Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Christian coach gets 20 months

Hypocrisy and abuse of authority happen at all levels of a Christian organization.  The pastor is often the abuser, but sometimes it is the teacher or coach as well. The common characteristics are religious authority, direct access to children, and insufficient direct oversight. It is a formula I see over and over again. Andrew Scot Bolsinger knows the formula well. He used it to sexually assault a young girl in his care at a Salem-area Christian academy.

Bolsinger, who recently had been living in San Francisco and writing for online publications using a pseudonym, pleaded guilty April 15 to two counts of second-degree sexual abuse and two counts of third-degree sexual abuse stemming from four separate incidents involving the victim while she was 16.

The victim, who recently turned 26, testified in the sentencing that Bolsinger preyed on her and "misused his position of trust in a Christian academy for his own pleasure."

I’m not sure who to trust anymore. I don’t let me kids anywhere near professional clergy. I use the same approach with public school teachers. It pays to be careful. Of course, if people like Bolsinger were properly supervised and screened, these types of crimes would be less likely to happen. I’ll hold my breath. Heck, they won’t even mention the Christian academy for fear of harming its good name. Nothing will change unless they stop pulling punches.

Hat tip to Hank of Shallow Cognitions. And remember, if you send them, I will post them. 

Youth pastor faces sex charges

He looks like such a good boy Uh oh, another Baptist youth pastor stands charged with having sexual contact with minors. “Minors”, that is plural. It makes me wonder what kind of controls Spring Creek Baptist church had in place.

Jonathan Tyler Giles, the former youth minister at Spring Creek Baptist Church, has been charged with three counts of statutory rape by an authority figure, sexual battery by an authority figure and two counts of soliciting a minor.

"Everyone is concerned when allegations like these are made," said the Rev. Paul Bunger, senior pastor at Spring Creek Baptist on Trenton Road. "We are praying for all of the parties involved."

Get your checkbook out Pastor Bunger. If convicted, the parents will be coming after you for compensation. You are supposed to setup controls to protect your children from predatory youth pastors, remember? Or, did you miss that memo?

I checked the church website. There is no mention of Jonathan Giles nor any mention of the sexual misconduct case on the church website. I do not understand why churches take this approach. It would seem that transparency is their best approach. I left this message on their church Guestbook.

What is it that your church does to protect itself from pedophile Baptist youth pastors? Why is it that Jonathan Tyler Giles was able to allegedly abuse children without church leadership being aware of what he was doing? What kind of oversight program do you have in place?

And finally, why it is that no mention of this is made on your website? It is almost like you want it to go away.

What do you think? Will my post last for more than a day?

Please leave your own message. I am really curious about how these people tick now that I’m paying more attention to the whole Baptist cover-up of clergy sexual abuse.

10 years in prison for pastor

Russell_Lesser Justice finally caught up with Russell J. Lesser of Bryson City, N.C. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for sexually assaulting a female child in the mid 1970s.

During his sentencing Thursday, Lesser asked for the court’s mercy and apologized to victim Laurie Asplund.

“I’d like to take that one year out of my life,” Lesser said.

“I’m so deeply sorry for it.”

The former pastor began his advances during a trust game, Asplund said, but then sexually assaulted her more than 40 times from summer 1974 to spring 1976. She was 14 to 16 years old.

Wisconsin kept the case open because Lesser moved out of state. Otherwise, he would have never been convicted. As it stands, he went on to work in other states. I am sure there are some uncomfortable questions being asked. I’m sure he had access to others as he was a  Youth for Christ Campus Life minister.

What’s $50 million among friends?

I’m in the wrong business. If Christian fraud and pastor Creflo Dollar can earn $50 million a year sending out subscription based devotional text messages, I am in the wrong line of work. I ought to convert so that I can start making real money. I could come up with 365 decent devotional text messages a year. Heck, I’d be happy making $25 million.

Of course, I’d pay they guy with the original idea his due.

Televangelist Rev. Creflo Dollar is accused of stealing a California businessman’s idea that has reportedly profited the pastor more than $50 million a year.

Devone Lawson of Marina Del Rey, California, also filed suit against the high-profile pastor’s son, Jeremy Dollar, saying in 2006 they stole a joint idea to send daily devotional text messages to subscribers.

I can just hear the idea session now. Hey, your flock will buy anything, right? lets sell them subscription text messages. We’ll make a fortune….

Seriously, is this what Christianity is really supposed to be like. $50 million dollars from wannabe millionaire Christians? Is there any wonder people like me are skeptical?

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A Callis Lilly

I shot this Lilly during a recent trip to Yosemite. Wildflowers are stunning. I often miss them because I do not pay enough attention to the details of my environment. I was fortunate enough to meet a tour guide who kept pointing out the different types of wild flowers in her endless descriptions of what Yosemite looked like without all the trees on the valley floor.

My wife and I stopped on a ridgeline meadow for this sample. It was worth it. There were thousands of these running out into a marshy meadow. It was beautiful.

I’m not sure about the yellow flower in the background. Does anybody know what it is?

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The pastor behind Ricci v. DeStefano

The New Haven Independent has an insightful story on convicted thief and pastor Boise Kimber. Reporter Paul Bass uses the word "nefarious" to describe the role Kimber played in the lawsuit. I agree. Kimber comes off as a connected powerbroker, kingmaker and racist.

Three of the Supreme Court justices who voted against New Haven in Monday’s landmark firefighters case ruling zeroed in on one character they saw playing a nefarious role: the Rev. Boise Kimber.

In fact, Kimber’s role as a New Haven politico, felon, and FOJ (Friend of John, Mayor DeStefano) ended up sparking a lively debate between the Supreme Court’s conservative and liberal wings.

This is the latest in a two-decade-long saga of how Kimber (pictured) has caused political headaches for DeStefano while receiving repeated political plums from the mayor, including a controversial “consulting” housing contract that figured prominently in a 1998 City Hall corruption scandal.

Read More...

I have no trust for politically active pastors. Especially politically connected pastors with a criminal past.

I come from a family of firefighters. I listened to the stories of white discrimination when I grew up. At the time, I knew the stories to be BS. There were no black captains. Affirmative action resolved the discrepancy. My relatives eventually rose to captain or even battalion chief. Every thing worked out.

A small side note, my uncle and a favorite cousin were among the first crop of paramedics in LA County back in the 70s. They remain my heroes to this day.

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Priest Accused of Exposing Himself While Driving

DonaldSnyder So let's say your driving down the road in your Semi complete with a flash Friday sticker on the back bumper. You notice a car with a man inside. He exposes himself. You freak and call 911 because this was obviously not what you had in mind. My question is, what are the odds the flasher is a pastor? In this case, it’s pretty high.

A local priest is in legal trouble after he's accused of exposing himself while driving on a local highway. Rev. Donald Snyder, 63, is charged with one count of indecent exposure. Rev. Snyder is a priest at St. Ladislas Church in Westlake.

Rev. Donald Snyder is a catholic priest as St. Ladislas Church in Westlake Ohio. If a catholic priest is caught exposing himself, will the authorities look deeper to see if there is any other odd sexual behavior? I sure hope so, although in this case I would guess they would be checking truck stops and highway rest stops, if you know what I mean.

Introducing Camels with Hammers

Please join me in welcoming the newest addition to the Atheist Blogroll, Camels with Hammers.

In the author’s own words:

My name is Daniel Fincke. I was raised a devout Evangelical Christian in a low church denomination (the Church of Christ) and I went to one of the most conservative Christian colleges in the country (Grove City College) for my undergraduate education. There I majored in philosophy, minored in religion, and left the faith in my junior year. That was ten years ago now and in the intervening time I have become a specialist on Friedrich Nietzsche and contemporary moral philosophy. This fall I will defend my dissertation in philosophy at Fordham University.

The topic of my dissertation is "Deriving and Defending an Axiology of the Will to Power" and it first explores both a systematic reading of Nietzsche's texts which yields a coherent reading of his overall philosophy. In the final chapters, then, I update and criticize Nietzsche's philosophy in the terms of contemporary moral psychology and normative theory. In my future work, I want to continue to develop a post-Christian descriptive and normative account of ethics.

The main foci of Camels With Hammers are contemporary ethical paradigms, normative theories, moral psychology, secularism, Nietzsche interpretation, general philosophical education, commentary on current affairs from philosophical perspectives, and the challenge of creating a constructive atheism which can be a force philosophically, culturally, and, where appropriate, politically. Additionally, the blog occasionally reviews and promotes independent film and music.

I welcome philosophical questions and challenges from all manner of readers and am excited to base my blog entries on these whenever it will serve the blog best.

If you would like to join the blogroll, click here.

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Guess where I was standing?

Waterfall 

I shot this photo on Saturday. I want to make this a little contest. Can anyone tell me where I was standing when I took this photo? Be as specific as possible. The winner will receive a post dedicated to their blog from yours truly.

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Christian bikers and whatever

Harley DavidsonImage by mojoey via Flickr

I ran into a couple of bikers at the Miners Inn Restaurant in Merced. It’s an OK stop for breakfast on the way up or down the mountain. My family and I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast. At the table next to ours three bikers did the same. They were two older men and an older woman. My guess is they were 60ish. They seem friendly. I heard them pray before breakfast, so I figured them as religious types.

We did not pay attention to each other during our meal. Frankly, I did not care about anything but my family and was ignoring people as much as possible. Vacation brings out my selfish side. As we left, I nodded to the bikers in friendly way and said, “Have a good day.”

As I walked away, the skinny one asked if I took a lot of pictures with my fancy camera. I could not tell if he was being sarcastic. I felt compelled to answer. We spoke for a few minutes about photography and then the shifted over to bikes and their planned ride. It was friendly. Part of the way through describing their itinerary, they explained that the mountains were their church and that they were Christians out to worship the lord. I asked, “Why is that important?”

They looked at me like I were simple. “You know, so you won’t confuse us with bad bikers. You seem nice. We don’t want to put you off.”

I was in no mood for where this was heading, plus my family was standing in a hot parking lot, so I ended the conversation with a simple, “Do I look scared?”

I mean seriously, I haven't seen a scary looking biker on my vacation except for the shirtless dude with full body tats on a nasty ride the day before. Most bikers riding the mountain roads looked like middle-aged accountants with bad sunburns riding $25K hogs. I’m pretty sure that religion was the last thing on their minds.

What bothers me is the need for these people to tell me they are Christians, and to go a step further and differentiate themselves from the heathen biker masses as if that somehow makes them special and good. It feels wrong. It feels inauthentic.

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They were good Christians

Every time I hear the phrase, They were good Christians, I ask myself who died. In this case the quote is slightly different, They were good family people, good Christian people, but I ask the same question. Who died?

A college student played dead to escape a family shooting by his father, who killed the other son and their mother before setting their house on fire and taking his own life, investigators said Monday.

Authorities said the father, retired tire factory employee William Ronald Carter, shot his wife, Bonnie, 56, and their 29-year-old son William Ronald Carter Jr. He later shot Timothy Carter, 22, in the back and then again after the son begged for mercy, but only wounded him, Henry County Sheriff's Sgt. Curtis Spence said. Spence said the father killed himself before authorities arrived at the burning home early Sunday.

A wife and a son died, and a son is scarred for life. All because a “good Christian” executed his family. Sometimes they kill their families. Sometimes they kill others. No thanks. I don’t want any part of this.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Thoughts on the passing of Michael and Farrah

I'm a child of the 70's. Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett were iconic personalities from my yo

Michael Jacksonlast.fm

uth. Of course, Michael came of age as a pop star when I was a young parent, so my memories of him are a mixed bag of happy, sad, and perplexed.

I learned of Michael Jackson's death with my family in the cinema while watching Transformers: Rise of the Fallen. Like many significant events, I will never forget my wife telling me of his death. I was already boarded. Megan Fox was not on screen so I had no real interest in the move (just kidding honey). The movie was tediously long. By the end my thoughts kept running to my youth and the frenetic dancing of my sisters. I kept hearing the Osmonds' "One Bad Apple" echoing through my head with visions of my little sisters dancing around their bedroom while the 45 played on our little record player. They would alternate between the Osmonds and the Jackson Five's ABC as if it were a battle for command of the dance floor. For me, that's what Michael Jackson was, a touchstone to pleasant memories from my past. I have the similar memories from my son's early life. We worshiped Michael Jackson videos, when Jackson did the moonwalk, my son did his version. Jackson was an important part of our live then. I have it on video, so I know it is true.

As Michael Jackson grew older and stranger, he become a target of my derisive humor and outright contempt. His odd personal behavior and preferences for life with and as a child moved him from icon to scoundrel. I stopped paying attention to him. Now he's gone. As usual with me, I'll start listening to his music again. The good memories will replace the bad. Life will move on. Megan fox will run in slow motion for what seems like hours, did I mention that already?

Farrah Fawcett was who every girl I knew in high school tried emulate. The only girl to pull it off was my sister Kim. She nailed Farrah hair and the clothing to go along with it. I hate to say this out loud, but in my opinion, my sister was prettier than Farrah. (Oh god, there will be hell to pay for that.) I have two beautiful systers, one was a baton twirling beauty queen, the other was a Lynda Carter-esgue athetic superstar. I was the slacker. It's funny, my wife bills hereself as more of a Jacquelyn Smith type. She told me this just yesterday. It all makes sense now.

A closing comment on the Transformers movie. My youngest son and I spend a great deal of our attention trying to get s clear look at Megan Fox's thumb. We failed. Damn you internet.

R.I.P. Michael Jackson. R.I.P. Farrah Fawcett.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A failure to report

I don't normally report on this kind of thing, but the pastor involved is a jerk. Baptist pastor Aaron Rodgerson, who is also a city councilman, was indicted on two counts, misdemeanor failing to report an abused or neglected child, and misdemeanor unauthorized practice of law. Rodgerson is pastor of the South Side Baptist Church in Kirksville MO.

“The allegations in that case are that the child at 10 months old only weighed 12 pounds, and City Councilman Rodgerson was giving some advice to these people regarding contact with the Kirksville Police Department and the family services,” Williams said.

What I find interesting is that they don’t report on why he was arrested under the failure to report charge which is a much more significant charge than the unauthorized practice of law. As a pastor, he is obligated to report child abuse, even suspected child abuse. He is charged with not reporting a suspected case of child abuse from a member of his own church and then giving legal advice that could be viewed as benefiting his own case. In this instance, advising the accused to not co-operate with authorities. The second charge seems pretty flimsy to me. That’s advice I (or any reasonable person) would give to most people dealing with a law enforcement agency.

The Mom of Many blog tells the story of baby Alethia, who is the subject of the child abuse charge mentioned above. Alethia’s father, Nathaniel Burns is the associate pastor at Rodgerson’s church. Nathaniel along with his wife Elisabeth are charged with endangering the welfare of their child. Alethia was pronounced as failing to thrive by medical professionals.  Failure to thrive is a serious medical diagnoses:

Most diagnoses of failure to thrive are made in infants and toddlers in the first few years of life — a crucial period of physical and mental development. After birth, a child's brain grows as much in the first year as it will grow during the rest of life. Poor nutrition during this period can have permanent negative effects on mental development.

Yet if you read Mom of Many, she claims a medical conspiracy is  hiding the true condition of the child. 

All the tests showed that she was a normal baby who just happened to be small. They would not accept that and so were forcibly tube feeding Alethia to make her gain weight. She actually LOST weight while in the hospital–the poor baby was only allowed to be with her parents for 1 hour a day and ONLY if a social worker was present. They were giving her so much that she stopped eating completely.

Not normal, not small, not healthily, the term is a failure to thrive and it means trouble for the poor child. This is where I disconnect and start thinking I’ve found another group of nutballs. What finally convinced me was something else I found in reading about this weird case. Pastor Rodgerson is a fundie homophobe.

In a controversial vote on Monday, Kirksville City Councilman and Pastor of Southside Baptist Church Aaron Rodgerson voted against the inclusion of sexual orientation to the Kirksville Fair Housing Policy. When questioned if he would rent to someone he knew was gay, Mr. Rodgerson simply answered, “no”.

I watched his interview with a local reporter. When finished I reminded myself that this man, and many more like him, is the reason I blog about Christian nutballs. I am more inclined to question his character and judgment now that I’ve see where he stands on social issues.

I love this line from the Mom of Many blog.

They have been persecuted a lot for their faith (threatening emails, angry letters…..) America was founded on Christian principles but we are no longer a Christian nation.

Do you want to see hate mail? I mean seriously, you live in bible fundie land. I get the stuff every week, from Christians no less. Cry me a  friggen persecuted river.

Family Minister Accused of Sexual Abuse

Donna Somewhere in Texas a child is being abuse by a pastor. It is a war we may never win. Too many church, too many pastors, and too many children. At least one corrupt pastor is gone. Tomas Gonzales of Donna, TX admitted to molesting young relatives over a ten year period. Of course, members of his church have it all wrong.

Members of Gonzales' church say they don't understand what happened, but they are standing by their pastor.

"It was a terrible pain.  It was very painful, and we are with him.  We're not against him.  We are with him, and God is with him," says Oscar Juarez.

I’m not going out on a limb here by saying that the next time you see your beloved pastor will be at his sentencing. Following that, you can visit him at the cemetery because he’s never going to see the light of day again.

I’m not sure which church Gonzales worked for. I found a list of 12. But this is Texas so for a population of 14K, I figure the real number is maybe a thousand churches, unless the Primer Iglesia Bautista is one of those Mega churches. Oh wait, I found it. Gonzales is (or was) pastor of Templo Nueve Vida (Source).

They fall, I laugh

What else can I do but laugh? An important Republic governor disappears for a leisurely tryst in Argentina while leaving America to wonder what he’s up to? What kind of intensely delusional power trip is this homophobic fundie governor on? It’s like a watching a Monty Python skit sans the intelligent edge. Gov. Mark Sanford is a nutball if he thinks flying down to Argentina for a quickie is rational behavior for a pillar of the Republican moral elite. Ha ha ha ha, oh man, Sanford’s going to pay.

What’s that sound? Is it the end of another political career, or do just have gas? It’s so hard to tell the difference. I hope Sanford takes Bobby Jindal with him when he goes.

S.C. youth pastor facing more sex charges

William Ralph Wilson faces two additional charges of lewd acts on a minor. In this case, two new teen victims.

Wilson was originally arrested early this week when three young boys came forward with abuse allegations.

One alleged victim told someone at Bible study that Wilson “fondled him” and showed him pornography over a period of two years, the report says.

The boy said Wilson would encourage him and other boys to perform sex acts on themselves at Wilson’s home, the report says.

Wilson sounds like a peach. I’m sure this story will grow into something more gruesome in the future. He’s got freak written all over him.

Wilson was youth pastor at Chapel of Redemption Church on Platt Springs Road in South Carolina.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Digg effect hit one of my photos

2 Girls 1 Cup skateboard

Three days ago I posted this picture to Flickr from my cell phone. So far, it has received 176,770 page views. My blog has 431,000 hits over its lifetime. Up until this evening I was pretty happy with that. Now I’m thinking there is something out there that I do not understand. Like… what make something popular.

This is the link to the photo.

The title is 2 Girls 1 Cup skateboard

My son bought a new skateboard at Van's at the Block of Orange. He thought his mom and dad would not know what the skateboard's graphic represented. When I saw it I laughed so hard that I ended up snorting. We had to explain 2 Girls 1 Cup to the wife.

We had a good laugh about it. My wife was horrified when she found out what it meant, but also thought it funny. For those of you who don’t know what this is (Mom – I’m talking to you right now), follow this link to a Wikipedia article which explains the subject without any disturbing images. 

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Monday, June 22, 2009

My frugal friend

Veggielunch

I have an Indian friend named Shepal who, for cultural reasons, eats very little meat. He's not a vegetarian, but tells me he eats meat no more than once a week, and usually only chicken or fish. He told me this while eating the meal pictured here.  It is a meatless burger from Carls Jr. It is the same burger I order, a Famous Star, but without the meat. I was perplexed. My initial thought was to run back to the counter and demand some properly cooked beef. But Shepal assured me this was how he orders his food every time. It cost $1 for his meal. He gets the meatless burger, a glass of water, one ranch dressing packet, and a healthy does of condiments from the salsa bar.

My meal cost $7.97. A burger, a order of crispy burritos (I am so ashamed), and a large diet coke. Shepal eats for a week on what I spend in one meal. What I spend in a week ($60), will feed him lunch for months.

We talked further about his frugal habits. He and his wife don’t eat out and have fresh vegetables, rice or beans for most of their meals. He estimated his monthly food spend at $100 to $125 dollars, roughly 20% of what my family of three spends.

Shepal is a smart man. I respect him. I just don’t think like him. As I sit here eating my $6.95 turkey sandwich (Subway), I am overwhelmed by the cultural differences in our approach to food. I associate eating like him with being poor. He thinks of it as normal. He’s in ideal shape, I’m shaped like my food. He saves more money for investing.  I invest in eating. The whole thing really made me stop and think. What am I doing?  Could I live like my friend and not go bugfuck crazy? I’m going to give it a try. It will make for an interesting social experiment. Crap… I spend more on diet soda than he spends on food. What does that say?

Anyway… food for thought.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

I need help

My blog no longer shows links to comments. I think Intense Debate is the culprit. I’ve been playing with the code for three days now. I’ve fixed all kinds of problems that I never knew I had, but not the one I care about. Does anyone know how to work with a blogger template well enough to correct the problem? Any help or advice is appreciated.

Specifically, I need my Comments (4) thingy back.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Blogroll Update: 900 Members

We seem to have reached stasis on the Atheist Blogroll. Each month I purge about as many obsolete blogs as I add. Our membership has slowly crept up. We hit 900 members today when A Recovering Catholic joined. We’ve been hovering in the high 800s for months now.

Our 900 members have generated 4,308,160 page views. If there was ever any doubts that our message is getting out, this amazing statistic should put those doubts to rest.

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Mormon ponzi schemer pleads not guilty

I was recently confronted by a Mormon reader who claimed her religious kindred were "too moral" to get caught up in petty sex crimes and money schemes. I explained that the reason I did not report on Mormons is that my news filters were not set up to catch them. She said “bullshit”. I said, “Well let's see.”

Judging from first news filter report on Mormons and the LDS, I could make reporting on the proclivities of wayward Mormons a whole cult sub category of Hypocrisy Watch. Most of the crimes seem to be financial though. Take this first case, Mormon homophobe Claud “Rick” Koeber. His crimes are purely financial. He stands accused of exploiting his fellow Mormons via a Ponzi scheme. He’s pleaded not guilty.

Koerber -- who has billed himself as a "Capitalist, Mormon, Dad" -- promised people in the "Equity Mill" program they would earn large returns on loans to Founder's Capital using the equity in their homes, according to the indictment.

According to federal prosecutors, he usually did not buy real estate.

Instead, Koerber used about half the money he received -- about $50 million -- to make payments to the earlier investors as part of the Ponzi scheme, according to the indictment. "In this way, defendant Koerber created the false impression that the businesses were profitable, that the investments were safe, secure, and that interest was being paid."

Now Koerber is not in the clergy so to speak, but since the LDS has no professional clergy, anyone who wears their religion on their sleeve is fair game. There will be more to follow.

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Go Ray

LOS ANGELES - APRIL 28:  Writer Ray Bradbury d...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Ray Bradbury is alive and kicking here in Los Angeles. He’s pushing 90 and still has a mind that blows me away. He is currently campaigning to help the H. P. Wright Library in Ventura County stay open. With California’s financial troubles, libraries are easy targets. Ray believes in libraries. Back when he was a young man during the Great Depression, libraries served as a substitute for a university education. Perhaps we should listen to the wisdom of our elders?

“Libraries raised me,” Mr. Bradbury said. “I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.”

Libraries saved me too. It was the early 70s at the time, but times were hard. I knew every book in my local library. I would spend hours there every chance I could, especially during the dog days of summer.  I had a voracious appetite for knowledge and a wondering mind to match. School did not work for me, but reading did. I had a five book a week habit for most of my youth. I lived in fear of the big red-headed librarian. She like to collect those late fees. I could not afford to pay them.

My local library moved to bigger digs in the early 80s. I had left the neighborhood by then, but visited from time-to-time. In the early 90s the budget ax hit. The local government closed my beloved library. Ironically, my stepfather became the library’s most vocal and visible supporter. Funny though, I never once saw him read a book. His door-to-door support of our little library warmed my heart. It was so out of character.

There is no longer a  local library. Kids must travel to a main branch many miles away. There is an upside. The neighboring city of Cerritos invested in a library of unparalleled quality. It is a great resource for the local kids, but is quite expensive for non-residents.

Two young members of my extended family are librarians. They make me proud and give me hope for the future. I expect great things from them. And Ray Bradbury… I had to get in line to read his books back when I first started reading. I still read him. Something Wicked This Way Comes still gives me chills.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

I smell a cover-up

Dr. Les Heinze, president of a Christian School, calmly told parents that nothing like this has ever happened here before. He was referring to the arrest of the schools principle for allegedly fondling two young boys.  He forgot to mention the 1992 conviction of  Bennie Bellino, who raped two girls and is now serving a 32-year prison sentence. Nope, no mention at all. It’s like it completely slipped his mind. Except that he was the schools pastor at the time and there is no conceivable way he forget the shitstorm that erupted over the incident. So why would he make this deliberately misleading claim?

We've been operating the school over 50 years and we've not had an incident like this.

When he was called on his statement by people with accurate memories, the school’s response was to parse the wording. What he meant to say was this.

Dr. Heinze could have been more specific when he stated, 'We've been operating the school over 50 years and we've not had an incident like this.' Dr. Heinze intended to communicate that this was the first time that an individual in a leadership position with the school was alleged to be responsible for such an incident.

Ahem… cough, bullshit, cough.

Back in 1992, there were allegations the school responded to the scandal by trying to bury the case. Even going so far as to protect the perpetrator instead of the victims. It was a typical “protect the institution” response.

DanielBrock In the current case, Daniel Brock stands accused of engaging in sex talk, sexual  assault and attempted sexual assault. He has a predilection for young boys. . The abuse lasted years.

The school has put up a silent front. I found several articles where reporters attempted to contact the school, but calls were not returned. This coupled with the school president’s obfuscations would reasonably lead one to believe their desire to manage the Christian image of their institution is the primary goal. In other words, screw the kids, they simply represent potential cash flows. How deplorable. I hope the press keeps giving them hell.

Related Articles

Hat Tip Carolines

He sure fits the predatory pastor profile

Efrain Umana I've learned a few things over the years. One is never trust a man who holds all the cards in a adult-to-child relationship. For example if a pastor is also your immigration sponsor and your counselor... um, run away.

A pastor in Lincoln, Nebraska fits the profile. Efrain Umana was arrested for sexually abusing a child and forcing a woman to have sex with him.
Umana is alleged to have raped a 10 or 11 year old girl in his Church’s sound room. There is also a women who claims Umana used his position of influence over her to force a sexual relationship.

There are other victims along with a disturbing history of abusive behavior, including losing his job as a pastor for an Assemblies of God church for unbecoming ministerial conduct, and losing his job as a school bus driving for being too friendly with the children.

The burning question is, why did the Templo Monte Horeb hire him as a pastor in the first place? Here is a man with obvious risk factors who should never be allowed to lead a church, yet he does. It gets better, how does a school bus driver move from a non-skilled job to leading a church? Are the no standards?

Update 4/18/2011

We have a conviction

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One of my pictures was picked

I know it’s a small thing, but one of my flower pictures was picked to illustrate an entry in a Schmap guide for the Fullerton Arboretum. It made me happy.

On a personal note, I just finished a huge project at work and for the first time in months, I have nothing urgent to do. I typically fall into a Holmes-like post project funk, sans the morphine of course. Since I quit smoking cigars and I’m not drinking at the moment, I’m at a loss for what to do for awhile.  How do I process my funk without my normal tools? I think it’s time to take a few pictures. I need to brush up anyway, Yosemite is just a week away.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Review: This Little Light

Few authors tell stories that evoke a demonstrative emotional response from me. Yet Christa Brown had me pacing and angry after just a few chapters. The anger subsided and was quickly replaced by my ever so male desire to “fix” things. This was replaced by anger, disgust, empathy… oh hell, the book pulled all my strings. In the end, I could not put it down. I even gave up blogging for a day to finish reading it.

This Little LightThis Little Light
By Christa Brown
223 pp. Foremost Press

This Little Light is a combination memoir and exposĂ© that not only tells Christa Brown’s personal story, but also documents the beginning of her efforts to bring clergy accountability to the largest organized church in America, the Southern Baptists  Convention. She is the David in this story. Unfortunately, she has not yet slain Goliath, but I see a few big dents in his forehead.

I have a casual relationship with the author. Over the years we have traded comments on each other’s blogs. Christa Brown writes Stop Baptist Predators.  She is a great source of information on clergy sexual abuse within the Baptist church. I’ve come to respect her work. Although, I must admit, I did not realize Brown was “the thorn” in the side of the Southern Baptist Convention. After reading her book, I have a whole new level of respect for her.

The first few chapters were uncomfortable. I half expected to see the gory details of her sexual abuse. I read with one eye closed most of the time thinking that any minute things would get graphic and I would lose control of my stomach. As a father, few things get under my skin quicker than child abuse. Reading about it, even if it happened 30 years ago, makes me angry. My paternal compulsion to protect the weak kicks in and the anger builds. Brown does something smart though, she leaves the gory details out. The reader must fill in the blanks. This is perhaps worse, because my imagination painted a horrific picture of abuse. After completing the abuse chapters, I put the book down then. I needed some space.

As her story unfolds and the reader encounters the entrenched bureaucracy of the Baptist church, anger is replaced with disgust. The institutional inertia she faced was staggering. When it became apparent that the inertial was as strategy, I again grew despondent and put the book down. But my fingers itched more. I needed to know what came next. I was not disappointed.

Christa Brown shines her light on the hypocrisy of the Southern Baptist Convention. Backed by the media and SNAP, she marches right down the halls of Baptist power and tweaks them on the nose with the reality of her mission. She is the woman who started the accountability movement and will likely be credited with reforming the Baptist Convention when it finally comes to its senses and holds its pastors accountable.

There are times when I wanted to protect the young Christa Brown from her bad pastor. There are times when I wanted to take her for a walk  to talk some sense into her. At times I even spoke to her through the book saying, “Don’t trust them!”

In the end I came to the conclusion that Christa Brown was abused by faith. It was used as a tool to suppress and control her from her first encounter with sexual abuse up until her emancipation. The cult-like victim mindset of the church is the enemy. The brainwashed women and children are the fodder for the abusive male dominated power structure. There is no interest in protecting the weak from the wolves. Christa Brown is a better shepherd.

If you are interested in clergy sexual abuse and the hypocrisy of the Southern Baptist Convention, this book is a must read. You can buy it at Barnes & Noble or Amazon, or order it at your local bookstore.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Review: Harlan Ellison Documentary

I watched the documentary, Harlan Ellison: Dreams With Sharp Teeth last night. I did not know what to expect. Ellison is an acquired taste. I found myself sitting at a banquet sampling different vintages of Ellison’s long and storied life. Some stories we often told rehashes of essays or interviews I’ve read over the years.I could almost speak the words for Ellison I’ve heard them so often. Others stories were brand new layers of sound and imagery which further complicated the chaotic cacophony of Harlan Ellison’s life. To put it simply, I hung on every word.

Ellison gets around to discussing Atheism near the end. With Nine minutes to go I realize I am hearing my words come from his mouth. Or I should say, I found the source of my early thinking on Atheism in his words. Ellison is my forgotten muse. I’m not surprised. I started reading him in the 70s. I think his words reached into my mind and turned on the “Think” switch. You know the one. It helps lift the fog of faith from you mind.

The Universe does not know we are here.” I love that line. Chapter 19 covers Religion. At one point Ellison says,

“Well who created the machine? I don’t give a fuck who created the machine. I’ll never know, you I‘ll never know. If saint Tomas Aquinas couldn't figure it out, I sure as hell not going to.”

He is as atheist as an Atheist can be. A true believer in nothing. This is what I like about him. He understands the void. As the Chapter progresses, he goes on to talk about morality and the need to judge people by what they do rather than what they say. I hear some of my key themes discussed again and again. Personal responsibility, accountability, its great stuff. He goes on to point out that our pastors and mullahs have created a different kind of God, one that is hateful and evil. I hear the words that helped shape my thinking and smile. It is good to be home. The documentary bring me home in a way I’ve only experienced a few time before. I’ve connected. It gave me shivers.

I’ve seen Harlan Ellison in person several times. My collection of his books are all signed. I’ve stood in line and listened to him weave stores and banter with the crowd. His energy is hard to describe unless you’ve experienced it yourself. Yet it comes across well. He is an old man now, nearing the end of his productive life. Yet you can still see the flame burning behind his eyes. He is a writer of unparallel talent, and the talent is still there. It is this quality that I like the most. He is still the master, still in charge, still creating the words that fill me with anger, pity, love, hate, and longing. He is still the writer who makes me throw books at the wall while screaming, “You bastard.”

From a technical standpoint you don’t notice the documentary unless Ellison point it out. The camera loves Ellison, and occasionally it loves Robin Williams too, but it drinks in Ellison in long cold droughts of bittersweet energy. In the end, the documentary fades away much like Ellison. I don’t want more, I want seconds.

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Blogroll Update: Introducing Skeptic Bible

Please join me in welcoming the newest addition to the Atheist Blogroll.

In the author’s own words:

Skeptic Bible Commentary Intro: A skeptic accepts an invitation to read the Bible. I’ve decided to record the experience with my thoughts about the Judeo-Christian Bible from an atheist/skeptic point of view. I’ll be taking about 5 chapters at a time start with Genesis and continuing all the way through the Old and New Testaments.

If you would like to join the blogroll, click here.

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Divinely inspired morality does not rub off

So let’s say your dad is a pastor and all your life you are infused with the basic Christian moral messages. You live a life where the bible is your best friend and youth group is your respite from the ugliness of our secular world. You’ve had a Christian moral injection so to speak. You should have a leg up, right? A superior moral grounding which separates you from the baby-eating atheist hordes, right? If so, then why is it that you put a bullet into your mom and dad’s heads because they took away your video games?

A Lorain County teenager who shot and killed his mother and wounded his father after they took away his video game learned his punishment Tuesday morning.

Lorain County Court of Common Pleas Judge James Burge sentenced Daniel Petric, 17, to life in prison with the eligibility of parole in 23 years. Prosecutors had asked for the maximum penalty of life in prison without parole.

"I remain fearful if Danny gets out of prison and somebody else takes away his new pasttime, whether it's a girlfriend that leaves him, this may be the next thing that happens," assistant Lorain County Prosecutor Tony Cillo told the judge.

Pastor Burge survived. He asked for leniency. It was the Christian thing to do.

The judge offered this inane commentary:

I feel confident that if there were no such thing as violent video games, I wouldn't know Daniel Petric,"

I’m not so sure about that Judge Burge. The whole violent video game thing is weak in comparison to Petric’s faulty moral grounding. Perhaps religion is the problem?

Now, back to Left 4 Dead.

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Exorcism as an excuse for child abuse?

When I read stories about parents performing exorcisms on their children, I think it just a religious excuse to torture your kids. Take the case of Sandra Alfred. She handcuffed her son to a wall and starved him while trying to exorcise his demons.

Where do people get such dumb ideas? Religion? The little voice in their heads? The little voice in their heads that they think is God? Bingo!

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

You went by Joey, right?

It is humbling to confront an important person from your past and realize he’s forgotten you. It happened to me a few days ago. A man from my past, a Christian youth counselor and backpacking guide, did not remember me. He eventually said, “You went by Joey, right?” I sighed deeply. It was like being forgotten by your  big brother. The man, a few years older than me at the time, but much wiser, was a key adult in my life from ages 13 to 16. He guided me through the rough patches and gave me my first taste of adult independence. With him I biked down the coast of California, hiked the Sierras, played disc golf, and geared up to climb rocks. A few things stuck too. I used his Olympus to take my first photos. I’ve been an avid photographer ever since. I found my personal holy place in Joshua Tree National Park. I can’t explain the hold it has on me. You must experience it yourself. And then there is disc golf, my sport, my odd passion, my alternative lifestyle so to speak. I owe it to a man who does not remember me. It blows my mind.

Joshua Tree Climb1 I don’t blame him. He is the epitome of today's professional clergy. 30-years later, a dozen churches and hundreds or even thousands of Joeys. How would he remember me? I was just your average troubled teen. One of his first, but only one in a long line of kids which followed. He may have forgotten, but I cannot. Take this story for example, I was climbing at Joshua Tree, 250 feet up a steep rock face and at risk for a nasty fall when a helicopter flew past. It circled while broadcasting an emergency evacuation warning. Joshua tree was burning. A raging fire was 15 minutes away. We needed to flee or we would die. He got us off the rock and away from danger in the nick of time. That night I took the best picture of my life. A sunset clouded by smoke and distant flames. It no longer exists, except in my mind’s eye. It seems fitting too. The photo did not survive my youth, just like our relationship.

We plan to reconnect. We’ll play disc golf for sure, but no talk of religion. I left that in my youth too.

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Harlan Ellison: Dreams With Sharp Teeth

Harlan Ellison Dreams With Sharp TeethI made a post yesterday about Harlan Ellison. It attracted the interest of a reader who turned me on to the documentary, Harlan Ellison: Dreams With Sharp Teeth, which is available on iTunes. I bought a copy for $9.99 and will watch it tonight.  A review will follow soon thereafter.

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Youth Pastor Pleaded No Contest

A No Contest or Nolo contendere plea is a clergy sexual abuse case is so disappointing. The defendant admits no guilt and can ultimately deny the charges. The upside is that if the plea deal was just, he still does time. Youth Pastor Brian Neiswender will have to wait until July 20 to find out about his sentence. Actually, I’m sure he knows already since it was a plea agreement.

Brian Neiswender was accused of inappropriately touching teenage girls while working at the Christ Community Church in Kingston. At a hearing in August, three of his alleged victims testified that between 2004 and 2006, Neiswender touched them inappropriately during youth group meetings and private music lessons.

I wonder if they teach pastors about inappropriate touching in divinity school? Or is it just assumed that budding pastors learned their moral lessons from the bible by osmosis?

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Pastor's wife arrested in murder case

I present further evidence that being a Christian, reading the bible, and listening to sermons have little influence on ones morality. Verginia Lee, the wife of a pastor, was arrested for murder.

Even though four years have passed since 43 year old George Green was found shot to death in his Liberty home Detective George Atwood with Kentucky State Police never gave up on the investigation.

Police say 40 year old Verginia Lee, the wife of a Liberty United Methodist Church pastor, is charged with murdering Green.

I’ll never get it. Why kill a man over a simple argument? Is that Christian?

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Pastor Convicted for Selling Steroids

I always wondered where bodybuilders scored their steroids. Who knew the pushers were Lutheran pastors?

A Karelian court sentenced a Lutheran pastor to three years in prison Monday for illegally selling steroids to bodybuilders, Interfax reported.

The Petrozavodsk City Court found Andrei Antonov, 44, pastor of the city's Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit, guilty of organizing a criminal group in 2007 with a friend, Gennady Yeroshkin, who worked for Karelia's Federation of Bodybuilders. The two men were accused of selling illegal steroids to bodybuilders at a gym in Petrozavodsk, the capital of the republic in northwestern Russia.

Was it just for the money or for the thrill. What drives a man to commit a crime when he should know better. What drives a pastor to disregard his calling? If a pastor will do this, what else will he do? Where does he get his moral grounding?

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Pay the writer - Harlan Ellison

I think I’ve read just about everything he’s written. Harlan Ellison is an amazing writer, and a crotchety pain in the ass too. But I love him. Did I mention he’s an atheist?

"I am so far beyond atheism, there isn't a word in the English language dictionary to describe me." – Harlan Ellison

There are people who create and people who consume. He creates I consume. Those stuck in the middle don’t count.

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Parents kill their child through prayer

Carl and Raylene Worthington prayed over their sick daughter Ava. She was 15-months old and suffering from pneumonia. Antibiotics would have cured her. Instead she died a horrible death while her parents watched. Religion is dangerous.

The imagery in this next sentence struck me as particularly  goulash.

A small church cemetery is lined with the graves of dozens of children — suggesting an extraordinary increase over the average death rate for children in the United States…

It brings home how little we can do to address the problem. Our only recourse is to persecute after the fact. How sad is that?

The deaths also typically involve young children because "by the time kids are school age, there are others involved in their lives — friends, neighbors, family, teachers that may be aware if there's a serious issue,"

Ouch. We only catch them with oversight. At least we can set an example with Carl and Raylene. 15 to 20 years to think about their mistake sounds about right.

hat tip vjack via twitter

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Priest arrested for hiding another priest's child porn

What would you do if you friend were being investigated for sexual crimes against a child? Would you go to his house and erase the images in an attempt to destroy the evidence? No? Well that's what Rev. John Schneider did.

A warrant accuses Schneider of going to former music minister Paul Berrell's apartment on May 18 and deleting hundreds of photos from Berrell's computer while he was being investigated. A grand jury indicted Berrell on two counts of indecent liberties with a minor and a count of statutory sex offense.

Diocese of Charlotte Bishop Peter Jugis accepted Schneider's resignation last week, Hains said. The bishop and Schneider have known each other since 1983, when they were ordained together in the Charlotte diocese. The diocese covers churches in western North Carolina.

Well… at least he has his relationship with the accused. Perhaps they can share a jail cell together.

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Organized religion warped lives

FLDS is an organized religion, albeit one with 10,000 misguided members. Its “Lost Boys” are a classic example of religion run amuck. Young boys were cast out of their community because they represented competition for the scarce resource of young brides. The inside story was far worse, sexual abuse, incest, physical abuse, and rape. All in the name of religion.

Warren Jeffs used church tenets to satisfy his own perverse sexual appetites and to control every aspect of members' lives, Brent claims. As prophet — the title the sect gave its leader — he banned almost all music and all literature except the Book of Mormon and the Bible. He even banned dogs and, most infamously, ejected many young boys from FLDS families.

Read More…

What bothers me most is that it will not end. FLDS will continue to thrive in its little niche for decades to come. The abuse will take a different form, but it will continue. We are too polite to force its end.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Blogroll Update: Introducing the Blasphemy Blog

Please join me in welcoming the newest addition to the Atheist Blogroll.

In the author’s own words:

The Blasphemy Blog is a comical collection of philosophical prolix by two Canadian atheists. Tackling a wide range of moral issues, reflecting on the influence of religion in our society, and the occasional outburst of seething skepticism, we aim to further our own understanding of the world while pointing out the absurdities of supernatural thought. The blog is updated on a weekly basis. Stop by and say hello!

If you would like to join the blogroll, click here.

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G. Love covers Greatest Hits

I'm sitting here on a Sunday evening  listing to Look At All The Love We Found, a Sublime tribute album. This version of Greatest Hits by G. Love is on the album. It’s so damn funky. I thought I'd share. G. Love and Special Sauce are pretty high on my list of bands  I want to see. I love, Cold beverages.

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Pastor Harris tries for bond

JamesRichardHarris Pastor James Richard Harris wants out of jail on a bond, and I say, don't give it to him.

Harris is accused of luring to his home teenagers-- some Glades Central High football players-- video-taping them, and engaging in sex acts with four different minors.

The poor bastard, he has high cholesterol. I don’t think they can treat that in jail. Nope, it is best to let him out. With high cholesterol, there is no way he can bother an other underage children because of… well the high cholesterol. Do they thing we are idiots?

Harris is accused of video taping sex acts with underage children. Performing sex acts on numerous underage children, and I’m still unclear if he’s ever resolved the whole beating people with a bat incident.

Let’s keep this pastor in jail until his trial.

Blogroll Update: Introducing Ziztur

Please join me in welcoming the newest addition to the Atheist Blogroll.

In the author’s own words:

Ziztur.com, AKA "Atheism is Freedom", was started by Ziztur, who is a twenty-something iconoclastic skeptical liberal/libertarian ignostic strong atheist existentialist determinist naturalist ubuntu secular humanist, biomechanist scientist researcher occupational therapist urban explorer poet photographer.  Recently, she has added Flimsyman and Petter Häggholm to the blog as contributors. Flimsy blasphemes. Less flippantly: he is relatively liberal and an atheist. He is always interested in rational debate pertaining to religion or politics. Flimsy and Ziztur live in St. Louis. Petter, on the other hand, lives in Canada. He is interested in atheism, science, Jiu-jitsu, astronomy, cosmology and computer programming.

We specialize in very involved critiques of pro-theist books, photography, the juxiposition between atheism and healthcare, and decimating alternative medicine.

For a veritable buffet of snobby, elitist intellectualism, check us out. We will attempt to rock your face right off with nothing but our epic mindmeat.

If you would like to join the blogroll, click here.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Life sentence for youth pastor Matthew Anderson

Don't worry Matthew. A life sentence for a pedophile in Texas is actually only about three years. Your sentence will end in no time.

A former New Braunfels youth pastor was sentenced Thursday to life in prison for sexually assaulting a teenage boy.

Jurors took 45 minutes to decide punishment on Matthew Andersen, who was found guilty Wednesday on seven counts of sexual assault and indecency with a child.

Because Andersen had a prior conviction in a similar case in 2003 while he was a youth pastor in Alabama, a relatively new Texas law provided for "enhanced punishment," which made the defendant eligible to receive a life sentence.

Before the friends and family of Matthew Anderson object to my callousness, let me just say that you reap what you sow. I’ll be sure to post his obituary if it makes the press.

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Sexting ends another pastor’s career

It's almost like Pastors don't understand technology. When the Reverend David Walter sent sexual and intimate text messages to a 16-year-old girl in his parish, did he expect God would erase the evidence? He might as well have painted it in letter 10 feet high on the side of his church.

Mr Waters made a full confession, admitting that on various occasions before May 2007 he sent sexual messages to her - behaviour which he later accepted was ' scandalous and offensive'.

He was suspended from his position as rector of St Catwg's Church in Gelligaer, South Wales, in June 2007, but as the girl, understood to be a regular member of his congregation, was 16 at the time, police did not investigate.

I have a hard time with sending people to prison for sexting. Ending a career is enough punishment.

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