Saturday, June 30, 2007 View Comments
Christopher Bennett, 30, of Apt. Z6, 200 Franklin Road NE, Atlanta, was arrested Wednesday in the Atlanta area and charged with second-degree sodomy, said Russell County Sheriff's Lt. Heath Taylor. The charge stems from a Russell County High student's disclosure a few days after graduation that Bennett had inappropriately touched the then 14- or 15-year-old boy in 2004, the lieutenant said.
"In that disclosure, he stated that (Bennett) was befriending him, mentoring him, and that on a particular occasion in Christopher's apartment in Phenix City, that he sexually molested him," Taylor said.
Bennett is the president and CEO of Chris Bennett Ministries and presiding bishop of the Generation Impact Movement, according to kingdompeople.org. The Web site claims that Bennett travels across the country and world to preach about the word of God.
Bennett was held at the Fulton County Jail until Thursday, when he waived extradition and was taken to the Russell County Jail, where he is being held.
"It is my opinion that he befriends troubled teens and, at least on two occasions, has had sexual relations with them," Taylor said.
Bennett was charged with another sexual offense in College Park in 2006, Taylor said. He called the circumstances in both allegations, while unrelated, very similar.
"He did talk to us and he was somewhat cooperative," Taylor said. "Let's just say he's cooperative."
Investigators said the fraud case started about six years ago when Pastor Jerry Frear, Jr. set up an investment company and told people he would double their money. Not long after they bought in, Frear went bankrupt leaving those investors high and dry.
The federal grand jury indictment details the fraud and conspiracy case against Frear, who is known not only as a pastor, but to some, a financial genius. He is now charged with defrauding them out of more than $500,000.
Court papers detail a mail and wire fraud case that includes conspiracy charges spanning the United States, Canada, even China.
The grand jury alleges that Frear took more than $607,000 from investors, promising he could double their investment.
Court papers reveal that when Frear's business went down the tubes he never told his accountant and never told his investors, continuing instead to solicit money from them.
Federal documents show he even invested their cash after filing for bankruptcy.
No one was in Frear's last-known office space Friday and no one answered the door at his Loyalsock Township home. A woman who answered the home phone offered no comment.
Several of the victims involved in the case said their relationship with Jerry Frear, Jr. was like a bad marriage. They are now trying to put it behind them. Many hope he gets jail time.
Court documents show that Frear pleaded not guilty to the felony charges. His attorney said Friday that his client is also a church pastor and has been for years. Formerly at a church in the Muncy area, Frear is now a pastor for a congregation in Tioga County.
Thursday, June 28, 2007 View Comments
Joshua Robinson is charged with two counts of lewd conduct with a minor and one count of sexually abusing a minor.
The victim said the alleged conduct started when she was just 15. She took the stand for almost two and a half hours, testifying what happened between her and Robinson.
She explained that the Gate City Christian church, where she used to attend and Robinson currently works and was a youth pastor. In the spring of 2005 is when the alleged victim says things started to change.
The prosecution continued questioning the alleged victim. Then a taped phone call between Robinson and the alleged victim was played. The taped call was set up by the Chubbuck Police Department after the alleged victim and her mother went to police.
After the call was played, the prosecution called one more witness before resting its case. The defense then called their first witness, Joshua Robinson. He painted a completely different picture for the jury. He testified the alleged allegation were not at all true.
In the wake of his arrest, church officials at the Gate City Christian Church shifted Robinson away from the youth ministry to an administrative role pending the outcome of the case. If found guilty Robinson could face up to life in prison for both the lewd counts and 15 years for the sexual battery charge.
More information here: http://www.spokesmanreview.com/local/story.asp?ID=196789
Sunday, June 24, 2007 View Comments
The Rev. Wayne Biles, former pastor of Mount Ararat Missionary Baptist Church at 3793 East 131st St., pleaded guilty Tuesday to rape, gross sexual imposition and kidnapping. His plea deal calls for 17 years of incarceration when Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Hollie Gallagher sentences him July 31.
Biles could not be reached to comment.
He began a pattern of molesting his wife's relative about 13 years ago, "as soon as [he and his bride] returned home from their honeymoon," said Assistant County Prosecutor Pinkey Carr.
The victim, also 12 at the time, told her mother, who advised her to keep quiet about it and pray, Carr said. That victim, now 25 and married, complied until last year, when she told Cleveland Heights police.
Unbeknownst to her, authorities had just charged Biles with assaulting a 12-year-old girl. Carr said that girl's parents had sought marriage counseling during the summer of 2005 from Biles. The minister suggested the couple, from Beachwood, leave their children at his home overnight to spend time alone together, Carr said. That night, he molested the girl.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007 View Comments
On the Website of Tabernacle Christian Church, Suffolk pastor Carlton Upton Senior welcomes newcomers, writing "as family, we will embrace, nurture, and love you in such a spiritual way that God will be pleased." Now some are asking where the love was last Tuesday when the minister apparently forgot the embraces, and allegedly took a stranglehold on a church secretary.
Suffolk Police Lieutenant Debbie George says, "According to the victim, there was an argument between the two and at some point the pastor physically assaulted her by choking her."
In the criminal complaint, the secretary, Beatrix Mitchell writes, "he grabbed me by my neck and threw me on top of my desk." Court documents say Mitchell hit her head on the phone. George says, "According to the report, individuals had to attempt to pull him off of the victim."
Mitchell also writes "He was still yelling and tried to punch me, but his daughter grabbed his arm and everybody was yelling, 'Stop, stop.'"
So what possibly set off the man of the cloth? George says, "It indicates that there was some concern about the way things were being done around the church."
Today at Tabernacle, Upton's Tahoe sat in the lot while the spot for secretary remained empty. The court ordered that Upton have no contact with Mitchell. And today church members apparently wanted no contact with reporters.
The 63 year old minister's reputation is solid in Suffolk's church community. And by the size of his church building on East Washington Street, Tabernacle has obviously benefitted from his 18 years at the helm. Suffolk resident Olivia Rainey says, "I have friends that go. I have family members that go to that church. And what do they say? He's a good pastor. I have not heard anybody say anything bad about him."
Upton has a court hearing June 25th. He is out on $1500 bond.
Sunday, June 17, 2007 View Comments
The figures released to the Associated Press offer a glimpse into what has long been an extremely difficult phenomenon to pin down – the frequency of sex abuse in Protestant congregations.
Religious groups and victims’ supporters have been keenly interested in the figure ever since the Roman Catholic sex abuse crisis hit five years ago. The church has revealed that there have been 13,000 credible accusations against Catholic clerics since 1950.
Protestant numbers have been harder to come by and are sketchier because the denominations are less centralized than the Catholic church. Many congregations are independent, which makes reporting even more difficult.
Some of the only numbers come from three insurance companies – Church Mutual Insurance Co., GuideOne Insurance Co. and Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Co.
Together, they insure 165,495 churches and worship centers for liability against child sex abuse and other sexual misconduct, mostly Protestant congregations but a few other faiths as well. They also insure more than 5,500 religious schools, camps and other organizations.
The companies represent a large chunk of all U.S. Protestant churches. There are about 224,000 in the United States, according to the Assn. of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, although that number excludes most historically black denominations and some other groups, which account for several thousand congregations.
Church Mutual, GuideOne and Brotherhood Mutual each provided statistics on sex abuse claims to the Associated Press, although they did not produce supporting documentation or a way to determine whether the reports were credible.
The largest company, Church Mutual, reported an average of about 100 sex abuse cases a year involving minors over the past decade. GuideOne, which has about half the clients of Church Mutual, said it has received an average of 160 reports of sex abuse against minors every year for the past two decades.
Brotherhood Mutual said it has received an average of 73 reports of child sex abuse and other sexual misconduct every year for the past 15 years. However, Brotherhood does not specify which victims are younger than 18 so it is impossible to accurately add that to the total cases.
Abuse reports don’t always mean the accused was guilty, and they don’t necessarily result in financial awards or settlements, the companies said. The reports include accusations against clergy, church staff and volunteers.
Even with hundreds of cases a year, "that's a very small number. That probably doesn't even constitute half," said Gary Schoener, director of the Walk-In Counseling Center at Minneapolis and a consultant on hundreds of Protestant and Catholic clergy misconduct cases. "Sex abuse in any domain, including the church, is reported seldom. We know a small amount actually come forward."
Tom Farr, general counsel and senior vice president of claims for GuideOne, based at West Des Moines, Iowa, said most abuse cases are resolved privately in court-ordered mediation. Awards can range from millions of dollars down to paying for counseling for victims, he said.
One of the largest settlements to date in Protestant churches involved the case of former Lutheran minister Gerald Patrick Thomas Jr. in Texas, where a jury several years ago awarded the minister’s victims nearly $37 million. Separate earlier settlements involving Thomas cost an additional $32 million.
When insurance companies first started getting reports of abuse from churches nearly two decades ago, the cases usually involved abuse that happened many years earlier. But over the past several years, the alleged abuse is more recent – which could reflect a greater awareness about reporting abuse, insurance companies said.
Insurance officials said the number of sex abuse cases has remained steady over the past two decades, but they also said churches are working harder to prevent child sex abuse by conducting background checks, installing windows in nurseries and play areas and requiring at least two adults in a room with a child.
Patrick Moreland, vice president of marketing for Church Mutual, said churches are particularly susceptible to abusers.
"By their nature, congregations are the most trusting of organizations, so that makes them attractive targets for predators," he said. "If you’re a predator, where do you go? You go to a congregation that will welcome you."
A victims' advocacy group has said the Southern Baptists, the nation's largest Protestant denomination, could do more to prevent abuse by creating a list of accused clergy the public and churches could access.
"I think they should have a list of credibly reported clergy child abuse," said Christa Brown, a member of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a group initially created to hold the Catholic church accountable for sex abuse by its clergy.
"These are things people are entitled to know," said Brown, who says she was sexually abused as a child by a Southern Baptist minister. "The only way to prevent this crime is to break the code of silence and to have absolute transparency when allegations are raised."
At the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting at San Antonio this week, Rev. Wade Burleson of Enid, Okla., proposed a feasibility study into developing a national database of Southern Baptist ministers who have been "credibly accused of, personally confessed to, or legally been convicted of sexual harassment or abuse."
A convention committee referred Burleson's motion to the SBC executive committee, which will report back with findings and a recommendation during next year's meeting at Indianapolis.
Southern Baptist President Frank Page said leaders are considering several options to help churches protect children against abuse.
"We believe that the Scripture teaches that the church should be an autonomous, independent organization," Page said. "We encourage churches to hold accountable at the local level those who may have misused the trust of precious children and youth."
Several years ago, the Baptist General Convention of Texas, which represents moderates who have increasingly distanced themselves from the conservative-led Southern Baptists, started a list of accused clergy for churches but not the public. Under pressure from victim advocates, the Texas group just released the names of some convicted sex offenders who may have been ministers in local congregations.
Joe Trull, editor of Christian Ethics Today and retired ethics professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, helped the Texas convention create its registry and says there are now about 11 cases involving clergy abuse with minors.
But he believes these are just the "tip of the iceberg" because churches don’t have to report abuse cases to the registry and aren’t likely to.
"The problem we’re having is that churches just weren't sending the names," Trull said. "In the normal scenario, they just try to keep it secret. We're going to have to be more proactive and let them know if they don't come forward, they're helping to perpetuate this problem."
Tuesday, June 12, 2007 View Comments
Police said the 65-year-old minister was found in her bed shortly before 6:30 a.m. by her son, Alphonse Dozier of Giddings Street, upon receiving a phone call from his 63-year-old father asking him to come to their house.
Police Chief William R. Walsh Jr. said that when the son arrived, the father was leaving the building.
"He passed his son in the hall," the chief said.
Police responded to Alphonse Dozier's call, and upon on their arrival found no apparent sign of a struggle, Walsh said. However, a closer inspection of the house was being done last night by state police investigators. An autopsy will be performed in Holyoke today or tomorrow.
"It's a very hard situation for the family, but they've been extremely cooperative with us," said Walsh, standing alongside the railroad tracks where the couple's modest red house is situated, not far from the tiny church Dozier has led since 1999.
The murder is the first in the town since 1992, when Wayne Lo, then a student at Simon's Rock College of Bard, killed two people at the campus.
"It's been a difficult day," said the chief, who added that police knew of no history of domestic problems at the Dozier household.
Walsh had nothing to say about a possible motive for the killing. However, he said a neighbor heard a scream between 6 and 6:30 a.m.
Walsh said police have evidence that the stabbing occurred not long after police returned Dozier Sr. to his house following a 4:50 a.m. accident involving his pickup truck. His truck had crashed into the Route 41 railroad underpass, just north of town, and he left the scene, Walsh said.
Officers found him more than a mile away, walking near the Price Chopper plaza on Stockbridge Road, Walsh said. After meeting with police, they returned him to his house.
By 7 a.m. yesterday, area police had received a radio bulletin to be on the lookout for a Chevrolet Monte Carlo driven by Dozier Sr.
A Lenox Police officer, William Fuore, spotted the car heading north through Lenox.
The car was pulled over at Different Drummer's Kitchen on the Pittsfield-Lenox Road and surrounded by a group of police, their guns drawn, according to a passing motorist. The motorist said Dozier Sr. was sitting passively in the driver's seat, as officers shouted at him to get out, and he did.
According to a statement from Berkshire County District Attorney David F. Capeless, Dozier Sr. was first taken by ambulance to Berkshire Medical Center because he told police he had ingested a poisonous substance.
Following his release from BMC, Dozier Sr., wearing a hospital gown and pants, was brought to Southern Berkshire District Court yesterday afternoon for his arraignment. His left thumb was bandaged, and he wore gray socks.
Judge James B. McElroy accepted a not-guilty plea from Dozier Sr., who had a court-appointed lawyer, Leonard H. Cohen of Pittsfield.
First Assistant District Attorney Joseph Pieropan offered no details of the homicide. He asked McElroy to hold the man without bail.
Cohen agreed, but asked that the bail status be set without prejudice. He said he will meet today with Dozier at the county jail to gather information for a bail argument. McElroy agreed.
Also to be determined, the judge agreed, is whether Dozier Sr. qualifies for a court-appointed lawyer because he and his wife are named as the owners of their home. He also is retired and has a pension income.
McElroy said he would appoint Cohen for the time being, with the financial matter to be determined.
The Doziers' family and friends filled the courtroom seats yesterday with grim expressions of distress and sadness at the shock of a mother dead and a father accused of murder.
The news rippled through the community where Esther Dozier was the first woman pastor of the historic Clinton AME Zion Church, a small congregation that has nevertheless become a focal point of black history in South Berkshire.
She was an outspoken advocate of the area's African-American heritage and has been working to establish a fitting memorial for the homestead of the late W.E.B. Du Bois, the writer, scholar and civil rights leader born here.
Rachel Fletcher of Great Barrington, who worked with Esther Dozier on the Du Bois committee, said she was stunned yesterday.
"I don't know anyone for whom the attribute of unconditional love can better describe," Fletcher said of Esther Dozier.
Fletcher said the pastor's husband appeared loyal and dedicated to his wife.
"I like him a lot, and I have no idea how this could possibly have happened," she said. "This will be a horrible thing for him and for the family to have to cope with."
The Rev. Joseph Forte, pastor of the nearby Macedonia Baptist Church, said yesterday's events are a mystery to him. He admired the Rev. Dozier as a collaborator on matters of mutual interest and as a compassionate pastor, he said.
Henry Dozier is his regular chess opponent, a man of "good spirit," with a ready smile, Forte said.
He said his church is prepared to assist Esther Dozier's congregation in any way possible.
Stephen D. Shorey, 40, was arrested in April on a complaint of child sexual abuse.
The hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m., and will be heard at the Creek County Courthouse before Special District Judge Richard Woolery.
In a May 22 hearing, a not guilty plea was submitted on behalf of Shorey in front of Associate District Judge April Sellers White.
He remains free on $5,000 bond.
Shorey was also arrested early last year on charges of identity theft and forgery while he was serving as pastor of the Kiefer Assembly of God Church.
Shorey allegedly spent more than $5,000 on a credit card that he obtained under the name of the church treasurer. His hearing in this separate charge is scheduled for July 23.
Sunday, June 10, 2007 View Comments
Estevam Hernandes Filho, 53, and Sonia Haddad Moraes Hernandes, 48, are also charged in Brazil with stealing millions of dollars from parishioners for luxuries such as mansions and horse farms. They will likely be deported home after their U.S. case is resolved.
The couple — known as Apostle Estevam and Bishop Sonia to their thousands of Christian faithful — admitted evading U.S. currency requirements and conspiracy.
"Yes, guilty," Hernandes and his wife each said in Portuguese to U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno, according to a court translator.
Hernandes then tightly hugged his wife, who fought back tears. Both declined comment, as did their lawyers. Their church said in a statement issued Friday that the couple did not expect to go to prison and awaited their sentencing "with enduring calm and confidence in their acts."
The couple founded Brazil's Reborn in Christ Church in 1986, and it now claims hundreds of thousands of followers and about 1,200 temples in the country with the world's largest Roman Catholic population. The church has temples in Orlando, Deerfield Beach and Boston, and their empire also includes newspapers, TV and radio stations, a recording company and a Brazilian patent on the English word "gospel."
Brazilian authorities say the couple stole parishioners' donations for their own use, including mansions and horse farms in Brazil and the United States. Brazil is seeking the couple's extradition from the United States on charges of fraud, larceny, tax evasion and money laundering.
Church officials in Brazil have said the charges result from religious persecution, and followers have continued to express support.
The U.S. charges were brought after the couple arrived at Miami International Airport in January on a flight from Sao Paulo, Brazil, with $56,467 cash stashed in luggage, her purse, a son's backpack and a Bible.
Prosecutors say they failed to declare on a customs form that they were carrying more than $10,000.
Trial had been scheduled to start next week.
Under a plea agreement, the couple will forfeit the cash.
The charges carry a maximum of 10 years in prison, though the couple would probably get far less under sentencing guidelines. The judge could also impose fines of up to $500,000 each.
Sentencing was set for Aug. 17. Until then, the couple will remain under house arrest at a home they own in a gated neighborhood in Boca Raton, the judge said.
What began as counseling sessions between the Rev. Gregory Michael Butler Sr., 46, and a 14-year-old girl devolved into a sexual relationship with the sex acts taking place in his Cadillac, hotel rooms, and even inside his church, a prosecutor said yesterday during the trial.
The names of the girl, who is now 17 and her family members are not being published because the Winston-Salem Journal does not publish the names of victims in cases involving sex crimes.
Butler faced 13 counts of statutory sex offense, two counts of statutory rape and three counts of taking indecent liberties with a child. The jury deliberated for most of the day before returning its verdict. Butler was found guilty of all the charges.
Butler, wearing a tan suit, showed no emotion when he was sentenced. When Judge L. Todd Burke asked him if he wanted to say anything, Butler replied, “No, sir.”
Prosecutor Pansy Glanton said that Butler committed the sexual offenses against the girl between June 2004 and September 2005. The girl was 14 when the relationship started, and had turned 15 by the time it ended.
Butler was arrested in 2006, after the girl reported the relationship to a school counselor.
The 12-member jury heard the graphic details of the relationship during the five-day trial.
The relationship was confusing to the girl, who Glanton said had developed a crush on Butler. She eventually fell in love with him.
The girl had a troubled background. She was molested when she was 7-years-old and wanted a father figure in her life. Butler filled that role, Glanton said. Butler offered to give the girl weekly counseling sessions after she fainted during a panic attack at church. The girl’s mother, who was also involved in a relationship with Butler, agreed to the sessions. The mother demanded that Butler stop the sessions after he announced to church members he would not marry her. Butler told Glanton in court that he wanted to “encourage self-esteem” by taking the girl to get her nails done, buying her gifts, taking her out to eat, and sending her Valentine’s Day cards signed with the pet name she gave him, “Daddy D.”
The girl responded by sending Butler text messages saying that she loved him. She kissed him on the cheek and rubbed his leg during one of at least two trips to Hickory, according to testimony.
The girl “had so many issues when this man came into her life, and he took advantage of those issues,” Glanton said during her closing argument. “He was her first love, and he led her to believe he loved her.”
When Butler was questioned by his attorney, Teresa Stewart, he admitted that he stayed with the girl in a hotel in Hickory but denied having a sex with her. He later told Glanton that he believed that the hotel stays were normal because he “embraced (the girl) as a daughter.”
Forensic experts found no DNA from Butler to link him to a crime. They tested two pairs of panties and a church fan that Winston-Salem police found in his Cadillac. Blood on the panties and the fan matched the girl’s blood, forensic experts said.
Butler said he did not know how the panties got in the trunk of his car. He said because he ended the relationship with the girl’s mother, she pushed her daughter to bring false charges against him.
Stewart said during closing arguments that Butler should have ended the relationship when the girl developed a crush. But as a pastor, she said, he wanted to continue to try to help the girl.
Burke consolidated the charges into two counts of statutory rape and one count of statutory sex offense. He then sentenced Butler to a minimum of 20 years and a maximum of 24 years and 9 months. He must serve 20 years before he is eligible for release.
After the sentencing, about 30 supporters of Butler walked out the courtroom, many away wiping tears. Some supporters were members of Butler’s church, which is on Vargrave Street, and has about 35 members.
The girl is still in therapy, and has missed her high-school exams, Glanton said.
“She now has to learn how to have a normal relationship with males and to have faith in ministers,” Glanton said. “I think she said it best when she said she didn’t know whether to be a woman or a child in that relationship.”
Related article: Pastor Faces Sex Charges
Friday, June 08, 2007 View Comments
Independent Conservative, a blog operated by Darnell McGavock, reports that Benny Hinn and his organization have succeeded in getting YouTube to remove many videos critical of his teachings and practices.
Direct links to many of the videos now result in the display of a notice:
This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Pastor Benny Hinn and the World Healing Church d/b/a Benny Hinn Ministries
Evangelist Benny Hinn is controversial for his frequently aberrant - and at times heretical - theology, his unorthodox practices, his lies, and his false prophecies — not to mention his love of money.
Using the DMCA to stifle criticism
Hinn and his business are claiming copyright infringement under the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) — an ill-conceived and much criticized piece of legislation also misused by such cults as the Church of Scientology as well as cult-like businesses like Landmark Eduction, in their efforts to stifle criticism. [Scientology example | Landmark Education example]
The DMCA has been criticized for making it too easy for copyright owners to encourage website owners to take down infringing content and links when it may not in fact be infringing. When website owners receive a takedown notice it is in their interest not to challenge it, even if it is not clear if infringement is taking place, because if the potentially infringing content is taken down the website will not be held liable. The Electronic Frontier Foundation senior IP attorney Fred von Lohmann has said this is one of the problems with the DMCA.
- Source: Digital Millennium Copyright Act - Criticism, Wikipedia entry. Last accessed, May 29, 2007
Regarding the videos removed by YouTube, McGavock — whose own video regarding Hinn was removed as well — writes:
Some were videos that were of Benny Hinn, others were videos simply talking about Benny Hinn and for some odd reason some of the videos removed were not about and did not mention Benny Hinn at all, but were still removed and carry a notice that he asked for them to go. All vidoes removed exposed false teaching and examples of abuse from the pulpit.
- Source: YouTube Videos Removed by Benny Hinn via Use of Legal Force, DMCA
On his blog, McGavock keeps track of the list of videos YouTube has removed at the request of Benny Hinn.
Do You Believe in Miracles?
Among the videos removed was a copy of Do You Believe in Miracles, an expose broadcast by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s investigative documentary program, The Fifth Estate.
That documentary, which can be viewed in full at the CBC website, is still available via Google Videos.
It pays to watch the program, as it goes a long way toward explaining why Benny Hinn might not want you to see it:
The Many Faces of Benny Hinn
Another documentary about Benny Hinn, this one produced by the Trinity Foundation, is also still available via Google. Titled, The Many Faces of Benny Hinn, the latest updated version (over 6 hours of video) can be purchased from their online store.
This is the video Benny Hinn filed a lawsuit over. It is “… a unique blend of searing exposes by some of the world’s leading news organizations, the biting satire of Door TV’s Godstuff (as seen on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show) and Hinn’s own outrageous statements.”
In late 1999, Greg Hartman posted - in section of About.com that is no longer online - an interview with the editor of The Door. He later wrote an article in reply to some negative or incredulous reader feedback regarding that interview. It helps to know that The Door [in January, 2005 again renamed “The Wittenburg Door”] describes itself as “pretty much the only satirical Christian magazine in existence.” But it’s satire comes with a serious edge. As Hartman writes, the magazine is published by “The Trinity Foundation, a controversial evangelical watchdog group headquartered in Texas. Working in tandem, Trinity and The Door have been instrumental in several federal investigations of prominent televangelists — even sending one to prison.”
Let me start by answering the question uppermost in everyone’s mind: Yes, she really says it. Suzanne Hinn really says ”You need a Holy Ghost enema” right in front of a packed house at Benny Hinn’s home church in Orlando, Fla. She also yells something incoherent about how women need to forget their high-heeled shoes, says that people-pleasers are ”butt-kissers,” and she really, truly actually says this: ”If you can’t get your motor started, you need a Holy Ghost enema right up your rear end!”
There’s a reason I got that out of the way right at the start: Because the Holy Ghost enema clip — for which The Door and Comedy Central are being sued by Hinn hisself — comes at the tail end (no pun intended) of ”The Many Faces of Benny Hinn,” which is three solid hours of some of the best investigative reporting I’ve ever seen.
The concept is simple: The Door has collected as many investigative news stories on Benny Hinn as they could lay their hands on and put them in chronological order, with a bare minimum of the comedy in the other Godstuff tapes. In other words, this tape isn’t very funny. In fact, it’s downright sickening.
- Source: The Many Faces of Benny Hinn, About.com Dec. 8, 1999 (No longer online)
Watch an earlier version of The Many Faces of Benny Hinn online.
Thursday, June 07, 2007 View Comments
David Waser, 58, former pastor of Newark's Second Church of Christ, ordered 11 child pornography videos in 2006 by sending a $130 money order to an address listed on an Internet advertisement, authorities said. The ad had been posted by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service as part of an investigation into trafficking of child pornography.
A postal inspector who posed as a letter carrier delivered the videos to Waser's home in Newark, about 30 miles east of Columbus, and obtained a search warrant immediately afterward. The inspector found the package opened and one of the videos inserted into a VCR, the government said.
Church members removed Waser from office after his arrest.
Waser pleaded guilty in March to receiving child pornography. He faced federal charges because the videotapes were sent across state lines.
U.S. District Court Judge George Smith on Wednesday also ordered Waser to register as a sex offender after serving the 10-year prison term and to receive treatment for sexual addiction.
Waser's wife, Judy, 54, is awaiting trial on child pornography charges. Prosecutors allege she knew the videos were coming to the home, something her attorney has denied.
Related article: Minister accused...
Sunday, June 03, 2007 View Comments
The first stop on Mike Jones' book tour will be a Barnes & Noble in New York City on June 13. Five days
But that is the explanation given by one of the chains.
"Although the (Colorado Springs) stores will be selling the book, they did not feel that there was enough community interest to support holding a book signing," said Carolyn Brown, director of corporate communications for Barnes & Noble.
A Borders spokeswoman said bringing Jones to Colorado Springs "would have opened up a wound just healing. This would have not created a comfortable environment for the author, our customers who live in this community or our staff who also live in the community."
Richard Skorman, owner of Poor Richard's Bookstore downtown, said he wants to read the book before making a decision on a signing. As of Friday, he said, he was waiting to get a copy from the publisher, Seven Stories Press.
Haggard was fired as head pastor of New Life Church and resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals after Jones, a bodybuilder and escort, sent shockwaves across the nation by announcing that Haggard regularly paid to have sex with him, often while the pastor was high on methamphetamines.
It was a story many had trouble believing until Haggard admitted he was guilty of "sexual immorality." At the same time, it sparked debate across the country about homosexuality and religion — just before the November elections, which included a measure about domestic partnerships in Colorado.
As the story unfolded, Jones was labeled both a hero and a whore.
In outing Haggard, he had also outed himself, exposing details of his life to friends and family who hadn’t known he advertised as a paid escort.
His legitimate massage clients disappeared, and jobs modeling at an art school dried up. Aside from reporters, his phone went dead.
With no work, Jones spent three months on his book, which is expected to be in stores in mid-June.
He spares no details but says the memoir is about much more than sex. He also says money was a secondary motivation in his decision to write it.
In an interview last week with The Gazette, his first in Colorado prior to publication of the book, Jones said he hoped readers would see him in a different light.
"It's not much fun being called a whore and a scumbag. I’d like people to see the real Mike Jones,” he said. “I wanted people to know what I’m really like.
"I wanted people to see what I was going through — what aggravation, what I was physically going through and mentally going through to reach my decision to 'out' Ted Haggard, which is that chapter called 'My Agony.' That's truly how I felt.
"But the biggest thing in this book is that this is much more than Ted Haggard. This is about the evangelical church in America."
He dedicated the book to his mom, who died of cancer in early 2006, just months before Jones says he learned that the man he knew as 'Art from Kansas City" was one of the most influential figures in the evangelical world.
Jones said he took four months to decide whether to expose Haggard. A self-described loner, he said he consulted no one, only once telling a friend that an issue involving someone in the clergy was weighing heavily on him.
"It just isn't my nature to go seek help," he said.
He said he wrote a list of his options: Do I go to the church? Do I call his wife? Do I call police? Do I blackmail him?
"The last thing I wrote is 'Do I say nothing?'
"I threw up. It was a horrendous four months of my life. You have to understand, I was dealing with the death of my mom. I was in a very emotional, depressed state as it was, and to have the Ted Haggard thing come up, it was a double whammy for me.
"I knew he was married, and that was one of the issues that really made me sick to my stomach. It weighed heavily on me — my decision to come forward — because of his family.”"
But as much as he liked Haggard — Jones describes him as kind, polite and generous — one word kept nagging him: "hypocrisy."
"How can I let this man, who is one of the leading antigay-marriage advocates in the country . . . and he can't even abide by their own marriage vows and is telling other people they don’t deserve or can’t be married?" Jones said. "It's just wrong. That's why I had to say something."
Jones said that had Haggard apologized, there wouldn't be a book.
"Let me tell you two reasons I would not have written this book," he said. "If Ted Haggard would have called me and said, 'Mike, I am so sorry I put you in this very difficult position.' And the second thing is if he would have apologized to the gay community and said, 'I am a hypocrite, how dare I actually campaign against you guys when I can't even abide by my own marriage vows. If he would have done those two things, I wouldn't have written the book."
Jones' book will come out just as New Life Church seemed to get a breather from the scandal. Although church leaders say attendance — which boasted 14,000 members before the story broke — is down 20 to 25 percent, they say New Life remains strong.
The Haggards, meanwhile, recently moved to the Phoenix area.
"He and his family are leveling out. They have found a local church that they love that has embraced them and where their kids are getting plugged in," said New Life associate pastor Rob Brendle. "They’re starting to make friends, and though it remains a profoundly difficult time, I get the sense talking with him that they have hope again."
Jones, who turned 50 last month, is uncertain where the future will take him. He recently moved out of his apartment and in with a friend, saying he could no longer afford his own place.
"I'm just getting by. My life is very much up in the air right now. I don't know where I'm headed. I'm a fourth-generation Coloradan. I never had any desire to move away, but I’m so open to the possibility now. I don't feel that comfortable here."
Despite all the pain for everyone involved, Jones said he would do it again.
Perhaps a bit differently, with advisers.
"Regrets? God, who doesn't have regrets in life? But I did the best I could at the time, under the circumstances."
- "I would love to tell you that from the day we met in June 2003 I remember him as being unique or odd. He had some quirks, such as incredible shyness, but so did many of my clients. And there was nothing about him physically that made you take notice.
Except for his smile. His grin was big and sincere, almost goofy. You couldn't miss it."
- "He came to every appointment very well groomed and dressed. His nails were always trimmed and his hair perfect. He was always cleanshaven, and he kept his body clean as well. Believe me, that’s a big plus in my business."
- "After two years, I often felt as though Art and I were still on a first date, and it was a blind date to boot. I knew very little about him, and that was a bit unusual. After a few years, I usually know my clients pretty well. . . . Art played his cards pretty close to the vest. I knew he was married and that he rode a motorcycle, but that’s about all I knew for sure."
- "My eyes blinked with disbelief. There was Art on the screen again, less than twelve hours after I last saw him on television. It couldn't be, I thought. I had to stop and think. This was Daystar, not NBC or another big network. This was religious programming, and apparently Art is an expert on something religious."
- "It was all too much for me to process in one sitting. . . . I thought of my last encounter with Art at my apartment, when he wanted to try out some new sex toys he had just purchased — and do meth. It also occurred to me that he knew my mother had just died and he had not offered to minister to me."
- "My heart started pounding faster. All this time, this man had been coming to me every month to get naked and explore his homosexuality, and now I found out that he was one of the most powerful evangelicals in the world and that he wanted to keep people like me — and people like 'Art' — from being treated fairly."
Tattered Cover Book Store, 1628 16th St., Denver
7:30 p.m. June 18
Questions and answers
Here are some excerpts from a recent interview with Mike Jones:
Q: Tell me what the last seven months have been like.
A: "I think people have the misconception that I'm out there partying and celebrating and boasting and bragging, and it’s just not the case. I sit home on Saturday nights alone still, like I always did."
Q: Did you omit anything from the books — leave out any anecdotes — in consideration of Ted's family?
A: "Listen, I refuse to feel guilty about that. Ted Haggard is the one that called me to begin with. Some people have already kind of commented: ‘Why did you have to write the sex part? Why did you have to be so explicit — because of hurting his family.’ This is my analogy: It would be like me talking about World War II and not talking about the bombs and people dying. I’m sorry, I just can’t say we had sex and leave it at that. People needed to know what kind of sex we were having. It's just part of the story."
Q. You have said you were disappointed the gay community didn’t support you more. Talk about that.
A: "I don't understand the negative reaction or angriness toward me or the personal attacks I've taken, primarily from the gay community. These are the same people who were griping about what was being said from the religious right in Colorado Springs. I take the chance, I take the guts and the courage — I'm like 'what do you people want?' I have a hard time understanding that.
"Some blame me for the failure of Referendum," he said, referring to a measure that would have established domestic partnerships in Colorado.
"I find it ironic that I can get calls from all over the world — literally all over the world — Australia, Sweden, Germany, Ireland — asking me if I'm OK and saying thank you. I can't even get that in my own hometown."
Q: What have been some of the high points of the last seven months?
A: "Just last week," he said, referring to his being awarded the Harry Britt Lifetime Achievement Award in San Francisco, named in honor of the gay political activist and former San Francisco supervisor. "They got it. It isn't just about sex. It's about religion in America and how they react and view and deal with the homosexual issue.
"Also a real big highlight is the fact that actress Judith Light wrote a blurb for my book, and for the New York Times to review the book."
Q: What about the low points?
A: "I don't know where my life is headed. I don't know where all this is going to lead.
"A low point too, for me is my brothers. My brother in Colorado here has not spoken to me since the story broke. My father, of course, tells me he loves me. My younger brother, even though he's never mentioned the issue once, he did call to wish me a happy birthday.
"I really hate the fact there’'s some people who classify me as a drug-dealer. That's really difficult for me to deal with. No. 1, Do I look like a drug dealer? I get up at 4 o'clock every morning six days a week, I'm at the gym by 5. People can just physically see me — I do not look like a drug addict.
"I hooked him (Ted) up with someone. That’'s my guilty part. I never gave Ted any drugs."
Q: What do you think Ted will think if he reads the book?
A: "If he reads the book, he'll be angry. Because I'm explicit. I tell people what went on. When you come down to it, it was him and me in the room. So there was no witness. He can say I’m a liar and I can say he’s a liar, so it's going to be 'he said-he said.' What do people think we did in three years?"
Saturday, June 02, 2007 View Comments
Actually, make that "de-conversion."
As the 26-year-old Grand Rapids resident pored over classical arguments seeking to prove God's existence, he found they no longer added up.
"There were just plain philosophical problems with the attributes of God," said Beahan, who had planned to go into ministry before he graduated in 2005. "It just seemed that the evidence was overwhelming on the side of atheism.
"It was purely an academic conversion."
Beahan's wife, Jennifer, soon followed suit. They took a long walk as Jeremy professed his new-found beliefs. He never pressured her to change her worldview, both insist. It just kind of happened as she delved further.
Both were raised in religious homes, and led their respective youth groups.
"We weren't the fringe kids that never fit in anywhere," said Jennifer, 25.
However, they felt increasingly isolated, convinced their new ideas would not be welcome at the conservative Christian school. Their parents weren't exactly elated, either, but accepted their new path.
Not only do the two feel there need not be a God to explain the universe's existence and order, but also that fundamentalist religion plays a huge role in many conflicts plaguing global society. The events of 9/11 and the war in Iraq, they say, are examples of how unmitigated faith can lead to exponential suffering.
Where do we go from here?
Atheism is but one component of the Beahans' beliefs. As Jennifer puts it, "Once you've defined what you're not, you need to define what you are."
The Beahans call themselves naturalists. They rely solely on science, empiricism and observation to unveil truths that believers might seek from their understanding of a divine presence.
They found a friend in the Grand Rapids-based Freethought Association of West Michigan, where Jennifer Beahan is assistant director. The group holds regular discussions, movie nights and celebrations that encourage community and, of course, dialogue.
The two joined the group while at Cornerstone.
"It's very important to have that community and have a group of people that challenge you," Jeremy Beahan said. "That was good because it's very lonely being a Bible college atheist.
"You have to be careful who you say it to."
Negative connotations of the word "atheism" have led some non-believers to utilize a different term -- "non-theist." Spring Lake resident Dr. Robert Collins, 68, calls it "safer."
Collins grew up Catholic. Crucifix on his wall, daily rosaries, nightly contrition -- the whole nine yards.
"It scared the crap out of me," he said.
A Freethought participant since 1997, he said he experienced a strong animosity toward Christianity, but that faded as he became more attuned with his core beliefs.
"There's a stage where there is a lot of anger toward your religious indoctrination and a strong rejection of religion," he said.
Collins and his wife, Sherron, also attend Fountain Street Chruch, 24 Fountain St. NE. The Freethoughts have participated in interfaith services at the church.
Though Fountain Street claims to be liberal in its discourse, Collins said he is becoming disenchanted.
"They're still stuck on theology," he said. "Even though they're quite liberal and try to expand the concept of God, they're still stuck in God language -- they still speak of 'the soul.' "
His heroes today include the likes of Galileo, Darwin and Pasteur -- not Mother Teresa, he said.
One of his favorite quotes is by Benjamin Franklin: "The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason."
But why is there something rather than nothing?
"I don't know, and that's OK," said Jeff Seaver, Freethought Association director.
The 37-year-old Allendale Township resident formed the nonprofit association as he and two others stood around a fire about 10 years ago and talked about the idea of God. At first an informal group of fewer than a dozen, there are now more than 330 registered members.
The association soon will become an official part of the Amherst, N.Y.-based Center for Inquiry, which Seaver says will open the door to more speakers and programs. Seaver also is a former believer, and said he faced a much less daunting task when he allowed Christianity to fill his knowledge gaps.
"When I was religious, I knew why I was here," he said.
Enter Socrates: "The more I knew, the more I didn't know."
Like the Beahans, Seaver believes ideas are subject to change upon deeper inquiry.
But one thing is for certain: any degree of uncertainty "does not open the door to God as an explanation," Seaver said.
Kelly Clark, professor of philosophy at Calvin College, understands the allure of atheism.
He gave two lectures at Church of the Servant, 3835 Burton St. SE, with Calvin biology professor Steve Matheson in May. They addressed whether evolution presents a problem for religious believers.
In his opinion, the domains of science and faith don't overlap. Each serves its own purpose, he said. And one thing science cannot do is debunk the theory that humanity within the universe is the way it is because that's the way God wanted it to be.
"Thinking that there are natural practices involved doesn't mean there wasn't a divine purpose," Clark said.
Going on the offensive
Atheists have "gone on the offensive," Clark said. He says much of that is due to criticisms of organized religion by
Richard Dawkins, author of "The God Delusion," and Sam Harris, author of "The End of Faith."
Both authors agree that religion is a "net force for evil in the world," Clark said. In some ways, they're right on point, particularly when it comes to "fear of unthinking fundamentalism."
"It's gotten empirical confirmation in the last couple of years," he said.
But Christianity has its own answer to the question, he adds.
"If you believe in original sin, you have a pretty good explanation of why human beings kill other human beings, whether or not original sin is something we're biologically conditioned to," he said.
While atheists might have an advantage when it comes to the explaining the "hiddenness of God" and answering the question of "why there's so much evil in the world," everyone draws facts and inferences from the same sources -- Christianity "plus one."
"Neither of us has any better information to go on than any other," Clark said. "Everyone is making a faith commitment on these matters. (Atheists) act like they have no faith commitment, but that's not true."
Clark believes many turn to atheism to shirk moral accountability, but Jeremy Beahan balks at that notion.
Moral dialogue is something that's been going on since well before Christianity, he said.
"One of the biggest stereotypes or misperceptions about atheists is that if there is no God, there is no basis for morality," he said. "We don't believe we're going to have an afterlife necessarily, so things have to be done here for reasons that make sense here on Earth.
"That can be challenging."
Klever simply told the girl he knew about her family's "deep, dark secret" - her father was a transvestite - and he would tell the world if she didn't comply with his demands for sexual favors, she said.
He went on to rape that girl and at least one other by invoking the name of God while serving as a pastor at the church in Springfield, Delaware County, authorities allege.
After a hearing before Magisterial District Judge Anthony Scanlon, Klever, 75, was held for trial yesterday on three counts of rape, three counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and related charges for acts that occurred more than 25 years ago.
He is to be arraigned later this month in Media, where he will plead not guilty to all charges, said his Philadelphia attorney Theodore Simon.
"It is a frightening prospect and dangerous precedent for any person or organization to be forced to defend themselves against allegations dating more than a quarter of a century ago," Simon said. Sheldon Kovach, the deputy district attorney prosecuting the case, argued that the clock on Pennsylvania's statute of limitations stopped ticking when Klever left the state in 1983.
Both sides agreed that, under the statute of limitations, Klever cannot be prosecuted for acts that occurred prior to July 12, 1980.
That makes him immune from some of the allegations, including those brought by other women.
Klever left First Presbyterian in 1983 and moved with his wife to Maryland to become the pastor of Sixth Presbyterian Church, in Washington, D.C.
He resigned that post in 1988 "after several accusations of sexual misconduct were made against him," that church's current pastor previously told the Daily News.
Those allegations - which involved adults, not minors - did not surface at yesterday's hearing.
Klever's ordination credentials were revoked in 1993. He lives in Tucson, Ariz.
A second woman testified yesterday that Klever raped her during a pool party in the summer of 1980, when she was 16 years old. At a church retreat the next year, the woman said, he tied her to a bed and did it again.
"A couple times I tried to yell out and he smacked me," she said, adding, "I just shut up because I didn't want to be hit anymore."
Both women said the sex was involuntary.
Klever, who appeared frail yesterday with a shaky right hand, is out on bail and is free to return to Arizona while awaiting formal arraignment. He declined to comment when he left court.