Picking a starting point when writing about so many despicable characters is difficult and maybe impossible, especially when the subjects normally rank among the good guys--preachers. For years preachers, ministers and pastors ranked among the most trusted individuals in the United States, but the scandal in the Catholic Church with priestly pedophiles changed much of that perception.
During that time, Protestant churches avoided that kind of unrelenting scrutiny and for a variety of reason, the absence or minimal role of a central organization like the vey visible Vatican and the Pope. Despite the low amount of publicity received by Protestantism, the Catholic Church may be only the tip of the iceberg when if comes to aberrant behavior.
Aside from matching the pedophilia of the Catholic Church, it appears Protestant preachers break new ground when it comes to deviant behavior, money lust and technology abuse. Since the number of preacher perpetrators uncovered in research ran into the thousands, this piece only covers the strangest or most egregious behavior.
The sickness in the American ministry is typified by the evangelist preacher that called for the assassination of a foreign leader or the now deceased Atlanta megachurch pastor whose nephew turned out to be his son after he impregnated his brother's wife.
Recently, a preacher in Alabama was sentenced to prison after police found his dead wife stuffed in a freezer. Another preacher pled guilty to ordering a hit on a blind man to collect on several insurance policies. In San Antonio, a youth pastor was convicted of choking and stabbing his pregnant girlfriend to death.
On the other hand, there is the music minister in Fort Wayne that pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct with a minor and then asked the judge not to send him to prison because the "F" word by other prisoners would offended him. Or, the Tennessee preacher arrested wearing a miniskirt after offering to have sex with the arresting officers.
One of the most bizarre cases involves a pastor breaking into a home and stealing a sex toy. The grand theft dildo even brought sympathy from the victim who said, "I'm sorry for the pastor and his family. The crime seems almost laughable until considering no one was in the house.
Another Tennessee case saw a Baptist Preacher and his sentenced to 179 years for the rape and torture of their adopted daughter. Esther Combs testified that Rev. Joe Combs and his wife, Evangeline Combs, beat, hanged, and cut her. According to court records the abuse continued for 19 years. In Georgia, Jim Creason, a minister on hard times was charged with armed robbery. The minister told the arresting officers that he was financially desperate.
The death of a child is always tragic, but it turns criminal when it could have been avoided. Rev. Hobart Freeman, a preacher whose followers refuse medical aid was indicted on charges that his teachings led to the death of a teenage disciple with chronic kidney disease.
Believing half of what you see and none of what you hear is old advice, but good strategy in today's world after an anti-gay preacher ended trapped in a homosexual sting. The Rev. Lonnie w. Latham a former member of the executive committee of the Southern Baptist Convention preached against marriage and even promoted a resolution calling on gays to abandon their sinful lifestyles. Ironically, the charges against Latham were dropped, but the damage had been done.
Obviously, the range of chicanery and perversion among Protestant preacher clearly rivals and exceeds that of priests in the Catholic Church where the main issues are pedophilia, embezzlement and sexual misconduct between consenting adults, but the range of Protestant perversions has just scratched the surface.
Once hidden in the shadows male dominance, domestic violence moved onto the front pages in the last 30 years and the clergy find themselves there along with commonest of humanity. Even the daughter of world-renowned evangelist Billy Graham found herself in that unwanted position of being arrested for allegedly choking her husband. Just a state away a senior Baptist minister faced charges of domestic violence after allegedly threatening his wife with a shotgun. Jeff D. Wit her was arrested at his home where he allegedly kept his wife from dialing 911.
The call of the wild can produced strange results. A New York pastor, Craig Rhodenizer, was the subject of an FBI and New York State Police missing person search after he disappeared after taking his computer for repairs. The pastor was found four days later at the K. C. Lounge, a strip club in Ohio. Keeping the FBI busy, former minister Troy Cecil Snowden was indicted on gun charges, as well as, possession of child pornography, wire fraud and transporting a child for illegal purposes. In Yakima, Washington, youth pastor Jim Cannelloni received a six-year sentence for child pornography and must register as a sex-offender upon release from the penitentiary.
Baltimore deacon, Gerald H. White, was charged with taking sexually suggestive photographs of young girls. Robert Kevin Carlino, youth minister, was charged under a federal complaint with downloading 134 images of child pornography to his personal computer.
Sexual abuse of any kind is a despicable crime, but it can be worse. A Shelbyville, KY pastor charged with sexual abuse also has AIDS. James Howard Bell was charged with sexual abuse, sodomy and wanton endangerment. Bell confessed that he "knowingly" withheld information from the juvenile that he was HIV positive. An Indiana pastor received a six-year sentence after sexually abusing a teenage boy. Mark Allen Johnson was convicted of four felony sex charges.
Preachers stealing money is nothing new and today's Protestant ministers definitely rank as criminal professionals. A Perris, California pastor was convicted of bilking more than 500 people out of nearly $32 million in a fraudulent investment scheme. Rev. Robert Jennings and another man were convicted on charges of mail fraud, wire fraud and securities fraud facing up to 200 years in prison. Not quite as high on the hog is the pastor convicted of embezzlement who sold a church to purchase a BMW. Randall Radic was charged with forging ownership documents to obtain loans on his home owned by the church.
A Culpepper pastor received 310 years in prison for insurance fraud. Rev. Charles Shifflett filed fraudulent Workman's Compensation claims. He pled guilty to 20 felony charges. Victor Whitworth, a Waterbury, Connecticut pastor was charged with forging his name on a check for $16,245 to participate in an e- mail scam that cost victims millions of dollars. In another car deal, pastor Larry Davis pled guilty to stealing more than $700,000 to support his gambling addiction. He also used a portion of the money to purchase a 911 Porsche. He faces a 30 year sentence and possible $1 million fine.
A Texas and Kansas City minister pled guilty to security fraud charges after a $7.2 million scheme brought federal attention. The Rev. Edward D. Halliburton of Kansas City, KS and Joseph Harrell of Waco, TX waived their rights to a Gran Jury investigation and pled guilty.
Purloining preachers know no limit to larceny as a New York pastor was charged with stealing thousands of dollars to pay for prescription drugs, plastic surgery and Botox injections. The rev. William Blasingame is facing up to 15-years in prison on grand larceny charges. Car theft isn't a usual larcenous desire for any preacher, but in North Little Rock, Arkansas, pastor sped away with $11,000 in church money and a Mercedes-Benz after working there only 9-months. Robert David Keith is charged under a federal warrant with grand larceny and auto theft.
There is no scheme that goes unexploited among unscrupulous clergy including illegal immigration like that thought up by Edgar Lopez Bertrand, a televangelist who pleaded guilty of faking a passport for a girl he claimed to be his daughter. Some even work in teams, as father and son pastors in Yorba Linda, CA, were sentenced to two years in prison for stealing $3.1 million to buy luxury cars, time shares and golf club memberships. In Florida a Jensen Beach pastor and his wife were convicted and sentenced to more than years in prison for mortgage fraud.
Drugs certainly seem outside of the criminal purview of even the most larcenous preacher because of the stigma involved, but a bet against that speculation will be a loser. In Saginaw, assistant pastor Robert B. Conner Jr. Was fined $1,000 for possession of marijuana. John T. Nelson, a volunteer minister in Chicago was arrested and charged after 7.3 grams of cocaine were allegedly found during a traffic stop. In York, Pennsylvania, Craig Mable was arrested on a federal drug warrant for allegedly delivering 50 grams of crack cocaine. In Oklahoma another pastor was charged with selling prescription pain killers and Xanax. Pastor Erik Johansson was arrested for growing marijuana in his church in West Warwick, RI. He was indicted on federal conspiracy charges of cultivation more than 180 marijuana plants in his church. Rounding out the drug parade a Louisiana pastor and his daughter were arrested and allegedly found I. Possession of several pounds of marijuana and crack cocaine. Pastor Martin Denesse and his daughter were stopped trying to avoid a police roadblock.
There seems no limit to the depravity of some preachers. In Fredricksburg, VA, the Rev. John Edward Johnson was charged with felony embezzlement after allegedly stealing a $14,000 lottery prize from a homeless dementia patient.
From here the list goes on and includes crimes such as kidnapping, brandishing a weapon in public, arrests for back child support, indecent exposure, child cruelty, on-line soliciting, voyeurism, failure to register as a sex offender, DUI, Sexting, prostitution, soliciting prostitution, bootlegging, arson, child neglect, identity theft, tax evasion, stock manipulation, stalking, selling fake diplomas and even hiding a corpse.
None of the crimes listed above are one-off types, meaning they are representative of crimes committed with some degree of regularity. Although the emphasis focuses on cases that appear unusual there is nothing humorous or even unbelievable about them. Rather, they are just some of the problems confronting America's Protestant clergy.
Despite the number of property crimes listed such as theft, embezzlement and fraud, the list of sex crimes by far surpass those crimes by as much as ten times. The list of sex crimes including rape, molestation, improper touching, on-line solicitation of sex from a minor, pornography, voyeurism and more. The writers personal research encompasses more than 2,000 sexual cases in the last five years in which perpetrators were convicted and sentenced to prison.
Not listed in this free-for-all of pastorally perversion is homosexuality, which is not a crime, but that does not mean there was nothing to report as a snow storm of anti-gay rights and anti-gay marriage activists found themselves busted soliciting gay sex, including several national figures, which will be covered in a separate story that focuses solely on those holy men that regularly castigate gay men and women when in reality they are gay themselves.
With the constant bantering in politics about family values and morality, it seems the Protestant leadership is missing the message.