‘Freethought Radio’ listeners chime in

Freethought Radio listeners were offered the opportunity to enter a random drawing for a free copy of co-host Dan Barker’s latest book, Mere Morality (a rejoinder to C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity).   

Here are some of the messages received in January by listeners of FFRF’s radio show/podcast, which has been on the air since the spring of 2006, currently broadcasts in six cities and drawing some 10,000 weekly podcast listeners. Freethought Radio features irreverent views, news music and interviews, and reports every week on FFRF’s most timely actions. To listen, visit ffrf.org/radio.

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I’ve been listening to Freethought Radio through the Overcast podcast app since shortly after I met Dan Barker at the Tucson Festival of Books a few years ago, and I’ve been an FFRF member since the day after the general election in 2016. Thanks for the work you’re doing at FFRF!

Rich Miller

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I listen to the podcast every week.

I am agnostic, after identifying as a Christian most of my life. Like many people, it wasn’t something that sprang into existence from nowhere, it evolved over time. I remember telling my mom when I was not quite a teen that I believed in an absent god, that set the world spinning and then walked away for us to manage on our own. (I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the exact quote, but that was the idea.)

As an adult, I spent much of my career working as the news director for a Christian radio group. I was considered the token liberal because, among other things, I believed in First Amendment equality for all faiths, not just Christianity, even as I expressed a specifically Christian worldview on the air, which I did firmly believe at the time.

While serving as a Sunday school teacher and youth group leader, I regularly told my students to “study to show thyself approved,” as the bible says, and not take my word for it. Interestingly, many of those same students now are themselves unchurched, atheist, agnostic, or lean toward what is now considered liberal Christianity.

As the years pass, I took the advice I gave my own students. After much thought and study, I realized that the road didn’t lead to Calvary, but to a wider road with a greater sense of the awe, mystery and majesty of the universe, unfettered by the cloistered walls of Christianity. 

Even though I’ve been agnostic for several years, it’s not something I discuss often, telling only a few people and only when pressed on a specific religious issue. 

Robert Parson

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I listen to your program in my car on my way to home after work in College Station, Texas. I am Mexican of a privileged upbringing and fortunately I have never faced the hardships my unprivileged peers face every day. However, I do feel disconnected from my community due to my nonbelief. I feel as if I can’t say out loud what I really think because people are going to reject me. That’s why I feel so refreshed when I listen to your program. It’s very comforting to know there is a big community of people who will not judge you for what you (don’t) believe.

Ricardo Simental Magaña

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I first started listening to the podcast of Freethought Radio when I was watching atheist-themed videos on YouTube, and a recommendation popped up. It was the video of Dan and Annie Laurie on the “Oprah Winfrey Show.” That led to watching more videos and to the FFRF website, where I learned about the radio show. I eagerly await each episode. I’ve read all of Dan’s books. Keep up the good work.

David O’Reilly

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I am so glad I accidentally heard about you on the “Devil’s Advocate” radio show, which is carried on one of our local talk show radio stations. This was a year or more ago, and I think the interview was about the Johnson Amendment.

Anyway, I’ve gone on to become a member, and enjoy FFRF’s videos on YouTube, your newspaper, the “Freethought Matters” TV show, and anything else I can find that you’re doing. It is so good to know your organization is working to keep religion out of the public arena. I’ll be really happy if/when you get rid of chaplains in the Unied States legislature. Thank you for everything you do.

Gladys Burritt

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I follow your show in podcast from @PodcastAddict. Thank you for defending the “the wall,” fence, whatever they’d like to call it. I’ll call it whatever they want. But it’s all the same thing “between church and state”!

Dean Davis

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I’ve been a listener of your broadcast for quite a few years and just became a new member of FFRF in December. I’m glad my yearly donation is going toward such an important cause.

I listened to the show on my laptop from your website until I started using the Castbox app last year for all my podcasts. Now I have you everywhere I go with my smartphone.

Thanks for all the great work you do!

Carl Davidson

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I’ve listened to Freethought Radio since I found out about the existence of podcasts. I really appreciate you making the frank and simple point that Christianity is not the default human condition and should not be part of the government. I’m interested in Dan’s book, Mere Morality, because of the false argument that a bronze-age and dark-age religion teaches humans morality.

LK Lowe

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I listen to Freethought Radio via podcast every week. I am an FFRF member from Kentucky and it’s a great way to keep up-to-date on all the great work you do on our behalf. Living in Kentucky as an atheist is a challenge, especially with people like our governor always chipping away at the wall of separation between church and state. It’s great to have an organization that keeps the government in check and makes sure the wall stays in place to protect us all.

Manolo Matos

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Happy New Year from my flight to Bangkok! I usually listen on my monthly commute to Thailand. Month on, month off. Semi-retired for years and looking forward to full early retirement in Thailand next year.

Thanks for being the voice of reason and sanity in the crazy USA and for everything FFRF does.

Kevin Danchisen

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I was born in a Christian home and my father is pastor in Mexico City. I preached and led worship, playing the guitar at church. I can identify with your story, Mr. Barker. Reading science with an open mind and all the questions that Christianity could not answer, and reading Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, amounted to my realization this past November that God doesn’t exist.

I’ve read a couple of your books and I just started on losing faith in faith. I’m 43 now and married to a surprisingly supporting wife. I’m going through a scary/exiting time and your books and now your podcast are helping me through it.

Genaro Vega

• • •

These were the messages received by the ultimate lucky winners of the free book drawing:

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We listen to the program via podcast on iTunes and very much look forward to every new episode each week.

As parents raising godless (and moral) young children in small-town Ohio, we appreciate the dose of sanity and rationalism in what can seem at times an increasing oppressive religious environment.

Please keep up the fantastic work.

Andy Ahern

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I listen to Freethought Radio as a podcast through the app PocketCast. I listen to Freethought Radio and a slew of other atheist podcasts. For me, it’s a breath of fresh air to listen to others who share my views.

I moved to the rural southwest Wisconsin area a couple of years ago. I felt alone, and even the podcasts couldn’t quench my thirst for social interaction with freethinkers. So, I started The Driftless Atheists Meetup group.

I don’t think I would have had the courage to start such a group without the encouragement and support of people like you.

Joshua Masterson

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I listen to the radio show on podcast because I am an atheist, because I want to be exposed to other folks of like mind.

William McCallister

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I listen to Freethought Radio podcasts because I’m not always available at the time of the broadcast. I’ve been a member for many years and really enjoy every radio show. I have read several of the books mentioned on various shows and have others on my long list of “to read” books.Thanks for all you do for freethought.

Bob Stewart

Photos, cartoons, marquees (March 2019)

Letterbox (March 2019)

FFRF’s ‘After-Life’ pin is worn with pride

Thank you so much for my new “After-Life Member” pin! I am so happy to have this beautiful pin that I will wear it with pride.

I am such a proud member of FFRF and sing your praises every chance I get. Thanks for all you do.

Susie York
New Hampshire

Crankmail writers suffer from Dunning-Kruger

I wonder how the people who write these pieces in Crankmail would feel if they knew some 32,000 people were reading their words and laughing at them. I recently heard about a malady known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Basically, it is being too stupid to appreciate how stupid you are. Seems to apply to the Crankmail authors.

Jack M. Pedigo

Thanks for stopping prayer at Chino Valley

Thank you for stopping the Chino Valley School Board in promoting church and religion. I strongly believe that the citizens of Chino deserve school board members who are open-minded and whose best interest is to provide a quality education to all students without the influence of religious beliefs.

Ben Aguirre

Plenty of unanswered questions about abortion

The column by Brian Bolton (“Who is history’s greatest abortionist?”) comes tantalizing close to some trenchant questions which I never hear publicly aired. They deserve greater attention:

How many of us are aborted by God? It’s well over half of fertilizations. The observable miscarriage rate is 10-20 percent, but most spontaneous abortions occur too early to be noticed. Whatever the fate of the unborn soul, it’s the fate of far more than half of us ever created. One may choose to include the very high infant/early childhood mortality rates that God imposes.

What is the fate of the unborn soul? A dilemma (assuming the life of the soul begins at conception). Perhaps they go straight to heaven; a free ride without running the gauntlet of life and risking hell. Presumably one must be born to get to hell. Why is abortion not a sacrament? 

Or perhaps for some reason (God’s whim), these innocents are denied heaven. If so, why does anyone worship this guy?

Does the aborted soul care who kills it, be it God or someone else?

God’s scriptural admissions to mass abortion are illuminating, but, as usual, verifiable observations are more instructive.

One may quip, “If I’d been aborted, wouldn’t I be in heaven right now instead of going to hell?”

John Wolff

I’m joyfully upgrading to ‘After-Life’ status

I would like to take this opportunity to joyfully upgrade my membership to After-Life status. Your organization has been life-changing. Prior to joining FFRF, I literally had no idea that there were so many of us “Nones” out there.

Unfortunately, my schedule does not allow time to join a local group, so Freethought Today is my lifeline to what is going on. What wonderful news each issue brings! Like it is for so many, Crankmail is a guilty pleasure — though I worry about your safety at times, I just end up laughing anyway. What dimwits!

Finally, at long last, I have decided I can no longer read about all the wonderful presentations and fun at the annual convention, so have penciled in this year’s event on my calendar. I truly look forward to rubbing shoulders with the freethought Illuminati.

Chuck Bingham

Which will she choose? Bible or morality?

Second Lady Karen Pence is teaching at a fundamentalist school with absolute bible beliefs. This raises disturbing questions:

The bible says clearly that gay lovers must be killed (Lev. 20:13).

The bible says clearly that brides who aren’t virgins must be stoned to death on their fathers’ doorsteps (Deut. 22).

The bible says clearly that people who work on the Sabbath must be executed (Ex. 31:15).

The bible gives explicit instructions on how to buy and sell slaves (Lev. 25:44) — including advice about selling a daughter (Ex. 21:7).

Will Mrs. Pence tell students to obey these sacred bible commands, or will she tell them to ignore God’s instructions?

James A. Haught
West Virginia

We should all place stickers on hotel bibles

I was actually happy to find a Gideon bible in my hotel room at the convention in San Francisco. I promptly placed one of FFRF’s “Gideon Exposed” stickers on the cover. It gave me pleasure to know that future occupants of that room would be exposed to the brutal murderous history of Gideon. 

When traveling, I never leave home without an adequate supply of the “Gideon Exposed” stickers. In late July, on a drive from Texas to North Carolina, I placed six stickers on bibles. Assuming a 50 percent occupancy rate (two adults occupy the room 182 days a year), then on an annual basis about 2,000 people would be exposed to the stickers.

Now, if each of the 30,000-plus FFRF members spent one night a year in a hotel and placed a sticker on the bible, millions of people would be exposed to the message.

I’m just being a Johnny Appleseed, planting seeds of doubt and reason.

Howard Bostock

Editor’s note: The “Gideon Exposed” stickers and bible warning labels can be found at shop.ffrf.org by clicking on the “Sharables/Gifts” tab.

Don’t bash believers, get them to join us

Many of our articles and letters bash religions and faith; yet that same faith brings relief and comfort to millions, especially in times of duress. Thus, we will always have religions.

Our best hope to prevail is to convince the people of faith to join our cause. The bashing only alienates them.

George Gjelfriend
North Carolina

Thanks to FFRF for the Chino Valley victory

I love the good news that the newly elected school board members of the Chino Valley School District voted 3 to 2 to discontinue the appeal of your case. Thank you for this long-fought victory. The community and the plaintiffs worked long and hard, but FFRF got them through.

You might be interested to know that one of the troublesome board members ended the evening with a warning about the dangers of vaccination and its connection to autism. No end of fake facts in Chino. I’m proud of your work and the hard work of the citizens. Whew. Elections matter.

Joanne Dallas

Donate Stardust books to your local library

I was so impressed by reading Bailey Harris’ speech in the December 2018 issue that I purchased five copies of My Name is Stardust and donated them to my local public library. In the future, I hope to do the same with Stardust Explores the Solar System and Stardust Explores Earth’s Wonders.

I suggest that each FFRF member purchase at least one copy of My Name is Stardust and donate it to their local public library. This would be a great way to promote freethought and science.

John Dunn

Missed convention to become Life Member

I’ve wanted to become a Life Member for a long time, but needed to wait until this year.

Thanks for Andrew Seidel’s terrific, thought-provoking article, “Climate change is a state/church matter,” in the December issue.

As a Californian, I was pleased that San Francisco was chosen as the site of the 2018 convention. I chose not to attend, however, because I felt that a Life Membership was a better use of my limited resources.

On another topic, the usage of the terms “atheist” and “atheism” is troubling to me because they are still related to theism. Opposing something still keeps one attached to it. I’ve always found “humanism” to be far more embraceable. I’m an atheist, yes, but a humanist first.

Bill Fritch

Venomous tone over FFRF’s case in Ozark

The devil prompted me to send you this note regarding the cross in Ozark, Mo., on city property. I am extremely fortunate to be able to vacation there in the winters. I watched the TV news and read the local paper regarding the cross issue. The venom of the tone of the TV report and the language of the newspaper made it sound like you guys are from a different galaxy and are minions of Ming the Merciless!

Keep up the good work!

David Mishkin

I don’t believe in God, but Robert Mueller, yes!

I don’t believe in God, but I do believe in Robert Mueller III. Although I just turned 90, I very much hope that Mr. Mueller will deposit me in heaven before I die!

Willys Silvers

Column provided great examples of God’s wrath   

I just want to say how much I’m enjoying being a Sponsoring Member of FFRF. I’m proud of the work you do, I appreciate the email updates, and I especially like Freethought Today, which is a breath of fresh air. All elements of it are fun to read, but I was prompted to write because of how much I particularly enjoyed Brian Bolton’s article “Who is history’s greatest abortionist?” It’s fascinating when someone distills all the little bits of evidence in the bible that paints yet another vivid example of what an incorrigible character God really is. Thanks, Brian, and thanks, FFRF!

Ross Meisner

Based on 1990 comments, Trump not a Christian

The “Freethought of the Day” of Jan. 27 noted that: “Mozart refused to ask for a priest when dying. His wife sent for one anyway, who refused to attend. Mozart was buried in a pauper’s grave without a religious service. Referring to the orthodoxy of his youth, he [Mozart] said: ‘That is all over, and will never come back.’”

Contrast Mozart’s words with the answer given by Donald Trump to the “Life or death” question posed to him during his interview in Playboy magazine (March 1990).

Trump’s response: “Both. We’re here and we live our 60, 70 or 80 years and we’re gone. You win, you win, and in the end, it doesn’t mean a hell of a lot. But it is something to do, to keep you interested.”

Both Mozart and Trump provided us with the opportunity to form our own opinions about their supposed religiosity — or, more importantly, their lack thereof. However, it should be noted: Without a belief in an afterlife (with Jesus, who Trump never mentioned) one cannot be a Christian. Such “heaven-deniers” can claim to be Christians, but according to all Christian denominations, they most certainly are not.

As Napoleon Bonaparte noted, more than 200 years ago, (and what Donald Trump is obviously capitalizing on today): “Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet. Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.”

William Dusenberry

Why do churches get to pollute our air?

I was distressed to hear Christian hymns being banged out on the St. Rita Church’s bell tower on Dec. 25. I was inside my home with all the windows and doors shut and the curtains drawn, and I could still hear the religious assault on my ears very clearly. There is nothing I can do to get away from the proselytizing when the town sanctions it being broadcast in this very invasive manner. Not every taxpayer in Fairfax is a Christian. Not everyone wants to be oppressed by Christian ideology in their own homes. Some of us are even traumatized by what Christianity has done to us. I strongly urge the town to stop sanctioning Christian content being broadcast into our homes, our ears, and our minds in this inescapably invasive manner. Please do not allow St. Rita or any other religious organization to pollute our air with their religious hymns.

Stacey Anderson

Keep focus of cases on constitutionality

I often see in articles about church/state separation cases that the objection to crosses and monuments that favor Christianity over any other religion or no religion is because these make others feel left out or inferior. This buys into the Christian view that we nonbelievers are just sinners complaining about being preached to.

So, let’s get to the heart to the matter, which is that these are unconstitutional, which is reason enough. But, also, our founders made respect for churches unconstitutional because they promote myth and superstition, and no one in government should be given the authority to decide what is myth and superstition and what is not! This is very important. And it is time we attack these violations with the true reason for the First Amendment, which was the desire to avoid the terrors of religious conflict and persecution that once plagued Europe and still plagues the Middle East.

With this approach, we will also have great opportunities to remind everyone that religion is based on myth and superstition, which no one in all honesty can deny.

Ron Herman
New Mexico

Thanks for intervening in state-church issues

I just want to express my gratitude to FFRF staff for having intervened in a few local concerns of mine regarding violations of state/church separation. Living in a small isolated remote west Texas city on the U.S.-Mexico border, it is hard to get help in righting wrongs involving local government, even if one has the funds to hire an attorney. Some local attorneys won’t take on cases that are not politically correct because doing so might scare off future business. Many residents do object to violations but do not know how to take on such things or are concerned about retaliation for having spoken out.

As far as the press goes, we really don’t have much, but what we do have isn’t really inclined to take on such issues. Del Rio really is a nice place to live but, like anywhere else, it is not perfect. This is where I find that FFRF is very helpful to the community overall. Please keep up the good work you do!

Richard d’Avy

December issue was particularly good!

The December 2018 issue was a particularly good one. Kudos to all!

I loved the repurposed churches, the kidney donor story, the Kirschman memorial, the Bailey Harris convention speech (props to her!) and the account by Steven Lowe to get bibles out of hotel rooms (yes!).

And then, on the back page, I saw the wonderful piece by James Wiseman about the “loneliness” of being a racial minority in the secular community. The column was directly above the photo of the woefully-not-diverse FFRF team. Sigh. I know it’s Madison and the demographic there is not very diverse.

I salute everyone at FFRF nonetheless. All over the globe, things are getting better year by year. Wiseman’s piece is a clarion call and an eloquent upper. Thanks to everyone!

Lane Browning

First Amendment defense a thankless task

It is with considerable pleasure that I am able to contribute to you again this year. I realize the defense of the First Amendment is an endless, and seemingly thankless, task. I am honored to be able to stand with you in it.

James Wood Bailey
New Jersey

Hierarchy of Church is all about power

I finally figured out that my bias is not against Catholics nor Catholicism. My bias is against the hierarchy of the institutional church, which I consider a bunch of geriatric, misogynist, sexually perverted, totalitarian men. It took me years to realize I could separate people I dearly liked from religious tenets I thought were superstitious nonsense from priests who were the instruments of psychological damage and extreme unhappiness.

I had friends when I was first married who were afraid to use birth control. I danced off to Planned Parenthood or my ob/gyn, had two children and a very good married life. These poor women may have gone to Catholic heaven, but their married life was hell on Earth in many ways.

As I got older, I met a lot of lapsed Catholics. These people were much happier by and large than my newly wedded friends who confessed to a priest who gave women absolution for using the rhythm method! I couldn’t find anything in the bible that actually forbade birth control. All their explanations sounded pretty modern and controlling: “It’s not natural.” Well, neither is surgery, mass transportation, communication or modern agriculture.  But I have never heard any criticism of these scientific unnatural practices.

The hierarchy is all about power. If I were wealthy, I’d found a home for women of any faith who want to escape. 

Thank you for doing what you do.

Marjorie Holden

I thought you might enjoy photos of Darwin, my 18-year-old cockatoo, catching up on FFRF news about the convention. Darwin and I live in Florida and are grateful FFRF members.
Gemma Dehnbostel

Constitution is supreme law of the land

I frequently hear people, Judge Roy Moore included, quote the words, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” They then claim that they haven’t established a religion.

But people forget that the First Amendment is written within the context that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Whenever a conflict arises between the Constitution and an establishment of religion, the Constitution is supreme.

Thanks, and keep up the good work.

Matthew P. Howley

Black Collar Crime (March 2019)

Compiled by Bill Dunn

Arrested / Charged

Jacob L. Coyle, 36, Peoria, IL: Criminal sexual assault and aggravated criminal sexual abuse. Coyle, youth pastor at Averyville Baptist Church, is accused of sexual contact with a male parishioner on “multiple occasions” over 4 years, starting in January 2006 when he was 13. He alleged friendly back rubs led to sexual encounters at the church, mostly in a guest bedroom known as the “prophet’s chambers.” Source: Pekin Times, 1-29-19

Matthew D. Tonne, 35, Flower Mound, TX: Indecency with a child. Tonne is accused of molesting a girl from the Village Church at a camp for kids in 2012, when he was children’s minister. He was quietly removed in June 2018, although Village pastor Matt Chandler later said it was for reasons unrelated to the assault.

Some church members are upset that Chandler declined to say if anyone from the church was involved with allegations made last September. He also said “no persons of interest” in the investigation had access to children. Source: Christian Post, 1-26-19

Hugh J. Lang, 88, Castle Shannon, PA: Unlawful contact with a minor, corruption of minors, aggravated indecent assault, sexual abuse of children involving photography or other imaging, indecent exposure and 2 counts of indecent assault. “John Doe” alleged that Lang molested him in the church basement when he was 10 and was training to be an altar boy at St. Therese of Lisieux Parish in Munhall. Although he retired in 2006, Lang was still offering Mass at St. Anne Parish in Castle Shannon. Source: Post-Gazette, 1-25-19

Stephen Jordan, 67, Conway, SC: 3rd-degree assault and battery, entry on another’s land for various purposes without permission and trespassing on another’s land without permission. Jordan, who retired in 2016 as a Methodist pastor, was charged last May with 3rd-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor for allegedly fondling a 4-year-old girl.

The new charges stem from a Dec. 26 incident in which a woman reported Jordan came on her property and approached children who were playing. She told him to leave but he kept returning, a police report said. Source: WPDE, 1-24-19

Charles Townsend, 52, Lincoln, NE: Procuring alcohol for a minor. Townsend, pastor at St. Peter’s Catholic Church until placed on leave last August, is accused of an “inappropriate, nonsexual relationship” with a 19-year-old altar server that involved alcohol at a residence in July 2017, said Bishop James Conley.

Conley sent Townsend to Texas for treatment and told parishioners it was for health reasons but never told the teen’s parents about the incident, said a church statement. Source: Journal Star, 1-18-19

Thomas P. Ganley, 63, Phillipsburg, NJ: Aggravated sexual assault and 2 counts of sexual assault. Ganley, pastor at Sts. Philip and James Catholic Church, is charged with assaulting a girl in 1990-94, when he served a parish in Woodbridge. She alleges they had intercourse and oral sex on multiple occasions in New Jersey, Florida and Washington, starting when she was 16 and he was 39.

It’s the first case stemming from a new state task force investigating clergy sex abuse. The arrest came just 2 days after the accuser called the abuse hotline. Source: nj.com, 1-17-19

Rashan L. Wilson, 35, N. Charleston, SC: Domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature. Wilson, pastor at Southside Impact Church, is charged in an incident at the church involving a woman with whom he has 2 children and is 8 weeks pregnant. An affidavit stated: “The defendant then lunged toward the victim, put both of his hands around her neck and squeezed tightly until she was unconscious for an indeterminate period of time.”

She called 911 after regaining consciousness and was treated and released. Wilson has written 3 books, including “99½ Things a Woman Needs From Her Man: How to Establish and Maintain a Healthy Relationship.” Source: Post & Courier, 1-17-19

Daniel L. Johnson, 24, Greenwood, SC: Criminal solicitation of a minor, sexual exploitation of a minor and criminal sexual conduct with a minor. He was charged in November with similar assault counts involving another male alleged victim. Johnson is listed as a youth minister on the St. John’s United Methodist Church website, but Pastor Scott Nurse said that’s just because the staff doesn’t know how to remove him from the site.

A 13-year-old boy told police in November that Johnson made him take photos of his genitals and coerced him into performing oral sex, a warrant said. Source: Index-Journal, 1-17-19

John K. Wetteland, 52, Trophy Club, TX: Continuous sexual abuse of a child younger than 14. Wetteland, an evangelical Christian who formerly taught high school bible study and coached baseball at Liberty Christian School in the Dallas suburb Argyle, is accused of forcing a relative to perform a sex act on him. It allegedly occurred when the child was 4 and happened twice more during a 2-year period.

Wetteland is a member of the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame. He was the 1996 World Series MVP while pitching for the Yankees. A 1995 New York Times column noted his “Jesus Lives” coffee mug and a bible in his locker. “I honestly try and walk with Jesus Christ every day,” he told a reporter, describing his relationship with Jesus as more important than the one with his wife. Source: Morning News, 1-15-19

Malcolm J. D’Souza, 62, Calgary, Alberta: Sexual assault. D’Souza, pastor at 2 Catholic parishes, is accused of repeated, inappropriate touching of a woman in 2012. The Diocese of Calgary put him on leave last October after receiving allegations from 2 minors and several adults about incidents between 2010-16. Source: Calgary Herald, 1-15-19

Derek Smittle, 30, Centerton, AR: Sexual assault. Smittle, a Sunday school volunteer at First Baptist Centerton, is accused of having a months-long sexual relationship starting last October with a 17-year-old girl who attended First Baptist. He also hosted bible studies in his home. The girl’s mother alleged she found Smittle and her daughter at an Airbnb in January, an affidavit said. Source: KFSM, 1-15-19

Charles Kormanski, 56, Bellefonte, PA: Embezzlement of over $167,000 from St. John Lutheran, where he’s been treasurer since 1998. It’s alleged he wrote 379 checks to himself, starting in December 2011. Source: WTAJ, 1-15-19

Donald L. Reynolds, 59, Edmore, ND: Felony theft. Reynolds is accused of stealing $34,668 since 2004 as pastor of High Plains Ministry, a congregation of 6 merged Lutheran parishes. He resigned in June after being confronted with allegations. Source: Grand Forks Herald, 1-10-19

Douglas Packer, 63, Sierra Vista, AZ: Sexual abuse, sexual assault and unlawful sexual conduct in a correctional facility. Packer, 2015 Chaplain of the Year for the Arizona Detention Association Conference, is accused by an inmate of inappropriate conduct at the jail in Bisbee.

“Chaplain Packer was in a position of community trust, and based solely on his actions and poor decisions, he violated his sacred oath of office,” said Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels. Source: Daily Star, 1-5-18

John Kakkuzhiyil, 63, Ord, NE: 1st-degree sexual assault. Kakkuzhiyil, pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church, is accused by a woman of a November assault during which she alleges she blacked out after having drinks with him at his home. He entered drug and alcohol treatment Dec. 6 and was dismissed from it Jan. 2, said a Diocese of Grand Island statement. Source: WOWT, 1-3-19

Brian L. Oliver, 30, Casper, WY: Domestic battery. Oliver, who took medical leave in September as pastor at First United Methodist Church, is accused of assaulting a woman during an altercation in a private home in December where children were present. He pleaded guilty last July to driving under the influence, with his blood-alcohol content nearly 3 times the legal limit, was fined and placed on probation. Source: Star-Tribune, 12-31-18

Richard Rose, 59, Port Colborne, Ontario: 4 counts each of sexual assault and sexual interference. Rose is accused of incidents involving 2 minors while he was pastor at Northview Community Church when he lived in Markham between 1991-2015. He also operated a home day care and coached hockey during some of that time. Source: CTV News, 12-29-18

John R. McFarland, 56, Fountain Valley, CA: 2 counts of lewd acts on a child. McFarland, lead pastor at Orangethorpe United Methodist Church, is charged in alleged incidents involving a girl under age 14 between July 2012 and August 2013. Source: KUSI, 12-28-18

Aron Y. Rosner, Brooklyn, NY: Kidnapping. Rosner, a member of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect named Lev Tahor, is accused of being part of a conspiracy to kidnap children ages 12 and 14 in December from their mother Sara Helbrans, 32. The children were later found in Mexico.

The sect was founded by her father Shlomo Helbrans, who drowned in Mexico in 2017 after being convicted of kidnapping and deported to Israel. Rosner is a brother of Meyer Rosner, one of 5 Lev Tahor leaders arrested earlier in Mexico. Source: AP, 12-28-18

Charles W. Seely Jr., 49, Ft. Worth, TX: Indecency with a child by sexual contact, prohibited sexual conduct and sexual assault of a child/soliciting a minor. Seely, an oil company executive who served in the volunteer ministry at Christ Chapel Bible Church, is accused of assaulting a teen for about 5 years, starting when she was 15 in 2012. She alleges they had intercourse when she was still 15 and had sex in hotels, a vehicle and at a Christian camp.

“Given these allegations, and in accord with our child protection policies, the perpetrator will NEVER be allowed to serve in any Christ Chapel child-serving ministry in the future,” executive pastor Bill Egner wrote in an email. “WE BELIEVE HER, and commend her for courageously coming forward with this information.” Source: Star-Telegram, 12-27-18

Joao T. de Faria, 76, Abadiania, Brazil: Sexual violation through fraud. Faria, aka Joao de Deus (John of God), is accused of molesting a 39-year-old woman who had come to his faith-healing clinic for treatment. Over 300 women have come forward with similar abuse accusations. Prosecutors said more charges are expected due to 9 active investigations involving 16 complainants. Source: Morning Herald, 12-25-18

Darrell M. Yancey, 59, Grand Prairie, TX: 4 counts of sexual assault of a child, 3 counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child and driving with an invalid license. Yancey, founding pastor of Church of the Turning Point, calls himself “the Apostle.”

An affidavit alleges a girl was 13 when the assaults started and that she conceived 3 children with him. She was living with him because her family had financial difficulties. Another alleged victim is his daughter. Source: WFAA, 12-21-18

Thomas Kreiser, 53, Bronx, NY: 1st-degree sexual abuse. Kreiser, pastor at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, is charged with sexual touching of a 10-year-old girl outside her clothes at a church school in September. He was sentenced in 2011 to 5 years’ probation for stealing over $25,000 from his previous parish. Source: Daily Voice, 12-19-18

Shauna Haile, Rogersville, MO: Felony stealing and forgery. Haile has worked at Harvest Community Church of the Nazarene for 13 years, the last several as treasurer. Church leaders said about $80,000 is missing. She allegedly told investigators it first happened by accident, that she had used the church debit card instead of her own and planned to pay it back, but when she didn’t get caught she continued to keep using the card. Source: KY3, 12-18-18

Jeffrey B. Head, 54, Draper, UT: 2 counts each of forcible sexual abuse and misdemeanor lewdness. Head, the leader of a local Mormon Church ward, is accused by at least 3 underage boys of offenses. One alleges Head came to his home unannounced in May 2016 and inappropriately touched him after asking to see his genitals after surgery.

Another alleged Head talked to him about masturbation “all the time” and once locked him in a car in the boy’s driveway so they could discuss sex.

“We have to figure this masturbation thing out,” Head allegedly told him. “You’re not leaving until we figure this out.” Source: Salt Lake Tribune, 12-15-18

Henry D. Gleason, 71, Claremore, OK: Child molestation, 1st-degree rape and sexual battery. Gleason, pastor of Harmony Star Freewill Baptist Church, is accused of assaults on 3 girls under age 10 and a woman now in her 20s. He allegedly told investigators he didn’t remember any sexual touching but would take the “fall” in order to keep the children out of a courtroom. Source: KTUL, 12-13-18

Jerrell G. Altic, 40, Houston: Altic, a pastor at First Baptist Church, is accused of embezzling over $800,000 from 2011-17, spending the money on things like overseas trips with his family, groceries and payment for his doctorate in divinity from Lancaster Bible College. The church’s insurance will cover $500,000 of the loss. Source: KHOU, 12-12-18

Albert Weathers, 46, Sterling Heights, MI: Murder and use of a firearm in commission of a felony. Weathers, pastor at Logos Church in Detroit, is accused in the December death of Kelly Stough, a 36-year-old transgendered woman.

Prosecutors believe the shooting is tied to Stough’s gender orientation. Weathers also worked at Great Lakes Water Authority until recently. Source: Fox 2 Detroit, 12-12-18

Joseph Walsh, 66, Hamilton Hill, Australia: 6 counts of theft. Walsh allegedly stole $252,000 between 2014-17 while he was pastor at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Subiaco. Source: ABC Local, 12-11-18

Mohamed Rawat, 49, London: Possession with intent to supply an illegal substance. Rawat, a volunteer Muslim chaplain, is charged with smuggling a synthetic cannabinoid called K2 or Spice into jail for inmates to smoke. Source: Daily Star, 12-10-18

Pleaded / Convicted

Richard Chibuto, Lusaka, Zambia: Guilty by bench trial of unlawful carnal knowledge. Chibuto, a Seventh-day Adventist Church elder, was accused of impregnating his 14-year-old stepdaughter and forcing her to abort the fetus. The girl testified he gave her 60 kwacha ($5) and other gifts to entice her to have intercourse 4 times between January and July 2018 after he had kicked her mother out of their home. Source: Lusaka Times, 1-22-19

Brian Boucher, 56, Montreal: Pleaded guilty to sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching for acts in the mid-1990s while he was pastor at St. John Brébeuf Catholic Parish. The victim testified he was molested about twice a week over a 3-year-period, starting when he was 10.

The plea came 2 weeks after Boucher was found guilty by bench trial of similar charges involving oral and anal sex with another boy, starting when he was 12, while pastor at another parish in 2008-11. Source: Montreal Gazette, 1-9-19

Donald R. White, 70, Hannibal, MO: Pleaded guilty to wire fraud for embezzling $320,888 as treasurer of Antioch Baptist Church from 1994-2016. A fire of “suspicious” nature destroyed the church in December 2016, about 2 months after White was confronted about the embezzlement, but he was never charged and no cause was ever determined. Source: Herald-Whig, 1-4-19

Loren Copp, 49, St. Louis: Guilty in a bench trial of 8 counts of production, attempted production and possession of child pornography and use of interstate facilities to persuade or coerce a minor to engage in sexual activity. Copp, founder of a combination church, martial arts school and pizza place, was identified in images showing incidents of oral and vaginal sex with underage girls, the youngest age 11. He ran the school under a nonprofit called Ma-ji Ryu Christian Karate Association. Source: KMOV, 12-26-18

James Jackson, 49, W. Palm Beach, FL: Guilty by jury of 12 counts of child sex abuse. He was arrested in 2016 after 3 underage girls told investigators he used his status as a pastor of a storefront church to groom them for sex during counseling sessions. He also ran a group called Positive Habitat for Aspiring Teens.

Valerie Jackson, now his ex-wife, pleaded guilty to child neglect last May for covering up the abuse. Source: WPBF, 12-19-18

Juan G. Castillo, 35, Carlsbad, CA: Guilty by jury of misdemeanor sexual battery. Castillo, pastor at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, was accused by a Diocese of San Diego seminarian of groping his genitals in February 2018 in a restaurant bathroom. He testified he was trying to put pressure on the man’s stomach to help him stop vomiting and might have accidentally touched his genitals.

Castillo told jurors that text messages he sent to apologize were for encouraging the seminarian to drink to excess, not for groping him. Source: Catholic News Agency, 12-18-18


Brian S. Dicken, 38, New Bern, NC: 5 years in prison with 3 years suspended after pleading no contest to taking indecent liberties with a juvenile while he was associate pastor at the Church of Christ at Mountain View in Winchester, VA. He was accused of having a sexual relationship from December 2014 to February 2017 with a girl he was counseling. She’s now 18.

Text messages entered into evidence included them discussing a numbering system for acts ranging from foreplay to intercourse (the latter was a 12). The girl alleged the relationship gradually became more physical, which Dicken denied, calling her a liar. He has 6 children.

Senior pastor Douglas Hardman took issue in his testimony with Dicken’s claim he never completely closed his office door. Hardman, who had a nearby office, said he often heard Dicken’s door opening and closing and once saw the girl come out in tears.

Judge Alexander Iden noted the contradiction between Dicken’s plea bargain and his refusal to admit guilt. “You want me to find you guilty of a crime, but punish you like you didn’t do it, and I can’t do that,” he said. “This is not just about inappropriate text messages.” Source: Winchester Star, 1-26-19

Hafiz A. Pirzada, 76, Northolt, UK: 8 years in prison after a court found him guilty of 7 counts of sexual assault of a child and 2 counts of causing a child to engage in sexual activity. The parents of girls ages 9 and 11 had hired the imam to teach the sisters about the Quran. Incidents were alleged between 2007-09 but not reported to police until 2015. Source: The News International, 1-26-19

Aryeh L. Cohen, 44, St. Louis Park, MN: 30 days in jail, suspended, 150 hours of community service, undergo mental health counseling and register as a sex offender. Cohen, rabbi and director of youth outreach for the Minneapolis Community Kollel, pleaded guilty to engaging in electronic communication describing sexual conduct with a child.

He was arrested in February 2018 after responding to an undercover agent’s online profile that said he was a male turning 16 that August. Cohen then sent an explicit photo of himself and was arrested when he arrived at an apartment to have sex. Source: Pioneer Press, 1-16-19

Allan J. Mithen, 80, a retired Australian Catholic priest, pleaded guilty to 2 counts of indecently assaulting a girl when she 15 and 16 in 1965 and was sentenced to 13 months in jail, all suspended. At the time, he was in charge of a home for Aboriginal children taken from their families. The girl was told by another priest after the abuse that she had committed a mortal sin and would “burn in hell.”

Curtin University senior Hannah McGlade told reporters Mithen should serve jail time. “We all came out today to say black lives matter, Aboriginal lives matter. There should have been justice. This is a stain on Western Australia, what’s happened.” Source: ABC, 1-15-19

David L. Poulson, 65, Oil City, PA: 2½ to 14 years in prison after pleading guilty to corruption of minors and child endangerment as a Catholic priest. Allegations included abuse between 2002-10 involving at least 2 underage boys. “For more than 7 years, the Diocese of Erie allowed Poulson to remain a priest, even though they knew he was a predator,” state Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement after sentencing. Source: AP, 1-11-19

Danny Wooten, 55, Montclair, CA: 14 years in prison and restitution of $3.7 million for convictions on 53 felony counts, including embezzlement, conflict of interest and misappropriation of public funds. Wooten, founding pastor of New Covenant Christian Fellowship Center, also worked for the Pasadena Public Works Department, where he generated 300 false invoices for the city’s underground utility program, which he managed. It’s suspected that as much as $6 million was stolen but evidence only existed for slightly more than half that, said prosecutor Richard Santiago.

Co-conspirator Tyrone Collins, owner of Collins Electric, a business through which some of the money was embezzled, was convicted of 20 counts and sentenced to 7 years and $900,000 restitution. Source: L.A. Times, 1-11-19

David Tapley, 54, Crystal Lake, IL: 5 years in prison after a jury found him guilty of aggravated criminal sexual abuse of an underage female relative from about 2010-15 while he was a deacon at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Cary. The girl testified the abuse started when they played guitar and sang in the choir.

Tapley served as a deacon at Fox Valley Christian Reformed Church after he was barred from Sts. Peter and Paul. Source: Northwest Herald, 1-4-19

Civil Lawsuits Filed

The Diocese of Pittsburgh, Bishop David Zubik and his predecessor, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, are being sued by “Jane Doe,” who alleges she was molested in 1982 by Paul E. Pindel, pastor of St. Genevieve Catholic Church in Canonsburg. He died in 1991 at age 65.

Doe alleges she sought counseling about getting married while pregnant at age 15 or 16. She claims he asked if she had engaged in oral or anal sex.

“Father Pindel then placed her hand on his erect penis and requested for her to show him how she became pregnant,” the lawsuit says.

A state grand jury said the diocese has received multiple allegations since 2002 of abuse by Pindel dating back to 1957. The suit alleges the diocese ignored complaints about Pindel made by Doe’s father and instead transferred him.

The same defendants are accused in another suit of covering up “sexual interest in male children” by former priest William Yockey and repeatedly failing “to take any action to investigate, discipline or report Yockey as a sexual predator.”

Plaintiff Richard Bieranowski, now 53, alleges abuse by Yockey on numerous occasions in 1981-82 when he was pastor at St. Bernadette Parish in Monroeville. Yockey was withdrawn from active ministry in 1991. Bieranowski reported the abuse to his parents and a congregation member in 1985, the complaint says. Source: Post-Gazette/Tribune Review, 1-18-19

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is being sued in Navajo Nation tribal court in Utah by “LB,” who alleges he was molested 3 times in the 1980s by an unidentified church bishop who lived across the street from his Mormon foster family. He was one of thousands of Native Americans in the church’s Indian Student Placement Program, which started in the late 1940s and ended in about 2000.

LB alleges he told his foster mother but she accused him of lying and says his foster father spanked him for reporting his abuse to a case worker. The church didn’t report the abuse to law enforcement or the plaintiff’s biological family, the suit asserts. Source: AP, 1-9-19

The First Presbyterian Church of Plymouth, MI, and former church employees Victoria Barkoff and Lisa Williams are accused of negligence in a suit alleging an “adult man wearing a cross on a necklace” digitally penetrated a 5-year-old girl in a church bathroom on Palm Sunday 2017, then exposed his penis and left male DNA in her underwear. A criminal probe ended with no arrest.

Her parents allege the girl was gone for about 20 minutes from the classroom and that the church failed to notify other parents about the assault. Barkoff and Williams resigned after the incident. Source: Detroit News, 1-4-19

Sarah Greer, New Haven, CT, is being sued for withdrawing $238,000 from an account held jointly with her husband Daniel Greer, the former rabbi at Yeshiva of New Haven. A jury awarded Daniel Greer’s former student almost $22 million for being sexually abused in the early- to mid-2000s.

It’s alleged the withdrawal was to reduce Daniel Greer’s assets available to creditors and to prevent the male victim from collecting on the judgment. Daniel Greer still faces criminal charges of 2nd-degree sexual assault and risk of injury to a child. Source: New Haven Register, 12-26-18

The Archdiocese of Atlanta, Archbishop Wilton Gregory and St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Dalton, GA, are defendants in a suit filed by “Phillip Doe,” who alleges he was molested starting when he was 12 by priest John D. Edwards from 1976-78. Edwards died in 1997. The church suppressed abuse allegations, thereby endangering the public, the complaint states. Source: AP, 12-20-18

Our Lady of Health Parish, Las Cruces, NM, and the Catholic Diocese of El Paso, TX, are accused of negligence in a suit filed by “Jane Doe N,” who alleges she was raped several times when she was 10 in 1978-79 by pastor Joaquin Resma, who died in 1983. The parish was part of the Diocese of El Paso at the time. Three others have accused Resma of abuse. His name is not on a recent list of credibly accused clergy, which attorneys called an insult to his victims. Source: Sun-News, 12-19-18

The Salesians of Don Bosco, the Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans and Archbishop Gregory Aymond are being sued by a man alleging he was raped in 1979 when he was 17 by Salvatore Isgro, a Salesian priest who died in 1990. He alleges Isgro held something under his nose that smelled like ammonia before raping him and afterward told him to sit in a warm bath when he got home. Source: The Advocate, 12-12-18

Civil Lawsuits Settled

Fairfield University in Connecticut, the Society of Jesus of New England, the Order of Malta and Haiti Fund Inc. will pay $60 million to over 130 plaintiffs who allege sexual abuse as students at a charity school in Cap-Haitien, Haiti, from about 1999 to 2009. Fairfield graduate Douglas Perlitz is serving a nearly 20-year prison sentence for molesting Haitian boys as young as 11. Fairfield is a Jesuit school.

Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian represented plaintiffs in the class-action suit, which is expect to be approved by a federal judge. The defendants agreed to a $12 million settlement in 2013 with 24 other plaintiffs. Source: AP, 1-25-19

Daniel Cronin, 91, retired Catholic archbishop of Hartford, CT, and previously bishop of the Diocese of Fall River, MA, settled a suit filed in 2015 by 2 Massachusetts men. They each will get $200,000 for alleged sexual abuse as altar boys in the late 1970s and early 1980s by priest Maurice Souza, who died in 1996 at age 83. Source: AP, 1-24-19

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles agreed to settle for undisclosed terms a 2015 sexual abuse suit filed by “John CJ Doe,” his attorney told a judge. Defendants include St. Louise de Marillac Catholic Church in Covina, CA, and Chris Cunningham, 56, who was the St. Louise pastor in 2001-02 when Doe was 12 and 13 years old.

Civil complaints filed in May and October 2017 allege Cunningham also sexually molested other boys ages 10-15 from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s at parishes in Palmdale and Redondo Beach. He was removed from ministry in 2006. Source: San Gabriel Valley Tribune, 1-22-19

New Life Church of Alamo, CA, and the San Ramon Valley Unified School District reached a $1.55 million settlement with a student who alleged he was molested by high school wrestling coach Kevin Lopez. The church’s insurance company will pay $849,000 and the church agreed to strengthen its child protection policies. The district will pay $699,000. A concerned parent reported concerns to the district in 2014 but Lopez wasn’t arrested until a year later. It was then discovered that the church had received numerous complaints about his behavior at camps and on mission trips and took no action.

According to a police report, Lopez was recorded talking to himself in an interview room: “[Expletive] miracles right now, God. Please help me.” He was sentenced to 10 years, 8 months in prison after pleading guilty to multiple counts of lewd acts on children. Source: Mercury News, 1-15-19

Five alleged victims of accused New Jersey pedophile priest Michael Walters settled their suits against Walters, the Archdiocese of Newark and 2 Catholic parishes for $400,000. Walters is accused of molesting boys and girls in the 1980s and 1990s. Ordained in 1965, he was removed from ministry in 2016. Source: nj.com, 1-14-19

Opus Dei, an international conservative Catholic organization, paid $977,000 to settle a sexual misconduct claim in 2005 in Washington, a payment that was only recently made public. It was made to a woman now in her mid-50s. She alleged that priest C. John McCloskey groped her several times while she was getting pastoral counseling for a troubled marriage and depression.

McCloskey, who’s in his 60s, suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s and is largely incapacitated, said Thomas Bohlin, U.S. Opus Dei vicar. Two other women may have been victimized by McCloskey, Bohlin said. Source: National Catholic Reporter, 1-8-19

A survivor of child sex abuse at a Sisters of Nazareth children’s home in Londonderry, N. Ireland, has been awarded state benefits for a series of health complaints and lingering trauma from the abuse. Kate Walmsley, 62, a member of the Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse group, says she was molested starting when she was 12 by 2 priests and older girls at the Catholic facility.

At a historical abuse inquiry in 2014, Walmsley testified she was also “mentally and physically abused by nuns.” She described being beaten and force-fed her own vomit by nuns and scalded with hot water. Source: Belfast Telegraph, 1-6-19

The Religious Sisters of Mercy, an order of Catholic nuns founded in Ireland, settled with 6 clergy sex abuse plaintiffs who attended schools operated by the nuns on Guam. Settlement terms weren’t disclosed but the suits sought total damages of $30 million. Source: Pacific Daily News, 1-4-19

The Catholic Diocese of Burlington, VT, settled for undisclosed terms a suit that alleged sexual abuse by former priest Alfred Willis at St. Ann’s Parish in Milton in the late 1970s and early 1980s when the plaintiff, who now lives in Texas, was an altar boy.

The diocese has settled about 50 abuse cases, paying out over $31 million. Bishop Christopher Coyne said a lot of the money came from the sale of property in Burlington and that much of that money is now gone. Source: WCAX, 12-21-18


Guam’s Catholic Church filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, a move that will let the archdiocese avoid trial in dozens of sex abuse suits and enter settlement negotiations with nearly 200 accusers. Church attorney Ford Elsaesser said assets are valued at $22.9 million with liabilities of $45.6 million. The church plans to sell nonessential real estate and add the proceeds to the settlement fund.

Notice will be given to potential claimants, with the estimated deadline to file in May or June. A trust fund will also be established for future claimants who did not file within the bankruptcy deadline. Source: AP, 1-15-19

Legal Developments

Phra Sorasak Siripattho, 61, Bang Bua Thong, Thailand: Siripattho, a Buddhist monk, was arrested after 11 years on the run after being charged in 2008 for having sex with a 14-year-old student. The girl lived near the temple with her grandmother and reportedly climbed through the window to sleep with him several times. Her family eventually filed a complaint. Source: Bangkok Post, 1-15-19

Nine Jewish yeshivas in Ramapo, NY, were fined a combined $70,200 for failure to provide student measles vaccination records. The schools were ordered to submit the records during a measles outbreak in which there are nearly 100 confirmed cases in Rockland County. Brooklyn health officials said there are over 40 cases in the Orthodox Jewish community. Source: Journal News, 12-19-18

The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York has to pay a $4 million judgment for refusing to hand over documents it received in response to a 1997 letter sent to Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations about known molesters in the church, a California appeals court ruled 3-0. The lower court awarded plaintiff “J.W.” the money. She accused church elder Gilbert Simental of Mountain View of abuse in 2006 at a slumber party at his home. He was eventually convicted of molesting her and 2 other girls. Source: NY Law Journal, 12-10-18


The Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WI, released the names of 46 clergy with substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors. Fifteen are still alive. At a press conference, Bishop David Ricken apologized to the 98 known victims since 1906 and called for other victims to come forward. “We believe you,” he said. Ricken said the names would be posted on the diocese’s website at noon. It appeared that the website crashed less than a minute after noon.

The next day, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests called the list “partial, biased and incomplete” and sent a letter to state Attorney General Josh Kaul to ask for a statewide investigation. The letter claimed that former Bishop David Zubik destroyed files in 2007. SNAP also alleged 16 names were left off the list. Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm has also called for a probe.

Diocese Chancellor Tammy Basten said those 16 priests aren’t under Ricken’s authority. “Priests who are part of religious orders, such as the Norbertines or Franciscans, are accountable to their religious superior within the order,” Basten said. Source: Press-Gazette, 1-17-19

Richard McGrath, 72, Chicago, the former president of Providence Catholic High School being investigated for allegedly molesting a male student at the New Lenox school in the mid-1990s, has gone AWOL from his religious order. Anthony Pizzo, prior provincial of the Midwest Augustinians, said McGrath was “illegitimately” absent from the Hyde Park friary.

Police were alerted in December 2017 after a female student reported seeing an image of a nude boy on McGrath’s cell phone but closed the investigation with no charges after he refused to turn over the phone. It was reopened after the student, Robert Krankvich, filed a suit alleging McGrath molested him repeatedly between the ages of 13 and 15 in his office and at the friary. Source: Chicago Tribune, 12-29-18

Illinois’ 6 Catholic dioceses failed to disclose sexual abuse allegations against at least 500 priests and clergy members, according to preliminary findings, said state Attorney General Lisa Madigan. The dioceses’ lists have 185 names.

In many cases, the accusations have “not been adequately investigated by the dioceses or not investigated at all,” Madigan said in a statement, adding that the church often failed to notify law enforcement or the Department of Children and Family Services about allegations. Source: CNN, 12-19-18

At least 412 allegations of sexual abuse of minors by 187 independent fundamental Baptist churches and affiliated institutions in 40 U.S. states and Canada have been documented by a Texas newspaper investigation. Victims allege the number of abused is far greater because many victims don’t ever come forward. The totals include 168 church leaders accused or convicted.

Independent fundamental Baptists deem Southern Baptists too liberal. Though they operate independently, many pastors are linked by the church-affiliated colleges they attended, such as Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC. Source: Star-Telegram, 12-9-18

U.S. Catholic bishops have tallied 6,846 abusive priests who served in their parishes since the 1950s, according to an analysis of data from Bishop Accountability.org, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Vatican and Jesuit statistics and reports from clinicians. Although the conference estimates about 6% of priests are abusive, the analysis from court cases, investigations, bankruptcy filings and diocese records shows the rate is about 10%, or 11,700 clergy.

Estimates are higher in some areas, such as Fairbanks, Alaska, with a 19% rate. In addition, Bishop Accountability founder Terry McKiernan said 100 U.S. dioceses haven’t named any abusers. There’s also a year missing from the church-funded John Jay College of Criminal Justice study released in 2004 that doesn’t include the 2003 numbers. Source: York Daily Record, 12-7-18

Removed / Resigned

Mark Milatz, Brighton, MI, resigned as senior pastor at Shepherd of the Lakes Lutheran Church in Brighton, MI, and as a Missouri Synod Lutheran minister. A December letter to parishioners said church officials would contact the Michigan State Police for the “purposes of exploring possible financial improprieties.”

According to reports about what took place at meetings before his resignation, it was stated that Milatz had been treating staff in a “hostile and erratic manner” and had been asked by the board to seek counseling. While the board was mulling what action to take, a “series of financial issues” were uncovered. Source: WHMJ, 1-28-19

David Crabtree, Raleigh, NC, was permanently deposed (removed) as an ordained deacon by the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina after it investigated an allegation of sexual misconduct and conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy. Crabtree, lead anchor at WRAL-TV, told viewers that he had a relationship “years ago” with an adult woman. He’s now divorced. Source: News & Observer, 1-26-19

William Sprigler, New Ulm, MN, was permanently removed from public ministry by the Catholic Diocese of New Ulm. Sprigler retired in 2016 but has since filled in for pastors in New Ulm and Orlando and Venice, Fl.

According to a statement from Bishop John LeVoir, the diocese was informed in December by the Archdiocese of San Antonio, TX, that it had discovered allegations of sexual abuse of 2 minors in 1976 while preparing a clergy abuse disclosure report. The archdiocese has determined that the allegations were credible. Source: New Ulm Journal, 1-26-19

John P. Smyth, 84, Des Plaines, IL, was removed from ministry due to allegations of sexual abuse of minors in 2002-03 at Maryville Academy, a facility for children with special emotional and medical needs. Smyth is retired but until recently was still living in the rectory of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the Maryville grounds. Source: Sun-Times, 1-17-19

John F. Meyers and Raymond W. Smart are unsuitable for ministry and have been removed, according to the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Meyers, 64, was put on administrative leave in late 2018 due to a substantiated abuse allegation from the early 1980s. Smart, 74, is accused of abuse of a minor in the same time period.

Joseph Logrip, 73, was placed on administrative leave, also for an allegation of abuse in the early 1980s. He had been removed earlier but reinstated in 2014. Source: WHYY, 1-13-19

Patrick J. Lee, 68, Chicago, head pastor at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, was asked by Cardinal Blase Cupich to “step aside” from ministry due to an accusation of child sexual abuse in 1979 at St. Christopher Catholic Church in Midlothian. Source: Chicago Tribune, 1-12-19

Mark Porterfield, pastor of St. Martin Catholic Church in St. Martins, MO, and judicial vicar for the Diocese of Jefferson City, was placed on administrative leave. “While the allegation does not involve a minor, it does fall within the protocol of the diocese for clergy conduct and requires further consultation and investigation,” a statement said. Source: News Tribune, 1-11-19

Donnie Romero, Ft. Worth, TX, resigned as founding pastor at Stedfast Baptist Church after admitting he has been “a terrible husband and father.”

“I have not been ruling my house well,” Romero, who has a wife and 7 children, told his congregation on Jan. 2. “I’m the one at fault in this situation. I love Stedfast Baptist Church. I love my family. This is the best decision for my family and this church to make.”

Romero has compared LGBTQ people to pedophiles, called gays “scum of the earth” and applauded the 2016 mass murder of gay people at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub. In another video posted later, he said went to a Jacksonville casino and drank alcohol. “And there were girls there that were prostitutes and I committed adultery on my wife multiple times. I drank and gambled multiple times. … I even smoked weed.” He hasn’t been charged with any crime. Source: NY Daily News, 1-10-19

Donald G. Timone, a Catholic priest who retired from the Church of St. Joseph in Middletown, NY, was suspended from ministry during reinvestigation of 15-year-old claims he molested a male minor. “There is potentially new information … that has come to light,” said Joe Zwilling, spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York. Source: Times Herald-Record, 12-26-18

Jesuit priests Frank Case and Pat Lee resigned as vice presidents at Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA, after criticism of their handling of clergy sexual abuse allegations. A news report recently revealed Case, 80, recommended pedophile priest James Poole for a chaplain’s job in 1989 at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma, although Poole had been accused of abusing Alaska Native women and girls as early as 1960.

It wasn’t clear what prompted Lee’s resignation as vice president of mission and ministry. A Gonzaga spokesman declined to explain the reasons for the departures, saying he couldn’t discuss personnel matters. Source: Spokesman-Review, 12-21-18

David R. Gaeta, American Fork, UT, retired as pastor at St. Peter Catholic Parish and will not be allowed to return to public ministry. He was placed on leave in August amid allegations of sexual misconduct in Ogden in 1982.

The Diocese of Salt Lake City said Gaeta was accused of sharing a bed with a minor and, in a separate incident, offering 4 minors alcohol and asking them to undress. No criminal charges were filed. Source: Daily Herald, 12-18-18

Joseph Metzger II, Norfolk, VA, has taken a leave of absence as pastor of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, Diocese of Arlington Bishop Barry Knestout wrote in a letter to parishioners. Metzger’s interactions with young people were not “in keeping with the Code of Conduct with Minors set forth in the Diocesan Safe Environment Regulations,” the bishop wrote, adding that “no allegations of child sexual abuse have been made.”

The Diocesan Review Board will determine Metzger’s suitability to returning and in what capacity, Knestout said. Source: WVEC, 12-10-18

Ronald S. Escalante, Purcellville, VA, was placed on leave as pastor at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church. A Diocese of Arlington statement said he’s accused of “boundary violations involving a minor and adults” that go against its clergy code of conduct. Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Kraig Troxell said an investigation concluded criminal charges aren’t warranted. Source: AP, 12-11-18

Thomas J. Valenti and Erick Viloria were removed from public ministry by the Catholic Diocese of Rochester, NY, during investigations of alleged misconduct. Valenti, pastor of Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick’s Parish in Owego, is among 8 priests named by Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian as child abusers between 1950-78.

Viloria, pastor at Our Lady of Peace Parish in Geneva, is the subject of an August 2018 complaint that he “engaged in objectionable and inappropriate use of social media with an adult” that was unrelated to his parish ministry. Source: Democrat & Chronicle, 12-10-18

Mark Jendrysik, 60, Glendale Heights, IL, was permanently removed as pastor of St. Matthew Catholic Parish due to an alleged incident with a teen girl about 35 years ago when Jendrysik was a seminarian serving a summer internship. “On behalf of the Diocese of Joliet, Bishop Conlon expresses his deepest regrets and apology to the victim. The reporting of such incidents is emotionally difficult, and the victim in this case has shown great courage in coming forward,” a statement said. Source: WLS, 12-9-18

Juan Cano, 35, Encino, CA, associate pastor at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church, was removed from ministry by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles due to reports of inappropriate contact with “several females” in the parish, which was his first assignment as a priest. In an interview with the archdiocese on Facebook, Cano, a Mexico native, said he decided to become a priest after a miracle cured a congenital tumor in his head.

Although Cano will not be charged in these cases and new accusers could come forward, the Catholic Church is removing Cano from the ministry, said Adrian Marquez, archdiocese director of media relations. Although law enforcement has determined Cano won’t be criminally charged, he’s being removed and has no right of appeal, Marquez said. “It’s not his choice. He is not going to be allowed to be a priest anymore.” Source: L.A. Daily News, 12-7-18

Murrough C. Wallace, 82, S. Lake Tahoe, CA, a retired priest and native of Ireland who last served as an active pastor at St. Theresa Catholic Parish in 2003, was directed “to withdraw from ministry until more facts can be gathered” about an allegation of assault by a 17-year-old boy in 1985 at a camp where Wallace was director, the Diocese of Sacramento said in a statement. Source: KCRA, 12-6-18


Paul S. Wakefield, 62, Gilcrest, CO, pastor at Gilcrest Baptist Church was struck and killed by a train at a U.S. 85 crossing 8 days after he was charged with misdemeanor unlawful sexual contact and suspicion of committing a crime against an at-risk person, a felony. He was on foot and his death remains under investigation.

The charges stemmed from a Jan. 3 incident when a nurse at an assisted living facility in Windsor noticed the door to a patient’s room was closed. She told police she entered the room and found Wakefield kneeling in front of the woman, who has cognitive communication deficit, with his hands up her blouse and his head on her chest, according to an affidavit. Wakefield stood up and told her he was listening to the woman’s heart.

Court records said the woman’s son walked in on Wakefield with his head on his mother’s chest and once with his hand under her blouse. He told police he was examining her ribs because she told him she had fallen and hurt them.

He’s survived by his wife of 35 years, 4 sons and 6 siblings. Source: Greeley Tribune, 1-13-19

Edward J. McKeown, 74, a pedophile Catholic priest accused of molesting at least 30 boys in Nashville and east Tennessee over 20 years, died in prison of natural causes. He was convicted in 1999 of sexual assaults on a boy, starting when he was 12 and continuing for 3 years, and was sentenced to 25 years. He was due to be released May 1, 2020.

Edward Kmiec, named bishop of Nashville in 1992, had given assurances that the diocese had removed McKeown from “direct or unsupervised contact with youth” after an initial molestation complaint was lodged in 1986. But records unsealed in 2002 by the state Court of Appeals in a civil suit filed by 2 victims showed McKeown was allowed to teach youth classes, hear children’s confessions and participate in sleepovers with them. Source: The Tennessean, 1-1-19

Steve Benson cartoon

Email: [email protected]

Former churches with better missions

If you see or know of any former churches that now serve a secular purpose, please send us a photo (preferably with you in it!) and a brief description of the property. Send it to [email protected].

Sign up now for FFRF’s 42nd annual convention!

You’re invited to join the Freedom From Religion Foundation at our 42nd annual national convention on the weekend of Friday, Oct. 18, through Sunday, Oct. 20, at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center, 1 John Nolen Drive, in Madison, Wis.

As always, it will be a weekend of great speakers, awesome people, good food, irreverent music and a chance to recharge your secular and freethinking battery. You won’t want to miss it! Please make your hotel reservations early to avoid disappointment.

Andrew L. Seidel
Frederick Clarkson
Mandisa Thomas

Early-bird confirmed speakers include:

Frederick Clarkson is a senior research analyst at Political Research Associates, a progressive think tank. He is the author, co-author or editor of several books, including Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy and Dispatches from the Religious Left: The Future of Faith and Politics in America. He has written about politics and religion for a wide range of publications for more than three decades, from Mother Jones, Church & State, and Ms. Magazine to The Christian Science Monitor and Salon.com.  Last year in Religion Dispatches, he broke the story about Project Blitz, a Christian Right state legislative campaign with long range theocratic intentions.

Anthony B. Pinn, a professor of humanities and religion at Rice University, is the founding director of the Center for Engaged Research and Collaborative Learning at Rice. In addition, he is director of research for the Institute for Humanist Studies. He earned the African American Humanist Award from the Council for Secular Humanism; Unitarian Universalist Humanist Association Humanist of the Year (2017), and the Harvard University Humanist Association Humanist of the Year (2006). He is the author/editor of over 35 books, including many on freethought, humanism and the intersection of race and religion. He will be receiving FFRF’s Emperor Has No Clothes Award.

Andrew L. Seidel, the director of strategic response at FFRF, where he uses his law degree to challenge religious bullies. Andrew’s first book The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism Is Un-American features a foreword by author Susan Jacoby and a preface by FFRF Co-President Dan Barker. The Founding Myth, published by Sterling Press, comes out in May and is highly anticipated with positive reviews. Seidel also appears on FFRF’s podcasts and shows, and has debated religion and government on networks such as MSNBC and Fox News.

Mandisa Thomas, the founder and president of Black Nonbelievers (“Walking by Sight, Not Faith”), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded in 2013 with 14 affiliates around the nation. Black Nonbelievers connects with blacks (and allies) who are living free of religion, and who might otherwise be shunned by family and friends. She has a number of media appearances to her credit, including “CBS Sunday Morning,” CNN.com, Playboy, The Humanist and Jet magazine, as well as FFRF’s TV show, “Freethought Matters.” Thomas currently serves on the board for American Atheists and previously for Foundation Beyond Belief and the Secular Coalition for America. Additionally, she was named the Unitarian Universalist Humanist Association’s 2018 Person of the Year. Thomas will be named FFRF’s 2019 Freethought Heroine.

General Schedule

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

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

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

Return the handy registration form or sign up at ffrf.org/convention2019.


Please reserve your hotel rooms now to avoid disappointment!

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

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

Sheraton Madison Hotel, 706 John Nolen Drive, Madison, WI 53713. Call 866-716-8134 or 608-251-2300 or visit: reservations.com/hotel/sheraton-madison-hotel, mentioning “Freedom From Religion Foundation.” Rates are $156 (1-4 people), plus local taxes of 14.5 percent and fees. Parking is free and so is the shuttle to Monona Terrace, a 3-mile walk or 8-minute drive.

Park Hotel Madison, 22 S. Carroll St., Madison, WI 53703 (3 blocks from Monona Terrace). Call 800-279-8811 or 608-285-8000 or visit [email protected], mentioning “Freedom From Religion Foundation.” Rates are $194 (1-2 people, one bed); $214 (1-4 people, 2 beds); $254 (suite). Two-night minimum length of stay. Guaranteed parking for one vehicle for overnight guests ($15 per night, valet only).

Freethought Hall Reception

On Friday, Oct. 18, from 9:30-11 a.m., you’re cordially invited to tour the four-story Freethought Hall in downtown Madison, enjoy light pastries, Mimosas, coffee and tea in the Charlie Brooks Auditorium, get your photo by the life-like model of Charles Darwin in the Joel B. Landon and Wanda Y. Beers Freethought Library, and socialize with other members and staff. Please RSVP.

Convention registration form

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

Optional meals (veggie/vegan/gluten-free substitutes available) include:

Friday Dinner Buffet, $35: Bucky’s Tailgate Buffet includes Wisconsin Waldorf salad, home-style potato salad, fresh vegetable and relish tray, beer-boiled Johnsonville bratwurst with sauerkraut and chopped fresh onion, grilled boneless chicken breast, black bean burgers, fresh sliced tomato and lettuce, vegetarian baked beans, buns and coffee, tea and milk.

Saturday Nonprayer Breakfast,  $20: Cheese & chive scrambled eggs, apple smoked bacon, rosemary wedge potatoes, ketchup, petite muffin assortment, chilled juice, coffee, tea and milk.

Saturday ‘Grab and Go’ Box Lunch, $25. For your convenience, we offer a box lunch containing deli-sliced turkey on fresh Kaiser roll, fresh sliced tomato and lettuce with condiments, piece of whole fruit, home-baked cookie and chips. Vegetarian option is marinated grilled tempeh sandwich. Kaiser is replaced with gluten-free roll upon request.

Note: There is a two-hour lunch and sightseeing break Saturday. There are many lunch spots open on the nearby Capitol Square and on State Street (about five blocks away).

Saturday Dinner, $50: Roasted airline chicken breast with truffle butter glaze, potatoes, fresh seasonal vegetable blend, house salad, bakery-fresh hard rolls & butter, plated dessert trio (strawberry pistacio tart, flourless chocolate diamond cake, and white chocolate passionfruit mousse cup), coffee, tea and milk. Cash bar.

Meals are not a fundraiser for FFRF, but your participation enables FFRF to meet significant hotel room bloc and meal minimums, and provides a chance to socialize. 

More details are at: ffrf.org/convention2019