It is the mission of this website to provide factual information and editorial comments on the subject of religion. Comments by the moderator will be clearly distinguished by text color from factual information throughout the site. If you find any facts or comments disturbing or irreverent, that’s good. If you find them thought-provoking, that’s even better. If they cause discussion and debate, that’s ideal.
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August 22, 2019
A 32-year-old teacher is accused of sexually assaulting a student in north suburban Skokie.
Mohammedimran A. Mulla is charged with predatory sexual assault of a child, attempted predatory sexual assault of a child and aggravated criminal sexual abuse, according to the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.
On July 5, Skokie police were alerted to an alleged sexual assault of an 11-year-old student, the state’s attorney’s office said. Mulla, a teacher at Noor Learning Center, was arrested the next day.
He was ordered held without bail and is scheduled to appear in court July 30.
August 22, 2019
(RNS) — A Texas judge has ordered a Muslim cleric to pay $2.55 million to a Muslim woman who says he groomed her for sex after counseling her for years when she was in her teens.
The woman, identified only as Jane Doe, filed a lawsuit in July 2018 against Imam Zia Ul-Haq Sheikh, claiming he had coerced her into sex with him at a local motel after years of exploitation, including sexting and lurid video chat requests.
“We are thrilled at this outcome for Jane Doe,” said Amy Jones, head of the Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center, who served as an expert witness for the plaintiff. “I hope that survivors everywhere will take this as confirmation that times are changing. This is a new world in which survivors have the hope of being believed and perpetrators will be held accountable.”
The judgment, a victory for advocates in the emerging Muslim #MeToo movement, covers mental anguish, punitive damages and the accuser’s legal fees.
Sheikh was hired in 2005 as head imam of the Islamic Center of Irving, one of the region’s biggest mosques, where he remained until his forced resignation in 2017. It was there that he met Jane Doe and began counseling sessions with the then-13-year-old at her family’s request in 2010, the lawsuit states. Sheikh quickly became a confidant and father figure, even offering to co-sign a loan for her car.
When the woman was 18, Sheikh offered himself as a potential spouse even though he already had two wives at the time, according to the lawsuit. The complaint alleges that Sheikh had no intention of marrying her and instead began a yearlong process of “grooming Jane to become more sexualized and to ultimately engage in illicit sexual acts with him.”
Soon after engaging in sexual intercourse in a motel in 2016, Sheikh allegedly cut off contact with Doe.
Sheikh told The Dallas Morning News that he was considering appealing the ruling, saying the judgment was “in error.”
“Unfortunately, litigation in this country does not always favor the truth,” he said. “In most cases, it boils down to how much financial stamina one has, and whether one has good legal representation.”
The lawsuit followed a yearlong investigation by Facing Abuse in Community Environments, an Irving nonprofit created by Muslim women activists and lawyers to ensure that victims’ rights are respected and Muslim institutions face accountability.
“We are overwhelmed with gratitude for this outcome,” said Alia Salem, executive director of FACE and a trial witness for the plaintiff, in a statement. “We are here because Jane had the faith and courage, despite the risks to herself and her family, to persevere and see this trial through. I pray that this victory sends a message to victims and survivors that they are not alone, but also lets abusers everywhere know that we will not be quiet any longer.”
An extensive report by FACE, published last year, outlined Sheikh’s history of polygamous relationships and alleged spiritual abuse of female congregants at several mosques across the country, from Texas to Tampa, Fla. Investigations by both FACE and BuzzFeed News confirmed that he had been forced to resign from a Richmond, Va., mosque more than 20 years ago after he had secretly married a second wife, a young woman convert he had been teaching.
After Sheikh left the Islamic Center of Irving, the mosque sent a letter to 2,000 institutions informing them of Sheikh’s alleged misconduct. Still, Sheikh was hired on at the Grand Prairie Islamic Society, just 9 miles from his previous place of employment.
Sheikh has since left the Grand Prairie mosque, too, according to media reports.
A prominent imam that local media once referred to as “a hero to the Muslim community,” Sheikh has led mosques in the U.S. since 1996 and was a founding board member of the North Texas Islamic Council, a coalition of Muslim organizations in the area.
He has authored several books, including one called “Addressing the Taboos: Love, Marriage and Sex in Islam.” He was also an instructor of Arabic morphology at Irving’s Bayyinah Academy, a well-respected institute of Quranic studies led by preacher Nouman Ali Khan.
According to FACE’s investigation, it was Khan, then president of the Islamic Society of Irving’s board, who first heard Jane Doe’s allegations of abuse against Sheikh.
Khan himself has been accused of spiritually abusing and manipulating several of his followers into secret sham marriages.
Khan advised the woman “to seek mental health services and also discouraged her from sharing what she experienced because it would harm Sheikh’s reputation as a respected religious leader and family man,” FACE’s investigation alleges.
Since other members of the board ousted Sheikh, the Islamic Society of Irving has also faced other sexual abuse scandals.
In May, a security guard at the mosque was arrested after being accused of molesting a third-grader in an empty classroom at the mosque’s Islamic school.
Last year, days after the lawsuit against Sheikh drew national attention, the mosque filed a police report asking for “guidance from law enforcement” in incidents involving a man kissing two minors at the mosque. In a public statement, mosque leadership identified the man as an elderly relative of a mosque member who was briefly visiting from overseas who left the U.S. shortly after being identified to mosque leaders.
The same day that the mosque’s board filed the report, the mosque’s Imam Nick Pelletier delivered an impassioned Friday sermon that has since gone viral, titled “Speaking Against Evil,” slamming the mosque’s board for attempting to investigate the allegations themselves and failing to report the accusations to police earlier.
“You want to go down the route of the Catholic Church?” Pelletier asked listeners. “Turn a blind eye, ‘Oh, we didn’t hear about it,’ even though it’s been reported more than once? … Somebody’s inappropriately touching people in the masjid (mosque) – true or not true, somebody’s got to report it. End of conversation.”
August 22, 2019
(JTA) — A rabbi accused of sending sexually inappropriate text and voice messages to a woman living on a Tacoma-area military base is resigning his position.
“I write to notify you that I am resigning my position as Rabbi of Chabad of Pierce County effective Sunday, August 11, 2019,” Rabbi Zalman Heber said in a statement provided to the Tacoma News Tribune by his attorney.
It is not clear if he will continue as director of the organization.
Last summer, Traci Moran, whose husband Jared is a soldier at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington, alleged that Heber had been sending her sexually inappropriate text and voice messages for close to a month despite her objections. Heber “completely denies” Moran’s allegations of sexual harassment, his attorney told JTA last month.
Heber’s resignation comes after The News Tribune on Friday published a report about a second woman who had come forward. Chabad member Kim Shomer described to the newspaper a similar pattern of harassment and an attempt of unwanted physical contact. Shomer said she and her husband, who is not Jewish, first met Heber at their youngest son’s circumcision in 2007, and began weekly Kabbalah study sessions with Heber in March 2015.
Shomer, 50, and her husband, Spencer Freeman, 49, formally split from the Chabad Jewish center in December when they learned of Heber’s treatment of Moran. Shomer and Moran have met, and Shomer and her husband went to court hearings to support Moran.
The couple told the newspaper that they would not rule out legal action against Heber and Chabad.
August 22, 2019
Costa Rican Catholic priest Mauricio Víquez Lizano, on the run since January of this year, was arrested this Sunday at dawn in San Nicolás de Los Garza, Monterrey, in the Mexican state of Nuevo León.
The priest, 55, was wanted in 194 countries since he fled Costa Rica for alleged sexual abuse, qualified rape and aggravated corruption against minors.
The Attorney General of Mexico confirmed the detention.
Michael Rodríguez and Anthony Venegas, who denounced Víquez Lizano for alleged sexual abuse, traveled to Mexico City in early August to ask the people of that country to notify the authorities if they knew his whereabouts.
“He was arrested in the early hours of the morning, it was confirmed by the boys who I represent, who were invited to Mexico and carried an urgent message that he (the priest) detained,” said Rodolfo Alvarado, the lawyer for two of the men.
Costa Rica has begun its request extradition.
Lawyer Alvarado believes the former Catholic priest, who has been a fugitive from Costa Rican justice since Monday, January 7, when a complaint was filed against him for alleged sexual abuse against a minor, could be back in Costa Rica as early as September 15.
Pennsylvania priest stole nearly $100,000 in church donations to pay men he met on Grindr for sex acts
August 22, 2019
- Rev Joseph McLoone, of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Downingtown, allegedly funneled donations made by parishioners to fund his habit for six years
- On Wednesday, investigators revealed that he opened a secret TD Bank account in 2011 and deposited $98,405 until he was finally investigated in 2018
- The priest allegedly withdrew roughly $46,000 in cash some of which he spent paying men for sex – including $1,200 to an inmate in a correctional facility
- He admitted using some of the funds for ‘personal relationships’ with other men
A crooked priest stole nearly $100,000 in church donations to pay men he met on Grindr to perform sex acts on him, prosecutors have alleged.
Reverend Joseph McLoone, of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Downingtown, allegedly funneled donations made by parishioners to fund his sleazy habit for at least six years.
On Wednesday, investigators revealed he opened a secret TD Bank checking account in 2011 and deposited $98,405, which he then used to pay for his illicit activities as well as to pay off his credit card debts.
The disgraced priest allegedly withdrew roughly $46,000 in cash from the undisclosed account in Ocean City, New Jersey, where he owns a beach house.
He admitted using some of the funds for ‘personal relationships’ with men, including $1,200 to an inmate in a New York correctional facility, court files states.
McLoone told investigators that Miller lived in New York City and that he met the inmate via Grindr for a sexual relationship, the complaint shows.
August 20, 2019
Whether it’s this guy
or this guy, it’s all the same shuck and jive.
Isn’t religion wonderful?
A 55-year-old woman was murdered by witch doctors during the process of exorcism in Sapahi village under Ramana police station, around 35 kilometres away from the district headquarter, on Saturday night.
The deceased has been identified as Rudani Devi, a native of Kon Mandra village under Ramana police station.
Son of the deceased, Bikesh Oraon lodged an FIR against exorcist Alama Devi and her son Sakendra Oraon.
Binesh mentioned in the FIR that on August 15, his mother was taken to a witch doctor at Sapahi village by his two brothers Dhanesh Oraon and Dinesh Oraon and their wives Vinita and Guddi and his own wife for exorcism.
He informed that on Saturday night during the exorcism, the witch doctor took his mother to a separate room and stabbed her with a trident. Ramana thana in-charge Gosnar Dhan confirmed the information and said, “Police has taken both the accused into custody and are interrogating them.”
Dhan informed that on the complaint of son Bikesh Oraon police registered FIR against Alama Devi and her son Sakendra Oraon under sections of 302 and 34 IPC and section 3 and 4 of The Prevention of Witch (DAAIN) Practices Act, 2001.
August 18, 2019
OMAHA — Authorities in Minnesota have arrested an Iowa pastor on charges that he sexually assaulted two girls at a home in Omaha.
Police in Carlton County, Minnesota, arrested 44-year-old Emanuel J. Rodriguez on Saturday morning on a Douglas County arrest warrant that charged him with two counts of third-degree sexual assault of a child. The website for the Calvary Assembly of God Church in Council Bluffs, Iowa, lists Rodriguez as a pastor.
An affidavit filed Friday accused Rodriguez of fondling two girls between Jan. 1, 2017, and May 17, 2019, inside two homes in Omaha previously owned by Rodriguez. The girls are now ages 12 and 11.
It’s unclear when Rodriguez will be returned to Omaha.
Priest who starred in ‘The Exorcist’ is accused of repeatedly raping one of his students in New York during the 1980s
August 15, 2019
He raped children. That’s how we knew he was really a priest, said the producer of The Exorcist.
- A priest who starred in the 1973 horror ‘The Exorcist’ is accused of sexually abusing one of his students at a school where he taught in New York
- Father William O’Malley taught at McQuaid Jesuit High School for 20 years
- He is accused of sexually abusing one of his students there during the 1980s
- The complaint came to light after The Child Victim’s Act came into effect in New York allowing victims of child sex abuse to bring their cases to court
A real-life priest who starred in ‘The Exorcist’ is accused of sexually abusing one of his students at a school where he taught in New York.
Father William J. O’Malley was a teacher at McQuaid Jesuit High School both before and after he starred as Father Joseph Dyer in the 1973 horror classic.
Father O’Malley joined the McQuaid faculty in 1965 and left the school in the mid-1980s, becoming well-known within the community.
He is now 87 and lives in in the Jesuit community at Fordham University in the Bronx.
O’Malley also wrote more than three dozen books and was a vocal representative Jesuit order and Catholic faith.
A lawsuit seen by the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle states that O’Malley is accused of sexually abusing a 17-year-old McQuaid student ‘multiple times’ in 1985 and 1986.
Some acts of abuse allegedly happened at the school, in a classroom or in hallways. Some occurred at school-sponsored activities, according to the lawsuit.
According to the complaint, the abuse caused the alleged male victim to suffer ‘severe emotional and psychological distress, humiliation, fright, dissociation, anger, depression, anxiety, family turmoil and loss of faith.’
August 15, 2019
A former pastor of a fundamentalist Baptist Church in Maryland is facing sexual assault charges related to a minor child. Baltimore police say that Giovanelli assaulted a former student for eight months in 2007.
According to a report by WJZ in Baltimore, police began investigating Giovanelli after the victim reported the assault to police on May 2018. The victim, Sarah Jackson, agreed to share her story with the media.
According to Sarah Jackson, Giovanelli began abusing her in January 2007. Initially, the pastor sent her text messages that were suggestive. Then the abuse progressed to unsolicited kissing and touching that occurred daily at school or in church offices.
Cameron Giovanelli worked as a pastor Calvary Baptist Church in Dundalk from 2003-2014. The church is part of the fundamental independent Baptist church which holds, but does not adhere to, strict Biblical beliefs about sex, marriage, homosexuality, and gender roles.
Jackson told police that the abuse occurred between January – August 2007. She shared her story online through blogs, podcasts, and YouTube videos. After she reported the abuse to police, they opened an investigation into the allegations surrounding Giovanelli.
Not only did the police investigate the claims, but the church reached out to Jackson to talk with her. Church pastor Stacey Shiflett said that Jackson’s story was credible because of the detail she provided in her account of the abuse. Additionally, he and the staff were able to corroborate many of the statements made by Jackson
After Jackson publically accused Giovanelli of rape, the former pastor wrote a 2,400-word essay where he denied the allegations. Additionally, Giovanelli called Jackson a liar and said he would no longer tolerate her dragging his name through the mud.
Following a 15-month investigation, police issued an arrest warrant for Giovanelli last week. He is charged with sexual abuse of a minor, perverted practice, and fourth-degree sexual offense stemming from the illegal sexual contact he had with a student. Baltimore police believe Giovanelli likely assaulted other children from the church.
Sarah Jackson shared her happiness on Twitter when she learned of the pastor’s arrest. She wrote, “15 months. 455 days. I have cried, and I have prayed.” Jackson continued, “I have watched my character, integrity and my family be shredded for speaking up. Today, God’s timing was revealed. Today, Cameron Giovanelli was arrested for sexually abusing me in high school.”
After authorities issue the arrest warrant, Giovanelli turned himself into police last week. Police booked him, and at his bail hearing, the judge released him on his recognizance. The former pastor cannot have any contact with the victim as a condition of his release.
If convicted on all charges, Giovanelli faces up to 36-years in prison.
IFB is one of the most toxic cults in the United States. These churches promote an insular and secretive society that distrusts outsiders. Within the church, men have complete control over their families.
Additionally, women must submit and obey their husbands. With an imbalance of power in the church, the culture becomes ripe with abuse by the men toward women and children. Due to church members distrusting outsiders, members rarely report sexual assault or domestic violence to authorities.
Sarah Jackson refused to remain silent. Due to Jackson’s courage in reporting him to police, Giovanelli will face his day in court. No church or organization should hide the sexual abuse of children from authorities.
The IFB proves again that underneath their holier than tho appearance many of the pastors use their position of power to prey on their congregations.
August 15, 2019
HUGO, Okla. (KXII) – A current Hugo youth pastor and former teacher and coach has been arrested accused of having sex with teen girls while he was previously employed as a teacher in McCurtain County and a youth pastor in LeFlore County.
Investigators with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation say they were asked to investigate when allegations surfaced that Justin White, 34, had sex with a female student several times during the 2013-14 school year when he was employed as the baseball coach at Smithville Public Schools in McCurtain County.
During the investigation, agents spoke with another girl who was a member of the Spiro Baptist Church when White was youth pastor there. The girl, who was underage at the time, said White would take her upstairs at the church to be alone. When alone, White would inappropriately touch and kiss the girl, who agents said was a teenager.
White was arrested on charges of second degree rape in McCurtain County and lewd molestation in LeFlore County at the Clayton Avenue Baptist Church in Hugo and is currently in the Choctaw County jail awaiting transport to McCurtain County and then to LeFlore County.
Hundreds Of New York Priests Plead For Sanctuary At St. Patrick’s Cathedral After Sex Abuse Statute Of Limitations Lifted
August 15, 2019
Our thanks to theonion.com for this news.alert
August 13, 2019
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs the Child Victims Act in New York on Feb. 14.
Thanks to the Child Victims Act, survivors of decades-old abuse cases in New York can now have their day in court.
Years after child abuse survivors in New York started demanding changes to the state’s statutes of limitations, victims are finally getting a chance to have their cases heard in court.
Hundreds of survivors are planning to file lawsuits on Wednesday against their alleged abusers and the institutions they claim covered up sex crimes as the state opens a one-year litigation window for cases that fell outside the previous statutes of limitations.
Michael Pfau, an attorney at Seattle-based Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala, told HuffPost that his law firm is filing more than 100 suits Wednesday under the temporary window for instances of child sexual abuse that allegedly occurred between the late 1940s and the early 2000s. About 75 of these cases are against Roman Catholic dioceses across New York, Pfau said. The rest target the Boy Scouts of America and Rockefeller University ― two institutions that have been plagued with allegations that they failed to stop child sexual abuse.
The attorney predicted that Wednesday will be “very emotional” for survivors.
“After feeling like they have no voice in New York state, victims now feel like they have a powerful voice,” Pfau said.
New York once had one of the nation’s most restrictive statutes of limitations on child molestation cases. Survivors in the state had only until age 23 to file civil lawsuits. However, studies suggest it takes much longer for child sexual abuse survivors to realize they were victims of a crime. The average age that victims disclose their abuse is 52. By that time, it was too late for many victims in New York to take legal action.
That changed in February with the passage of the Child Victims Act, which gave victims more time to seek criminal charges or file lawsuits against their abusers. Victims in New York now have until the age of 55 to file civil claims.
The temporary litigation window scheduled to open this week was a key part of the Child Victims Act ― and one of the reasons why the measure was blocked for years by Republican lawmakers and fiercely criticized by religious groups, such as the Roman Catholic Church.
Catholic leaders argued that the look-back window could financially cripple the church’s charities, parishes and schools. The church spent close to $3 million from 2011 to 2018 lobbying against statute of limitations reform in New York, according to a study conducted by four law firms that represent survivors of clerical abuse.
The state’s bishops dropped their opposition to the Child Victims Act in January, after Democrats took control of the state Legislature and the bill’s sponsors adopted language that made it clear the act applied equally to public and private institutions.
“We don’t know exactly what to expect when the window opens,” Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the New York archdiocese, told The Associated Press. “We certainly anticipate that there will be lawsuits filed against the archdiocese, as there will be against many other institutions and public entities as well.”