a Ukrainian Orthodox parish, is charged with swindling an elderly parishioner who survived a Nazi internment camp out of about $350,000.

Nelly Bridgeman, 96, suffers from dementia. The priest assumed power of attorney for her in 2015. He’s returned about $200,000 to her so far. Source: Sun-Times, 10-25-18

Frederick Smith, 49, and Jerri Smith, Memphis, TN: Identity theft, theft of property between $10,000 and $60,000 and forgery between $10,000 and $60,000. Frederick Smith is pastor at New Life Holiness Church. He and his wife are accused of opening credit cards in the name of parishioner Clevie Williams, 77, and racking up about $50,000 of purchases in her name. Source: WHBQ, 10-24-18

Pleaded / Convicted

Joseph R. Alexander, 61, Gretna, LA: Pleaded guilty to bank fraud. Alexander, pastor at Franklin Street Church of Christ, was charged with stealing $321,491 during an 8-year period starting in 2006. He hid the thefts by forging signatures on checks to himself and entering fake vendors in the church’s checkbook register after opening a secret bank account.

It’s alleged he spent the money on his mortgage and car loan, his son’s college tuition, cable bills, family vacations, gifts from the Apple Store and Victoria’s Secret and other personal expenses. Source: Times-Picayune, 12-17-18

Nathan G. Rieger, 53, Winnipeg, Canada: Guilty by jury of meeting with a minor for lewd purposes. Rieger, pastor at Vineyard Church, was arrested in August while trying to meet a 15-year-old girl for sex in Arroyo Grande, CA. He was actually communicating online with an undercover officer, whom Rieger told sex is “much nicer without a condom.” Detective James Jolly testified that during their chats he told Rieger the girl was 15 and living with her grandmother. Rieger testified he was role-playing and thought the girl also was because she looked older in photos the officer provided, perhaps in her late 20s or early 30s. Source: San Luis Obispo Tribune, 12-14-18

Don Martin, 45, Atlanta: Guilty by jury of rape, aggravated sexual battery, child molestation and 1st-degree cruelty to children. Martin, pastor at Cathedral of Faith Church of God in Christ, was charged with abuse of a girl for 6 years until 2011 when she turned 13. Martin fled before the jury started deliberating and was arrested 5 days later at an airport in Nassau, the Bahamas. Source: WGCL, 12-5-18

Suzette M. Smith, Alexandria, VA: Pleaded guilty to wire fraud as treasurer for Exponent II, a quarterly Mormon feminist magazine based in Boston. Smith, volunteer treasurer since 2012 and an executive board member, was charged with embezzling about $107,000 from the magazine, founded in 1974 to explore women’s issues in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Source: Salt Lake Tribune, 12-1-18

Ronald Paquin, 76, Boston: Guilty by jury of 11 counts of gross sexual misconduct. Paquin, a defrocked Catholic priest, was accused in a Maine court of molesting altar boys from his Massachusetts parish in the 1980s. Keith Townsend testified he endured repeated abuse starting at age 11 at Salty Acres Campground in Kennebunkport between 1986-88 on trips with Paquin, who was arrested in 2017 at a homeless shelter. Source: Portsmouth Herald, 11-29-18

Elijah Mealancon, 58, New Orleans: Guilty by bench trial of unauthorized use of a movable (property capable of being moved to another location). Mealancon was charged with taking $33,000 from a victim of Hurricane Katrina but never delivering on his promise to repair her home.

As lead pastor at Elijah Christian Ministries, Mealancon got several people to sign their federal Road Home grant checks over to him, convincing them their restoration money could go further if pooled. Source: nola.com, 11-19-18

Shawn Butler, 52, Hillsborough, NJ: Guilty by jury of criminal sexual contact and endangering the welfare of a child. Butler, youth minister and executive board member at Eternal Life Christian Center, was charged with assaults on a 15-year-old girl in 2014.

He was convicted in 1990 of sexual assault while still on probation for a 1988 criminal sexual contact conviction. He allegedly had told Eternal Life leaders about those convictions. Source: nj.com, 11-18-18

Andrzej Skrzypiec, 63, Salt Lake City: Pleaded no contest to patronizing a prostitute. Skrzypiec, pastor at St. Ambrose Catholic Parish, was arrested in August for offering to pay an undercover officer for oral sex. A plea agreement calls for him to pay $680 and take an HIV test. Skrzypiec initially told police he was in the area to get food from a taco stand. Source: Salt Lake Tribune, 11-13-18

Jeffery D. Rolen, 66, Wise County, VA: Pleaded guilty to 7 counts of indecent liberties with a child under age 18. He’s accused of incidents in 1985-87 when he was a youth pastor at Highlands Fellowship and ran Camp Bethel Ministries in the summers. Source: WCBY, 11-9-18

Aryeh L. Cohen, 44, Minneapolis: Pleaded guilty to engaging in electronic communication describing sexual conduct with a child. Cohen, rabbi at Community Kollel, a Jewish learning center, was arrested in February 2018 after responding to an undercover agent’s online profile that said he was a male turning 16 in August. Cohen then sent an explicit photo of himself and was arrested when he arrived at an apartment to have sex. Source: KSTP, 11-9-18

David Norton, 72, Ontario, Canada, was found guilty of sexual assault and 4 counts of indecent assault involving 4 altar boys from Chippewas of the Thames First Nation in the late 1970s and early 1980s when Norton was an Anglican priest ministering to the tribe.

He’s already serving a 4-year sentence after pleading guilty to molesting another boy over a 4-year period starting in 1990 when the boy was 10. That victim has filed a $4.9 million suit against Norton and the Diocese of Huron. Source: CBC, 11-6-18


W. Thomas Faucher, 73, Boise, ID: 25 years in prison with no parole after pleading guilty to possessing and distributing child pornography and possession of LSD, ecstasy and marijuana. Faucher, a retired Catholic priest, fantasized about raping and killing children and claimed in online chats to have mixed his own bodily fluids into the communion wine.

Of the more than 2,500 videos and images he was found in possession of, Faucher wrote, “There is only one of them I really like, the one of the boy being beaten to death.” “I was one really sick puppy,” he said at sentencing, and told the judge he’s “deeply sorry” but said he should be released on probation so he could speak to victims and others about the evils of child abuse.

Faucher retired in 2014 and rented the home from St. Mary’s Catholic Church. John Worster, St. Mary’s pastor, said the diocesan exorcist and his prayer team prayed over the house. “We brought in the ghostbusters” to clean out the “spiritual filth.” Source: AP/CNS, 12-21-18

John T. Sweeney, 76, Greensburg, PA: 11½ months to 5 years in prison after pleading guilty to misdemeanor indecent assault on a minor for forcing a 10-year-old boy to perform oral sex on him while counseling him about misbehaving on a school bus in 1991. He retired as a Catholic priest in 2016. The victim told investigators that after the attack, Sweeney’s secretary gave him milk and cookies.

He’s the first person sentenced to prison as a result of the state grand jury investigation that found hundreds of clergy had abused children over 7 decades. The victim, who has identified himself publicly only as Josh, is serving in the Coast Guard in the South Pacific. “As long as the Catholic Church is operational, there will be more victims,” he wrote in a letter his brother read in court. Source: Tribune-Review, 12-21-18

Karma Tshojay, aka Tempa Lama, 56, La Boulaye, France: 12 years in prison. Tshojay, a native of Bhutan, was convicted after 4 female disciples at the Temple of 1,000 Buddhas or their children accused him of multiple rapes and sexual assaults in the 1990s and 2000s. Source: Daily Monitor, 12-19-18

Thomas Fulcher, 84, New South Wales, Australia: 4 years in prison after pleading guilty to indecent assault of 2 boys who were students at a Marist school in Burnie, Tasmania, where Fulcher served as a Catholic priest between 1960 and 1967. He retired in 2002 after being accused of abuse. Source: ABC, 12-18-18

Preston K. Harrison, 51, Leesburg, FL: 1 year probation and restitution after pleading no contest to contracting without a license. Harrison, lead pastor at Harvest Church in Starke and founder of Transformation Ministries, is required to repay $26,000 to a couple who hired him in 2017 to repair their tornado-damaged roof.

The roof continued to leak after being repaired, said Helen Bohannon, who later discovered Harrison wasn’t licensed. “How could a pastor do this? How could a man of God do this?” she asked a reporter. Source: Click Orlando, 12-19-18

Alexander Stroobandt, Bruges, Belgium: 1 month in jail, suspended, for failing to seek help for a depressed man who later gassed himself to death with carbon monoxide. The court ruled that Stroobandt, a Catholic priest, couldn’t use the seal of confession as a defense and that he should pay a symbolic 1 euro in damages to the man’s widow.

She had discovered that Stroobandt and her husband had exchanged a series of phone calls and text messages about the state of his mind. Stroobandt plans to appeal. Source: Reuters, 12-17-18

Kevin S. Heffner, 48, Pelham, NC: 25 to 35 years in prison after pleading guilty to 2 counts of statutory sex offense with a child under 15 and 12 counts of disseminating obscene material to a minor. Heffner, pastor and principal at Victory Baptist Academy, was accused of engaging in sex acts with a 14-year-old girl and sending her photos of his genitals. She and her mother were congregation members. Source: News & Record, 11-30-18

Henry C. Foxhoven, 45, Glouster, OH: 12 years in prison with no parole after pleading guilty to 3 counts of sexual battery for a relationship with a 17-year-old girl he impregnated in 2018 while serving as pastor at Holy Cross Catholic Parish. The girl was an altar server interested in becoming a nun.

A search of Foxhoven’s residence turned up a pregnancy test with a “positive indication.” He and the victim both told her mother she was pregnant. Prosecutor Keller Blackburn said other items recovered included “more than eight used condoms, countless bottles of lubricant and male enhancement drugs.” Source: KRON/AP, 11-27-18

Timothy Lawrence, 32, S. Haven, IN: 4 years in prison after pleading guilty to 2 counts of sexual misconduct with a minor while he was a youth pastor at Emanuel Baptist Church between November 2013 and July 2014. Victims were 2 girls from the church. Prosecutors said he manipulated the girls, ages 14 and 15, into letting him take liberties with them so he would remain their friend. Source: nwitimes.com, 11-27-18

John L. Bishop, 55, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico: 5 years in prison for smuggling 300 pounds of marijuana into San Ysidro, CA, in December 2017. Bishop was founding pastor of Living Hope Church in Vancouver, WA, but was pushed out for substance abuse and carrying on an affair with a woman from the church while married. He then moved to Mexico to work in the time-share industry. Source: The Columbian, 11-23-18

Pierre de Castelet, 69, Orleans, France: 3 years in prison with 1 year suspended for molesting children at a summer camp in 1993 while pretending to carry out medical exams. His superior, former bishop of Orleans Andre Fort, 83, was given a suspended sentence of 8 months for failing to notify police when he was made aware of allegations in 2008. Source: RTE, 11-22-18

Jaerock Lee, 75, Seoul, S. Korea: 15 years in prison on convictions for raping 8 women after telling them he was carrying out “an order from God” as head of Manmin Central Church, which claims to have 133,000 followers worldwide. “The victims, who attended the church since childhood, believed that obeying Lee as a godlike figure is the path to heaven,” the court said. Source: Washington Post, 11-22-18

Malo “Victor” Monteiro, 45, Colton, CA: 64 months in prison and $3,000 in fines and restitution after pleading guilty to attempted copulation of a minor, 4 counts of lewd acts on a child of 14-15 years of age with the defendant at least 10 years older and 2 counts of sexual penetration with a foreign object. Three women gave victim impact statements detailing incidents when Monteiro was youth pastor at Faith Baptist Church starting in 2007 and they were teens. Source: Press-Enterprise, 11-15-18

Meally Morris Freeman, 56, Brooklyn Center, MN: 58 months in prison after a jury found him guilty of 2 counts of criminal sexual conduct. Freeman, a Liberian immigrant and pastor of Grace Mountaineer Tabernacle, was found guilty of drugging a female congregant, 28, and violating her under the guise of performing a religious “deliverance.” Source: KSTP, 11-9-18

Brian Jenkins, 75, Brecon, Wales: 5 years in prison for sexually assaulting a girl while he worked as a Jehovah’s Witnesses elder. The victim, now 58, testified Jenkins groped her during missionary work, at bible classes and during swimming lessons organized by the church.

She alleged he sent her older brother to knock on doors while trapping her in the back seat of his car to force his fingers inside her and that Jenkins targeted her after her father had died unexpectedly. She told the jury she reported the abuse to 2 elders, a doctor and an ex-police officer but no one took her seriously. “I’m angry at Jehovah’s Witnesses elders and the governing body for the lack of protection they provide to children.” Source: Brecon & Radnor Express, 11-7-18 

Con Cunningham, 83, Carrick, Ireland: 9 months in jail after pleading guilty to 3 counts of indecent assault against a girl under age 10 in 1976-77 when he was a Catholic priest. Judge John Aylmer said Cunningham groomed the girl and progressed to simulating oral sex. 

“Sometimes he would push her head down to his private parts and hold it there,” said prosecutor Patricia McClaughlin. “She remembers him grunting and now understands that he was satisfying himself.” Source: Donegal Now, 11-2-18

Anthony Figueiredo, 54, a New Jersey priest from the Catholic Archdiocese of Newark who’s been working in Europe for a decade, was ordered back to the U.S. after a DUI conviction in England. He was banned from driving for 18 months in October after crashing into a pregnant woman’s car while his blood-alcohol level was at twice the legal limit.

Archdiocese spokesperson James Goodness said Figueiredo has been a media commentator on church and Vatican affairs and was an adviser to student priests in Rome.

The pregnant driver, Olivia Parfitt, 35, told a reporter Figueiredo was “visibly sloshed” and that he drove off, saying he had to catch a flight, but police stopped him further down the road. Source: nj.com, 10-30-18

Andrew Dickson, 31, University City, MO: 4 years in prison suspended, 5 years’ probation and sex offender registration after pleading guilty to child molestation and 2 counts of statutory sodomy. Dickson, a youth pastor at Central Presbyterian Church, admitted fondling and engaging in oral sex with a 15-year-old boy at Dickson’s home last March. Source: Post-Dispatch, 10-28-18

Civil Lawsuits Filed

“Doe 596” filed a complaint against Holy Innocents’ School, a Catholic K-12 school, who alleges she suffered “ritual sexual abuse” by 5 members of the Sis family that founded and still run the small school in Waite Park, MN, and by Lawrence Brey, a priest who lived on the grounds and died in 2006. She attended from 1978-84 from ages 5 to 11.

Josh Peck, her lawyer, speculated that Brey was transferred to the school by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to rid itself of a problem priest. Joe Towalski, diocesan director of communications for the diocese, said the school “has no affiliation whatsoever or connection or association with the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Cloud.” Source: Star Tribune, 12-4-18

The Catholic Diocese of Scranton, PA, failed to protect plaintiff “Richard Roe” from sexual abuse by former priest William J. Paulish, a suit alleges. Roe, now 29, claims Paulish molested him in 2006-07 at St. Mary’s Parish in Old Forge, where he was assistant pastor.

Paulish, who was transferred 11 times and twice put on leaves of absence, was convicted in 2014 for engaging in oral sex with a 15-year-old boy in a parked car and was sentenced to 8 to 23 months in prison. Source: Citizens Voice, 11-27-18

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is being sued by 6 men from 5 states for allegedly concealing “the known histories and identities from the public, parishioners and law enforcement of clergy accused of sexually abusing children across the country.” They’re represented by attorney Jeff Anderson. A similar new suit against Pennsylvania Catholic bishops seeks to force the dioceses to reveal the names and history of accused clergy. Source: CNS/CBS, 11-15-18

Isidore Ndagizimana, Bishop Joseph Vásquez and the Diocese of Austin, TX, are defendants in a suit filed by 6 women alleging Ndagizimana, 60, made unwanted sexual advances and held them against their will as pastor at St. Thomas More Catholic Church. Three alleged he behaved inappropriately or groped them during their confessions.

One who was pregnant alleged he rearranged confessional chairs to block the door, rubbed her thigh while she confessed and made her discuss sexual activity with her husband. He was St. Thomas More pastor from 2012-17 and was placed on leave before being transferred to another parish. Source: Dallas News, 11-14-18

Bruno M. Tucci, a retired Catholic priest, and the Diocese of Allentown, PA, are being sued by a man alleging Tucci molested him in 1999-2001 while he was an altar boy in Nesquehoning. The suit also names former Bishop Edward Cullen, current Bishop Alfred Schlert and the Congregation of the Servants of the Paraclete, a New Mexico facility nicknamed “Club Ped” that treated Tucci, who retired in 2002 and lives in Maryland.

The plaintiff alleges Tucci groped his genitals and once had him “put his arms out like Jesus on the cross” before fondling him. He alleges the diocese was notified in 1991 that Tucci abused a different altar boy years earlier and admitted it. Source: WFMZ, 11-12-18

The Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford, CT, and former Bishop John Whealon are being sued by Kevin DiStasio, 46, who alleges Walter Vichas molested him before morning Mass when he was a 10-year-old altar boy at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Waterbury in 1980. Vichas died in 2008 at age 83. Source: Hartford Courant, 11-8-18

The Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe, NM, is named in a suit filed by “John Doe 92,” who alleged he was molested at least 25 times from 1972-77 as an altar boy by Albert Chavez, pastor at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Peralta. Chavez died in 1996 at age 75. Source: Albuquerque Journal, 10-30-18

Carlos R. Rodriguez, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the Diocese of San Bernardino and the Vincentians (Rodriguez’s former religious order) are being sued by 2 brothers who allege the Catholic priest molested them in the early 1990s while he was pastor at Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine in Riverside. Rodriguez, 62, Bakersfield, was sentenced to 8 years in prison in 2004 and served 4 years for sexual assaults on 2 boys. He was defrocked in 1998. Source: L.A. Times, 10-29-18

Six Utah plaintiffs are suing Brenda and Richard Miles, the daughter and son-in-law of Mormon Church President Russell M. Nelson, in federal court, alleging they and others sexually abused children in the 1980s and orchestrated cover-ups. The Mileses deny the claims, alleging they stem from false memories and citing a Bountiful police investigation that closed without charges. The suit doesn’t name the church as a defendant but could be amended to include others, including Nelson, said plaintiffs’ attorney Craig Vernon. Source: KSTU, 10-25-18

Civil Lawsuits Settled

The San Francisco Catholic Diocese has settled $87 million worth of sex abuse claims against priests and others associated with the church, mostly in the last 15 years, according to Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone. He divulged the figure during a series of town hall meetings to address the issue.

An advocate with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, called it “just the tip of the iceberg.” According to SNAP national secretary Melanie Sakoda, who is based in the Bay Area, “Only maybe one in 10 victims ever come forward.”

Cordileone said 125 cases have been settled since 2003, when California lifted the statute of limitations for adults abused as children to file civil suits for 12 months. Insurance covered 70% of the $87 million, while about $35 million came from the diocese, sale of church properties and other funds. Source: S.F. Examiner, 11-27-18

The Seattle Catholic Archdiocese has paid nearly $7 million to settle claims by 6 men alleging sexual abuse as minors by priests James McGreal, Paul Conn, John Forrester, Thomas Pitsch, Michael Cody and Theodore Marmo. Only Marmo is still alive.

James Hauer is among those who settled. He alleged Marmo abused him at John F. Kennedy Catholic High School in the 1970s in Burien, WA. The church must change the “culture of collusion” that lets abuse occur, Hauer said. Source: Seattle Times, 11-13-18

A jury found the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and Catholic priest Michael Tang liable for $3.57 million for firing an unwed, pregnant science teacher at Transfiguration School in Los Angeles. Kourtney Liggins, now 46, alleged she was 7 months pregnant in 2012 when Tang told her that her pregnancy would “morally corrupt” impressionable teens.

The jury also ordered Tang to pay Liggins $87,500 in punitive damages for acting “with malice, oppression or fraud.” Source: NBC Los Angeles, 11-2-18

The Catholic Diocese of Allentown, PA, settled for an undisclosed amount a suit filed by Albert Shore, who alleged he was molested by now-deceased priest Richard J. Ford as a 12-year-old altar boy in 1989 in the rectory of Holy Guardian Angels Church in Reading. Pennsylvania abuse survivors are seeking to open a 2-year statute of limitations “window” allowing them to file civil suits in older cases. Source: Morning Call, 10-26-18


The Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, NY, has offered a $650,000 settlement to a man who accused a priest of aiming a gun at his head and molesting him when he was a teen in the 1980s. It’s the highest offer revealed to date under the diocese’s Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program.

The 49-year-old has 60 days to accept the offer and give up his right to sue. The priest, Michael R. Freeman, allegedly provided absolution of the boy’s sins during the sacrament of confession immediately after the abuse. Freeman, who died in 2010 at age 63, was also a police and military chaplain who regularly carried a silver-plated .38-caliber revolver. He would jokingly threaten the victim with the gun, it’s alleged. The diocese has offered some accusers as little as $10,000 to settle claims. Source: Buffalo News, 12-18-18

The Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe, NM, filed for bankruptcy. The archdiocese claims it has about $49 million in assets. That doesn’t include assets it holds for parishes, such as real estate worth $57 million or nearly $37 million in investments and cash.

Archbishop John Wester said the archdiocese has resolved hundreds of sexual abuse cases at a cost of millions of dollars. About 35 cases are pending, with estimated liabilities between $10 million and $50 million. The Diocese of Gallup set aside $22 million for victims in its 2013 bankruptcy. Source: New Mexican, 12-4-18

The Guam Catholic Church announced plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to cope with more than 200 sexual abuse claims against clergy in the U.S. territory. Former Archbishop Anthony Apuron has been accused of abusing minors, including his own nephew, and helping cover up similar crimes by priests and other Catholic authority figures. Allegations date back decades. 

The latest suit, filed by “DD,” accuses Brother Gregory Seubert of molesting him in 1975-76 when he was 16 and Seubert was principal at Fr. Duenas Memorial High School. He’s believed to be living in Africa. Source: NPR/PNC, 11-15-18

The Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport, CT, has paid $52.5 million to settle 156 allegations of sexual abuse of children by priests since 1953 and is still paying 8 priests “credibly accused” of molesting children, admitted Bishop Frank Caggiano. The men get monthly payments ranging from $1,319 to $1,466.

Victim settlement payments ranged from $3,000 to $1.43 million. Of the $52.5 million paid, $27.7 million was from sale of properties, $19.5 million was from insurance recoveries, $4.2 million was from other revenues and $1.1 million was from contributors. Source: Hartford Courant, 10-31-18

Legal Developments

Ibrahim Omerdic, imam at the Bosnia and Herzegovina Islamic Centre in Melbourne, Australia, lost an appeal of his conviction for marrying a 14-year-old girl to a 34-year-old man in 2016. He was sentenced to 2 months’ imprisonment, suspended, and 2 years’ probation.

He appealed, claiming he had merely solemnized or blessed the marriage but hadn’t performed it. The 3-judge panel disagreed, ruling that “They were a married couple in the eyes of the Muslim community.” Source: The Australian, 12-4-18

Stephen J. Kilpatrick, 63, Forest, VA, was arrested last June and tentatively charged with 3 counts each of taking indecent liberties with a child younger than 15 years old and soliciting sex from a child younger than 15 years old. Now a judge has ordered a grand jury be impaneled to consider the case of the Liberty University professor, who also held bible studies.

Kilpatrick had responded to a Craigslist ad posted by an investigator posing as a 13-year-old girl. Kilpatrick allegedly promised sexual acts to “Jenny” and drove to where he thought she lived. When arrested, he had cookies and lubrication in his car. 

Sandra Kilpatrick said at a bail hearing that she was willing to put their life savings on the line to get her husband out of jail. Bond was set at $125,000. She said her husband would host small group meetings of church members at their home and teach children about the bible. Source: News & Advance, 11-19-18

Bail for Sister Concilia, an Indian Catholic nun, was rejected by the High Court of Jharkhand state. She was arrested July 4 in connection with the alleged sale of babies born to unwed mothers at a home she managed for the Missionaries of Charity, an order founded by St. Teresa of Kolkata.

Another staff member is accused by a couple of keeping their $1,850 adoption fee and not giving them the child. Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary-general of the Indian bishops’ conference, blamed Concilia’s arrest on persecution of Christians by the Hindu majority. Source: UCA News, 11-1-18

Dennis Creason, 48, Shawnee, KS, faces 6 more counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child. Creason, founder of Oaklawn Christian School, was previously charged with 3 similar counts in August. He’s accused of “lewd fondling or touching” of 9 children under age 14 between May 2009 and August 2018. Source: KCTV, 10-30-18

Mohammed Ghani, 65, Wakefield, UK, an imam who sexually assaulted a girl in her home between 1997-2006, had his sentence increased from 2 to 5 years by an appeals court, which deemed his August sentence “unduly lenient.” The girl was under 14 when first assaulted. Source: BBC, 10-30-18


Mary Margaret Kreuper and Lana Chang, Catholic nuns who retired, respectively, as principal and 8th-grade teacher last year at St. James Catholic School in Torrance, CA, are accused of and allegedly admitted to stealing as much as $500,000 from the school during at least the last 10 years. School officials told parents the women allegedly spent some of it on trips and at gambling casinos.

Archdiocese of Los Angeles officials initially said criminal charges wouldn’t be sought because the nuns’ order, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, agreed to impose “severe sanctions” on them and pay the school full restitution. Later, after public pressure, Torrance Police Sgt. Ronald Harris said the archdiocese wants the case prosecuted.

“They indicated they were desirous of pressing charges, so we’re moving forward as soon as we formally meet with them again,” Harris said. It’s unclear whether the restitution agreement remains on the table. Source: Daily Breeze, 12-10-18

The Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, MI, released the names of 13 priests credibly accused of sexually abusing minors. All but 2 are dead, the earliest death occurring in 1959. The diocese named 5 others previously. Source: mlive.com, 11-21-18

The Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, NY, added the names of 36 priests to a list released in March that identified clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse, bringing the number to 78. Officials said the actual total is 176 diocesan and religious order priests against whom allegations were made, but they chose not to identify deceased priests who had a single allegation against them. Source: Buffalo News, 11-6-18

Former students at St. Charles Catholic School in Columbus, OH, allege sexual abuse by Msgr. Thomas Bennett, who died in 2008. After Kevin Heidtman sued in August for alleged abuse in the early 2000s, other students have come forward.

Ken Wilcox alleged Bennett molested him in the rectory in 1981 during his recitation of all the presidents and their wives and their terms in office. “Somewhere around Buchanan, before Lincoln, he asked me if I was circumcised. … I hoped I hadn’t heard him. I kept on going with the presidents … and he said ‘Are you?’ Then ‘show me.’ I was obedient. I unzipped.”

Wilcox said Bennett then fondled him for about 10 minutes but thinks because he didn’t get aroused, it never happened again. Source: WSYX, 11-2-18

Jerome Coyle, 85, Ft. Dodge, IA, was moved out of a retirement home near a school by the Catholic Diocese of Sioux City after it became publicly known Coyle had victimized at least 50 boys over a 20-year period. Bishop R. Walker Nickless said Coyle was stripped of his assignments in the 1980s but was never identified to parishes as a pedophile, nor did the diocese ever inform police. The bishop to whom Coyle reported his abuse, Lawrence Soens, retired in 1998. A review board later found Soens had abused over 30 minor males when he was a priest and school principal but was also never charged. Source: Des Moines Register, 10-30-18

Removed / Resigned

Brian Danner, 51, Humboldt, IA, was removed indefinitely as pastor at St. Mary’s Catholic Church after a 4th-grade girl accused him of rubbing the top of her leg during confession. The Sioux City Diocese reported the incident in December 2017 after an internal review found Danner’s actions were inappropriate but didn’t constitute sexual abuse.

No criminal investigation occurred because the girl’s parents said they were unsure whether they wanted to move forward and never followed up, said Humboldt County Attorney Jon Beaty. Source: AP, 11-20-18

Joseph Aubin, a Catholic priest on senior status since 2002 and not assigned to a parish, was removed from public ministry by the Diocese of Lansing, MI, due to a credible allegation of inappropriate sexual behavior with a minor dating to the 1960s. Source: AP, 11-16-18

Genaro M. Reyes, Ft. Worth, TX, was removed as pastor at All Saints Catholic Church after a 43-year-old man accused him of grabbing the man’s genitals while sitting on a public park bench in September. Police determined there was insufficient evidence of assault by offensive contact and instead mailed Reyes a general complaint citation.

Reyes was recalled to Mexico by the provincial of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis in Mexico, his religious order. Source: Star-Telegram, 11-15-18

Denis G. Bouchard, Vienna, OH, was placed on leave as Catholic pastor of Queen of the Holy Rosary Parish, due to an allegation of inappropriate behavior with a minor who is now an adult. The parish is staffed by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. It also has a school, St. Joseph the Protector Learning Center. Source: Tribune Chronicle, 11-12-18

Richard M. Lelonis, 73, was placed on leave by the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh for 2 incidents of alleged sexual abuse of minors in the early 1970s and about 1980. Source: Post-Gazette, 11-12-18

Philip A. Petit, a New Hampshire Catholic priest ordained in 1980, has been defrocked by the Vatican, 32 years after he was suspended by the Diocese of Manchester over allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct. He was named in a 2003 report by the state attorney general into an abuse cover-up by the diocese.

Former Bishop Odore Gendron wrote to Petit in 1986 that he would “certainly destroy all documents, notes, etc., referring to your treatment” except for a 1982 letter from Petit’s doctor saying he was making progress and that an incident in Dover was isolated. Gendron also told Petit the diocese was increasing his monthly stipend by $50. Source: Union Leader, 11-6-18

Douglas J. Haefner resigned as pastor of St. Matthias Catholic Church in Franklin Township, NJ, due to allegations about his “compulsive behaviors.” Bishop James Checchio told parishioners Haefner “borrowed” about $500,000. Law enforcement is investigating the missing money. Source: nj.com, 11-7-18

James Mickus was removed as pastor at Catholic parishes in Stroud and Chandler, OK, due to renewal of an allegation first made in 2002 of abuse of a minor male. Mickus was removed then and reinstated in 2003. The current removal is related to the earlier one, said Diane Clay, archdiocese spokesperson. Source: newsok.com, 11-5-18

Andrew Syring, 41, West Point, NE, resigned as associate pastor at St. Mary Catholic Church after being accused of “significant boundary violations with young adults and minors,” said Tim McNeil, Archdiocese of Omaha chancellor. Allegations are from 2014 when he worked at Divine Mercy Parish in Schuyler.

Syring was removed from Divine Mercy for “unwanted touching of young adults, publicly hugging and kissing minors on the cheek and inappropriate conversations with young adults and teenagers” that were reported to law enforcement. He “has indicated that he will leave priestly life,” McNeil said. Source: World-Herald, 11-4-18

George Hiland, Duane Leclercq and John Onderko, Illinois priests from the Catholic Diocese of Peoria, have been credibly accused of sexual misconduct from 50, 30 and 55 years ago, respectively, the diocese announced. They may not function as priests in any public capacity. Source: WQAD, 11-1-18

Jody J. Simoneaux, Jeanerette, LA, was placed on leave as pastor at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church for allegations of improper behavior with minors while assigned to churches in Eunice and Youngsville 30 years ago. The diocese said it’s cooperating with law enforcement. Source: Daily Advertiser, 11-1-18

John Jenik, 74, Bronx, NY, pastor at Our Lady of Refuge Catholic Church and auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of New York, “stepped aside from public ministry” after church officials deemed a claim he molested a teen boy in the 1980s “credible and substantiated.” Source: NY Post, 10-31-18

Victor Couzens, Forest Park, OH, resigned as bishop of the College of Elders of Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship. Paul Morton, founder of the million-member denomination, alleged Couzens has engaged in multiple sexual relationships. Morton has admitted in the past to fathering a child out of wedlock.

The New York Police Department confirmed it has a warrant out for Couzens. Andrea Garrison, 30, alleged he threatened to blackmail her unless she recanted claims about their relationship. Source: Christian Post, 10-29-18

Jean-Michael Lastiri and Ricardo Magdaleno were placed on paid leave as Catholic pastors by the Diocese of Fresno, CA, during investigations of alleged sexual misconduct. An investigation continues of another priest, Gaspar Bautista, said Teresa Dominguez, diocesan chancellor. Bautista has been on paid leave since March 2016. Source: Fresno Bee, 10-29-18

Canadian priests Malcolm D’Souza and Peter Hung Cong Tran were placed on leave by the Catholic Diocese of Calgary. Allegations involving 2 minors and several adults are from D’Souza’s time as pastor at St. Mark Parish in Calgary between 2010-16. Accusations by 2 women against Tran stem from his time as pastor at St. Joseph Parish in Vancouver between 1998-2003. Source: CBC, 10-29-18

Jose Rebaque was suspended and ordered to vacate the rectory of St. Peter’s Catholic Parish in Bridgeport, CT. Bishop Frank Caggiano said the diocese was notified in September that Rebaque shared a cabin with a 15-year-old boy on a cruise sponsored by the parish in January 2017. Source: AP, 10-27-18

Stephen Muth, a Byzantine Catholic priest of the Eparchy of Parma, OH, was placed on leave in response to a recent credible accusation of sexual misconduct involving a vulnerable adult, considered a minor under canon law. Source: parma.org, 10-22-18

Email: [email protected]

Sex abuse scandal

Celebrating the solstice season

The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s annual Winter Solstice and Bill of Rights exhibits were displayed in December from coast to coast.

The signs, cutouts, banners and billboards were placed in at least 13 states throughout the holiday season, from California to New Hampshire. 

The Winter Solstice sign features FFRF’s traditional message by its principal founder Anne Nicol Gaylor. It was created as an equal-time challenge to combat religious dogmatism at the heart of state government and reads:

“At this season of the Winter Solstice, may reason prevail.
“There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell.

“There is only our natural world.

“Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

The Winter Solstice, which occurred on Dec. 21, is the shortest, darkest day of the year, signaling the rebirth of the sun and the natural new year. It’s been celebrated for millennia with festivals of light, feasts, gift exchanges and the display of evergreens, which symbolize enduring life, and, FFRF maintains, is the true “reason for the season.”

FFRF’s whimsical Bill of Rights “nativity” is an irreverent cutout by artist Jacob Fortin that depicts Founders Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington gazing in adoration at a “baby” Bill of Rights, while the Statue of Liberty looks on.

A sign beside the wry nativity scene reads: “At this season of the Winter Solstice, join us in honoring the Bill of Rights, adopted on Dec. 15, 1791, which reminds us there can be no religious freedom without the freedom to dissent. Keep religion and government separate!

Here’s a roundup of those displays by state:


Sacramento: The Bill of Rights display was put up by the Greater Sacramento chapter of FFRF outside the state Capitol.  

San Diego: Katie D., a San Diego freethinker who has asked to be identified without her full last name, put up two Solstice displays to counter the religious messages placed on public property in Balboa Park. The first was the Winter Solstice banner and the other was the Bill of Rights display. The two were triumphantly displayed after Katie D. and FFRF faced challenges getting the application approved by the city, despite the large existing religious nativity scene which has been put up for many years.


Shelton: FFRF’s Winter Solstice banner was put up by Jerry Bloom in Huntington Park.


Atlanta: Two digital billboards were displayed with secular holiday messages reading: “At the Season of the Winter Solstice, May Reason Prevail.” These two billboards functioned as part of a year-long media campaign in the South’s most bustling metropolis, underwritten by Georgia FFRF Member Jack Egger. 


Arlington Heights: The Bill of Rights display was also displayed at North School Park, its seventh year there, thanks to FFRF’s Metropolitan Chicago chapter.

Chicago: A colorful banner invoking the Founding Fathers was again unfurled in Daley Plaza by the Metropolitan Chicago chapter. Sitting atop the banner stand was a large lighted Richard Dawkins-inspired “A” (for atheism) sign. This is the sixth year of the display, intended to counter a life-sized Christian creche and a massive Jewish menorah placed at the location by private organizations since the 1980s. 

Libertyville: The Metropolitan Chicago chapter also placed the Bill of Rights cutout at Cook Memorial Park, the first year that a freethought exhibit has been displayed at this site. A life-sized Christian creche and an 8-foot tall menorah have been placed in the park for several years. 

Morris: The Bill of Rights display was placed on the ground of the Grundy County Courthouse by FFRF Member Will Meyer. 

Springfield: The Winter Solstice sign was displayed at the Illinois state Capitol building for the 10th straight year. It was installed by FFRF Member Kathryn Koldehoff.


South Bend: FFRF Member Geoff Snyder brought FFRF’s Bill of Rights cutout back to the County-City Building. Snyder first placed the exhibit in the lobby of the County-City Building in the winter of 2015 after St. Joseph County allowed a Christian nativity scene to be prominently showed off there.


Des Moines: The Bill of Rights cutout was put up in the state Capitol for the second straight year.

New Hampshire

Concord: FFRF Member Jack Shields debuted FFRF’s Bill of Rights cutout display in New Hampshire’s capital in December. The display was set up outside the Capitol building.

New York

Hastings-on-Hudson: The Freethinkers of Hastings-on-Hudson put up FFRF’s “Reason’s Greetings” banner in VFW Park. Next to it, the group has also displayed its own sign depicting Rodin’s “The Thinker” in contemplation of the village’s water tower. It is the fifth year in a row the local organization has created a public exhibition.


Warren: The Reason Station, staffed and organized by FFRF activist Douglas Marshall, included the centerpiece “May Reason Prevail” sign. It was up for the fourth straight year at City Hall. The Reason Station, staffed by Marshall and others, offers information from a nonreligious perspective to counter a prayer station.

             New Jersey

Maplewood: The Bill of Rights “nativity” display was put up in the business district of the city.


Cleveland: The Northern Ohio Freethought Society, the local chapter of FFRF, obtained a spot at the Cleveland Public Square for the Bill of Rights exhibit for the second year. 

Freethought Society Director Marni Huebner-Tiborsky and other group volunteers put up the exhibit.


Eugene: A large banner that spans 30 feet by 4 feet and stretches across 8th Street contains the message: “Celebrate the Solstice. Tis the Season of Reason.” 

A similarly large banner has been hung up in the area in previous years that features “Christmas” and “Jesus” in large letters. FFRF thanks member Charles Jones for his activism in getting this banner up.


Olympia: FFRF’s “Let Reason Prevail” banner was erected on the grounds of the state Capitol by Darrell Barker and others.


Madison: For the 23rd consecutive year, FFRF was able to place its solstice sign at the Wisconsin Capitol in Madison. 

It also displayed its Bill of Rights cutout. 

Milwaukee: County Executive Chris Abele graced the installation ceremony of FFRF’s Winter Solstice display on Dec. 3. 

FFRF put it up with the help of member Ted Shellhamer.

FFRF’s Winter Solstice Party 2018

Folk singer Kristin Lems entertained the crowd with her her freethinking songs as Dan Barker accompanied her on the piano. (Photo by Chris Line)
The beautiful spread of flowers and treats greeted guests in the Charlie Brooks Auditorium on the fourth floor of Freethought Hall in Madison, Wis. (Photo by Jake Swenson)
FFRF’s greeters for the party guests were, from left, Director of First Impressions Lisa Treu, Editorial Assistant Bailey Nackreiner-Mackesey and Intern Tolu Igun. (Photo by Jake Swenson)
Guests treated themselves to chocolates, cookies, cheeses and hot cider prior to the start of the program. (Photo by Chris Line)
A full house listened to Kristin perform several of her classic songs. (Photo by Chris Line)
Kristin, center, shares a moment with FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor. (Photo by Jake Swenson)