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‘Mormon Land’: Is ‘Under the Banner’ over the top? Religion scholars weigh in.
The FX/Hulu television series “Under the Banner of Heaven” has generated a social media storm among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as well as former members and religion observers.
It tells the story of the gruesome 1984 murders of Brenda Lafferty and her 15-month-old daughter, Erica, at the hands of her husband’s two brothers. The story is built on a bestselling book of the same name by journalist Jon Krakauer, whose thesis is that religion — all religion and especially Mormonism — leads inevitably to violence.
Viewers of the first two episodes are debating whether the depictions are true to the faith of the 1980s and whether the actions of the investigators make sense — especially those of the fictional detective, played by Oscar nominee Andrew Garfield, whose faith journey is at the center of the show. More
Evangelical Benefactor Bill Hwang Arrested For Multi-Billion-Dollar Fraud
The Department of Justice unsealed the charges for Christian philanthropist Bill Hwang and his co-conspirators last April 27.
In a release, the Founder and Head of the investment firm Archegos, Sung Kook "Bill" Hwang, and Chief Financial Officer Patrick Halligan have been indicted for racketeering conspiracy, securities fraud, and wire fraud offenses in connection with multiple schemes of unlawful manipulation of prices of publicly traded securities in Archegos' portfolio and fraud of many leading global investment bank and brokerages.
"Today's announcement demonstrates the department's unwavering commitment to hold accountable individuals who distort and defraud our financial markets, including those who occupy the C-suite," said Southern District of New York Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco. More
The Nuns Who Grow Marijuana
Over the last year, news on the California nuns who are growing marijuana have traveled around the world.
Dwindling-stigmatized marijuana charms more consumers day by day, and its medicinal properties catch the eye of millions of growers willing to work with it; this time, two women have decided to dedicate their lives to grow marijuana in a farm.
The story started with Kate, a woman arriving in California in 2008 after ten years in Holland; she arrived in rural California – Merces county, in California Central Valley, with a tiny quality in the air.
At that moment, she started growing marijuana for a co-op over five long years till it closed in 2013; there she got to know precise marijuana growing, and she got in touch with patients using marijuana to alleviate the pain provoked by their illnesses – many of them in dire condition due to strong antibiotic treatment: at that stage, she got to deeply know the beneficial effects of this plant. More
Russian Patriarch Says Orthodox Faithful Are Holding Back the Antichrist
LONDON - The head of the Russian Orthodox faith was quoted as saying on Thursday that his church and its faithful were holding back the antichrist.
Patriarch Kirill was speaking six weeks into Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which has forced over 4 million people to flee, killed or injured thousands and left cities and towns destroyed.
While he was not quoted specifically referring to Ukraine, Kirill's comments backed the Kremlin line on the war by implying that Russia's actions there were a forced response to a foreign aggressor. More
Religion Is Declining but the World is More Cult-like Than Ever
Way before TikTok, sororities, or Her Campus, there was religion. People gathered around campfires to tell stories. Medieval peasants found solace in churches. Society was screwed up, but hey, they had each other, and I can’t knock that.
Flash forward to today. More Americans are secular than they’ve ever been, myself included. I’ve been an atheist to the point of bordering on anti-theism at certain points. Part of it was me being an edgy teenager raised in a Christian school, but part of it was because I couldn’t really bring myself to believe in a higher power — not a God, not spirits, not even astrology (it’s fun but just that). While I’d love to run off to a commune and avoid my responsibilities to find myself, reality sets in. There’s no comfort in emptiness.
I find myself at peace when I’m around my friends. I love going to downtown Denver with my boyfriend. But when his parents found out that their son has been dating me, an atheist, for two years, I found myself in a spot I’ve been avoiding the most — religion. More
Assault case against Gauteng pastor Oscar Ngobeni postponed after lawyer no show
The assault case against Oscar Ngobeni was postponed to Friday in the Roodepoort Magistrate’s Court after his lawyer failed to pitch.
Ngobeni allegedly beat his 34-year-old ex-girlfriend Palesa Mothokwa to a pulp in December after following her to her workplace.
She tried to close the gate to the store where she works, but Ngobeni pushed his way in and began to beat her in the store’s entrance. The incident was caught on CCTV camera. He was charged with one count of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm and was later released on bail. According to Mothokwa, Ngobeni had been stalking her and had even broke her phone in another fit of rage. More
Samaritan's Purse sends teams to Europe to help with Ukraine crisis
BOONE, N.C. — Samaritan's Purse, the Christian relief organization based in Boone, is sending disaster response specialists to Poland and Romania to help with the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
On Thursday, Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine including air raids of cities and military bases.
The disaster response specialists determine how the organization can help as a result of the invasion. According to Samaritan's Purse, each team has a medical staff member who works to identify any health needs that may be unable to be met by the local healthcare system.
“Samaritan’s Purse has been closely monitoring the situation in Ukraine for weeks,” said Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse, in news release. “We have deployed members of our Disaster Assistance Response Team to surrounding countries and are standing ready to help meet emergency needs resulting from the crisis.” More
Church Leaders in Jerusalem Accuse Israel of Anti-Christian Bias
Church leaders in Jerusalem have accused Israel of bias against Christians and apathy about attacks on Christian holy places and clergy. The statement by the patriarchs and heads of churches in the city of Jerusalem warned of the “current threat to the Christian presence in the Holy Land.” It also denounced extremist groups that seize property in the Christian Quarter “with the aim of curbing the Christian presence.”
The statement issued last week said that since 2012 there have been “countless incidents of physical and verbal assaults against priests and other clergy, attacks on Christian churches – with holy sites regularly vandalized and desecrated, and ongoing intimidation of local Christians who simply seek to worship freely and go about their daily lives. These tactics are being used by such radical groups in a systematic attempt to drive the Christian community out of Jerusalem and other parts of the Holy Land.” More
Bench warrant issued for arrest of Pastor for allowing weeds to overgrow church
The Tema District Court has issued a bench warrant for the arrest of Pastor Kingsley Kwasi Abeyie, the Head Pastor of the Beneficial Veracious Christ Church located at Community Seven for overgrown weeds on the church premises.
The Court presided over by Mr Festu Fovi issued the bench warrant after Pastor Kwasi Abeyie failed to appear before it on December 20, 2021, to answer charges of overgrown weeds on-premises, and non-compliance with the abatement notice.
Madam Saudatu Issaka, the Assistant Health Environmental Analyst, who was prosecuting said, on August 20, this year at about midday, Environmental Health Officer inspected the accused's church premises and found that the place was overgrown with weeds, which were likely to breed reptiles, which could be injurious to the public. More
Fatal stampede at Hindu shrine in Kashmir
A stampede at a popular Hindu shrine in Indian-controlled Kashmir has killed at least 12 people and injured 12 others on New Year's Day.
An investigation has been ordered into what caused the stampede early on Saturday at the Mata Vaishnav Devi shrine, where thousands of Hindu devotees were gathered to pay their respect in the hilly town of Katra near southern Jammu city. Indian Prime Minster Narendra Modi expressed his condolences in a message on Twitter. More
Plumber who discovered money in wall of Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church gets $20,000 reward
A plumber who discovered stacks of cash and checks inside a wall at celebrity televangelist Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church last month has been awarded $20,000 by Crime Stoppers of Houston.
The envelopes were discovered behind a loose toilet by the plumber while he was doing repairs at the Houston church on Nov. 10 — seven years after the church reported $600,000 in cash and checks stolen from a safe.
"Evidence from the recovered checks suggests that the discovery of was connected to the March 2014 theft," Crime Stoppers of Houston said in a statement. The Houston Police Department is still investigating the case. More
Wealthiest Utah native resigns from the LDS Church
Utah native Jeff T. Green, believed to be the wealthiest person to hail from the Beehive State, pledged last month to give away at least 90% of his wealth to philanthropic causes during his life or at his death.
Green, who now lives in Southern California, is the CEO and chairman of The Trade Desk, an advertising technology firm he founded in 2009, and has a net worth pegged at $5 billion.
But the former Latter-day Saint missionary and Brigham Young University graduate won’t be giving any of his money to the state’s largest nonprofit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Indeed, Green is resigning his membership in the Utah-based faith — along with 11 family members and a friend. More
Religious Discrimination Bill unleashes hell in the ABC
It’s only a matter of time before journalists at the ABC claim religious freedom is a threat to koalas.
The national broadcaster’s relentless campaign against the government’s Religious Discrimination Bill 2021 has become that absurd.
Last week, the ABC ran a story warning that disabled people were worried Christians might tell them ‘God loves them’, or even offer to pray for them if the Bill was passed.
It warned that a person in a wheelchair might enter a shop and be confronted by a member of staff addressing them as being ‘brave, an inspiration, and loved by God’. More
Horse Troughs, Hot Tubs and Hashtags: Baptism Is Getting Wild
Russell Moore’s baptism in 1983 was a decorous occasion, or at least as decorous as possible when the main event consists of being plunged underwater in front of one’s entire church. The ceremony took place in a formal baptistery inside his family’s Mississippi church, with a painting of the Jordan River — where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist — behind the tank. An organ played softly in the background. Mr. Moore wore a long white robe.
But a few weeks ago, when it came time to baptize Mr. Moore’s 14-year-old son, Jonah, the scene was very different. Jonah wore a T-shirt. Mr. Moore wore sneakers. A full rock band, including drums and an electric guitar, accompanied. And Mr. Moore, who is the public theologian at Christianity Today magazine, submerged his son in a galvanized steel livestock trough hauled onstage at the church just for the occasion. More
The racists next door: Inside a California church that preaches a whites-only gospel
Stephen McNallen’s path to founding a racist, whites-only church now headquartered in the foothills north of Sacramento started with fantasy novels and, eventually, found a measure of infamy through the discovery of an ancient skeleton.
McNallen, the 73-year-old founder of the Asatru Folk Assembly, was an avid reader of sword-and-sorcery novels like “Conan the Barbarian” when he was in college in the late 1960s in Wichita Falls, Texas.
One summer in a corner of a bookstore, he found something that would put him on the path to creating a U.S.-based church that worships Norse gods such as Thor and Odin and preaches a racial ideology so extreme the Southern Poverty Law Center has deemed it a hate group. More
Virginia pastor arrested for alleged role in underage prostitution operation
A Virginia pastor has been arrested as one of 17 men who have allegedly solicited minors for prostitution, according to multiple reports.
John Blanchard, 51, of Virginia Beach, was reportedly arrested on Oct. 29 and charged with solicitation of prostitution and use of a vehicle to promote prostitution.
“During the two-day operation, detectives intercepted suspects who believed they were soliciting sex from minors through online and social media platforms,” Chesterfield County said in a released statement. “The suspects communicated with people they believed to be underage members of our community and arranged to meet them at a location to have sexual relations. When the suspects came to the location, they were met by police and arrested.” More
Mississippi mosque rejected, alderman says ‘their religion says they can lie or do anything to the Jews’
Leaders of a northern Mississippi city were motivated by anti-Muslim prejudice when they rejected a zoning request for what would be the first mosque in the area, according to a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday.
American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi sued on behalf of the two Muslim men who want to build the mosque, Abraham House of God, in the city of Horn Lake.
Earlier this year, the Horn Lake planning commission recommended that the site plan for the mosque be denied, and the Board of Aldermen voted 5-1 in April to uphold that recommendation. Aldermen said they denied the application because of concerns about insufficient water supply for fire sprinklers and the possibility of traffic and noise. More
The VERY rude Hereford church carving that's gone viral
FOR years it was hidden among the rafters, unseen by the congregation... but now a picture of a VERY naughty carving in a Hereford church has gone viral.
First appearing on social media site Reddit, the lewd carving of a man holding up his legs and exposing his genitalia became one of the sites most popular posts and has now been shared by thousands of people across platforms including Twitter and Facebook, and the picture of it (and claims as to its history) has even been 'fact checked' by misinformation-busting site, Snopes.
The carving first became visible to the public in the late 1990s, when food writer and restaurateur Bill Sewell opened his popular cafe at All Saints, with a seating gallery built over the cafe's kitchen.
Nicknamed Seamus O'Toole, the figure soon divided opinion, with the Birmingham Mail reporting in 1998 that one enterprising vicar, Father Andrew Mottram, suggested monetising the figure by selling postcards featuring its image. More
Bishop Robert Barron warns that religion should not be just a ‘hobby’ for Americans
NEW ORLEANS — With tensions rising over the proper role of religion in society, the broader culture appears to be compartmentalizing religious faith and moral thinking into something akin to “a hobby,” said Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron Oct. 4.
He made the comments in his homily at St. Louis Cathedral at the Red Mass of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, which drew judges, lawyers and politicians.
“Today, it seems to me the far greater threat is coming from the side of an ideological secularism that would like to shuffle religion off the playing field altogether or, at the very least, to confine it to the realm of privacy so that it would function as a kind of hobby,” said Bishop Barron, founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries. More
Are There Religious Exemptions to Vaccines?
Although vaccines are required to attend most schools in the United States, with the availability of exemptions, many kids attend without being vaccinated or fully vaccinated.1 Exemption based on religion is one of several reasons parents can claim to avoid giving their children vaccines in certain states.
And of course, parents can always choose to not send their kids to school. Children who are home-schooled usually do not have to meet the same vaccine requirements as children who attend public or private schools. More
Top Southern Baptist Committee Funds Sex Abuse Probe
NASHVILLE, Tennessee — A top Southern Baptist Convention committee agreed Tuesday to fund a third-party investigation into its handling of sexual abuse allegations but held off on waiving its attorney-client privilege for the probe, delaying for the future a decision seen as a key demand of the thousands of Southern Baptists who set the review in motion.
The Executive Committee allocated $1.6 million for Guidepost Solutions, the firm conducting the investigation into allegations it mishandled abuse cases, resisted reforms and intimidated survivors and advocates. They also agreed to taking more time to negotiate the contract and other legal questions related to the investigation.
“I think it’s a good step and I think that it shows our unity on the urgency of the matter,” Executive Committee Chair Rolland Slade said. More
An animated film to chronicle life of ‘Sikh Captain America’ in aftermath of 9/11
Vishavjit Singh is publicly known for his Captain America persona — a Sikh man equipped with his turban and beard — fighting against bigotry, intolerance and perceptions of what an American should look like.
But Singh, the only member of his family born in the U.S., didn’t always feel he could embrace his identity this way.
Singh took off his beard and turban and gave up his Sikh identity while in college after experiencing bullying and stereotyping when he moved back to the U.S. from India. More
Satanic Temple says Texas abortion law violates the religious freedom of its members
The Satanic Temple is lobbying against Texas’ new abortion law, saying its members should have access to abortion pills as part of its faith-based right.
The nontheistic religious group, based in Massachusetts, said on its website that it “stands ready to assist” any of its members who want to fight the law.
The Satanic Temple’s legal counsel filed a letter with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, arguing that its members should be allowed to access abortion pills without regulatory action.
In the letter, the Satanic Temple says that abortion pills Misoprostol and Mifepristone should be available for use through the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the law that protects Native Americans’ use of the hallucinogen peyote in traditional rituals. More
Psychologists Are Learning What Religion Has Known for Years
Even though I was raised Catholic, for most of my adult life, I didn’t pay religion much heed. Like many scientists, I assumed it was built on opinion, conjecture, or even hope, and therefore irrelevant to my work. That work is running a psychology lab focused on finding ways to improve the human condition, using the tools of science to develop techniques that can help people meet the challenges life throws at them. But in the 20 years since I began this work, I’ve realized that much of what psychologists and neuroscientists are finding about how to change people’s beliefs, feelings, and behaviors—how to support them when they grieve, how to help them be more ethical, how to let them find connection and happiness—echoes ideas and techniques that religions have been using for thousands of years. More
Mom Kills 6-Year-Old Son By Slitting Throat As 'Sacrifice' To God
A woman killed her 6-year-old son by slitting his throat Sunday, allegedly as a sacrifice to God.
Police in Palakkad, a district in the southern Indian state of Kerala, arrived at 30-year-old Shahida’s home around 3 a.m. and found her waiting for them at the main gate. The officers noticed blood on her and rushed inside to find the victim lying motionless in a pool of blood in the bathroom, with his throat slit. The boy, identified as Aamil, was pronounced dead at the scene. The woman was detained for questioning and during the interrogation, she confessed to the murder.
She said that she killed her son as a "sacrifice to Allah" to please him. She was immediately placed under arrest and booked for murder. More
California mega-church offers COVID vaccine ‘religious exemption’ in public Instagram post
Destiny Christian Church in Rocklin, which openly defied Gov. Gavin Newsom’s COVID-19 shutdown orders, now plans to provide “religious exemptions” to people who want to avoid getting vaccinated.
Pastor Greg Fairrington, who has frequently thumbed his nose at Newsom from the pulpit and has endorsed the gubernatorial recall, said in a post on Instagram that the mega-church plans to hand out exemptions at services on Sunday. Newsom has been mandating vaccines for state government workers and California’s healthcare workers. More
Eight-year-old becomes youngest person charged with blasphemy in Pakistan
An eight-year-old Hindu boy is being held in protective police custody in east Pakistan after becoming the youngest person ever to be charged with blasphemy in the country.
The boy’s family is in hiding and many of the Hindu community in the conservative district of Rahim Yar Khan, in Punjab, have fled their homes after a Muslim crowd attacked a Hindu temple after the boy’s release on bail last week. Troops were deployed to the area to quell any further unrest.
On Saturday, 20 people were arrested in connection with the temple attack. The boy is accused of intentionally urinating on a carpet in the library of a madrassa, where religious books were kept, last month. Blasphemy charges can carry the death penalty. More
Baptist pastor arrested for allegedly copying video showing girl being raped by adult male
Two days after authorities arrested T. Elliott Welch, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Stanleyville, North Carolina, for allegedly possessing child pornography, the church has yet to respond publicly to the allegations against their spiritual leader.
The Forsyth County Sheriff's Office announced on Tuesday evening that they arrested Welch, 34, after receiving a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
“We recently received a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that an individual was uploading child pornography to the internet. After completing a search warrant at the residence in Tobaccoville, we arrested and charged T Elliott Welch, a 34-year- old white male with one count of Second Degree Sexual Exploitation of a Minor,” police noted in a statement. More
Pakistan police rescue Hindu woman who was forcibly converted, married to Muslim man
New Delhi: A Hindu woman in Pakistan, Reena Meghwar, who was forcibly married to Muhammad Qasim and converted to Islam to become Maryam was rescued by Pakistan police and returned to the community heads on Monday (July 26) after a journalist posted a video message of the woman that went viral on the internet.
Meghwar, who hails from the Badin district of Sindh province of Pakistan was married to Qasim, who was more than double her age, in February 2021. More
Teenager Arrested For DUI While Operating Amish Buggy
WILMINGTON, Pa. – An 18-year-old was arrested for DUI after crashing an Amish buggy in Lawrence County.
According to Pennsylvania State Police, John Byler of Wilmington, Pennsylvania was traveling along State Route 18 in an Amish buggy when a PennDOT snowplow had startled the horse carrying the buggy, causing it to crash in a ditch along the road.
When police arrived on the scene they found the buggy had significant damage and the horse had been unlatched. More
Churches are burning. This First Nations grand chief wants to provide security for others
EDMONTON — With another plot of unmarked graves found in British Columbia, and a Roman Catholic church burnt to the ground, Wednesday became one more in a series of dark days.
About 30 minutes outside Edmonton, in Morinville, Alta., residents watched in the early morning hours as a century-old Roman Catholic church’s steeple and roof collapsed, surrounded by flames in what Alberta Premier Jason Kenney labelled a potential “hate-crime.” More
Former youth pastor accused of sex crimes
BENTONVILLE -- A former youth pastor was released Saturday from the Benton County Jail on $50,000 bond after his arrest in connection with sex crimes involving two teen girls.
Kevin James Madden, 31, of Rogers was arrested in connection with two counts of sexual indecency with a child and engaging children in sexually explicit conduct for visual and print medium. Prosecutors haven't filed formal charges against him. Madden was the youth pastor at Discover Church in Rogers, according to a probable cause affidavit.
The church said in a statement Madden was placed on administrative leave when church authorities were made aware of the allegations. The church then contacted the girls and their parents, according to the statement. More
Catholic board investigating after parents say complaints about accused teacher not acted upon
Three days after a prominent St. Matthew High School teacher and coach was charged with sexually assaulting students, the Ottawa Catholic School Board says it is looking into how it handled earlier complaints made against him.
On Tuesday, Ottawa police charged 57-year-old Rick Watkins, previously known as Rick Despatie, with three counts of sexual assault, three counts of sexual interference and three counts of sexual exploitation of a young person. The alleged offences occurred between the fall of 2020 and March 2021, police said, and involved students under age 14. Police said at the time they believed there could be more victims.
On Friday, Director of Education Thomas D’Amico acknowledged that other parents and students had said they complained about Despatie/Watkins in the past, but nothing was done. More
Thousands of Bangladeshi Muslims rally against Israel
DHAKA, Bangladesh — Thousands of Muslims led by activists from an Islamic political party demonstrated in Bangladesh's capital on Friday to denounce attacks by Israel against Palestinians.
After the end of Eid a—Fitr prayers at Dhaka's main Baitul Mokarram Mosque, activists from the Islamic Andolan Bangladesh, or Islamic Movement Bangladesh, began protesting and were joined by thousands of others. Muslim-majority Bangladesh celebrated the key festival of Eid a—Fitr in a subdued manner after the government urged people to avoid large gatherings.
Authorities arranged prayers in phases at the Baitul Mokarram Mosque, where devotees maintained distancing to avoid spreading the coronavirus. More
Pastor shares bizarre conspiracy theory to support his claims that Trump is somehow still president
A self-proclaimed Christian prophet is circulating an unfounded conspiracy theory that he believes is proof that Donald Trump is still president of the U.S.
According to Newsweek, megachurch pastor Johnny Enlow recently shared a Facebook post with his followers as he explained why he has reason to believe former President Donald Trump is still president.
Enlow claims to have had a "vision" of Trump holding "a golden scepter" which he believes is proof that Trump is still in office. Enlow claims that in his vision, he could see Trump "seated on a throne holding a golden scepter... [with] a golden crown on his head." He said the vision was Trump's "PRESENT status from heaven's perspective." More
71-Year-Old Pastor Arrested for Causing ‘Alarm and Distress’ for ‘Homophobic’ Message on Marriage
John Sherwood, a UK pastor, was arrested in North West London this past Friday, April 23, and detained overnight – all for speaking about what the Bible says about marriage.
John, in his early 70s, is minister of a north London church, and was preaching with a colleague in the centre of Uxbridge on Friday, as he regularly does. After speaking on the final verses in Genesis 1, where it says that God created mankind in his own image, creating them male and female, a number of police officers appeared on the scene. Reportedly, three complaints had been received about the pastor’s teaching, and the police accused him of causing “alarm and distress” to the public. After speaking to the police, John resumed his preaching, speaking on freedom of speech. More
James Huntsman files lawsuit against LDS Church alleging tithing fraud
James Huntsman, the brother of former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., is suing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints alleging it fraudulently spent millions of dollars in tithing meant for charity on commercial purposes.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on Tuesday. The Washington Post was the first to report it.
Huntsman said in the complaint that he wants millions of dollars of his donations back and plans to give the money to “organizations and communities whose members have been marginalized by the Church’s teachings and doctrines, including by donating to charities supporting LGBTQ, African-American, and women’s rights.” More
Pastor jailed in Laos for over 1 year released, convicted of 'disrupting unity'
A Christian pastor imprisoned in the Southeast Asian country of Laos for refusing to halt worship has been freed after over one year in detention.
Sources told Radio Free Asia that 35-year-old Pastor Sithon Thippavong in Savannaket’s Xonnaboury district was released last Friday, three days after the Provincial People’s Court convicted him on charges of “disrupting unity” and “creating disorder.”
“He was sentenced to one year in jail and fined a total of 4 million kip [about $426], with 2 million kip paid for each charge,” an official from the provincial prosecutor’s office was quoted as saying under the condition of anonymity. More
Many Southern California churches to ease back into normalcy despite court ruling
Several Southern California churches and faith leaders said Wednesday, April 14, they will take their time to ease back into normalcy even after the state lifted its limits on indoor worship services on Monday following U.S. Supreme Court rulings that struck down COVID-19 public health mandates.
The California Department of Public Health’s guidelines still “strongly discourage” indoor gatherings and recommend limiting building occupancy to 50% in counties in the orange tier, which applies to all of Southern California. The new guidance from the state says that “location and capacity limits on places of worship are not mandatory, but strongly recommended” and that these changes were prompted by recent Supreme Court rulings. More
Ravi Zacharias Hid Hundreds of Pictures of Women, Abuse During Massages, and a Rape Allegation
A four-month investigation found the late Ravi Zacharias leveraged his reputation as a world-famous Christian apologist to abuse massage therapists in the United States and abroad over more than a decade while the ministry led by his family members and loyal allies failed to hold him accountable.
He used his need for massage and frequent overseas travel to hide his abusive behavior, luring victims by building trust through spiritual conversations and offering funds straight from his ministry.
A 12-page report released Thursday by Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) confirms abuse by Zacharias at day spas he owned in Atlanta and uncovers five additional victims in the US, as well as evidence of sexual abuse in Thailand, India, and Malaysia. More
The problem with India’s ‘love jihad’ laws
Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership, the Bharatiya Janata Party government has put forward several anti-Muslim policies. The latest is a clampdown on what it sees as “love jihad,” the belief that Muslims are seeking to deceive Hindu women through marriage and convert them to Islam.
Over the course of the past year or so several BJP politicians have suggested that this is part of an Islamic conspiracy to increase India’s Muslim population.
More recently, one of India’s most populous states has assumed the right to intervene in matters of marriage – particularly between a Hindu woman and a Muslim man. Other states are planning to follow suit. More
Celebrating Ash Wednesday in a pandemic? There’s an app for that
There are filters that blur “imperfections” in photos and filters that turn lawyers into cats on Zoom.
Now there are filters to help Christians safely display the very visible Ash Wednesday mark on social media.
Many Catholic and other liturgical churches observe Ash Wednesday by smudging ashes on congregants’ foreheads as a sign of repentance and a reminder of one’s mortality. That practice presents a problem during a season when health experts fighting COVID-19 have advised people to avoid touching their faces or coming in close proximity to others, and churches have embraced a number of creative solutions, including take-home or drive-thru options for receiving ashes. More
How the Christian right helped foment insurrection
The Jan. 6 Save America March, where then-President Donald Trump incited a crowd to attack the U.S. Capitol, opened with a prayer. Trump’s longtime spiritual adviser and White House adviser, the Florida televangelist Paula White, called on God to “give us a holy boldness in this hour.” Standing at the same podium where, an hour later, Trump would exhort the crowd to “fight like hell,” White called the election results into question, asking God to let the people “have the assurance of a fair and a just election.” Flanked by a row of American flags, White implored God to “let every adversary against democracy, against freedom, against life, against liberty, against justice, against peace, against righteousness be overturned right now in the name of Jesus.” More
Carlo Acutis rushed to sainthood while others wait centuries for the honor
Last month, 41,000 Catholics flocked to the ancient Italian city of Assisi to view the body of a curly-haired teenager dressed in a tracksuit and Nike sneakers.
Carlo Acutis was just 15 when he died of leukemia in 2006. His fervent faith inspired him to create websites cataloging Catholic miracles and to minister to the homeless and hungry in his native Milan.
After his beatification this year, Acutis, dubbed “the Millennial Saint” and “the patron of the Internet,” is a single step away from canonization — one of the youngest Catholics ever, and the first member of his generation, to reach this sacred stage. More
Tens of thousands of Sadr supporters rally in Iraq
Four people were shot dead and dozens wounded in Iraq’s south, medics said, in clashes between anti-government protesters and supporters of Shia Muslim leader Muqtada al-Sadr.
The violence erupted as tens of thousands of Sadr supporters hit the streets of Baghdad and the southern city of Nasiriya on Friday in a show of force rivalling the waning youth-dominated protest movement that erupted in October 2019, as preparations ramp up for June parliamentary elections. More
Some Churches Are Returning Land to Native American Groups as a Part of the #LandBack Movement
KITCHENER, Ontario — All day, the sweetwater had dripped steadily from the trunks of the maple trees into blue, plastic buckets.
By midafternoon, a cold wind had started to threaten the small fire where the sap was boiling over two propane burners.
A brief blast of snow pelted the small group that came and went from the sugarbush in Kitchener, Ontario. Occasionally, someone would plunge a pocketknife into the bubbling syrup to test how thick and sticky it had gotten.
“Why was I out here all day freezing?” joked Dave Skene, who is a citizen of the Métis Nation and co-executive director of the White Owl Native Ancestry Association, which offers counseling and land-based teachings and programming for Indigenous people in the area. More
Proposal to ban circumcision of boys scrapped from Finland bill
Lawmakers in Finland have removed language against nonmedical circumcision of boys from a bill on female genital mutilation following a push by Jews in the country and Europe.
The measure calling to “clarify” Finland’s ban on the genital mutilation of women passed Friday in the Parliament.
Amendments would have potentially limited or outlawed the nonmedical circumcision of boys, Yaron Nadbornik, president of the Central Council of Finnish Jewish Communities, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. His organization reached out to Milah UK, a London-based advocacy group, which involved representatives at the Foreign Ministry, Nadbornik said. More
Controversy Continues Over Hate Crime Bill in Scotland
GLASGOW — Amid a contentious debate in Scotland over a proposed hate crimes law, which the Catholic bishops of the country oppose, a cabinet minister this week suggested that the law could apply to speech uttered within a private dwelling if the speaker intends to stir up hatred.
The Scottish government introduced the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill April 23 in response to an independent review of hate crime laws led by Alastair Campbell, Lord Bracadale, a retired judge. The government argues the bill modernizes, consolidates, and extends existing hate crime legislation. It also abolishes the offense of blasphemy. More
Horror! Rastafarian school children sent home
The Malawi Nyabinghi Council says Rastafarian children are being denied access to education as they are being sent home from public schools because of their religion.
Speaking to Malawi24, Nyabinghi council of Malawi publicity secretary Ras Patrick Galawanda said this week alone three children, including two from the same family, have been sent home from school because of negative perceptions against wearing the dreadlocks.
He said the students include Faith Chikopa who is a form 3 student at Mloza Secondary School as well as Ganizani Maxwell and Chipiliro Maxwell who were denied access to education at Kuchisiyo primary school. More
Former Conroe priest Manuel La Rosa-Lopez heading to prison for child indecency
CONROE, Texas -- A Catholic priest is heading to Texas state prison after his formal sentencing on Wednesday for committing indecency with two underage parishioners 20 years ago.
Father Manuel La Rosa-Lopez will serve 10 years in prison on two charges of second-degree felony indecency with a child. The maximum penalty for the charge is 20 years in prison.
Last month, La Rosa-Lopez took a plea deal for the charges connected to two victims, though, the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office said he committed crimes against a total of four identified victims. More
Jesus portrait at SPD targeted by anti-religion advocates
SHREVEPORT, La. -- A nationally known anti-religion organization has found Jesus. And they want Him out of the Shreveport Police Department.
The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to Police Chief Ben Raymond, calling for the removal of a framed portrait of Jesus, as well as poetry about Jesus that's visible in common work spaces at police headquarters.
The group says a concerned community member contacted them about it. A source at SPD tells us that the portrait hangs in a secure area of the Property Crimes Detective Division. The public would have to be escorted there to see it. More
Pope’s comments, in Spanish, misinterpreted by media
When it comes to religion and politics, journalists now have a reputation for abusing both. Far, far too often, they push misleading stories they know are false to sell papers and to purposefully distort the truth. The Catholic Church, as an old and widespread organization, is a favorite target, and the vast majority of attacks on the Church are based on lies or fueled in response to the lies.
Earlier this week, the Associated Press and other publications ran with the shocking headline “Pope Endorses Same-Sex Civil Unions” that is derived from this supposed quote: “What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered.” If this was a real quote from Pope Francis, then there would probably be a lot of problems. However, it was not, and it just shows that the Catholic Church will constantly be misrepresented in the press. More
Americans Who Say Their Religion Is “None”
Someday, the coronavirus tragedy will be gone, wiped out by scientific vaccines. And Donald Trump will be just an unpleasant memory, an absurd reminder of what can happen when bigotry contaminates democracy.
This part of the 21st century will be remembered chiefly, I predict, as the era when supernatural religion died among intelligent western people. I think it will survive mostly as an emotional fringe for lower-brow folks such as those who “speak in tongues.”
American adults who say their religion is “none” began to explode in the 1990s and climbed to one-fourth of the population. Among those under 30, the churchless ratio now is 40 percent. More
Now loving on Jesus IN YOUR OWN HOME could be a 'hate crime'
A vague new hate-crime law under consideration in Scotland could criminalize something people do unwittingly in their homes.
The U.K.'s Christian Institute warns it could restrict Christians' freedom to proclaim Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation or to call people to repent of sin, "even in church."
That's because it could offend irreligious or anti-religious people.
"Conduct need not be threatening or even intended to stir up hatred for an offense to be committed. Instead, the bill captures any abusive behavior deemed likely to stir up hatred. An offense could even be unwittingly committed in the privacy of your own home," the Christian Institute said. More
“Please take a moment to thank Jehovah”: Churches distributing USDA food boxes are blurring the boundaries between church and state
In mid-June, Heather received a 20-pound box of produce from a local branch of the Jehovah’s Witnesses on behalf of her grandmother, an active member of the church. It held potatoes, onions, apples, and a cauliflower—and came with an unexpected letter: “Dear Brothers and Sisters: We are certain that you agree that all praise and honor goes to our great God Jehovah for his abundant provisions to us!” it read. The letter went on to ask that recipients “keep this gift confidential,” and encouraged them to accept the boxes, even if they did not need the food.
The box was one of 100 million distributed so far as part of the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farmers to Families Food Box program, the Trump administration’s flagship Covid-19 hunger relief initiative intended to provide emergency food aid to families in need. More
Bank Bans UK Christian Ministry Accounts After 'Mob Rule' Campaign: 'It Will Be Churches Next'
Leaders for a Christian ministry in the United Kingdom have said they’ve received death threats and the bank accounts associated with the organization have been shut down following a “mob rule” campaign from LGBTQ activists.
The ministry in question, Core Issues Trust, is a Christian nonprofit that supports men and women seeking voluntarily to change their sexual preferences and gender expressions, according to Fox News. Pro-LGBTQ activists began targeting the faith-based group at the end of June.
“A coordinated campaign has resulted in our ministry coming under immense pressure and key service providers canceling their services, action which we consider to be discriminatory,” CIT executive Mike Davidson said in a statement. More
Bishops fear owning a Bible could be hate crime offence under new Scots law
The Catholic Church has become the latest organisation to raise its concerns about controversial reforms in the Scottish Government’s new Hate Crime Bill.
It has made a submission to MSPs on Holyrood’s justice committee, who have been tasked with scrutinising the reforms.
The Bishops’ Conference of Scotland said: “Any new law must be carefully weighed against fundamental freedoms, such as the right to free speech, freedom of expression and freedom of thought, conscience and religion.” With section five of the legislation creating an offence of possessing inflammatory material, they fear the “low threshold” in the proposed new laws “could render material such as the Bible ... as being inflammatory under the new provision”. More
Entire Islamic Relief WorldWide Board Resigns
In a dramatic move, the entire board of Islamic Relief WorldWide (IRW) stepped down after a board member of the UK charity was discovered to have posted pro-terror and antisemitic social media posts.
These posts followed the discovery of deeply antisemitic posts by another IRW official last month.
The organization already had a long history of ties to terror funding and the Muslim Brotherhood, an oftentimes violent group. More
Thousands Flock to Sundial Bridge to Worship During a Pandemic
Approaching the Sundial Bridge in Redding last night, the first indication that something big was happening was the sight of vehicles; hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of them. Parked cars, trucks, vans, bikes and Segways covered all available asphalt, parking lots and dirt areas around the Redding Civic Auditorium, the Sundial Bridge/Turtle Bay, the Sheraton Hotel, and even the Redding Rodeo grounds.
Those who couldn’t find parking along Auditorium Drive parked along Park Marina Drive and walked across the freeway overpass, carrying folding chairs and children, as if heading for Redding’s annual Freedom Festival fireworks show. More
Jerry Falwell Jr. will leave behind a very different legacy from his influential father
Jerry Falwell Jr., son and namesake of the founder of the evangelical Moral Majority movement, has resigned as president of Liberty University.
The resignation followed the Liberty board’s decision to put him on an “indefinite leave of absence” after he posted a picture on social media with his arm around a woman who wasn’t his wife, his underwear partially revealed.
Falwell Jr. also announced that his wife Becki had an affair with a former pool attendant, Giancarlo Granda, who was close to the family. Falwell Jr. said that the affair was short-lived and that the married couple had reconciled quickly. More
Florida Teen Dies From Virus After Mom Takes Her To Church ‘Covid Party’
A Florida mother took her high-risk teenage daughter to a “COVID party” at their church, tried treating the girl at home with unproven drugs when she got sick — and then hailed her as a patriot after she died.
Carsyn Leigh Davis died on June 23 at 1:06 p.m. from complications of COVID-19, two days after her 17th birthday. While her death late last month was reported by multiple media outlets, the circumstances of her death were not explained fully until Florida data scientist Rebekah Jones revealed shocking claims in a medical examiner’s report about the teen’s death. More
NYC pastor was sexting with teenage boy, FBI says
WHITE PLAINS, New York -- A Queens pastor is under arrest and facing a charge of receiving and distributing child pornography.
Francis Hughes, 65, was arrested Wednesday and is accused of receiving images from a 15-year-old boy in Westchester and engaging in sexually explicit text communications.
During the inappropriate text exchanges, prosecutors say Hughes told the minor that he was a part-time college professor and a counselor. Hughes is facing a charge of receipt and distribution of child pornography. More
Jehovah's Witnesses hold global conventions virtually
Worship continues to look different for people of all faiths across metro Detroit.
For the first time since 1897, Jehovah's Witnesses are holding their annual conventions online.
Last year, the conventions attracted more than 14 million people around the world. The same conventions attracted 45,000 people to Ford Field in 2014.
This year, to ensure public health and safety, the conventions are virtual. The 2020 theme is "Always Rejoice". More
Religious leaders urge Mandalay Bay to remove statues of Hindu, Jain deities and apologize
LAS VEGAS — Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish and Jain religious leaders are coming together to urge the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino to remove statues of various Hindu and Jain deities from its Foundation Room night club. The leaders are calling it “highly inappropriate.”
In a joint statement today, five local religious leaders said that “placing highly revered Hindu and Jain deities to adorn a casino night-club was very disrespectful, out-of-line, and could be disturbing to the adherents of these faiths.”
These five leaders include Nevada’s Greek Orthodox Christian Priest Stephen R. Karcher, Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, prominent Buddhist Priest Matthew T. Fisher, well-known Jewish Rabbi ElizaBeth Webb Beyer and renowned Jain leader Sulekh C. Jain. More
‘Lion of Judah’ donated by evangelical leaders finds a home in Jerusalem
Located in the heart of Jerusalem and with a unique view of the Old City walls, Bloomfield Garden is one of the largest green areas in the city, offering vast lawns, secluded paths and play areas, as well as several monuments and art installations, including the Fountain of the Lions donated by German Chancellor Helmut Kohl in 1989. On Tuesday, another piece of artwork found its home on its laws: the bronze statue “The Lion of Judah” by American artist Max Greiner.
The statue was donated to Israel by a group of evangelical leaders, but it took some years to find an appropriate location. The stalemate was resolved after Jerusalem deputy mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum ran into former US congresswoman Michele Bachmann at an event about a year ago, as Hassan-Nahoum told The Jerusalem Post during the installation of the monument. More
Trump says he’s ‘best president in history of the Church’ in call with Catholic leaders
NEW YORK — President Donald Trump identified himself as the “best [president] in the history of the Catholic Church” in a conference call for Catholic leaders and educators Saturday, where he warned that issues at stake in the upcoming presidential election, particularly on abortion and religious liberty, “have never been more important for the Church.”
Trump also pledged support for Catholic schools in light of the global coronavirus pandemic.
In an audio recording of the meeting obtained by Crux, the president repeatedly emphasized his support for the pro-life movement and school choice, attempting to paint a stark contrast between his administration and what a Democratic presidency could mean for Catholics. More
Church that defied stay-at-home orders burned to the ground in suspected arson
A church in Mississippi burned down this week and the incident is now being investigated as arson, the Marshall County Sheriff's Office confirmed to CBS News First Pentecostal Church in Holly Springs had previously defied stay-at-home orders to open for services, and the church even sued the city of Holly Springs for trying to shut down a Bible study gathering.
Investigators said they found graffiti on the church property reading: "Bet you stay home now you hypokrites."
"I am heartbroken and furious," Governor Tate Reeves tweeted on Thursday, sharing a photo of the now-destroyed First Pentecostal Church. "In Mississippi, a church was just burned to the ground. They had been trying to open services." More
DC Episcopal Bishop: 'I Am Outraged' by Trump Church Visit
The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington sharply criticized President Donald Trump for staging a visit to the historic St. John's Church across from the White House, where he held up a Bible after authorities had cleared the area of peaceful protesters.
The Rev. Mariann Budde, whose diocese St. John's belongs to, said she was “outraged” by Trump's visit and noted that he didn’t pray while stopping by the church, a landmark known for its regular visits from sitting presidents since the early 19th century.
"He took the symbols sacred to our tradition and stood in front of a house of prayer in full expectation that would be a celebratory moment," Budde said in an interview Monday after her statement on Trump's visit was posted to the diocese's Twitter account. More
Drunk Hindu priest beheads man in Indian temple as a human sacrifice to goddess who came to him in a dream and said it would end coronavirus
A drunk 70-year-old priest decapitated a man as a sacrifice to end the coronavirus pandemic after smoking marijuana in India.
Sansari Ojha from the Brahmani Devi Temple under Narasinghpur police station in Cuttack cut off 52-year-old Saroj Kumar Pradhan's head.
The Hindu priest from the Bandhahuda area in Odisha killed the man to appease a goddess, he claimed. He beheaded Pradhan with an axe at 1am in the morning in the temple's shrine after an argument. More
Youth Pastor Claims He Was Kidnapped By Black Men To Avoid Admitting He Hired Male Prostitute
What initially began as an investigation into a social media rumor about two black men kidnapping a white man has resulted in the arrest of a Macon teacher on a solicitation of sodomy charge.
In a news release posted on Facebook on Thursday, the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office said they began looking into a reported kidnapping/carjacking that was rumored to have occurred Wednesday at a CVS Pharmacy. Sheriff’s office investigators said no such incident occurred, but they were working an incident with Christopher Keys, 56, who said he was robbed of his wallet, cellphone and keys by two masked men Tuesday at Regency Inn & Suites in Macon. More
Ministry with Bible allegedly producing oil shuts down, but continues to defend its work
In the days since the Times Free Press published its investigation into the His Name is Flowing Oil ministry in Dalton, Georgia, the team behind the Bible allegedly producing oil continues to defend its ministry, despite admitting its leader bought mineral oil and canceling all future prayer services.
At the same time, the church that allowed the ministry to use its space is distancing itself.
Last week, the ministry held the final gathering of its weekly event that would attract hundreds of people to Dalton's Wink Theatre. The ministry team members, including Jerry Pearce and Johnny Taylor, estimated they handed out 350,000 free vials of the oil. People reported being cured of long-term ailments and having profound religious experiences using the oil. More
Former Pope Benedict attacks gay marriage and accuses his opponents of trying to 'silence' him in new biography
Traditionalist former Pope Benedict XVI accuses opponents of wanting to 'silence' him while attacking gay marriage in vehement terms in a new authorised biography published Monday in Germany.
Despite leaving office in 2013, the 93-year-old, whose original name is Joseph Ratzinger, has not given up intervening in social debates, and he offers a fresh attack against gay marriage in the new biography.
'A century ago, anyone would have thought it absurd to talk about homosexual marriage. Today those who oppose it are excommunicated from society,' Benedict XVI says. More
Are Church Services Considered ‘Essential’? Depends Where You Live
As multiple governors issue orders to curb large gatherings and implore residents to stay home in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus, at least a half-dozen states have exempted some level of religious activity.
The divergent treatment of faith in some states’ pandemic-fighting orders comes as a few houses of worship across the nation continue to greet people in person, despite federal public health guidance to avoid gatherings larger than 10 people and decisions by most religious leaders to shift services online. While the pandemic has heightened political tensions, the states including religious exceptions in their orders designed to combat the pandemic are led by governors in both parties. More
Child molester’s wife sues Mormon church for $9.5 million, says husband is in prison because clergy reported his confession
The wife of an Oregon man serving a 15-year prison sentence for sexually abusing the couple’s daughter has filed a $9.5 million lawsuit against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, saying a clergy member violated a promise of confidentiality by reporting her husband to authorities.
The husband told a local church panel about the molestation in 2016 to “repent for his sins” under the eyes of God and to seek spiritual healing “to bring peace within his life and family,” the lawsuit says. Instead, he was arrested and charged in 2017 and convicted in 2018 of four counts of second-degree sexual abuse.
The couple were part of a ward in the Marion County town of Stayton, home to about 8,100 residents 15 miles southeast of Salem. More
Scientology Chief David Miscavige Is a Coronavirus Denier, Says Top Critic
As the novel coronavirus continues to spread around the planet—with the global toll on Tuesday surpassing 400,000 cases and 18,000 deaths—the Church of Scientology is officially scoffing at the pandemic and encouraging followers to continue normal religious activities while treating traditional science and governmental authority with skepticism.
In a March 13 eyes-only memo to his estimated 25,000 to 55,000 members in the United States, Scientology leader David Miscavige called the international public-health crisis “the current hysteria, whether you believe in it or not (and the only thing you can be certain of is that it is hysteria)” More
Inauguration of Lahun pyramid and Khond Aslabay Mosque after years of restorations in Fayoum
Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany, members of parliament, Egyptian and international media have embarked on a trip on Friday to Fayoum Governorate to inaugurate Al-Lahun pyramid of King Senusert II for visitors after the completion of its conservation. The ceremony also comes with the announcement of a new discovery at the northern corner of the pyramid and the inauguration of Khond Aslabay mosque.
The events were attended by Major-General Essam Saad Governor of Fayoum, General Secretary of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Mostafa Waziri, along with members of parliament and top officials More
VA Pastor, Musician Dies From Coronavirus He Had Questioned
AVIRGINIA — A 66-year-old Virginia resident who fell ill with the new coronavirus, or COVID-19, on a trip to New Orleans died Wednesday morning at a hospital in Concord, North Carolina. The death of Landon Spradlin, an accomplished musician and a pastor, has drawn viral attention online, in part because earlier this month Spradlin questioned whether media coverage of the disease was overblown.
Spradlin lived in Gretna, a small town in Pittsylvania County, about halfway between Lynchburg and Danville.
While driving home from New Orleans, Spradlin, who had pastored at several different churches over the years, started feeling much worse. He and his wife, Jean Spradlin, stopped in Concord, where he was admitted to a hospital and diagnosed with pneumonia. He was eventually put on a ventilator as his condition worsened before he died.. More
Oklahoma Pastor Busted Running White Supremacist Prostitution Ring
“Aryan Pride” for Jesus: An Oklahoma pastor is under arrest after being caught running a prostitution ring with a white supremacist.
Pastor Walter Eugene Brazington Jr. is “being charged with procuring for prostitution and possession of a firearm while in the commission of a felony,” according to a report from Tulsa World.
The Oklahoma pastor was caught running a massage parlor that was being used as a front for a prostitution ring. His partner in crime was white supremacist Tiffany Roach, an HIV positive prostitute who calls herself “Aryan Woman” and professes to have “Whitegirl Pride.” More
Houston pastor pleads guilty in investment scheme
HOUSTON, Texas -- Houston megachurch pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell pleaded guilty Wednesday after being accused of defrauding people of millions using phony bonds. Caldwell was indicted two years ago in federal court on wire fraud and money laundering charges.
Court papers state the pastor and investment advisor Gregory Smith sold nearly $3.5 million in worthless pre-revolutionary Chinese bonds to the elderly and vulnerable investors.
Both men face years in federal prison if convicted, and could be forced to pay back millions and forfeit a home the pastor owns in Houston.. More
Calling Out Sexual Abuse in the Jehovah's Witnesses Is a Horrific Struggle
In 2013, after Debbie McDaniel left her Jehovah's Witness congregation in McAlester, Oklahoma, she went to police and told them members had been sitting outside her apartment, monitoring her every move. The Witnesses, she said, were trying to make the case that she was unfit to parent her son, on account of being in a relationship with a woman. But it was something else she told a detective that most alarmed the cops, she said: "You would think an organization that would allow me to be molested for years could now just let me go in peace."
Within weeks, cops had arrested Ronald Lawrence, whom McDaniel, 50, accused of molesting her when she was underage, as Reveal News reported. At least two other people came forward with similar allegations. According to the Tulsa-World, Lawrence told prosecutors he had been "disfellowshipped" (basically excommunicated) from the church over sexual abuse allegations, that he had admitted misconduct in the past in order to be reinstated, and that law enforcement had never previously been informed. He has also denied abusing any Jehovah's Witness children, including McDaniel. When brought before a judge in 2014, 19 charges of sexual abuse against him were deemed to have passed the statute of limitations, and he walked free. More
Uyghur Muslims fear impact of coronavirus on populations in camps in China
CALGARY -- Some members of Alberta's Uyghur community joined medical and political leaders in Calgary on Sunday to voice concerns the coronavirus outbreak could devastate the ethnic minority in China.
An estimated one million people of the Ughyr Muslim community have been forced into work camps in China's eastern province of Xinjiang since 2017.
Doctors and organizers of the Calgary news conference on Sunday say that population is more vulnerable to the outbreak as there is a lack of access to medical care in the camps.
"Possibly if the virus gets to the camp, they are going to contract it and they are going to die," said Dr. Fozia Alvi, president of the Humanity Auxilium. More
Missouri church leader tried to pay for sex on Grindr with Arby’s card
He tried to lure beefcakes with “the meats.”
A Missouri church leader allegedly tried to pay for sex on the gay hookup app Grindr — with an Arby’s card, according to a report. Using the handle “DILF,”
Barry Cole Poyner, 57, allegedly tried to bed hot college-age guys by offering to pay for gas, clothes and roast beef sandwiches, police told the Kirksville Daily Express.
The Church of Christ elder — who is also a professor at nearby Truman State University — was busted after a student reported him and a cop went undercover on the app, according to the paper. More
White: I Saw Trump Riding Golden Horse Alongside Jesus During Armageddon
The world seems to have breathed a sigh of relief as America and Iran have pulled back from the brink of war. On Wednesday morning, President Donald Trump gave another rambling, slurred speech where he talked about making peace with the country who he recently threatened to attack.
However, fundamentalist Christians, who are among Trump’s staunchest supporters, seem to be encouraging Trump’s warmongering. Many of them, such as Sec. of State Mike Pompeo, believe these are the End of Days and Trump will lead us into an apocalyptic war with Islam.
According to spiritual shyster and Trump advisor Paula White, Trump will have a role in the final battle. “God came to me last night and showed me a vision of Trump riding alongside Jesus on a horse made of gold and jewels,” said White in Charisma, a fundie publication. “This means he will play a critical role in Armageddon as the United States stands alongside Israel in the battle against Islam.” More
Georgia church to pay off $62K in school lunch debt
LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. — A Georgia church says its donating $62,000 to pay off the school lunch debt of students in three counties.
12Stone church in Lawrenceville announced that its giving $45,000 to Gwinnett County, where it's based, WSB-TV reports. It said it's also giving $11,000 and $6,000 respectively to Hall and Barrow counties, where it has two other churches.
The funds are part of a new church program called Knock Out Hunger. It's meant to help wipe out the debt racked up since the school year started as it can take a while for families to be approved for free or reduced lunch, the station says. More
Priest accused of stealing $98K from church to pay Grindr hookups
A Pennsylvania priest stole nearly $100,000 in church donations to pay men he met on Grindr for sex acts — and to pay off his personal credit cards, prosecutors said.
The Rev. Joseph McLoone, 56, was arrested on felony theft and related charges Wednesday after investigators revealed that he opened a secret checking account in 2011 to deposit donations from parishioners at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Downingtown, the Chester County District Attorney’s Office announced.
McLoone, of Downingtown, then funneled the donation checks into an unauthorized “St. Joseph Activity Account” at TD Bank for the next six years and stole $98,405 in all, according to Chester County district attorney chief of staff Charles Gaza. More
Singer Ed Sheeran seeking to build multifaith sanctuary on $4.5 million estate
Four-time Grammy award-winning singer Ed Sheeran is seeking to build a place of multifaith worship on his estate in Framlingham, England, according to plans released by an architectural firm.
The space would to be a retreat for "contemplation and prayer" within the grounds of his $4.5 million estate. The two-story building would feature stained glass windows and a tower, according to The Sun. The plans have been submitted to the local council for approval.
"It would address an important need for a private place of retreat,” a design and access statement prepared by Donald Insall Associates, said. Along with a refuge for prayer, the “Thinking Out Loud” singer wants the sanctuary to be used for “celebration of key life and family milestones, family and social gatherings, marriages, christenings and so forth." More
Religion in US ‘worth more than Google and Apple combined’
Religion in the United States is worth $1.2tn a year, making it equivalent to the 15th largest national economy in the world, according to a study.
The faith economy has a higher value than the combined revenues of the top 10 technology companies in the US, including Apple, Amazon and Google, says the analysis from Georgetown University in Washington DC.
The Socioeconomic Contributions of Religion to American Society: An Empirical Analysis calculated the $1.2tn figure by estimating the value of religious institutions, including healthcare facilities, schools, daycare and charities; media; businesses with faith backgrounds; the kosher and halal food markets; social and philanthropic programmes; and staff and overheads for congregations. More
Jehovah's Witnesses Announce Plans to Build Giant Media Center Despite Recent Spotlight on Child Abuse
The Jehovah's Witnesses announced plans to build a 1.5 million-square-foot audio-visual production center in Upstate New York, two miles away from the Witnesses' headquarters in Warwick. The organization plans to create more videos with parenting device, despite a recent bombshell investigation alleging wide-scale child abuse and coverups.
Robert Zick, a Jehovah's Witnesses spokesman, told The Times Herald-Record that the media center is a response to the general public's growing increase of interest in the Jehovah's Witnesses' videos, specifically ones offering parenting advice and how to live a principled life. New content is planned to be available in multiple languages. More
Robot priests more acceptable to Protestants than Catholics, says professor
Our faith in almost everything is being tested these days.
Everything is instant, yet nothing seems real.
The news is apparently as fake as people on the take.
Yet we're desperate to believe in someone -- or even something -- that'll help give our lives meaning. For many -- though, perhaps, a dwindling number -- religion provides answers. Or merely some comfort. More
15 Religious Swindles That Shame the Holy Name
What crime combines billions in annual earnings, sneaky accounting, a lack of media coverage, and the good Lord himself? Religious fraud. Conning the faithful, it turns out, is a lucrative art.
Christian leaders alone stole more than $27 billion in 2009, according to one estimate. Such leaders steal more money than is spent annually on global religious missions. Narrowing it down even more, Utah, arguably the fraud capital of the United States, has a fraud industry “double the size” of its ski industry.
If you’re a slippery type, these figures represent a heck of an opportunity. Indeed, the priests, ministers and thetans below have grabbed this chrysobull by the horns, perpetrating religious swindles that put the finer tenets of their theology to shame. More
Pastor wants pole fitness business shuttered
DODGE COUNTY, Wis. — A Beaver Dam Pastor says a pole fitness studio is "insensitive to women who are held captive by force or drugs in the for-profit sex industry."
Father Mike Erwin, a pastor at Saint Katharine Drexel Parish, wrote a letter to the new business owner, the mayor, and the city's attorney. More
Zakir Naik, preacher charged with inciting hate, now accused of misappropriating funds intended for Muslims’ welfare
One of Malaysia’s most controversial Permanent Residents, Zakir Naik, a world-famous Islamic televangelist accused by some of stirring hate with his lectures and messages, is now being accused of misappropriating funds meant to better the welfare of his fellow Muslims.
India’s Enforcement Directorate (ED) is lodging accusations at the preacher, claiming that assets worth RM113 million (US$28 million) have been laundered from a fund of donations intended for the social betterment of the Muslim community, into a series of assets that include, and are not limited to, 20 flats in cities across India. The units are registered under both Zakir’s wife and son’s names according to a report from The Times of India. More
Allegations against priest cause emotional week in Liberty Township
CINCINNATI — Alleged inappropriate touching, texting and sexual comments by a former Butler County pastor prompted action by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati that will impact more than 450,000 parishioners.
Late last month, the archdiocese confirmed the Rev. Geoff Drew, former pastor of St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church in Liberty Twp., was suspended for actions involving teenage boys. Drew previously served as pastor of St. Rita of Cascia Parish in Dayton and parochial vicar at St. Luke the Evangelist Church in Beavercreek.
Church officials also said they would change how they handle investigation accusations of inappropriate behavior against priests because of the Drew case. More
Calvary Chapel ends support of Potter’s Field Ministries
The Calvary Chapel has broken its affiliation with Potter’s Field Ministries in Whitefish and the ministry’s other associated businesses and nonprofits following allegations from former ministry members who allege the founders of Potter’s Field have long incited a cult-like environment through intimidation, fear tactics and other means.
Officials with Calvary Chapel recently announced on the website, phoenixpreacher.com, that “after prayer, much consideration, and a unanimous decision, Mike Rozell and Potter’s Field Ministries has been removed from the official list of affiliated Calvary Chapel pastors and churches. We find that the Potter’s Field form of discipleship training and methods of ministry are not compatible with the Calvary Chapel form of ministry taught to us by Pastor Chuck,” the online post stated. More
Saudi ministry offers Hajj hotline and ‘Fatwa Robot’ service
JEDDAH: The Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs is offering a free hotline to answer all questions related to pilgrimage rituals on the contact number 8002451000.
The service covers eight languages, including Arabic, English, French, Urdu, Turkish and Indonesian.
Pilgrims can choose to listen to electronic messages about the rites of Hajj and Umrah, general messages from the ministry and rulings from the permanent committee of religious researchers. Moreover, they can speak directly to one of the ministry’s Islamic guidance representatives, who are available 24 hours a day. More
Harry Potter books removed from St. Edward Catholic School due to 'curses and spells'
The students at St. Edward Catholic School in Nashville can no longer check out the popular Harry Potter book series from their school's library.
The seven-book series depicting the magical adventures of a young wizard and his friends was removed from the library because of their content, the Rev. Dan Reehil, a pastor at the Roman Catholic parish school, wrote in an email.
"These books present magic as both good and evil, which is not true, but in fact a clever deception. The curses and spells used in the books are actual curses and spells; which when read by a human being risk conjuring evil spirits into the presence of the person reading the text," the email states. More
Jehovah’s Witnesses leaders to be sued for sexual abuse under new Child Victims Act
A man and woman who accused Jehovah’s Witnesses elders of child sexual abuse will launch lawsuits against the organization’s governing body under a landmark state law that goes into effect this week, the former church members said Monday.
John Michael Ewing and Heather Steele, in separate lawsuits that will be filed Wednesday in Brooklyn Supreme Court, said they endured years of rape and molestation at the hands of the group’s elders.
Steele, a New York native now living in Florida, said she was just a toddler when an elder, Donald Nicholson, who was a family friend, began molesting her in the mid-1970s. More
Former Clermont youth group leader accused of sending nude photos to teen
CLERMONT, Fla. - A former youth group leader was arrested after deputies said he sent sexual photos to a teenage girl.
Detectives with the Lake County Sheriff's Office said Kyle Breen sent photos of his penis to a 16-year-old girl he met at church, according to the arrest affidavit.
Deputies responded to a juvenile sex complaint earlier this month in Clermont and spoke to the victim. She told deputies the 21-year-old would send her the photos through the social media app Snapchat, according to the arrest affidavit. The two had been messaging for about a month, according to deputies. More
One Catholic Priest Destroyed the Entire Mayan Written Language
The New York Times described the decipherment of the Maya hieroglyphs as “one of the great stories of twentieth century scientific discovery.”
Tragically, this decipherment was only necessary because of a one-man Spanish Inquisition, a deliberate, decades-long campaign by a single Catholic priest to destroy the Mayan language and culture.
The priest, Diego de Landa, wiped out all knowledge of the written language, and nearly destroyed the spoken language too.
Diego de Landa’s one-man inquisition perfectly illustrates the power of the Intolerance Meme, an idea that evolved in the Jewish religion a few centuries before the birth of Jesus, and was taken up with a vengeance by Christians in the third and fourth centuries AD. More
Pastor and 5 Other Christians Killed in Burkina Faso Church Attack
OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso — A Burkina Faso government spokesman says six people, including a pastor, have been killed in an attack on a Christian church in the country's north.
The violence took place Sunday in the village of Silgadji, not far from the volatile border with Mali.
Urbain Kabore, the communications director for the Sahel region of Burkina Faso, said Monday that the six people were slain after Sunday services. More
Saved for the nation: Quaker meeting houses where silence is cherished
For almost 350 years, Quakers have been opening a gate in a brick wall in Hertford, crossing a small, peaceful courtyard, and taking a seat on wooden benches in a simple, timber-panelled room to commune silently with God.
The Quaker Meeting House in the county town of Hertfordshire is the oldest in the world still in continuous use by the Religious Society of Friends, the proper name for Quakers. The town has grown around it, now with new-build developments housing young families pushed out of London and there’s a proposal for a chain hotel to be built opposite the meeting house.
But the building, constructed in 1670, has retained much of its original character. More
Louis Farrakhan denies antisemitism – then refers to 'Satanic Jews'
In a speech denying allegations of antisemitism, misogyny and homophobia after Facebook banned him from the social media platform, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan referred to “Satanic Jews”
During the speech on Thursday at a Catholic church on Chicago’s South Side, Farrakhan said people shouldn’t be angry if “I stand on God’s word”. He also said that he knows “the truth” and “separate[s] the good Jews from the Satanic Jews”.
Facebook banned Farrakhan, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and conservative personality Milo Yiannopoulos, among others, saying they violated its ban on “dangerous individuals”. The Rev Michael Pfleger subsequently invited Farrakhan to speak in Chicago. More
Vandals spray paint messages, break windows at SC church
ANDERSON CO., SC (WSPA) - Deputies are looking for the person or persons responsible for vandalizing a church in Anderson County, SC.
The Anderson County Sheriff's Office says someone broke windows and spray painted messages on the side of Midway Presbyterian Church on Midway Road.
According to deputies, the windows in the church were over 125 years old.
The words "SUBMIT TO GOD THRU ISLAM" and "MUHAMMED IS HIS PROPHET" were spray pained in black onto the siding of the church. More
Bishop Accused Of Kerala Nun Rape Prays In Church Before Court Appearance
Pala, Kerala: Charged with rape by Kerala police, Bishop Franco Mullackal today presented himself at a court in Pala, a small town 173 km north of the state capital of Thiruvananthapuram, with an attempted show of strength. He was accompanied by at least 12 priests, from both Jalandhar and Kerala, and several female supporters, as well as members of his family.
Prior to his appearance at the court, the accused bishop prayed at a church, where he was overheard saying, "Help me to abide in God and continue the fight against in justice and lies".
The next hearing in the case has been scheduled for June 7 and the court also accepted the bishop's request to extend his bail. More
Southern Baptist seminary turmoil leaves stained glass artists picking up the pieces
FORT WORTH, Texas (RNS) — Stained glass is fragile. So, too, are the fortunes of a stained glass artist.
Don Young and his wife, Debora, were reminded of that lesson last month with the abrupt cancellation of a lucrative, once-in-a-lifetime commission to produce a series of stained glass windows for the J.W. MacGorman Chapel and Performing Arts Center on the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The project, launched in 2013, was to take a dozen years or more and could have brought the Youngs, who run a small studio out of their Fort Worth home, as much as $2 million in income. More
Catholic Churches Are Being Desecrated Across France—and Officials Don’t Know Why
France has seen a spate of attacks against Catholic churches since the start of the year, vandalism that has included arson and desecration.
Vandals have smashed statues, knocked down tabernacles, scattered or destroyed the Eucharist and torn down crosses, sparking fears of a rise in anti-Catholic sentiment in the country.
Last Sunday, the historic Church of St. Sulpice in Paris was set on fire just after midday mass on Sunday, Le Parisien reported, although no one was injured. Police are still investigating the attack, which firefighters have confidently attributed to arson.. More
Mormons to allow baptisms for children of LGBTQ parents
Gay Mormons won’t be kicked out of the church anymore, and they’ll be allowed to baptize their kids again.
In a surprise reversal of controversial rules established four years ago, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Thursday that gay marriage will no longer be considered a sin worthy of expulsion.
A 2015 policy that deemed those in same-sex relationships “apostates’’ who must be banished from the religion drew strong opposition and condemnation from the LGBTQ community and its supporters. More
French Cardinal Covered Up Pedophile Accusations Against Priest, Court Says
A court in Lyon, France, has convicted Cardinal Philippe Barbarin — one of France's most prominent Catholic officials — of not reporting accusations of deprivation or sexual abuse of Boy Scouts by a priest in his diocese.
After the ruling, Barbarin said he would offer his resignation to Pope Francis. Separately, his lawyer said he also would appeal the court's guilty verdict.
The criminal court in Lyon sentenced Barbarin to a six-month suspended prison sentence — a decision that shocked many who followed the high-profile trial. The case's prosecutors had not sought a prison sentence for Barbarin, and the victims also said they didn't expect a conviction, in part because some of the crimes in question had lapsed due to the statute of limitations. More
Houses of Worship are not just for worship anymore
When First Congregational Church of Bellingham built a new sanctuary in the mid-2000s, it wanted to be sure the facility would be used all week long and not just on Sunday.
So along with worship space, the Washington state congregation’s plans included a ground-level space with a separate entrance that could be used by an outside ministry or nonprofit.
Finding the right partner took some time. The building was finished in 2004, and, for more than a decade, the extra space was used as storage. Then last month, the church dedicated The Ground Floor, a custom-built drop-in center for homeless youth, run in partnership with Northwest Youth Services, a local nonprofit. More
Anti-Semitism is on the rise in France
Anti-Semitic attacks increased in France last year by more than 70 percent, according to figures released last week by the French government.
Reuters reported Tuesday that the country saw 500 reported instances of anti-Semitic incidents in 2018, a 74 percent increase from the year before.
In one incident, a crowd of protesters reportedly gathered around well-known Jewish writer and Holocaust survivor Alain Finkielkraut, demanding that he return to Tel Aviv over his support for Israel, according to the outlet. More
Abuse of Faith among the Southern Baptists
Thirty-five years later, Debbie Vasquez's voice trembled as she described her trauma to a group of Southern Baptist leaders.
She was 14, she said, when she was first molested by her pastor in Sanger, a tiny prairie town an hour north of Dallas. It was the first of many assaults that Vasquez said destroyed her teenage years and, at 18, left her pregnant by the Southern Baptist pastor, a married man more than a dozen years older.
In June 2008, she paid her way to Indianapolis, where she and others asked leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention and its 47,000 churches to track sexual predators and take action against congregations that harbored or concealed abusers. Vasquez, by then in her 40s, implored them to consider prevention policies like those adopted by faiths that include the Catholic Church. More
‘Removing your hijab can get you killed – even in the West’
Today is World Hijab Day, a campaign supported by 145 countries around the globe, including Britain, the United States and Canada. Booths are set up in universities and government buildings to hand out hijabs for non-Muslims to wear for the day. Human-rights campaigner Yasmine Mohammed – who grew up in a fundamentalist Islamic family in Canada – started her own campaign in response, No Hijab Day, to celebrate the brave women who have defied scripture, censure and the state to remove the hijab. spiked caught up with her to discuss the hijab and the soft bigotry of multiculturalism. More
Grand Rapids diocese warns of prayer for money scam
The Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids is warning the community about a prayer scam surfacing in West Michigan.
Diocese spokesperson Annalise Laumeyer says the caller identifies as someone from “St. Mary’s Prayer Center Ministry” and offers prayer for payment.
Laumeyer says some victims are mistakenly associating the scheme with the Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids. Laumeyer emphasized in a Thursday news release that the “prayer ministry” is a scam and it’s not associated with the diocese, its parishes or schools named St. Mary. More
Oldest Institution of Southern Baptist Convention Reveals Past Ties to Slavery
The first and oldest educational institution of the Southern Baptist Convention disclosed in a report Wednesday that its four founders together owned more than 50 slaves, part of a reckoning over racism in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.
The 71-page report released by the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is a recitation of decades of bigotry, directed first at African slaves and later at African-Americans. Beginning with the founding of the seminary in Greenville, S.C., in 1859, the report found that the school, with few exceptions, backed a white supremacist ideology. More
Religion has no role in government: Smriti Irani
MUMBAI: Religion has no role in government, says Smriti Irani Mumbai, Dec 28. Union minister and BJP leader Smriti Irani Friday asserted that there is no role of religion in government.
She said the Sabarimala temple issue, where became a matter of national debate after the Supreme Court allowed entry of women of menstrual age into the famous hill shrine into Kerala, is being used as a "political tool".
The Union Textiles Minister was speaking at the 48th edition of IIT Bombays annual cultural festival 'Mood Indigo' here. More
Pastor John Gray returns to Lakewood Church after Lamborghini lambasting
While the holidays are usually filled with family and warmth, John Gray's season has been filled with family... and blazing criticism. The head pastor at Redemption Church in Greenville, South Carolina has been lambasted for giving his wife a $200,000 Lamborghini as an eighth-year wedding anniversary gift earlier this month, a grand gesture that is not typical of a preacher.
Broadcasting it for the world to see, Gray shared a now-deleted video of occasion on social media in a post that went viral. Gray has since apologized via social media and addressed the matter with his Redemption church members. More
Indonesian Christian Flogged Over Selling Alcohol, Violating Sharia Law
Indonesian Christian Jono Simbolon has been publicly caned for selling alcohol in the Muslim-dominated Aceh province, in violation of Sharia law, AFP news agency reported Friday.
Simbolon was arrested in October for selling illegal alcohol and sentenced to 36 lashes with a rattan stick. A doctor checked the convicts' health after 10 stokes, before allowing the punishment to continue.
Simbolon was one of 10 people, including eight men and two women, convicted after Friday prayers for crimes that included pimping, prostitution and gambling.
An unmarried couple received 10 strokes for having physical contact deemed too close and seen as a prelude to sex. More
China forbids Christmas decorations as Xi Jinping ramps up war against religion and foreign culture
Local authorities in China have reportedly forbidden businesses and citizens from celebrating Christmas this year, likely as part of President Xi Jinping's war against religion and foreign culture.
Officials in at least four cities and one county have ordered restrictions on Christmas decorations, with at least ten schools asked to curtail their Christmas celebrations, The Associated Press (AP) reported on Monday.
Like many other Asian countries, China does not officially mark Christmas a public holiday, with workers given days off on to celebrate events like Chinese New Year instead. Many Chinese businesses tend to use Christmas to encourage people to go shopping instead. More
Google Hosts 'Sharia' App Helping Indonesian Muslims Report Blasphemy, Heresy
Over the weekend, the Google Play Store approved the latest version of Smart Pakem, an app that allows Muslims in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta to report violations of Islamic law – Sharia, including blasphemy and heresy.
The free-of-charge app, which has been downloaded over 1,000 times, was developed by the Jakarta prosecutor’s office and claims to provide users with an opportunity to report religious beliefs they consider misguided.
“The objective… is to provide easier access to information about the spread of beliefs in Indonesia to educate the public and to prevent them from following doctrines from an individual or a group that are not in line with the regulations”, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office told AFP. More
Ibrahim’s Historical Reconquista: New Book Reveals Christendom’s 1400-Year Struggle Against Jihad
Diplomatic historian Samuel Flagg Bemis’ 1949 John Quincy Adams and the Foundations of American Foreign Policy extolled Adams’ seminal contribution as “a mighty achievement.” Bemis’ landmark 1949 review included a reference to Adams’ writings -- “Unsigned essays dealing with the Russo-Turkish War, and on Greece, written while JQA was in retirement, before his election to Congress in 1830” (Chapters 10-14, pp. 267-402 in The American Annual Register for 1827-28-29) -- as being consistent with his “defense of the interests, dignity, and equality of his country.”
Published in full during 1830, John Quincy Adams’ frank, timeless ruminations on the theologically based conflict between Muhammad’s Islam and the Christianity of Jesus should be mandatory reading for all contemporary U.S. diplomats and politicians: More
Former Pastor Sues Ohio Televangelist Ernest Angley Over Sexual Abuse
Brock Miller, a former pastor at the Grace Cathedral megachurch in Cuyahoga Falls, has accused televangelist Rev. Ernest Angley of sexually abusing and harassing him. The allegations were detailed in a criminal complaint filed Wednesday in Summit County Common Pleas Court.
Last January, Miller recounted the events of the assault and abuse to the Akron Beacon Journal, which he says took place on and off for nine years from when he was 18 until he turned 27.
Miller resigned in July 2014 after telling his family that, despite his deep love for the Cuyahoga Falls church, he simply could no longer deal with Angley’s continued abuse. Upon resignation, Miller moved to South Carolina to try and start anew, but he said Angley's actions have followed him no matter where he goes. More
The Emerging Crazy Christian Trend Of Grave Sucking
If you see someone lying on a grave, they may be engaged in a controversial form of Christian worship. It is called “grave sucking,” “grave soaking,” or “mantle grabbing.” The practice is angering Christians, confusing others, and probably making Atheists smirk.
Grave sucking involves laying across a grave of a holy figure. That could mean a preacher, evangelist, or saint. By laying across the grave you “suck” up the power of the Holy Spirit that the person had. You know, like the stealing the power of the dead from the Highlander movie/television franchise.
The theological explanation is that God gives away the power of the Holy Spirit to unique individuals to help carry on His work. When that person dies, the power remains in the corpse, which wastes the ability to carry out the power of God. No explanation on what happens to the cremated. People who participate in grave sucking believe that once they suck up the mantle they can pass it on, even through YouTube videos to help cure individuals of maladies. More
Omotoso rape trial: 'We continue to support the man of God', says church
Rape accused Timothy Omotoso's church, Jesus Dominion International, will "continue to stand with and support the man of God", it said in a statement on Thursday.
The trial against Omotoso is set to continue in the Eastern Cape High Court in Port Elizabeth on Thursday.
Omotoso was nabbed in April last year in a dramatic arrest operation at the Port Elizabeth International Airport.
His two co-accused, Lusanda Sulani and Zukiswa Sitho, were arrested months later.
Omotoso and his two co-accused are currently facing 63 charges and 34 alternative charges which include rape, sexual assault and racketeering. More
Pastor Who Thought God Would Save Him From a Rattlesnake Bite Gets a Painful Surprise
Churches where members handle poisonous snakes during the service to prove they are protected by God are pretty rare now. At one point you could probably find one or two in just about every state in the South.
A lot of people learned some hard lessons about the fact rattlesnakes hate being bothered on Sunday mornings and heeded them.
The preacher is Cody Coots, from Middlesboro, Kentucky. He's the head pastor at Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus’ Name, a Pentecostal house of worship tucked away in the woods. The doc follows Coots and spotlights those nail-biting moments when he's jamming out with local rattlers. More
How Islamophobia Is Entering The Law And Becoming Increasingly Acceptable In America
Imagine that a nominee for secretary of state had shared platforms with white nationalist Richard B. Spencer and been given a major award by his National Policy Institute, which describes itself as “an independent organization dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States and around the world.” With that on his record, is it likely the nominee would have been confirmed, or nominated in the first place, to head the State Department?
Or what if someone under consideration for a top White House job had written an admiring foreword for a book by Holocaust denier David Irving or perhaps one by the psychologist and alt-right sympathizer Kevin MacDonald, who describes Jews as “a hostile, adversary elite” conducting “ethnic war” against Christianity and “traditional institutions of European-American culture”? Would such an endorsement keep him from being named as the president’s national security advisor? More
Archaeologists uncover 1,600-year-old ‘revolutionary’ clues to life in ancient Jewish village
A University of North Carolina archaeologist and her team have uncovered 1,600-year-old art in a monumental synagogue in Israel that could rewrite history about an ancient Jewish village.
The team, led by professor Jodi Magness, discovered mosaics in an ancient village in Israel that contradict widespread views about Jewish settlement in the region during the early fifth century.
“The size and rich decoration of the synagogue indicate that this Jewish village continued to flourish in the centuries after the Roman Empire became a Christian empire, and these Jews came under Christian rule, which many scholars today view as having been oppressive to the Jews,” said Magness, a Kenan distinguished professor of early Judaism in the department of religious studies at the UNC-Chapel Hill College of Arts and Sciences. More
Crocodile kills vicar during mass baptism in Ethiopia
A lakeside baptism service in Ethiopia was struck by tragedy after a crocodile attacked and killed the vicar.
An 80-strong congregation looked on in horror as the reptile struck at Docho Eshete, a protestant clergyman in the town of Arba Minch, while he conducted a mass baptism in the shallows of Lake Abaya on Sunday.
“He baptised the first person and he passed on to another one,” a local resident at the service, Ketema Kairo, told the BBC’s Amharic language service. “All of a sudden, a crocodile jumped out of the lake and grabbed the pastor, pushing aside the person he was baptising.” More
Sex abuse survivors allege coverup by Jehovah's Witnesses for failing to report assaults
Christian and Katja Gutierrez’s apartment is decked out for Christmas: the tree, the lights, the figurines on the mantle, all set up in full-blown holiday mode.
Christmas ended months ago, but the young Calgary couple can’t bring themselves to take the decorations down just yet. And it’s because they’ve only celebrated four Christmases in their entire lives.
The same goes for birthdays, Valentine’s Day and Thanksgiving. In fact, pretty much every holiday is a new experience.
Until four years ago, Christian and Katja were Jehovah’s Witnesses — a Christian sect with a very strict set of rules to live by — including not celebrating holidays. More
Shadowy Cell in France Plotted to Kill Muslim Civilians, Authorities Say
PARIS — They called themselves Operational Forces Action, a small, right-wing vigilante group from all over France that had planned to kill Muslim civilians, prosecutors say.
Police cracked the cell over the weekend, with prosecutors saying it had already begun testing explosives. The group was planning to kill veiled women, imams and recently released Islamist prisoners, and wanted to attack mosques and halal grocery stores, according to French news media.
Authorities charged the group — nine men and a woman — with terrorist conspiracy and pointed to its literature, which claimed that it was “fighting the Islamic peril.” The group was led by a former police officer. More
Kirk Cameron Launches Website The Courage to Help Families Build Traditional Faith Values
Actor Kirk Cameron has announced the launch of his latest venture that aims to help families combat new social norms he believes are plaguing the nation.
"The Growing Pains" star has created TheCourage, a website that he says will provide encouragement and enlightenment for families amid today's culture war.
"TheCourage is a digital destination meant to inspire, give hope, and call people to something better, especially in the areas of faith, family, and culture," the website's description reads. More
Lightning strikes 186-year-old New Hampshire church, sparking fire
BOW, N.H. Firefighters say lightning struck a 186-year-old New Hampshire church and flames shot out of the steeple as strong storms made their way through the region.
WMUR-TV reports a staffer at a day care center next door called 911 on Tuesday after hearing a loud crack, then seeing a flash and flames.
No one was inside the Crosswords Community Church in Bow at the time. Sixty firefighters from 12 towns responded. Crews had the fire under control within 40 minutes and saved the church. More
Judge rules First Church of Cannabis cannot use weed as religious sacrament
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - The mission of Indiana’s First Church of Cannabis to get the state to recognize a religious exemption to the state’s marijuana laws appears to have gone up in smoke, at least for now.
On Friday, Marion County Superior Court Jude Sheryl Lynch ruled that the church could not smoke marijuana as a religious sacrament. The church’s officials filed a lawsuit against the state in 2015, just days after becoming a recognized church in the state, saying that Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) should allow for a religious exemption from state and federal laws related to marijuana.
The RFRA is intended to protect individuals from government infringement on the practice of religion unless the government can demonstrate a compelling reason for doing so. More
Obon Festival honors memory of Japanese ancestors
SAN JOSE — The familiar sights and sounds drifted through Japantown on Saturday as they do every summer: fresh sushi and teriyaki. Japanese folk music. The rumble of drums and the chatter of curious children.
But the centuries-old celebration on North 5th Street was just as much for the dead as it was for the living.
The Obon festival — one of Japan’s largest and most significant religious events — is a Buddhist custom honoring the spirits of one’s ancestors. The joyous event is marked by family gatherings, Japanese dishes and a traditional dance known as bon odori. More
Mpumalanga pastor and teacher to appear in court on separate charges of rape
on Monday on separate charges of rape.
The 66-year-old pastor’s appearance stems from an alleged rape of a 45-year-old woman that took place in April.
“According to information at police disposal‚ the victim arrived [in] Volksrust at the time and had no place to stay. She then reportedly approached the pastor for a place to stay. He accommodated her in one of the rooms in his place and after three days he reportedly called her to his bedroom where he allegedly raped her‚” the police said. “The victim only reported the matter now‚ reportedly due to interventions by fellow church members.” More
Church Is Taking Appearance Of Gigantic Marilyn Monroe Statue In Stride
Members of a Connecticut Christian congregation were taken aback last week when an enormous statue of Marilyn Monroe appeared steps from their doors, giving the historic church an unobstructed view of the leading lady’s backside.
The 26-foot “Forever Marilyn” statue by artist Seward Johnson captures the Hollywood actress in an iconic scene from the movie “The Seven Year Itch” in which a gust from a subway grate sends her white skirt billowing up. The statue’s back faces the First Congregational Church of Stamford.
The 30,000-pound sculpture is part of a summer arts series in downtown Stamford that showcases Johnson’s work in public places. It was installed in a Latham Park, a city-owned green space, which is when the church’s senior minister, the Rev. Todd Yonkman, first heard of it. More
Chile's bishops resign en masse over church sex abuse cover-up
VATICAN CITY -- Every Chilean bishop offered to resign Friday (May 18) over a sex abuse and cover-up scandal, in the biggest shakeup ever in the Catholic Church's long-running abuse saga.
The bishops announced at the end of an emergency summit with Pope Francis that all 31 active bishops and three retired ones in Rome had signed a document offering to resign and putting their fate in the hands of the pope. Francis can accept the resignations one by one, reject them or delay a decision.
It marked the first known time in history that an entire national bishops conference had offered to resign en masse over scandal, and laid bare the devastation that the abuse crisis has caused the Catholic Church in Chile and beyond.
Konchinsky's suit alleges that the officers' actions violated her First Amendment right to freedom of speech. More
Mitt Romney Calls Robert Jeffress a 'Bigot' for Comments on Jews, Mormons, Muslims and Hell
Former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney has condemned First Baptist Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress for his past comments on Jews, Mormons, Muslims, and Hell, arguing that he is a "religious bigot" who should not be delivering a prayer at the new American embassy in Jerusalem.
Jeffress and a number of major evangelical pastors have hit back against Romney, however, positioning that Jesus Christ being the only way for salvation is a view in line with Christian belief.
"Robert Jeffress says 'you can't be saved by being a Jew,' and 'Mormonism is a heresy from the pit of hell.' He's said the same about Islam. Such a religious bigot should not be giving the prayer that opens the United States Embassy in Jerusalem," Romney, who is also a Utah Senate candidate and a Mormon, tweeted on Sunday. More
Genesis Prize Cancels Ceremony After 2018 Winner Natalie Portman Says Won’t Visit Israel
The Genesis Prize announced it was canceling its prize ceremony in Israel in June after 2018 recipient Natalie Portman said she would not take part in light of “recent events.”
On Thursday, the Genesis Prize Foundation, which awards what it calls the “Jewish Nobel,” said it was “very saddened” that the Israeli-American actress would not take part in the ceremony.
The foundation said that Portman’s representative notified it that “[r]ecent events in Israel have been extremely distressing to her and she does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel” and that “she cannot in good conscience move forward with the ceremony.” More
Iceland law to outlaw male circumcision sparks row over religious freedom
Iceland is poised to become the first European country to outlaw male circumcision amid signs that the ritual common to both Judaism and Islam may be a new battleground over religious freedom.
A bill currently before the Icelandic parliament proposes a penalty of up to six years in prison for anyone carrying out a circumcision other than for medical reasons.
Critics say the move, which has sparked alarm among religious leaders across Europe, would make life for Jews and Muslims in Iceland unsustainable. One in three men globally is thought to be circumcised, the vast majority for religious or cultural reasons. Many Jews and Muslims fear the issue of circumcision could become a proxy for antisemitism and Islamophobia, pointing to similar tensions over religious dress and the ritual slaughter of animals for meat. More
Ex-Jehovah's Witnesses break silence on shunning: 'My mother treats me like I'm dead'
Amber Sawyer was just 8 years old when it happened.
She was watching cartoons on the living room floor of her Mississippi home when she heard the bang.
She went to investigate and found her 21-year-old sister, Donna, dead in her bed. She had shot herself in the heart with their father’s hunting rifle weeks after being excommunicated by their church for getting engaged to a non-Jehovah’s Witness.
For Sawyer — who sat on the bedroom floor near her sister's body for hours that day, waiting for her mother to come home from her door-to-door missionary work — it was the beginning of a long, painful journey that would one day tear her family apart. More
People who think about leaving religion but don’t are more likely to feel depressed and hopeless
New research suggests that sticking with a religion you have doubts about is associated with depressive symptoms. The findings were recently published in the journal Society and Mental Health.
“Social scientists give a lot of attention to the nonreligious because of this group’s recent and rapid growth, but even more people consider dropping out of religion and do not actually leave,” said study author Matthew May, an assistant professor of sociology at Oakland University.
“My goal was to understand how these people (stayers) differ from the people who leave (leavers) and the people who do not consider dropping out of religion (stable affiliates).” More
Can Watching Military Videos Stop A Christian’s Porn Addiction?
Do you use internet porn too much? Are you a Christian man? Big fan of war movies? Then you are the target demographic for the Conquer Series.
The Conquer Series is a series of DVDs created by Dr. Ted Roberts, a pastor and former marine fighter pilot. The videos are an odd hybrid of low-budget action movie, recruitment advertisement, and small group therapy session.
Each video uses military language and imagery to stop sex and internet porn addiction. With sections titled “the mission” and “strongholds of the enemy” the videos seem to be designed for men to talk about something embarrassing with the most masculine images that Dr. Roberts could create. With 68% of Christian men using internet porn on a regular basis, there seems to be some need. More
Leaked anti-gay Jehovah’s Witnesses video to be shown to 7 million people
A leaked Jehovah’s Witnesses video that peddles anti-gay views is set to be shown to seven million people.
The video starts in a board room meeting where a group of men are brainstorming experiences which they can share – and one of the pinpoints “Sally”. ?
The clip then cuts to a young woman walking around what appears to be a market.
She see’s women wearing rainbow bracelets, with rainbow posters showing two stick-figure women holding hands. More
Pope says ‘fake news’ dates to Adam and Eve
'Fake news' led to Adam and Eve’s original sin, Pope Francis said Wednesday.
Disinformation and “manipulative use of social networks” can have “dire consequences” and the world must embark on a “profound and careful process of discernment,” he said in a speech marking World Communications Day.
His speech was themed around the biblical verse: “The truth will set you free.” The pontiff also described journalism as "not just a job; it is a mission." More
Tech Bro Guru: Inside the Sedona Cult of Bentinho Massaro
Bentinho Massaro is crushing the startup game. He’s the visionary behind an innovative company that has captured the hearts and minds of its users like no other.
He’s truly one of a kind. What makes him stand out? It’s not his identity or looks. He’s a typical twenty something founder; white, handsome, charismatic and tech savvy. It’s also not because he built a successful company from nothing. That’s common these days. What makes him particularly unique is that he brilliantly used startup principles to create a legitimately dangerous, real life, 21st century cult. In Sedona. In 2017. Tech bro Guru has arrived. The OS has been upgraded. Cult 2.0 is upon us. More
Hindus upset at Toyota Super Bowl ad for belittling Hinduism
Hindus are upset at Toyota Tundra Super Bowl halftime commercial “We’re All One Team”, apparently attempting to show the unity of world religions, for failure to include representation of Hinduism, world’s third largest religion.
This commercial; in Super Bowl LII football championship played in Minneapolis on February four; depicts Christian, Muslim, Buddhist and Jewish religious figures.
How could you possibly showcase “We’re All One Team” by turning your back to 1.1 billion Hindus and thus slighting world’s oldest religion? Hindu statesman Rajan Zed asked in a statement in Reno (Nevada) today. More
Victim Cries as Pastor Accused of Sex Assault Is Applauded
On Dec. 1, as headlines across the country blared with news about Matt Lauer’s surprise firing from the “Today” show for sexual misconduct, a woman named Jules Woodson tapped out a short email. It ran only about 80 words but was nearly 20 years in the making.
“Do you remember?” the subject line read. “Do you remember that night that you were supposed to drive me home from church and instead drove me to a deserted back road and sexually assaulted me?” Woodson wrote. “Do you remember how you acted like you loved me and cared about me in order for me to cooperate in such acts, only to run out of the vehicle later and fall to your knees begging for forgiveness and for me not to tell anyone what had just happened?”
The message landed in the inbox of Andy Savage, a pastor at Highpoint Church, an evangelical Memphis mega-congregation that draws more than 2,000 Sunday worshipers. More
Scamming Trump Pastor Demands One Month's Salary From Followers
Paula White, a prosperity gospel minister who has often served as a spiritual adviser for President Donald Trump, has regularly drawn criticism from conservative Evangelicals for preaching what they consider to be “heretical” teachings that warp the divine message of the Gospel.
Now White is raising eyebrows with a new scheme that involves asking her followers to send her up to a full month’s salary — or else face “consequences.”
Via The Christian Post, White has launched a “First Fruits” campaign on her website that asks her followers to ring in the new year by sending her a significant chunk of money this month. More
San Jose moves to shut down two churches selling marijuana
San Jose is about to crack down on two churches that apparently are selling marijuana despite not having permits to do so, Councilwoman Devora “Dev” Davis said last week.
In an email, Davis said that the city attorney’s office “is preparing to take court action to shut down both illegal dispensaries.” She was referring to Coachella Valley Church at 2142 The Alameda and Oklevueha Native American Church of South Bay at 265 Meridian Ave.
“It’s a priority for me, so I will be doing everything I can to shut down illegal pot clubs, regardless of whether they call themselves churches or not,” Davis said.
For the past few years, the city has allowed only 16 cannabis clubs to operate as long as they have permits and pay sales and business taxes. More
Mom Beats, Chokes Daughter For Being Unable to Recite Bible Verses
A Middletown woman was arrested after police said she severely assaulted her daughter and kicked her out of her house because the girl incorrectly recited Bible verses to her last week.
Police filed child endangerment charges against Rhonda Kemp Shoffner, 41, of the first block of Genesis Court, following the incident on March 14.
The victim, who is under the age of 13, told police the assault occurred just after she awoke from a nap in her mother's home about 3 p.m.
Shoffner, who the victim said had been drunk for three days straight, told her daughter to call multiple family members, police said. When they didn't answer the calls, police said, Shoffner ordered her daughter to get on her knees in the bathroom. More
Indian film Padmavati sparks protests over 'Hindu-Muslim romance'
Riot police may be deployed at Indian cinemas over the release of a film about a mythological Indian queen that has sparked protests, attacks on the set and director, and threats to mutilate the lead actor.
The Indian government is being asked to intervene to delay the release of Padmavati, a film based on an epic 16th-century poem, starring Deepika Padukone as the titular character. Uttar Pradesh officials said on Thursday that due to elections and a Muslim holiday they would not be able to provide enough police to secure cinemas for the film’s scheduled release on 1 December. More
Evangelical pastor Robert Jeffress thinks the Catholic Church is a 'cult-like pagan religion'
An evangelical pastor and President Donald Trump supporter says Catholicism is a “cult-like pagan religion” and the success of the religion is due to “the genius of Satan.”
Dr. Robert Jeffress, a Southern Baptist pastor, says that the Roman Catholic Church is the result of the Babylonian cult system founded by the Book of Revelation in a video posted on YouTube by RWW Blog.
Twitter slammed and mocked the southern baptist pastor for making the comments on the religion.
"This idea is widespread in RW Born-Againism. They only tolerate Catholics because of anti-abortion stance. Their bigotry just under surface," tweeted one user. More
Only a flaky Christian would get annoyed by Greggs’ sausage roll Jesus
It’s an outrage, I tell you. How could something so sacred be corrupted into something so profane? How could God be so traduced that He is presented in so pitiful a form? It’s appallingly disrespectful. It makes a mockery of so much we hold dear. It’s heretical. Blasphemous. Offensive.
Yes, the story of the nativity is quite a scandal – the almighty creator of the universe appearing on Earth mewling and wailing in a trough in a shed shared with some farm animals. Glory, splendour, majesty? Yeah, right.
Yet despite being reminded of this palpable absurdity every year, some of us Christians still find something supposedly irreverent to get irate about each time Christmas comes around. If it’s not spurious stories about wintervals and prayers, it’s tales of the desecration of the festival by commercial interests. And this ignoble tradition shows no sign of dying out, for this year we have the sausage roll in place of Jesus in order to flog some greasy bakery products. He’s not the Messiah – he’s some flaccid pastry filled with processed meat.. More
ISIS bride-turned-Texas Christian: Racism radicalized me
She went from the Islamic State to the Lone Star State.
The former bride of ISIS’s highest-ranking American member has described for the first time how she fled the extremist group in Syria and has settled down with her four kids in a suburb of Dallas, according to a new article from The Atlantic.
Tania Georgelas, 33, who became radicalized as a teen in England and later moved to Syria with Texan husband John Georgelas, explained how she and her hubby planned to raise their kids into jihadi fighters.
“Our dreams were to have land of our own, raise a family and train them be assassins or whatever, soldiers, and then eventually go join the jihad,” she said. More
Alabama pastor defends Roy Moore by saying 'some 14-year-olds ... could pass for 20'
Republicans who implicitly or explicitly support Roy Moore, the Alabama GOP nominee for Senate, despite the credible accusations that he sexually assaulted or harassed teenage girls as young as 14, tend to point to his support for tax cuts or opposition to abortion and transgender rights. Moore is still in a competitive race against Democrat Doug Jones in part because Alabama is about half evangelical Christian, and many evangelical Christians and their leaders either give Moore the benefit of the doubt or, like Gov. Kay Ivey (R), say they believe Moore's accusers but will vote for him anyway.
The Southern Baptist and other evangelical Christian leaders who support Moore are vocal about it, but the ones who don't, for a variety of reasons, are "reticent," says New York Times religion reporter Laurie Goodstein, who spoke to many of them. And of the ones who are vocal about their support, Earl Wise, a pastor from Millbrook, wins the prize for worst defense of Moore, so far. More
‘It will help future generations’: Muslim schools in north India set to modernise
Muslim faith schools in Uttar Pradesh will be required to teach English, maths and science subjects to secondary-school level in an attempt to equip students more effectively for the modern world, the Indian government has said.
The move was announced by Laxmi Narayan Chaudhary, state minority welfare minister for Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), which won a landslide victory in India’s most populous state earlier this year.
Uttar Pradesh has an estimated 19,000 faith schools, or madrasas, but most teach only Islamic theology. Even madrasas that do teach these subjects – many are trying to modernise their curricula – make them optional at secondary school. More
Florida church changes sign after message misinterpreted as sexual
EDGEWATER, Fla. - A church in Edgewater is changing its sign after a message about forgiveness was misinterpreted by many in the community as a sexual innuendo.
The sign outside the Bella Villa Baptist Church read: "Forgiveness is swallowing when you want to spit."
Representatives from the church say the sign was "completely innocent" and was "intended as encouragement to forgive." However, many interpreted the sign in a salacious manner. More
'It's a revolution': polygamist sect loses power over Utah town for first time
A fundamentalist religious sect that commands its women members to wear pioneer-era dresses and that became infamous for mass polygamy and child marriage appears to have had its power over a small town broken for the first time in its history.
Three non-fundamentalist council members are reported to have won against incumbents loyal to the sect “by a landslide” in Hildale, southern Utah, on Tuesday night.
And, in a closer race, an all-but-official majority of voters have chosen a new mayor, who also ran as an “outsider” to challenge the authority of the fringe religion over the isolated community. More
UN expert says most of world lacks real religious freedom
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Three-quarters of the world's people live in countries that either restrict the right to religion or belief or have "a high level of social hostility involving religion or belief," the U.N. special investigator on religious rights said Tuesday.
Ahmed Shaheed told the General Assembly's human rights committee that religious intolerance is prevalent globally — and rising around the world.
He said over 70 countries currently have anti-blasphemy laws that can be used to suppress dissenting views, in violation of international human rights standards. More
Inside the sex scandal that brought down a multi-million dollar televangelist empire
A new TV show explores how the Jessica Hahn sex scandal took down a multi-million dollar televangelist empire.
Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker were famous in the 1980s for their successful TV ministry PTL (Praise the Lord) Club, later called The Jim and Tammy Show.
But the Christian conglomerate was all but destroyed after a local newspaper unearthed a shocking scandal - that Jim Bakker had paid $279,000 to Jessica Hahn, a church secretary.
That thread quickly unraveled an even bigger scandal after the Charlotte Observer found that Hahn had allegedly been paid the cash as hush money, after she was allegedly raped by Bakker in a hotel room in 1980 when she was 21. More
Lakeside Church Shocked by $9,500 Electric Bill
Songs of praise bring together the congregation at Calvary Chapel Lakeside’s Sunday service. Recently, the church said they had another issue bringing them together, the church’s electric bill.
“The Pastor brought it to me and I was like, I don’t know what’s going on,” church elder Eric Bryant said.
Eric is talking about the church’s June electric bill from San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E). The bill was for over $9,500.
“I was incredulous,” Eric said. More
London commuters ran onto the tracks after a man began reciting Bible verses out loud
Commuters on one of London’s busiest rail routes forced open the doors on a rush hour train and climbed onto the tracks after panicking over man reading the Bible.
The BBC reports that passengers became scared when a man began quoting Bible passages such as “death is not the end” out loud, causing them to flee the train outside Wimbledon station at 8.30am Monday morning.
One man who was on the train said the Bible reading caused a “crush” and a “commotion”, before someone asked the reader to stop “as he was scaring people”. More
Pope's psychoanalyst visits show his struggle in Argentina's 'dirty war'
One of the mysteries of the life of Pope Francis is how a man regarded for many years as an authoritarian by his colleagues was reinvented as a global icon of forgiveness.
The news that he visited a psychoanalyst every week for six months may cast some light on this question.
At the time of his therapy, he was 42 and Argentina was two years into the terrible struggle between a military junta that killed about 30,000 people and tortured many more, and the left, which included everyone from urban guerrillas to unarmed priests. Fr Bergoglio, as he then was, found himself in the middle as the head of the Jesuit order. More
Who is David Meade? Christian numerologist who believes the world will end on September 23
David Meade is a Christian conspiracy theorist who has made predictions about Doomsday. He wrote a book called Planet X – The 2017 Arrival – insisting Nibiru would crash into Earth in October – but then moved it forward by a few weeks.
His theory was given a boost this year when NASA discovered a new planet in the solar system, which they named Planet Nine.
Meade’s prediction is largely based on the Bible passage Isaiah, Chapter 13 9-10, it reads: “See, the Day of the Lord is coming – a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger – to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it.
“The Stars of Heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising Sun will be darkened and the Moon will not give its light.” More
Christian parents 'to sue school' because boy in son's class was allowed to wear dress
Nigel and Sally Rowe said they had been bullied into “accepting a new moral framework which strongly conflicts with what we believe in”.
They raised concerns with the head after a six-year-old boy arrived at the unnamed school dressed as a boy one day and wore girl’s clothes on another.
But the school defended its behaviour, stating: “The refusal to acknowledge a transgendered person’s true gender” was ‘transphobic behaviour’.”
Today, Mr Rowe, 44, from the Isle of Wight, said: “I’m shocked that just because we question the notion that a six-year-old boy can really become a girl, we are transphobic. More
'Agnostic' Jeremy Corbyn upsets Catholics by taking Holy Communion
Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of "disrespecting the Catholic faith" after he took Holy Communion despite his apparent agnosticism.
The Labour leader, who has never practiced Catholicism, took wine and wafers during the funeral of the former GMB Union president Mary Turner, who died in July.
The Diocese of Westminster, which is responsible for the church Mr Corbyn was attending at the time, responded by saying that it expected celebrants to be "in full communion with the Catholic Church" in order to receive Communion. The left-wing New Statesman magazine reports that Mr Corbyn queued for Communion with his Mexican wife Laura Alvarez during the service at Sacred Heart Church in Kilburn, north London. More
They kept us as slaves: AP reveals claims against church
SPINDALE, N.C. — When Andre Oliveira answered the call to leave his Word of Faith Fellowship congregation in Brazil to move to the mother church in North Carolina at the age of 18, his passport and money were confiscated by church leaders — for safekeeping, he said he was told.
Trapped in a foreign land, he said he was forced to work 15 hours a day, usually for no pay, first cleaning warehouses for the secretive evangelical church and later toiling at businesses owned by senior ministers. Any deviation from the rules risked the wrath of church leaders, he said, ranging from beatings to shaming from the pulpit.
“They trafficked us up here. They knew what they were doing. They needed labor and we were cheap labor — hell, free labor,” Oliveira said. More
Christian multi-universe theories
The scholastic theology of the Middle Ages was very much in thrall to the philosophy of Aristotle. One of the themes of the Reformation was to move away from Aristotelian thought in favor of the Hebraic thought of the Bible. But already in the Middle Ages, Aristotle had his critics. In 1277, the Pope asked the Bishop of Paris, Etienne Tempier, to look into reports that some of the faculty members at the University of Paris were taking Aristotelianism way too far. So Tempier studied the matter and came up with a list of 219 propositions in Aristotle that were heretical. Any professor teaching them would be excommunicated and would lose his position.
Church-imposed censorship of the free inquiry and the untrammeled life of the mind that are at the heart of the university! So some would consider it. But a line of research today, detailed in the article linked after the jump, argues that Tempier’s list had the effect of liberating Western thought from Aristotle’s scientific teachings. And this, in turn, was an important factor in the rise of modern science. More
What U.S. Evangelists Did To Poison A Country
In 2009, authorities in Uganda began debating an Anti-Homosexuality Act, which threatened LGBT persons with life imprisonment and even execution for the “crime” of being gay. Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), a coalition of organizations advocating for the protection of LGBT Ugandans, began recording and reporting abuses arising from that proposed law. Frank Mugisha, SMUG’s Executive Director, reported that, as a result of the bill’s consideration “People are calling the police [with names of suspects] and harassing others in the streets.”
When the law passed in 2014, reports of anti-gay incidents increased tenfold. In May 2014, SMUG issued a report detailing attempted lynchings, mob violence, home torchings, blackmail, firings, arrests, evictions and suicides. Tabloid newspapers also joined in the fray, publishing 29 stories outing hundreds of LGBT individuals, which led often to further violence and familial shunning. More
Pastor allegedly sleeps with General Overseer, rapes daughter
The assistant pastor of the Great Overcomes Ministry, Abaranje in Ikotun, Lagos, Okwudili Ozor, has landed in prison after he was accused of allegedly sleeping with the General Overseer of the church, Prophetess Gloria Udeh and her 15-year-old daughter.
The incident caused serious crisis in the church after allegation of adultery and rape was leveled against Pastor Uzor.
According to P M.Express, the alleged sex scandal has put the entire congregation in disarray as some members have left in annoyance because the church’s General Overseer, Prophetess Udeh was in the thick of the whole scandal. More
Black female Episcopal bishop of Indy diocese breaks stained glass ceiling
INDIANAPOLIS — On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows stepped out of the historic Trinity Church in Lower Manhattan into a city where she’d lived most of her life but suddenly couldn’t recognize.
Cars flipped upside down, buildings with shattered windows, ash coating everything. These were the features of the hellish streetscape a few blocks from Ground Zero.
In that moment, the North Tower of the World Trade Center came crashing down. Someone urged her group, which had been huddled in a stairwell during the attacks, to run for a nearby ferry terminal. Baskerville-Burrows, who grew up in a housing project on Staten Island, knew the way. Soon a ferry was carrying her away from the smoking city. Back in the building where she'd lived as a child, she knocked on doors she hadn't visited in years, seeking refuge from terrorism where she had once only feared the gunfire outside. More
Complaint Filed To Close Sex Club Posing As Church
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Metropolitan Government has filed a complaint seeking an injunction to permanently close a controversial swingers club in Madison.
The filing made Thursday in General Sessions court, states that a permit had been issued to operate a church at 520 Lentz Ave in Madison, but instead the owners have been operating a sex club.
The complaint states that Freedom 4 All, Inc. is "maintaining a public nuisance by permitting acts of lewd conduct" and is in violation of city ordinances and state law which prohibit operation of the club within 1,000 feet of a school. More
Sikh Man Heads To Pentagon As A Soldier After Long Struggle To Join U.S. Forces
In 2015, Kanwar Singh saw an opening. He would approach the secretary of defense at a public event in Cambridge and get him on the record about whether Sikhs ought to be allowed to serve in the military with turbans and beards.
Shaking with nerves, Singh approached the microphone in a camouflage turban.
"I want to understand," the young man from Waltham asked. "What can we do to ensure anyone who's passionate and patriotic can serve without them having to give up on their religious beliefs?" More
Church loses labour case
The Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses of Namibia might have to start compensating its employees as stipulated by the country’s labour law after it lost a labour case in the High Court yesterday.
The congregation dragged the Social Security Commission to court in May 2016 after the Commission refused to deregister the church as a company and employer.
“The congregation is trying to evade its obligations under the SSC Act and this court cannot allow employees to be unprotected in the event they fall ill, become pregnant or die,” explained Judge Petrus Unengu.
The congregation approached the High Court, stating that its followers are not employees and thus the congregation cannot be regarded as an employer and it does not regard itself as one. More
'Mother' should not be used to describe a bomb, Pope says
Pope Francis on Saturday criticized the naming of the U.S. military's biggest non-nuclear explosive as "the Mother of All Bombs", saying the word "mother" should not be used in reference to a deadly weapon.
The U.S. Air Force dropped such a bomb, officially designated as the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) on suspected Islamic State fighters in eastern Afghanistan last month. The nickname was widely used in briefings and reporting on the attack.
"I was ashamed when I heard the name," Pope Francis told an audience of students. "A mother gives life and this one gives death, and we call this device a mother. What is happening?" More
Scientology Social Media Celebrates L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics on its 67th Birthday
In the year 1950, before just about all of the self-help books you’ve ever heard of, (and even before Norman Vincent Peale’s wildly influential ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’), a “self-help book,” one of the first to define the genre, from a writer previously known for fiction named ‘L. Ron Hubbard,’ was published and went on to become one of the most recognized self-help books of all-time,..it was – “Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health.”
Given the fact that the very same L. Ron Hubbard would later go on to start the always-in-the-news religion of Scientology, it may surprise you to know if unaware, that ‘Dianetics’ was a secular, nonreligious 180,000 word work supposedly written in only 6 weeks, according to Wikipedia. More
Adventist pastor comes out as bisexual, resigns her church
A Seventh-day Adventist pastor has resigned from her Arizona pulpit and announced via video that she is bisexual.
“Through study and prayer, I’ve come to a point of complete disagreement with the Adventist Church on their teachings about LGBT people,” Alicia Johnston said in a video posted on Facebook on April 22.
“I also myself am bisexual so I’ve come to an awareness of that and have realized I just can’t live my life with integrity anymore without being honest about that.”
The Arizona Conference Corporation of Seventh-day Adventists issued a statement calling Johnston a “gifted theologian and pastor” and noting its determination to abide by the stances of the church. More
Exhibit shows how Passover was artistically reinvented through the years
DURHAM, N.C. The text of the story is familiar to most Jews gathering around the table Monday (April 10) to recount the biblical story of their liberation from slavery in Egypt
. Indeed, many know parts of the Passover manual they will be reciting — called a “haggadah” — by heart.
But the images used to illuminate this ancient text, embellished with hymns, songs and prayers, tell an additional story. It is the story of Passover told visually through the ages.
Dozens of such books, spanning the 14th to the 21st centuries, are on display at a Duke University gallery and they showcase the artistic imagination used in the service of Passover, which is probably Judaism’s most widely observed holiday. More
Police arrest ex-church volunteer accused of sexually abusing nursery children during evening prayer
A former volunteer at a Catholic church in North Texas was arrested Wednesday on charges of sexual abuse stemming from allegations made in July, police said.
Francisco Guevara, 65, was arrested on two charges of continuous sexual abuse of a child and one charge of indecency with a child.
According to police, Guevara volunteered at the St. John the Apostle Catholic Church nursery, where two of the offenses occurred. The offenses occurred up to 7 years ago, when the victims were between 4 to 7 years of age. More
Hindu Temple, Previously A Jewish Synagogue, Will Become the First in Rhode Island
A former conservative Jewish synagogue in Warwick, Rhode Island, has reportedly been acquired by the Rhode Island Hindu Temple Society (RIHTS). The synagogue, named Temple Am David, is being converted into a Hindu temple, and it will be the first Hindu temple in Rhode Island.
Temple Am David has been in receivership since November, and it is expected to be turned over to a new faith, who are its new owners. The temple’s temporary receiver, Theodore Orson, of Orson and Brusini Ltd, a Providence law firm, said RIHTS signed a purchase and sale agreement in June for $400,001, which was approved in July by Kent County Superior Court. More
Did Jehovah's Witness elders fail to report sexual abuse?
While her abuser, Terry J. Monheim, pleaded guilty back in 2012 in York County Court, a lawsuit Fessler filed against Monheim and the church is going to trial Tuesday in Philadelphia.
Her goal in filing the suit, besides personal justice, is to remove the secrecy within the denomination that allowed her abuse to continue after it was reported to church elders, her attorney, Jeffrey Fritz, said Monday.
"Her main motivation is exposing that the policies of the Watchtower and the Jehovah's Witnesses are not following mandatory reporting laws in Pennsylvania," he said Monday. "That's what led to this happening to her, and continuing to happen to other victims within the religion, as well." More
Aliso Viejo pastor gets 6 years in child sex assaults
SANTA ANA – A youth pastor pleaded guilty Monday and was immediately sentenced to six years in prison for sexually assaulting two underage boys at church events in Aliso Viejo.
Brandon Ernis Lee McDade of Mission Viejo, 31, pleaded guilty to a count of committing lewd acts on a child younger than 14, two counts of committing lewd acts on a child between 14 and 15, all felonies, and a misdemeanor count of child annoyance, according to the Orange County District Attorney's Office. McDade was also ordered to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. More
Pilgrim nation: The Householder God
When I said that this was a temple of Krishna to my friends, the priest (locally known as panda) frowned. ‘Sir, Krishna is an avatar. But our Jagannath is the avatari.’ Avatar is the descended mortal form of divine who walks the earth. Avatari is the divinity who descends; he can be Ram as well as Krishna. With this one sentence, I was reminded that while much of the rituals are Vaishnava, and the deity enshrined in Puri, Odisha, is linked to Krishna, he is called Jagannath, lord of the world, for a reason.
Yes, for most people, it is the only temple in India where Krishna is worshipped with his siblings, the elder brother Balarama and the younger sister, Subhadra. But for the locals, the enshrined deity is to be simultaneously identified with Vishnu, the preserver of the world, and is often called Ananta Vasudeva, the embodiment of infinity. His consort is neither Radha nor Rukmini, but Lakshmi herself. All the while, the priests will tell you that different people see the deity differently: the triad is different forms of Tara to the Shaktas, different Bhairavas to the Shaivas, embodiment of Buddhist ideas to the Buddhists, embodiment of Jain principles to Jains. More
Arrested Houston pastor accused in $200K theft of church donations
The former associate pastor of a Houston-area church has been accused of stealing more than $200,000 from his congregation, according to Harris County court documents.
Russell Thompson Jr., 55, had been with the City of Refuge Presbyterian Church, located in the 3100 block of Yellowstone near Old Spanish Trail. He resides in Pearland.
Thompson was indicted March 13 and arrested early last week, charged with theft. He is currently free on $30,000 bond and his next court date is April 14, according to court records. More
Jehovah's Witnesses charity drops attempts to block abuse inquiry
The UK’s main Jehovah’s Witnesses charity has dropped efforts to block an investigation into how it handled allegations of sexual abuse, including of children, after a legal fight lasting more than two years.
The Charity Commission launched an inquiry into safeguarding at the religion’s main UK charity in May 2014 after receiving allegations that survivors of rape and sexual abuse, including people abused as children, were forced to face their attackers in “judicial committees”.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses, however, resisted the investigation into the Watch Tower Bible Tract Society of Great Britain (WTBTS), which oversees the UK’s 1,500 congregations and is believed to play a key role in deciding how claims of abuse are handled. More
Hindu Priest Arrested in Possible Love Triangle Murder Plot
SACRAMENTO -- Three and a half months after thieves entered a Sacramento home and left a 60-year-old man dead as they fled, new details are emerging about the last person arrested in the case and what may have motivated the killing.
While the crime, a vicious stabbing, according to witnesses, is alarming enough, the fact that the latest alleged murderer is a Hindu priest is sending shock waves through the Hindu community.
Ashok Kumar was killed in August in his home on Grandstaff Drive.
A month later Sacramento police arrested Tiwan Greenwade, Vicky Rainone and the victim's wife, Rohini Kumar, for murder. More
Trump’s Election Win in Church of Scientology’s East Hollywood Neighborhood
It surprised no one last fall when Los Angeles and California at large overwhelmingly backed Hillary Clinton in her failed bid for the presidency. Just seven of the city’s 1,700 precincts went for Donald Trump.
But while nearly all of the surrounding region voted for the Democratic former secretary of state, one little chunk of Hollywood best known for the Church of Scientology’s “Big Blue” complex went red, picking the Republican billionaire instead.
The precinct, wedged between Hollywood Boulevard and Fountain Avenue, tipped to Trump by just three votes, 347 to 344. It marked the first time since at least 2000 that the area went Republican. In 2012, President Barack Obama defeated Gov. Mitt Romney by 81 votes, 316 to 235. More
Pastor, Wife Arrested in $1,200,000 Congregation Fraud Scheme
A Virginia pastor, his wife and a friend of theirs are all being accused of defrauding their Alexandria congregation out of more than $1 million, Fox5DC reports.
According to the report, Terry Wayne Millender, who serves as pastor for Victorious Life Church in Alexandria; his wife, Brenda; and a friend, Grenetta Wells, who is also affiliated with the church, were all recently indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money-laundering conspiracy.
Authorities say the charges stem from an investment scam in which the Millenders and Wells convinced congregations to invest in their company, Micro-Enterprise Management Group, which allegedly helped poor people in developing countries through the provision of small, short-term loans to start or build up existing businesses by working with a network of established microfinance groups. More
Zimbabwe priest held over Mugabe death prophecy
Harare - Zimbabwe police on Monday detained a pastor who claimed that veteran President Robert Mugabe, who turns 93 next month, would die in October, his lawyer said.
Gift Mtisi said Pastor Patrick Mugadza was arrested at the magistrate’s court in Harare where he was appearing on separate charges of wearing the national flag and charged over the prophecy made last week about Mugabe's demise.
"He was appearing at the court on a different matter when police arrested him during a break and charged him over the prophecy," Mtisi told AFP.
"He was initially charged with undermining the authority of the president and the charge was later changed to insulting people of a certain race or religion." More
Sex, drugs and ancient scrolls: Scientists claim religion has same impact on brain as lovemaking, ecstasy and music
The brains of people who feel God's spirit are stimulated in a similar way to the more earthly desires of enjoying drugs, music, gambling and sex, scientists have revealed. Researchers used MRI scans to look into the brains of Mormons experiencing religious ecstasy.
Scientists from the University of Utah in the U.S. enlisted 19 church-going teenagers to take part in an hour long "exam" with four parts for the study.
The scientists recorded their reactions and studied the parts of the brain stimulated. This included six minutes of rest, six minutes of a video detailing their church's membership statistics, eight minutes of quotations by Mormon and world religious leaders, eight minutes of reading familiar passages from the Book of Mormon, 12 minutes of church-produced video of family and Biblical scenes and another eight minutes of quotations. More
Investigation Into Death of Jehovah’s Witness During Childbirth
On October 12, 2016, 26-year-old Eloise Dupuis entered a hospital in Levis, Quebec, Canada to give birth.
She never came home.
Dupuis began to hemorrhage while in labor and required a blood transfusion, which she allegedly refuse. She then died. According to the CBC, the child survived and is in good health. See this news story for more information.
Dupuis’ death, however, has now prompted an investigation by the coroner’s office, to see if medical mistakes were made and to note if she did indeed refuse a blood transfusion through an informed decision. The news article above states that Dupuis’ aunt and a group of her friends expressed concern that the family of Dupuis may have been the ones to pressure the medical staff into withholding blood, something forbidden among Jehovah’s Witnesses. More
Could ‘Harry Potter’ give rise to a new religion?
Could Harry Potter become a spiritual leader?
A Cambridge podcast treats the boy wizard’s story as holy and reflects on life’s big questions using the seven-book series by J.K. Rowling as a guide.
The online show, “Harry Potter and the Sacred Text,” currently holds the number one spot on iTunes’s religion and spirituality charts, ahead of best-selling author and televangelist Joel Osteen. Launched in May, the 25-minute Potter-cast draws about 100,000 listeners a week. More
Scientologists demand A&E Network pull former disciple Leah Remini’s exposé from air
Leah Remini has reportedly demanded the Church of Scientology pay her US$1.5 million after it lobbied a TV network to get her new show shut down.
A lawyer acting for the Scientologists tried to get the show, which threatens to reveal details about the church, pulled before it airs on cable channel The Arts & Entertainment Network.
The former Kings of Queens star was blacklisted after walking away from Scientology in 2013, criticizing officials’ treatment of their followers. Since then the 46-year-old has gone public with her disdain for the religion and is to reveal details about the church and former members of the religion in her series Scientology and the Aftermath, which debuts on November 29, 2016. More
13-Year-Old Jain Girl Dies After 68 Days of Fasting
For 25 days, Aradhana Samdhariya went to St Francis School in Secunderabad with just a bottle of boiled water. A Class VIII student, it was her breakfast and lunch. Some of her classmates knew she was on fast, but did not know she ate no food at all and was surviving only on those few gulps of water. This fact was known only to her family, relatives and close friends.
After the first week of fasting, she became withdrawn and lost interest in studies. Back at her home in Kot Market, she watched TV, lay around, drank more boiled water for dinner, and went off to sleep. From the 26th day of her fast, Aradhana stopped going to school altogether. More
West Helena pastor charged with rape, sexual grooming of 15-year-old
HELENA-WEST HELENA, Ark. -- Helena-West Helena police have arrested a pastor for allegations involving the rape of a 15-year-old church member.
Pastor Bishop Michael Jenkins is charged with rape and sexual grooming of a minor, police said. Just after 1 p.m., police and FBI agents went to Jenkins' home on South 7th Street.
He works at the Church of the Living God.
"The 15-year-old said that she was actually raped by this local pastor inside of the trailer," said HWHPD Chief Virgil Green. Police say that trailer was parked right in front of the pastor's house. More
Young Priests 'Too Scared' To Perform Exorcisms
Priests in Italy are finding it difficult to encourage young clergy to take up the rite of exorcism, one of the country's top practitioners has warned.
"I told the bishop that I can't find anyone willing to do this," 79-year-old Father Vincenzo Taraborelli told the BBC.
"Many of them are scared. Even priests can be scared. It's a difficult life." Fr Taborelli has been performing exorcisms – the expulsion of evil spirits from a person or place – for almost three decades, and sees up to 30 people a day at his church in Rome.
The Catholic Church downplayed the reality of Satan and demonic forces after the liberalising Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. However, the conservative Pope John Paul II was clear about his belief in the occult and Pope Francis has also reminded Catholics that "Satan is real". More
Utah Jehovah’s Witnesses church forced woman to listen to audio of her rape
A woman is suing a Jehovah's Witnesses church in Weber County after, she says, one of its instructors repeatedly raped her when she was a minor and the organization's leadership forced her to listen to an audio recording of one of the assaults.
The woman filed the lawsuit Wednesday in 2nd District Court, accusing the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses church in Roy — as well as naming the alleged perpetrator, several church leaders and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (the religion's headquarters located in New York) — of knowingly allowing the "unfit" instructor to rise to a position of authority without warning members of his "dangerous propensities" and past sexual transgressions.
No representative of the Roy church, 1950 W. 4400 South, responded to a voicemail from The Salt Lake Tribune requesting comment Thursday. More
How did the Star of David come to be?
From synagogues, clothes, temples, buildings and even flags like the flag of Israel, the six-pointed star has become a symbol of Judaism. Initially, the star, otherwise known as the Star of David or Shield of David, was not uniquely a representation of the Jewish community. This was unlike signs such as the Lion of Judah, the Lulav, and the Shofar and most prominent of all, the Menorah, which is a seven-armed ceremonial candelabrum. So this raises the question, how did this star become the official symbol of the community?
The earliest notable use of the star was decorative purposes according to Alec Mishory, a historian. The star was used to mark ancestry on printed work by Jewish printers in a bid to distinguish themselves from their competition. The hexagram was also used for Kabbalistic purposes from as early as the third century CE on tombstones, tables and other locations and traditional items. More
Man who claimed God punishes gay people with natural disasters sees his own home destroyed by floods
A man who claimed God punishes gay people with natural disasters has seen his own home destroyed by floods.
Tony Perkins - the leader of Family Research Council - might be regretting that statement after becoming another victim of the Louisiana flood crisis.
The disaster has seen several people killed and thousands left homeless. But people are viewing the destruction of his property as a glimmer of good news after what he has previously stated as fact. The group leader had to flee his flooded home in a canoe and now faces six months living in a camper van to mull over those words. More
Churches hope to attract youth with Pokémon GO
The game was released just last week, however, it has already become a huge hit. Virtual Pokémon could be found in subway stations, art galleries, libraries, zoos, parks, and even at several churches. The last few days saw a number of game-hooked people, especially young adults, flocking to the churches, not to take part in any Church service, but to capture and battle their Pokémon.
The game has certainly caught the attention of Church leaders. It has the potential to increase Church attendance. However, as of now, churches looking to draw in youth with the help of the game are not be able to register as a Gym or a PokeStop. What the Church leaders can do is turn their churches into a “charging station” for the players. More
Islamic State Issues Fatwa Against Children with Down Syndrome, Murders 38 Disabled Infants
The Islamic State has reportedly issued a fatwa ordering the elimination of children with Down syndrome and other congenital disabilities, reminiscent of Hitler’s infamous “Aktion T4” program, which administered forced “euthanasia” on an estimated 300,000 disabled persons.
According to the Iraqi activist blog Mosul Eye, sharia judges have ruled that ISIS followers are authorized to kill infants with Down Syndrome or congenital deformities. Already since the religious decree (fatwa) was issued, militants have killed at least 38 children between one week and three months old by lethal injection or suffocation. More
Inside the world of Mormon porn
Sister Rose opens the front door of her home. In the doorway stands a handsome young man in a white button-down shirt and paisley tie, with a more-than-suggestive look on his face.
After she invites him in, he sits down on her bed.
“So I hear you like elders,” he says to the older, married woman.
“Where did you hear that from?” she asks (knowing exactly where).
“My companion was feeling really guilty and told me all about it. You both could get in a lot of trouble for this—unless you let me in on the action,” he warns. Sister Rose barely hesitates before, well, letting him in on the action. She seductively peels off her patterned dress, but something is amiss. She’s wearing what appears to be pajamas under her dress—a white tee and fitted shorts. She then removes his clothes, and the young man is wearing the same tee and shorts set. More
Pro-Trump pastor whitewashes history of pastors during Jim Crow—including the history of his church
Pastor Robert Jeffress is senior past of First Baptist Dallas and the most visible evangelical pastor to back Donald Trump’s candidacy. Jeffress, a relative newcomer to politics, explains his activism as part of his God-given responsibility as a pastor and a Christian.
“When you look at American history, whenever there was a need for a great change, it was pastors who led the way,” Jeffress said in a video message. Jeffrees said pastors were the leaders during the American revolution and the fight for the abolition of slavery.
“And it was pastors who were at the forefront of the civil rights movement. What if pastors back then had said, ‘I’m not getting involved’? We would not have a country today,” Jeffress said. More
Bill Nye visits Noah’s Ark theme park
Bill Nye, known from his 1990s TV show as “The Science Guy,” toured the new Ark Encounter theme park in Kentucky with the head of the Christian apologetics ministry behind it.
And it was “like the debate all over again but more intense at times,” according to a blog post by Ken Ham, president and CEO of Answers in Genesis. Ham also posted on social media about Nye’s visit, which occurred on Friday (July 8).
“Bill challenged me about the content of many of our exhibits, and I challenged him about what he claimed and what he believed,” Ham said on Facebook. “It was a clash of world views.”
“I chose to visit the Ark Encounter to see for myself the extent of its influence on young people,” Nye said Monday in a written statement. More
Turkey Pursues Cleric Living in U.S., Blamed as Coup Mastermind
ISTANBUL — Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, says that a mild-mannered Muslim cleric living in self-imposed exile in rural Pennsylvania was pulling the strings of a coup attempt last week that almost succeeded in taking over the state, and killing Mr. Erdogan himself.
Now, Mr. Erdogan says that many thousands of Turkish citizens — soldiers, policemen, bureaucrats, teachers, judges, lawyers and many more professions — are all part of the cleric’s movement and must be punished. Tens of thousands of people have already been arrested or suspended from their jobs in the four days since the coup failed, after a night of violence that plunged the country into chaos.
Mr. Erdogan and the cleric, Fethullah Gulen, have been adversaries in recent years, and Turkey has said before that Mr. Gulen must be extradited by the United States. Now, though, Mr. Erdogan appears determined to get him back, a matter that threatens to aggravate relations between the two NATO allies.
But who is Mr. Gulen? And is it possible he is behind such a vast conspiracy? More
Western Wall Prayer Protest Turns Violent
The Western Wall in Jerusalem is the holiest of Jewish sites. It is sacred because it is the remnant of the remaining wall that once supported and enclosed the Second Jewish Temple by Herod the Great. The public plaza located at the Western Wall, last Thursday, June 16, saw the Haredi Jews, also known as ultra-Orthodox Jews, disrupting a government-sanctioned mixed-gender prayer service held by the Reform and Conservative Jews.
The Reform and Conservative Jewish worshippers were shoved, pushed, and spat upon by the Haredi Jews. A few of the Haredi Jews, in order to avoid looking at the women worshippers while pushing them, covered their faces with their hats. There were a dozen uniformed policemen present at the scene. However, they did not intervene, they just looked on. The Reform and Conservative Jews refrained from responding to the abuse. More
Church and state group takes aim at Hondo's 'God's Country' signs
HONDO, Texas - Twin signs praising Hondo as "God's Country" are catching hell from a group that advocates for the separation of church and state. But the city's mayor and local residents have no desire to remove the signs.
The two iconic signs on Highway 90 greet drivers with the message "This Is God's Country - Please Don't Drive Through It Like Hell."
Acting on complaints from two unidentified Texans, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent Hondo Mayor James Danner a letter last week asking that the city of Hondo remove the signs from public property. Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor wrote the "This Is God's Country" message violates the First Amendment's clause against the establishment of a religion. More
Jehovah's Witness video under fire for homophobic message
A new Jehovah’s Witness video is drawing fire online for teaching children to be homophobic.
The animated video titled ‘Lesson 22: One Man, One Woman‘ continues an ongoing series by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, featuring a young girl learning the ways of Jehovah through her mother. In this video, the little girl asks her mother about a school friend who has “two mommies.”
“My teacher says that all that matters is that people love each other and that they’re happy,” the little girl says.
To which the mother replies “Well people have their own ideas about what is right and wrong. But what matters is how Jehovah feels. He wants us to be happy and he knows how we can be happiest. That’s why he invented marriage the way he did.” More
Lady Gaga to join Dalai Lama in Indy this weekend
Lady Gaga will join the Dalai Lama in Indianapolis on Sunday at the U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting. The pop icon is just the latest national figure to confirm a visit to the Circle City this weekend, joining former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and pop star Justin Bieber, who is in town for a Saturday concert.
The 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet is slated to give the conference's keynote address urging local action to build kind and compassionate cities. The address starts at 10:30 a.m. Sunday at the J.W. Marriott Grand Ballroom. Afterward, Lady Gaga will join him for an onstage conversation, moderated by journalist Ann Curry. The panel also will be joined by businessman and philanthropist Philip Anschutz. More
"Is the Pope Catholic?" suddenly a serious question
It’s always been the jokey answer to a dumb question, but it’s now a serious issue for Catholic intellectuals who have been criticizing, and defending, the Catholic bona fides of Pope Francis, especially since the pontiff released a landmark document on family life earlier this month that some say calls into question the church’s teachings on the permanence of marriage.
“A catastrophe,” one traditionalist blogger called the apostolic exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia,” or “The Joy of Love,” which was released by the Vatican on April 8. Francis “departs from Church teaching” in the exhortation, wrote another.
“Suddenly the rhetorical question, ‘Is the pope Catholic?’ doesn’t seem so rhetorical anymore,” Claire Chretien wrote in a pointed critique at the conservative Web outlet The Federalist. More
‘The prophet will never lead the LDS Church astray,’ and other Mormon heresies
“The prophet will never lead the Church astray.” How many times do we hear that comforting statement in Mormon circles?
Some Mormons use it to comfort themselves when the Church has done something that just doesn’t feel right, whether it’s prohibiting the baptism of children of same-sex couples or denying the priesthood to blacks: “This must be God’s will despite what my conscience is telling me, because the prophet will never lead the Church astray.”
Others use it to bludgeon people who can’t fall in line behind whatever policy the Church has supported: “You must be apostate, because the prophet has spoken, and we have been taught that the prophet will never lead the Church astray. So either get with the program or get out.”
The problem with this understanding of prophets is that it contradicts one of the bedrock doctrines of Mormonism: agency. More
Could religion help you live longer?
Women who frequently attend religious services have a lower risk of death from all causes, including heart disease and cancer, than those who do not, new research suggests.
The study, published online by JAMA Internal Medicine, does not prove a cause and effect relationship, but the researchers say the association appears to be strong.
"The results suggest that there is perhaps something about the communal religious experience that is very powerful," study author Tyler J. VanderWeele, Ph.D., of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public, told CBS News.
For the analysis, VanderWeele and colleagues pulled data from a long-running national health study of female nurses to examine attendance at religious services and subsequent death in women. More
Prince's Life as a Jehovah's Witness: His Complicated and Ever-Evolving Faith
Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman were childhood friends, lovers and founding members of Prince's Revolution band. If Prince had a musical family, they were it. So when the pair tried to put together a Revolution tour in 2000, they were hopeful, they told Minneapolis' Star Tribune in 2004, that their former bandleader would say yes. He didn't.
"He declined because of my homosexuality and the fact I'm half-Jewish," said Melvoin. She was told he wanted her to give a press conference denouncing her homosexuality and announcing that she was converting to Jehovah. "I was like: I guess we'll never hear from him again."
But just six years later, she stood beside Prince onstage in London, playing for millions of viewers at an awards show. In matching white suits, Melvoin and Prince hammered shoulder to shoulder on their guitars, him lustily singing "Purple Rain." Coleman was on piano. The early acceptance of the gay couple -- and then the rejection and acceptance all over again -- is an example of the puzzling contradiction that Prince acted out in his attitudes toward sexuality and religion. More
Who Was Mary Magdalene?
The whole history of western civilization is epitomized in the cult of Mary Magdalene. For many centuries the most obsessively revered of saints, this woman became the embodiment of Christian devotion, which was defined as repentance.
Yet she was only elusively identified in Scripture, and has thus served as a scrim onto which a succession of fantasies has been projected. In one age after another her image was reinvented, from prostitute to sibyl to mystic to celibate nun to passive helpmeet to feminist icon to the matriarch of divinity’s secret dynasty.
How the past is remembered, how sexual desire is domesticated, how men and women negotiate their separate impulses; how power inevitably seeks sanctification, how tradition becomes authoritative, how revolutions are co-opted; how fallibility is reckoned with, and how sweet devotion can be made to serve violent domination—all these cultural questions helped shape the story of the woman who befriended Jesus of Nazareth. More
The Church Collection Plate Goes Digital
Dylan Ciamacco, 25, first went to the Los Angeles outpost of international megachurch C3 as a teen. His mom thought a lot of the young people there—in skinny jeans, chunky sweaters, and leather jackets—dressed like him. He’d emerged recently from a “sick” (as in awesome) atheist phase, he says, mocking himself, and was looking to go back to church.
A typical service, Ciamacco says, opens with a band that would fit in at the Coachella festival, were it not for the Jesus lyrics: “What a savior, my Redeemer/Friend of sinners, one like me.” (In one podcast, a pastor, sermonizing about society’s obsession with markers of achievement, uses an Internet-approved term of endearment to channel his audience, asking, “When am I going to get my own bae?”) At the end, a member of the “worship team” will call on parishioners to tithe and pass the collection plate. But not all people reach into their wallet. Many take out their phone instead. More
Is the end of days looming for fundamentalist sect in Utah?
The new federal courthouse in downtown Salt Lake City is a massive, futuristic cube of metal and glass that looks imposing, austere and, above all, impregnable. Armed guards patrol the exterior 24 hours a day.
But if a certain group of polygamous religious extremists in a lonely corner of southern Utah are to be believed, this Wednesday the walls will split open and fall when one of their leaders, Lyle Jeffs, appears before the judge in a major fraud case, according to former followers of his sect.
Simultaneously, an earthquake will apparently cause the walls of a prison in Texas to crumble and Lyle’s brother, Warren Jeffs, the group’s “prophet” and supreme leader, will also walk free – despite the fact he has been serving a sentence of life plus 20 years in that state since 2011, convicted of having sex with underage girls as young as 12 that he took as polygamous wives. More
Dead for 48 minutes, Catholic Priest claims God is female
A Catholic priest from Massachussetts was officially dead for more than 48 minutes before medics were able to miraculously re-start his heart has revealed a shocking revelation that will change everything you once believed.
The 71-year-old cleric Father John Micheal O’neal claims he went to heaven and met God, which he describes as a warm and comforting motherly figure. Father John Micheal O’neal was rushed to the hospital on January 29 after a major heart attack, but was declared clinically dead soon after his arrival.
With the aid of a high-tech machine called LUCAS 2, that kept the blood flowing to his brain, doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital managed to unblock vital arteries and return his heart to a normal rhythm.
The doctors were afraid he would have suffered some brain damage from the incident, but he woke up less than 48 minutes later and seems to have perfectly recovered. More