Archive for June, 2019
June 29, 2019
An Afghan court has sentenced a mullah to 20 years in prison after finding the religious teacher guilty of raping a 10-year-old girl.
The sentence, passed by a Kabul judge on Saturday, has been welcomed by family as well as women’s support groups as a rare victory in their fight for justice for female victims of sex crimes. Rape is often treated as adultery in Afghanistan, and victims can face prison themselves.
Hassina Sarwari, who runs a shelter for women in northern Kunduz province, where the rape took place, said on Sunday that if the trial had not been transferred to Kabul the result would probably have been very different.
The rape took place in May in the girl’s home village near the provincial capital, also called Kunduz.
“If the case would have not been transferred to Kabul, we were so worried that the mullah would have not been punished in Kunduz for his crime,” said Sarwari. When she saw the girl, Bershna, who like many Afghans only uses one name, for the first time in the hospital she was in a bad condition and required transfer to Kabul for additional treatment.
Kunduz police spokesman Sayed Sarwar Hussaini said his colleagues were shocked at first to hear the story but acted immediately to apprehend the mullah. “We sent a police unit to make the arrest, and we caught mullah Mohammad Amin while he was trying to flee,” he said.
Sarwari, who followed the case closely, said the crime occurred after the mullah chose three girls to help clean the village mosque. Two escaped when they discovered his intentions but Bershna fell into a nearby stream while trying to flee and Amin took her back to the mosque where he raped her.
“The mullah threatened Bershna, saying that if she told anyone what had happened she and her family would be killed,” but the child suffered injuries that could not be hidden.
Mohammad Rasoul, Bershna’s uncle who attended the trial, said the family was happy with the sentence.
“We welcome the decision by the judge as that is the maximum punishment he could be given according to our country’s law,” Rasoul said.
June 27, 2019
How do fish breathe underwater? Bill O’Reilly will never know because that information is hidden books.
June 27, 2019
GADSDEN COUNTY, Fla. (WCTV) — The Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office says a local pastor, who also works in the Gadsden County School District, has been arrested and charged with two counts of lewd and lascivious behavior on a child.
GCSO says after an investigation into the allegation of inappropriate behavior, a probable cause affidavit was submitted to the State Attorney’s Office and a warrant was issued for the arrest of 60-year-old Arthur Louis Ivey.
Officials say Ivey was booked and is being held in the Gadsden County Jail with no bond.
Vicar found guilty of groping male passenger on transatlantic British Airways flight after downing 10 wines and quizzing him over titty bars could be jailed
June 27, 2019
- Rev Peter McConnell groped a 23-year-old American PhD student on the flight
- He also made ‘sleazy comments’ about sex acts after drinking bottles of wine
- A jury found 64-year-old McConnell guilty at Newcastle Crown Court today
A vicar could face prison after he was found guilty of groping a sleeping passenger during a British Airways flight.
Rev Peter McConnell sexually assaulted an American PhD student on a transatlantic flight in 2017 – after making ‘sleazy comments’ about sex acts, a court heard.
During the trip from Philadelphia to London Heathrow, the 64-year-old clergyman drank up to 10 small bottles of wine and asked the victim if he had been to ‘t***y’ bars.
He then spoke about God and asked his victim, 23, for forgiveness after the sex assault.
Today a jury found him guilty of sexual assault after four hours of deliberation at Newcastle Crown Court.
The vicar, who had been in America to visit his sister, had denied the charge and claimed he talked about ‘mindfulness’, not a sex act starting with the same letter.
After the verdict, prosecutor Andrew Espley said the former Northumbria Police chaplain had left his post with the force in 2014.
The clergyman must now sign the sex offenders register and will be sentenced next month.
He was granted conditional bail by judge Paul Sloan QC.
Mr Espley had told jurors the vicar had been ‘drinking heavily’ during the flight and had moved to sit beside the student because a child had been kicking the back of his own seat.
Founder of the Biblical Flat Earth Society is charged with 56 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor after stash of child pornography on his computer
June 25, 2019
- Phillip Stallings, 40, from North Carolina, founded a Christian flat earth society
- He is charged with 56 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor by authorities
- The arrest follows an investigation by Durham County Sheriff’s Office and Homeland Security who allegedly found illicit material on his computer
- The alleged pedophile believes in a conspiracy organized by the so-called Illuminati to ‘cover up the flat Earth’ and shared his views in bizarre online videos
- Stallings made his first appearance in court on the charges Thursday morning, and a judge set his bail at $500,000 secured
A fundamentalist Christian who founded the ‘Biblical Flat Earth Society’ has been charged with 56 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor and now faces life in prison.
Phillip Stallings, 40, was arrested Wednesday on 28 counts of second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor and 28 counts of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor.
The arrest follows a joint investigation by the Durham County Sheriff’s Office and U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and stem from downloaded material found on his computer allegedly of minors involved in sexual activities.
Stallings’s own website promotes his belief that the Earth is flat and cites biblical justifications for his demonstrably inaccurate beliefs.
The alleged pedophile believes a conspiracy organized by the so-called Illuminati to ‘cover up the flat Earth’ that is ‘certainly connected to sun worship which goes all the way back to Nimrod and the tower of Babel.’
Elsewhere in his bizarre videos, he takes aim at ‘feminists, transvestites, sodomites and women in the military.’
Stallings’ arrest comes as part of a wider Homeland Security investigation into child pornography on the internet. He was also hit with a warrant related to financial card theft and cyberstalking.
An arrest warrants reveals Stalling allegedly duplicated and possessed images of minors performing sex acts.
June 20, 2019
Toronto police have arrested an Imam for sexually assaulting a woman after a lengthy investigation.
Investigators say the woman came forward in early 2019, accusing her Imam of sexual assault.
The woman met the Imam at a Mosque in 2008. Shortly after, he went to her home and convinced her she was possessed and he could help her.
She was brought back to his living quarters where the victim alleges she was sexually assaulted during what the Imam claimed was a religious ceremony.
Over the next several years, it’s alleged she was continually sexually assaulted and he threatened to harm her on numerous occasions. Police also allege he threatened to expose her to the community and congregation.
On Tuesday, Imam Syed Zaidi, 49, was arrested as he tried to board a plane to leave Canada at Pearson Airport.
He’s been charged with breach of trust, three counts of sexual assault, threatening death and criminal harassment.
June 19, 2019
A former Southern Baptist pastor in Houston was arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting a teenage relative over the course of five years. Stephen Bratton, 44, also previously advocated for the passage of a bill that would criminalize abortion in Texas, which would have made the death penalty a possibility for those who undergo the medical procedure.
On Friday, Bratton, who was a pastor at Grace Family Baptist Church, was arrested and charged with the continuous sexual abuse of a child, according to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.
“The victim said they would have sexual intercourse multiple times a day or several times a week,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement provided to Refinery29.
“The complainant stated that Bratton sexually abused her starting from 2013, when she was just 13 years of age. The abuse continued until 2018.” Bratton, a father of seven, has been excommunicated from his church and is currently out on a $50,000 bond.
June 15, 2019
(CNN)Authorities in Tennessee are reviewing all pending cases involving a Knox County Sheriff’s Office detective after he gave a sermon at his church that called for the government to execute members of the LGBTQ community.
We think this guy is a short hop from sucking dicks in public toilets.
“They are worthy of death,” Grayson Fritts said in a June 2 sermon at All Scripture Baptist Church, a small church in Knoxville that he leads.
The church posted the sermon online and then removed it, according to The Washington Post. The video was picked up by the Tennessee Holler, an independent liberal news outlet, and edited into a six-minute clip.
“God has instilled the power of civil government to send the police in 2019 out to the LGBT freaks and arrest them and have a trial for them, and if they are convicted, then they are to be put to death,” he said in the clip.
Fritts said it would be easy to find people to arrest at events such as gay pride parades.
“We have a bunch of them we’re going to get convicted because they have all their pride junk on, and they’re professing what they are, that they’re a filthy animal,” he said.
CNN has not been able to reach Fritts for comment. Speaking to journalists before giving a sermon last Wednesday, Fritts said his anti-LGBTQ beliefs have not interfered with his work as a law enforcement officer.
“It’s totally separate, because if I’m employed by the sheriff’s office, then if they came into the sheriff’s office, obviously they’re allowed there,” he said, according to WATE. “You understand what I’m saying? This. I am over this. I am the head of this church. I say who comes and goes. Those people are not permitted to join, those people are not permitted to attend.”
June 14, 2019
An Imam found guilty of sexually abusing two young girls who he privately tutored has been jailed in United Kingdom.
According to Metropolitan Police, Hafiz Azizur Rehman Pirzada, 76 (19.08.42) of Laughton Road, Northolt was sentenced to a total of eight years’ imprisonment at Snaresbrook Crown Court on Monday, 21 January for child abuse offences.
Pirzada will also have to sign the Sex Offenders Register for life and a Sexual Harm Protection Order was issued.
He was found guilty of seven counts of sexual assault of a child, and two counts of causing a child to engage in sexual activity after a trial at the same court in September 2017.
During the trial, the court heard how the victims, both sisters, came forward to speak to police in July 2015.
Between 2007 and 2009 the two girls, aged between nine and 11 when the abuse took place, were taught the Quran by Pirzada when he was an Imam appointed by the family.
On 28 July 2016, Pirzada was arrested at his home address and bailed pending further enquiries. He was later charged with all ten counts on 16 March 2018; eight counts of sexual assault with a female under 13, and two counts of causing a child to engage in sexual activity.
Detective Sergeant Tony Killeen, from the Child Abuse and Sexual Offences Team, said: “This is a case which dates back more than ten years, but despite the length of time since the incidents Pirzada has been convicted of his crimes.
“Pirzada exploited the trust placed in him as a religious leader to assault these two young girls.
“The victims have shown great courage, persistence and determination in securing the conviction, having persevered with the allegation and supporting the police investigation.
“The victims have had to live with this trauma and the appalling abuse they endured for the years they were taught by Pirzada, and will have to live with these memories for the rest of their lives.
“I would urge anyone who has been a victim of Pirzada to contact police; specially trained officers will be there to support you.”
June 12, 2019
As the U.S. bishops prepare to meet next week for their general assembly in Baltimore, they must be hoping it won’t be a repeat of this one.
The bishops were hoping to finalize a tough new policy on child sex abuse and – even more importantly – abuse cover-up, after the Vatican put a halt on the issue during the USCCB’s fall assembly last year. Since then, there has been a Vatican abuse summit and new legislation from the Vatican to battle abuse and cover-up, meaning the possibility of a “good news” ending to the meeting was in the cards.
But now new scandals are likely to overshadow the meeting.
At the beginning of this week, the Associated Press published a story about a woman accusing a top official in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston of sexual misconduct. This story was followed by a Washington Post report on a confidential investigation into impropriety under Bishop Michael Bransfield in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. On Thursday, Crux came out with a story about how various Church institutions passed the buck when a seminarian complained about sexual abuse at the national seminary in Washington, DC.
These stories did not involve the abuse of minors, but did involve sexual impropriety with adults. This means the bishops will be trying to find a solution to one systematic crisis, just as another one is exploding in the papers.
Sexual misconduct with adults is a broad area of offense, especially for a celibate clergy. It can include anything from a brief fling with a willing partner to a sexual assault. Current Vatican legislation generally only covers “vulnerable adults” – that is, those without the full use of reason, although Pope Francis’s most recent law – released in May and called Vos estis lux mundi – defines a vulnerable person as “any person in a state of infirmity, physical or mental deficiency, or deprivation of personal liberty which, in fact, even occasionally, limits their ability to understand or to want or otherwise resist the offence.”
The new legislation also covers those who are forced into sexual acts by “violence or threat or through abuse of authority.”
Although these are steps in the right direction, it is murky how it will work in practice.
In Houston, a high-ranking archdiocesan official is accused of having an affair with a married woman he was counseling. In Texas, it is a crime for a clergyman to engage in sexual relations with someone by “exploiting the other person’s emotional dependency on the clergyman in the clergyman’s professional character as spiritual adviser.”
The woman also said the priest absolved her for their sexual encounter, which is a Church crime carrying a penalty of excommunication, although this is denied by the archdiocese.
In this case, the priest was moved to another diocese. (The archdiocese insists that it acted properly.)
In West Virginia, a Church investigation found that Bransfield, aside from gross financial mismanagement, had “uncovered a consistent pattern of sexual innuendo, and overt suggestive comments and actions toward those over whom the former bishop exercised authority,” although the investigators said they could not prove sexual abuse had happened.
In the Washington seminary case, a seminarian was allegedly abused by a transitional deacon, not by someone in direct authority.
In all these cases, Church leaders had to make decisions without having any specific Church legislation to work with, although – as in the case of Texas – there are civil and criminal laws that can come into play.
This comes up time and time again – clergymen have been caught with prostitutes, had affairs with parishioners, and committed other violations of their promises of celibacy for generations. Bishops will be quick to point out: Not every sin is a crime, and a lapse in judgement shouldn’t be equated with sexual assault.
But the gray between the two can differ in shade.
If a priest has an affair with a parishioner, what are the consequences? If the parishioner is married? If he is counseling the parishioner?
What happens when a priest gets caught up in a prostitution sting? What if he has been arrested more than once?
The same sorts of questions can be asked about possession of pornography, serial affairs, and other subjects that most of the faithful would hope would only feature in soap operas.
Right now, Church leaders seem to follow the same game plan that was in effect for child abuse: Therapy, clergy moves, and payoffs.
Without procedures and transparency, even relatively small sexual mistakes by priests can be conflated with more serious cases of sexual assault, especially in the eyes of a faithful exhausted by years of scandal.
One thing the bishops don’t want to happen is to institute a “one strike” rule for clerics when it comes to sex with adults.
However, in the #MeToo era, hard decisions will have to be made about what can be forgiven, and what will have to have more permanent consequences.
June 12, 2019
Short answer – No.
Long answer – Of course not.
Throughout each hurricane season, locals leave candles and say prayers at The Grotto at the Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea, hoping they can pray away a storm striking the island.
Throughout each hurricane season, locals leave candles and say prayers at The Grotto at the Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea, hoping they can pray away a storm striking the island.
Kay Thomas knows she can’t do much when a hurricane is approaching the Florida Keys.
She can stock up on supplies, evacuate from the island chain, or ride it out like she did during 2017’s Hurricane Irma — which spared her hometown of Key West but severely damaged Keys neighborhoods to the north.
But there is one thing she does at the start of each hurricane season: pray.
“That’s about the best I can do,” Thomas said. “I feel better even though I know that just me alone, I’m not moving mountains.”
Every June 1, locals like Thomas flock to an Old Town church in an effort to pray away storms from directly striking the island.
The candles flicker in an outdoor space at The Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea, 1010 Windsor Lane, called the Grotto.
Thomas, who describes herself as a spiritual seeker rather than religious, offers a prayer every month, from June 1 through the end of November.
“I light one at the beginning and then as they begin to manifest the Grotto gets extra candles,” Thomas said. “It makes me feel like I can do something.”
The Grotto is formally called Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto, which dates back to 1922 and honors Sister Louis Gabriel.
Key West lore says the candle prayer ritual works when it comes to staving off hurricanes from the tiny island. A major storm hasn’t struck the island since the Grotto was created.
Hurricane Wilma swamped the island in 2005 and Hurricane Georges came across in 1998. But the island has been spared — so far.
At the time of the Grotto’s installation, Sister Gabriel had lived on the island since 1897 and had survived three major hurricanes, including the 1919 direct hit that left destruction across Key West.
Apparently, Sister Gabriel always said that as long as the Grotto was standing, “Key West would never experience the full brunt of a hurricane.”
After one horrible season in the early 2000s, one local shop put up a sign that read, “Canes 0, Grotto 3,” locals remember.
Still, plenty of Key West residents know from experience that prayers aren’t always enough to keep hurricanes at bay.
Dina DiMartino lost her home and her entire neighborhood to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 when she lived in a New Orleans suburb, St. Bernard Parish, where the levee system failed.
“The biggest part was losing where I grew up,” DiMartino said. “I go back and visit, but St. Bernard will never be the same. It’s such a small community like Key West. All the other stuff was just stuff.”
DiMartino, 48, a Louisiana native who taught school for 12 years before Katrina and then ran a security business, learned about the Grotto when she moved to Key West in 2012.
“I go with my three candles and make a donation and pray hard to keep our community protected,” she said. “I’ve done that every June 1. But I have to say, the days before Irma I went there a little bit more.”
The numbers of praying locals grew larger as Irma approached, she remembers.
“I grew up Catholic but have explored other thing,” DiMartino said of her spirituality. “I’m open-minded, not deeply religious. I’m a very superstitious person. I don’t know if that comes with growing up in New Orleans.”
What the fuck does that mean? What’s the difference between being religious and being superstitious?
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.