Friday, March 31, 2006                                                                                       View Comments

Prayer doesn't affect heart patients

Prayer doesn't affect heart patients

NEW YORK -- In the largest study of its kind, researchers found that having people pray for heart bypass surgery patients had no effect on their recovery. In fact, patients who knew they were being prayed for had a slightly higher rate of complications.

Researchers emphasized their work does not address whether God exists or answers prayers made on another's behalf. The study can only look for an effect from prayers offered as part of the research, they said.

They also said they had no explanation for the higher complication rate in patients who knew they were being prayed for, in comparison to patients who only knew it was possible prayers were being said for them.

The work, which followed about 1,800 patients at six medical centers, was financed by the Templeton Foundation, which supports research into science and religion. It will appear in the American Heart Journal.

Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School and other scientists tested the effect of having three Christian groups pray for particular patients, starting the night before surgery and continuing for two weeks. The volunteers prayed for "a successful surgery with a quick, healthy recovery and no complications" for specific patients, for whom they were given the first name and first initial of the last name.

The patients, meanwhile, were split into three groups of about 600 apiece: those who knew they were being prayed for, those who were prayed for but only knew it was a possibility, and those who weren't prayed for but were told it was a possibility.

The researchers did not ask patients or their families and friends to alter any plans they had for prayer, saying such a step would have been unethical and impractical.

The study looked for any complications within 30 days of the surgery. Results showed no effect of prayer on complication-free recovery. But 59 percent of the patients who knew they were being prayed for developed a complication, versus 52 percent of those who were told it was just a possibility.

Dr. Harold G. Koenig, director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at the Duke University Medical Center, who did not take part in the study, said the results did not surprise him.

"There are no scientific grounds to expect a result and there are no real theological grounds to expect a result either," he said.

Science, he said, "is not designed to study the supernatural."

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006                                                                                       View Comments

Teacher/Pastor arrested in faked deployment

NEW YORK — A Bronx special education teacher was arrested Tuesday for telling school officials he was being deployed to assist with Hurricane Katrina relief efforts when he actually traveled to Brazil for personal reasons, investigators said.

James Thomas, who is also the pastor of St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Bronx, was charged with forgery, false records and larceny.

Thomas, a teacher at the Fordham Leadership Academy for Business and Technology, received $828 in salary for four days in October during which he claimed that he had been on active military duty in New Orleans, according Richard Condon, the special commissioner of investigation for the city schools.

Thomas allegedly faked deployment documents from the Air National Guard, where he was a lieutenant colonel, so that he could attend a religious conference in Brazil.

He was reassigned to administrative duty following the Dec. 12 release of the report by Condon's office.

Thomas retired from the Air National Guard following the incident, said Maj. Emily Desrosier, a spokeswoman for the 106th Rescue Wing. The teacher served with the Westhampton Beach-based unit for 28 years as chaplain.

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Saturday, March 25, 2006                                                                                       View Comments

Sex offender going from church choir to prison bars

A convicted sex offender who directed the youth choir and taught a Bible study group at a Waco Baptist church was sentenced to 20 years in prison Friday.

Curtis Jene Smith, 38, music director and Bible teacher at Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church, 2919 McKenzie Ave., pleaded guilty Friday to indecency with a child and was sentenced in a plea agreement by 54th State District Judge George Allen.

If Smith had gone to trial, he faced an automatic life prison term because of his convictions in 1991 for the sexual assault of two boys and in 2002 for failure to register as a sex offender, both in Burnet County.

According to court records, Smith was registered as a sex offender in Waco and told authorities he was working as a night auditor at a local hotel. His association with the church, which church officials say began in 2000, went unreported, in violation of sex offender registration restrictions.

Smith pleaded guilty to molesting a 12-year-old Waco boy in February 2005 after giving him a ride home from church youth choir practice. The boy reported to Waco police that Smith also tried to show him a pornographic videotape at his house.

"I believe that he is a typical predator-type sex offender," prosecutor Beth Toben said. "He used his position to have access to kids and then developed trust with the boy's family and was very manipulative so that he could continue to have access to the children. Based on what we know about his background, I think he will continue to do the same thing, and I hope prison officials keep him most of those 20 years."

Smith must serve at least 10 years in prison before he is eligible for parole, Toben said.

The Rev. Carl Buhl, pastor of Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church, said Smith is a talented musician and an “outstanding” Bible instructor. He said Smith “didn't give me a minute's trouble” until the abuse allegations surfaced.

Smith was allowed to continue working at the church after he lied to Buhl and others and told them the indecency charges against him had been dismissed, Buhl said. He said church officials did not run a background check on Smith because they had known of his work at other area churches.

"I had heard some things about Curtis, but I am in the business of trying to help people," Buhl said. "But I had no idea that he wasn't supposed to be around kids. I guarantee you, there won't be anybody over here cutting the grass without a background check now. You live and learn."

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Friday, March 24, 2006                                                                                       View Comments

Atheists identified as America’s most distrusted minority, according to new U of M study

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL -- American’s increasing acceptance of religious diversity doesn’t extend to those who don’t believe in a god, according to a national survey by researchers in the University of Minnesota’s department of sociology.

From a telephone sampling of more than 2,000 households, university researchers found that Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians and other minority groups in “sharing their vision of American society.” Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry.

Even though atheists are few in number, not formally organized and relatively hard to publicly identify, they are seen as a threat to the American way of life by a large portion of the American public. “Atheists, who account for about 3 percent of the U.S. population, offer a glaring exception to the rule of increasing social tolerance over the last 30 years,” says Penny Edgell, associate sociology professor and the study’s lead researcher.

Edgell also argues that today’s atheists play the role that Catholics, Jews and communists have played in the past—they offer a symbolic moral boundary to membership in American society. “It seems most Americans believe that diversity is fine, as long as every one shares a common ‘core’ of values that make them trustworthy—and in America, that ‘core’ has historically been religious,” says Edgell. Many of the study’s respondents associated atheism with an array of moral indiscretions ranging from criminal behavior to rampant materialism and cultural elitism.

Edgell believes a fear of moral decline and resulting social disorder is behind the findings. “Americans believe they share more than rules and procedures with their fellow citizens—they share an understanding of right and wrong,” she said. “Our findings seem to rest on a view of atheists as self-interested individuals who are not concerned with the common good.”

The researchers also found acceptance or rejection of atheists is related not only to personal religiosity, but also to one’s exposure to diversity, education and political orientation—with more educated, East and West Coast Americans more accepting of atheists than their Midwestern counterparts.

The study is co-authored by assistant professor Joseph Gerteis and associate professor Doug Hartmann. It’s the first in a series of national studies conducted the American Mosaic Project, a three-year project funded by the Minneapolis-based David Edelstein Family Foundation that looks at race, religion and cultural diversity in the contemporary United States. The study will appear in the April issue of the American Sociological Review.

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Pastor, 59, sentenced to home confinement for groping two young male parishioners

WILMINGTON, Delaware — A 59-year-old pastor was sentenced today to three months of home confinement for groping a teenage boy and a young man who were parishioners at his church.

In November, Talbert L. Gwynn, pastor of Wilmington Church of Christ in Penny Hill, pleaded guilty to two counts of third-degree unlawful sexual contact.

Superior Court Judge William C. Carpenter Jr. today also required Gwynn to register as a sex offender and put him on probation for a year.

According to county police, a 16-year-old and a younger boy spent the night at Gwynn’s New Castle home in February 2005. While the younger boy was showering, police said, the 16-year-old was awakened by Gwynn, who began to hug him. Gwynn also grabbed the teen’s genitals as he was getting out of bed, police said.

In a separate incident, the pastor groped g a 25-year-old during Bible study.

In court, Gwynn’s attorney, Eugene Maurer, said his client is in the process of leaving the ministry when his successor is named at the church.

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Arrest warrant issued in case of missing girl

Lewis J. Lee, 54The search is on for a Chenango County teen that hasn't been seen since this past weekend. Authorities believe they know who she's with.

A felony arrest warrant is out for a former pastor from Chenango County. The sheriff's department believes Lewis Lee, 54, disappeared with Elizabeth Thomsen, 15. She's been missing from the town of Sherburne since last Saturday.

Elizabeth M. Thomsen, 15Lee and Thomsen do know each other. Lee was arrested earlier this year for allegedly stalking the teen. An order of protection was issued a few weeks ago directing Lee to stay away from the girl. Lee now lives in Maryland.

Detectives say they've spoken to Lee's wife in Maryland and it appeared the man had given her false information.

Authorities believe Lee and Thomsen may be traveling in a blue 2006 GMC Sierra with Maryland plates.

If you have any information please call New York State Missing and Exploited Children Clearinghouse at 1-800-FIND-KID.

Wife Confesses in Pastor's Slaying

The wife of a popular preacher has confessed to shooting her husband in the bedroom of their parsonage in Selmer, Tenn. and will be brought back to the small city to face first-degree murder charges, officials said.

At a televised news conference, Chief Roger Rickman of the Selmer Police Department said Mary Winkler confessed to authorities in Alabama. No motive was announced.

Mary Winkler will be transported from Orange Beach, Ala., about 350 miles south of Selmer, from where she and the couple's three daughters fled after her husband was killed. She will be returned this weekend and will likely be arraigned on murder charges next week, Rickman said.

Matthew Winkler, 31, the minister at Selmer's Fourth Street Church of Christ, was found shot to death Wednesday. After he missed the popular midweek evening service, shocked church members called authorities.

Police said there was no evidence that the home had been broken into. Mary Winkler and the children - Breanna, 1; Mary Alice, 6; and Patricia, 8 - were missing, so authorities issued an Amber Alert.

Authorities in Alabama noticed the vehicle and contacted Tennessee police. Mary Wilkins, 32, who had rented a condo on the beach, was in the custody of Alabama police, who interviewed her.

The children were expected to be given to the grandparents at least temporarily. Rickman said the children did not witness the shooting.

Matthew Winkler had been the minister at the Fourth Street church for about 13 months. He and his family became key parts of the community in the city of about 4,600 in southwest Tennessee near Memphis. It is a rural area near the Mississippi border with horse and cattle ranches.

"They were the perfect family," said Pam Killingsworth, a member of the church and an assistant principal at the elementary school attended by two of the children.

She was "the perfect mother, the perfect wife. She brought her children to school every day. She volunteered at the school," Killingsworth said on CNN.

"It is just not real. In my heart, I can't believe this is happening," she said. "She was not this kind of person."

Two shocks have rocked Selmer, former Mayor Jimmy Whittington told CNN: The murder of a charismatic preacher, followed by the disappearance of his wife and children.

"Yesterday we were tied in knots, worrying where they [the family] were, what was happening. To some degree, there is relief that the children are safe," he said.

"I doubt there is anybody in the community who can tell you what happened," Whittington said. "Small communities have a tendency to think these type of things happen elsewhere. When it happens to you, you're shocked."

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006                                                                                       View Comments

Frustrated by ignorance

sent in by Shannon

Thankfully my parents were not and are not Christians. (The same cannot be said for the rest of my family.) In a misguided attempt to provide me with a better education than public schools purportedly provide, I was sent to private Christian (Episcopal, and later, Assembly of God) schools from grades 1-9. At these fine instutions of learning, I was taught to quote Bible verses, sing hymns, and all about how God created the earth and so on and so forth. By the time I reached the 9th grade, I had witnessed a string of hypocrasies which "tested my faith". The devout English and Science teacher ran away together during the summer between 8th and 9th grade; the Science teacher leaving her husband and 3 children behind. How do you explain that? I was also confused by my best friend's father, a pillar of the community and fine Christian church leader, who commited countless adulteries against his faithful wife. Our new, young pastor "shacked up" with his girlfriend and shocked the congregation when he was caught sharing a room with her on a trip... afterwards he resigned his post. The church-goers who regularly abused alcohol and drugs and then attended church every Sunday morning. The general mean-spiritedness of members of the congregation; the venom with which others were spoken of behind their back if they were believed to have committed the slightest transgression. The list goes on and on....

Once I began high school at a public school in the 10th grade, I was seriously beginning to question my faith. I could not reconcile all these activities with this religion. I thought we were supposed to be good, with our actions serving as a witness to others? At the same time, I was plagued with guilt that I should question anything, as I knew I should just have faith in God, and not look at the actions of man, who is weak.

I made some friends and started attending a Methodist church, where I joined the youth group and became actively involved. Don't get me wrong, that was a great experience as I made a lot of friends and it generally kept me out of trouble in high school. I never took a drink of alcohol until college and no drugs until I was 25 (and then, pot only). The youth leader was a former hellion and drug addict who had been "converted" when he met his Christian wife (how that match worked I'll never know.) This made him fairly open-minded nonetheless, with at least a dim memory of experiences outside the hazy realm of Christianity. Our youth group had quite a few serious discussions, and we weren't even discouraged from questioning our faith. When someone once asked, "what if we are wrong?" his answer was "If we're wrong, then when we die, nothing will happen. BUT, if we're right and we don't accept Jesus as our savior, then we'll go to hell. I prefer to play it safe." To me, that said the only reason he chose his faith is out of fear of hell - he is willing to accept that ideology just to save himself from eternal damnation, even though he acknowledges that he may not be right.

After graduation, I attended college and one of my first classes was Sociology. During this class, we explored the different religions that have existed in the world, and it was very clear that the professor felt all religions had been made up by man to satisfy various needs - usually to control people by telling them "Do this because God said so" or "Don't do that or you will go to hell". I was amazed as that was literally the first time in my life I had ever heard such a thing - religion was made up by man??? That was an Ah-ha moment for me if there ever was one. At that moment I allowed myself to consider the possibility, for the first time, that maybe Christianity wasn't right. For a while, I couldn't get enough, and began studying various religions and the history of religions. At that time I still believed there was a God, but I no longer believed in Christianity, and was beginning to be opposed to all organized religion. The more I studied, the more I had a growing realization that God could not be merciful if one religion is "right" - then all the other millions/billions of people who believe something else are going to hell. After this I declared myself agnostic and ceased to give much thoughts to matters of religion or God.

Now, 7 years out of college, and I have noticed myself becoming increasingly annoyed by all the religious/Christian ideas that surround me. The silly and unwanted prayer/angel/Jesus emails forwarded to me by friends, family, and co-workers. What I used to ignore, I now abhor. I am not sure what brought about the change, other than it seems like there is more and more Christian thoughts getting introduced into our government and our laws, with many of our leaders touting these same ideals. I once again turned to books and the internet to educate myself about the fallacies of the Bible, Christianity, and the existence of God. I now consider myself an atheist, and I cannot help but marvel at the fundamental Christians who actually believe all the insanity and fairy tales. I am very frustrated at all the minds that are wasted whenever otherwise intelligent people subscribe to this nonsense. All I can do is educate myself and encourage other people to do the same, as I cannot force my world view on them anymore than they force theirs on me.

I am much happier since my de-conversion, now that I no longer have the threat of hell-fire looming in the background anytime I have a bad thought, curse when I stub my toe, or drink a beer. There are no longer specters and devils creeping in the closet and under the bed, waiting to claim my soul, or at the very least, possess my body. I no longer have to rationalize the hypocrisy of humans and the church, the hatred, intolerance, and bloodshed, or the inequal treatment and even outright discrimination against women. I no longer have to believe in the ludricrous and unsubstantiated fables in the Bible that so many others take as the literal truth.

I am finally FREE!


San Antonio
TX
USA
How old were you when you became a christian? 6
How old were you when you ceased being a christian? 19
What churches or organizations or labels have applied to you? Methodist, Assembly of God, Presbyterian, Episcopalian
What labels, if any, would you apply to yourself now? Atheist
Why did you become a christian? Raised, schooled, surrounded, and immersed in it
Why did you de-convert? Saw the blatant hiprocrasies occurring on a regular basis, starting investigating the facts

Monday, March 20, 2006                                                                                       View Comments

Couple discovers marriage of nearly two years not legal

Julie LeMoyne and Russell Fike of Sunny View NC had been living as a married couple for almost two years before they learned their marriage was not legal in the eyes of the state.

When the couple discovered their pastor had not officially married them, Fike says he “about hit the floor.”

Rev. Larry Devon Blanton has since been charged with a misdemeanor and the couple has had to arrange a second marriage ceremony, which will take place tomorrow.
“If something would have happened to either of us (the past two years), we couldn’t have proved (we were married),” LeMoyne said.

The marriage ceremony for LeMoyne and Fike was performed on April 17, 2004 by Rev. Blanton of Morgan Chapel Baptist Church. Approximately 200 witnesses were in attendance.

Fike and LeMoyne said after they asked Blanton what paperwork they needed to fill out to be married, such as an application for marriage, Blanton told the couple he would take care of everything. Blanton gave the couple a marriage certificate. They put the certificate away and didn’t think anything about it until almost two years later.

LeMoyne says she became concerned about the legality of their marriage when issues arose at their church, including a change in teachings by Blanton and Blanton’s firing of the church deacons (see story, page 8).

The couple visited the Polk County Sheriff’s Office earlier this year to see if they were legally married. A Polk County magistrate told the couple they were not legally married. No marriage license was obtained for Fike and LeMoyne and their certificate did not have the language and seal required by the register of deeds. A complaint was made against Blanton.

On Feb. 22 of this year, Blanton, 49, of 432 Harmon Field Road, Tryon, was arrested and charged with solemnization without license unlawful, a class I misdemeanor, according to Lt. Grayson Edwards, with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

The law states that, “no minister, officer, or any other person authorized to solemnize a marriage under the laws of this State shall perform a ceremony of marriage between a man and woman, or shall declare them to be husband and wife, until there is delivered to that person a license for the marriage of the said persons, signed by the register of deeds in the county in which a marriage license was issued or by a lawful deputy or assistant,” according to N.C. General Statute 51-6.

Blanton, in a letter to the Bulletin, said that a mistake was made at the sheriff’s office regarding his recent arrest. He said the misdemeanor charge was without merit and he is attempting to clear up the issues. Blanton concluded in his response that he couldn’t comment further as the issue is now in the hands of an attorney.
Officials at the Polk County Sheriff’s Office say there is no mistake, that a warrant was issued and executed on Blanton and he was arrested and charged with the misdemeanor.

LeMoyne and Fike will be legally married tomorrow in a ceremony scheduled for 2 p.m. at the Mill Spring Baptist Church at the intersection of Highways 9 and 108. Rev. Eric Page will perform the service, led by a Polk County magistrate.
Fike and LeMoyne say if nothing else, they want others to be aware so no one else falls victim to the same problems.

LeMoyne says she and Fike are thankful to the Mill Spring Baptist Church officials, who offered the church to the couple, and to the many people in the community who have helped with their situation.

LeMoyne says up to 75 people have been invited to tomorrow’s ceremony and any supporters in the community are also welcomed and invited to attend.

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Saturday, March 18, 2006                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor Arrested for Sexual Assault

GUAM—39-year-old Pastor Andrew was arrested by Juvenile Investigation Division agents today accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old female known to him. JIS agents arrested Andrew on charges of criminal sexual conduct, child abuse, jurisdiction over an adult, and terrorizing. According to police Andrew is accused of sexually assaulting the female minor then forcing her to have sexual relations with a neighbor.

The victim told police the man abused her when she refused and threatened to kill her if she went to police.

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Thursday, March 16, 2006                                                                                       View Comments

Homestead pastor charged with molesting 15-year-old

HOMESTEAD, Pa. - The founder and pastor of a suburban Pittsburgh church molested a 15-year-old boy he counseled four years ago, police charged Thursday.

The Rev. Duane Youngblood of the Higher Call World Outreach Church in Homestead, told reporters he was innocent and asked for prayer as he surrendered to Allegheny County police.

The teen was molested after his mother sent him to Youngblood for counseling, police said.

County police Lt. Robert Downey said police only learned of the boy's allegations last fall. It wasn't immediately clear whether the boy had reported the alleged abuse to other agencies before that.

Youngblood was charged with involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, indecent assault, sexual assault and corruption of minors.

Youngblood is a married father of five, according to the Web site of his church, which he founded in 1990.
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Church website: http://www.netministries.org/see/churches/ch22941?frameN

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Saturday, March 11, 2006                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor receives 23 years for sex abuse

MOBILE Al -- A judge sentenced an Irvington preacher to 23 years in prison for a sexual abuse conviction that involved a father and son, who described similar cases of abuse 20 years apart.

The Rev. Dennis Lamar Fields, 52, pastor at Bethel Holiness Church in south Mobile County, was sentenced Thursday by Mobile County Circuit Judge Charles Graddick.

A large group of Fields' friends, family members and church members attended.

In trial testimony, Fields' victim, now an adult, told jurors Fields took lewd photos of him as a 9-year-old child and later burned them in a backyard trash can, promising never to molest him again.

He called police 20 years later, he said, when his own 9-year-old son revealed that Fields had begun molesting him as well.

Two other adult men -- one of them a defense witness -- also provided testimony indicating Fields also had sexually exploited them when they were boys.

At sentencing, defense attorney Dennis Knizley called witnesses on Fields' behalf. Some were family. Some were friends or members of his church.

Appealing for mercy, they told Graddick that the longtime preacher, family patriarch and spiritual leader held the congregation and his large family together by his benevolence and goodness.

One witness, an adult son of Fields, wailed out on the witness stand, choking his words off with sobs.

A relative of the victims told Graddick that after Fields' conviction, the little boy endured verbal threats from the pastor's supporters and family members.

The child now lives in fear, she said, and wants Fields put away.

"This doesn't make me mad," Graddick said just before he sentenced Fields. "It makes me sick."

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Thursday, March 09, 2006                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor arrested for indecency with a child

For the second time in one week and a third time overall an Austin, TX pastor was accused of indecency with a child.

A warrant was issued Wednesday morning for Rodolfo Sosa, 48, after the allegations were made.

He was charged with fondling a 12 year-old-boy who lived in the apartment complex where Sosa worked as a maintenance man in March 2005. The boy was afraid to talk to investigators so the case was suspended.

In February Sosa was charged with indecency against two other boys. After investigating those incidents, police re-opened the 2005 case, re-interviewed the first victim, and filed the new charge.

Police say Sosa is a pastor at the nondenominational Ciudad del Refugio church in South Austin.

Sosa was free on bond when he was arrested on the latest charge. Bond in this case was set at $100,000.

If convicted, Sosa could spend up to 20 years in prison.

If you have any information that can help the police, call the APD Child Abuse Unit at (512) 974-6880.

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor charged with falsifying loan documents

Despite being charged this week in U.S. District Court with falsifying paperwork to obtain $824,000 in loans to open a nondenominational church in Greensburg, PA, the Rev. Roy E. Smith, founder and pastor of the Church of Dominion, will be in the pulpit tonight.

"Oh yes, that's correct. The minute I was made aware of this, I made the board aware of what was happening, and they support me," Smith, 32, said Tuesday.

"I had a lapse in judgment and I'm attempting to rectify it," said Smith, who declined further comment.

According to documents made public this week in federal court in Pittsburgh, Smith is accused of one count of bank fraud last year for falsifying paperwork at five area banks to obtain more than $824,000 in loans.

Court records said Smith, who used to operate the now-closed Bread of Life Church of Dominion along Fifth Avenue in McKeesport, Allegheny County, opened the nonprofit Church of Dominion Inc. in Greensburg in February 2005.

Smith, who is from Columbus, Ohio, originally registered Church of Dominion Inc. as a nonprofit religious organization in 2000, according to federal documents.

The Church of Dominion Inc., which lists Smith as president and its only officer, purchased the former parish of the Laurel Highlands Church of God, at West Pittsburgh Street and Westminster Avenue, for $455,000, according to Westmoreland County real estate records.

Despite the ongoing criminal proceedings, Smith's congregation of about 75 members remains strongly supportive, according to two board members.

"In the process of our church making various loan applications within the past year for our mortgage, Christian school, day-care center, food bank and outreach programs, we regret that inaccurate information was submitted, causing our pastor and the church to commit fraud," said church vice president and associate pastor Brian M. Christian.

"Nevertheless, all loan applications and all proceeds were approved by the board of directors of the church, and every dollar is accounted for. We are fully aware of all matters pertaining to the specifics of this situation and have been aware for some time," Christian said.

Another board member, who declined to give his name, said the church's five-member board and church congregation have been aware of the federal investigation since July.

"We're standing behind Rev. Smith 100 percent on this. This is not a situation where someone ran off with all the money. ... We can account for every single dime going into the church," said another board member, who also declined to be identified.

"Rev. Smith is taking full responsibility for it, although the church board approved those loans, too," he added.

According to the federal complaint, Smith used fraudulent documents to obtain $364,000 from Citizens Bank, $150,000 from Dollar Bank, $150,000 from First Commonwealth Bank, $60,000 from Commercial Bank & Trust, and $100,000 from S&T Bank.

The complaint states Smith falsely represented Church of Dominion's income, falsified its rent payment history and the name of its landlord at its former McKeesport location, and falsified the indebtedness of the church when it secured the loans last year.

Smith also allegedly presented the financial institutions "a false award notification letter to the Church of Dominion represented to be from The Richland Foundation in Harrisburg" for $150,000.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of State's bureau of charitable foundations, the Richland Foundation in Harrisburg does not exist.

"It was further a part of the scheme ... that Roy E. Smith provided the same loan collateral to more than one of the financial institutions without notifying the involved financial institutions that the collateral had been previously pledged," the complaint states.

The board members blamed the fraudulent loan paperwork on advice given to Smith by an outside financial consultant whom they declined to identify, and who they claim fled the area. They said the church's finance committee chairman, whom they also declined to identify, was asked to resign Jan. 31.

Margaret Philbin, spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan's office in Pittsburgh, declined to comment on the church board's claim that Smith received poor financial advice from another, anonymous party.

"Obviously, the complaint is a matter of public record and speaks for itself," she said.

The church leaders noted that in addition to purchasing the building, they hired a teaching staff of seven for its kindergarten through 12th-grade Christian school program, paid five employees to run the church's state-licensed day-care center, renovated the kitchen, and replaced the boiler system for another $25,000.

"We've already repaid 50 percent of the loans," Christian said.

Christian said Smith will take a short leave of absence beginning April 17 as a result of the complaint. However, he anticipates that Smith will return.

"Although Pastor Roy is part victim in all of this, he has decided to take a short leave of absence beginning April 17. The officers, members and pastoral staff completely support Pastor Roy in this matter, as our church was the sole beneficiary of all loan proceeds obtained," Christian said.

"Our church will continue to go forward in all ministry endeavors planned for this region and pray our senior pastor (Smith) will continue to go forward in all ministry endeavors planned for this region and pray our senior pastor will continue to lead us as we teach forgiveness, love and the grace of God that helps us all overcome all mistakes and failures," Christian said.

Christian said the church plans to "continue to make full restitution" in this matter.

Although board members noted that the church pays the rent on Smith's home and his automobile lease payments, none of those funds come from the loans in question. They said the monthly rental and lease payments come from other regular donations made by the congregation.

Smith waived arraignment, according to court documents.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Dennis Kissane is expected to prosecute the case.

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Related story: Televangelist to Visit

Ron Jeremy vs. Craig Gross

Last Thursday, Ron Jeremy, the world’s biggest porn star, came to Northeastern to debate pornography with a pastor named Craig Gross. Gross founded an anti-porn website, xxxchurch.com, and claims God avenges masturbation by killing kittens; he also ministers to porn addicts and former adult film stars. Jeremy and Gross met at last year’s Erotica LA convention. We’re not making this shit up.

Hordes of porn-crazed students milled about the Blackman Auditorium, anticipating the titanic clash. Allison Romano came looking for “a good debate.” She also predicted a victory for Jeremy, in no small part because the Hedgehog “can suck his own dick.”

Inside the auditorium, the debate began dubiously. The moderator demanded a substantive discussion, with “fluff questions” kept to a minimum; the instructions set the room all a-titter.

Boos and laughs peppered Gross’s introduction, but the audience did seem impressed by the 60 million hits xxxchurch.com has logged. More impressive, though, was Jeremy’s résumé of over 1,800 adult films, and his bold wardrobe choice—a Hawaiian shirt paired with red and black track pants.

Gross, the young and confident underdog, got things started. “I started my website because of people like you, who’ve been misled about pornography,” he said. “I don’t want to shut down the porn industry, but for some people, it leads to a dead end. Porn is all about creating fantasies, but the fantasies are creating unrealistic expectations of what you should expect in sex.”

Gross also laid one-third of the nation’s divorces at the feet of porn-related relationship dysfunctions, and warned, to more twitters, “Porn is a parasite on your brain. Get off now while you still can.”

“Why he picks on porn, I don’t know,” Jeremy countered. “It’s consenting adults having consenting sex, and being watched by consenting adults. If you have a problem with it, don’t watch it.”

He continued, “Any kind of addiction is not good. But if you have a good job, you’re a productive member of society, and you want to go home, watch porn, masturbate and go to sleep, that’s OK. Why do you have to stop watching porn? Why stop having cream cheese on your bagel?”

During the debate’s Q&A session, the crowd seemed maddened by Gross’s refusal to sensationalize his argument. He wouldn’t say that porn creates murderers and rapists, but only that it might establish behaviors and expectations that can undermine monogamous relationships.

Two streakers interrupted a discussion about the merits/evils of double-anal penetration. The guy screamed his devotion to Jeremy and then escaped out a side door, but when his female companion reached the auditorium stage, she froze; not knowing where to go, she threw her hands in the air, turned around and galloped back up the aisle she’d just run down—right into the arms of an NUPD officer.

“Wow,” Jeremy marveled, “this is the first time I’ve ever been upstaged. I’ve spoken at colleges all across the country, and never been streaked.” Then he became introspective, musing, “She had a pretty nice body … ”

Streaker Girl wasn’t the evening’s most humiliated female, though; that honor was won by a student who suggested to Jeremy that porn degrades women.

“It’s sex—it’s not dehumanizing,” he replied. “What are you referring to, a pop-shot on your face?”

The student said that, while money shots weren’t the specific thrust of her complaint, they were problematic. So Jeremy suggested several other ways of finishing off a guy without taking a blast to the kisser: “On your stomach, your back, your shoulder, your breasts, in your mouth, a towel, a condom—there are lots of ways to do it.”

However, the Hedgehog added, “Some girls don’t mind a little sperm on their face,” and requested a show of hands to prove his point. A girl in the balcony stood up, and received an ovation from several guys nearby. This caused the first student to blurt out, “I don’t want men to cum in my face, ever!”

“Why not?” Jeremy asked. “I let girls squirt on my face!”

At that point, the moderator stepped in and declared the event over. “Thanks for coming,” he said, to even more laughter.

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Ministry Leader Accused of Raping Woman

Fort Washington Church Suspends Member Over Charges in Fairfax City

A ministry leader at one of Prince George's County's largest churches has been charged in Fairfax City with raping and beating a woman in a hotel parking lot in January, and this week he was suspended from his church duties.

The Rev. Eugene A. Marriott Jr., 41, of Clinton was the "minister of men" at the 10,000-member Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church in Fort Washington, one of the largest AME churches in the country. Marriott was arrested Jan. 14 and spent four days in the Fairfax County jail before a $20,000 bond was set. The church placed him on administrative leave with pay.

But after learning details of the attack on the woman from a reporter, the church on Monday suspended all of Marriott's rights and privileges within the church. It would not discuss whether he was still being paid.

Marriott said he could not comment, on the advice of his attorney, Bobby Stafford of Alexandria. Stafford said, "I never discuss a pending legal case."

According to Fairfax County court records, Marriott and the woman, 34, left the Taj Bar and Grill at the Best Western Hotel on Chain Bridge Road shortly before midnight Jan. 14 and walked to Marriott's Saab sedan. The woman told police that once inside the car, Marriott became angry, began to hit her, forced her to perform oral sex, dragged her out of the car and raped her on the car.

Marriott then threw the woman to the ground, beat her and raped her again, according to search warrant affidavits by Fairfax City Detective Edward Vaughn.

The woman said Marriott then tried to force oral sex again when police officers arrived and arrested Marriott, about 12:20 a.m. The woman suffered numerous cuts, scrapes, bruises and "marks that appear to have been caused by a belt," Vaughn observed, and "was stunned by the attack and emotionally distraught."

Vaughn wrote that he interviewed Marriott, who told him that the assault was "a form of role-playing" and that, as part of his alternative lifestyle, he had posted photos of himself and others engaged in various sex acts on the Internet. Police then seized Marriott's laptop computer.

Marriott has a preliminary hearing Tuesday in Fairfax General District Court on charges of rape, forcible sodomy, malicious wounding and abduction with intent to defile.

In 2002, Marriott was charged in Prince George's District Court with second-degree assault on his wife, Chandra D. Marriott, also a minister at Ebenezer. Court records indicate that Marriott threw his wife on a couch and hit her on the hand and leg with a belt.

The charge was dismissed after Marriott completed counseling and refrained from violent contact with his wife, court records show.

On Sunday, the Rev. Grainger Browning, pastor of Ebenezer, asked people attending the 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. services to pray for a member of the ministerial staff. Although he did not mention Marriott by name, most of the church's staff and many members had heard about the allegations.

"This is a time of prayer for our congregation," Browning said Monday.

Marriott balanced duties as a lay church leader while running a computer firm that specialized in educating and training people for careers in computer science. Court records indicate that he also works as a loan officer in McLean.

He also was the leader of a group in which men openly shed tears to God, embrace each other and shed all pretense as they practice a faith that is raw and interpersonal. Ebenezer attracts men from all walks of life, ranging from elected officials and business executives to football coaches and bus drivers.

"You can't have power until you receive Holy Ghost power," Marriott once said in an interview.

One of Marriott's specialties was hosting "for men only" events, either at a conference center in Leesburg or at out-of-town venues. These gatherings were seen as a time of fellowship in which men could talk and improve their marriage and family life.

After he was released on bond Jan. 18, one of his conditions was that he stay out of Virginia. But last month, he persuaded a Fairfax judge to allow him to enter the state for his job as a loan officer and "for scheduled speaking engagements."

Marriott said in a 2000 interview that he joined Ebenezer in 1993. He said at the time that Browning and other church leaders encouraged him to launch a private computer school, the Computer Trainer, which he said then had projected revenues of $2.5 million annually.

At the time, Marriott was also a seminarian. He said he was attracted to Ebenezer because the men were different than the type one finds in church.

"The men were not like the stereotype I had of a Christian man," Marriott said. "Instead, I could identify with them. They were strong men who had goals and desires. They were police officers, in the military, business owners. . . . Instead of going to the bars and complaining, I could talk to the brothers, and we could work it out."

Saturday, March 04, 2006                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor gets 15 to life for molesting two girls

Victim's brother found images on defendant's camera phone.

Were it not for the suspicions of a protective brother, former pastor Donald Domelle might still be molesting a teenage girl, rather than making his way to prison.

Domelle, former pastor of the Baptist Temple of Salinas, was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison on Thursday for molesting two girls, one of whom left the area to escape him.

Domelle, 65, was arrested after the brother of the second victim, a developmentally delayed teenager, followed the pastor and his sister and observed Domelle taking photographs of her. The boy later checked Domelle's camera phone and found what prosecutor Gary Thelander described as pornographic digital images of his sister.

Like many in the congregation, the boy's mother was at first reluctant to believe the news, and Domelle at first denied knowledge of the photos. He later admitted that he had carried on a sexual relationship with the girl when she was 14 and 15 years old, in her home, his van and in the church.

He admitted a sexual relationship with another teenage girl in the congregation, whom he started molesting when she was 6.

In court Thursday, Thelander read an emotional letter from the mother of the developmentally delayed girl, detailing how the molestation had devastated her entire family.
The mother said she'd known "Pastor" since she was 12 years old, and that he had acted as a grandfather to her children. Since the molestation, she said, her daughter, who is now 16 but has the mental maturity of a 6-year-old, has been acting out sexually, is rebellious and will not communicate with her mother.

Her 14-year-old son -- who set out to protect his sister and ended up witnessing some of Domelle's acts -- has turned to gangs for a sense of "belonging," she said. And her older daughters, now in their 20s, are afraid to leave home because they are afraid to trust others.

While she wishes her daughters could go out and experience life, she said, she understands how they feel.

"I trusted (Domelle) and didn't realize that the one person who I needed to protect my children from was the one person who I believed was helping me protect them from others just like him."

Standing with his hands and feet shackled, Domelle said he had "shamed" his family and his victim, as well as the church that he served for 44 years.
"I am, in my heart, very sorry for what happened," he said.

Judge Scott told Domelle that his apology "cannot repay the victims for what you've stolen from them." The price Domelle would pay, he said, was life in prison. Domelle will be 80 before he can apply for parole.

Despite Domelle's admission and apology, some in the crowded courtroom refused to believe Domelle's guilt.

Tina Pitt said Domelle had been her "foster father" since she was 6 years old and her children had been around him since they were born. None of them, she said, was ever harmed.

"I would suspect my own father before I would have suspected him," she said, adding that there was more to the story than was being told.

Thelander said he hoped Domelle's admission would help the community reach some "closure" and belief of the charges.

He said the girl that Domelle had molested since childhood told her mother and people in the congregation about the molestation and was sent away to a school in Texas to "correct her behavior."

Thelander cautioned parents to let the case be a warning.

"In the vast majority of these cases, the perpetrator is not a stranger, it's someone in your midst -- a father, a neighbor, a pastor," he said. "When children come and say these things, something out of the norm that a person doesn't want to believe, parents should follow up."

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