Christianity in General
June 7, 2019
The state of Georgia ranks as No. 10 in the nation for its large and expanding population of Hispanic immigrants. So the expansion of a Mexican-based megachurch in Flowery Branch, Georgia, was nothing out of the ordinary. But the proposed expansion is being opposed by residents in the surrounding community, and now the opposition is even more entrenched after the church’s founder, Joaquin Garcia, and three other church members were arrested on charges of sex trafficking, child rape and child pornography.
Garcia runs La Luz Del Mundo and, according to the Los Angeles Times, is the largest evangelical church in Mexico. It has branches in 50 countries and boasts more than 1 million members. On Tuesday, June 5, 2019, the California Attorney General’s office filed charges against Garcia and others after a year-long investigation of sex abuse in the church. The investigation was initiated after an online complaint form was received by prosecutors. That complaint alleges that Garcia groomed girls as young as 16 for sex. According to the Los Angles Times, church official Alondra Ocampo allegedly took pictures of naked minors engaging in sex acts for Garcia, who is called the Apostle of Christ.
Church officials have denied these charges and vehemently defended Garcia at a recent press conference held in Mexico City. Silem Garcia, a spokesman for La Luz del Mundo, told reporters that the church and its members “consider these accusations defamatory and calumny against our international director, the Apostle of Jesus Christ. We believe firmly in the innocence of the Apostle of Jesus Christ.”
The allegations have sent shockwaves throughout the evangelical community and put the future of the church in jeopardy. Critics of the church have stated that it preys on poor immigrants and is cult-like in its practices.
June 6, 2019
A Presbyterian minister, who said he was following the Bible, used Native American exorcism rituals, gemstones and even oral sex to extract “evil spirits” from men undergoing crises in their lives, the church and men claim.
The so-called healing acts, which date to 1999, were allegedly performed by the Rev. Dr. William Weaver, a prominent Presbyterian minister who served as pastor at Linden Presbyterian Church for 39 years, one of two Presbyterian churches in Linden, a city with a population of over 40,000. He also held several public roles, including chaplain for a county police department.
Weaver, 69, was scheduled to face his three accusers during an internal church trial, but on Jan. 25, 2019, one day before the trial was to begin, he renounced the jurisdiction of the Elizabeth Presbytery. He was accused by the church of “multiple acts of idolatry and sexual misconduct.”
The church charges have no bearing on the secular government’s civil and criminal courts. No public charges have been filed against Weaver. The men said they did report the sexual encounters to authorities, but the Union County Prosecutor’s Office said they could not confirm nor deny information regarding this matter.
With his renouncement, Weaver gave up his ordination and membership in the Presbyterian Church but also avoided a religious trial. He then moved to a gated retirement community in Lakewood.
The trial was scheduled after the men alerted the Elizabeth Presbytery, which oversees 41 Presbyterian churches in Somerset, Hunterdon, Middlesex and Union counties.
The Presbytery determined, through an investigating committee, “that there are probable grounds or cause to believe that an offense was committed by the accused,” according to the official church charges. If Weaver was found at the religious trial to have violated church rules, the most punishment he would have faced would have been expulsion from the Presbyterian ministry.
“In April 2018, the Presbytery of Elizabeth received allegations of multiple instances of sexual misconduct perpetrated by William Weaver, who was a minister member of the Presbytery. The Presbytery of Elizabeth, a regional body of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), takes seriously any allegation of misconduct,” the Rev. Leslie Dobbs-Allsopp, interim leader of the Elizabeth Presbytery, said in a statement.
She said the Presbytery’s response to these allegations was in accordance with its policy on sexual misconduct and the Book of Order, the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in the United States.
“Mr. Weaver was placed on administrative leave while the Investigating Committee conducted interviews with multiple witnesses,” Dobbs-Allsopp continued. “The allegations were found to be credible, and disciplinary charges were filed, and an ecclesiastical disciplinary hearing date was set.”
June 3, 2019
Operatives of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) said on Sunday that they have arrested an Abuja-based pastor for the alleged rape and sexual exploitation of a 16-year-old orphan (name withheld), and impregnating her in the process.
NAPTIP disclosed the identity of suspect as David Onyekachukwu, from Nsukka, Enugu State. He is also a full time pastor with the Mountain of Fire and Miracle Church (MFM), Gwarimpa branch, Abuja.
NAPTIP spokesperson Stella Nezan alleged in a statement released in Abuja that the suspect was asked to conduct deliverance on the girl after she was accused of being a witch, but he ended up taking advantage of her vulnerability by sexually molesting, repeatedly.
Nezan said that preliminary investigation revealed that the pastor lost his wife sometimes ago, and was left with a daughter. It also revealed that the suspect and the victim’s late parents share the same neighborhood in Karimo community, a suburb of Abuja.
After the death of the victim’s parents, the suspect volunteered to take her in and assist in her education.
During interrogation, the abusive pastor confessed to having sex with the girl only twice, attributing his actions to the devil.
He stated that he took the girl in, conducted “deliverance” for her and also enrolled her in school, having missed school for about two years.
“But after the deliverance, she couldn’t find a to stay; I then took her to live with me and my daughter,” the clergyman confessed.
The victim, in her statement, confirmed that the clergyman started making advances to her after her first year of living in their house, but she constantly resisted it.
She said the first time she was raped was in March during her birthday. She said the pastor took her and his daughter out to some relaxation spots in Abuja.
“In the evening of that day, after the pastor’s daughter had gone to bed, he approached me with the love advances and pounced on me, ignoring all my pleas for mercy,” the victim explained.
It was gathered during investigation that the clergyman had thereafter the first encounter continued his actions at will, resulting in the girl getting pregnant.
NAPTIP Director General Julie Okah-Donli described the action of the man as the “highest form of wickedness against a fellow human being,” considering the fact that the victim is a vulnerable and helpless orphan.
June 1, 2019
A pastor in Eastern Kentucky was arrested this week after he allegedly sought sex with a minor via text messages, according to police.
The Prestonsburg Police Department said in a news release that Bobby J. Blackburn, 26, turned himself in Wednesday without incident and was charged with prohibited use of an electronic communication system to procure a minor to commit a sex act.
A phone number listed on Elevate Church’s website was not accepting calls Friday. An email sent to the church was also not returned Friday.
An employee at Giovanni’s who answered the phone Friday said Blackburn was “not here right now.”
Prestonsburg police officers obtained a warrant for Blackburn’s arrest May 24, according to an arrest citation, after a girl showed a police sergeant images of an iMessage conversation she had with Blackburn.
In the messages, Blackburn asked the girl, who is a minor, to engage in a “threesome” with him and another female minor, among other sexually explicit requests, according to police.
Both minors were employees of a business that Blackburn manages, according to the arrest citation. The arrest report did not name the business.
On May 25, Blackburn allegedly followed a third female minor to the Prestonsburg Police Department, where she tried to give a statement saying she sent the obscene messages from Blackburn’s phone.
But when police questioned the girl further, she took back her statement and said that Blackburn told her to say it or else she would lose her job, according to the arrest citation.
May 21, 2019
How the hell can anyone still be shocked by the sex crimes of ‘holy’ men?
WILSON, N.C. (WNCN) — A community is in shock after authorities arrested a Wilson pastor and charged him with first-degree sexual exploitation of a minor.
This is all part of an ongoing joint investigation between the Wilson Police Department and the FBI.
Prior to his arrest, Daniel Heath, 33, served as an associate pastor at First Baptist Church in Wilson for three years, and before that, youth minister for seven years.
Heath’s arrest warrant states he encouraged a 16-year-old girl to engage in sexual activity, and “perform sexual activities to herself for the purpose of producing material containing a visual representation depicting this activity.”
Authorities allege this all took place between December 2017 and April 2019.
It’s unknown if the victim is connected to First Baptist Church.
“This is a very hurtful time,” Henry Skinner, Chairman of Deacons at First Baptist Church said. “We’ve had to wrap our arms around each other, because of the feelings of hurt and grief.”
Skinner worked closely with Heath at the church. He said Heath was active as an associate pastor and youth minister, attracting members from all generations, especially young people.
“A younger group of individuals, who may or may not have been churched before, found their way here, and a found a place of worship and learning, and bible study that enriched their lives, and helped meet their needs,” Skinner said. “Daniel [Heath] was a part in recruiting that.”
Skinner said they’re embracing Heath’s family and the entire congregation at First Baptist Church to move forward together.
“A faith community lives on trust,” Skinner said. “A faith community has to trust in each other. They have to believe in each other, and when that is betrayed, when that falls away, it hurts.”
A federal indictment was also filed against Heath.
FBI officials told CBS 17 the case they investigated involved a victim from Texas.
May 18, 2019
An American pastor from New Jersey backed by a British former clairvoyant is running a network that gives up to 50,000 Ugandans a “miracle cure” made from industrial bleach, claiming drinking the toxic fluid eradicates cancer, HIV/Aids, malaria and most other diseases.
The network, led by pastor Robert Baldwin and part-funded by Sam Little from Arlesey in Bedfordshire, is one of the most extensive efforts yet to distribute the “miracle cure” known as MMS, or “miracle mineral solution”. The Guardian has learned that poor Ugandans, including infants as young as 14 months old, are being given chlorine dioxide, a product that has no known health benefit and can be extremely dangerous.
Baldwin, 52, is importing bulk shipments of the components of MMS, sodium chlorite and citric acid, into Uganda from China. The two chemicals are mixed to produce chlorine dioxide, a powerful bleach used in the textile industry.
The American pastor has “trained” about 1,200 clerics in Uganda on administering the “miracle cure” and each in turn uses it to treat about 50 congregants, usually after Sunday service. As an inducement, Baldwin is offering smartphones to those clerics who are especially “committed” to spreading the bleach cure.
Baldwin operates under a ministry he founded called Global Healing. The “church” advertises itself as “using the power of Almighty God … to greatly reduce the loss of life” in Africa.
Yet in a phone conversation with Fiona O’Leary, a campaigner against quack medicine who spoke to him while posing as a freelance journalist, Baldwin said he distributed the bleach through churches to “stay under the radar”.
“We don’t want to draw any attention,” he said during the call, a recording of which has been heard by the Guardian. “When you draw attention to MMS you run the risk of getting in trouble with the government or drug companies. You have to do it low key. That’s why I set it up through the church.”
He added that as a further precaution he uses euphemisms on Facebook, where he raises money through online donations. “I don’t call it MMS, I call it ‘healing water’, to protect myself. They are very sophisticated. Facebook has algorithms that can recognize ‘MMS’.”
Baldwin, who trained as a student nurse and is understood to have no other medical expertise, said he chose Uganda because it was a poor country with weak regulation. Speaking from New Jersey, where he is based, he told O’Leary: “America and Europe have much stricter laws so you are not as free to treat people because it is so controlled by the FDA. That’s why I work in developing countries.”
He added: “Those people in poor countries they don’t have the options that we have in the richer countries – they are much more open to receiving the blessings that God has given them.”
Asked how babies and children were treated with MMS, he said the dose was reduced by half. “Little tiny infants can take a small amount, they will spit it out. It causes no harm – they just get diarrhea.”
The Guardian contacted Baldwin by phone in New Jersey and asked the pastor to explain his work in Uganda. He said: “We use natural healing therapies to help people – that’s something Christians do.”
Then he said: “I don’t think it’s a good idea to be talking to the media right now.”
Asked what doses of bleach he was using in Africa, he abruptly ended the call.
Tennessee pastor who was facing 72 years in prison for repeatedly raping his adopted daughter, 14, is jailed for just 12 after dozens of parishioners show up to court to support him
May 15, 2019
The group, which calls itself “We Support Rape”, thinks the good reverend should be free to fuck his daughter as much as he wants.
A former Tennessee pastor who repeatedly raped his adopted teenage daughter has been given an effective 12 year prison sentence after dozens of parishioners showed up to court to support him.
Prosecutors had sought the maximum term of 72 years behind bars for 41-year-old David Richards, The Knoxville News Sentinel reports.
But a judge cited his longtime ministry and the support he still receives as mitigating factors after more than 30 people showed up to support Richards at the sentencing last week.
Knox County Criminal Court Judge Steve Sword also pointed to the fact he had started a Bible study for fellow inmates at the Knox County Detention Facility.
The victim was 16 when she reported the abuse by her sole guardian, saying it began two years earlier.
Amber Richards, who chose to speak publicly after the February verdicts, said in her victim impact statement: ‘I wanted to throw my body away.’
Joined by her biological parents she added: ‘Not a day goes by that I don’t, in some way, think of what he did to me. I firmly believe if given the opportunity, he would victimize another young girl.’
She told authorities where they could find DNA evidence at her home and said Richards had texted her about taking their relationship ‘to the next level.’
Authorities said they found her mattress stripped bare and his phone factory reset, but they were able to recover his DNA.
But Richards, who continued to maintain his innocence, claimed his young victim made her allegations of sexual abuse because of his strict parenting.
May 14, 2019
The hate-spewing pastor has repeatedly called for the deaths of gay people and prayed for the death of Barack Obama.
Steven Anderson, a bigoted pastor known for his anti-gay sermons and celebrations of violence against his enemies, has been banned from Ireland following public outcry over his impending appearance later this month.
Anderson, who runs Faithful Word Baptist Church in Arizona, was supposed to preach in Dublin on May 26 as part of a multinational tour, according to his website.
But after an online petition to “prevent the hate pastor” from appearing in Ireland garnered more than 14,000 signatures, an Irish judge tapped a never-before-used exclusionary order from the country’s 1999 Immigration Act to ban him, according to the BBC.
“I have signed the exclusion order under my executive powers in the interests of public policy,” said Irish Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan in a statement.
Anderson hasn’t made many headlines for a few years, but the vile content of his sermons seems to cause an uproar wherever he decides to preach. In 2016, he was arrested and deported from Botswana after joining a local radio station to declare that gays and lesbians should be killed. He was also banned from South Africa, which declared he and his congregation “undesirable persons,” according to CNN.
Another sermon he was supposed to give in Amsterdam this month was also stymied, as officials in the Netherlands last week moved to bar Anderson from entering that country, too, according to local media.
Previously, he prayed for the death of former president Barack Obama, and celebrated the gunman who killed 49 people at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando in 2016. At the time, the gunman claimed he did so in the name of the Islamic state.
Anderson’s hateful sermons, which include calling Jews “anti-Christs” and using homophobic slurs to promote violence against the LGBTQ communities, has landed him and his congregation in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of hate groups. According to a “doctrinal statement” on Anderson’s website, his congregation “opposes worldliness, modernism, formalism, and liberalism,” and “believes that homosexuality is a sin and an abomination which God punishes with the death penalty.”
But he fell off the mainstream radar after his 2016 comments, until earlier this year, when a fellow extremist pastor named Donnie Romero resigned from his post in Texas after allegations that he solicited prostitution. During a sermon in January, Anderson elaborated on the allegations against Romero, whom he had preached with: “Basically, the major sin involved was being with prostitutes, and then there were also marijuana and gambling that were also discovered,” Anderson said on Jan. 3.
Anderson didn’t respond to HuffPost’s request for a comment for this story.
May 3, 2019
LEXINGTON COUNTY — A former church pastor has been arrested on child sex charges stemming from incidents dating as far back as 1996, according to police in Lexington County.
William Oswald, 56, of Prosperity, was arrested and charged on multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct with a minor, the South Congaree Police Department said Tuesday night.
Additional details about the arrest and allegations were not immediately available, but police said the charges stemmed from when Oswald lived in South Congaree from 1996 to 2001.
Oswald is jailed on six counts of criminal sexual conduct with a minor, according to Lexington County jail records, one of which involves a child under the age of 11 and three of which involve a child between the ages of 11 and 14.
Oswald was a part-time pastor at a church in Newberry, the South Congaree police chief told WIS.
First-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor, which involves a victim under the age of 11, carries a minimum of 25 years in prison and up to life, under South Carolina law.
April 27, 2019
PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. — Authorities say a 38-year-old youth pastor at a now-defunct South Florida church coerced a girl into having sex with him by threatening to turn her family in to immigration officials.
The Sun-Sentinel reports Luis Clarke assaulted the 15-year-old girl over six months in 2016 and 2017 while he was a part-time youth pastor at Abrazo tu Sueño Church (“I Embrace Your Dream” in Spanish) in Pembroke Pines.
Clarke was arrested Thursday. He’s charged with 25 counts of sexual battery of a minor and false imprisonment.
Pembroke Pines police Capt. Al Xiques says Clarke once forced a 15-year-old boy to watch him assault the girl. The boy went to police on April 3.
The report says Clarke admitted to two sexual encounters with the girl.
A lawyer for Clark wasn’t listed on jail records.
Minister at secretive North Carolina church is sentenced to 34 months prison for running unemployment fraud scheme dubbed ‘God’s plan’
April 21, 2019
- Word of Faith Fellowship minister Kent Covington has been sentenced to 34 months in prison for his role in a fraud scheme
- Covington pretended to lay off workers at his businesses and had them collect unemployment benefits to replace paying actual salaries
- Prosecutors say many of Covington’s employees were Word of Faith Fellowship members and he used his position in the church to force them to comply
- The scheme resulted in more than $250,000 in fraudulent claims being made between November 2008 and March 2013
A minister at the secretive Word of Faith Fellowship in North Carolina has been sentenced to 34 months in prison for his role in a fraud scheme that was dubbed ‘God’s plan’.
In 2008, Kent Covington laid off workers at his struggling manufacturing business so that they could collect unemployment benefits.
However, the employees continued to work at the company and their unemployment checks replaced their actual salaries.
At Covington’s sentencing on Thursday, U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger said that the minister had shown a ‘cynical disregard to the law’ and that his actions ‘undermined the entire unemployment security structure of the state’.
Around 150 of his friends, family and members of his church attended his sentencing, according to WLOS.
Prosecutors say Covington and his employee, Dianne McKinny, later put the scheme into place at another of his companies – a stone fabrication business by the name of Integrity Marble & Granite.
It resulted in more than $250,000 in fraudulent claims made between November 2008 and March 2013, according to the original indictment in the case.
Word of Faith Fellowship leader, Jane Whaley, was named in a court document as someone who ‘promoted’ the scheme.
April 10, 2019
TWIN FALLS — Four men were arrested over the weekend in a joint investigation between Twin Falls police and Homeland Security to catch sexual predators online.
Jeffrey Scott Davis of Rupert, Robert Allen Barney of Meridian, Aaron Evans of Twin Falls, and Solomon Peppley of Nampa were taken into custody on Saturday and arraigned on Monday after police said they attempted to meet with officers posing as underage teen girls.
Davis, 55, was charged with enticing a child through the internet after a Homeland Security investigator responded to a Craigslist ad Davis posted, according to the affidavit. Through text messages, an investigator posed as a 14-year-old girl.
Officers gave Davis an address to meet at after Davis asked the girl if he could perform a sex act on her and her friend, police said. When Davis arrived at the address, he was taken into custody.
Davis has been jailed on a $150,000 bond.
Evans, 26, was charged with enticing a child through the internet and possession of a controlled substance. Police said Evans responded to a fake profile on the social media website “Skout” and arranged to meet up with an investigator posing as a 14-year-old girl.
He also asked the girl if she smoked marijuana and told her he had some in his possession, according to court documents.
When Evans was taken into custody at the address given to him by the officer, he admitted to police that the conversations were sexual but said he only wanted to “make out” with the girl. Police found 3.9 grams of marijuana in Evans’s possession, according to an affidavit.
Evans was jailed on a $200,000 bond.
Barney, 39, was charged with enticing a child through the internet and driving under the influence after responding to an ad from a Homeland Security investigator on the website “Whisper,” according to court documents. Police said Barney had conversations about performing a sex act with an officer posing as a 13-year-old girl.
Barney was jailed on a $175,000 bond.
Peppley, who court documents said is a 23-year-old children’s pastor for a church in Nampa, was charged with enticing a child through the internet and sexual exploitation of a child after he responded to a Craigslist ad posted by investigators, according to an affidavit.
Peppley has volunteered in the midweek children’s program at Crossroads Community Church in Nampa, but was not a pastor there.
The Crossroads Community Church’s Facebook page posted a statement, saying the man was never alone with children and was not a staff member.