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Monday, April 30, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor arrested for cocaine possession

The Rev. Hugh King, a prominent Pensacola pastor and civic leader, has been charged with possession of cocaine.

King posted a $1,000 bond early Saturday morning on the third-degree felony charge after he was booked into Escambia County Jail.

Elvin McCorvey, president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said that King's arrest was a tragedy for the local community.

"I'm very disappointed that this has happened, because Rev. King was a man that I held in high esteem," McCorvey said. "He always seemed to be a fine person."

King could not be reached for comment.

King, 53, is pastor of the Greater Union Baptist Church, one of the largest black churches in Pensacola, and also serves on the board of trustees for Community Maritime Park Associates Inc.

The former Pensacola City Council member was arrested late Friday evening at A and Blount streets by Pensacola police, who reported finding a plastic bag with cocaine in King's back pocket.

However, longtime church member Zoya Webster-Phillips, 64, said she does not believe King is guilty as charged.

"Naturally, we are soliciting the prayers of the people of Pensacola, whatever the outcome," Webster-Phillips said.

"Whatever the outcome is, his loved ones, which include his church family, will stand with him and for him."

Police arrested King shortly before midnight Friday when responding to a burglary call in the 100 block of North D Street. Police were notified that two black males were seen leaving the scene of the burglary in a gray Chevrolet Blazer. Several blocks away, they spotted a light-green Ford Explorer driven by Mark Anthony Cotton, 51, a police report states. King was a passenger in the car.

After stopping King and Cotton, an officer noticed a knife in the center drink holder of the car and observed a white-powder residue on it.

King and Cotton later were searched, and a plastic bag with white powder was found in King's back pocket, arresting officer Charles Joseph Decker reported.

White-powder residue also was found on the driver's seat.

All of the white powder tested positive as cocaine, Decker stated in the report.

Jail officials estimated the value of the cocaine at $25.

Escambia County jail had no record of Cotton's arrest. Cotton could not be reached for comment.

King is a well-known fixture in the community. He served on the Pensacola City Council from 1999 to until 2004, declining to run for re-election following the death of his father, the Rev. A.J. King Sr., on Oct. 9, 2003.

A.J. King led the church for more than 45 years.

Hugh King took over as pastor full time following his father's death and attributed his decision not to seek re-election to his expanded role at the church.

As president of the local chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Council, King helped push to rename a portion of Alcaniz Street in honor of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr.

It was unclear Saturday whether Hugh King still is president of the SCLC chapter.

Vocal on issues affecting minorities in the community, King questioned the University of West Florida's lack of minority contractors in 1998 and the state's "stand your ground" law passed by the Legislature in 2005. That law provides immunity to those who use deadly force in defense of life and limb.

Recently, King was appointed to the board of trustees for the Community Maritime Park Associates, which is entrusted with spearheading a $70 million waterfront project in downtown Pensacola that is expected to become the city's signature tourist attraction.

King was selected to oversee a subcommittee tasked with creating a contractor's academy to train local minority business owners in the complexities of seeking and securing bids on the project that will include a multiuse stadium, University of West Florida classrooms, a maritime museum and restaurant and retail space.

Pensacola Mayor John Fogg, who also sits on the Community Maritime Park Associates board of trustees, said he was not aware of any provisions in the group's charter that would allow for the removal of a board member if convicted of a felony.

Fogg said he did not want to speculate on a case that has not been decided.

"The due process has to unfold," Fogg said.

Some area pastors and City Council members contacted for the story Saturday night were reluctant to talk.

Quint Studer, a local businessman, owner of the Pensacola Pelicans and principal contributor to the maritime park called King's arrest "a tragedy" but declined further comment.

King is no stranger to controversy. A council member of the Governor's Front Porch Revitalization Council of Pensacola, he has been a staunch supporter of the organization's community liaison, Thelma Manley.

The Inspector General's Office of the Florida Department of Community Affairs and the Florida Office of Financial Integrity are investigating allegations by some council members that Manley took agency grand funds for her own use.

King called a news conference at his church to defend Manley after the allegations surfaced.

Pensacola businessman John Wyche has known King for decades. King recently served as campaign manager of Wyche's recent unsuccessful run for the state House District 3 seat.

"We're just going to pray for him and his family with the hope that everything turns out just fine," Wyche said of King. "The Christian thing to do is for people to not cast stones at Rev. King. Now is the time for folks to show him all the love and support at this time of need."

Webster-Phillips agreed.

"The church is 100 percent behind him," she said. "A person is innocent until proven guilty."


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Tuesday, April 10, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

An Easter Miracle!

Virgin Mary Spotted In Cherry Tree

Leo Korte of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was cutting down his cherry tree with the help of a friend this past Good Friday, when they noticed something peculiar.

Korte and his friend both noticed what they thought look like an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, also known as the Virgin Mary, in the rings of the tree.

They added some oil to the tree and the image became clearer.

Then, one day after the cherry tree was cut down, it blossomed!

(Note: Isn't this ironic? A virgin is found hiding, in of all places, within the rings of a "cherry" tree.)


Friday, April 06, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor faces charges

A former Holly Hill pastor was arrested in Marietta, Ga., on a Volusia warrant charging him with exploiting an 89-year-old woman he befriended through his church, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Robert Nelson Riddle, 56, was arrested by the Cobb County Police Department, with the help of the FBI offices in Atlanta and Daytona Beach. His bail was set at $50,000.

Investigators say Riddle, the former pastor of Ridgewood Avenue Community Church, had deceived Filordea Lelli of Ormond Beach and took more than $80,000 from her.

State Attorney's Office officials said more charges are expected as investigators continue to probe other missing funds from the church and the alleged purchase of a twin-engine plane with church funds.


Confectionary Christ crucified by Christians

My Sweet Lord, the chocolate Jesus by Cosimo Cavallaro

The overwhelming force of the religious right was demonstrated this week when an exhibition by an international artist to be held in mid-town Manhattan was cancelled after a campaign was launched against it on the ground that it was disrespectful towards Christianity.

My Sweet Lord, a 6ft representation of Jesus, was to have been unveiled over holy week in a gallery on Lexington Avenue but was withdrawn under fire from the Catholic League, an organisation of religious conservatives with 300,000 members. The group objected to the fact that the sculpture is made of more than 200lbs of chocolate and that the figure's genitalia are on display.

On Thursday the league sent emails to 500 other religious groups - including Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist with a combined reach of millions - calling on them to boycott the Roger Smith hotel in which the gallery, the Lab, is based. Within 24 hours the hotel was so inundated with calls and visiting protesters that it pulled the exhibit.

Sculptor Cosimo Cavallaro, 45, is known for his large-scale installations. In 1999 he covered a room of the Washington Jefferson hotel in New York with cheddar cheese. Two years later he sprayed 10,000lb of cheese over the entire interior of a house in Wyoming.

Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League, said the work was a direct assault on Christians. "All those involved are lucky that angry Christians don't react the way extremist Muslims do when they're offended."

That the work of an internationally renowned artist can be pulled from a gallery in Manhattan - arguably the most liberal city in the US - is an indication of the power that organised religion wields within the country.

Matt Semmler, director of the Lab, told the Guardian before the cancellation was announced that neither he nor the artist had any intention to offend. "For me this is done a place of reverence and meditation - that's why I chose the piece. This is not intended to be disrespectful."

He added that over the centuries there had been thousands of depictions of Christ in many different styles.

WM question: Were Christians offended because Jesus was chocolate or because his ding-a-ling was showing?)


Did John Paul II perform a miracle?

During Holy Week we are treated to a variety of decent-sounding people in print and on the airwaves explaining that religion — or "faith" as they now prefer to call it —is basically all about shared moral values, making the world a better place and gaining a proper sense of awe at life's mystery. We are given to understand that the great world religions are all really fumbling towards the same truth.

And by doveish voices we are urged to join what is essentially a campaign for increasing the amount of goodness in the world. Who could be against that? Such faith sounds so reasonable. Churlish nonbelievers like me are made to feel it is we who are being arrogant, dogmatic, closed-minded. How can we be so sure? And then this. A nun has apparently been cured of Parkinson’s disease through writing the name of John Paul II on a piece of paper.

Ecclesiastical authorities in the Roman Catholic Church have been investigating the alleged miracle, interviewing neurologists, graphologists, psychiatrists and medical experts. The diocese of Aix-en-Provence is now satisfied that it has a putative supernatural intervention on its hands, and this week submitted its dossier to Pope Benedict XVI, who may declare an official miracle and begin procedures for making the late Pope a saint.

Meanwhile, Gerard Baker ("'Israel right or wrong’ is not a grown-up debate", March 30) writes that one determinant of US foreign policy towards Israel is the belief, widely held on the Religious Right, that before the prophecy of the Second Coming and the end of the world can be fulfilled, the Israelites must be given their Biblical lands of Judaea and Samaria.

Where are you, intelligent Christians? Where is your voice, your righteous anger? Where is your honest contempt for this nonsense? Take that claimed recent miracle, for instance. I know lots of nice, clever Catholics — friends, thoughtful men and women, people of depth and subtlety, people of some delicacy, people who would surely cringe at the excesses of Lourdes. Do they believe that John Paul II may have cured this nun from beyond the grave?

Where are the shouts of self-respecting bishops and cardinal-archbishops, raised against the woeful confusion of faith with superstition? I have a theory about their reticence. I think they know this stuff is the petrol on which the motor of a great Church runs; that without these delusions to feed on, the unthinking masses would falter. And they may be right. But what a melancholy conclusion: that the thinking parts of a religion should be almost extraneous to what moves it; far from the core; just a little fastidious shudder; a wink exchanged between the occupants of the reserved pews.

There is, of course, an alternative: that they too believe the nonsense; that the Prime Minister’s wife (and maybe the Prime Minister), and the Communities Secretary, and the Chancellor of Oxford University and former Governor of Hong Kong — not to mention several of my colleagues on these pages in The Times — honestly entertain the possibility that from beyond the grave the late Pope John Paul II interceded with God to cause a woman to be cured of Parkinson’s disease.

You are living, dear reader, at a watershed in human history. This is the century during which, after 2,000 years of what has been a pretty bloody marriage, faith and reason must agree to part, citing irreconcilable differences. So block your ears to the cooing voices on Thought for the Day, and choose your side.

"But how can you be sure?" Oh boy, am I sure. Oh great quivering mountains of pious mumbo-jumbo, am I sure. Oh fathomless oceans of sanctified babble, am I sure. Words cannot express my confidence in the answer to the question whether God cured a nun because she wrote a Pope's name down. He didn't. Mere language does no justice to my certainty about whether God might be waiting for the return to their Biblical lands of the Israelites, before arranging the Second Coming. He isn’t.

Shout it from the rooftops. Write it on walls. Carve it into rock. He didn’t. He isn't. He won’t.


This summer Gordon Brown is to publish a book, Courage, profiling eight human studies in that quality. Whom has the politician chosen? Anyone dangerously controversial? Mr Brown has selected Martin Luther King, Nurse Edith Cavell, Robert Kennedy, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Raoul Wallenberg (who saved Hungarian Jews), Dame Cicely Saunders (of the hospice movement), Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela.

Courageous choices, Chancellor. No place here for Copernicus, though?

No, that would still be a bit risky — Copernicus was only pardoned by the Vatican in 1993.


Polish leaders slam satire on papal miracles

Warsaw, Poland - Polish politicians reacted angrily on Thursday to a series of photos of the late pope John Paul II published with satirical captions by German newspaper Die Welt.

Foreign Minister Anna Fotyga said she was 'very upset' by the pictures, which are accompanied by texts claiming that they represent a series of miracles performed by the late pontiff.

'This does not demand a pronouncement from the Foreign Minister, but as a private person, especially at Easter, I must say I'm shocked,' Fotyga said according to the PAP news agency.

President Lech Kaczynski called the satire disturbing, while the Catholic-conservative League of Polish Families called it scandalous and called for a boycott of the newspaper, the wire added.

The series of pictures, posted on the website Welt Online on Tuesday, presents genuine photographic images of John Paul II taken at various stages of his pontificate.

One picture shows an aged Pope holding up a communion wafer the size of a vinyl LP disc while celebrating Mass.

The caption runs, 'When 'DJ Johnpaulgeorgeandringo' put on (soul musician) Marvin Gaye's 'Sexual Healing' at a mass rave in Ibiza in 1998, several handicapped people jumped up spontaneously from their wheelchairs.'

Another shows the Pope meeting Cuban president Fidel Castro.

'Cuba and its 'Maximo Leader' have defied the US embargo and all the CIA's assassination attempts for almost 50 years. Pater Balsamico says, 'It's already pretty close to a miracle,'' the caption says.

The satirical photos were published a day after the Vatican announced that it was sifting evidence that a French nun, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, was miraculously cured of Parkinson's disease after praying to the late pope.

But the photos have not been well received by Poland's right-wing government. Poland is a fiercely Catholic country, and the late pontiff - formerly archbishop of Krakow - is widely regarded in the country as having been the greatest Pole of all time.

It is not the first time that Poland's current government has clashed with the German press. Last July German magazine Die Tageszeitung ran a story describing the round-faced President Kaczynski as 'Poland's new potato.'

Kaczynski demanded that the German government take action over the insult, and pulled out of a planned summit with the French and German presidents, claiming stomach problems.


Former pastor shakes family's faith

LUMBERTON N.C. — While teenagers were in one room learning Bible verses at Vacation Bible School, the Rev. Ronald Lee Simpson was in his office making sexual advances toward one of his youth members.

The 14-year-old girl was called to Simpson's office at St. Matthews Missionary Baptist Church for arguing with her cousin during Bible class. The boy apologized, then Simpson sent him out of the office. He told the girl to stay. He later asked for a hug.

"I didn't think anything of it. I thought he was a pastor, and he just wanted a hug from one of his members," said the girl, who is now 18. "When I hugged him, he grabbed my butt. I thought, ‘What is this man doing?'"

The girl sat on the sofa at her home in Lumberton as she talked about what happened over a two-month period in 2004. It was the first time she has talked about the incident since Simpson, 42, pleaded guilty last week to statutory rape of a 12-year-old.

The 12-year-old, who did not attend Simpson’s church, later had his child.

Simpson was sentenced 15 to 18 years in prison.

He also was charged with sexual offenses involving the 14-year-old. Those charges were consolidated into the statutory rape charge.

The Observer does not identify victims of sexual assault and is not using the 18-year-old's name or her mother’s name.

The girl ran her fingers through her braids and spoke with anger as she recalled what happened at the church.

The incident during Vacation Bible School was the first of many advances by Simpson, she said.

How many? She could not recall.

They did not have sex, the girl said, but he asked.

Simpson would tell the girl to wear certain clothes to church, such as a short black skirt, she said. He would ask her whether she thought he was attractive. He often told her that she had a nice body and that she could have been a model.

The girl said she was scared to tell anyone because she didn't think they would believe her.

"He said I would get in trouble if I came out and told people, and that we would both get in trouble; that people would be disappointed," she said. "I was confused and scared. ... It made me feel like I was being convicted by God because I kept it in for so long."

The girl said she decided to come forward when Simpson started making comments about other young girls in the church. She didn't want the same thing to happen to them, she said.

Simpson, through his lawyer, declined to be interviewed.

Surprised parent

The girl's mother said she was in shock when her daughter told her what was going on.

Simpson had started several activities to get the youth more involved in the church, the woman said. He often would take her daughter to church functions and call to speak to her daughter about church business.

"I couldn’t believe it," the woman said. "This was someone who portrayed himself as a person who cared about young people."

"I actually wanted to beat him down, but I know that is not Godly-like," the woman said. "He seemed so perfect. He had a lot of people fooled. People were more focused on the man than on God."

The woman initially wondered why her daughter hadn’t told her sooner.

"Then you realize that your child is scared and fearful," she said. "There is no way of telling how he would have acted or what he would have done. But I am glad she did what she did."

In December 2004, the girl's family confronted Simpson in his office.

"He sat there with a straight face and denied everything," the mother said.

The girl got so angry with Simpson that she started yelling at him, she said. She ran out of the office into the church sanctuary. The next time she confronted Simpson, it was in front of the congregation.

"People at the church started shaking their heads and stuff because they didn't believe it," the girl said. "After that, he started praying, and I walked out of the church. I wasn't going to sit there and let this man pray over me."

The girl's self-esteem dropped when church members didn't believe her, she said.

The accusations against Simpson divided the church. When he resigned, about half of the members left with him.

DNA test

It wasn’t until rumors about the 12-year-old and the results of a DNA test proved that Simpson was the father of the 12-year-old’s baby that people begin to realize she was telling the truth.

"That really hurt because some of the people were family," the girl's mother said. "We stayed away from the church for a while, even after they found a new pastor. I really didn't want to go back, but I started seeking the Lord and there is where he wanted me to be. Some questioned how I could go back to a place where people didn't believe you, and you didn't know who to trust."

Simpson resigned in January 2005, nearly a year after he started working at the church.

In October 2005, he was charged with attempted statutory rape and sex offense with a child and two counts of indecent liberties with a child involving the 14-year-old. He also was charged with statutory rape of the 12-year-old.

The family waited two years for their day in court. They got a phone call March 26 saying Simpson had agreed to plead guilty. The girl's mother was surprised because Simpson had continued to profess his innocence.

A part of her didn't want her daughter to go through a trial because she didn't want her to relive what happened.

"When court was over that day, he looked at me but he kept looking at her," the woman said. "I believe if he had another opportunity, he would take it. I believe it is going to take God to deliver him from stuff like that. I hope he can get counseling in prison."

The girl's mother said she feels she will be able to forgive Simpson. "But I can't forget," she said.

Simpson reports to Robeson County Jail on Monday. The mother said she was upset that the court would allow a sex offender to go free for two weeks.

"He’s been out since he was arrested," she said. "No telling who else he has come in contact with and who else he may have hurt. He had enough time to get his business in order."

Moving on

The girl said she has been able to get through the ordeal with the help of her mother, friends, family and prayer.

"I feel like it has made me stronger," the girl said.

The girl said anyone who is a victim of sexual assault should not be afraid to come forward.

"It's best to come and tell things like this," she said. "It can destroy your life if you hold it in. Don't let anyone tell you that you can not go to someone to tell. Something will be done about their actions."

Her mother agreed.

"People who are going through things like this — it may not involve a pastor. It may be a parent or somebody else, a teacher, who knows — it is all right to come forward because someone will listen," she said. "Not everyone has a closed ear."

Related article: click here.

Sunday, April 01, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor charged with sexual assault

A former Rice Lake pastor is charged with raping a 17-year-old boy 20 years ago.
Now, that victim is speaking out.

Doug Guillen says he struggled for years with drug and alcohol abuse before putting a gun to his head. He says before he could pull the trigger, he says he realized it's not his fault.

It was a child that saved Doug Guillen from himself.

"I wanted to shoot myself but I cant, I have a little girl. I'll be damned if I'm going to shoot myself and he's still out there," Guillen says.

Guillen, who used to live in Rice Lake, now calls Fort Lauderdale, Florida home. He has a wife and 16-year-old daughter.
Guillen was just 17, when he says his pastor raped him.

The man charged with raping him and forcing him to perform sexual acts also now live in Florida. But, in the summer of 1987 their paths crossed in Wisconsin.

"I think when I see him in court it's going to make me feel a lot better," Guillen says.

56-year-old Angel Toro was a pastor at First United Methodist Church.
Investigators say he recruited Guillen to help fix a fence at the church. He bought him beer and cigarettes, then took advantage of him. Guillen says he can't wait to face Toro in court.

"I want you guys to get the expression on his face when he sees me. I'm not the same little 112 pound boy anymore, it's a totally different ballgame now,” he says. “I don't want his money. I want his life and that's what I'm going to tell the judge. I don't want a cent from him. That man made his money, selling tickets to heaven and none of them going to heaven because Satan sold them the tickets.”

Toro is scheduled to be in Barron County Court for his initial appearance on April 25.


Related article:

A former Rice Lake, Wisconsin, pastor who became a national leader in the United Church of Christ is now charged in Barron County with sexual assault.

Angel Toro, 56, is due in court April 25 on six felony counts including child enticement and third-degree assault.

Prosecutors said Toro molested a 17-year-old boy on two days in 1987, when he was pastor of First United Methodist Church in Rice Lake. (Click on "churches.")

Authorities said he picked up the boy to work at the church, and bought him beer.

Toro left Wisconsin two years later and because of that, he could not escape prosecution under the statute of limitations.

He was given ministerial standing in the United Church of Christ in 1997, and was praised for growing a Florida congregation from 30 members to 500.

Later, he headed the Local Ministries Board of the national church, and was on its 90-member executive council.

Toro was on leave since January, and resigned from all his church positions. Peter Isley of the Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests praised the new charges. He said Toro is the 15th clergy member returned to Wisconsin in the last five years for alleged child molestation.


Another related article:

Wisconsin authorities have filed sexual assault charges against a local pastor, the Rev. Angel Toro, who resigned from Chapel on the Hill United Church of Christ a few days ago.

Toro, 56, is accused of sexually assaulting a teenage boy in 1987, when he was a minister with the United Methodist Church in Wisconsin.

Chris Fitzgerald, a detective with the Rice Lake Police Department in Wisconsin, said investigations into the allegations began in late 2005.

The complaint alleges that Toro assaulted the teenager twice at First United Methodist Church in Rice Lake, about two hours from Minneapolis.

Toro has been charged with four counts of sexual assault and two counts of child enticement. Reached on his cell phone, Toro said his lawyers had advised him not to comment.

Bruce Denson, his attorney, said Toro is devastated. "It's a false allegation," he said.

Douglas Guillen, 37, says he is the victim. Times policy generally is to withhold the names of victims of sex crimes. In this case, Guillen consented to being identified.

The construction worker, who lives in Broward County, said he met Toro when the minister hired him to do odd jobs.

In 1997, Toro left the Methodist church and became a United Church of Christ minister and Chapel on the Hill's pastor.

The Rev. Jack Richards of the United Church of Christ Florida Conference said the denomination learned of a Pinellas investigation of Toro on Jan. 22. Toro resigned from Chapel on the Hill and the denomination March 19.

Richards said the denomination's investigation found no wrongdoing locally. The Pinellas Sheriff's Office has closed its investigation.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement records show that police arrested Toro for indecent exposure in 1994. He pleaded no contest.


The unfailing power of prayer

A blast from a year ago:

Christians pray for heart-surgery patients

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 that their work can't 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.

Critics said the question of God's reaction to prayers simply can't be explored by scientific study.

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 didn't 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 didn't take part in the study, said the results didn't 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. "There is no god in either the Christian, Jewish or Muslim scriptures that can be constrained to the point that they can be predicted."

Within the Christian tradition, God would be expected to be concerned with a person's eternal salvation, he said, and "why would God change his plans for a particular person just because they're in a research study?"

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