Posts Tagged “baptists”

Jesus weptFor years, I’ve reported on the problem of clerical predators abusing people — all too often, children — and be shielded by virtue of their sacred offices. Usually this has involved the Catholic Church, because the Catholic hierarchs have, historically, worked to prevent their clergy from being prosecuted or sued. They’ve even moved personnel around surreptitiously in order to keep them out of the hands of Johnny Law. Catholic apologists love to whine that these kinds of reports hit the media “only” when their precious Church is involved, and abuse by other clergy — or other types of folks, such as public-school teachers — is never reported. (In fact, it is! But they don’t really care to admit it.) They think this is some kind of defense of their Church.

Well, it’s not. Yes, I concede this sort of thing is not solely a Catholic problem. Over the years I’ve repeatedly said this, and have blogged about various cases. That, however, doesn’t appear to stop Catholic apologists from making this whine.

So to be clear, I present another sordid tale, reported by the Hartford Courant, that involves a Baptist church in New Haven, CT (WebCite cached article):

A pastor at a Baptist Church in New Haven was allowed to continue leading his church for five years while on the state sex offender registry after a child-molestation conviction, letters from church officials and state court records show.

It was only after his second arrest — in 2014 on child pornography charges — that Eli Echevarria stepped down from leading El Calvario Baptist Church, according to the letters and court records.

Church leaders, who operate independently of the central Baptist governing authority in Connecticut, have not responded to multiple requests for comment. Echevarria is serving a two-year prison sentence.

The Courant goes on to explain what happened here. Unlike the Catholic Church, which uses its vast size and its pervasive, homogeneous organization to help abusers avoid detection, Echevarria took advantage of Baptists’ decentralized structure and “hands off” approach:

But the case and the way it was handled have sparked criticism of the church’s governing authority.

The fact that American Baptist Churches of Connecticut, the church’s ruling body, never informed other pastors of Echevarria’s history came to the attention of William Keane, pastor at First Baptist Church of Branford, after Echevarria began attending his church.

Keane criticized the statewide church’s handling of Echevarria’s situation, including a policy put in place after Echevarria’s second conviction that requires state church officials to run the names of all pastors through the state’s sex offender registry list at least once every two years.…

ABCConn does not install local pastors. Individual churches hire, and can fire, their pastor. The statewide group only sets overarching policy.

In essence, then, this structure (or lack thereof) allows both the Baptists’ governing council in Connecticut, and the management of the El Calvario church, to endlessly pass blame to each other. It’s rather a convenient setup, isn’t it? Even if, ironically, it’s the opposite of how the Catholic Church gets around things like this.

I’m sure some Catholic apologists will jump up and down for joy at this revelation. “You see? It’s not just us!” they’ll happily announce. And in doing so, they won’t have gotten the point … which is that religions are supposedly bastions of morality, not dens of iniquity. Purposely structuring a religion in such a way as to allow predators to operate freely and without accountability, is no way to run things — unless you’re trying to arrange it so that malcontents can skate. That its clergy sometimes turn out to be criminals does nothing to reinforce the notion that a religion has any moral superiority. In fact, it leans against such a conclusion.

I’ll close by commending Pastor Keane for having worked to bring at least some accountability here. He took on his own organization, in defense of kids. Good for him! Would that there’d been more like-minded folks running El Calvario and managing ABCConn.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Mike HuckabeeThis is a tired, old argument that religionists often make against gay marriage. So perhaps it’s not really news, when a religionist like Mike Huckabee, failed presidential hopeful and former governor of Arkansas, declared that gay marriage is the equivalent of incest. But MSNBC reports on his idiotic, illogical, and irrational remarks (WebCite cached article):

Mike Huckabee, a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2012, says the effort to allow gays and lesbians to marry is comparable to legalizing incest, polygamy and drug use.

Huckabee also told college journalists last week that gay couples should not be permitted to adopt. “Children are not puppies,” he said.

Huckabee visited The College of New Jersey in Ewing, N.J., last Wednesday to speak to the Student Government Association. He also was interviewed by a campus news magazine, The Perspective, which published an article on Friday.

Huckabee is falling for the fallacy of the slippery slope. The fallacy here is an obvious one: Legalizing gay marriage does not also force society to legalize other things which are — currently — criminal. And that, of course, is the salient point here. Right now — even if gay marriage were not permitted anywhere in the country — it is still fully legal for two adults to be engaged in gay relationship, if they wish to be. (The last remaining sodomy laws in the US were struck down by the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas case.) Legalizing gay marriage merely extends an added right to people who are already doing something which is legally permissible. Legalizing incestuous marriages is therefore not an equivalent, because incest is illegal in the first place!

But the ferocious religionist Shucksabee doesn’t stop there. Oh no. He blathers on like a buffoon, revealing his raging ignorance with every syllable he utters:

Huckabee told the interviewer that not every group’s interests deserve to be accommodated, if their lifestyle is outside of what he called “the ideal.”

It’s interesting he’d bring up the notion of “ideals.” I could be wrong, but I think it would be “ideal” if Christians who ostensibly are against divorce, stopped divorcing. But the truth is that they do get divorced. According to the Barna Group, they get divorced at a higher rate than most others, and at a much higher rate than non-believers. See this page at Religious Tolerance (cached) and this page at Adherents.Com (cached) for more details on these statistics. And it’s Shucksabee’s own denomination — i.e. Baptists — who at one point had led the nation in divorce!

So let’s talk about marriage, and especially “ideals.” Definitely! Huck, let’s also talk about how your own fellow Christians, particularly Baptists, refuse to live up to the ideals of their own religion. We should talk about that … and we should mention that there’s a word for people who complain about other groups not living up to “ideals,” while one’s own cohorts simultaneously refuse to live up to them: That word, former governor, is hypocrisy.

Yes, hypocrisy. You may remember that word from your Bible, Huck, specifically the parts of it where the founder of your own religion ordered you and all the rest of his followers never to engage in hypocrisy. Jesus’ orders on that issue were clear and unambiguous.

I suggest you obey them, and stop being a flaming hypocrite. Try it sometime. Just once. OK? It won’t hurt you, Huck, I promise.

P.S. Huckabee’s use of an old but fallacious argument, is itself a fallacy, called argumentum ad nauseam. Repeating a demonstrably false claim — in this case, that gay marriage is the equivalent of incest — does not magically make it come true if it’s repeated often enough. All it does is make those who continue to spew it, look like the juvenile morons they actually are.

Photo credit: Jonathan D. Blundell.

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Things are looking stranger and stranger in the case of the Baptists who tried to take some children out of Haiti, about whom I’ve blogged a couple times. Not only were these not orphaned or abandoned children, it seems that, in some cases, the parents gave the children to them, in order to give them a free education. The New York Times reports on how the Baptists’ story grows increasingly disingenuous (WebCite cached article):

Guerlaine Antoine pushed aside a tub full of laundry, wiped her soapy hands on her T-shirt and rushed barefoot to bring out photos of the 8-year-old boy she entrusted to 10 American Baptists.

“Do you think I would give this child away?” she said, opening a grade school yearbook to show her son, Carl Ramirez Antoine, in cap and gown, at his kindergarten graduation. “He is my only treasure.” …

Kisnel and Florence Antoine said they sent two of their children with the Baptist missionaries because they had offered educational opportunities for the children in the Dominican Republic. Ketlaine Valmont said she had sent a son.

They showed school photos and academic awards to demonstrate that they had not selfishly sent their children away to lighten their load.

In a country where more than half of all children come from families too poor to keep them in school, the parents said that the Americans’ offer of an education seemed like a gift from heaven.

They also wanted to give opportunities for something better to their children. They said that the missionaries had promised they would be able to visit their children in the Dominican Republic, and that the children would be free to come home for visits.

At least these parents, then, were not giving up their child for adoption, just entrusting them to people who would educate them but still allow family visits. It’s clear, however, that the Baptists had planned to place these children for adoption:

The Americans said that the children had been orphaned in the earthquake, and that they had authorization from the Dominican government to bring the children into the country.

But it became clear on Tuesday that at least some of the children had not lost their parents in the earthquake.

So not only were these kids not orphaned or abandoned — and the Baptists knew this, because they had spoken with at least some of the parents — their claim of not planning to adopt them out, is also demonstrably untrue:

And while the Americans said they did not intend to offer the children for adoption, the Web site for their orphanage [WebCite cached version] makes clear that they intended to do so.

In addition to providing a swimming pool, soccer field and access to the beach for the children, the group, known as the New Life Children’s Refuge, said it also planned to “provide opportunities for adoption,” and “seaside villas for adopting parents to stay while fulfilling the requirement for 60-90 day visit.”

The reason these Haitian families were willing to trust these strangers with their children, is because a local minister vouched for them:

They trusted the Americans, they said, because they arrived with the recommendation of a Baptist minister, Philippe Murphy, who runs an orphanage in the area. A woman who answered the door at Mr. Murphy’s house said he had gone to Miami. But she also said that he did not know anything about the Americans.

It’s interesting, don’t you think, that a person as pivotal in all of this as the Rev Murphy, is somehow not to be found? Hmm.

It’s clear, at any rate, that this Baptist organization has told more than one lie to more than one person. This places them squarely among my “lying liars for Jesus” club.

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Comments Comments Off on Another Update: More On The Baptists In Haiti

Things are looking worse for the Baptist group based in Idaho which tried to abscond with some Haitian refugee children. The BBC now reports that not all the children’s parents are “missing” (WebCite cached article):

Haiti ‘orphans’ found with Americans may have parents

The Americans said the youngsters had all lost their parents in the quake.

But George Willeit, a spokesman in Port-au-Prince for SOS Children’s Villages, which is now looking after the children, says at least one of them, a little girl, said her parents were alive.

The children also apparently hadn’t been cared for very well, while the Baptists were trying to shuffle them out of Haiti:

Mr Willeit said many of the children had been found to be in poor health, hungry and dehydrated.

One of the smallest — just two or three months old — was so dehydrated she had to be taken to hospital, he added.

Haitian officials appear not to be taking this situation lightly:

“This is an abduction, not an adoption,” Haitian Social Affairs Minister Yves Christallin told AFP news agency.

The Baptist group is still in denial over this, claiming to have done nothing wrong:

The leader of the Idaho-based group, Laura Silsby, said the arrests were the result of a mistake.

“Our understanding was that we were told by a number of people, including Dominican authorities, that we would be able to bring the children across,” she said.

“The mistake we made is that we didn’t understand there was additional paperwork required.”

But as the BBC explains, it wasn’t even as simple as having missed a little bit of “additional paperwork”:

But the BBC’s Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, in Port-au-Prince, says the regulations are very clear — each case of child adoption must be approved by the government.

Even before the earthquake, he adds, child-smuggling was a massive problem in Haiti, with thousands of children disappearing each year.

Rules to prevent child-smuggling predated the earthquake, then, so anyone attempting to remove children from Haiti has no excuse for not knowing that government permission was required. As for their claim that the Dominican Republic approved their operation … I wasn’t aware that the D.R.’s government had any authority to decide whether Haitian children could leave their country. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see where that authority exists. Maybe the Baptists are aware of some rule to this effect, that I never heard of.

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We all know that Christians are commanded to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19), and as a rule, they generally feel compelled to convert as many people as possible to their own form of their religion. Abandoned and orphaned children in post-earthquake Haiti must have seemed like “easy pickings” to an Idaho Baptist church, so it looks like they went there and scooped some of them up. They’re now, understandably, in a heap of trouble because they tried it. The (UK) Guardian reports on this missionary venture (WebCite cached article):

American church group held after trying to take children out of Haiti

A group of 10 American Baptists were being held in Port-au-Prince today after trying to take 33 children out of Haiti.

The church group, most of them from Idaho, allegedly lacked the proper documents when they were arrested on Friday night in a bus along with children aged from two months to 12 years who had survived the earthquake.

The group said they were setting up an orphanage across the border in the Dominican Republic.

Their motives, they insist, were nothing but pure:

“In this chaos the government is in right now we were just trying to do the right thing,” the group’s spokeswoman, Laura Silsby, said at the judicial police headquarters in Port-au-Prince, where the Americans were being held pending a hearing tomorrow before a judge.

The Baptists’ Haitian Orphan Rescue Mission was described as an effort to save abandoned, traumatised children. They wanted to take 100 children by bus to a 45-room hotel at Cabarete, a beach resort in the Dominican Republic, that they were converting into an orphanage, Silsby told the AP.

The problem is that this sort of thing is kinda illegal at the moment, in Haiti, and for very good reason:

However, the Americans – the first known to be taken into custody since the 12 January quake – are now in the middle of a political firestorm in Haiti, where government leaders have suspended adoptions amid fears that parentless or lost children are more vulnerable than ever to child trafficking. …

Haiti has imposed new controls on adoptions since the earthquake, which left thousands of children parentless or separated from their families. The government now requires the prime minister Max Bellerive to personally authorise the departure of any child as a way to prevent child trafficking.

The Baptist church group insists they aren’t up to no good, though, and points out that they had “inside help”:

Silsby said the group, including members from Texas and Kansas, only had the best of intentions and paid no money for the children, whom she said they obtained from the Haitian pastor Jean Sanbil, of the Sharing Jesus Ministries.

As the Guardian goes on to say, these Baptists were ignorant of this rule, and in fact, had never bothered even trying to get any kind of clearance from the Haitian government:

Silsby said they had documents from the Dominican government, but did not seek any paperwork from the Haitian authorities before taking the children to the border.

Here, we call that “breaking the law for Jesus.” Not that it would be a new phenomenon, there are always religious folk who think their metaphysical beliefs entitle them to break laws. It’s one thing to believe one is supposed to “make disciples of all nations”; it’s quite another to just round up children whose parents are missing and just haul them away to raise them into the Baptist faith.

Hat tip: Skeptics & Heretics forum and Anti-Bible forum (both on Delphi Forums).

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Comments Comments Off on Carrying Proselytizing A Bit Too Far

Famous preacher Wiley Drake is proud of the fact that he prays for God to kill President Barack Obama. What’s more, he doesn’t see why anyone has a problem with this. The Associated Baptist Press reports on this bizarre character (WebCite cached version):

A former Southern Baptist Convention officer who on June 2 called the death of abortion provider George Tiller an answer to prayer said later in the day he is also praying “imprecatory prayer” against President Obama.

Wiley Drake, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, Calif., and former running mate of American Independent Party presidential candidate Alan Keyes, said June 2 on Fox News Radio he didn’t understand why people were upset with his comments quoted by Associated Baptist Press from a webcast of his daily radio talk show.

He knows this is just fine, because he has been instructed to do so by the Almighty, and anyone who disagrees needs to take it up with him:

“Imprecatory prayer is agreeing with God, and if people don’t like that, they need to talk to God,” Drake told syndicated talk-show host Alan Colmes. “God said it, I didn’t. I was just agreeing with God.”

But far from merely insisting he’s doing God’s work, Drake proudly elaborates on the kinds of things he prays for and is all too happy to confirm it:

Asked if there are others for whom Drake is praying “imprecatory prayer,” Drake hesitated before answering that there are several. “The usurper that is in the White House is one, B. Hussein Obama,” he said.

Later in the interview, Colmes returned to Drake’s answer to make sure he heard him right.

“Are you praying for his death?” Colmes asked.

“Yes,” Drake replied.

“So you’re praying for the death of the president of the United States?”

“Yes.”

So we have an unabashed, repeated confirmation of it. But then Colmes asks something that almost makes Drake back up:

Colmes asked Drake if he was concerned that by saying that he might be placed on a Secret Service or FBI watch list, and if he believed it appropriate to talk or pray that way.

“I think it’s appropriate to pray the Word of God,” Drake said. “I’m not saying anything. What I am doing is repeating what God is saying, and if that puts me on somebody’s list, then I’ll just have to be on their list.”

After telling us repeatedly that he was all too happy to obey God by praying for Obama’s death, Drake tries to swerve out of the way of Secret Service review by insisting that he’s merely “repeating what God is saying” and that, ultimately, he’s “not saying anything.”

What a fucking weasel.

Keep in mind that Wiley Drake is not just a “lunatic fringe” nutcase or a “nobody.” He is, rather, a widely-respected minister and a well-known voice in the Religious Right. He served as an officer for the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest and most influential Protestant denomination in the United States. Naturally this means the SBC went out of its way to distance itself from these remarks:

Sing Oldham, vice president for convention relations with the SBC Executive Committee, was unavailable for comment until late on May 4.

He said that while Drake served one year as second vice president of the SBC, he is not now nor has ever been a spokesman for the convention.

“Mr. Drake does not represent Southern Baptist actions, resolutions, or positions in his interpretation and application of ‘imprecatory prayers,'” Oldham said. “Any comments made by Wiley Drake on this subject represent his personal views, not those of the Convention.”

So there you have it … someone who once was part of the SBC’s leadership, cannot speak for the SBC. If you can figure out how that works, let me know, ’cause I can’t. Just another example of religious folk enabling each other’s outrages in order to evade having to take responsibility for them. Nice.

Hat tip: Apathetic Agnostic Church.

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About a year ago at this time, it looked as though Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, was going to be the Republican presidential nominee. But later, John McCain moved ahead of him and won the nomination. There’s been a lot of speculation as to why Romney collapsed so remarkably, just as the primaries were heating up. RNC chairman Michael Steele has weighed in on this, and his assessment, as reported by Politico, is candid:

RNC Chairman Michael Steele, hosting Bill Bennett’s talk show last week, offered his view that Mitt Romney’s main political problem in 2008 was the bias against Mormons in the Republican “base”:

[R]emember, it was the base that rejected Mitt because of his switch on pro-life, from pro-choice to pro-life. It was the base that rejected Mitt because it had issues with Mormonism. It was the base that rejected Mitch, Mitt, because they thought he was back and forth and waffling on those very economic issues you’re talking about. So, I mean, I hear what you’re saying, but before we even got to a primary vote, the base had made very clear they had issues with Mitt because if they didn’t, he would have defeated John McCain in those primaries in which he lost.

Romney’s well-reported “waffling” on abortion assuredly cost him some votes from among the Religious Right, but I had always suspected that latent anti-Mormonism played a role in the failure of his campaign, too — and it’s nice to hear a GOP insider admit it.

There is a backstory to the matter of Mormonism and its acceptance — or lack of it — by many Republicans. The Religious Right as it exists in the US is mostly a Baptist engine. It was the Southern Baptist Convention that gave birth to groups such as Moral Majority, which although it’s now defunct, really set the stage for the Religious Right as a powerful political institution. The Religious Right now has members from across the spectrum of Christian denominations, to be sure, but it remains primarily controlled by Baptists.

American Baptists in general, and the Southern Baptist Convention especially, have conflicted with Mormons for decades now. Both denominations have some appeal to conservatively-inclined Americans and therefore have long tussled over the same demographics. Longstanding Baptist animosity toward Mormons — largely predicated on the oft-repeated but theologically-questionable claim that Mormons are not Christians — could not possibly have failed to played a role in Romney’s demise.

Among the signals of the Religious Right’s underlying and overriding Baptist loyalties, is the fact that former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee sprang literally from the tail-end of the GOP pack, to become a prime rival to Romney, almost as soon as it appeared he might win the nomination. Huckabee, please note, is a Baptist minister by vocation. There is no coincidence here, and nothing surprising; rather, in the 2008 GOP presidential primaries, we saw the Religious Right remaining loyal to its Baptist roots as long as it could, only falling in line behind McCain (rather than Romney) as soon as it appeared Huckabee could not win the nomination in spite of his surge.

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