Pastor kills transgender woman, goes to work then calls police one hour later!
A Detroit pastor was charged this week in the shooting death of a 36-year-old transgender woman found dead on the street Friday.
Albert Weathers, 46, was charged with open murder and use of a firearm after an investigation into the death of Kelly Stough, who was found by a police officer in the Palmer Park neighborhood, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office said.
No motive was given, though prosecutors said they have evidence to be presented in court that Stough’s status as a transgender woman played a role in Weathers’ alleged actions.
Weathers is a pastor of the Logo’s Church, and until this week, was an employee at the Great Lakes Water Authority.
A spokesperson for the company confirmed to the Daily News that Weathers’ employment has since been terminated, and that he was off-duty at the time of the alleged shooting.
Weathers, who is reportedly married with children, allegedly left the scene of the crime, clocked in at work, and called police an hour later claiming he’d been the victim of an attempted robbery and had shot someone, according to local ABC affiliate WXYZ.
His bond is set at $1 million, though his lawyer David Cripps told the outlet that he will petition for a lower bond on the argument that his client has strong ties to his community.
Stough, meanwhile, was remembered by mother Jessica Chantae Stough as a beloved member of the community who was very loved, and hoped to one day work in the fashion industry as a designer and buyer.
“She has a family who cared about her, who loved her, and I want them to know that transgender ladies – expressly those of color – they’re not just throwaways,” she told NBC News. “People care about them.”
A GoFundMe page launched in memory of Stough has raised more than $4,500.
As noted by NBC, Stough once weighed in on the police’s inadequate treatment of transgender people in Detroit in the wake of a 2015 murder of a local transgender woman.
“The police are unaware with our struggle, so they have no sympathy for us,” she told the Guardian, using her stage name Keanna Mattel. “Nobody ever asks, what happened to the person to get here? Unelss you’re just in the middle of the street, dead bleeding, you can flag down a police officer, and they’ll just ride past you like you never flagged them down.”
Fair Michigan Foundation President and Michigan Attorney General-elect Dana Nessel said in a statement that Stough’s murder “reflected the excessive brutality that members of Detroit’s transgender community constantly face.”
One should know where their tithes and offerings are going to!
Two weeks after drawing praise for allowing congregants in need to take cash directly from his offering baskets, Pastor John Gray of Relentless Church in Greenville, South Carolina, is drawing flak for gifting his wife a Lamborghini Urus for their eighth wedding anniversary celebration that left her screaming on Saturday.
The Urus, with prices starting at about $200,000 in 2017, according to Fortune, has a 4.0-liter V8 twin-turbo engine that produces 650 horsepower. It also boasts an automatic eight-speed transmission, can travel 0 to 62 miles per hour in 3.6 seconds and reaches a top speed of 189 mph.
In a clip of the moment posted on Instagram by Sue Mayweather, Gray is shown leading his wife, Aventer, to the luxury vehicle and once she realizes what the gift is, she breaks out in screams. Her husband is seen holding her hand before declaring to the crowd “Lamborghini Urus.” Mayweather noted that Gray’s wife also gifted him the “‘green box’ Rolex,” a term used to describe the Rolex Explorer II which comes with a price of approximately $8,000.
In an Instagram post on Sunday, singer Tyrese who attended the celebration wrote: “Honored to have been there to see and witness every moment…..Pastor John Gray and his beautiful First Lady renewed their vows after 8 years of marriage….fairy tail grace and magic….Honored and honored again to have been in the room and apart of you guys magical evening. From the #Gibsons to the #Grays May God KEEP you covered in his blood…//Amen!!!”
While some people praised the preacher for splurging on his wife, others were angry that a preacher would indulge in such display of opulence. Modesty should be demonstrated from ANYONE claiming to be a pastor and I believe that the only reason he allowed his congregation to “take as they needed” from the offering prior to this big splurge was to lighten the blow. Oh, he’ll say that it didn’t come from the tithes and offerings that it came from some book sales or other business that he is engaged in outside of his church business. The structural church is a very lucrative business indeed!
Perverted Pastor Ricardo Strachan and Avo Roker arrested for molesting the same little girl
The step-father of a South Florida teen girl was arrested Saturday after police say he sexually assaulted his 13-year-old step-daughter for a year.
The arrest of Avo Roker was made about a week after 40-year-old “Pastor” Ricardo Strachan was placed behind bars for molesting the same girl. Police say Roker introduced Strachan to the girl at church and that the duo threatened to kill her and conduct voodoo rituals on her family if she told anybody.
“Pastor” Ricardo’s photo on his Go Fund Me Page
Both men were booked into Broward County Jail. Avo Roker was held without bond and Ricardo Strachan, who used to preach at The Prophetic Worshippers International Church, was charged with one count of lewd and lascivious battery on a minor between the ages of 12 and 16 years old and held on a $100,000 bond. According to a police report, Strachen had sex with the girl more than 36 times either in the parking lot of a high school during school hours or at a nearby motel between January to December of 2016.
Strachen is also accused of forcing the teen to steal clothes from her family– items that would ultimately be used in voodoo rituals if she went to the authorities, the report said, noting that he told the girl his wife was an armed police officer.
Documents outlining Roker’s arrest were not immediately available Sunday, Lauderhill police told the Miami Herald. However police say Roker had sex with his step-daughter more than 65 times from December 2015 to December 2016.
Jail records show he’s being held on no bond while Strachen is being held on $100,000 bond.
Pastor Harris placed a permanent ban of membership against the church members…
If members of the Zion Missionary Baptist Church in East Palo Alto, California, hadn’t fought back, their one-time Pastor, Andre Harris, and his wife, Rhona Edgerton-Harris, would have fleeced them of their church building and a home valued at more than $1 million.
Church members explained that when they arrived for services one day in early May 2014, they found a real estate sign on the parsonage next door where the Christian leader and his family had been allowed to live rent free.
A curious church member did some sleuthing at the county recorder’s office and discovered that the deed to the home had been strangely transferred to the pastor and his wife. A for-sale sign also soon appeared on the church property which led alarmed members to demand an explanation from their pastor about a month later.
Pastor Harris, who had renamed the church Born Again Christian Center when he took over leadership of the congregation, responded by handing the protesting members notices of ex-communication — barring them from the church in the name of Jesus.
“Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Born Again Christian Center is informing you because of your inconsistent attendance over the months or years, we have therefore removed you as a member,” Harris wrote in the notice. “You therefore no longer have any rights or privileges to conduct any matter at the said Church. … We are informing you of your removal and permanent ban of membership at Born Again Christian Center.”
The members replied to Harris with a lawsuit alleging several crimes, including attempts to defraud the church. About 10 months later, the church prevailed.
Harris returned the properties to them in a settlement, the terms of which were not disclosed. But Harris and his wife almost got away with it. Zion Missionary Baptist Church members called themselves “blessed” because most perpetrators of fraud in churches are usually never reported.
Research cited by Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, the second largest U.S. provider of property and casualty insurance to Christian churches and related ministries, says reported cases of church financial fraud has been rising by about 6 percent annually and is expected to reach the $60 billion mark by 2025.
The level of reported fraud in churches is dwarfed, however, by the 80 percent of church fraud cases that are estimated to go unreported.
John Montague, a corporate and nonprofit tax law expert and senior associate at leading global international law firm Hogan Lovells, explained in a recent interview with The Christian Post why he believes the best way to abate church fraud is to remove the IRS Form 990 exemption churches currently enjoy. Evidence suggests churches cannot be trusted to regulate themselves, he said.
The IRS Form 990 is the reporting form that many federally tax-exempt organizations must file with the IRS each year. It allows the IRS and the general public to evaluate a nonprofit’s operations, including information on the nonprofit’s mission, programs, and finances. Depending on the filing year and the gross receipts of the organization, a nonprofit might be required to file Forms 990, 990-EZ or 990-N.
In his general assessment of what he is hearing from average churchgoers today, Montague said people are frustrated by not having access to the kind of transparency in churches that a Form 990 can give.
The public could also learn financial details such as how much ECFA President Dan Busby got paid from the organization that year — $193,218 in reported compensation and $42,032 in other income totaling just over $235,000.
“Nearly every conversation I’ve had with members of the laity, people have been interested in the concept of transparency, and frustrated by the general lack of transparency,” explained Montague, who served as a law clerk to The Honorable Thomas B. Wells of the U.S. Tax Court prior to joining Hogan Lovells.
“In churches, I’ve encouraged people to ask questions about the finances of their churches, but I’m not aware of any church that has actually made a move to voluntarily file a 990 or to provide the level of transparency that would result from having to file a 990,” Montague said.
He also explained that among the reasons why Christians aren’t pushing to hold churches more accountable and showing more concern about financial accountability through the IRS Form 990 is a lack of awareness.
“I don’t think most people are aware of the 990. … And even if they are aware of the 990, they are not aware of the exemption that churches have. I’m sure that 99 percent of Christians are totally unaware of that exemption,” Montague said.
“I think there are people, [who might say] ‘look, my responsibility is to give money to the Church and then I leave it up to God as to what happens to it after.’ I think there are those people. I would imagine that they’re probably in the minority but I have no idea.”
In January 2011, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, released a report after a three-year investigation targeting six popular televangelists, including Paula White, Creflo Dollar and Kenneth Copeland.
The report raised questions about their personal use of things such as church-owned airplanes, luxury homes and credit cards. It also expressed concern about the lack of oversight of finances by boards often filled by the televangelists’ relatives and friends.
Grassley, citing the concerns raised by the report, asked Busby in his role as leader of the ECFA to come up with a solution using legislation as a last resort.
“As you consider the issues my staff raised, please remember our discussion in my office when you visited me with other members of ECFA board on March 12, 2009. I stated then that I believe that legislation should be the last resort. However, ideas for reform often inspire informed and thoughtful discussions which, in turn, lead to self-correction and eliminate the need for legislation,” he wrote.
In 1977, after similar concerns were raised about financial impropriety among certain televangelists at the time, then Republican Senator Mark Hatfield, who died in August 2011, warned that Congress would enact legislation if evangelical leaders could not develop a proposal to regulate themselves, according to Montague in The Law and Financial Transparency in Churches: Reconsidering the Form 990.
This resulted in the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and the Christian relief organization World Vision partnering to found the ECFA in 1979 with 115 members. Only one televangelist was listed among that number.
In a March 1979 Washington Post report on the launch of the ECFA, organizers said more than 1,100 evangelical charitable organizations with a combined annual income approaching $1 billion would subscribe to the principles laid down by the organization.
Information from the ECFA’s 2015 990 shows that it currently reviews the data of more than 2,000 Christian charities and churches with more than $23 billion in annual revenue.
Grassley, in his letter to Busby, reminded him of the origin of the ECFA and its role as an alternative to legislated financial oversight for churches.
“ECFA was founded because of a challenge then-Senator Hatfield made in 1977 to Christian groups to be more accountable. He apparently was responding to a scandal in the religious community at that time. The size and diversity of the religious community in the United States has grown tremendously since the ECFA was created. I hope that a discussion of the issues raised by my staff will similarly result in increased accountability while acknowledging this growth and diversity,” Grassley wrote to Busby.
In a report released in December 2012, the commission, which is now inactive, encouraged churches and their leaders to act honorably and asked members of the public who donate money or their time to them to research religious organizations before investing in them.
“Churches and their leaders should not engage in abusive financial activities, nor should they improperly exploit the exemption from filing Form 990, because doing so undermines the credibility of their organizations and the religious community as a whole,” the commission advised.
The commission also recommended that Congress “never pass legislation requiring churches to file Form 990 or any similar information return or form with the federal government.”
“To require such a filing would not only place a substantial and unnecessary burden on churches and the government, it would also raise significant constitutional concerns. New churches should not have registration or notification requirements beyond those that already exist,” the commission said.
Church transparency and the New Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
In May, however, the IRS appeared to take a step toward bucking that advice when it released guidance on the increased scope of what should be taxed as unrelated business income under the newly instituted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
“Because of this new tax, many tax‐exempt employers, including churches, hospitals, charities, and schools will be required to file federal Form 990‐T, and in many cases, state corporate income returns, every year regardless of whether they actually engage in any unrelated business activity. This new tax was purportedly added to the law to put tax‐exempt employers on the same footing as taxable employers with respect to employer‐provided parking,” the ECFA explained in a statement to CP.
While church and financial transparency experts agree that the 990-T would only add minimally to the broader push toward church transparency and accountability, Busby argued that it’s also likely to create various administrative and financial costs for many churches that do not have the means to meet them.
“Working in the church world most of my career, my guess is that prior to this provision, there’s probably only 1 [percent] or 2 percent of churches in America that file form 990-T so we’re really talking about two issues,” Busby said in a June interview with CP.
“We’re talking about a financial issue. We’re gonna have to pay a tax on providing employee parking and two, which may be more important, is the administrative piece of this — to file a return with which they are not familiar. If you can imagine, small churches across America have to file a form 990-T that they’ve never even heard of. And probably they’re gonna need to secure professional advice and pay a professional to file the return, even though the money may not be a significant amount, it’s just a ridiculous provision that was put in the law,” he said.
In July, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention issued a policy brief in support of repealing the new parking tax and earlier this month, bills were introduced in both the House and Senate echoing that recommendation.
“In addition to the new federal requirements, many nonprofits will then be required to file state returns and possibly pay state income tax,” the ERLC stated. “The new regulations create tax liability and increase operations costs for these nonprofits, all because they simply have a parking lot. …
“Taxing nonprofits on basic costs of operating an institution defeats the purpose of nonprofit status, an American tradition for over 100 years.”
The case for IRS oversight of churches
Pete Evans, lead investigator at the Dallas-based Trinity Foundation, which has been tracking religious fraud and helping victims of religious fraud for almost 30 years, told CP that the new requirement is a step in the right direction toward transparency and is a small price to pay compared to the billions being lost in church fraud annually.
“Even if it affects our own church, I would vote yes [to the 990-T provision],” Evans said. You have all these churches now and ministries that are wealthy beyond wealth and some of which have thousands and thousands of acres in the counties that are not on the tax rolls because of various exemptions and they are living like Arabian princes,” Evans noted.
Evans also questioned Busby’s apparent concern for smaller churches in his criticism of the ECFA.
“If you look at the majority of people that ECFA represents, they represent the larger churches because ECFA charges so much money that small churches can’t afford to be members of ECFA. And so I think there is hypocrisy there that on one hand they’re getting a lot of money from the larger ministries, churches and now all of a sudden they are defending the little churches?” he said.
In response to recent questions about the organization’s membership, a spokesperson for the ECFA revealed that only a minority of its currently registered members, 225, are churches.
That’s less than 1 percent of the 250,000 churches registered with the IRS’ Select Check program, according to Holly Ivel, director of Guidestar’s data services. Under this program, the IRS provides official recognition of an organization’s tax-exempt status which assures donors that their contributions are tax deductible.
“Based on how these organizations are coded there’s almost a quarter of a million churches that have chosen to do that (Select Check),” explained Ivel of the program. “So they’ve voluntarily registered, which is great.”
While Ivel, like the ECFA, does not recommend requiring churches to file a Form 990, she did notice from the data in their system that just over 2 percent of the 250,000 churches registered for the Select Check program also filed some variation of the form 990, even though they aren’t required to file it.
“They are not required to file a return but even though they are not required to, about 5,300 have filed an annual return — either an EZ, which is kind of the short form, or a 990. And that’s between 2014 and 2017,” Ivel said.
Some of these filings could be easily searched and viewed on a database available on the IRS website as recently as late June. An update to that page on July 6 now only allows the public to determine deductibility of their contributions. It is unclear why this change was made.
Evans, who agrees with Montague that the evidence against churches show they cannot be trusted with self-regulation, argued that the 990 would be a more powerful safeguard against abuse because of the detailed information it requires. Many churches, he argued, as seen in the number of churches that file Form 990 even though they are not required, would be able to adhere to IRS oversight if there was a requirement to do so.
“Especially for the larger ministries and churches, there needs to be some transparency because they’re not going to do it on their own. Churches, if they are not required to, are typically not going to be transparent on their own and I think a lot of churches would be willing if there was a requirement,” Evans said.
“ECFA does not reveal salary information of their clients and that’s one of the key aspects of transparency that they’re hiding their own clients. They give everybody a seal of approval, this organization is good and above board and yet don’t reveal salary information? What’s up with that?” he asked.
In response, Busby noted in a statement to CP: “There has never been a legal requirement for churches to disclose their salaries. ECFA’s standards start with legal requirements, and in some cases, go beyond the law.”
“… Because of their opacity and the unique nature of religious authority, churches are more likely to foster and shelter malfeasance. Churchgoers are unlikely to challenge leaders because doing so can endanger their position in the religious community, making it imperative that transparency be mandated by outside authorities,” Montague argued.
“Ironically, increased transparency may actually be good for churches because, as studies suggest, it is likely to increase donations and because, by minimizing opportunities for financial improprieties, it may preserve the religious experience of churchgoers. In addition, transparency is consistent with the teaching of many Christian leaders and with the expressed preferences of a large portion of churchgoers.”
Montague said he sent copies of his research to Busby and Grassley.
In a response from Busby to Montague shared with CP, Busby noted in a 2013 letter: “ECFA’s position with respect to Form 990 coincides with the recommendations in the Commission report, i.e., that requiring such a form for churches would constitute unnecessary and constitutionally prohibited excessive entanglement by the government in the affairs of the church.”
The Excessive Entanglement Problem
Some see potential religious freedom issues in additional filing requirements being placed upon churches.
“Although the entanglement created by having church-related institutions file information returns does not seem terribly great, the requirement can be seen as a first step whose ultimate end is full government surveillance of religious institutions. The excessive entanglement test serves as a ‘warning signal’ regarding programs which may appear harmless, but whose ultimate expression would result in a clearly unconstitutional relationship between church and state,” Worthington wrote.In discussing the excessive entanglement concerns, Montague pointed in his study to a well-publicized congressional hearing in 1987 hearing with witnesses from the IRS and the Treasury, as well as notable televangelists including Jerry Falwell and Oral Roberts.
Then Congressman J.J. Pickle, chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight of the House Ways and Means Committee who convened the hearing, noted how Congress and the executive “historically have been reluctant to look very closely at tax issues involving religious organizations” because of their political sensitivity.
Roberts argued that the ECFA, which had been formed as an alternative to legislation, lacked teeth and that it would be better for all organizations to file the Form 990 and submit to external audits.
Gordon Loux, then chairman of the board of the ECFA, also noted that there are “inherent difficulties in self-regulation” as it is limited to those who consent to be regulated. He agreed that the Form 990 is a “minimal requirement that ought to be met by those that are operating in the public service.”
Then Commissioner of the IRS Lawrence Gibbs, who had previously agreed that churches had not been subject to the requirements of filing information returns because of concern about government intrusion into religion, was challenged during the hearing by former Congressman from New York Charles Rangel. An excerpt of their exchange is highlighted below:
Mr. Rangel: Do you see where filing an annual report by churches would be in violation of the constitutional right of separation of church and state?
Mr. Gibbs: I have assumed, perhaps erroneously, that that was the reason—or certainly one of the prominent reasons—for specifically excluding them by statute in 1969.
Mr. Rangel: Well, why did you reach that assumption? You know, it is only a congressional decision. Has any court said that you cannot put limitations on the privilege of tax exemption? We do it in unrelated taxes. We do it in lobbying. We do it in political affairs. We do it in FCC control. What in God’s name could be even remotely considered a violation of the constitutional rights of churches to say that they should file an annual report as to how much money they got and what they did with it?
Several pastors contacted by CP to discuss this story because their churches filed 990 returns referred questions to their treasurer or the individual who prepared them. None of these individuals responded to interview requests.
Montague suggested that some of the churches may have filed the returns in error, not realizing they are exempt from filing.
(Originally written by Leonardo Blair/ Edited by Babylon Today)
…priests forced a victim to pose naked on the cross while they photographed him using a Polaroid camera.
More than 300 Catholic priests across Pennsylvania had been sexually abusing little boys and girls for over 70 years.
A thousand children were identified as victims in the investigation, but there are possibly thousands more.
The Vatican refrained from making any comments about the situation.
More than 300 “predator priests” across Pennsylvania were reportedly sexually abusing children for over 70 years, according to a new grand jury, who got internal documents from the state’s six Catholic dioceses dating back to 1947: Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton.
The grand jury states, “Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades.”
On Tuesday, Attorney General Josh Shapiro said the cover-ups and abuse were reported by other state grand juries and they reviewed the information included in the “secret archives” — referring to the reports that hid the abuse that church leaders did for decades.
The jury report, consisting of 1,400 pages, described the gruesome details of some of the alleged abuse. A boy was raped repeatedly from age 13 to 15 and later suffered from severe spine injuries because of the priest who raped him. The boy later died of an overdose due to painkiller addiction.
In Pittsburgh, priests forced a victim to pose naked on the cross while they photographed him using a Polaroid camera. The report states that because of the cover-up, “almost every instance of abuse we found is too old to be prosecuted.”
In Pennsylvania, victims of child sex abuse have until they reach age 30 to file civil suits and until they are 50 to file criminal charges. The oldest victim who spoke to the grand jury was aged 83.
James VanSickle, 55, recounts the sexual abuse he suffered under the hands of a priest in Erie back in 1981, but because the statute of limitations had passed, the priest was not prosecuted for it.
As he testified before the grand jury, VanSickle said “This is the murder of a soul. We don’t have a statute of limitations on the crime of murder. We don’t go after victims . . . and question their ‘repressed memories’ or ‘recovered memories.”
Many questions now arise about whether high-level church officials could still be covering up their criminal actions.
The grand jury called for a law allowing older victims to file a case against the church for the abuse they’ve suffered as children, in addition to ending such limitations for criminal cases.
The Vatican press office refrained from making any comments to the situation, as the attention is now focused on Pope Francis, with many Catholics waiting on how he would handle this situation of abuse to restore the Catholic Church’s integrity.
Across the country, Pennsylvania is believed to have steered the most number of investigations on child sex abuse.
The recent grand jury report was described by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro as the “largest, most comprehensive report into child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church ever produced in the United States.”
“There’s nothing in the Bible that says you can’t drink alcohol in a responsible manner,” Pastor Chris VanHall told the station.
A building in Santa Cruz, Calif., is being converted into a worship space and public brewery by a pro-gay church that plans to donate some of its beer proceeds to Planned Parenthood, according to reports.
Members of the Greater Purpose Community Church now meet on Sundays at a food lounge to pray, listen and drink beer, KNTV reports.
“There’s nothing in the Bible that says you can’t drink alcohol in a responsible manner,” Pastor Chris VanHall told the station.
Planned Parenthood has offices in the former bookstore VanHall plans to turn into a brewery by next summer, The Santa Cruz Good Times weekly newspaper reported.
“A church that serves beer and gives the profits away to places like Planned Parenthood is really exciting to me,” the pastor told the paper.
Santa Cruz’s recent Pride Parade included a contingent from Greater Purpose, the paper reported.
VanHall told KION-TV in a report Friday that on Sundays there will be church in the bar “but it’s going to be before we open to the public.”
The pastor told KNTV that holding services at the food lounge gave him the idea for the brewery.
“I thought to myself, ‘wouldn’t it be great if a church could figure out a way to make a product where they split the profits with local community service organizations?’ We were like ‘hey, we love beer, we love making beer, why not do a brewery?'” he said.
Anyway, he said, his sermons are always better after a couple of beers.
They were ages 15 and 17, they said, when the alleged abuse began at a Southern Baptist church in Fort Worth
On April 8, Pastor John Finley stood before his congregation in Tennessee with an announcement. After 31 years at the church, he resigned.
He held a microphone and read from a piece of paper.
“I made some poor choices and was involved with two females in inappropriate behavior,” Finley said. “There was no sex. Both ladies were over 18. In the best interest of our church, I choose to resign immediately.”
But the women who sent a letter that spurred Finley’s resignation from Bartlett Hills Baptist Church near Memphis have a different story to tell.
They were ages 15 and 17, they said, when the alleged abuse began at a Southern Baptist church in Fort Worth. It was true he hadn’t had sex with them, but he’d done more than kiss them, they said. He touched one’s breasts and put the other’s hand on his naked erection, they said.
The alleged abuse began 37 years ago at Travis Avenue Baptist Church, where Finley served as the youth minister for five years. Travis Avenue is well known in the Southern Baptist community, with strong ties to Fort Worth’s Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
One of the women said she never told anyone about the abuse until college. The other tried once, telling a youth worker at the church. A rumor even reached a deacon.Still, Finley stayed at the church.
The Travis Avenue of today is pastored by Mike Dean, who arrived in 1991, five years after Finley left. He has worked with both women to confront Finley’s church in Tennessee and now wants his own church to acknowledge what happened, while also trying to make Travis Avenue a place of healing.
“That angered me, that we missed that opportunity to set this straight 30 years ago,” Dean said. “I was just angry that it happened and we couldn’t stop it or didn’t stop it.”
The story of Travis Avenue unfolds against a backdrop of the Southern Baptist Convention’s own recent reckoning with how it deals with abuse. In May 2018, Paige Patterson, head of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, was fired over mishandling reported sexual abuse. At June’s annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, which took place in Dallas, much of the conversation revolved around the treatment of women and how churches ought to deal with reports of abuse.
It took 15 years’ worth of attempts to reach out to Bartlett Hills to get Finley to resign, according to the women and their advocates. Bartlett Hills leaders maintain that the two women were adults when the incidents took place.
Finley’s wife, Donna, told the Star-Telegram there had been no more than kissing and that both women were adults. She said her husband would not comment and provided the name of his lawyer, who did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
“It’s been life-altering for me,” said Maria, one of the women who said she was molested by Finley. She’s 51 now and has asked to be identified by a pseudonym. “I believe that God has blessed me with a full life and a family and love and friends, but I don’t necessarily think this is the life, originally, that I was meant to have lived.”
The youth pastor
John Finley, now 62, became Travis Avenue’s youth minister in 1981, according to the church’s history book. In his mid-20s, he favored bright shirts with bright ties. The kids called him “John.” His favorites loved him and remembered him as quick with a joke and easygoing, just like a youth minister should be; the boys not in his inner circle bragged about dumping a toilet in his yard.
Sarah Beth — a pseudonym — said she was 15 when her abuse began in 1981. She’s 53 now and up to that point had attended Travis Avenue her whole life.
The first incident occurred on a youth trip bus, she said, when she thinks Finley thought she was asleep. She said he sat next to her and touched her breasts. She froze and waited for it to end.
The alleged abuse went on from when Sarah Beth was 15 until she was 18, from 1981 to 1983, she said. She remembers one time when Finley rubbed her leg on a youth group trip to a Fort Worth buffet and arcade while she played a video game. Another time, she said, he pinned her against his truck door, kissing and touching her. Still another time, she remembers him touching her breasts. Sarah Beth blocked out some of the alleged abuse.
“One time — and I’m not sure what age this is — I remember I was kind of watching it happen. It’s like I wasn’t even there. I was kind of ‘up here,’” she said, gesturing to the ceiling, “and I’m like, ‘Oh, is this happening?’”
As an adult, she said, having had normal relationships, she looked back and thought, “How was that enjoyable to him? I didn’t reciprocate.”
She went away to college in 1983. She’d never told anyone at the church what happened.
When Sarah Beth was at college, Maria, a girl two years her junior, came to Finley’s attention. Like Sarah Beth, Maria was a leader in her grade. She always wanted to do the right thing and considered herself a rule follower.
In August 1984, when Maria had just turned 17, the youth choir was on a bus trip to Colorado. Maria said the group was playing cards and trading seats, sitting on one another’s laps and lying down, and she wound up on Finley’s lap. She didn’t realize it was inappropriate — she had barely even kissed a boy then. So she didn’t think about it, she said, until Finley started touching her from behind.
“You know how when you’re nervous and you can feel your pulse just beating?” she said. “I remember that feeling, and I’m sure my face was red, my ears were red. I just couldn’t believe it was happening. Then he started just kinda raising his knee up underneath me, and I knew then that something was very weird and wrong.”
Little incidents happened throughout the trip, she said: pointed looks, Finley rubbing his arm or leg against hers. To this day, she remembers his blue eyes and the puffy bags under them, staring at her.
When the bus pulled up to drop the youth group back at church, Finley helped unload suitcases. Maria went to get hers when Finley, she said, grabbed her arm.
“He looked at me with his big blue eyes and he’s like, ‘Hey, hey, I love you. You know I love you, right?’” she said. She felt furious. She hadn’t processed what had happened and she felt sure Finley was trying to cover himself.
Mark Leitch was a member of the youth group at the same time as Maria, an active member but not a favorite of Finley’s. On the bus home from that Colorado choir trip, he said, he saw Finley touch Maria’s bottom with an erection.
Leitch told his parents, who didn’t believe him. His girlfriend, he said, told her parents — and her father believed her enough to speak to others. One of the others was a deacon and the father of another 17-year-old in the youth group, who was one of Maria’s best friends.
Amanda — who, on advice of her attorney, has asked to remain anonymous — remembers her parents called her into the kitchen and told her to ask Maria if Finley was doing anything inappropriate with her.
Amanda and Maria went toMcDonald’s. Over soda and fries, Amanda tried to get Maria to tell her if anything was happening.
By the time the church’s ice cream social rolled around a few weeks later, Maria felt like she had to tell somebody what was happening. She asked one of the youth volunteers — a younger adult — if they could talk.
They sat down on the steps on the side of the church, and Maria talked in circles, not making eye contact. She rocked back and forth. Finally she told the youth worker what happened on the choir trip.
Looking back, Maria thinks the youth volunteer didn’t know what to do. The woman’s first reaction, Maria said, was to ask if the man touching her was her husband. No, Maria said, and she told her who it was. The volunteer asked a few details, if it had happened since the trip.
“Thank you for telling me,” Maria remembers her saying. “I’ll check on this.”
The youth volunteer wrote a statement in January 2018 about what had happened. She said she had heard about rumors of Finley and Sarah Beth before Maria approached her. She said she approached Finley in his office in 1984 with the rumor about Sarah Beth and Maria’s accusation.
“He admitted to the relationship with [Sarah Beth] but that it was over,” she wrote. “As far as [Maria] was concerned, he told me it only involved a kiss, and that he would leave her alone.”
The statement was provided to the Star-Telegram on the condition that the woman who wrote it not be identified.
Finley, she wrote, said he would talk to the then-pastor of Travis Avenue, who is now dead. The youth volunteer didn’t know if he ever did. She declined to comment further.
The youth worker told Maria she’d spoken to Finley and that he promised the behavior would end. But the incidents, Maria said, continued, and by then, Finley had warned her not to tell or he’d get in trouble. At that point, she decided it was useless to press it further.
Maria said the abuse happened once or twice a week. Finley, Maria said, made a point of driving her home after youth events. He would grab her and kiss her and touch her in his car. With a few exceptions — once, putting her hand on his penis — she said, he usually touched her.
Sometimes, she said, he would express guilt. He’d kiss her and touch her in a parked car and then move back to the driver’s side, repeating, “I don’t know why I keep doing this. I’m a good person, I love God. I’m a good man. I just don’t do this.”
Maria said she thought, “How come people don’t see this? How come people don’t know this? Surely people see this.”
John Finley left Travis Avenue Baptist Church in 1986. When Maria found out, she was working in a Fort Worth department store with a couple of other friends from church. When a friend told her, she ran to the back room and sobbed.
A 1989 directory from the Tennessee church John Finley would resign from almost 30 years later shows him smiling from a page of staff members in a red tie and a gray suit. He has the same tight curly hair the Travis Avenue kids remember. He’s listed as the church’s minister of education and youth.
‘I knew this day would come’
Away at college, Sarah Beth began telling some friends — several of whom have spoken to the Star-Telegram and confirmed her accounts — what had happened. In the early 1990s, she told her parents. Watching the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings — and Anita Hill being questioned as she testified about being sexually harassed by the soon-to-be Supreme Court justice — rattled her enough that her mother knew something was wrong.
“It felt like, ‘This lady’s saying stuff, and people aren’t believing her,’” she said. “And that’s on the national stage. What’s going to happen to me if I tell anyone?”
In 1994, Maria and Amanda drove to visit a friend’s new house in Fort Worth. Brad Ward had been a member of the youth group and hadbeen told whathappened to Sarah Beth. Ward asked if Maria and Amanda had heard about Sarah Beth and told them that she had been abused by Finley.
Maria started crying when she and Amanda got back in the car. She told Amanda that Finley had molested her, too. Through some friends, she got Sarah Beth’s number, and the womentalked about their experiences.
After she heard about Maria, Sarah Beth called Finley. She confronted him about what had happened. She remembers him saying: “I wish you girls would leave me alone.”
Maria also called Finley. She asked, “Why did it happen?” She described his response as flippant. “It’s just one of those things, and I’m sorry,” he told her.
In the late 1990s, Sarah Beth wrote two letters to Finley’s church in Tennessee, one to the head of the deacon board and one to the personnel chairman. She can’t remember their names now, but she detailed the allegations against Finley and had a phone conversation with one of the men.
From Sarah Beth’s point of view, she’d done what she could. They’d been warned.
The church would be warned again. Scott Floyd is the minister of counseling for Travis Avenue and serves as the director of the master of arts in counseling program at B.H. Carroll Theological Institute in Irving, Texas. Sarah Beth went to him for counseling in 2003 about what had happened to her, and he learned there was another woman who had been abused as well. He heard Maria’s story separately and said he realized there were similarities between the two.
“It disturbed me a lot, and I struggled with it,” Floyd said. “I felt like I needed to do more than just try to help them individually.”
He got the women’s permission to do research. He spoke to Mike Dean, the Travis Avenue pastor, who agreed to let Floyd do anything the women were comfortable with. Floyd spoke to others who had been members of the youth group at the time. And then, with the women’s permission, he reached out to two officials at the church with a letter laying out his findings — and to Finley himself with a letter and phone call.
“The first thing he said to me is, ‘I knew this day would come,’” Floyd said. Floyd provided details about the allegations against Finley on the phone. Finley, he said, denied nothing.
Finley said there was no intercourse, there had been only two girls and that he was repentant. He also said he had not worked with children since being at Travis Avenue (according to the old church directory and Finley’s resignation statement, this is untrue: He worked as a youth minister at the Tennessee church before becoming the pastor).
At Floyd’s urging, Finley agreed to get counseling and allow Floyd to check in with the counselor, Floyd says. Floyd said Finley went to several sessions.
“What I was hoping to do is make other people aware of what he had done in the past,” Floyd said. “I was trying to contain the likelihood he could do anything else.”
Finley would stay at the church until 2018.
What more can our church do?’
On April 3, 2018, just after he resigned from his position as the student minister of Tennessee’s Bartlett Hills Baptist Church, Nick Daniel received a package that had been FedEx-ed overnight to his home address.
When he opened it, he found a letter detailing five years’ worth of alleged sexual abuse by John Finley at the Travis Avenue church in Fort Worth during the 1980s. Finley had hired Daniel at Bartlett Hills.
“This day will serve as a line of demarcation for those receiving this document,” read the letter, written by Amanda and Sarah Beth and approved by Maria, dated April 2, 2018. “It will mark the day each of you became aware that your Executive Pastor committed sexually criminal acts and now have a responsibility to act in order to protect your church and its congregants.”
Daniel was shocked. John Finley had been at Bartlett Hills for 30 years. But the accusations in the document were detailed — and there were enough to make him doubt Finley, Daniel said.
Five other Bartlett Hills officials received identical letters the same day.
The next Daniel heard, Finley had resigned — with a statement different from what the documents said had happened.
“For me personally, it becomes a struggle,” Daniel said. He is now working at another Tennessee church. “I worked with this man for eight years, I never knew any of this. It makes you question your own ability, your own discernment.”
Spurred by the #MeToo movement and its spillover into the church world, Sarah Beth and Maria had decided they were ready to try again. This time, Amanda — their old friend from youth group — took on a role as their advocate.
In January 2018, both women said, they filed reports with the Fort Worth Police Department.
The report filed by Sarah Beth alleges that Finley sexually assaulted her several times from the time she was about 15 to the time she was about 17 years old. The report says Sarah Beth told police Finley kissed her on multiple occasions. Once, while fully clothed, he lay on top of her on the floor, kissed her and became aroused, the report said. On another occasion, Finley put his hand under her shirt and rubbed her breast, Sarah Beth told police.
Maria provided the Star-Telegram with a portion of the report she said she filed with police. It does not identify Finley but says Maria reported that she was assaulted by her youth minister on and off for two years, beginning around 1984. The report alleges the youth minister touched her buttocks, then pushed his knee into her groin. It also alleges the youth minister kissed her, fondled her breasts and asked her to kiss and touch him.
In the letter to Bartlett Hills, Amanda put herself forward as the advocate who would be the point of contact with the church. Ted Rasbach, chairman of the personnel committee at Bartlett Hills, responded to Amanda and declared himself the spokesman for the church.
In an interview, he said he and the other recipients immediately took the letter to Finley. Finley, he said, “acknowledged he had committed inappropriate behaviors but that they were not with minors.” Rasbach, who has been at Bartlett Hills since the early 1960s, thought Finley had been a wonderful pastor. He’d never heard any allegations against him of inappropriate behavior until the letter arrived.
“The communications in the letters had no basis in facts,” Rasbach said.
On April 8, Finley read his resignation speech to the church, saying as much. Backlit by the chancel’s purple lighting, he told the church that he had been involved in “inappropriate behavior” with two women, both over 18, over 30 years ago in another church. “Nothing like this has happened in our church,” he said.
As he walked off the chancel, a congregant called out, “John, John, please don’t do this. We’ve all made mistakes.”
Rasbach provided a transcript of Finley’s remarks.
“I was angry when I saw that,” Maria said. “I was like, ‘How can you sit here and lie? You have the opportunity to come clean.’ ”
Amanda sent an email the day after Finley resigned, demanding that the church correct his resignation speech. Rasbach asked for police reports. Amanda promised to travel to Tennessee with other documents and obtain the police reports. Maria would travel with her, ready to tell her story to the entire congregation. Ultimately, Rasbach replied that the committee decided a visit would be unnecessary.
“We’re not sure what the two ladies are wanting, at this point,” he said. “John Finley has resigned. What more can our church do?”
Donna Finley, John’s wife, picked up the phone at the couple’s Tennessee home on July 3. More than anything, she wished this whole thing would go away.
“I can tell you for certain it was no more than kissing,” she said. Referencing Sarah Beth, who signed her real name to the letter to Bartlett Hills, Donna Finley added, “She should be over this. She cannot live her life trying to destroy my husband.”
Donna Finley said her husband would not comment and deferred comment to his lawyer, Jeffrey Jones, an attorney based in Bartlett, Tennessee.
Jones did not respond to multiple emails and phone calls over the course of the last week. The Star-Telegram sent Jones a list of 34 questions regarding each accusation Maria and Sarah Beth made against Finley, as well as recollections others had of interactions with Finley over the nearly four decades of his time at the Travis Avenue and Bartlett Hills churches.On Sunday, July 8, Pastor Mike Dean informed his congregation at Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth of what had happened. He put out a statement from the church, outlining that the church had learned about the allegations in 2003 and had worked since to help Sarah Beth and Maria warn the Tennessee church.
“Our first instinct is self-defense, and yet I knew we needed to resist that,” he said in an interview. “This is something that happened. It happened here at our place.”
The church has more safeguards in place than it did in the 1980s: background checks, windows between rooms, a two-adult policy for staff workingwith children. And the youth minister copies his wife or another worker when texting a student.
He hopes that Travis Avenue can help other churches deal with such circumstances in the future and use the situation to minister to abuse victims in its own congregation.
In December 2017, before confronting Bartlett Hills, Amanda had sent an email through the Southern Baptist Convention’s website asking how to turn in a pedophile. She never got a response. She wrote an email to the Ethics &Religious Liberty Commission — the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention — and presented the situation. She asked for guidance.
“Specifically engaging in this matter is not in the scope of our role, authority or ability,” Lauren Konkol, the commission’s team coordinator, wrote in an email back to Amanda on Feb. 3. “Within Southern Baptist churches, the local church is the highest authority, and we as a denominational organization have no authority to remove or rebuke any local pastor.”
Konkol deferred response to the commission’s vice president for public policy and general counsel, Travis Wussow.
“We’ve been grappling with what is our responsibility, what is our mandate,” he said. “But what autonomous doesn’t mean is we are autonomous from every authority.” Criminal justice, he said, belongs to the state to execute.
The autonomy of the local church — a backbone of the Southern Baptist Convention, which is technically a voluntary association of local churches — can be a sticking point in rooting out abuse. The SBC itself is hesitant to publicly rebuke pastors and churches.
A proposed database of offenders, which has been talked about since 2007, has been repeatedly defeated. In 2008, the SBC executive committee announced it would not support it, citing the “belief in the autonomy of each local church.”
After this year’s convention and its focus on abuse, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention has been tasked with studying the viability of creating one. No church has yet been kicked out of the SBC for mishandling abuse, but Roger Oldham, spokesman for the SBC’s executive committee, said it could be done.
“Who has the authority to go to a church and say: ‘Your pastor has a problem?’ There isn’t an authority within our convention with the legitimacy to do this,” said a lawyer familiar with the SBC, who required anonymity to speak freely. “Southern Baptists as a whole have to look at each other and say: ‘Let’s do something about this.’”
After Finley’s resignation, Amanda sent an email to Mitch Martin, executive director of missions for the Mid-South Baptist Association, a Tennessee-based network of Southern Baptist churches, outlining what Finley had allegedly done and the discrepancies in his resignation speech. In an email to Amanda, Martin promised to “discourage John from pursuing vocational ministry” and, if a church came asking about him, he would “tell them that I cannot in good conscience recommend him.”
Martin told Randy Davis, president of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, that Finley had resigned and that there had been accusations made against him. Davis said he didn’t know the specifics. He hasn’t informed other churches about Finley, he said, because he doesn’t have enough firsthand information. He said he wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to alerting the churches in the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s network to an abuser, though.
“It is pressing the envelope of church autonomy, but I believe we need to become more involved in informing our network of churches how they can understand their responsibilities in vetting someone,” he said. “We’re desiring to be very proactive in helping churches to deal with these things openly.”
Maria never dealt with her emotions until she wrote her impact statement to send to Bartlett Hills. For a while, she felt like nobody cared. For years, she carried blame and self-loathing for what happened.
Mark Leitch, the boy on the bus who tried to alert his parents to what he saw happening with Maria, is 51 now and still living in Fort Worth. He’s carried the incident with him ever since, as well.
“As a young man, I felt like I should have done something to protect my friends,” he said. “I just hurt so bad that I didn’t do anything.”
Sarah Beth feels like the alleged abuse — though it was physical — affected her more psychologically and emotionally than physically. As an adult, she asked herself how the abuse kept happening. She was disappointed when she found out recently that a youth worker had been told what happened to Maria and that there had been rumors about her, yet Finley remained at the church.
“Why didn’t anyone check into that?” she asked. “I feel like the opportunity has come up to help other people — to either prevent something or help people who have been hurt. I’m trying to do what I wish someone would have done for me.”
Mark Edwin Aderholt, of Columbia, has been charged by the Arlington, TX Police Department following an allegation from 1997 in Texas.
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) –
A South Carolina man has been charged with the criminal sexual assault of a person younger than 17 that happened in a different state two decades ago – and before his arrest, he resigned from the South Carolina Baptist Convention, headquartered in Columbia.
According to theFort Worth Star-Telegram, Mark Edwin Aderholt, of Columbia, has been charged by the Arlington, TX Police Department following an allegation from 1997 in Texas. He was originally booked into the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center on July 3, the newspaper says, and then booked into the Tarrant County, TX Jail on July 9.
The newspaper did not expound on the details of the assault claim or what Aderholt is being accused of specifically.
The newspaper says Aderholt, “prolific as an international missionary,” graduated from the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth in 2000.
Dr. Gary Hollingsworth, the Executive Director/Treasurer of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, has received and accepted a letter of resignation from Dr. Mark Aderholt who had been serving for the past year and [a] half as the Associate Executive Director and Chief Strategist for the Convention.
While accepting this with a heavy heart, Dr. Hollingsworth did so based on the importance of staying focused on the Convention’s Vision statement of “seeing every life saturated and transformed by the hope of the Gospel.”
Hollingsworth informed the Executive Board of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, the staff of the SCBC, all the Associational Directors of Missions and leaders of the Convention’s Institutional Ministry Partners and wanted to make sure all South Carolina Baptists were made aware of this staff change.
He and the SCBC staff are committed to continuing to see the Gospel advanced here in South Carolina and around the world by working to fulfill the Convention mandated priorities of evangelism, church strengthening/discipleship, missions mobilization and church planting.
Aderholt is now out of jail on a $10,000 bond with conditions. The conditions of his bond are not known.
BOSTON — Shaun O. Harrison Sr., a former Boston high school dean, anti-violence advocate and youth pastor nicknamed “Rev” by the students for his pastor-like influence was sentenced to up to 26 years in prison for shooting and nearly killing a student he had recruited to sell marijuana for him in 2015. While employed as a Dean, he boasted to students of his gang ties, drugs and guns. He recruited one of them, a 17-year-old student from a broken home, to deal marijuana in school, authorities said.
But after a dispute over slumping sales, Harrison shot the teen in the back of the head with a .380 pistol as they walked on a snowy city street in 2015 and left him for dead, prosecutors said, but Luis Rodriguez didn’t die. He dragged himself up and flagged down a passing car. In the hospital, Rodriguez uttered the name of his would-be killer: “Rev.” Harrison, now 58, was sentenced Friday (May 2018) to as many as 26 years in prison for assault and other charges, capping the sad tale of a wannabe saint who prosecutors say, was revealed to be a dangerous, predatory fraud.
Shaun Harrison March, 2015
“You professed to be a man of religion, you promote yourself as one who can mentor troubled youth … and yet you violated their safety by bringing drugs and violence to them,” Judge Christopher Muse said.
Harrison arrived at English High in Boston in January 2015, just two months before his arrest and after stints at other city public schools over about five years. He had been a community organizer and youth minister in Boston for decades, a familiar face who often worked with police and other law enforcement and helped gang members turn their lives around.
“This guy is probably the last person we would expect,” Police Commissioner William Evans told The Boston Globe following Harrison’s arrest in 2015. “He was an advocate for anti-violence. Why would he be on our radar screen?”
But there were warning signs early on that something was amiss. A city inquiry into Harrison’s disciplinary record following his arrest found that he’d had other reprimands in his short tenure in the public school system, including warnings for pushing a female student and making inappropriate comments to two other students, both in 2012. The morning he shot Rodriguez in 2015, he had shoved a female student during a dispute. School officials said later they had intended to fire Harrison for that incident alone. But he was charged with attempted murder the next day instead.
Harrison has denied the allegations, telling WHDH-TV he “never lived a double life.”
“I am not a gang member. I’m the Rev,” he told the station. “For me to be accused of something like that, all of a sudden at 55. … It’s like a nightmare, and you are trying to wake up from this nightmare,” He said. His lawyer told the judge Harrison shouldn’t have to die in prison, describing him as a well-respected youth advocate with no prior criminal record. But the judge said Harrison acted like an “assassin” and called it a miracle Rodriguez’s name isn’t etched into a nearby homicide victims memorial.
“He did everything to engrave Luis’ name on one of those stones except get a death certificate,” Muse said.
Rodriguez, now 20, cried quietly in the back of the courtroom as his aunt described the horror of learning that her nephew was nearly killed by someone he trusted. The bullet entered near Rodriguez’s right ear and just missed his carotid artery, breaking his jawbone and causing nerve damage and hearing loss.
During Harrison’s two-week trial in May 2018, prosecutors painted a portrait of a man who took advantage of youths instead of molding and shaping their lives for the better.
Rodriguez testified that he had a rocky start with Harrison but soon came to confide in him about his personal struggles. His mother was incarcerated and his grandmother largely raised him.
On the night he was shot, Rodriguez said the two were planning to meet at a gas station.Harrison had promised to bring drugs and take Rodriguez to a place where the two could meet women, prosecutors said.
A surveillance video shows the two blurry figures walking in the snowy city street. Then one suddenly turns and runs away. Rodriguez sat in the back of the courtroom and cried quietly along with his family as his aunt took the stand to describe the pain of almost losing him.
“If (Harrison) has the opportunity, I believe from the bottom of my heart he would abuse his power and do this again,” Diana Rodriguez said. “May God forgive you sir because we will not,” she said.
Carroll urged the judge Friday for a sentence of about eight years to ensure Harrison doesn’t die in prison, noting he has no prior criminal record.
But the judge said Harrison’s conduct requires a stiff penalty, saying Harrison acted as an “assassin” and viewed Rodriguez’s life as “worthless.”
“He will be scarred emotionally and impaired physically for the rest of his life,” said Judge Christopher Muse, who sentenced Harrison to 23 to 26 years behind bars.
Rodriguez had told hospital staff he was shot by one of his marijuana customers during a botched drug deal, Carroll said.
Bruce Carroll, Harrison’s attorney, asked during the trial why Rodriguez did not immediately identify his client as the shooter even though he was conscious and alert.
“It took me a while to get all my thoughts back together after being shot in the head, sir,” Rodriguez said during cross-examination. “I was in such denial. I knew who did it. Of course I knew who did it.”
The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office releases Shaun Harrison’s booking photo. Harrison, who had worked as a dean at Boston English High School for five years, was convicted of shooting and nearly killing a student in 2015 that he had recruited to sell marijuana for him. (Photo: AP Images)
“We have a community that is youthful and loving and looks to the world as a partner, not an enemy,” Reverend Jude Harmon said speaking to the crowd.
I guess Jude Harmon doesn’t care what God says about being “partners” with the world. “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, now ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” James 4:4
A “church” in San Francisco, California raised eyebrows with an event they called a “Beyoncé Mass.” With matters such as bibles being outlawed in California, this “church” has nothing better to do with it’s time than to pay homage to Beyonce.
With hundreds in attendance, Grace Cathedral Church says the event is a chance for people to find God through secular music. Others calling it “evil,” saying they’re trying to substitute Jesus with Beyoncé.
“We have a community that is youthful and loving and looks to the world as a partner, not an enemy,” Reverend Jude Harmon said speaking to the crowd.
I guess Jude Harmon doesn’t care what God says about being “partners” with the world. “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, now ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” James 4:4
Harmon says mostly in attendance are people of color and the LGBT community, including, “People on who other people’s narratives have been projected. Just to be honest, the church hasn’t been the best about lifting up those voices.”
To take things a step further, Rev. Harmon goes on to say that Beyoncé is “a better theologian than many of the pastors and priests in the church today.”
“That is not an exageration,” Harmon states.
The video includes examples of Beyoncé’s “religious symbolism” in her music and performances, from dressing as African deity’s, the Virgin Mary, and scenes in her videos that reference the Last Supper.
The event’s organizer, Rev. Yolanda Norton, told ABC7 News she uses Beyonce as a way to bring diverse groups together to talk about God.
Norton is an Assistant Professor of Old Testament at San Francisco Theological Seminary who teaches a class she calls, “Beyoncé and the Hebrew Bible.”
“People think we’re worshiping Beyoncé, none of that is true,” she said. “This is a way to have different kinds of conversation.”
During the service, Norton said in a separate interview, they use lyric’s from Beyoncé’s songs as examples of what the crowd’s prayers to God could be. She said the service focuses on empowering women of color and other minority communities.
“I’ve been asked time and time again, ‘Why Beyoncé?'” Norton preached to the crowd during the mass. “I believe she reminds us that you have to do your thing your way, you don’t do it on demand, you don’t do it for your oppressor, you don’t sing when they want you to sing…you sing when God calls you to sing.”
Many even pointing out parts of scripture that they say rebuke this type of gathering, including 2 Timothy 4:3-4 and Galatians 1:8.
2 Timothy 4:3-4
“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”
“Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you.”