Christianity in General

Church warden given life sentence for murdering university lecturer

October 18, 2019

Peter Farqhuar and Benjamin Field at their bethrothal ceremony. (PA)

A church warden who murdered a retired lecturer by spiking his food and drinks with poison has been jailed for life.

Benjamin Field, 28, was found guilty last year of killing Peter Farquhar, 69, from Maids Moreton, Buckinghamshire in a sadistic plot to inherit his house and money.

Field was sentenced life imprisonment with a minimum term of 36 years at Oxford Crown Court on Friday by Mr Justice Sweeney.

Prosecutors described Field as a psychopath who posed an “ongoing danger to society” until he was eventually caught.

He admitted to frequently giving Mr Farquhar drugs and spiking his whisky in the hopes that his death would look like an accident.

After Field began targeting Mr Farquhar’s neighbour Ann Moore-Martin, 83, in a similar scheme by writing messages on her mirrors purporting to be from God.

Field admitted starting sexual relationships with both pensioners in an effort to get them to change their wills and accepted he had “psychologically manipulated” them.

He initially denied any involvement in Mr Farquhar’s death in 2015 and Miss Moore-Martin’s death from natural causes in May 2017.

Field denied murdering Mr Farquhar and said he could have died from taking his usual dose of flurazepam and drinking whisky but was convicted by the jury.

The Baptist minister’s son pleaded guilty to defrauding Miss Moore-Martin of £4,000 to buy a car and £27,000 for a dialysis machine.

Field had undergone a “betrothal” ceremony with gay Mr Farquhar while also having a string of girlfriends, and was in a sexual relationship with Miss Moore-Martin, who was 57 years his senior.

Prosecutors said Field had a “profound fascination in controlling and manipulating and humiliating and killing” and alleged he had plotted his crimes with his friend, failed magician Martyn Smith, 32.

He had also drawn up a “100 clients” list, including his parents, grandparents and brother, which the prosecution said were future targets.

American Christians See A Rapid Decline In Numbers Over Past Decade

October 12, 2019

They’re still the majority, but the Pew Research Center report shows the U.S. is becoming a less explicitly Christian country.

Christians continue to be a swiftly dwindling demographic within America’s religious landscape, a new study from the Pew Research Center shows.

About two-thirds of U.S. adults (65%) identify as Christian, a share that has plummeted by 12 percentage points over the last decade, according to Pew’s analysis of aggregated telephone surveys. On the other hand, the religiously unaffiliated now constitute over a quarter of the adult population (26%), up from 17% in 2009.

Pew’s report on the state of American religion, published Thursday, confirms trends that researchers have been observing about the country’s shifting faith landscape and the growing number of religious “nones” ― folks who identify as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular.”

Atheists now make up 4% of American adults and agnostics make up 5%, compared to 2% and 3% respectively in 2009, Pew reports. About 17% of Americans say they are “nothing in particular,” up from 12% in 2009.

The “nones” are growing across multiple demographic groups and in all regions of the country, the researchers say. More white, Hispanic and Black Americans, more men and women, more college grads and those without college degrees are now religiously unaffiliated.

The number of “nones” is even inching up among Republicans, although the group is growing at a faster pace among Democrats. One-third of Democrats now identify as religiously unaffiliated.

Protestants no longer make up a solid majority of the U.S. About 43% of American adults currently say they are Protestant, compared to 51% in 2009. White Protestants who describe themselves as evangelical or “born again” ― a group that has considerable access to power under President Donald Trump’s administration ― are now 16% of the adult population, down from 19% a decade ago.

But among white Protestants, it doesn’t appear that the labels “evangelical” or “born again” have become less popular. The percentage of white Protestants who describe themselves in these terms is at least as high as it was a decade ago, Pew reports.

About 20% of American adults identify as Catholic, compared to 23% in 2009. Notably, Hispanic Americans are no longer a majority Catholic population. Only 47% of this group consider themselves part of the Catholic Church, compared to 57% in 2009.

Politicians in both main political parties still see a benefit in presenting themselves as a Christian, said Stephen Prothero, a religious studies professor at Boston University. But if the current trends toward disaffiliation continue, he said, “there will likely be less of a prize to be won here.”

Looking to the future, Prothero said, “You might lose as much as you gain by appearing to be a ‘Christian candidate.’”

About 17% of American adults say they “never” go to church or other religious services, compared to 11% in 2009.

About 17% of American adults say they “never” go to church or other religious services, compared to 11% in 2009.
The frequency at which American adults say they attend religious services continues to decline. They are now more likely (54%) to say they attend services only a few times a year or less. There has been a notable uptick in the percentage who say they “never” attend worship services (17% today vs. 11% in 2009). And a significant majority of white Democrats (70%) now say they attend services only a few times a year or less.

On the other hand, those who identify as Christian appear to attend worship services at about the same rate today as they did a decade ago.

“The nation’s overall rate of religious attendance is declining not because Christians are attending church less often, but rather because there are now fewer Christians as a share of the population,” Pew wrote.

Prothero thinks that people like President Ronald Reagan and Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell helped spur this demographic decline in American Christianity by their efforts in the 1980s. Falwell’s activism back then helped cement white evangelicals’ ties to the Republican Party and expand the political influence of the religious right.

“In their attempt to ‘christianize’ American culture, they ended up dechristianizing it ― by turning a whole generation of Americans (and perhaps more to come) away from Christianity,” Prothero said.

Pew reports that today only about half of millennials (49%) identify as Christian, while 4 in 10 are religious “nones.”

Many of Prothero’s students at Boston University now equate Christianity not only with conservative Republicans but also with anti-immigration and anti-LGBTQ bigotry, the professor said.

“They will not be easily won back,” he said of his students.

Pew’s analysis is based on aggregated data from 88 telephone surveys with 168,890 U.S. adults on various political issues between 2009 and 2019. The research organization also conducted two large-scale surveys of the U.S. religious landscape in 2007 and 2014, each with more than 35,000 respondents who answered detailed questions about their religious beliefs and practices.

Ex-Abilene pastor, Christian musician Jeff Berry arrested on child sex crime

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October 9, 2019

ABILENE, Texas — Jeff Berry — best known in Abilene as the worship leader in the late 90’s at Grace Bible Study, a non-denominational bible-study for college students — was arrested on a child sex crime.

Berry — who now lives in Franklin, Tennessee — was arrested around 4:30 p.m. by the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office on a sealed indictment out of Taylor County.

He’s charged with being a fugitive from justice.

Berry’s bond was set at $10 million.

He’s also being detained in the Williamson County Jail (TN) on a hold out of Texas for indecency with a child by contact.

Berry, 55, is accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy in 1996.

At the time, Berry was working at Pioneer Drive Baptist Church and leading worship for various church camps.

Pioneer Drive Baptist Church is also where fugitive ex-day care worker Jeffrey Forrest, 47, who is wanted for aggravated sexual assault of a child, used to be employed.

In a divorce affidavit obtained by KTXS, the young man, who is now 35, said the abuse by Berry started when he was in middle school.

“He turned out all of the lights and had candles instead; he had us both lie on the floor next to each other in the dark to watch a movie,” said the victim.

The allegations include touching and spooning after Berry took the young man’s shirt off.

“It was all very uncomfortable and scary to me, and the next thing I remember, I was in his car and he was taking me home,” the victim said.

The alleged sexual abuse was not reported until October 2018.

“I was ashamed and embarrassed about what had happened,” said the victim.

In the document, the victim said he did not even tell his parents what happened and at times thought it was his fault.

Years later, while counseling another kid who was molested by another suspect, the victim told his aunt what Berry had done to him.

“I blurted out that was me and then my aunt helped me address the issue,” the victim said.

A second victim said Berry abused him in the same setting — a candlelight room with music playing in the background.

At the time of the alleged crime, Berry was hired by First Baptist Church of Abilene to lead worship for a summer camp.

Berry and the second victim — who was in high school — became friends and hung out together.

One night at Berry’s home, Berry started massaging the second victim’s shoulders.

“Berry then took his shirt off and asked me to take off mine or took mine off himself, and then he put me on top of him, kissing, caressing and fondling me,” said the second victim.

The alleged sexual abuse went on for 15-20 minutes.

Berry worked for several churches throughout Texas and later moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where he managed several Christian musicians.

He’s expected to appear in court on Oct. 24 at 1 p.m.

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Faith-based conversion therapy leader McKrae Game comes out as gay

September 4, 2019

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What a shock! Oh, wait. No it’s not.

The founder of one of the nation’s largest conversion therapy programs has announced that he’s gay — and disavowed the “harmful” practice.

McKrae Game, who led the faith-based conversion therapy group Hope for Wholeness in South Carolina for nearly two decades, came out of the closet this summer at 51, The Post and Courier reported Saturday.

“Conversion therapy is not just a lie, but it’s very harmful,” Game told paper. “Because it’s false advertising.”

The revelation came two years after Game was abruptly fired from Hope for Wholeness.

In the interview, the former crusader called for the dissolution of conversion therapy groups.

The widely discredited practice, which is intended to suppress or change a person’s sexuality through counseling or religion, is currently banned in 18 states, including New York.

Game said he is trying to come to terms with the harm he inflicted through his program.

“I was a religious zealot that hurt people,” he said. “People said they attempted suicide over me and the things I said to them. People, I know, are in therapy because of me. Why would I want that to continue?”

Game is still married to a woman, Julie Game, who he says knows he is gay.

After coming out, he said he readied himself for intense backlash. He still receives angry Facebook messages from people who say they were traumatized by his program.

In a Facebook post last week, he wrote a lengthy apology, saying: “I WAS WRONG! Please forgive me!”

He told the paper he knows he will likely be apologizing for the rest of his life.

Evangelical Leader Tony Perkins Claims Teaching Kids Basic Science Causes Mass Shootings

September 2, 2019

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A right-wing evangelical leader on Sunday claimed mass shootings are caused by “driving God from the public square” and more specifically by teaching kids science such as evolution in schools.

He’s as ignorant as a person can be.

“We’ve taught our kids that they come about by chance through primordial slime and then we’re surprised that they treat their fellow Americans like dirt,” Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, said on “Fox & Friends” one day after a gunman in Texas killed 7 and wounded 21 others.

Perkins also claimed it’s impossible to have morality without religion, a view he noted was shared by George Washington.

He did not, however, offer any theories as to how nations with lower levels of religious adherence manage to avoid mass shootings.

Tennessee pastor, 41, is found guilty of raping a teenage boy after citing Bible verse which said ‘holding each other is just a way to show love’ – and he now faces two more trials involving other underage accusers

August 30, 2019

Gorton testified in his own defense on Wednesday, denying that he sexually abused any children
  • Ronnie Gorton was convicted Wednesday of 24 charges, including sexual battery and statutory rape 
  • During his trial, Gorton’s accuser, now aged 18, testified the pastor sexually abused him every night for a year-and-a-half 
  • Gorton denied raping the boy, but admitted to giving him alcohol and sleeping in his bed, because he claimed the teen was suicidal 
  • He faces two more trials stemming from alleged sexual abuse of two other teens, one of whom was 12 at the time 
  • Prosecutor called Gorton a ‘ravenous wolf in sheep’s clothing’  

Another malignant hypocrite bites the dust.

A Tennessee youth pastor has been found guilty of raping and sexually abusing a teenage boy on a nightly basis for more than a year.

A jury deliberated for less than two hours before finding 41-year-old Ronnie Gorton guilty Wednesday on 24 charges, including sexual battery and statutory rape.

WMC-TV reported that Gorton, who had remained stone-faced throughout the trial, put his head down as the verdicts were read in Tipton County.

The now 18-year-old victim told jurors the abuse started the day he moved in with Gorton and his then-wife, Rhonda, in 2017, and intensified over the next year-and-a-half.

When asked to describe the frequency of the abuse, the victim said Gorton raped him every single night.

‘It just never stopped,’ he said from the stand, according to a report from Covington Leader.

The 18-year-old said Gorton justified his actions by citing a Bible verse which said ‘holding each other is just a way to show love.’

He accused the married pastor of isolating him from his family and friends, manipulating him into thinking everything was his fault and taking control of his life.

When on one occasion the teen invited two friends over to stay the night, he said the pastor plied them with alcohol and engaged in inappropriate behavior towards them.

Gorton took the stand in his own defense on Wednesday and vehemently denied molesting the victim during two hours of testimony, though he admitted providing alcohol to the youth and other teens.

He also admitted to sleeping in the boy’s bed, but claimed he only did it because at the time the teen was in a ‘dark place’ following his mother’s arrest and spoke of suicide.

As reported by WMC Action News 5, prosecutor Walt Freeland called the victim’s bedroom in the Gorton family’s house ‘a chamber of horrors’ and described the pastor as a ‘ravenous wolf in sheep’s clothing’ who preyed on his flock.

Gorton’s ex-wife took the stand as a witness for the prosecution during the trial, painting an unflattering portrait of her former spouse as a man with a volatile temper who cultivated a facade of respectability.

‘I was very quiet when it came to the way I portrayed Ronnie,’ Rhonda Gorton told the court on Tuesday. ‘He was supposed to be a man of honor and I tried my best not to tarnish his reputation.’

The couple married in 2001 as virgins. There was little intimacy in their relationship and they had no children of their own, according to the ex-wife’s testimony.

Rhonda said she knew since 2012 that her husband had an addiction to pornography and served alcohol to minors, but she kept mum, telling herself he was just mentoring troubled boys.

‘I blame myself for not seeing it because I didn’t want to or because it was hidden, either way.’

Gorton’s sentencing hearing will start in November.

Gorton still faces trials involving two other teenagers who accused him of rape. One was 12 at the time of the alleged abuse

The pastor at the now-defunct Awakening Church in Atoka still faces trials involving two other teenagers who accused him of rape. One was 12 at the time of the alleged abuse.

The sexual abuse allegations against Gorton first came to light when Tipon County deputies responded to a report of a suicidal man at his home on January 31, 2018.

During the course of their investigation, Gorton was given a psychiatric evaluation and taken in for questioning.

Meanwhile, deputies learned that Atoka police were investigating an underage boy’s accusation that Gorton had raped and sexually assaulted him multiple times at Gorton’s home earlier in the month — the accusation was said to have made Gorton suicidal.

Following the initial investigation, two additional alleged victims came forward with accusations against Gorton.

Gorton was indicted in March of that year on charges, among them one count of rape, 16 counts of statutory rape by an authority figure, 17 counts of sexual battery by an authority figure and five counts of aggravated sexual battery.

Five months later, a grand jury returned another 44-count indictment against him.

Evangelical Songwriter Ditches Christianity In Emotional Instagram Post

August 27, 2019

He’s changing all the references to god in his songs (Jesus, God, Lord, etc.) to ‘baby’ to make them more commercially viable.

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A musician who spent years writing songs and performing with the globally influential Christian music collective Hillsong now says he is questioning his faith.

Marty Sampson is a songwriter and worship leader for the recording label that grew out of Hillsong Church, a congregation based in Sydney that now has branches in 23 countries. Hillsong frequently sets the trends in the Christian contemporary music industry, and its songs are sung by millions of people around the globe every Sunday.

Sampson has been writing for Hillsong since at least 1998. More recently, he was one of the musicians behind “The Lord’s Prayer,” a song that appears in Hillsong Worship’s 2018 album, “There Is More.” The song is a musical rendition of Christianity’s foundational prayer.

But Sampson now appears to be questioning the foundations of his faith. In mid-August, he started sharing his doubts about Christianity with his followers on Instagram. According to the faith-based news website Christian Post, Sampson announced in a since-deleted post that he was “genuinely losing my faith,” clarifying later that while he hasn’t completely renounced Christianity, his faith has been on “incredibly shaky ground.”

Iowa pastor arrested in Minnesota, faces Omaha child sex abuse charges

August 18, 2019

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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.

Independent Fundamental Baptist Pastor Charged with Rape of Teen

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.

Oklahoma youth pastor, former teacher arrested for child rape

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.

Pastor charged with sexual battery was considered ‘prophet of God’ by congregation

August 9, 2019

Cesar Guerrero, 38, a pastor at Misión Cristiana El Calvario has been charged with three counts of sexual battery stemming from an incident that occurred on Aug. 5, according to court documents.

CINCINNATI, Ohio – A pastor at a Ohio church has been charged with a sex crime involving a minor.

Cesar Guerrero, 38, a pastor at Misión Cristiana El Calvario in Sharonville, Ohio, has been charged with three counts of sexual battery stemming from an incident that occurred on Aug. 5, according to court documents.

The man is accused of engaging in sexual conduct with a 17-year-old girl who is a member of his church. According to jail records, “multiple females” have made sexual abuse accusations against him.

“Guerrero is considered a prophet of God as the Pastor of his church,” an affidavit states.

Police said he used this position to influence a girl into believing that the word of God said she “needed to be cleansed from being molested as a child,” the affidavit states.

Court documents state Guerrero met the girl alone in his office and “used bible scripture and prayers to cleanse her” while sex acts were performed.

He told the victim that “God was talking to him and it was necessary,” documents said.

Guerrero appeared in court Thursday with a Spanish translator before Judge William Mallory but told the court he spoke English.

In addition to the sexual battery charges, police said Guerrero is facing federal child pornography charges. Mallory also confirmed pending federal charges at Guerrero’s arraignment.

Police said he had plans to leave for Guatemala and “will leave the country if released.”

While discussing bond for Guerrero, Mallory told his lawyers, “You realize I’m going to hold him.”

His lawyer requested a reasonable bond anyway saying he was not a flight risk.

“I can’t do that,” Mallory said.

Guerrero is being held on a $300,000 bond.

Fired Officer Says Christian Beliefs Prohibit Him From Training Women

August 9, 2019

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Uber-Christian cop claims that he is the victim of discrimination because he’s not allowed to discriminate against women. Ironic, huh?

A North Carolina man fired as a sheriff’s deputy after refusing to train a new female officer because of her gender alleges in a lawsuit he is a victim of religious discrimination.

Manuel Torres, an evangelical Christian and former Lee County sheriff’s deputy, asserts that his faith prohibits him from being alone with women who aren’t his wife ― which he said is exactly what would happen if he agreed to train a female deputy.
The 51-year-old is suing the Lee County’s Sheriff Office, claiming he was fired for asking to be exempt from training the woman.
The 51-year-old is suing the Lee County’s Sheriff Office, claiming he was fired for asking to be exempt from training the woman.

The suit, filed in federal court in North Carolina on July 31, also names as defendants two other small towns Torres says subsequently denied him a job because of his religious beliefs about interacting with women. He seeks more than 300,000 in damages, as well as reinstatement by the sheriff’s office.

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