Crankmail (April 2019)

Here is your April dose of Crankmail, printed as received, including obscenities.

Assholes: You can all go Fuck_yourselves. You commie vermin should be lined up and shot. — Ed Jacobsen

Why do you hate God??: You all can go to hell. What you people think is a church violation in your mind against the U.S. Constitution, may not be. However, you people hate God and his Jesus. — Theresa Marks

God exists: Why do you want to get rid of Christianity from our country? God is good and provides a safe and good environment when I was once suicidal I went to God to help my girlfriend tried to kill herself and is in the hospital but it was honestly a miracle she is actually happy now because God helped her you are trying to falsely force Atheism on people and change our Government and it’s whole foundation let the United States be based on Christianity and help get rid of the evil in the world instead of giving people a reason to do bad because they think God doesn’t exist at least you will finally realize when you die that God does exist and he is real stop trying to disprove something with no evidence we can’t prove God exists other than from word of mouth but you can’t prove he doesn’t exist if you aren’t happy with our Government then move countries — Jordan Stalnaker

Change your tune: I urge you to remove your ad from TV immediately. I’m appalled that you guys would even try to bring people away from our only hope, our Lord Jesus Christ. Don’t you realize all the issues in the world happen because many don’t have him??!!! The reason why bad things happen is because God allows them to happen. God did not try to make us as robots to force us to serve him. He gave us a choice to accept his son Jesus. We gotta make that choice!! Otherwise the punishment is hell for those who don’t accept The Lord. For those who do, the reward is Heaven, and The New Heaven and New Earth as described in Revelation. God Bless. This is dangerous what you guys are doing. You guys are playing with fire. — Stephen Jacewicz

Go away!: you sick perverted group. hope you enjoy hell. — Bob Smithern

F you!: kill this demon an remove him ….you sac of shit demon all of you are a bunch of killers an scammers you little bastards — Lushion Xazaver

Show me the proof: Hi there! I’m a 19 year old who is a truth seeker! I’ve been studying evolution and creatstiom and seeing which one holds the truth. From what scholars have found is that the Bible is 100% true and there are no contradictions in it. It has come to me that it is logical to see that God created everything then to believe that we came out of nothing. It’s takes more faith I would say to believe that there is no God. I was wondering if you would be able to provide concrete evidence on evolution since all of it has been disproven false and based on assumptions. I would love the opportunity to speak on your podcast as well!! Thank you and God Bless!! — David Shaptala

Bigots: Can you explain to me why a Wisconsin based organization has the audacity to tell a city hundred of miles away that it can’t have a cross on display? It’s a cross which represents Christianity. I assume you all have brain cells left so you must know that Christmas is a CHRISTIAN holiday as it commemorates the birth of Jesus. You know that guy viewed as God’s son/ The savior by people of Christian belief. I’m actually offended by this. If you guys can’t admit that this isn’t bigotry on FFRF’s part then you’re just being hypocritical jerks. — Brendan Roach

STAY AWAY: YOU AND YOUR GROUP STAY UP IN WICOUSIN AND OUT OF GEORGA.., YOUR AND YOUR OPPIONS ARE NOT WELCOME IN SOUTH GEORGIA. WE BELIEVE IN GOD AND HIS HOLY PURPOSE AND YOU “DEVIL” WORSHIPERS STAY UP NORTH. — Raymond Carroll

You are Unconstitutional: What your saying about Toombs county Is pure crap. Saying we are unconstitutional is in called for everyone on the grill has a say in what they do but they CHOOSE to and so does the freaking school system. Saying we are unconstitutional but isn’t that you are doing saying we can’t do this or do that it’s the first amendment. Learn it. — Cassie Anderson

God is good!: I STAND WITH TOOMBS COUNTY! GOD IS HOOD ALL THE TIME AND ALL THE TIME GOD IS GOOD! Leave us alone! — Joy Beckum

Letterbox (April 2019)

Motel bible already had secular words of wisdom

My husband and I recently visited the Monterey, Calif., area for several days, staying in a motel in Pacific Grove. Of course, we arrived with a couple of FFRF stickers in case the Gideons were lurking in a bedside drawer, and so they were — but someone else had beat us to it. Written on the bible’s inside cover, in a large, firm hand, was the following: “It’s OK to be an atheist! It’s also OK to be religious . . . but just please remember not to use religion as an excuse to persecute women, people of other nationalities, LGBTQ people and other people who have been persecuted in the name of religion. Have a wonderful day!”

In these tumultuous times, there is still much to be thankful for.

Melanie Lawrence
California


Church polling place stepped over the line

While cleaning out some old files, I found this photo that I thought you might find interesting.

It was during a same-sex marriage vote in North Carolina. Our precinct in Raleigh had been changed from a church that had a multipurpose room to another church, where the setting was quite different. We were greeted with signs of “Vote No” as we entered the voting area.

When I came back to vote the next time, I brought a camera. I showed the photo to the North Carolina State Board of Elections to express my concerns. I then received a couple of letters from the board’s lawyers informing me that taking photos in a polling place is illegal. I called them back to remind them of the First Amendment, Thomas Jefferson’s position on state-church separation, etc.

Then, when the national elections rolled round, the polling was in a different room, totally void of anything associated with religion. When I asked about the change, I was told it was because of ADA regulations.

Joe Hardesty
North Carolina


Donation can be used to help stifle Pence

My wife and I have followed your activities for many years, but have not made generous contributions. Now it is time for us to act.

Brian Bolton wrote a great article on God as the great abortionist. Although I have been preaching this for many years, he has expanded the amount of information to me.

Religion is always pushing for higher population. We are adding about 78 million people to the planet each year. And those births will create even more births in about 20 years.

For that reason, we support Planned Parenthood. The connection is Vice President Pence, who is using his office to promote defunding Planned Parenthood. It’s hard to believe that it’s legal for him to use his office for that purpose. Perhaps he should read Bolton’s article.

Better yet, enclosed is a donation that you might use to help keep our VP quiet.

Keep up the good work.

Bob and Jo Chanaud
Arizona

Editor’s note: FFRF kindly thanks the Chanauds for their generous donation!


Reading victories, essayists is a joy

I enjoy reading your monthly issues and seeing the victories, large and small. I especially like the essays and am amazed at the brilliant young minds that are coming to the forefront.

Roger Busse
California


Lifetime Membership a highlight of my life

I want to thank you for all of your work. Annie Laurie Gaylor, Dan Barker, all of the staff and the amazing volunteers have so much energy to forge ahead on behalf of us proud heathens to uphold the Constitution.

Receiving my Lifetime Membership has been one of the highlights of my life and it’s been a real source of pleasure and satisfaction, which is priceless. It’s like a gift that keeps on giving back to me tenfold. I would encourage others to make this a goal in 2019.

Freethought Today is an excellent bonus and I’m grateful for all the work and effort that goes into putting this publication together. It keeps us abreast of the latest legal battles and outcomes, which is important to me. It is through the legal system where we can make the most changes to keep state and church separate.

I enjoy the “Meet a Member” articles very much, as reading about their strength increases mine, as does reading the essays by the high school and college students. I am blown away by the students’ intelligence, courage and ability to express themselves so eloquently. I trust they’re aware of how much hope they give us as they carry the mantle onward.

Joanie Barker Nichols
Washington   


FFRF is exceptional in its accomplishments

I’m a FFRF member. If I had a million dollars, you guys would be first and foremost in mind for the largesse. Your work is truly exceptional and I am continually referring people to your website. I have never been a continuing dues-paying member of any organization other than yours. I can’t rave enough about what you have accomplished.

Kevin Gainer
Ohio


Realized early that God, religion are nonsense

I have read many articles, essays, letters and speeches about how formerly religious people have gradually or suddenly lost their beliefs. I think my story is somewhat different — I was never a believer. I realized at an early age that all the god business was nonsense, like fairy tales.

I’m not a convert or lapsed member of some faith. I never could accept the supernatural — whether God or vampires or zombies — and was the only one not to stand for my school prayer (before it was abolished).

Many years ago, I discovered the Mark Twain quote: “Faith is believin’ what you know ain’t so.” Amen to that.

Don Thumim
New York


John de Lancie’s speech really hit home

I enjoy all issues of Freethought Today, but I was especially impressed by Clarence Darrow Award winner John de Lancie’s “The Revolutionary Act of Telling the Truth” in the January/February issue.

I grew up in a highly religious family and social world. My siblings and, as far as I know, all my relatives are believers who, as de Lancie described the process, stepped on that $5 bill and did not subsequently question the lies they were told. As a lad, I, too, got caught up in make-believe. But, as an adult, I became increasingly uncomfortable believing lies “for a good cause.” I often wonder how I alone, of four children, escaped. I’m glad I don’t share the fantasy world of lies that my brother believes, but he is convinced I will be among those experiencing unimaginable torture for eternity because God is so loving (in ways we don’t understand). I am happy to be a Life Member of FFRF and to try to live as truthfully as possible in this world.

James M. Kauffman
Virginia


Who goes to heaven?

Life has only been around for a portion of the Earth’s 4.5 billion years of existence, and only a very small number of creatures will go to heaven.

The trillions of extinct simple life forms that had swam in the ancient seas did not have a chance.

Not those magnificent dinosaurs that roamed the early continents for millions of years.

No insects, fish, reptiles, birds, animals that nurse their young exist beyond their varied and risky lives.

And not our prehistoric “cousins” — Homo erectus, Neanderthals, and many more hominids — who once hunted and gathered on the savannahs and in the forests for hundreds of thousands of years — had the opportunity to live for eternity.

Not even the multitudes of Homo sapiens — who lived and loved before the relatively recent arrival of the One-Male-God in the Middle East — are enjoying paradise.

The long-worshipped Mother Goddess had been discarded. Those old pantheons of gods and goddesses were eventually scorned.

The men and women born after the proselytic spread of the Holy Patriarchy were the first to be given the opportunity to go to heaven. Certain criteria are to be met before allowed in. 

Have women been judged fairly over these two thousand years? Do the young and mentally flawed get a pass?

Other religious devotees don’t worry about meeting the Abrahamic criteria, as they answer to other gods and will be reborn into something different.

The limited lot of human beings brought before St. Peter must acknowledge God as the only god and ask him for forgiveness for their imperfect existence — in a world he created.

Heaven is an elite club.

Darlene Prescott
Texas


Being ‘godless’ and ‘god-free’ aren’t same

I love reading my Freethought Today every month! In doing so, I’ve noticed along the line that we anti-theists may need to change the language we use in everyday conversation if we want to assert ours as a valid societal viewpoint.

There’s a small but significant difference between being “godless” and being “god-free.” A small but impactful difference between “I don’t believe in God” and “I don’t believe in a god.” One of these legitimizes the existence of belief and sidelines the other factual viewpoint as the “abnormal” one.

The widely accepted view in America is that religion is the norm and anti-theists are the aberration. Additionally, to say something or someone is ___-less implies that they are missing that thing. They’re less than they could be. They should have it but currently lack it. A puzzle with a missing piece. We practically invite ourselves to be “saved.”

Language is important. It defines how we see the world and how we see each other. How we classify each other. How we treat each other.

No one walks around “cancerless.” But they win when they are cancer-free. As do we when we tell the truth about ourselves and tell the world that we are God-free.

Thanks for all the valuable work everyone at FFRF does. We all appreciate it and are encouraged by it every day.

Lisa Lehman
North Carolina


Try these two books for more good reading

Those who enjoyed reading “The bible isn’t what Christians think it is” from the January/February issue would also like reading The Passover Plot by and Those Incredible Christians, both by Hugh J. Shonfield.

Mildred Walton
Washington


As a 40-year member, great to see FFRF grow

At some point during this year — and I don’t recall exactly when — it will be 40 years since I joined the Freedom From Religion Foundation. (I’d wager that the percentage of current FFRF members who signed up before I did is pretty small.)

It has been a pleasure to watch and even offer a small measure of financial assistance to your wonderful organization through the years as it has engaged battle with the forces of unreason, superstition and, yes, plain stupidity.

I truly appreciate the effort you and your talented staff have exerted to educate the public on the importance of state/church separation, as well as the value of secular living. There is certainly every reason to think that it will have continued success going forward.

Wishing you all the best.

Will Hunn
Louisiana 

Editor’s note: Thank you, Will!


Fundamentalist is the correct label

Journalists and writers use a variety of terms to describe the hard-core zealots of the Christian community, including “Religious Right,” “Christian conservatives,” “Christian extremists” and “Christian supremacists.”

But the most often (mis)used label is “evangelicals.”

In fact, the only accurate descriptor for these radical Christian fanatics is “fundamentalists.”

Furthermore, “evangelicals” is the wrong term, for the simple reason that all Christians are by definition evangelicals, as explained below.

The words evangelical and gospel both derive from the same Greek root, euangelion, which refers to disseminating the good news or glad tidings of the Christian salvation story to all people.

This universal obligation incumbent on all Christians is reiterated five times as Jesus’ Great Commission, which is stated near the end of the four canonical gospels and in the first chapter of Acts.

It follows that all Christians must be evangelicals, as instructed by Jesus in his final command to his disciples. The predominant feature of evangelicalism is the missionary impulse to convert the world to faith in Jesus.

In contrast, the term fundamentalist applies only to a small subset of Christians. The basic definition of fundamentalism was propounded at a historic conference in Niagara Falls, N.Y., in 1895 and subsequently elaborated in a series of 12 pamphlets published between 1910 and 1915.

The two primary postulates of fundamentalism are the claim that the bible is the inerrant word of God, a perfect expression of his divine will, and the assertion that all people who reject Jesus as messiah will be punished throughout eternity, exactly as Jesus described.

In summary, fundamentalist is the correct label for these radical Christian zealots who want to inflict their unbiblical theopolitical beliefs on everybody else. Moreover, evangelical is the wrong word to describe these fanatics.

Journalists, writers and editors should insist on the appropriate terminology in identifying this dogmatic, closed-minded minority of the Christian population.

Call them what they really are — fundamentalists!

Brian Bolton
Texas


Mom’s intellect made her an atheist in her 60s 

I have made my membership renewal in memory of my mother, Dorothy Riedl. She was born in Milwaukee to devout Catholics. Mom married a Catholic and they raised their four children as strict Catholics.

They sent us to the local Catholic elementary school, even though Dad was the principal of the local public school. That’s how much the church meant to them.

But Mom was a thinker with a great intellectual curiosity. She thought about and questioned everything. When she was in her 60s, she had finally come to the conclusion that there is no God. At this point, she knew she would never see her parents again after she died, something she believed earlier that had helped her through the grief of losing her parents. But her new thinking lifted a burden of believing something she hoped was true, but knew wasn’t. Mom wanted me to know that she was happy with that reality. She took comfort in that knowledge. No rewards and no punishments.

She had a wonderful sense of humor and said she was glad that she wouldn’t be confronted by people and deities that she really didn’t want to see and be with for eternity in the afterlife.

At the time of my mom’s revelation, I was on a long journey from Catholicism to atheism. I had always questioned what the nuns and priests taught me, but I was a good Catholic. Without realizing it, I embarked on a step-by-step journey from devout Catholic to thinking hell doesn’t exist to realizing the church is a political organization seeking power and wealth to agnosticism to spiritualism and, finally, to the freedom of atheism.

I was in my “spiritual” phase when Mom had the talk with me about her change in thinking. I explained my belief system to her and she immediately rejected it.

She said that there is nothing but this life and nothing magical or mysterious after this life. Two weeks later, after much thought about our conversation, I turned to Mom and said, “You’re right.” That realization was incredibly liberating. It gave so much more meaning to life.

Later that day, I told my wife that I was a happy atheist. She said that she knew and she was one, too. Because our two children were not indoctrinated into any religion, they, too, were unabashed atheists. I was late to the party.

I am very proud of my mom. She was a wonderful mom, a great intellectualist and an atheist.

David J. Riedl
Wisconsin


Am I a masochist for enjoying Black Collar?

The first thing I read in your newspaper is the Black Collar pages. I guess I’m a masochist. I suppose it is comforting to know that those bastards are revealed.

I’ve been a strident critic of the Catholic Church for decades. This issue the content was so heavily oriented to priest abusers that I’m inferring that the fact that so many diocese headquarters are being forced to publish listings of their pedophile priests and the associated documentation gave you lots of content.

I do admire the way Bill Dunn compiles all of those stories, and in every case lists the source.

Nice Job.

John Minck
California


For real change, we all need to get involved

Freethought Today has touted several victories in court over issues of separation of church and state. But we must not just look to the courts for wins, as these could be taken away. Being involved as individuals, in getting candidates elected that understand the importance of that wall of separation and reaching out to the public at large about how we all benefit from that separation, is every bit as important as court victories. We need to focus on the most egregious examples of theocratic intrusion that maximize public and political support for our efforts. We cannot win without using every tool we have. I applaud how FFRF has reached out to other organizations to help us, for this is how we continue to win.

Peter Hall
Oregon


Barker’s talk inspired my Life Membership

I went to Dan Barker’s talk at North Idaho College in Coeur D’Alene on March 5. It was so excellent that I decided to get a Life Membership, which I just did on your “Donate” page. My husband is already a Life Member, so now we both are! Your work is so important and excellent. We need all the help we can get here in Idaho.

Suzanne Marshall
Idaho


Dorothy Riedl
Will Hunn

Updating Foxworthy: ‘You Might Be in a Cult If . . .’

Most of us probably remember Jeff Foxworthy’s old comedy routine “You Might Be a Redneck If . . .” Well, I’d like to update it to “You Might Be in a Cult If . . .” We’ve all had our cult moments.

The problem with cults is that you don’t know when you’re in one, which makes it almost impossible to escape. So, I’ve compiled a helpful list of clues to try to accomplish just that. I prefer to use the phrase “If you can be convinced” instead of “If you think” because it lays the blame where it belongs — on the liars and scammers who got you into the cult in the first place.

• If you can be convinced that the way to pay for your sins is to have someone else pay for your sins, you might be in a cult.

• If you can be convinced that we all descended from Adam and Eve, who had no daughters, you might be in a cult.

• If you can be convinced that one of life’s goals is to believe something with no evidence, you might be in a cult.

• If you can be convinced that the way to prove the bible is true is to quote the bible, you might be in a cult.

• If you can be convinced that the best science textbook is the one that says the world is flat, you might be in a cult.

• If you can be convinced that our morals come from a book that says slavery is OK, you might be in a cult.

• If you can be convinced that our country needs Christian morals, but our president does not, you might be in a cult.

• If you can be convinced that the God that created our messed-up world is perfect, you might be in a cult.

• If you can be convinced that the way to give poor people more money is to give rich people more money, you might be in a cult.

• If you can be convinced that ancient people who knew nothing about germs had better cures than modern doctors, you might be in a cult.

• If you can be convinced that the life of a fetus is worth more than the life of the pregnant woman, you might be in a cult.

• If you can be convinced that movie stars know more about vaccines than actual doctors, you might be in a cult.

I welcome additions to this list!

Alan Wagner
Illinois

Black Collar Crime (April 2019)

Compiled by Bill Dunn

Arrested / Charged

David N. Moss, 51, Lehi, UT: Exploiting and patr

Marvin Archuleta
Ball and Chain (by Steve Benson)

onizing a prostitute, sexual battery and 2 counts of lewdness. Moss, leader of the Mill Pond Mormon Church ward, was arrested during a human trafficking sting on Valentine’s Day. He’s accused of offering to “manage” women by booking clients and helping them avoid police and exposing himself to 2 undercover officers, placing one’s hand on his genitals.

Capt. Mike Giles, St. George Police, said Moss supervised their vice squad but resigned 7 years ago after becoming involved in a consensual sexual relationship that had “an on-duty component.” Source: KSTU, 2-20-19

David Reiter, 50, South Park, PA: Theft, forgery and receiving stolen property. Connie Reiter, 44, his wife, faces 2 counts of receiving stolen property. David Reiter allegedly stole $1.2 million from Westminster Presbyterian Church, where he’s been administrator since 2001. He allegedly falsified accounting data and created a sham auditor he claimed handled the church’s reviews. Source: AP, 2-21-19

Sripai Biadnok, 48, Las Vegas, NV: Aggravated criminal sexual abuse and predatory criminal sexual abuse. Biadnok, a Buddhist monk, is accused of assaulting 2 minors at Wat Phrasriratanamahatatu Temple in Chicago between 2001-02 when he taught children about Thai culture and language. Source: Chicago Tribune, 2-18-19

Jeremiah J. Smith, 38, Hudson, FL: Sexual battery on a victim under 18. Smith is accused of assaulting a 17-year-old boy in 2009 while he was youth pastor at an unidentified church. His accuser told detectives Smith was his youth pastor for several years. The arrest affidavit alleged Smith got him to remove his clothes at least 8 times to receive full-body massages.

Genesis Preparatory School in New Port Richey confirmed Smith, who has 3 sons, taught English and language arts since August 2018 after being a substitute. Source: WTSP, 2-12-19

Christopher L. Patrick, 30, Ocala, FL: Obscene communication using a computer to seduce or solicit a child and cruelty toward a child. Patrick, youth pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Belleview, is charged with sending sexually explicit text messages, including images of male genitalia, to a 15-year-old girl in January. The girl was in the Grace Alive junior-high youth program run by Patrick and his wife at the church. Source: ocala.com, 2-12-19

Esmeralda Cruz, Wauchula, FL: Grand theft of $10,000 or more and less than $20,000 and fraud/illegal use of a credit card. Cruz is charged with making about 125 personal transactions on a church credit card from June to December 2018 when she was secretary at Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church. Source: WWSB, 2-12-19

Peter W. Cooper, 63, Elmore, AL: Lewd act on a minor. Cooper is accused of groping a 13-year-old girl under her dress in 1976 during bible study at his home in Spartanburg, SC. At the time he was a youth intern pastor at Central Church of Christ and later worked at churches in Alabama.

Loana Cooper Benton identified herself to media as the accuser who went to police in Alabama. She said Cooper is her uncle and molested her when she was 4: “When I tried to tell my mom what had happened, I didn’t even know the right words to describe what had happened.” Other alleged victims have since come forward. Source: WSPA, 2-11-19

Lorenzo R. Washington, 47, Lexington, SC: Criminal sexual conduct and attempted criminal sexual conduct with a minor. Washington, pastor of Mt. Hill Missionary Baptist Church, is accused of touching a student over her clothes and kissing her on the neck and mouth Jan. 22 in the concession stand at Dorman High School. He’s a booster club member. Source: The State, 2-9-19

Marvin Archuleta, 81, Albuquerque, NM: Criminal sexual penetration of a child under 13 and kidnapping. He’s charged with raping a 6-year-old boy at Holy Cross Catholic School in Santa Cruz, where Archuleta was parish pastor in 1986-87.

The complaint alleges he made the boy kneel on a chair, wrapped a belt around his chest so he couldn’t move and poured a cup of water down his back, telling him it was “holy water and would help with the pain.” During the act, Archuleta allegedly told him, “This is God’s love; this is how we show God’s love.”

A warranted search of Archdiocese of Santa Fe records turned up documents showing Archuleta was “credibly accused” of sex abuse earlier by altar boys. He fled to Mexico in the mid-1990s but was arrested at his Albuquerque apartment. The archdiocese settled civil claims while he was in Mexico. Source: Albuquerque Journal, 2-8-19

Benjamin Leese, 38, Dillsburg, PA: Indecent assault. Leese, who resigned in January as pastor at Garden of Grace Community of Churches and as a Lutheran minister, is accused of inappropriately touching a 3-year-old girl at a church camp in July 2018. The criminal complaint alleged her parents noticed she wouldn’t look at Leese, even though he was a family friend, and said she wanted to go home; when her mother asked later what was wrong, the girl said, “It’s a secret.”  Source: WGAL, 2-7-19

James E. Cude, 54, Mesquite, TX: Online solicitation of a minor. Cude, contemporary music pastor and deacon at First Baptist Church of Whitesboro, allegedly sent “sexually graphic messages” to an undercover officer posing as a 13-year-old boy on the dating app Grindr. He’s also a public high school band director. Source: Herald Democrat, 2-7-19

John H. Simonson, 38, Detroit Lakes, MN: 3rd-degree criminal damage to property and misdemeanor theft. Simonson, pastor at First Lutheran Church, allegedly “keyed” a woman’s car after having an argument with her in a liquor store parking lot in December. Damage was estimated at about $600. Store video footage allegedly showed him putting a number of “shooters” (mini bottles of alcohol) in his pocket and leaving without paying for them. Source: Detroit Lakes Tribune, 2-7-19

Phillip J. Buckson, 32, Boiling Springs, SC: 4 counts of criminal sexual conduct with a minor. Buckson, pastor at Cleveland Chapel Baptist Church in Spartanburg, is charged with having sex multiple times with a girl, starting in 2015 when she was 13. It’s alleged she became pregnant twice and had abortions both times. Source: WSPA, 2-5-19

Michael McCusker, 36, Creve Coeur, MO: 2nd-degree stalking and resisting arrest. McCusker, a Benedictine monk and teacher at St. Louis Priory School, was seen hiding in the bushes and running away from a co-worker’s home after she called police about a window peeper, the complaint said. Source: Post-Dispatch, 2-5-19

Jeffery Brown, 57, New York City: Endangering the welfare of a child and forcible touching. Brown, assistant pastor at the Tabernacle of Deliverance for All People, allegedly grabbed a 14-year-old girl’s buttocks while she was helping him make copies at the church. Source: NY Post, 2-5-19

Stacy Sindleri, 34, Johnstown, PA: Theft. She is charged with writing herself 104 checks totaling about $250,000 between March 2016 and March 2018 while she was secretary at St. Claire of Assisi Catholic Parish. Source: WJAC, 1-30-19

Donald E. Hetherington, 81, Odessa, TX: 2 counts of indecency with a child. Hetherington, pastor of an unidentified church, “intentionally and knowingly touched a child with the intent of sexual gratification,” complaints said. Two 15-year-old girls made the allegations. An affidavit detailed similar past accusations by an elderly woman and another member of the congregation. Charges weren’t brought then. Source: Odessa American, 1-30-19

Pleaded / Convicted

David Turpin, 57, and Louise Turpin, 50, Perris, CA: Pleaded guilty to torture, 4 counts of false imprisonment, 6 counts of cruelty to an adult dependent and 3 counts of willful child cruelty. The Turpins were charged with long-term abuse of 12 of their 13 children, ages 3 to 30. The children were home-schooled, denied food and kept secluded in filthy conditions, sometimes in shackles. One daughter, 17, escaped in January 2018 and called 911. Police said she was emaciated and appeared to be about 10 years old.

David Turpin’s parents told authorities the couple had so many children because “God called on them” to do so. The grandparents said the Turpins are Pentecostal but didn’t have a church in the area and that their children were made to memorize long bible passages as part of their schooling. David Turpin was listed as school principal. Source: ABC/AP, 2-22-19

Francis McDermott, 75, Biddeford, England: Guilty by jury of 18 counts of gross indecency and indecent assault on 6 male and female victims under age 16 or age 14, including a brother and sister, while he worked as a Catholic priest in 1971-79.

One boy testified that McDermott was a family friend: “He stayed over in my bed. My parents would allow this and I thought it OK. It would be top and tail. One at [the] top and one at [the] bottom of the bed. … I was still in primary school. He asked me to touch his penis and said my mother asked him to tell me [the facts] of life.” Source: Bucks Free Press, 2-20-19

Rodney Harmon Jr., 34, Stockton, MD: Convicted of displaying an obscene item to a minor and 3 counts of sexual abuse of a minor for preying on at least 7 teen boys from January-July 2018 through his work as a youth group leader for Bayside Community Church. Charging documents allege Harmon sodomized “Juvenile 2,” age 15, with an adult toy at least once and performed oral sex on him several times.

Prosecutors said he promised the boys money for shooting videos of themselves masturbating but never gave them any money. Source: WMDT, 2-14-19

David L. Richards Jr., Lenoir City, TN: Guilty by jury of 9 felonies, including rape, incest and sexual battery by an authority figure. He was accused of assaults on his adopted daughter when he was a minister at My Father’s House of God and a staffer at Smoky Mountain Children’s Home. Inappropriate touching started in 2011 when she was 14 and culminated in intercourse in late 2013, about 2 months after he texted her about taking the relationship “to the next level.”

His accuser, Amber Richards, now 21, chose to speak on the record to media after the verdicts. David Richards and his then-wife took in Amber and her 3 biological siblings as foster children in 2008. She told authorities in 2013 where they might find semen stains in her bedroom: on a comforter, bed frame and purple rug. The “major contributor profile” of a seminal sample matched David Richards, a forensic report said. Source: News Sentinel, 2-12-19

John Praveen, 38, Rapid City, SD: Pleaded guilty to having sexual contact with a child under age 16. Praveen admitted touching a 13-year-old girl’s breasts outside her clothes Sept. 28 for his sexual gratification while he was pastor at Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Rapid City and All Saints Church in Eagle Butte. He belongs to the Holy Spirit Fathers, an order based in Hyderabad, India. Source: AP, 2-5-19

Sentenced

Nathan G. Rieger, 53, Winnipeg, Canada: 2 years in prison after a jury found him guilty of meeting with a minor for lewd purposes. Rieger, pastor at Vineyard Church, was arrested last August while trying to meet a 15-year-old girl for sex in Arroyo Grande, CA, while he was on vacation with his family. 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: KSBY, 2-21-19

Robin Vadakkumchery, 50, Kannur, India: 20 years’ rigorous imprisonment and a $4,200 fine and restitution after a judge found him guilty of rape by a teacher or guardian, sexual abuse in an institution and aggravated sexual assault. Vadakkumchery, a Catholic priest and school administrator, was accused of impregnating a 16-year-old student who gave birth in February 2017.

The case included the girl’s willingness to live as the priest’s wife and her father falsely claiming he had raped her. The court ordered a probe of allegations that the lower-middle-class family had been under heavy church pressure to hide the priest’s involvement. Source: India Telegraph, 2-17-19

Sarah Kester, 51, Caldwell, ID: 1 year in a prison treatment program after pleading guilty to felony injury to a child. If Kester fails to finish the program, she will have to serve a minimum of 4 years and up to 10 years for failure to report her husband’s long-term sexual abuse of their 5 children because of her religious beliefs. Lester Kester Jr. pleaded guilty in October to 5 counts of lewd conduct with a minor.

The couple is affiliated with the Followers of Christ Church, who eschew medical care in favor of faith healing. According to the Canyon County Sheriff’s Office, Sarah Kester told investigators she’d known about the abuse for 17 years but didn’t report it “because it was against her belief system” to involve agencies such as law enforcement or child protection services with personal matters. “Instead, she said she attempted to protect … children through praying for ‘the demon’ to leave Lester and attempting to keep him busy with other tasks.”

Deputy Prosecutor Erica Kallin said Lester Kester was having “intercourse” with the victims by the time they were 10. Three daughters gave statements at sentencing and said their mother rebuffed them in 2015 and earlier when they asked her to do something to protect their youngest sister. Instead of reporting it, she called them “whores” and “sluts” and blamed them for the abuse. Source: Press-Tribune, 2-14-19

Andrea N. Baber, 30, Cottage Grove, OR: 20 months in prison and 2 years’ probation after pleading guilty to 6 counts of contributing to the sexual delinquency of a minor and 3 counts of 3rd-degree rape. A plea deal dropped 20 more charges, including sodomy and providing marijuana to a minor.

Baber worked as a teacher at Logos Christian Academy in Springfield until shortly before being arrested in December 2017. A probable cause affidavit said the parents received an anonymous email asking if they knew about the sexual relationship between their 17-year-old son and Baber. Attached were several photos of them in Baber’s bed. Police discovered that her husband had reported finding them there to Child Protective Services. The boy alleged they started a relationship when he was 15. Source: Register-Guard, 2-10-19

Timothy L. Reddin, 67, Springdale, AR: 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to attempted online enticement of a minor. Reddin was a part-time pastor at Turner Street Baptist Church in August 2018 when he contacted an undercover agent posing as a 14-year-old boy. Court documents allege he sent the agent a photo of his penis, said he could “coach” him to perform oral sex and promised “I’ll never tell! I could go to jail!” When he was arrested, investigators found lubrication, a sexual device and a hotel key in his car.

Reddin was sentenced in 2000 to 27 months in prison for possessing child pornography and had resigned in 1998 as Central Baptist Association director of missions after porn was found on his work computer. Source: KFSM, 2-7-19

Elijah Mealancon, 58, New Orleans: 4 years in prison and $25,000 restitution after a bench trial verdict of guilty to unauthorized use of a movable (property able to be moved to another location). He 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 grants could go further if pooled. Source: nola.com, 2-7-19

Walter Magaya, 35, Harare, Zimbabwe: $700 fine and order to cease and desist after pleading guilty to contravening the Medicines Control Act. Magaya, founder of Prophetic Healing and Deliverance Ministries, was charged with selling an herbal concoction called Aguma, which he claimed could cure HIV and AIDS in as little as 14 days. He also sold lipstick he claimed could lower blood pressure. Source: BBC, 2-5-19

Muhammad L. Hasan, 51, Corvallis, OR: 4 years in prison and $5,000 restitution after pleading guilty to 1st-degree attempted sexual abuse and 3rd-degree sexual abuse. He admitted molesting a girl under age 14 who was taking lessons from him in 2016 at the American Islamic Center for the Holy Quran in Tigard. It’s believed there could be more victims. Source: KCBY, 2-2-19

Ronald W. Mitchell, 59, Magnolia, TX: 75 years in prison after a jury found him guilty of 5 counts of sexual assault of a child in 2015-16 while he was pastor at the Body of Christ Ministry. Many ministry members, including the 15-year-old girl he molested, had moved in with him and were home-schooled.

The girl testified Mitchell told her if she said anything, God would kill her and it would be her fault “the movement” was destroyed. Another girl alleged Mitchell kicked her out of the house for being rebellious so she slept outside in a truck for several months before being allowed back in. Source: KTRK, 1-31-19

William T. Coontz, 51, Ft. Lauderdale, FL: 5 years in prison and $755,669 restitution for tax evasion and filing false tax return convictions. Coontz led Rock Wealth International Ministries in N. Carolina from 2010-14. He also wrote several books on faith and finance such as “Breaking the Spirit of Debt.”

Prosecutors said he boosted his income by overbilling churches for travel expenses and concealing money he made from speeches, books and other products. Rock Wealth bought a $1.5 million condominium in 2012 as a parsonage for Coontz. Source: WYFF, 1-30-19

Civil Lawsuits Filed

Hernan Toro, 91, San Jose, CA, is being sued by a plaintiff who alleges he fondled her genitals on 5 occasions in her family’s home from 2011-16. Toro was first convicted of sexual misconduct in 1983 and was removed from the Catholic ministry in 1990.

He was charged with child molestation in 2017 and was sent to a state hospital for treatment last December. His next scheduled court appearance is in early 2020 to determine if he’s competent to stand trial. Source: Mercury News, 2-20-19

“John Doe” is suing the Diocese of El Paso, TX, for more than $1 million for alleged sexual abuse by deceased Catholic priest Jaime Madrid from 1971-72 when Doe was an altar boy. Madrid was among 30 priests recently named by the diocese as credibly accused of abuse.

Madrid “raped and sexually molested John Doe repeatedly,” the suit asserts. According to the diocese, he was defrocked in 2007, the year he died. Source: El Paso Times, 2-19-19

A class-action suit was filed against the Catholic Archdiocese of New York on behalf of Emmett Caldwell and other plaintiffs who allege sexual abuse as children and claim the archdiocese tricked them into waiving their right to sue. It was filed the day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Child Victims Act.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Jeff Herman said his client was convinced to join the church’s Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program without the aid of an independent lawyer and that the program’s goal is to pay victims “pennies on the dollar.” The new law extends the statute of limitations in child sex abuse cases, giving victims until the age of 28 to seek criminal charges instead of age 23. They can also sue for damages until age 55. It also creates a 1-year litigation window to file suits. Source: CBS New York, 2-14-19

The Diocese of Jackson, MS, St. Richard Catholic Church and School in Jackson and 16 individuals are being sued by “John Doe,” 24, who alleges he was molested by an unidentified priest in 2004 while waiting to receive the sacrament of confession. Priests from other parishes were brought to the church to help that day, “given the number of children involved,” and “Father John Doe” was one of those priests, the suit says.

The boy “waited his turn and was directed by one of his teachers to a room behind the altar where the door was closed and where he found himself alone with Defendant Father Doe. Father Doe made [the child] undress completely and stand before him nude for a period of time while Father Doe examined [him], made references to his body and forced [him] to recite his alleged ‘sins’ or wrongdoing while being observed by Father Doe.”

It’s alleged the boy’s teacher said “Don’t lie like that” after being told. Source: Clarion Ledger, 1-31-19

Civil Lawsuits Settled

The Benedictine religious order in charge of Delbarton School in Morristown, NJ, and the former St. Elizabeth’s School in Linden settled for undisclosed amounts suits filed by 2 men alleging sexual abuse while they were students 45 or more years ago. The Order of St. Benedict earlier settled 5 other suits involving the schools.

Plaintiff “John Doe” said he was abused by “Brother Tim” Brennan over 100 times in 1968-71. Doe, 63, said Brennan masturbated under his robes while talking to him: “His favorite thing to say when I was in grammar school was, ‘I can’t imagine your young, 8th-grade [penis].’ ” Source: nj.com, 2-7-19

Finances

The Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford, CT, announced it has paid $50.6 million to settle more than 140 claims of sexual abuse, nearly all occurring before 1990. The average settlement was about $356,000 and the highest was $1.6 million.

The archdiocese will hire a retired judge to review priest personnel files in an effort to remove the “dark cloud” that still hangs over the Catholic Church, said Archbishop Leonard Blair. Source: Hartford Courant, 1-22-19

Legal Developments

Marc Schneier, 60, former rabbi of Hampton Synagogue in Westhampton, NY, owes $64,594 in unpaid child support, according to records obtained by the New York Post, which says Schneier was forced out as rabbi in 2016 “after he cheated on wife No. 5 with the woman who would become wife No. 6.”

The state of Florida ordered Schneier last September to pay about $5,000 a month to his 19-year-old son Brendan, records show. Brendan’s mother, Toby Gotesman Schneier, the rabbi’s 3rd wife (they divorced in 2005), said the New York divorce decree included a support order while Brendan is in college. He’s a sophomore at the University of Miami.

Rabbi Schneier founded the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, which promotes Muslim-Jewish relations, about 30 years ago. The foundation’s 2016 tax filing lists his salary at $395,303 plus additional compensation of $44,000. Source: NY Post, 2-9-19

Catholic priest William T. Faucher, 73, Boise, ID, is appealing his 25-year prison sentence with no parole in December for convictions on 21 counts of sexual exploitation of a child and 3 counts of drug possession. According to the notice of appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court, in which he intends to represent himself, the issue is: “Did the presiding judge abuse his discretion in imposition of the sentence?” Source: Idaho Statesman, 2-2-19

Allegations

Over 300 tips about alleged sexual abuse in all 7 Michigan Catholic dioceses have been received, said state Attorney General Dana Nessel. The probe started in 2018 under her predecessor Bill Schuette. While similar investigations are underway in numerous states, Michigan was the first to execute statewide search warrants last October.

Nessel estimated there could be over 1,000 victims once the probe is over in about 2 years. She asked dioceses to delay internal reviews until civil authorities are finished and stressed that people shouldn’t go to church officials with claims. “If an investigator comes to your door and asks to speak with you, please ask to see their badge and not their rosary,” she said, because she’s heard stories from people encouraged to take settlements and sign nondisclosure agreements. Source: mlive.com, 2-21-19

A statue of Polish priest Henryk Jankowski was toppled by activists in Gdansk. Msgr. Jankowski, who died in 2010, is the subject of recent allegations he sexually abused minors, mostly boys. A manifesto by the activists, 3 of whom were arrested and charged with disrespectful treatment of a monument, said they were protesting failure by church leaders to fully investigate the Jankowski case.

They placed children’s underwear in one of the statue’s hands and put a white surplice like those worn by altar servers on its body before pulling the statue over with ropes on to rubber tires to cushion its fall and lessen the damage. Source: AP, 2-21-19

Luigi Ventura, 74, the Vatican’s apostolic nuncio to France, is accused of groping a man Jan. 17 during a mayoral address to diplomats at City Hall in Paris. Archbishop Ventura has served as ambassador for 10 years. An unidentified official said it’s alleged Ventura “caressed in an insistent and repeated manner” the buttocks of the young man who welcomed him to the event. Source: BBC, 2-15-19

Strick Strickland, 36, Kalamazoo, MI, pastor at Second Baptist Church, has been accused by 5 boys ages 14-17 of paying them to have sex with his wife while he watched, allegations police are investigating and Strickland denies. His wife, Jazmonique Strickland, 25, resigned as a paraprofessional at Phoenix Alternative High School the day before authorities executed a search warrant at their church-owned home, where the sex allegedly took place.

Strickland said the investigation has been difficult for his 8 children. In an interview, State Police Lt. Chuck Christensen said “At this point, with everything we have done, we believe that it occurred over a period of time on more than one occasion.”

In an unrelated case in June 2018, murder suspect Donnovan Lewis alleged he killed his girlfriend Aniya Mack, 24, because of her growing relationship with Strickland, her pastor. Lewis awaits trial. Source: WWMT, 2-5-19

Removed / Resigned

Gary Auten and Kimber Auten, Evansville, IN, who are married, “chose to resign on their own accord” as pastor and day care director, respectively, at Fireside Chapel, a board member said. State records show the day care was cited for 32 violations after a recent inspection, adding to 24 violations from the previous inspection.

At least 3 parents lodged complaints about physical abuse. Violations include missing immunization records, lack of background checks and safe sleep training, frayed duct tape on cribs, mold on a crib sheet, scissors and cleaning supplies within reach of children, bouncy seats and high chairs with no straps and rat poison in the spice rack. The building is locked and signs for the day care at the church are gone. Source: WFIE, 2-14-19

At least 152 Catholic priests in Mexico have been removed from ministry in the past 9 years for sexual abuse against minors, announced Rogelio Cabrera, archbishop of Monterrey. Mexico has the world’s 2nd-largest Catholic community after Brazil. Source: Reuters, 2-11-19

John J. Lynch, 79, was permanently removed from ministry at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Woodbourne, NY. He had been temporarily removed in September after the Archdiocese of New York received a complaint of “improper conduct with a minor” from 3 decades ago. In a letter to the parish, Cardinal Timothy Dolan said “the allegation against Father Lynch has been found to be credible and substantiated.” Source: Times Herald-Record, 2-7-19

Richard Daschbach, 82, has been defrocked as a Catholic priest for sexually abusing girls. The Pennsylvania native has been serving as a Society of the Divine Word missionary at orphanages in East Timor since 1966 when it was a colony of Portugal. Despite being expelled, Daschbach has been offering masses, media reported.

“He admitted that the allegations against him are true,” said a family member in the U.S., who requested anonymity. Source: abc.net/au, 2-5-19

Steven J. Marinucci, 71, Philadelphia, was placed on leave as pastor of St. Matthew Catholic Parish during investigation of an allegation he molested a minor in the late 1970s. The accusation has been reported to law enforcement. Source: CBS Philly, 2-3-19

Hermann Geissler, 53, resigned as head of the teaching department of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith after a former member of a Catholic spiritual community in Rome accused him of soliciting sex from her during the sacrament of confession in 2009. Geissler, an Austrian native ordained as a priest in 1991, denies the allegation.

Doris Wagner, a German who joined the community when she was 19, made her accusation at a November conference in Rome on giving a greater voice to female survivors of clergy sexual abuse. A priest she didn’t identify by name, but by a process of elimination was determined to be Geissler, asked in 2009 to be assigned as her confessor. “He would keep me there kneeling in front of him for hours, and he would tell me how much he liked me and that he knew that I liked him and even though we couldn’t marry, there would be other ways,” she alleged, adding that after he tried to hold and kiss her, she ran out of the room.

Wagner also alleged she was raped by the male head of the consecrated community, which also accepts men, in 2008 when she was 24. She left the community in 2011. Source: Reuters, 1-29-18

Other

Vernon A. Richardson, 56, Jacksonville, FL, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after a search warrant turned up evidence of child pornography on his church computer. He and his wife led the children’s ministry at Riverstone Community Church and he was also a sheriff’s deputy.

He was interviewed Feb. 1 after the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office received a tip. One image allegedly showed 2 nude boys age 12 to 14 engaged in sex. Two others showed a nude boy age 7 to 9 and a nude girl about the same age. Court documents said Richardson admitted watching pornography on his cellphone but not child porn: “When asked what he looks up, he stated ‘sex with wives.’ ” Source: Christian Post, 2-21-19

Email: [email protected]

FFRF On The Road

Exclusion of nonreligious press unconstitutional, FFRF contends

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is calling attention to the troubling unconstitutional exclusion of nonreligious media from a State Department call.

A member of the State Department press corps reported that the State Department had limited a “special informational call” on March 18 to “faith-based media,” excluding all members of secular media outlets. FFRF has promptly pointed out that such a prohibition violates both the Establishment Clause and the Freedom of the Press guarantee of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“Holding an informational media call that is open only to members of the media with your preferred religious viewpoint is anathema to your constitutional obligation to treat all Americans equally regardless of their religious affiliation,” writes FFRF Staff Attorney Ryan Jayne. “In addition, media that are not ‘faith-based’ have a right to be included in media calls or events that are open to their religious counterparts.”

FFRF has requested written assurances from the State Department that future media calls and events will not exclude nonreligious media or otherwise favor religion over nonreligion. FFRF has also filed a formal Freedom of Information Act request to obtain public records related to the event.

“The State Department’s favoritism towards ‘religiously based’ media should be appalling to all Americans regardless of their religious beliefs,” FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor comments. “Not only does it trample the core founding value of American democracy that is the freedom of the press, but it sends the message to the fast-growing number of nonreligious Americans that they are of secondary concern to their own government.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 31,000 members and several chapters across the country, including members in every state. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between church and state, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Mike Pompeo
tweet

FFRF condemns DeVos’ attacks on public education

FFRF denounces the Trump administration’s recent multipronged attack on the separation of state and church in public education.

The proposed new federal budget contains $5 billion in tax credits for private school education. And Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has nixed a stipulation that forbids federal money from being funneled to religious groups via private schools.

Voucher and tax credit programs create a host of problems. The lack of oversight of voucher schools encourages widespread fraud and mismanagement. Taxpayers cut the checks to such schools, yet have no say in how they are run. Because private schools receiving vouchers are not subject to the safeguards required for public schools, abuses are rife, such as lack of safe playing spaces, adequate lunches and textbooks.

Such schemes are a cynical way of funneling public funds to religious schools, as FFRF has repeatedly pointed out. In the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program, for instance, virtually all of the schools registered to participate in the 2017-18 school year were religious schools.

The National Coalition of Public Education has published a critique of a recent bill, introduced by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and backed by DeVos, that’s similar to the tax credits proposal in the budget. Echoing many of FFRF’s longstanding criticisms, the coalition says that such schemes undermine public schools, allow for broad, unaccountable use of taxpayer funds, exempt the recipient schools from civil rights laws and do not improve academic achievement.

Instead of changing course in the face of such realities, DeVos is doubling down on her unconstitutional proclivities, as can be seen in her recent directive.

“DeVos announced that she will no longer enforce a provision in federal law that bars religious organizations from providing federally funded educational services to private schools,” the New York Times reports. “The move comes after the 2017 Supreme Court decision, Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia Inc. v. Comer, in which the high court found that Missouri had unconstitutionally engaged in religious discrimination when it denied a church-run preschool publicly funded tire scraps for its playground.”

DeVos is using the narrow Trinity Lutheran ruling to broadly give free rein to religious institutions of higher learning. She’s also targeting state-level “Blaine Amendments,” rules that rightly prohibit taxpayer money from subsidizing churches, ministers and religious organizations.

Secretary DeVos is on a dangerous calling: to subvert public schools and to advance religious education — while she’s in charge of this country’s education system, no less. This is highly alarming, and FFRF will spare no effort in pushing back against her zealous mission.

They Said What? (April 2019)

I don’t understand atheists, why they wouldn’t embrace religion. It’s been called the great pacifier of man, to keep them in line, the fear of God… You keep people in line because they fear the afterlife. They don’t want to harm you because one of the tenets is, if they harm you, they can end up in Hell.

Nebraska state Sen. Mike Groene, responding to atheist veteran Thomas Gray, who questioned the legislators on which god he and his children should believe in during a hearing on a bill that would put the phrase “In God We Trust” prominently is every school.

The Friendly Atheist, 2-14-19


The greatest man who ever lived died via the death penalty for you and me. I’m grateful to him for our future hope because of this. Governments were instituted to execute justice. If it wasn’t for Jesus dying via the death penalty, we would all have no hope.

Wyoming state Sen. Lynn Hutchings, who helped defeat a bill to repeal capital punishment.

Casper Star-Tribune, 2-15-19


A few cranky, persnickety, hairsplitting secularists say, with religious zeal, that the cross is now on public land so the Establishment Clause is violated. . . . If, 58 years later, a few people in this age of hair-trigger rage choose to be offended by a long-standing monument reflecting the nation’s culture and traditions, those people, not the First Amendment, need help.

Conservative columnist George Will, in his op-ed “The Supreme Court has a chance to clear up decades of confusion,” writing about the Bladensburg, Md., cross case that the nation’s high court will rule on this year.

The Washington Post, 2-22-19


I see the greatest president in history. Of course he is, he was chosen by God.

Mike Lindell, CEO of MyPillow, in a speech during the Conservative Political Action Conference.

The Friendly Atheist, 2-28-19


Trump is offering us a window for revival, a window to return to God. What happened in the election was not about Trump but about something much higher, the purposes of God.

Pastor Jonathan Cahn, in The New York Times article, “The doomsday prophet who says the bible predicted Trump.”

The New York Times, 3-15-19

Enjoy FFRF’s convention from Oct. 18-20

Cara Santa Maria shows off the Charles Darwin silicone statue in FFRF’s Freethought Library at Freethought Hall prior to the 2017 convention.

Join the Freedom From Religion Foundation in Madison, Wis., for its 42nd annual convention from Oct. 18-20 at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center. (For information on guest speakers, see page 3.)

General schedule

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

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

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

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

Hotel reservations

Please reserve rooms now to avoid disappointment!

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

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

Sheraton Madison Hotel, 706 John Nolen Drive, Madison, WI 53713. Call 866-716-8134 or 608-251-2300 or visit: reservations.com/hotel/sheraton-madison-hotel, mentioning “Freedom From Religion Foundation.” Rates are $156 (1-4 people), plus 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 parkhotelmadison.com, 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, enjoy light pastries, Mimosas, orange juice, coffee and tea in the Charlie Brooks Auditorium, get your photo by the amazingly life-like, full-size silicone model of Charles Darwin in the Joel B. Landon & Wanda Y. Beers Freethought Library, and socialize with other members and staff. Please RSVP on registration form.

Food!

Complimentary receptions include light brunch fare at the Friday morning Freethought Hall Open House, complimentary ice cream and hot beverages Friday afternoon after the start of the convention and complimentary dessert reception with cupcakes and hot beverages at the conclusion of Friday night. Breakfast pastries, hot coffee and tea will be served at the start of the Sunday morning membership meeting.

Optional meals 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, condiments, and coffee, tea and milk.

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

Saturday ‘Grab and Go’ Box Lunch, $25. For your convenience, we offer a box lunch containing deli-sliced turkey on fresh Kaiser roll, 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. Served with assorted Pepsi-brand sodas.

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 5 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 pistachio tart, flourless chocolate diamond cake, and white chocolate passionfruit mousse cup), coffee, tea and milk. Veggie/vegan/gluten-free substitutes available. Cash bar.