It’s snot right


WREG reports…

“Who would have thought a sneeze in school and a “bless you” would capture so much attention.

According to the website, a student at Dyer County High School in Newbern  was suspended for saying “bless you” to another student.

The superintendent of Dyer County Schools hasn’t commented on exactly happened, but some of Newbern’s residents are more than eager to share their opinions.

One of them is Thomas Autry.

“I do it all the time, right.  My wife sneezes at home and I say, ‘bless you,’” said Autry.

Autry heard about the alleged  “bless you” incident while he was on vacation in Indiana.

“And they were talking about it in Indiana. About the girl saying, ‘bless you’ when somebody sneezed and they suspended her for it. And that’s ridiculous,” said Autry.

On the website, Kendra Turner tells her side of the story in which she said “bless you” to  a student in keyboarding class, after the student sneezed.

According to Turner, who is a senior, she was reprimanded by the teacher, who said, “We will not have Godly speaking in my class.”

Turner said she then told the teacher that her pastor said she had a “Constitutional right…First Amendment Freedom of Speech.”

Turner said she was sent to the office and suspended from the keyboarding class.

While the Dyer County Schools superintendent has not commented on the alleged incident, we were told there is a strict policy in the keyboarding classroom against “outbursts,” including saying “bless you” when someone sneezes.

We’re told the policy is in place to assure students are not distracted, especially during tests.

David Nicholson, who lives in Newbern, said he’s waiting to hear the school’s version of what happened, but for now thinks the student was treated unfairly .

“Oh no.  She should not have been suspended for it at all. If anything, the common courtesy back would be just like, ‘thank you.’  Not, ‘hey you’re suspended,’” said David Nicholson.

We are still waiting for a response from the Dyer County Schools superintendent.”


Kong Hee on trial – updated*


Channel NewsAsia reports…

“City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee did not love the church and its members, and was not that concerned about it suffering losses, charged its former investment manager Chew Eng Han. Chew made these accusations against Kong in a bid to show he’d been deceived by his “spiritual mentor”.

The pair are among six leaders in the dock for allegedly misusing church funds to bankroll the secular pop music career of Kong’s wife, Sun Ho.

Wrapping up his cross-examination on Tuesday (Aug 19), Chew said that if Kong truly cared about the church getting back every dollar, he would have tried to salvage the songs that Ms Ho had already recorded for her US debut album. Kong could also have tried to sell the songs’ copyrights, or have Ms Ho return to the US to finish and launch the album, Chew said.

The album was part of the Crossover Project – the church’s way of evangelising through secular pop music. It was shelved after the Commercial Affairs Department launched an investigation into financial irregularities at the church in 2010.

Chew also charged that Kong could have put his own money into the project, instead of buying personal properties for himself. “During the years of the bonds being issued for the Crossover, from 2007 and 2010, you could have put your own money into the Crossover, instead of buying personal properties for yourself,” Chew charged.

Kong said he had “a lot on his plate at the time” – such as performing his spiritual duties – while coping with the investigations and legal proceedings. He admitted that perhaps he could have done more, but did not agree that what Chew put to him was evidence he did not love the church.

Kong also claimed he did not send Ms Ho back because the church needed her. “We had a crisis, we needed the co-founder to be back to calm the people,” he added.

Kong said that while the spiritual returns achieved of the Crossover Project were worth the price, he acknowledged that it had put the church and his co-accused persons through painful times. He called the investigations and current trial the “most traumatic event” in the church’s history.”

The prosecution began its cross-examination of Kong, asking about his relationship with all the accused, including Chew. Calling him a “very intelligent man”, Kong said that Chew was his “go-to man” for financial matters concerning the church.

And while he was not as close to Chew as he was to other church leaders, Kong said he did love and appreciate him, as he had been a “very good member of the church”.

“I don’t think I’ve been on vacation with him and his family, but his family has joined me for some mission trips. I had dinners in his home on several occasions, but it would not be anywhere … like my relationship with some of the other leaders in the church that I’m closer to. But I love Eng Han. I appreciated him. He’s a very good member of the church – he was”, said Kong.

Earlier, Chew also produced documents accusing Kong of inflating church attendance numbers. Kong said it was best for Chew to check with the department in the church that kept track of such numbers.”



City Harvest Church video

Brawling bishop


WABC reports…

“A disagreement between a local pastor and employees at a hotel in Queens quickly turned ugly, and the entire incident was caught on surveillance camera.

Pastor Bishop Mitchell Taylor went to the Howard Johnson in Long Island City on August 8 to confront the owner about a promise to hire locals at his business, but things then spiraled out of control.

It’s no question that people who live in the area are clamoring for more job opportunities, especially in hotels that are popping up around town.

As the dispute intensified, Taylor became so fired up that things turned violent.

The owners of the hotel, which is set to open soon, were embroiled in a heated discussion when Taylor shoved a staff member. Security kicked Taylor out, and the scuffle moved outside.

At one point, both a security guard and Taylor went down to the ground. The bishop, feeling threatened, then picked up a pickax. Now, police are investigating claims that Taylor threatened to kill the owner.

Hotel management insists that Taylor’s so-called hiring plan for his community are fuzzy at best.

“He was asking for 30 percent of all employees’ salaries on the company’s side…for his organization,” operations manager George Frangoulis said. “And he has received money from this company…$4,500.”

Taylor disputed that claim.

“They contributed to our gala,” he said. “$2,500, yes.”

When asked if he was asking for more money, he responded, “No, ma’am. Not at all.”

Taylor apologized for the violence, but he does not apologize for what motivated. He says this is about jobs in his community, and his group held a rally Friday.”



Aussie church leader was KGB spy


The Age reports…

“A highly respected Australian church leader was a KGB spy, according to newly released Russian intelligence archives.  

Archbishop Aghan Baliozian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of Australia and New Zealand, was listed as a KGB agent, codenamed “Zorik” in the papers of former KGB archivist and defector Vasili Mitrokhin, which were released by the UK’s Churchill College Archive last month.  

Born in Syria in 1946, the late Archbishop Baliozian arrived in Australia in 1975 to serve as Vicar General of the diocese of the Armenian Church before being appointed as Primate of Australia and New Zealand in 1982. 

A highly respected religious leader and a well-known figure in Chatswood, Sydney, Archbishop Baliozian was strongly committed to ecumenism, working for cooperation and greater unity between Christian churches.

He was the first president of the National Council of Churches in Australia from 1994 to 1997 and president of the NSW Ecumenical Council from 2005 to 2007. He represented the Armenian Church at the World Council of Churches.  

Archbishop Baliozian was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 1995 “in recognition of service to the Armenian community” and the Centenary Medal in 2001, again for community service.  

However, Mitrokhin’s papers on KGB espionage operations in Australia allege Archbishop Baliozian was recruited by Soviet intelligence in 1973 while undertaking theological studies in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, then part of the Soviet Union.  

According to Mitrokhin’s notes of Soviet state security files, Aghan Baliozian went on to work as a KGB agent while studying and teaching in Jerusalem in 1974, and maintained “ongoing communications in three countries”. He continued contact with the KGB after he transferred to the Armenian Church in Australia, according to the papers.  

However, Mitrokhin’s papers also suggest that his performance in Australia was considered unsatisfactory. The third department of the KGB’s foreign intelligence directorate, responsible for operations in Australia, concluded Archbishop Baliozian had “insufficient operational training” and eventually discontinued his employment.  

The precise terms of Archbishop Baliozian’s separation from the KGB are not recorded in Mitrokhin’s notes and it is not known whether he had any further dealings with Soviet intelligence in the 1980s.  

Mitrokhin’s notes of KGB files record Soviet state security’s extensive efforts to recruit clergy as agents and informants, especially in churches with a significant presence in the former Soviet Union. 

British intelligence historian Christopher Andrew, who collaborated with Mitrokhin on two books, claims that, during the Cold War the KGB recruited a number of representatives on the World Council of Churches, mainly from the Russian Orthodox Church but from other denominations as well, in successful efforts to influence the Council’s policies. 

Archbishop Baliozian died in September 2012. More than 600 people attended his funeral at the Armenian Apostolic Church in Chatswood, including three archbishops from Jerusalem, India and Armenia.  

Many NSW political figures paid tribute to the archbishop, with Liberal MP Jonathan O’Dea applauding his commitment to inter-religious dialogue as well as his abilities as an orator.  

“Always approachable and gregarious, the archbishop was captivating as a speaker… He would simply speak from the heart, capturing the attention of young and old in his congregation and developing a strong and loyal following,” Mr O’Dea told the NSW Parliament.”


Vicky Beeching vs Scott Lively


The Telegraph reports…

“A US pastor has told a Christian rock star who came out as gay on Thursday that she has “given into a lie” by believing that there is any such thing as a ‘gay person’.

Vicky Beeching, a British musician and theologian whose songs are syndicated in mega-churches across the American Bible Belt, said she had vowed to come out after suffering an auto-immune disease from the stress of keeping her sexuality secret.

But Scott Lively, who has called for ‘advocating homosexuality’ to be criminalised in the United States, said she had to accept the power of God to help her abandon her gay “inclinations”.

In a heated debate on Channel 4 News, he said: “I have a lot of sympathy towards Vicky.

“My sister was a lesbian. In fact, I was the person that she came out to when she was a teenager, and I was the person that she turned to later when lesbianism had almost destroyed her. She became a Christian and overcame lesbianism.

“So I have a lot of sympathy for people who struggle with the challenge that Vicky is facing. I am very sorry to hear that she has given in to the lie that she is a homosexual, instead of continuing to try and overcome the challenge that is in her life.”

The controversial pastor said there was “no such thing” as an intrinsically gay person, saying homosexuality was merely “an identity you adopt”.

Lively, whose Abiding Truth Ministries charity has been classified as a ‘hate group’ by US activists, has claimed credit for Russia’s controversial ‘gay propaganda’ law but rejected as “a lie” accusations that he had helped the Ugandan government draft an anti-gay bill which included the death penalty.

Nevertheless, he has been a loud advocate of the ‘gay therapy’ treatments which Beeching said had “scarred” and “damaged” her.

In her original interview, Beeching described being terrified by an ‘exorcism’ at a Christian summer camp in the English countryside which involved worshippers surrounding her and touching her while “wailing and screaming” in tongues.

His comments on Channel 4 prompted a tense exchange in which she accused his teachings of “damaging so many people” who had been created gay by God.

The pastor in turn claimed she had “adopted the thinking of the world, including the idea that being criticised damages you.” Beeching interrupted: “Like science?”


Cliff Richard investigation


The Guardian reports…

“A police raid on a home owned by Cliff Richard is part of an investigation into an allegation of sexual assault on a boy at a rally held by the evangelical US preacher Billy Graham three decades ago.

Richard’s property in Berkshire was searched on Thursday by detectives investigating the claim that the boy, aged under 16 at the time, was abused by an adult at a faith event held by the US pastor in Sheffield, Yorkshire in the 1980s. The rally was held at Bramall Lane, the home of Sheffield United Football Club.

Police said they wanted to speak to the owner of the property that was searched, but would not say whether that was as a suspect or a witness or in another capacity.

Graham, a friend and counsellor to former US presidents Richard Nixon, George Bush Sr and George W Bush, held the rally in Sheffield in June 1985.

Richard’s home in Sunningdale, Berkshire, was raided after police gained a search warrant from Sheffield magistrates court.

Police said the alleged victim came forward with the complaint recently. South Yorkshire police, who received the complaint, said they were treating it seriously and had begun a criminal investigation.

Richard, who is currently in Portugal, said the claim was “completely false” and that the raid on his Berkshire property came without notice.

He said in a statement: “For many months I have been aware of allegations against me of historic impropriety which have been circulating online. The allegations are completely false.

“Up until now I have chosen not to dignify the false allegations with a response, as it would just give them more oxygen.

“However, the police attended my apartment in Berkshire today without notice, except it would appear to the press. I am not presently in the UK but it goes without saying that I will cooperate fully should the police wish to speak to me.

“Beyond stating that today’s allegation is completely false it would not be appropriate to say anything further until the police investigation has concluded.”

In a statement, South Yorkshire police said: “A search warrant was granted after police received an allegation of a sexual nature dating back to the 1980s involving a boy who was under the age of 16 at the time. No one has been arrested and the owner of the property was not present.”

Officers left Richard’s property at about 3.30pm in unmarked cars after spending five hours in the house on a gated estate. Eight officers, some from South Yorkshire and others from the Thames Valley force, were involved in the search of the estate, which has 20 acres of grounds, a tennis complex, health spa and swimming pool.

Journalists and photographers had maintained a vigil in front of the Charter secondary school, opposite the estate, while helicopters from media organisations hovered overhead. One resident said: “We knew there was something going on when we heard the helicopters and then we saw it on the news. He’s got a lot of fans. A lot of people are going to be very shocked [by the allegations].”

He said a number of famous people lived in the area, including Chris Evans and Tom O’Connor, but they tended to keep themselves to themselves.

Richard, 73, is one of the most successful British recording artists and has enjoyed a career that has spanned several decades.

Police said the search was not connected to Operation Yewtree, established in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal, which is being run by the Metropolitan police.

Richard’s routine for many years has been to spend the whole of August in the Algarve before heading to New York for the US Open. As recently as 4 August he attended a charity event at his winery in Albufeira. He has a villa nearby.

Graham, dubbed “America’s pastor”, has been friends with Richard for decades. The singer chose a Graham rally in London in 1966 to announce that he was a Christian.”


Pastor pocketed church funds


WJRH reports…

“A Tulsa pastor is accused of fraudulently using nearly $1 million of church and community center money.

Reverend Willard Jones, pastor of the Greater Cornerstone Baptist Church and founder of the Greater Cornerstone Community Development Project , is charged with wire fraud and filing a false tax return.

According to court documents, Jones solicited millions of dollars in contributions from donors to build and operate the community center that provides services to the community, including health exams, food, clothing and after school programs.  Then beginning around September 2007, Jones allegedly devised a scheme to defraud the community center of money and property.

Jones is accused of unlawfully using funds in the amount of $933,507.80 for his own personal benefit.

Court documents allege Jones withdrew money from the community center’s and the church’s bank accounts and deposited it into his personal bank accounts or paid for personal expenses, including a Rolex watch and a mink fur coat.

Three instances of wire transfers between August and October of 2011 are cited in the court filing, each for thousands of dollars to pay for construction at Jones’ residence.

Jones is also charged with filing a false tax return in 2011.  According to the court filing, Jones “knowingly failed to report approximately $390,061 of income” that year.

This came to light when the center’s board of directors noticed money missing. They audited, confronted Jones and turned findings over to the FBI.

Cornerstone Community Center’s Executive Director Rossalyn Wilson said the center is still open but struggling. She said Jones hasn’t had anything to do with it since June 2013 when allegations came to light.

Jones didn’t answer when 2News knocked on the door at his north Tulsa home. His attorney out of the office too.”