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Monday, September 29, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor charged with transporting child pornography

Members of the First United Methodist Church in Royse City were in shock when they learned that their pastor, Steve Richardson, had been arrested by agents of the Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) on charges relating to child pornography.

Richardson was taken into custody on Wednesday on a charge of transporting child pornography, at which time agents confiscated his computer and executed warrants at his home and church.

According to a statement released by the office of U.S. Attorney Richard B. Roper, Richardson has already admitted to ICE agents that he had been trading child pornography online using his work computer.

The trading apparently took place on a “Google Hello” Internet program.

The arrest was the result of a long-term investigation by ICE that involved at least two other persons.

According to Roper’s statement, the investigation began in August 2007 when ICE Special Agents executed a search warrant in a child pornography investigation at the residence of an individual who consented to agents assuming his online presence to communicate with individuals involved in distributing child pornography.

On December 20, 2007, an ICE Special Agent, using that online identity in an undercover capacity said he communicated with and received an image of child pornography from Hello user “cowboysspades.” He received a total of six images from “cowboysspades,” one of which fits the definition of child pornography (the other images would be considered child erotica).

In a Sept. 26, 2007 ICE raid, special agents executed a search warrant on a private residence which resulted in the seizure of computers and arrest of an individual for possession of child pornography.

That individual advised that one of the screen names he remembered trading with on Google Hello was “cowboysspades” and that “cowboysspades” had sent him “homemade” images within the past three months.

Examination of that person’s computer revealed a folder named “from coyboysspades,” which contained approximately 30 images of child pornography.

According to investigators, the Google Hello records for “cowboysspades” lists the email address as “” Further investigation revealed that the Yahoo! e-mail name “” is registered to Steve Richardson in Royse City, Texas, with the same IP address as one of the nine IP addresses “cowboysspades” used to logon to his Hello account.

The statement goes on to say, “Further forensic investigation revealed additional chats between ‘cowboysspades’ and others. In one, ‘cowboysspades’ received and distributed dozens of images of child pornography including several images of infants engaged in sexually explicit conduct.”

Steve Richardson and his wife adopted an infant girl from Ethiopia, which they brought home to the United States on May 5. Currently, there is no reference to the international adoptee in the criminal complaint.

Church looks for recovery

The news hit hard for members of Richardson’s church, which will now begin the process of looking for new leadership.

The pews were full for a congregational meeting that was held on Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m. District Superintendent Pat Beghtel-Mahle ran the meeting in which congregation members asked for answers to the charges and the direction the church would be taking going forward.

Beghtel-Mahle was unable to answer most of the questions from members regarding the specifics of the case. She said that she had been trying to get information from law enforcement officials, but that not much had been released.

“I know there will be more information coming out about his innocence or guilt, whichever that may be,” she said.

Faced with the question of how members should deal with questions raised by their children, Beghtel-Mahle suggested openness.

“I think you’ll have to answer your children’s questions as honestly as you can without giving away the whole wagon-load, but what we don’t want to do is keep secrets.”

Beghtel-Mahle said that at present Richardson was “suspended” from his position with the church. She stated that she was the acting pastor for the church, but that most of the day-to-day church operations would be handled by the church’s current associate pastor.

Richardson came to Royse City in August of 2006 following five years of service with the First United Methodist Church in Boyd.


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America -- is it a Christian Nation?

What does John McCain say?

What does Barack Obama say?

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Sunday, September 28, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

Sarah Palin's religious beliefs too extreme for America

by Carol Jensen

Not only should American voters be skeptical about Republican VP-pick Sarah Palin's lack of qualifications to become potentially President of the United States, but just as disturbing should be how deeply her religious beliefs and practices, which are clearly out of the mainstream, could ultimately affect the rest of us.

Her literal interpretation of the Bible leaves little room for the common sense approach that most political candidates in the 21st century factor into their policy decisions. The idea that someone with such extremist religious views could ascend to such power over the rest of us in this country, is truly a frightening prospect.

Most of us have seen Palin's speech at the Wasilla Assembly of God Church from June of this year, now a You-Tube video, where she describes the war in Iraq as "a task from god" and the proposed gas pipeline in Alaska as "God's will."

On that same tape, her former long-time pastor Ed Kalnin adds to her statements by predicting that at the end of times, before the "Rapture"- Alaska will serve as a "refuge"- and needs to prepare to convert "non-believers."-

Pastor Kalnin has also been credited with telling church members in 2004 that voting for John Kerry would condemn them to Hell. Recently however, that statement was said to be only a "joke,"- as has been reported by the Chicago Sun-Times. Currently this same church is promoting a conference that will "pray to convert homosexuals into heterosexuals."- I wonder if Sarah Palin will be in attendance for that little gem.

David Brickner, the founder of "Jews for Jesus"- was a guest speaker at the Wasilla Bible Church this August, with Sarah Palin sitting in the pews. He told the congregation that the terrorist attacks on Israel were "God's judgment"- of Jews who have not embraced Christianity. According to the Chicago Sun-Times the Anti-Defamation League widely criticized these remarks. Why didn't Palin jump up and condemn such nonsense?

The latest church video of Sarah Palin to make the rounds is one posted by Max Blumenthal on the Huffington Post. The video focuses in on visiting Kenyan pastor, Bishop Thomas Mathee, famous in Pentecostal circles for defeating a local witch (that's right, he is a witch-hunter) named Mama Jane, thus liberating his town from sin and allowing Jesus in.

After ranting for nearly 8 minutes on the video about how important it is for believers like him and those in the congregation to infiltrate every aspect of American society--including, businesses and all levels of government--the pastor then called Sarah Palin up to the front of the church, laid his hands on her and prayed over her while calling on Jesus to put her in the Governor's mansion and then on to higher office. He called upon Jesus to protect Palin from "the spirit of witchcraft."- This was such an extreme spectacle that it left me totally stunned.

Sarah Palin's long-time pastor, until 2002, Tim McGraw spoke to the Washington Monthly in early September, trying to shed some light on Pentecostal beliefs for those who don't know much about them. He acknowledged that some members "spoke in tongues,"- although he hasn't seen Palin do so. Some church goers also believe in "faith healing"- rather than in medicine or science. "End times"- is a corner stone of belief in this sect, at which time the second coming of Christ causes a violent end to the earth. Believers look forward to this event as Biblical prophecy while based on current events.

Palin's religious beliefs have caused her to take such a harsh stance on abortion rights that she believes all abortion is murder and that anyone having or performing one, even in the case of rape or incest should be punished by the law. Roe v. Wade must be overturned!

She opposes gay rights and same-sex marriage. Her literal interpretation of the Bible deems homosexuality "an abomination."- And she opposes extending hate crime laws to protect gays. I suppose she believes that they deserve what they get.

She is against stem-cell research and any medical breakthrough based on scientific research that she personally objects to. She has called for the teaching of creationism in public schools, which is particularly disturbing to all who do not share her personal beliefs.

The ultra-right wing religious zealots in this country are overjoyed with Sarah Palin's candidacy and by the prospect of creating a more "Christian Nation"- regardless of the diversity of religious philosophies held by so many different groups in this country. And they believe that Palin has been "sent"- by God to help achieve this long dreamed of goal. It could be just the Taliban--only Christian.

Now don't get me wrong. Any individual or private citizen in the United States of America has the right to believe in and practice any religion they choose. But when it seems clear by her actions that Sarah Palin will use government to impose her personal beliefs on the entire country, we should all be speaking out about this. Maintaining the separation of church and state is the only way our country can avoid being turned into a theocracy by people who think like Sarah Palin.

Jensen writes a weekly op-ed column for a newspaper in a small California town. After teaching English on the college level for 20 years, she now spends most of her time writing political and social commentary.


Friday, September 26, 2008                                                                                       View Comments


From the FBI website:

NOAH A. THOMAS, JR., age 42, a resident of Marrero, Louisiana, was sentenced in federal court today by U. S. District Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt to seventeen (17) months imprisonment for mail fraud in connection with funds granted to the church he ministered, announced U. S. Attorney Jim Letten.

According to the court documents, THOMAS plead guilty on April 9, 2008 to a one-count Bill of information. Prior to Hurricane Katrina, THOMAS was the pastor of Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church. When Katrina hit, the congregation’s building at 2241 South Liberty Street in New Orleans was devastated by flood water. The Church did not have flood insurance so the congregation applied for a SBA loan and a grant from the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund to offset the cost of rebuilding. The Church was awarded a $252,000 disaster loan from the SBA and a $35,000 grant from the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund.

According to the factual basis, THOMAS created a scheme to defraud the Church of the $35,000 Bush-Clinton grant funds for his own personal benefit by having the $35,000 check from the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund mailed to his house and then deposited into a bank account that he established and controlled. THOMAS created a similar scheme to defraud the Church of the SBA loan money by having the SBA wire the initial $10,000 disbursement of the disaster loan into the same bank account. THOMAS spent at least $10,000 of the relief money on a new Dodge Durango for himself.

Court documents also revealed that the church was unaware that THOMAS had obligated the small aging congregation for a $39,327.06 loan from ACI Financial, Inc., for church furniture and accessories that was to be repaid at $1,034.57 a month for 60 months. The loan amount, which was paid in two installments to a church furniture and accessories vendor was to pay for computers, desks, carpeting, and church pews. The vendor cut checks totaling $12,800 payable to THOMAS after each loan installment was paid to it by ACI Financial, Inc. Although THOMAS attested to ACI Financial, Inc. that all items contracted for had been delivered by the vendor, the church did not receive all of the items.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Small Business Administration–Office of Inspector General, and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Department. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorneys Emily K. Greenfield and Michael McMahon.

In another report:

U.S. District Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt sentenced Noah A. Thomas, Jr. to 17 months in federal prison for mail fraud in connection with funds granted to the church he ministered, announced U. S. Attorney Jim Letten.

Court documents also show that Thomas created a scheme to defraud the Church of the $35,000 Bush-Clinton grant funds for his own personal benefit by having the $35,000 check mailed to his house and then deposited into a bank account that he established and controlled. Thomas created a similar scheme to defraud the church of the SBA loan money by having the SBA wire the initial $10,000 disbursement of the disaster loan into the same bank account. Thomas spent at least $10,000 of the relief money on a new Dodge Durango for himself.

According to the court documents, Thomas pleaded guilty on April 9, to a one-count bill of information. Prior to Hurricane Katrina, Thomas was the pastor of Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church.

When Katrina hit, the congregation’s building at 2241 South Liberty Street in New Orleans was devastated by floodwater. The church did not have flood insurance so the congregation applied for a SBA loan and a grant from the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund to offset the cost of rebuilding. The church was awarded a $252,000 disaster loan from the SBA and a $35,000 grant from the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund.

The court sentenced Thomas to the 17 month prison term and ordered him to repay the funds over 60 monthly payments.


For a PDF copy of the court record, click here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor, wife arrested for real estate scam

JENSEN BEACH — The three women phoned Rodney McGill in hopes that he'd teach them how to get rich in a difficult real estate market.

The 42-year-old McGill seemed a bona fide success. He drove a Rolls-Royce, hosted a radio show and was pastor of New Hope Outreach Center in Jensen Beach. His wife, Shalonda McGill, 36, was a mortgage broker.

Instead of riches, state investigators said Tuesday, the would-be investors were duped. They paid the McGills inflated prices for homes that since have fallen into foreclosure or default.

The McGills were arrested Tuesday on charges of racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, grand theft and obtaining a mortgage by false representation, the Florida Department of Financial Services said.

The McGills bought four homes in Martin and St. Lucie counties by submitting fraudulent loan applications, then flipped the properties to clients for outsized profits, investigators said. The couple used bogus loan applications to borrow more than the properties were worth, leaving clients with $1.1 million in mortgages, state officials said.

McGill solicited clients through a daily radio program on WJFP-FM 91.1. He told listeners he wanted to teach them to buy and sell real estate with no out-of-pocket expense and a goal of earning $50,000 in 90 days.

The radio pitch yielded three investors, Patricia Kelly, Sharon Schofield and Cynthia McNair, said Detective Ted Padich of the Florida Department of Financial Services.

Investigators said the McGills in June 2006 paid $210,000 for a home at 1000 N.E. County Line Road in Jensen Beach, according to property records. Three months later, they sold the property to Sharon Schofield for $365,000 - a 74 percent increase at a time when home values were falling.

In another example, they said, the McGills in August 2006 paid $147,000 for a house at 2814 S.W. Ann Arbor Road in Port St. Lucie, according to property records. Three months later, they sold it to Patricia Kelly for $229,000 - a 56 percent increase.

"People thought they were getting involved in a real estate investment where he was going to mentor them," Padich said. "What (the McGills) did was simply sell them homes that they already owned."

The McGills also found clients through the Young Millionaires Group Inc., RSM Investment and Mortgage and New Hope Outreach Center Inc. All are at 2110 Arch St. in Jensen Beach.

"It appears that these individuals used their positions in the community to take advantage of people who trusted them," Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink said in a statement. "The evidence our investigation uncovered indicates these two improved their own bottom line while financially devastating the Floridians they promised to help."

The McGills are being held in the Martin County Jail, with bail set at $1.4 million each.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

Thank you, Ray Boltz, for coming out

Ray Boltz, who sold about 4.5 million records before retiring from Christian music a few years ago, came out of the closet Friday to announce that he's gay.

In an interview with the gay magazine The Washington Blade, Boltz said he came out to his family and some close friends in December 2004, but only now decided to go public with the news.

“I’d denied it ever since I was a kid," Boltz, 55, told the magazine. "I became a Christian, I thought that was the way to deal with this and I prayed hard and tried for 30-some years and then at the end, I was just going, ‘I’m still gay. I know I am.’ And I just got to the place where I couldn’t take it anymore … when I was going through all this darkness, I thought, ‘Just end this.’”

One reason Boltz decided to come out now might be because he's performing Sunday at Jesus Metropolitan Community Church in Indianapolis, and then next Sunday, Sept. 21, at the Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, D.C. Both congregations are a part of a denomination that embraces the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community.
Boltz is perhaps best known for his song "Thank You," about a dream in which a Christian thanks the Sunday school teacher who led him to Jesus. It was the GMA song of the year in 1990. Other Boltz hits include "Watch the Lamb," "The Anchor Holds," and "I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb."

Boltz also told The Blade that he doesn’t want to get into debates about Scripture and has no plans to “go into First Baptist or an Assembly of God church and run in there and say, ‘I’m gay and you need to love me anyway.’”

For him, the decision to come out is much more personal.

“This is what it really comes down to,” he says. “If this is the way God made me, then this is the way I’m going to live. It’s not like God made me this way and he’ll send me to hell if I am who he created me to be … I really feel closer to God because I no longer hate myself.”

Earlier, Boltz had alluded to the issue on his official website, saying that if people “knew who I really was, I would never be accepted."


Saturday, September 13, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

Ex-pastor called himself 'allentownhotguy' in sex chats with teen

Using the screen name "allentownhotguy," Paul Marmon built a rapport with his 15-year-old victim in an Internet chatroom, law enforcement authorities say.

Then the 62-year-old retired pastor propositioned her for sex.

At one point the South Whitehall Township man wrote, "You are so much more mature than most people think you or the average 15-year-old girl is," according to the state Attorney General's Office.

Marmon, who was once pastor at St. James United Church of Christ on 15th Street, is now in Montgomery County Prison in lieu of $1 million bail.


Saturday, September 06, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

‘I have never been happier’ says the man who won gold but lost God

It is the afternoon of September 25, 2000, and Jonathan Edwards is making his way to the triple jump final at the Olympic Stadium in Sydney. In his kitbag are some shirts, spikes, towels – and a tin of sardines.

Why the sardines? They have been chosen by Edwards to symbolise the fish that Jesus used in the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000. They are, if you like, the physical manifestation of his faith in God.

As he enters the stadium, he offers a silent prayer: “I place my destiny in Your hands. Do with me as You will.” A few hours later he has captured the gold medal, securing his status as one of Britain’s greatest athletes.

“I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

— Matthew xvii, 20

Edwards’s faith was never an optional add-on. It has been fundamental to his identity – something that has permeated every fibre of his being – since his trips to Sunday school in the company of his devout parents; since he went to a Christian youth camp in North Devon and devoted his life to Jesus, tears streaming down his cheeks and his face glowing with divine revelation. Since he decided to risk everything to follow God’s revealed path, moving to Newcastle in 1987 to become a full-time athlete in the belief that his preordained success would enable him to evangelise to an unbelieving world; since he withdrew from the World Championships in Tokyo in 1991 because his event was scheduled for the Sabbath.

By the time Edwards retired from athletics in 2003, he had established himself as one of Britain’s most prominent born-again Christians. He soon landed the job of fronting a landmark documentary on the life of St Paul and also secured the presenting role on the BBC’s flagship religious programme, Songs of Praise. He looked to have made the transition to life after sport with a sureness of touch that eludes so many professional athletes. Perhaps this was another advantage of his bedrock faith in God.

But even as he toured the nation’s churches with his BBC crew, Edwards was confronting an apocalyptic realisation: that it was all a grand mistake; that his epiphany was nothing more than self-delusion; that his inner sense of God’s presence was fictitious; that the decisions he had taken in life were based on a false premise; that the Bible is not literal truth but literal falsehood; that life is not something imbued with meaning from on high but, possibly, a purposeless accident in an unfeeling universe.

Having left his sport as a dyed-in-the-wool evangelical, Edwards is now, to all intents and purposes, an atheist. But why? It is a question that has reverberated around the Christian community since the rumours began to circulate when Edwards resigned from Songs of Praise in February. Edwards a backslider? Impossible.

I am sitting opposite Edwards, 41, in the garden of his large home in Gosforth on the outskirts of Newcastle, but he does not resemble a man whose world has been turned upside down. His boyish face, cropped with sparkling, silver-grey strands, is alert and alive. One gets the impression that he is looking forward to the ordeal of a lengthy interview. Perhaps he regards it as a kind of confessional, an opportunity to bare all and be done.

“I never doubted my belief in God for a single moment until I retired from sport,” he says. “Faith was the reason that I decided to become a professional athlete, in the same way that it was fundamental to every decision I made. It was the foundation of my existence, the thing that made everything else make sense. It was not a sacrifice to refuse to compete on Sundays during my early career because that would imply that athletics was important in and of itself. It was not. It was always a means to an end: glorifying God.

“But when I retired, something happened that took me by complete surprise. I quickly realised that athletics was more important to my identity than I believed possible. I was the best in the world at what I did and suddenly that was not true any more. With one facet of my identity stripped away, I began to question the others and, from there, there was no stopping. The foundations of my world were slowly crumbling.”

Edwards retains the earnest intensity that was his hallmark when he gave talks and sermons at churches up and down the country. He is a serious person who regards life as a serious business, even if he is now unsure of its deeper meaning. But why did someone with such a penetrating intellect leave it so long to question the beliefs upon which he had constructed his life? “It was as if during my 20-plus-year career in athletics, I had been suspended in time,” he says.

“I was so preoccupied with training and competing that I did not have the time or emotional inclination to question my beliefs. Sport is simple, with simple goals and a simple lifestyle. I was quite happy in a world populated by my family and close friends, people who shared my belief system. Leaving that world to get involved with television and other projects gave me the freedom to question everything.”

“Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

— 1 Corinthians i, 20

“Once you start asking yourself questions like, ‘How do I really know there is a God?’ you are already on the path to unbelief,” Edwards says. “During my documentary on St Paul, some experts raised the possibility that his spectacular conversion on the road to Damascus might have been caused by an epileptic fit. It made me realise that I had taken things for granted that were taught to me as a child without subjecting them to any kind of analysis. When you think about it rationally, it does seem incredibly improbable that there is a God.”

Would Edwards have been as successful a sportsman had he been assailed by such doubts? It is a question that the world record-holder confronts with bracing candour. “Looking back now, I can see that my faith was not only pivotal to my decision to take up sport but also my success,” he says. “I was always dismissive of sports psychology when I was competing, but I now realise that my belief in God was sports psychology in all but name.”

Muhammad Ali once asked: “How can I lose when I have Allah on my side?” Edwards understands the potency of such beliefs, even as he questions their philosophical legitimacy.

“Believing in something beyond the self can have a hugely beneficial psychological impact, even if the belief is fallacious,” he says. “It provided a profound sense of reassurance for me because I took the view that the result was in God’s hands. He would love me, win, lose or draw. The tin of sardines I took to the Olympic final in Sydney was a tangible reminder of that.”

The upheaval of recent months has not left Edwards emotionally scarred, at least not visibly. “I am not unhappy about the fact that there might not be a God,” he says. “I don’t feel that my life has a big, gaping hole in it. In some ways I feel more human than I ever have. There is more reality in my existence than when I was full-on as a believer. It is a completely different world to the one I inhabited for 37 years, so there are feelings of unfamiliarity.

“There have also been issues to address in terms of my relationships with family and friends, many of whom are Christians. But I feel internally happier than at any time of my life, more content within my own skin. Maybe it is because I am not viewing the world through a specific set of spectacles.”

“If I should cast off this tattered coat, And go free into the mighty sky; If I should find nothing there, But a vast blue, Echoless, ignorant – What then?

— Stephen Crane, The Black Riders and Other Lines

“The only inner problem that I face now is a philosophical one,” Edwards says. “If there is no God, does that mean that life has no purpose? Does it mean that personal existence ends at death? They are thoughts that do my head in. One thing that I can say, however, is that even if I am unable to discover some fundamental purpose to life, this will not give me a reason to return to Christianity. Just because something is unpalatable does not mean that it is not true.”

His crisis of faith offers a metaphysical dimension to the inner turmoil that afflicts so many sportsmen on their retirement. Some will say he has journeyed from light into darkness, others that he has journeyed from darkness into light – but none could doubt the honesty with which he has travelled. The Eric Liddell of his generation has sacrificed his religious beliefs on the altar of intellectual honesty, a martyr of a kind.

World of his own

— A committed Christian, Edwards refused to compete on a Sunday until 1993, most notably missing the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo. “It is an outward sign that God comes first in my life,” he said at the time.

— Contested the World Championships for the first time in 1993, the first of five successive appearances, winning a medal at each one, including gold in 1995 and 2001.

— There was little hint of his 12 months to come in 1995 when, the previous year, he finished sixth at the European Championships, second at the Commonwealth Games and was ranked No 9 in the world.

— Edwards’s life changed in 1995, when he set three world and seven British records, achieving the unprecedented feat of two world records in his first two jumps of the final of the World Championships in Gothenburg. His 18.29 metres that day remains the world record. His wind-assisted 18.43, to win the European Cup in Lille, is the longest triple jump on record.

— A run of 22 consecutive victories ended when he finished second to Kenny Harrison, of the United States, at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. Edwards had finished 23rd and 35th in his two previous Olympics and finished second and third at the World Championships between Atlanta and the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, where he took gold.


Monday, September 01, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor in trouble also lied about his past

Some false credentials for the Windsor pastor accused of inappropriate contact with teen girls have been provided at least three times since 2005.

The incorrect credentials include academic degrees from schools he did not graduate from, pastoral jobs he did not hold and a police task-force position he never filled, according to interviews with school officials, people who worked with him and police.

The Rev. Scott Allen Snyder, 35, of Windsor said he did not know where the information posted on his church Web site came from. He did not respond to requests for comment about resumes said to be from him that were provided by a previous employer, and he repeatedly declined to disclose an accurate educational history.

"I simply am not going to bring embarrassment to other organizations for accusations of things that I did not do and certainly believe will all be dismissed when this is all said and done," Snyder said by e-mail.

On Aug. 11, Pennsylvania State Police charged Snyder with two counts of corruption of minors.

Officers say Snyder kissed a 13-year-old girl from his congregation and sent thousands of text messages, including some obscene images, to her and another girl, who is 14.

Court documents state that Snyder admitted to the acts; however, he refuted the claims in an Aug. 15 e-mail to the York Daily Record/Sunday News. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 11 a.m. Oct. 2.

Snyder grew up in Chanceford Township and is founding pastor of the nondenominational New Beginnings Bible Fellowship in Windsor, which also operates a Christian school for children ages 2 to fourth grade.

The "About Our Pastor" section of the church's site,, states that Snyder earned a "doctor degree" in Bible theology from Maryland Baptist Bible College in Elkton, Md.

"He was here, but he did not complete a degree," registrar Robert Straughan said in an Aug. 19 interview.

Between fall 1991 and spring 1993, Snyder completed 37 credits in undergraduate classes at the Bible college, Straughan said. That equates to about a year's worth of study at the unaccredited school.

Earlier this month, Snyder acknowledged that the New Beginnings Web site is incorrect. He said he does have a doctor of theology degree but would not identify the source of that doctorate.

The church site also states that Snyder earned an "associates degree" in child psychology from the University of Maryland. Snyder said earlier this month he took "a few" classes at the University of Maryland but did not earn a degree.

University records do not show that he enrolled in any classes.

"We have nothing to confirm that Mr. Snyder ever attended the University of Maryland," David Ottalini, a spokesman for the University of Maryland at College Park, said Aug. 20 after checking with the campus registrar's Diploma Office.

Officials at the 10 other institutions in the University System of Maryland said they had no record of Snyder taking courses there.

"As I said, I did not write this information and had no idea the wrong institutions were listed," Snyder said by e-mail. "The information in this area of our website was not all correct and it has been removed."

A link to the "About Our Pastor" section was deleted from the site earlier this month, but the page was still live as of Saturday. Snyder said an "outside source" produces the Web site.

The Web site is not the only source to cite such credentials for Snyder.

Rick Sitler, head deacon at New Beginnings, sent an e-mail to the York Daily Record/Sunday News in July 2006, following up a news release about the then-6-month-old church moving to Main Street in Windsor.

Sitler wrote: "Pastor Scott holds a master's degree from Maryland Baptist Bible College and an associate's degree in child psychology from the University of Maryland."

Sitler did not return calls or e-mails requesting comment.

Regarding Sitler's e-mail, Snyder said, "The information about my education was misunderstood when quoted to you in the past. I do hold the degrees listed just not from the institutions listed."

Another pastor, the Rev. John Delozier, recalled Snyder saying he had degrees from Maryland Baptist Bible College and the University of Maryland. Delozier provided copies of resumes that Snyder gave to Lighthouse Community Church in Red Lion, where Snyder was assistant pastor at the time.

Delozier met Snyder in 2005 when his church was merging with Lighthouse Community Church. Later, Delozier said, he saw Snyder identified as "Dr. Scott Snyder" on sermon videos broadcast on TV and posted online at YouTube.

"I remember thinking, 'Oh, he must have gotten his doctorate,'" Delozier said.

The Lighthouse Community Church board was preparing to check Snyder's credentials when the Rev. Bill Brown, then senior pastor, fired Snyder, said both Delozier and Brown in interviews.

Shortly before the church merger, the pastors and others heard that Snyder was planning to start his own congregation and was accepting monetary donations from members for the new church, Delozier said.

Soon after his departure, Snyder began New Beginnings Bible Fellowship with 40 to 60 people from the Lighthouse ministry -- about half the congregation, Delozier said.

Snyder disputes part of that account. He said some members had demanded Brown quit. Several withheld tithes from the Lighthouse ministry to start a new church, but he did not hold the money, Snyder said.

"The day I was confronted about the information I told them I was aware of people not giving to the lighthouse and unless Pastor Brown step down as asked they were going to leave and start another church," Snyder said by e-mail. "I was then asked to leave and over 80% of the membership handed in there membership and helped form New Beginnings to which the people called me to be there Pastor."

The Lighthouse episode wasn't the first time Snyder was involved in a church split, according to the Rev. Randy Starr of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Chanceford Township.

Starr, senior pastor, said Snyder grew up in the Mount Zion church, which his family also attended.

"In September of 1994, he split our church and took 22 people, himself included, and started a home church in his grandmother's basement," Starr said.

That became Lighthouse Bible Church, which later met in Red Lion. It folded in 2002. Snyder did not respond to a request for comment about his time at Mount Zion.

Snyder lists his leadership at Lighthouse Bible Church and other experience on the two resumes he submitted to Lighthouse Community Church.

A handwritten, undated resume states that Snyder attended Maryland Baptist Bible College from 1991-1993, earning two master's degrees, one in "Bible" and one in "psycology."

A typed, undated resume states that Snyder earned a single master's degree in "Bible theology" from the Bible college and an associate degree in "child psycology" from the University of Maryland.

The resumes also list years Snyder spent as an intern pastor, youth pastor and children's ministry director at Mount Zion Baptist.

While Snyder sometimes preached at Mount Zion, he never held those positions and was not licensed or ordained to ministry by the church, Starr said.

The typed resume also includes a line that states: "Certified/License- Sharpshooter/fugitive taskforce officer Pa. State Police"

State police officials said last week they neither certify nor license sharpshooters who are not state troopers, and Snyder has never served as a trooper, according to the state police human resources department in Harrisburg.

Some information on the New Beginnings church Web site has been confirmed.

A secretary at the Harford Christian School in Darlington, Md., said Snyder did graduate from the school in 1991.

She could not confirm whether Snyder was student body chaplain or whether he helped lead his soccer team to a state championship, as posted on the site.

The Web site also states that Snyder ran a sub-4-minute mile. He confirmed this by e-mail but said his school did not record the feat.

The site also states that Snyder turned down a contract with a professional soccer team to enter the ministry. This is also true, Snyder said in an e-mail, but he refused to identify the team.

Snyder maintains that any false information about his background on the Web site did not come from him. He did not respond to questions about the resumes he submitted to Lighthouse Community Church, his former employer.

"Once again this is an outward attack to discredit this ministry and myself for all that God has accomplished here. It shows once again the corruptness of the media and this world and its hatred for Jesus Christ," Snyder said by e-mail.

Staff writer Michele Canty contributed to this report.


"About Our Pastor" at New Beginnings Bible Fellowship,

Maryland Baptist Bible College,

University of Maryland,


READ MORE: See the resumes that the Rev. John Delozier said Scott Allen Snyder provided to the board of Lighthouse Community Church in 2005 (Adobe PDF)