By Brad Reed
New Civil Rights Movement (9/18/19)
The number of Americans identifying as atheists is increasing — and recent social science research suggests that the Christian Right is playing a key role in making that happen.
As reported by Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight, new research has found that distaste for Trump-loving Christian conservatism has not just turned some Americans off from individual churches but from religion altogether.
“As recently as the early 1990s, less than 10 percent of Americans lacked a formal religious affiliation, and liberals weren’t all that much likelier to be nonreligious than the public overall,” FiveThirtyEight notes. “Today, however, nearly one in four Americans are religiously unaffiliated. That includes almost 40 percent of liberals — up from 12 percent in 1990, according to the 2018 General Social Survey.” …
Oklahoma Man Says He Was Attacked By Churchgoers Because He’s Gay
Sean Cormie of Blackwell, Oklahoma, said his family suggested he attend the First Assembly of God Church earlier this year, shortly after he came out as gay. But when Cormie attended the church’s Sept. 8 service, he said he was surrounded by about 12 to 15 congregants, who held him down and demanded he renounce his sexuality.
“They hold me down, pin me down, and I’m crying, and the Holy Spirit just comes through me, and they keep speaking in tongues, praying over me,” the 23-year-old recalled in a Monday interview with KFOR-TV, NBC’s Oklahoma City affiliate. “I was just crying, ‘Mercy, mercy.’”
Cormie’s partner, Gary Gardner, elaborated on the allegations further. Churchgoers, he told KWTV Monday, “sort of picked [Cormie] up and body slammed him over and started praying on him.”
“Sean ended up with marks on his arms, a black eye and sort of blacked out,” Gardner added.
Cormie said his sister eventually convinced congregants to let him go. Upon leaving the church, he filed a police report with the Blackwell Police Department. …
Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University Dogged By Growing Claims Of Financial Corruption
By Miranda Bryant
The Guardian (9/15/19)
Since January 2016, when the head of Liberty University, Jerry Falwell Jr, endorsed Donald Trump for president, the influential evangelical university has been on a fast-track to the heart of American politics. Since being credited with helping Trump earn the loyal support of the Christian right, Falwell has become a regular presence at the White House.
Meanwhile, the university, founded in 1971 by his late father, the Rev Jerry Falwell Sr, has expanded exponentially. Under Falwell Jr’s leadership, the Lynchburg, Virginia, not-for-profit university’s assets have reportedly grown from $259m in 2007 to over $3bn and it has more than 100,000 students.
But lately, a series of alleged scandals appear to be threatening Falwell’s grip on power. And this week, the stakes were raised even higher amid accusations of corruption and Falwell’s own demand for an FBI investigation.
On Monday, Politico published a report, citing more than 24 current and former “high-ranking” Liberty officials, which claims they are losing confidence in him. Falwell, it alleges, “presides over a culture of self-dealing, directing university resources into projects and real estate deals in which his friends and family have stood to make personal financial gains”. …
Pastor Grandson Of Billy Graham Accused Of Sex Abuse Says He’s Ready To Preach Again. Advocates Aren’t So Sure
While preaching to his new Florida congregation last Sunday, Pastor Tullian Tchividjian spoke at length about how God offers unconventional, unconditional and sometimes, downright “infuriating” grace to everyone ― even those society considers outcasts.
Tchividjian referred to a biblical story about Jesus interacting with a group of men with leprosy, people who were outcast from their communities as a result of the illness.
“You could no longer work at the job that you had, you could no longer be around the people that love you, you were basically living with this death sentence,” Tchividjian told his Palm Beach Gardens church, describing the experiences of people with leprosy during Jesus’ time.
But then, the Bible says Jesus healed the men ― restoring them to their old lives.
“The one thing that seems to annoy people the most about God is his willingness to love, forgive and restore those whom we have decided deserve the exact opposite,” Tchividjian preached.
He could very well have been thinking about his own story.
Tchividjian, a grandson of the famous late American evangelist Billy Graham, was booted from positions at two Florida churches for sexual misconduct in 2015 and 2016 …
Church Leaders Held Homeless People Captive, Used Them As Forced Labor, Feds Say
Associated Press (9/11/19)
EL CENTRO, Calif. (AP) — A dozen leaders of a California-based ministry were arrested Tuesday on charges that they used homeless people as forced labor, holding them in locked group homes and forcing them to panhandle up to nine hours a day, six days a week, U.S. prosecutors said.
The former pastor of Imperial Valley Ministries, Victor Gonzalez, and the others were arrested in San Diego, El Centro near the Southern California border with Mexico and Brownsville, Texas. They face charges of conspiracy, forced labor, document servitude and benefits fraud.
The El Centro-based ministry has about 30 affiliate churches throughout the United States and Mexico and runs five group homes in Southern California, authorities said.
Dozens of victims, many of them homeless and some as young as 17, were lured to the group homes by the promise of food and shelter until they were able to return home.
Instead, the ministry that billed itself as rehabilitating drug addicts kept them inside deadbolted group homes, took their personal belongings and identification documents and refused to return them, stole their food stamp and welfare benefits and in some cases threatened to take away their children if they left …