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Archived News & OP EDs

Wednesday, August 31, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

Ex-bishop gets 18 months for fraud

Bishop William Ellis takes the stand
BY NATASHA KORECKI Federal Courts Reporter

They just heard that the bishop who stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from their church was headed for prison.

But it was as if they had been told a family member had died.

They held hands, sobbed, hugged and broke into song and prayer as the news of William Ellis' prison sentence swept over the sea of congregants that stuffed into a federal courtroom and overflowed into a courthouse hallway Tuesday.

They later stood in line to pay their tearful respects to Ellis, 62, former bishop of the Apostolic Pentecostal Church of Morgan Park, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Owes IRS $165,000

He had pleaded guilty to felony tax fraud charges and admitted taking $1,000 a month from weekly collections. The feds say he stole $520,000 from 1996 to 2001 and owes the IRS about $165,000. They say he used church money to buy a second Mercedes Benz, even though the church already had given him a Mercedes for church business. They say he paid off his personal credit card debt and life insurance premiums with church money and racked up personal expenses on the church's American Express card.

Ellis was unemotional for most of his sentencing hearing, but when U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman handed down the sentence, Ellis, who had begged the judge for mercy and asked for no jail time, broke.

"Jesus," he muttered, then began crying.

Ellis earlier vowed he would never break the law again.

"I'm sorry, I'm deeply crushed and humiliated by this act I have committed," Ellis told Gettleman.

Gettleman said he didn't enjoy sending Ellis to prison.

'We love Bishop Ellis'

"Cheating on taxes is a very serious matter," Gettleman said. "There's a way to do good deeds [with] church collections but it's not from skimming it off the top, putting it in your pocket," and deciding how to spend it.

After Gettleman recessed court, Ellis sank in his chair at the defense table and sobbed with a clenched hand pressed against his face. He sat there for at least 15 minutes as his supporters surrounded him and hugged him.

As he left the courthouse, one woman slowly shook her head and began to sing "Thank you Jesus, thank you." Another woman joined her as a third held her hand to her mouth and wept loudly.

Trying to keep away news cameras as Ellis left the downtown Dirksen Federal Building, his supporters formed a human chain, grasping one another's arms in a protective huddle around Ellis and slowly inching their way across the lobby in a giant mass. Many wore "We love Bishop Ellis" buttons.

Ellis, who is small in stature, was well hidden.

Outside, some of the 200-plus congregants flew into a brief melee, at one point shoving a Chicago Sun-Times photographer and later a television camerawoman. The crowd poured off the sidewalk and onto Dearborn Street, briefly blocking traffic as Ellis got into a cab.

They are the very people Ellis admitted stealing from. But one churchgoer, Annie Bond, said his lifetime of good works and love for the community outweighed any money he took. The congregation had forgiven Ellis but stripped him of his bishop status for three years. That should be his penance, they said; jail time was unnecessary.

'We will always be with him'

"What man can say he is without sin?" Bond asked. "We will support him, and we will always be with him."

"He is a lovable man," said another supporter, David Foster. "He gives up his heart to everyone."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Kubiatowski said the outpouring of support for Ellis made the case difficult.

But he said Ellis' actions were nonetheless illegal.

"It doesn't matter what your status is in the community," Kubiatowski said. "You still have an obligation to pay taxes."

Tuesday, August 30, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

Charity Benefits Pastor, Founder

LITHONIA, Ga. (AP) -- The pastor of Georgia’s biggest megachurch was also the biggest beneficiary of the nonprofit religious charity he founded, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reported.

Bishop Eddie Long Ministries, Inc. provided Long with more than three million dollars in salary and benefits between 1997 and 2000, including a one-point-four million dollar, 20 acre home and use of a 350-thousand dollar Bentley automobile.

Long has pastored New Birth Missionary Baptist Church since 1987 and started the now-defunct charity in 1995. During his 18-year tenure, the church has swelled from 300 members to 25 thousand.

The 52-year-old pastor says his church is an international corporation and that his congregation is inspired by his success. Critics say the benefits he received as an executive of the charity were excessive and in opposition to federal guidelines for such nonprofit groups.

Sunday, August 28, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

Former Pastor Arrested on Porn Charges

By Melissa Ross
First Coast News


LEON COUNTY, FL -- The Leon County Sheriff's Office arrested a former pastor on pornography charges.

Aaron D. West, 49, is accused of sending nude pictures of a man to two girls in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

The investigation began when a detective in Wisconsin alerted authorities in Bradford County about a man in the area sending nude photos to the young girls.

Investigators questioned West about the matter.

West reportedly admitted to investigators to communicating in an internet chat room and sending nude photos of a man other than himself.

Investigators believe West had been sending the photos and communicating with the minors since 2002 when he served as pastor of the Faith Baptist Church in Lawtey.

West is no longer a pastor at the church.

Investigators believe West lives and works in Tallahassee.

Authorities confiscated West's home computer and related equipment.

He is being held in the Leon County Jail on a $50,000 bond.

West is due in court in Bradford County next week to face felony charges of possessing or transmitting pornography to a minor.

Anti-Gay Church Protests at GI Funerals

AP National & World News
By BETH RUCKER


SMYRNA, Tenn. - Members of a church say God is punishing American soldiers for defending a country that harbors gays, and they brought their anti-gay message to the funerals Saturday of two Tennessee soldiers killed in Iraq.

The church members were met with scorn from local residents. They chased the church members cars' down a highway, waving flags and screaming "God bless America."
"My husband is over there, so I'm here to show my support," 41-year-old Connie Ditmore said as she waved and American flag and as tears came to her eyes. "To do this at a funeral is disrespectful of a family, no matter what your beliefs are."

The Rev. Fred Phelps, founder of Westboro Baptist in Kansas, contends that American soldiers are being killed in Iraq as vengeance from God for protecting a country that harbors gays. The church, which is not affiliated with a larger denomination, is made up mostly of Phelps' children, grandchildren and in-laws.

The church members carried signs and shouted things such as "God hates fags" and "God hates you."

About 10 church members protested near Smyrna United Methodist Church and nearly 20 stood outside the National Guard Armory in Ashland City. Members have demonstrated at other soldier funerals across the nation.




The funerals were for Staff Sgt. Asbury Fred Hawn II, 35, in Smyrna and Spc. Gary Reese Jr., 22, in Ashland City. Both were members of the Tennessee National Guard.

Hundreds of Smyrna and Ashland City residents and families of other soldiers turned out at both sites to counter the message the Westboro Baptist members brought.

So many counterdemonstrators were gathered in Ashland City that police, sheriff's deputies and state troopers were brought in to control traffic and protect the protesters.

The church members held protesting permits, and counterprotesters in Smyrna turned their backs to Westboro Baptist members until time expired on the protest permits.

"If they were protesting the government, I might even join them," Danny Cotton, 56, said amid cries of "get out of our town" and "get out of our country."

"But for them to come during the worst time for this family _ it's just wrong."

Friday, August 26, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

Church goers jailed for bashing follower

Three leaders of a Korean church in Sydney have been jailed for bashing a young woman who failed to regularly attend services.

Junior assistant pastor Chi Yeong Yun, 37, and Bible study teachers Tom Chae-Yong Lee, 22, and James Kang, 21, from Chatswood's Open Door Presbyterian Church, pleaded guilty to assaulting Angela Kim, 19, in July last year.

In the NSW District Court, acting Judge Joe Gibson named Yun as the "architect of the plan" to punish Ms Kim for not regularly attending the church and disrespecting her elders.

Yun was given a 12 month jail term, Kang was sentenced to nine months, and Lee received a three month sentence.

The court was told Ms Kim was picked up at the Waitara train station on July 8 last year and was taken by the men to a park at Bobbin Head in Sydney's north.

She was kicked and punched for about two hours, leaving her with extensive bruising to her arms, legs and buttocks.

Two nights later, Kang went to Ms Kim's home and smashed her portable CD player.

Judge Gibson said Kang's actions were intended to further enforce the message from the beating.

In handing down the sentences, he said the actions of the three men had gone against their teachings.

"Whether it was intended that it go as far as it did, I don't know," he said.

"Religion in this day and age does not countenance such conduct ... and is against the teachings of God."

He said women could not be "coerced and beaten into compliance".

"The victim is an adult able to make up her own decisions," he said.

During the hearing, Kang told the court the group had intended to help Ms Kim but their approaches got out of hand.

He said he knew the actions were wrong and that in future he would deal with people who had problems through the teachings of the Bible.

After the sentences were handed down, a supporter of the three men collapsed and had to be taken from Downing Centre Court on a stretcher to a waiting ambulance.

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Survey: Two-Thirds of Evangelicals Doubt Jesus' Words Regarding Salvation Thru Him Alone

By Fred Jackson

(AgapePress) - There's a new poll out which points to a growing rejection among Evangelicals that Jesus is the only way of salvation.

For years, most evangelical Christians have been taught and accepted the words of Jesus in John 14:6, where He states, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no man cometh unto the Father but my Me." But now a new Newsweek/Beliefnet poll is showing a shocking number of people who call themselves evangelical and born-again have come to reject those words.

The question in the poll read: "Can a good person who isn't of your religious faith go to heaven or attain salvation, or not?"

According to the poll results of more than 1,000 adults 18 years of age and older, 68 percent of evangelical Christians believe "good" people of other faiths can also go to heaven. Nationally, 79 percent of those surveyed said the same thing, with an "astounding" 91 percent agreement among Catholics, notes Beliefnet. Beliefnet spokesman Steven Waldman calls the results "pretty amazing."

"Evangelicals are among the most churchgoing and religiously attentive people in the United States," Waldman writes, "and one of the ideas they're most likely to hear from the minister at church on a given Sunday is that the path to salvation is through Jesus."

In light of that, how -- he asks -- could so many Americans toss aside such a central element of theology?

Waldman believes the best explanation is found in the Newsweek cover story that grew out of the survey. The conclusion it draws is that Americans have become so focused on a very personal style of worship -- that is, forging a direct relationship with God -- that spiritual experience has begun to supplant dogma, or teaching based on the authority of the Bible.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

Robertson: U.S. should 'take out' Venezuela's Chavez

Christian broadcaster calls leader 'a terrific danger'

(CNN) -- Conservative Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson has called for the United States to assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, calling him "a terrific danger" bent on exporting Communism and Islamic extremism across the Americas.

"If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it," Robertson told viewers on his "The 700 Club" show Monday. "It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war."

Robertson, a contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 1988, called Chavez "a dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge pool of oil, that could hurt us badly."

"We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability," Robertson said. "We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

Robertson accused Chavez, a left-wing populist with close ties to Cuban President Fidel Castro, of trying to make Venezuela "a launching pad for Communist infiltration and Muslim extremism all over the continent."

"This is in our sphere of influence, so we can't let this happen," he said.

Chavez has said he believes the United States is trying to assassinate him, vowing that Venezuela, which accounts for more than 10 percent of U.S. oil imports, would shut off the flow of oil if that happens.

Robertson's comments Monday were the latest in a string of controversial remarks in recent years by the religious broadcaster and founder of the Christian Coalition.

Last October, during the heat of the presidential race, Robertson told CNN that during a meeting with President Bush prior to the invasion of Iraq, the president told him he did not believe there would be casualties. The White House strongly denied the claim.

In May, during an ABC interview, Robertson ignited a firestorm with his response to a question about whether activist judges were more of a threat to America than terrorists.

"If they look over the course of 100 years, I think the gradual erosion of the consensus that's held our country together is probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings," he said.

Defending his remarks in a letter to Sen. Frank Lautenberg, Robertson insisted he was not being cavalier about the 9/11 attacks. But he also refused to apologize, saying Supreme Court rulings on abortion, religious expression in the public square, pornography and same-sex marriage "are all of themselves graver dangers in the decades to come than the terrorists which our great nation has defeated in Afghanistan and Iraq."

In October 2003, Robertson, criticizing the State Department during an interview on "The 700 Club," said "maybe we need a very small nuke thrown off on Foggy Bottom to shake things up," referring to the nickname for the department's headquarters in Washington.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher called the remark "despicable."

In July 2003, Robertson asked his audience to pray for three justices to retire from the Supreme Court so they could be replaced with more conservative jurists. "One justice is 83 years old, another has cancer and another has a heart condition," he said.

Robertson insisted he was only calling for prayers for the justices to retire and was not asking his followers to pray for their demise.

In November 2002, Robertson charged that the Muslim holy book, the Quran, incites followers to kill people of other faiths and disputed Bush's characterization of Islam as a religion of peace.

"It's clear from the teachings of the Quran and also from the history of Islam that it's anything but peaceful," Robertson said in a subsequent interview with CNN. "Of course there are peace-loving Muslims. But at the same time, at the core of this religion ... is jihad, and it is to subject the unbelievers either to forced conversion or death. That's what it teaches."

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Saturday, August 20, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor Charged With Child Molestation


A Union County pastor, former NAACP president and Union County School Board member faces charges of child molestation.

George Watson's picture and details of the molestation charges against him are all over the front page of the Union Daily Paper, while the charges date back nearly 10 years ago, the 21-year-old victim says he wants closure now.

Watson is charged with three counts of criminal sexual conduct with a minor. According to police, the victim is Watson's relative. The incidents allegedly happened when the boy was 12 or 13 years old through his senior year of high school. The Sheriff's Office report says Watson sexually assaulted the boy at several locations in Union and Spartanburg counties. The victim says Watson performed oral sex acts on him, against his will. Sexually instances allegedly happened at Watson's home, the church where he was a preacher at and Arthur State Bank.

Many people who know Watson did not want to go on camera, but say he's a good man and the new is shocking.

Shirley Spears knows Watson and says, "It's a big surprise to me, it was a shock, I've seen him ride by here, I don't know him that well, but he'd come by and talk to my husband."

Some people in Union did say nothing surprises them anymore these days and you never know what someone is capable of, still they say Watson's innocent until proven guilty.

Watson is being held at the Union County Jail on $30,000 bond, once he pays that he'll be taken to Spartanburg County Jail where he faces similar molestation charges.

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Creation Myths

Babylonian Creation Myth

y African Creation Myth - Olori

Comparison of 4 African Creation Myths

Korean & Japanese Creation Myth comparisons

Navajo Creation Myth

Norse Creation Myth

Creation Myth from India

Japanese Creation Myth

Comanche Creation Myth

Chinese Creation Myth

Chelan Creation Myth

Pima Creation Myth

Mayan Creation Myth

Miwok Creation Myth

Scandinavian (Norse) Creation Myths

Salish Creation Myth

Australian Aboriginal Creation Myth

Hopi Creation Myth Tahitian Creation Myth

Yokut Creation Myth

Comanche Creation Myth
Egyptian Creation Myths

African - Mande, Yoruba Creation Myths

Several different short Creation Stories

Micmac Creation Myth

Lakota Creation Myth

Several Creation Stories: India, Romania, Mongol, etc..

Chinese Creation / Flood Myth

Assyrian / Babylonian Creation Myth

Maori Creation Myth

Christian & Jewish Creation Myth (Genesis)

Aztec Creation Myth

Digueno Creation Myth

Apache Creation Myth

African Creation Myths

Dakota Creation Myth

Hungarian Creation Myth

Iroquois Creation Myth

Inuit Creation Myth

Huron Creation Myth

Hawaiian Creation Myth

Church: We got it wrong

The leader of a church that hired a convicted paedophile yesterday conceded it was a mistake.

Sex offender Christopher Winslow Darrell was “a gifted musician” who was hired to be a musical director because the pastor wanted to give him second chance, we were told.

The leader, who like the pastor and the church, cannot be identified for legal reasons, told the Bermuda Sun yesterday that when he and the pastor discovered that Mr. Darrell had fondled a boy with whom he had been playing the piano “we were as upset as the public was.”

The leader said the pastor had been hoping that the Lord would step in and help Mr. Darrell to change his ways, but everyone now understands that it is difficult for people like Mr. Darrell to control themselves around children.

“We will be taking every step to prevent this from happening again,” he said. Mr. Darrell, 41, of Spring Hill, Warwick was jailed for four years last week in Supreme Court for the offence — his fifth conviction for a similar offence in 15 years. He was also deported from the U.S. for a sexual offence.

The leader said he was not involved in the hiring of Mr. Darrell — ministers do the hiring. The pastor who hired him was aware of his past, but he decline to comment yesterday.

The leader said he would be requiring anyone hired to work with children in the church to have a police check.

He said he would be encouraging ministers not to accept the word of former prisoners just on their say so — anyone can put their hand up in church and say the Lord has changed their lives.

The leader said he was an example of how the Lord changes lives — and he contended the Holy Spirit could even transform the lives of paedophiles — but the church should have insisted that Mr. Darrell undergo counselling while working as a musical director.

The church had learned from its mistake and did not want to be” branded” as a place that gives shelter to sex offenders. “People have said we should have known better,” he said. “In hindsight, I can agree with them.”

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Ex-pastor admits videotaping up girl's skirt

AUGUSTA — A former pastor has admitted in court to videotaping under the skirt of a teenage girl at a mall last summer.

Michael Jay Brown is a former assistant pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Martinez. He pleaded guilty Thursday to child molestation and was sentenced to 10 years probation, a $5,000 fine and 200 hours of community service.

Before his July 2004 arrest, Brown also was a volunteer working with abused and neglected children. He lost both positions after his arrest.

At his sentencing, Brown said he is thankful he was arrested. He has been to a residential treatment program and now attends counseling for sex addiction.

He vowed to never do it again.

Brown said he got the idea of taping under skirts from Internet web sites. He said he didn't think it was illegal or would harm anyone at the time. But he said he now understands his acts were an invasion of privacy.

In July 1986, Brown was arrested for peeping into a woman's bedroom window. He said in his police statement then: "Believe me, I'll never do it again."

Thursday's child molestation conviction means Brown will have to register as a sex offender and abide by strict rules while on probation. As a condition of probation, he is not to have any contact with children other than family members.

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Former pastor convicted on sex charges

PAXTON, Ill. A Ford County jury convicted a former Gibson City minister yesterday on two counts of criminal sexual assault.

The Reverend Danny Hill, former pastor of the First Baptist Church in Gibson City, was accused of molesting a woman for more than six years.

The 54-year-old Hill faces from four to 15 years in prison and up to a 25-thousand-dollar fine for each count when he is sentenced next month.

Jurors heard recordings police made of telephone calls between Hill and the victim, who is now 22. In the calls, she confronted Hill and he appeared to admit his guilt.

The woman testified that Hill had sexually molested her two to three times a week from the time she was 14 until last year.

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