Category Archives: Church Frauds & Related Crimes

SAYMA 2021: The Post-Mortem

Bob McGahey, the Clerk of SAYMA (Southern Appalachian Yearly Meeting & Association), saw what was coming at last week’s 2021 annual sessions.

What did he see? Trouble & woe.

How do I know?

Because he said so, in a Clerk’s letter sent out as the group was gathering (mostly in Zoom) last week.

The key passage:

Unfortunately, as we approach SAYMA yearly sessions, there are those among us who would enforce their deeply held convictions through pressuring, judging, and threatening behavior. One plenary speaker and two workshops have been challenged and threatened with disruption. One of those workshops has been cancelled, and the leader of the second feels genuinely threatened by escalating attacks, asking for protection. As an open religious society, our protection comes from the divine, which resides deep within each of us, acting from within the body, not from a hierarchy of leaders.

He was mistaken about that last item: protection, especially in SAYMA, comes from leaders and staunch Friends with resolve to uphold good Quaker order, or it will not come at all.

Both were essentially absent from SAYMA’s annual sessions. Continue reading SAYMA 2021: The Post-Mortem

Michael Cohen, Trump & the Right Price for Selling Your Soul

Almost by accident, in 1997 I became a crime reporter, specializing in church-related financial frauds.  My first major investigative report, called “Fleecing the Faithful,” is still online.

Michael Cohen’s book “Disloyal” brings back those years.

The crime schemes I covered were obscure, and often complicated to explain. Although they ruined many lives, they did so quietly. Cases typically lacked physical violence, dead bodies or sex. Hence few except the biggest ever got much media attention.

Yet religious based frauds were (& are) plentiful & destructive. And they didn’t have to directly involve “church” to be religious, at least for me. That’s because these crimes, like others, involve one of the central religious issues, namely the reality of evil. In fact, these cases’ lack of lurid melodrama made it easier for me to focus, at least In reflecting on them, on the underlying question:

Continue reading Michael Cohen, Trump & the Right Price for Selling Your Soul

Mayor Pete & his notorious (2019 Christmas) Tweet

So how offensive is this?

“Today I join millions around the world in celebrating the arrival of divinity on earth, who came into this world not in riches but in poverty, not as a citizen but as a refugee. No matter where or how we celebrate, merry Christmas.”

That’s mayor Pete Buttigieg’s Xmas tweet, complete & unexpurgated.

Personally, I thought it was pretty cool, if one is into such things: respectfully restrained, but clear about his own stance. His being “out” about his faith, but not obnoxious or triumphalist, I find an appealing feature of his presence on the political scene.

But it’s blowing up the evangelical internet.

Rev. Dr. Darrell Scott of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, for instance, didn’t put too fine a point on it: “When did you come up with that load of crap?” he explained.

One objection that’s been raised has some merit: it’s not likely that Mary & Joseph were “poor” in first century terms: they could afford to make the trip that took them thru Bethlehem, and likely had the shekels to pay for a bunk in the inn, if it hadn’t been sold out.

OTOH the cries that Jesus didn’t arrive as a refugee are more shaky. First off, he was “homeless” when he landed; staying in a stable was definitely not Doubletree. A lot of things have changed since then, yet stable smells abide . . . .

Then, when the angels quit singing and the three wise guys were gone, there were, you know, diapers, or whatever they called Pampers then. (Jesus may have had a virgin birth, but the prophets hadn’t said squat about a poopless parturition.)

Even worse was the news that King Herod had launched a massacre of male babies, aimed directly at him. I mean, how would he get into the right Betsy DeVos Christian preschool with a price on his head (and no security detail)?

So the parents swaddled the babe & high-tailed it to Egypt, where they were definitely refugees, for a good (if textually unspecified) while. And if they weren’t poor when they started, this long unplanned side trip — several hundred miles, on a donkey, thru hills and across desert, and the roads! (wait, what roads?) –had to bring them close to the edge. (For evidence, check the pictures of homeless camps in your state.)

Okay, whatever: SCOTT and a bunch of other preachers aren’t having it. Still, having their obnoxious “gospel” thus exposed, while it isn’t fun, could be valuable over time: if we’re going to have religion in public life, Mayor Pete’s way of showing it is much more appealing & manageable than that of the prattling theocrats who now cluster & preen around their golden(haired) calf in The Oval Office.

BTW I like Mayor Pete, but this post is not an endorsement.  Too soon for that, and I like others as well. But I do endorse his tweet.

As for Rev. Dr. Scott and his chorus, I can offer but an echo: When did you come up with that load of crap?

“Spotlight”: A Movie About Reporters: A Treatise On Evil

“Spotlight”: A Movie About Reporters: A Treatise On Evil

Just watched “Spotlight.” The reviews are right: it’s a taut journalistic thriller about how the Boston Globe’s legendary Spotlight investigative reporting team blew the lid off the system of pedophile priest protection in the city’s Catholic archdiocese. And through that, opened the door to exposure of a worldwide criminal conspiracy that is still being dismantled, and still being protected.

Spotlight-Break-Story-Silence

 

 

Yeah it’s a fine film: terrific acting, suspenseful even though we know
how it turns out. It has multiple Oscars written all over it, but wears its excellence without flash, much the way the real-life Spotlight team operated. Continue reading “Spotlight”: A Movie About Reporters: A Treatise On Evil

The Pope Resigns . . . Two Reactions

Part 1 — Concerning the impending change in popes:

The level and intricacy of maneuver, plots, schemes, conivings, chicanery and competing conspiracies within the upper circles of the RC church are beyond anything that Dan “Da Vinci Code” Brown or Marvel Comix could imagine. So us outside small fry can only speculate, and wait for the tell-all books to come out in a few years or decades; they should be seriously lurid.

Continue reading The Pope Resigns . . . Two Reactions

The Inhuman Side of Humanitarianism

Philip Gourevitch is a writer for the New Yorker, and a student of foreign affairs, including wars. In the Oct.11 issue of the magazine, he published a stunning piece, “Alms Dealers,” which demands the attention of every one who ever wanted to give money or time to help someone in distress far away, or even nearby. It is especially salient and urgent for Quakers concerned with the transfer of cash from US Quaker groups to churches and projects in Kenya.

Continue reading The Inhuman Side of Humanitarianism

Do Ask, Do Tell: Looking For Love In One of the Wrong Places

There’s this older gay man, I’ll call him Algernon. He’s not a Friend but has recently been attending Quaker meeting in an eastern state.  Early last yearUN peacekeepers he and his longtime partner parted, and Algernon wanted to find some new companionship. So he went onto the net.  Soon he was in touch with a man we’ll call Moncrieff, who said he was a UN peacekeeper stationed near Baghdad. This appealed to Algernon. While he was once in the military, he’s since developed a strong concern for peace issues; I think that’s what helped draw him toward Friends.

Continue reading Do Ask, Do Tell: Looking For Love In One of the Wrong Places

Buddy, Can You Spare A Few Million Shillings? A Kenya Fraud Update & Request

Kenyan 100 shilling noteSeems to me it’s time for an open update for American and other Friends on the struggle against theft and corruption in Quaker institutions and programs in Kenya. This question has been growing on me in recent months, but I figured maybe there had been one and I missed it. But it was brought back to mind by some recent news reports.

Did anybody else see these BBC stories?

Continue reading Buddy, Can You Spare A Few Million Shillings? A Kenya Fraud Update & Request

September 3, 1998 Harmon Case Update

More Charges to Come, Prosecutors Say

On September 3, Terrill D. “Terry” Beebe, signed a plea agreement in a Seattle Federal Court, admitting to “Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud, Wire Fraud and Embezzlement from a Health Care Benefit Program, in violation of Title 18, U Code, Section 371,” according to the prosecutor’s information filed with the case. The charges were part of the ongoing investigation of the Philip Harmon-National Friends Insurance Trust Case, code-named “Operation Island Scam.”

Continue reading September 3, 1998 Harmon Case Update