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Thursday, May 31, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor accused of diverting church money for personal use

There's nothing Sue Arellano loved more than her church -- Faith 3 Ministries on First Colonial Road in Virginia Beach.

"The moment I set foot in the church, I could feel the presence of God here and I knew this was my home," she said.

Arellano worked as church treasurer as her way to give back. But by taking on that job, she took on something she says she never imagined.

"I thought I could trust him. I had all the faith in him, I really did," she said.

Arellano is suing her pastor. According to the suit she filed with other church members, Pastor Ken Montgomery repeatedly approached her looking for money.
Watch the report

"He would come to my house most of the time and say 'I need a check. I need to buy something. I don't know where I'm going. I don't know how much it is,'" she said.

It's all alleged in the suit. Arellano says she would give him blank checks from the church's account and the pastor would never come back with a receipt. Thousands of dollars were disappearing from the church's bank account.

"I even made a list of all the checks, the dates, and gave it to him two or three times," she added.

Arellano took her concerns to church trustees Wilma Sirene and Bertha Borjas, two 30-year members.

"She was upset and I was flabbergasted when I saw all this money that was taken from the church. What happened to the money, where did it go." Sirene wondered.

Together, the women hired attorney Bill Lascara. The bank records, insurance documents, even telephone logs that are all attached to the lawsuit.

According to the suit, "On February 10, Ken Montgomery demanded a check for $13,000 from the church bank account ... and days later, Montgomery paid his mortgage company $12,000."

"The paper trail doesn't lie," Lascara commented.

Just last week, there was more documentation and not just from the lawsuit. This time, a court investigator dug into the records and he concluded Montgomery "converted cash in an effort to obscure or hide his use of church funds."

It went on to say he and his wife did this "primarily to redeem their personal residence from foreclosure on three occasions."

"When you write a check for $13,500 from a church that you know has no money, you know something is wrong," Sirene said.

A dig into Montgomery's background shows he's a seven-time convicted felon charged with larceny and embezzlement. Court records show he's failed to pay child support and has filed bankruptcy.

The report from the court's investigator says Montgomery was on a ten-year sentence from a previous crime. And these latest acts "may have violated the good behavior conditions of his sentence."

"I was just utterly disgusted with the whole matter, me and the ladies and the other trustees met and got a plan of action," said church member Rob Foley.

According to the suit, when the trustees confronted the pastor, some were kicked out and others were threatened with arrest and banned from the church.

"At my age, arrested because I want to go and worship and serve the Lord. How can they tell me I can't come back to my own church," Sirene wonders.

There's more. Documents filed by the trustees show Montgomery told the church's insurance company the church was burglarized.

The documents appear to show $52,000 worth of replacement items bought with the insurance company picking up the tab. According to the complaint, and backed by the investigator, the money didn't go to the church, it went to Pastor Montgomery.

The court investigator concluded a $52,000 receipt is fake, along with two others.

13News tried to talk to the pastor. He ran from us in a parking lot, then called and said he would talk, only to never show up.


Priest Busted for Alleged Online Child Porn Possession

He is supposed to be the leader of the faithful - instead, he is facing charges for allegedly downloading child porn on his computer.

Father Raymond Ethier, a priest in the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese, remains in police custody after being arraigned in Federal Court Wednesday afternoon. Ethier was arrested by Homeland Security agents on Tuesday and held at the Albany County Jail overnight.

Federal papers show this was a quick investigation run by the feds. It started after a man told another over the Internet he was abusing his step-children. Investigators say they tracked down a person using the screen name "nudistdude23" to Ethier. But it was what they allegedly found on his computer that is at the core of the charges.

As NEWS10's Latricia Thomas reports, the investigation began after the priest allegedly went too far online.

Reverend Raymond Ethier has served as the leader of St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Columbia County since its inception two years ago, when two other parishes merged. But the 50-year-old pastor now faces the possibility of serving hard time after federal agents seized his computer from his Hudson home, and allegedly found child porn.

Court documents allege Ethier went online under the screen name "nudistdude23", and bragged about sexually abusing two step-children. Ethier later admitted to authorities those claims were bogus, but that he had downloaded two computer videos and still images depicting young kids having sex.

Federal documents also allege the following:

  • "On May 10, 2007, a computer was recovered from Raymond Ethier's residence. A forensic examination of said computer resulted in the recovery of images depicting minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. More specifically, a number of computer videos were recovered from said computer which depict boys between the ages of 9 and 16, engaged in sexually explicit conduct..."

  • "Ethier admitted that he engaged in sexually explicit conversations with other individuals on the Internet and that these conversations sometimes involved children. However, he indicated that these conversations were merely fantasy in nature and that he has never abused a minor."

While no one at Ethier's parish would comment on the arrest, the reverend's neighbors say he usually kept to himself, living in a mobile home provided to him by a member of his church.

"I didn't really see him much, but if he's guilty, I'm glad he's arrested," says Jenneane Fatum, Ethier's neighbor.

The Albany Diocese says Ethier has been placed on leave and not permitted to perform any functions as a priest. They say prior to Tuesday's arrest, they had never received a complaint about the father, who was ordained in 1985, and that they were not aware of the investigation until his arrest.

The reverend will soon be out of jail on 50-thousand dollars bond, on home arrest, and prohibited from using the computer or Internet.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

Creation Museum opens in Northern Kentucky

PETERSBURG, Ky. -- Amid protesters and television cameras, several thousand visitors lined up yesterday for the opening of the Creation Museum, a $27 million attraction purporting that the Bible's creation story is literal fact supported by science.

Visitors watched high-tech animatronic dinosaurs wag their tails next to playing children in a diorama. They examined fossils and skulls, walked through a lush Garden of Eden and watched robotic men hammer on Noah's Ark in advance of God's retribution.

Through a mix of exhibits and displays, they were told that the Grand Canyon was created in the biblical flood; that Noah's animals repopulated continents by floating across oceans on uprooted trees; that the earth is 6,000 years old, not billions; and that poison dart frogs were harmless before Adam's sin.

Some visitors said the 60,000-square-foot museum -- a cross between a natural history museum and a biblical theme park -- reinforced their views that evolution and the Big Bang -- the theory that the universe was created in a giant explosion -- are wrong, despite scientific consensus to the contrary.

"If you want to believe you came from animals, that's you," said Paul Aduba, who came from Toledo, Ohio. "But it's a lie."

Outside the gates of the museum, more than 100 protesters, including scientists and humanist groups, held signs that read "Science Not Superstition" and "Don't Brainwash Our Children."

One group rented a plane that buzzed the parking lot trailing a sign that read in part, "Thou Shalt Not Lie."

"This is a museum of misinformation," said Lawrence M. Krauss, an outspoken critic who heads the Center for Education and Research in Cosmology and Astrophysics at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

"It's fine for people to believe whatever they want -- whether it's wrong or not," he said. "But what's inappropriate is to essentially lie and say science supports these notions. It doesn't."

Gene Kritsky, a biology professor at the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati, said the "quote-unquote museum," which has drawn international media attention, was "an embarrassment" for the region.

The museum, which includes a digital planetarium, is the work of Answers in Genesis, a conservative religious group that is part of the "young Earth" creationist movement.

Unlike "intelligent design," an idea that suggests that the universe was created by a "designer" but doesn't specify who that is and still accepts that it is billions of years old, young Earth creationists believe the Bible's book of Genesis is exactly how the world was formed -- that is, in six 24-hour days.

Because they believe the world is just 6,000 years old, they say that dinosaurs must have co-existed with humans. They believe the story of the flood and the ark are literally true.

"We use the same science … we just interpret it differently," said creator Ken Ham, who started the ministry in his native Australia and has raised money for years to build the museum.

Ham said he sees the museum as a new weapon in a wider "culture war" for Christians who "feel like they've been beat down" in battles over abortion, gay marriage and the display of the Ten Commandments in public places. He also hopes it will change the views of non-believing visitors.

Polls show that many Americans agree with some of Ham's views. A 2006 CBS poll found that 51 percent of Americans think God created humans in their present form. More believe that while humans evolved, God guided the process. Just 15 percent said that humans evolved and God was not involved.

There are a handful of creationist museums nationwide. But critics and supporters alike say Kentucky's museum brings the idea to a new level because of its scope and high-tech design.

One of its top designers also helped created the Jaws attraction at Universal Studios in Florida. Organizers expect 250,000 people a year.

Inside, a 200-seat special-effects theater simulates wind and rain and features two angelic characters who declare, "God loves science!" At a great flood exhibit, animatronic men work on a wooden reproduction of Noah's ark, which the museum contends also held dinosaurs and could carry 125,280 "sheep-sized animals."

Fossils, the museum contends, were formed in the aftermath of God's retribution in the flood thanks in part to "unique chemical conditions."

"There's two different theories," Sean Riccardelli of Pennsylvania told his daughters, Elina, 7, and Liza, 9, as they read biblical passages from one exhibit. "You believe what's in your heart … what your faith tells you."

Exhibits question evidence of evolution, such as Lucy, the Ethiopian hominid whose remains are thought to be a link between apes and humans. "It makes sense," one exhibit says, that some organisms' systems were designed to work together.

At the cafeteria overlooking the facility's 49 acres of parkland, patrons munched on "Before the Fall" salads and the daily special -- BBQ Pterodactyl wings (pork shank). The bookstore included titles such as "Lucy: She's No Lady!" and "Refuting Evolution" along with children's coloring books and plastic dinosaurs.

Judy Vinson, who drove seven hours from Alabama to see the opening, said she didn't find anything she disagreed with.

"Evolution doesn't make sense," she said, nor does the Big Bang, thought by scientists to have created the universe. "Explosions don't construct" things, she said.


Sunday, May 27, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

Modern miracles and the medieval mind

by Daphne Caruana Galizia

In the hoopla surrounding the canonisation of the late Fr Gorg Preca, there appears to be no room for the minority – a minority that I suspect is much larger than it seems – who have no truck with saints and miracles. Though I know that it might severely prejudice my relationship with St Anthony, who often finds my keys in return for a small consideration, I will try to give voice to the views of that minority, before they are squashed in the stampede of pilgrims (wearing matching caps and ponchos) of the crowd to Rome.

When an older woman relative who wishes to remain unnamed tried to persuade me from writing about this subject lest I offend people’s sentiments, I told her cheerfully that if I had wanted to live in a place where rational discussion of religious manifestations and mania was off the agenda, then I would become a columnist in Saudi Arabia. So gird your loins and hop aboard for the ride.

The reasoning that goes “we do not have a scientific explanation, therefore it is a miracle” is a logical fallacy. So, too, is this reasoning: “Spontaneous recovery began after the parents started praying to Fr Preca and placed one of his relics on the baby’s body. Therefore the relic and the prayer caused the recovery”. That is what is known as a non sequitur. It is like saying that because the front door slammed at the same time the washing-machine broke down, then the slamming of the front door is the reason you are wasting your morning waiting for a technician. For all we know, the spontaneous recovery may have happened in any case, with or without the glove and prayer. Oddly, there has been no discussion of the reported statement that the baby had a 90 per cent chance of dying, and not a 100 per cent certainty, if he did not get a liver transplant. That means a 10 per cent chance of survival, and he survived – though the miracle, apparently, lies not in the survival but in the recovery.

The fact that the best liver doctors in the world cannot find a scientific explanation for the spontaneous recovery of a baby with severe liver failure does not mean that a scientific explanation does not exist.

It only means that one has not been found yet. There may not be one – hence a miracle, if you believe in such things – but there may very well be one which the present state of knowledge has not allowed doctors to discover. It is arrogant to assume that we know everything there is to know about the human body, and the human liver in particular, and that no such scientific explanation may emerge in the next one, two or even three hundred years – if not the next 10 years.

And here’s the crux of the problem, an echo of Christian Europe’s medieval past in which belief in miraculous cures hindered the development of medicine. With Fr Gorg Preca installed as a saint on the basis of his miraculous curing of a baby boy’s liver, the stage is set for active discouragement of medical research over the years to come into any possible scientific reason for the baby’s spontaneous recovery. It seems to me and to the self-gagged minority that there are sound reasons for such research, not the least of which are the many people with liver failure who would like to know that there is a cure other than the spurious one of placing on their sick bodies a glove touched to a holy man’s cadaver, while desperate relatives pray hard.

If such research is undertaken, and proves to be successful many years down the line, then this will mean difficulties as to Fr Gorg Preca’s status in the saintly firmament. Yet what would be of the greatest benefit to humanity: perseverance in trying to find a scientific explanation for the spontaneous recovery of a sick liver, in the light of new knowledge that may yet emerge, or insisting on belief that it was a miracle, so that Malta can get its own saint after having repeatedly failed to win the Eurovision Song Contest?

* * *

Instead of draping a strange bubble of distorted reality around us, we in the Preca minority prefer to put things into a rational context. Somebody asked me whether I need to have an explanation for everything. No, I don’t. It is those who have decided that this is a miracle who are in need of an explanation, and they have found one: Dun Gorg did it. I, on the other hand, am perfectly content to be without an explanation pending the possibility that one may be found that is of benefit to the human race. Lest I be misjudged, it is not that I wish for a scientific explanation so that the canonisation of Fr Preca may be undermined – the more saints that might help me find my keys, the better – but that given the choice between a scientific explanation which holds out hope for others who suffer, and a miracle, I would opt for the former without a moment’s hesitation. This would mean that the promoters of Fr Preca would have to find another miracle elsewhere, but so what? Better a cure for liver failure than a saint for Malta. Yet we are operating here on the assumption that there will never be a scientific explanation. This is perplexing, given that we live among a wealth of knowledge, medical and otherwise, that our grandparents’ generation, doctors and surgeons included, would never have thought possible.

* * *

St Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan who lived in the fourth century, wrote that “the precepts of medicine are contrary to celestial science, watching and prayer.” The belief that underpins this statement, that medicine is at odds with religious faith, underscored Christian medieval attitudes towards the furtherance of medical knowledge. In Islam, which started off so well by pushing science forward, the same was to happen several hundred years in the future. At atmosphere was created in medieval Europe in which the development of medical science was checked – mainly because miraculous cures had become an essential component of the Christian belief system. The evolution begun so long before by Hippocrates, and continued by Herophilos, one of the founders of the great medical school at Alexandria, was broken. As one historian described it, writing in the 19th century: “Medical science, trying to advance, was like a ship becalmed in the Sargasso Sea: both the atmosphere about it and the medium through which it must move resisted all progress. Instead of reliance upon observation, experience, experiment and thought, attention was turned to supernatural agencies.”

* * *

The story of the miraculous cure was rushed to the wires by the Catholic News Service, the Catholic religion’s equivalent of Reuters or Associated Press (top stories yesterday: Vatican expands mission to saving planet, not just souls; Pope names North Americans to two Vatican offices). A breathless report by a CNS reporter found its way, in a heavily edited version with careful quote-marks wrapped round words like “miraculous recovery”, to The Daily Telegraph, under the same reporter’s by-line. The Daily Telegraph’s report was quoted in turn by one of Malta’s newspapers. Along the way, we lost the original context in which Anil Dhawan, the professor of paediatric hepatology (liver problems in children, to you and me) was quoted – though you can read the original Catholic News Service story on line.

This doctor, an internationally-respected authority in his field, was the man who examined the sick baby. He is a devout Hindu, who was speaking to a reporter from the Catholic News Service, and not from The Daily Telegraph. That is the context, and this is what he said: “I was involved in the process, and I want to see it through completely for my own learning and curiosity. You can always learn from different faiths... I respect all the faiths and I have a lot to learn from every single faith, and I am sure my religion also believes in things like this. Some of them are not of human explanation. When you are a scientist, you are supposed to believe in things that are black and white, but, unfortunately, life is not always like that.” He said he accepted that occasionally events happened in medicine that could not be explained scientifically: “We say, ‘Yes, we could not do much more ourselves to help somebody, and yes, it could be somebody else who helped them.’ And ultimately, we are grateful to that person.” Dhawan said that before this case, he knew very little about how the Catholic Church recognised saints. But he said he had since spent much time reading about the process and took particular interest in the cause of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta (because he is Indian).

Catholics are taught to believe in the absolutism of the one true universal church, and yet here is a Hindu doctor, speaking carefully about respecting all faiths, Catholicism alongside Islam and Buddhism, and feeling no qualms at all –rather, pleasure - about his involvement in the certifying of a Catholic miracle and the making of a Catholic saint. Maybe one day a Catholic doctor might return the favour for the making of a Hindu saint – who knows? Miracles do happen.

* * *

In Europe, Christian belief in the miraculous evolved in medieval times from similar belief in paganism. Just as people were ‘cured’ in the temples of Aesculapius, so they were ‘cured’ at the shrines of saints and by touching saint’s relics in the Middle Ages - and so they continue to be ‘cured’ now in the shrines of yet other saints and by coming into contact with even more relics. Belief in this baby’s miraculous recovery after being touched with the relic of a holy man comes all the way down to us in a direct line of thinking from the culture of medieval Europe. I am not critical of this – merely fascinated at an intellectual level by the survival of what is, essentially, a core of medieval thinking in the full onslaught of the 21st century.

The miracles of 3000 years ago were attested to in votive tablets, solemnly giving names, dates and details, hung in temples before images of gods. Medieval miracles were recorded by similar tablets hung before effigies of saints. But miraculous cures were ascribed not just to gods and saints. The early Christian church developed a stream of miraculous cures wrought by water – wells, pools, streams, springs and lakes. Here, too, the old types persisted; healing waters are present in all ancient religions. And today – plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. Everything changes, and everything stays the same. Pilgrims wash themselves in the waters of Lourdes and others touch small items of clothing to holy cadavers, rendering them into relics with potentially miraculous qualities, just as a medieval matron dying of consumption might have taken courage from a small square of lace purported to be the handkerchief of St Paul. And the effigies of saints in our churches remain bedecked with votive offerings in the thousands-of-years-old tradition of jewellery and other precious item. St Anthony must be very annoyed indeed at the stinginess of my fifty cents.

* * *

This time next week, we shall be awash with news reports about the canonisation of Malta’s first saint, coming at us live from the television and staring up at us from the newspapers’ front pages. I recommend the performance of this simple task to keep you in touch with reality: alongside your Maltese newspapers, buy a London broadsheet or two to put things into perspective.

Youth pastor guilty of child porn charges

After 10 hours of deliberation, a nearly deadlocked jury found a Jacksonville youth pastor guilty Friday on two counts of possessing child pornography on his computer.

The jury came to its decision around 6 p.m., but just hours earlier, at 3:30 p.m., a jury foreman told U.S. District Judge Henry Adams that the jury was split and unable to come to a decision in the case against Richard Steven Sweat, former youth pastor at Lake Shore Baptist Church on Blanding Boulevard.

Adams urged the jury to come to a consensus and asked those in the minority, regardless of the side, to reconsider.

According to court documents filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald Henry, Sweat's wife found pornographic files on the computer of their Orange Park home in September 2005. Her father, the senior pastor at Lake Shore, brought in a computer expert to extract the materials, and eventually the FBI was contacted.

Sweat's attorney, Mitchell Stone, argued that his client was framed by his wife and father-in-law to aid her position in a potential divorce. Stone said other people had access to the computer.

Sweat, 35, was arrested in November and was free on his own recognizance. He was scheduled to go on trial May 14, but the case was postponed after he went to the hospital with heart problems.

Stone said he's disappointed the jury found Sweat guilty, despite what he called a lack of evidence. He said he thinks some jurors might have been convinced to change their minds because of the long deliberations.

"Whenever you have such long proceedings, it takes a toll on juries. They get tired and often they are swayed by other members to change their decisions. It's unfortunate and we will appeal," Stone said.

The jury deliberated for about three hours Thursday and at least seven hours Friday. If the jury couldn't come to a decision, a hung jury would have led to a retrial.

Adams remanded Sweat into custody of the U.S. marshals while he awaits sentencing because possession of child pornography is considered a violent crime under the law. Sweat will be sentenced Aug. 23. Each guilty count carries a five-year minimum and a 15-year maximum sentence.

The case deeply divided the Westside church with dozens of Lake Shore members sitting on opposite sides of the courtroom during the trial. Heated words were exchanged between members after the verdict.


Saturday, May 26, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor charged with identity theft

MOUNT CARMEL, Pa. — A Baptist minister was accused of using the identity of his church's secretary-treasurer to charge up to $28,000 on two credit cards.

The Rev. Raymond Lee Clayton Sr., pastor of Grace Fellowship Baptist Church, was charged with falsely acquiring and using a credit card, forgery and related offenses.

Clayton, 43, charged $25,000 to a U.S. Bancorp credit card issued in his name and the name of Patricia Tomedi, the church's secretary-treasurer, and $3,334 to a Staples credit card issued in Tomedi's name — using her Social Security number, police said.

Tomedi, 82, told police she initially confronted Clayton about the Staples credit card and he told her he was responsible for the charges, police said.

Earlier this month, Tomedi said she received a call from a U.S. Bank representative informing her that $25,000 in charges were past due, and that a Discover representative also called to ask her if she had applied for a credit card in her name and Clayton's name, police said.

Clayton was arraigned Tuesday and remained in the Northumberland County Prison on $10,000 bail Friday. Authorities said they did not know whether he had hired an attorney.


Thursday, May 24, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

Youth leader sex, again

New judge sought in youth leader sex case

A hearing on a request for a new judge is set for Friday for a female former church youth group leader accused of having sex with a 15-year-old male group member.

Angela Hurt, 32, who was a part-time youth leader at Cornerstone Church in Springfield, was charged in November in Greene County Circuit Court with second-degree statutory rape and second-degree statutory sodomy for allegedly having an inappropriate relationship with the boy from January to March 2005.

A probable cause statement filed on Sept. 1, 2006, says police learned about the relationship after finding Hurt and the victim engaged in sexual activity in Maple Park Cemetery. The boy later said, according to the statement, that the two had been having sex since January or February 2005, often at Hurt's home in Springfield.

Hurt's trial is scheduled for July, but could be delayed if she is granted a change of judge. Her motion for the change does not state a reason.

The victim and his family have also filed a civil lawsuit against Hurt, Cornerstone Church, its pastor and other members of the church staff including Hurt's husband, Robert.

Jeff Gorman, associate pastor at Cornerstone, said he is confident the church will be vindicated if the suit reaches a jury. He also stressed that Hurt was a youth leader and not a youth pastor.

"Cornerstone Church had no knowledge of any illegal activities of a former youth leader, nor does it condone any of the allegations against the former employee. Any claim that Cornerstone Church was negligent in any way is without merit," Gorman read from a written statement by the church's attorney, Dee Wampler.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007                                                                                       View Comments


For people who accept evolution over superstition and myth.

The Free Inquiry Group of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky (FIG)


Rally for Reason

Join a range of rational speakers to stress the importance of teaching evolution in schools, including:

All are encouraged to participate in discussion period to follow the panelists’ remarks.

Sunday, May 27th at 7:00 pm
Hilton Cincinnati Airport Hotel
7373 Turfway Road
Florence, Kentucky

This speak-out will be the evening before the Rally for Reason that is scheduled for outside of the gates of Answers in Genesis Creationism Museum, on Monday, Memorial Day, May 28th.

Sponsored by

The Free Inquiry Group of Northern Kentucky (FIG)
For more information:,
Hilton Cincinnati Airport Hotel; 859-371-4400

Anti-Evolutionist Runs Unopposed for Board of Education Presidency

An avid anti-evolutionist is currently running unopposed in an election for the position of president-elect for the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE), alarming educators around the nation.

Kansas native Kenneth Willard will gain the position on the board – which serves “to strengthen state leadership in educational policymaking” – this July when the elections begin for selecting officers.

Several evolutionist proponents are now scrambling to try to fight his election, though it may be impossible.

“We are in a nationwide struggle for the integrity of science education,” explained Kenneth Miller, a biology professor at Brown University, in the New York Times, “and any situation that provides an opportunity for the opponents of science education to advance their agenda is a matter of concern.”

Willard has now seemed to solidify his run for the president elect since his opponent dropped out of the race over personal reasons after the nomination period ended. The Kansas Republican cannot be challenged now.

Opponents against him hope that they can write in votes during the July election, but there is no provision in the NASBE policy to allow that.

One of the possible write-in candidates would be Sam Schloemer of Ohio, who was given a position on the board last November with the aid of current members who campaigned against creationist candidates. Supporters would vote for him and hope the tallies would count.

Although he originally expressed little interest in the position, Scholemer said in the New York Times, “I would rather serve than see someone of his persuasion represent school boards across the country.”

The controversy is a small part of the ongoing disputes between evolutionists and anti-evolutionists. Several scientists and educators have tried to encourage school districts around the nation to show the problems with evolution rather than only teaching it as absolute truth.

A similar conflict is currently ongoing with the opening of the $27 million Creation Museum, which supports the literal six-day account of creation, this Memorial Day. Opponents to the museum are worried that their children will be swayed by what it has to say while museum organizers are arguing that youth are not receiving a balanced view on how the world began.

Amid efforts opposing Willard’s run for presidency, several board members have shown support for the anti-evolutionist. They feel that his challenges to evolution thought are constructive for public education, even if they do not necessarily agree with his model.

The president-elect nominee was part of a 2005 committee that voted to include intelligent design – a hypothesis that life is a result of an ultimate “designer” – within its policies. The policy was later reversed.

Should Willard gain the president elect position, he will take office in January 2009.

Each state within the board is allowed one vote in the election.


Sunday, May 20, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

The Devil made him do it

GALVESTON, Texas -- A woman blames the devil, and not her husband, for severely burning their infant daughter in a microwave, a Texas television station reported.

Eva Marie Mauldin said Satan compelled her 19-year-old husband, Joshua Royce Mauldin, to microwave their daughter May 10 because the devil disapproved of Joshua's efforts to become a preacher.

"Satan saw my husband as a threat," Eva Mauldin said.

A grand jury indicted Joshua Mauldin last week on child injury charges after hearing evidence that he placed the two-month-old in a motel microwave for 10 to 20 seconds.

The infant, Ana Marie, remains hospitalized. She suffered burns on the left side of her face and to her left hand, police said.

Police said Joshua Mauldin told them he put Ana Marie in the microwave because he was under stress. Eva Maudlin denied it.

"He would never do anything to hurt her. He loves her," she said.

She is hoping to be reunited with her daughter, but Child Protective Services is working to have the parental rights severed.


Saturday, May 19, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

The price of atheism

From the 20/20 special, "Seeing and Believing." This clip is a segment on atheism with a brief appearance by Richard Dawkins. These Christians are intolerant of atheists unless the atheist is willing to go along.

Falwell in hell cartoon? That's a no-no

Canadian Cartoonist, Michael DeAdder has gotten quite an angry reaction to his Jerry Falwell obituary cartoon showing Falwell in Hell. Michael writes:

I had a three way discussion between cartoonists about what to do with Jerry Falwell. After much debate, mostly with myself, I decided I was going to put him arriving in hell instead of heaven. The irony was just too tempting.

Falwell for all his preaching about love and forgiveness, he himself practiced hate and intolerance. He has hurt many people in his life, he has done more damage than good and he has done this under the guise of doing what's "moral."

I really don't think Falwell will find himself in hell. The God Falwell preached about was far more forgiving than that. Some cartoonists have already made the point that Falwell's God was far more forgiving than Falwell himself.

But, to me, it is not off the mark to depict Jerry Falwell arriving in hell, at least in a cartoon. Especially the way it was drawn. It's not exactly Dante's Infernal. It's a cartoon hell with a cartoon character as the main element. To me it's so over the top that I didn't think people would take it that serious. It's just a joke.

But my opinion is not shared by everyone. Especially some readers at the Daily News.

I was informed by my editor when I arrived at work on the day that it appeared that Pastor Perry F. Rockwood was pulling all his ads from the Daily News. Not only this, but he wrote a diatribe against me for the next day's letters. There's another letter going to Friday's paper and I had correspondence with a few other people who took exception with the depiction. So I decided to put it up on my blog for discussion. Surprisingly, more people liked it than took offense. At least so far. It's still up for debate.

The letter from the angry preacher is below.

To the Editor:

As a 90 year-old Christian and preacher, I am very disappointed in your Editorial Cartoon regarding Jerry Falwell.

Jerry Falwell was a Bible Christian, a Bible preacher and a respected leader for those who believe in the Bible. What is wrong with that? I know his stand on homosexuality was not popular but it was a Bible stand. God's Word teaches that homosexuality is a sin. The same-sex marriage law is an abomination. The whole scene reeks with the stench of Sodom. Whoever it is, wherever and whenever it is, it has no place in Christian circles or in any decent human society.

Same-sex marriage is a perversion of sex. There is no stretch of anybody, circumstances that gets homosexuality properly defined as normal . It is the opposite of normal. It is the antithesis of right and the companion of evils. It is an attack on the family. You check biblically ­ there's no place given to homosexuality as a foundation for families. It has not been the standard for families in any nation in history.

It is a mockery of marriage. The Bible says: "And He answered and said onto them, Have ye not read, that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female. And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall be one flesh" (Matthew 19:4,5).

Jerry Falwell would not insist that everyone believe the Bible. He did preach that the Lord created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, not Edie and Eve. He preached that marriage was designed for a man and a woman. That has been the pattern for human society for the past 6000 years. To even ponder the possibility of same-gender couple in a husband-wife relationship is a mockery of marriage.

The legacy of Jerry Falwell is that he was a preacher of the Bible. No one is forced to believe what the Bible teaches. But in our society we still have the freedom to preach exactly what the Bible says.

It was not long ago you made an Editorial statement that you had plans to increase the circulation of your paper. There are still many thousands of Bible believers in the HRM area who believe the Bible. This Editorial Cartoon against Jerry Falwell will not be well received by any of them.

Pastor Perry F. Rockwood
Halifax, N.S.


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Youth minister charged with sex crimes

A former youth minister was charged with numerous sex crimes yesterday involving two underage boys who were members of his youth group.

David Baird, 45, of Penn Hills, was charged with statutory sexual assault, involuntary deviant intercourse, sexual assault, two counts of indecent assault, indecent exposure, endangering the welfare of children, corruption of minors and unlawful contact with a minor.

Police said Mr. Baird had a variety of sexual encounters with two boys, aged 10 and 14, at his home while he worked as youth pastor for a Covenant Church of Pittsburgh in Wilkinsburg.

Mr. Baird worked for the church from January 1994 to 2004 as both a youth pastor and evangelical pastor.

During that time, Mr. Baird would invite children to his home on Orchard Drive, where the alleged sexual assaults occurred in 1999 and 2000.

Mr. Baird was released on bond yesterday.


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Friday, May 18, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

Branch Davidians — they still believe


Twelve-year-old Benjamin Pace is clearly enjoying himself as he steers the family riding mower in lazy arcs around the lawn under a hot Texas sun.

His mother, Alexa, sweeps clippings from the nearby sidewalk. Family friend Ophelia Santoyo waters rose bushes alongside the yard. The scent of the grass and the drone of the mower complete a scene of domestic tranquility repeated thousands of times a day in towns and suburbs across America.

But this is no ordinary American home. One of Benjamin's favorite pastimes is digging up spent shell casings in the yard, remnants of a ferocious gun battle 14 years ago.

Revitalizing Their Faith

Charred timbers, buried in weeds, can be found nearby. The Pace family lives at Mount Carmel, the infamous land outside Waco, Texas, where David Koresh and his Branch Davidian followers went down in flames in 1993 after a 51-day standoff with the federal government.

Charles Pace brought his wife and three children to this bloodstained land in the hopes of revitalizing the Branch Davidian faith and preserving the memories of those who died here, including four federal agents.

"We believe that this place is full of the Holy Ghost," said Pace, "because this was a church community, and we all worshiped the Holy Spirit here."

Pace preaches at Mount Carmel in a handsome, recently built chapel. He treats patients with various new-age therapies in a double-wide trailer dubbed a "wellness center." There's a memorial with a stone marker for each of those who died on the property in 1993, as well a small, one-room building slated to be a visitor's museum.

The Branch Davidian sect is a tiny offshoot of the Seventh Day Adventists. Pace has been a Davidian since 1973 but left after a 1984 confrontation with David Koresh.

Followers Lacking in Numbers

Pace nonetheless believes the Waco tragedy was inevitable.

"This was prophesied that it would happen," he said. "We members of the church knew that this was going to happen. He told everyone that he was taking on sin and that he was going to die. And he was going to be basically punished for what he was doing."

Today, Pace greets a steady stream of curious tourists from around the world.

"There's a lot people who come to find out if this really happened," he says. "[They ask] 'Did this guy really claim to be this, and did he really have these wives?' and yes, I'm the first one to say yes. But it was allowed for him to do that for a reason."

What Charles Pace lacks are followers. At a recent Saturday morning service, he preached to his family, three friends and seven members of the news media.

The small audience does not dampen his enthusiasm for his cause, or his indignation at what happened in 1993. Prophesied or not, he still holds the government responsible for the deaths of so many, especially the 21 children who died in the fire.

"They came here to save the children -- they slaughtered the children!" he thundered.

Fending off a Super Highway

Pace's latest cause may just attract some anti-government types to Mount Carmel. The state of Texas is considering building a north-south superhighway through the Waco area, part of a massive statewide project known as the Trans-Texas Corridor.

One county map, drawn up merely for "guesstimating costs," the county insists, shows the highway going straight through Mount Carmel.

"I'm getting very militant," said Pace. "Because I want to vindicate these people's names -- I don't want them to be forgotten and paved over. They want to put a road through here and just destroy this whole place, basically pave it over. I think that would be a sacrilege."

Will he fight the highway project?

"Yes, we're going to fight it," he said. "They'll have to carry my cold body off this place. Or bury me here with the rest of them."

Tough, provocative words from a man occupying the site of one more violent chapters in American history. But Pace said he's not talking about taking up arms.

The state of Texas says that while Mount Carmel lies within a large swath of land being studied for the project, no decisions have been made about the actual route. The building of the highway, if it ever happens, would be many years away.

'I'm Waiting for Them to Come Back'

In the meantime, Pace continues his lonely ministry, raising his family in a beautiful, if haunted place, fixated on keeping its memory alive.

The few Davidians who survived the siege of 1993 seem not to want much to do with him. They tend to believe that Koresh was a messiah figure who would one day return, and they view Pace as a nonbeliever.

One exception is Ophelia Santoyo, who escaped the compound before losing her daughter and five grandchildren in the fire, and who lives at Mount Carmel with the Pace family.

Santoyo still believes David Koresh was "the Lamb of God" but seems unconcerned about Pace's views. She says it simply brings her comfort to live at the spot where her loved ones died, including Koresh.

"I'm waiting for them to come back," she said. "I'm waiting to be able to see them again."


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Christopher Hitchens eulogizes Jerry Falwell

Outspoken Anti-theist and author of "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything" Christopher Hitchens offers a eulogy for Jerry Falwell on CNN:

"The empty life of this ugly little charlatan proves only one thing, that you can get away with the most extraordinary offenses to morality and to truth in this country if you will just get yourself called reverend. Who would, even at your network, have invited on such a little toad to tell us that the attacks of September the 11th were the result of our sinfulness and were God's punishment if they hadn't got some kind of clerical qualification?"

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

The Bible is indecent

A big thanks to Tom for finding this:

HONG KONG - More than 800 Hong Kong residents have called on authorities to reclassify the Bible as "indecent" due to its sexual and violent content, following an uproar over a sex column in a university student journal.

A spokesperson for Hong Kong's Television and Entertainment Licensing authority (TELA) said it had received 838 complaints about the Bible by noon on Wednesday.

The complaints follow the launch of an anonymous Web site -- -- which said the holy book "made one tremble" given its sexual and violent content, including rape and incest.

The Web site said the Bible's sexual content "far exceeds" that of a recent sex column published in the Chinese University's "Student Press" magazine, which had asked readers whether they'd ever fantasized about incest or bestiality.

That column was later deemed "indecent" by the Obscene Articles Tribunal, sparking a storm of debate about social morality and freedom of speech. Student editors of the journal defended it, saying open sexual debate was a basic right.

If the Bible is similarly classified as "indecent" by authorities, only those over 18 could buy the holy book and it would need to be sealed in a wrapper with a statutory warning notice.

TELA said it was still undecided on whether the Bible had violated Hong Kong's obscene and indecent articles laws.

But a local protestant minister shrugged off this possibility.

"If there is rape mentioned in the Bible, it doesn't mean it encourages those activities," said Reverend Wu Chi-wai. "It's just common sense ... I don't think that criticism will have strong support from the public," he added.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

Jerry Falwell is dead

Lynchburg, Va. -- The Rev. Jerry Falwell, who founded the Moral Majority and built the religious right into a political force, died Tuesday shortly after being found unconscious in his office at Liberty University, a school executive said. He was 73.
Ron Godwin, the university's executive vice president, said Falwell, 73, was found unresponsive around 10:45 a.m. and taken to Lynchburg General Hospital. "CPR efforts were unsuccessful," he said.

Godwin said he was not sure what caused the collapse, but he said Falwell "has a history of heart challenges."

"I had breakfast with him, and he was fine at breakfast," Godwin said. "He went to his office, I went to mine, and they found him unresponsive."

Falwell survived two serious health scares in early 2005. He was hospitalized for two weeks with what was described as a viral infection, then was hospitalized again a few weeks later after going into respiratory arrest. Later that year, doctors found a 70 percent blockage in an artery, which they opened with stents.

Falwell credited his Moral Majority with getting millions of conservative voters registered, electing Ronald Reagan and giving Republicans Senate control in 1980.

"I shudder to think where the country would be right now if the religious right had not evolved," Falwell said when he stepped down as Moral Majority president in 1987.

The fundamentalist church that Falwell started in an abandoned bottling plant in 1956 grew into a religious empire that includes the 22,000-member Thomas Road Baptist Church, the "Old Time Gospel Hour" carried on television stations around the country and 7,700-student Liberty University. He built Christian elementary schools, homes for unwed mothers and a home for alcoholics.

He also founded Liberty University in Lynchburg, which began as Lynchburg Baptist College in 1971.

Liberty University's commencement is scheduled for Saturday, with former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich as the featured speaker.


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Monday, May 07, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

Minister sued by victims

NEWARK, Ohio -- A former Hebron minister, who is spending seven years in prison on sex-abuse convictions, is being sued by the two teenage sisters he victimized.

The lawsuit, filed last week in Licking County Common Pleas Court, seeks more than $3 million in damages from Lonnie Aleshire Jr., the Licking Baptist Church, the American Baptist Churches of Ohio and its national church and various church officials.

The suit alleges, among other things, that Aleshire and other defendants defamed and ostracized the sisters, who are former members of Licking Baptist Church, after they came forward in 2005 accusing him of sexual abuse.

Aleshire, 36, was the church's associate pastor and was in charge of the youth ministry. He pleaded guilty in November 2005 to 10 charges, including one count of rape and six of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. He molested the girls between 2002 and 2004, authorities said.

Judge Jon Spahr sentenced him to a mandatory seven years in prison. Aleshire is incarcerated in the Chillicothe Correctional Institution.

The suit says that Licking Baptist Church, its congregation and Pastor Lonnie Aleshire Sr., the man's father, "took action against the plaintiffs by making false and defamatory statements against them between January 2005 to December 2006."

Columbus lawyer Ross Gillespie, who represents the sisters, said yesterday that they deserve compensation for the pain and suffering caused by Lonnie Aleshire Jr. as well as the emotional trauma they continue to endure.

"We have tried to resolve the issue informally. We didn't want to file suit," he said. "They feel they have been forced down this road."

The Rev. Lawrence O. Swain, executive minister of the American Baptist Churches of Ohio, said he is aware of the lawsuit.

"I'm in the process of (reviewing) it and in contact with legal counsel," he said. "I can't say anything at this point. It would be inappropriate."

Both Aleshire and his father are no longer with the church, Swain said. He declined to elaborate.

Columbus lawyer James Brudny Jr., who represents the church, could not be reached for comment yesterday.


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Saturday, May 05, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor Arrested In Real Estate Scheme

A pastor was arrested at the Sandy, Oregon Public Library on Friday morning and charged with theft and securities fraud.

Detectives from the Oregon State Police and Oregon City Police Department as well as an inspector from the U.S. Postal Inspections Service took Corey Jerry Pritchett, 44, of Sandy into custody around 10:40 a.m. He is being held in Multnomah County jail on 18 counts, including two for aggravated theft, three for selling an unregistered security and three for securities fraud.

Diane Childs, a spokeswoman for the Department of Consumer and Business Services, said she could not elaborate on the charges because “of the ongoing investigation.” But, she said, more charges are expected.

Corey Pritchett and his wife, Vickie, are pastors of Northwest Deliverance Ministries, according to their website,

Childs said investigators are seeking more information about Corey Pritchett’s activities and ask anyone with information to call the Oregon State Police Northern Command Center dispatch at 1-800-452-7888.


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Thursday, May 03, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

Debating the existence of God

Christians and Atheists to Debate the Existence of God

Why are Kirk Cameron, a preacher, and two self-proclaimed atheists coming together in a church this weekend? Because Cameron and preacher Ray Comfort claim that they "can prove the existence of God."

They'll take on the atheists in the first "Nightline Face Off," a debate to be moderated by "Nightline" anchor Martin Bashir.

Watch the Face Off Wednesday May 9 at 2 p.m. on ABC News Now, and on Nightline at 11:35 p.m.

Following the Way of the Master

As Mike Seaver, the oldest son in the smash hit sitcom "Growing Pains," actor Kirk Cameron could make audiences roll with laughter. But now he wants to bring them to the Lord. And he's deadly serious.

In March 2006, "Nightline" profiled the Way of the Master, a Christian ministry headed by Cameron and itinerant preacher Ray Comfort. Operating as a charitable trust, its intention is to educate and equip the church to preach the message of Christianity to nonbelievers. Cameron says he is motivated by a literal fear of hell.

"I believe the Scriptures teach that there's a literal heaven and a literal hell, just like Jesus said," he explained. "And without forgiveness of sins that, yeah, the place of punishment is called hell."

The Way of the Master has a weekly television show for which Comfort and Cameron literally hit the streets in the name of Jesus, challenging nonbelievers that their sins against God will lead directly to hell.

"On the Day of Judgment," Comfort tells one man on the streets of New York, "God will see you as a lying, thieving, blasphemous, adulterer at heart. You have sinned against God. You need his forgiveness."

On occasions, things go badly wrong and the pair are attacked by members of the public. Comfort recalled one incident, saying, "While I was preaching the Gospel a gentleman came up and he started spitting on me. And he spat quite a few times." Comfort says he simply remained calm and moved on.

Neither Comfort nor Cameron has theological degrees nor any kind of formal training. But Cameron says he's convinced his new career is vitally important.

"I have no authority. I am simply trying to be faithful to the God who saved me, who changed me and who has commissioned me to tell you and those who are watching this interview & about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that it has the power to change people's hearts."

The Rational Response Squad

"There isn't any good reason to believe in God," so says Brian Sapient, a member of the Rational Response Squad, a group of atheists "Nightline" profiled in January.

What's wrong with God? "What's wrong with the tooth fairy?" asks Brian. "There's nothing wrong with something that most likely doesn't exist."

"Atheists are completely vilified. And it's OK," says Kelly, an atheist who works alongside Brian and also asks that her last name not be used.

"It's actually OK to hate atheists," Kelly says. "We are like the last group that people overwhelmingly agree it's OK to hate, because there's an absurd caricature of atheism out there."

While their theological views differ from the Way of the Master, their approaches are similar -- brash and in-your-face. The Rational Response Squad challenges people to take the Blasphemy Challenge in which they make videos of themselves denouncing or blaspheming the Holy Spirit, and then post them on YouTube.

One of the posts is by a young-looking man named Chandler. He says, "I've come to the conclusion that alongside the fact that there is no Santa Claus and there is no Easter bunny, there is also no God. So, without further ado, my name is Chandler and I deny the existence of the Holy Spirit."

Taking risks with your own soul is one thing, but the Rational Response Squad advertises for the Blasphemy Challenge on Web sites for teens, such as Tiger Beat (

"They have already been targeted," Brian says. "So hopefully, they are at a point where they are not so indoctrinated and set in their ways that they can overcome this religious superstition that has been put into their brain unfairly."

At the end of the "Nightline" segment, Brian Sapient says, "If they [the Christians] want to come to the table and present their evidence, I will present my evidence. And we will see how much of theirs is based on faith, and how much of mine is based on fact."

The Face-Off

Ray Comfort saw the piece on the Blasphemy Challenge and he immediately e-mailed "Nightline" to say that "We would like to challenge them to a public debate. … Let's hear their best evidence as to why God doesn't exist, and let the audience decide whose evidence is based on faith and whose is based on fact. We cannot only prove that God exists, but we can prove that the atheist doesn't."

The two sides have agreed to debate in the first "Nightline" Face Off. Here's what they have to say about the debate:

Perhaps you think that anyone who says that he can prove the existence of God is a dreamer. Maybe, like most people, you believe that the issue is a matter of "faith." Then we must be dreamers, because we can prove that God exists, scientifically, absolutely, without mentioning faith or even the Bible. Do you find that hard to believe? Then watch the debate.
- Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron

We are dedicated to responding to irrational claims -- such as the ones being put forth by Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron that they can prove the existence of God scientifically. We are here to prove that not only can they not do that, but that it cannot be done using the scientific method and the knowledge available to us today.

- The Rational Response Squad

You can watch the debate on ABC News Now on May 9 at 2 p.m., and it will also be available on the "Nightline" page at
"Nightline" will air a segment that same night at 11:35 p.m ET.

Click here to send ABC your questions and comments and they might include them in the debate!

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor leads double life

SPOKANE WA -- One man has been arrested after a short pursuit that ended at Division and Indiana.Officers are investigating a possible kidnapping at Shari's at Indiana an Monroe. According to police, someone tried to stop the kidnapper, and that person was assaulted by the suspect.

The suspect then fled to a nearby McDonalds. Police found his silver corvette in the parking lot. The suspect put his car in reverse striking two officers, then hit a police car.

Police say the suspect also rammed a patrol car several times. A short pursuit followed.

The man was arrested at a stop light at Indiana and Division. Police used a taser to subdue him.

He was taken to the hospital for treatment and for a mental evaluation.

UPDATE, 3:30pm Monday:
Members of the Morning Star Baptist Church confirm 49-year-old Herman Lewis, arrested this morning after leading Spokane Police on a chase this morning, is their senior pastor. Lewis is charged with unlawful imprisonment and two counts of assault. He's now in the Spokane County Jail.

UPDATE, 9:30pm
Spokane County Jail officials say Herman Lewis is still at the jail, but in lockdown because he was considered combative and a threat to himself and officers when he was booked this afternoon.

According to his resume, Rev. Herman Lewis Sr. began his career as pastor near his hometown of Winnie, Texas. Between 1980 and 2003 Lewis lived in Austin and Galveston. He was a chaplain for a county jail, a local hospital, and helped build a new baptist church for 400 members. In 2003, he joined the People's Institutional Baptist Church in Seattle. Nothing on his resume has been verified.

Lewis recently reported that he left an $80,000 managerial job at a Seattle Holiday Inn to become the pastor of Spokane's Morning Star Baptist Church last year. The congregation recently moved to a building on West Rowan.

Lewis is charged with Unlawful Imprisonment and Assault.

UPDATE, 3pm Tuesday:
49-year-old Rev. Herman Lewis appeared in Spokane Co. Superior Court this afternoon on charges of assault and attempted kidnapping. According to court documents, Lewis told detectives he went to the Shari's Restaurant near Indiana and Monroe to meet a woman to have sex with.

Lewis also told police he had been living "a double life" since turning 19 by having sex with prostitutes and regularly using crack cocaine and PCP.



More charges filed against pastor

The Spokane pastor who led police on a 10 block chase in a Corvette had additional charges filed against him Thursday.

Herman Lewis, 49, now faces a first-degree attempted rape charge as well as an indecent liberties charge in connection with the April 30 incident.

Lewis – pastor of Morning Star Baptist Church – is charged with attempting to abduct and rape a waitress at Shari's Restaurant at Monroe Street and Northwest Boulevard.

Police said in court documents that Lewis attempted to pay the waitress $50 to have sex with him in a Corvette parked outside. When the waitress refused, Lewis then tried to grab the woman and force her out.

If Lewis is convicted of all charges, he faces at least 20 years in prison. He remained in the Spokane County Jail on Thursday night.


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Tuesday, May 01, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor arrested in prostitution sting

Chattanooga police arrested nine men Friday in a prostitution sting, including the pastor of Ringgold United Methodist Church.

Officers arrested Rev. Steve Moore, 42, in the undercover operation. Moore is also the chaplain of Catoosa County Fire & Rescue.

According to a Chattanooga Vice Department detective who asked to remain anonymous, two female police officers posed as street prostitutes on the 2800 block of Wautauga Street in downtown Chattanooga between 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. A takedown team waited for the “johns” to solicit sex for money before making the arrests. All of the arrests were audio and videotaped.

Moore was arrested, taken into custody and issued a citation in lieu of arrest. He is charged with patronizing prostitution within a mile and a half of a school. According to police, Moore will have to go to the Hamilton County Jail sometime between May 23 and 25 to be photographed, fingerprinted and issued a court date.

The detective confirmed that the takedown team found a fire chaplain’s uniform in the back of Moore’s car.


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Christians criticize PBS

Conservative Christians are criticizing a plan by Public Broadcasting Service stations to begin showing later this week a three-part television documentary series on atheism, calling it "demagogic and propagandistic."

"This series is about the disappearance of something: religious faith," British producer and narrator Jonathan Miller says at the start of "A Brief History of Disbelief," which was originally shown by the BBC in 2005. "It's the story of what is often referred to as atheism, the history of the growing conviction that God doesn't exist."

During the first hour-long episode, Miller visits the site in New York City where the Twin Towers stood before terrorists destroyed them on 9/11.

"The spectacle of September 11 is a forceful reminder of the potentially destructive power of the three great monotheistic religions [Christianity, Judaism and Islam] that have dominated the world one way or another for nearly 2,000 years," the author asserts.

"You only have to travel a few miles from New York City to find yourself in the middle of a country which is - far from being the secular world which was deplored and attacked by the Islamic fundamentalists - is in fact intensely Christian and therefore in its own way, of course, is just as religious as the Muslim world that attacked it," he adds.

Miller interviews several leading atheists and examines "theories regarding the psychology of religious belief," according to a description of the episode provided by the American Humanist Association (AHA).

In the second episode, Miller discusses the "re-emergence of disbelief in the 15th and 16th centuries and the perils of challenging religious faith."

The third segment, according to the AHA, "illuminates the theories and philosophies of influential thinkers like Thomas Paine, Charles Darwin and Sigmund Freud, as well as their impact on the way we see religion today."

Along with a brief promotional video on the YouTube website, the documentary's U.S. debut will be marked by an appearance by Miller on "Bill Moyers' Journal" at 9 p.m. Eastern Time on May 4.

The documentary will premier on public TV stations in some markets that day and in others over the following weeks.

"This compelling documentary series fills an important void in the public's understanding of the long and complex history of nontheism," Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the AHA, said in a news release.

The documentary reflects "an important change in attitude about nontheism," said Fred Edwords, AHA director of communications. "People are starting to realize that lack of a god belief does not mean the lack of morality. As a result of this, nontheism is beginning to gain acceptance in the public square.

"One needs only look at the warm reception of Rep. Pete Stark's announcement that he is a nontheist" or the fact that recent books on atheism "have made it to best-seller status," Edwords added.

'An evangelistic piece for atheism'

Janice Crouse, director of the Beverly LaHaye Institute for the conservative group Concerned Women for America, told Cybercast News Service that "airing the program gives credibility and cohesiveness to individuals who seek to undermine the beliefs and values on which democracy and the American dream are founded."

"One has to wonder why it is so important to them for everyone to understand their 'disbelief,'" she said. "The program is not a dispassionate, positive voice - as they claim. Instead, it is clearly demagogic and propagandistic."

Peter Sprigg, vice president for policy at the conservative Family Research Council, said that blaming the horrors of 9/11 on "faith in God in general is absurd. They have to be attributed to the particular ideology that drove the terrorists, which is a radical form of Islam."

Sprigg also found it "interesting" that Miller "implied Islam attacked and hates America for being too secular. Actually, I think they hate us for being too Christian."

After all, he pointed out, "they don't refer to us as 'secularists' but as 'crusaders.'"

"When people look at the role of religion in history, certainly they can find examples of atrocities that have been done in the name of religion, in the name of God and even in the name of Christianity," Sprigg conceded.

"But we have to remember that the two most horrific regimes of the 20th century, which probably killed more people than any other dictatorships in history, were the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, both atheistic regimes," he said.

By airing "Disbelief," Sprigg added, PBS is "revealing their bias against Christianity, against traditional faith."

"When I first read about this, I thought, 'Oh, they're attempting some sort of objective history of atheism. That might be interesting.' But when I actually watched it, I realized that it's really an evangelistic piece for atheism," he stated.

Noting that PBS recently refused to air a documentary on moderate Muslims under fire from radicals of their own faith, Sprigg said the public broadcaster "really seems to be taking sides these days - as long as it's opposed to Christianity and doesn't offend non-Christians."

"If they really want to be objective, they need to have a three-part series documenting the evidence in favor of Christianity," he added. "If they present propaganda for Islam, if they present propaganda for atheism, I think it's only fair they present propaganda for Christianity, too."


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