Jun 292015

1282786204310The COG is officially flipping its collective shit over gay marriage, joining angry old conservative Christian white people across the U.S. in universal disgust with Friday’s SCOTUS decision that struck down state prohibitions against same-sex marriage.

Really, last week was terrible for America’s rightwing fringe — where the COG often fits on the political spectrum — with Confederate flags coming down, SCOTUS upholding universal health care and then immediately thereafter declaring that the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection provisions extend to same-sex marriages. If those aren’t three of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, what are?

Far from the fringe rightwing being completely ideologically and legally defeated, backlashes are already beginning and these fights are far from over: Black churches are starting to burn anew as white supremacists retaliate against waves of sympathy for the black community. The GOP continues to lean on final desperate measures to battle The Affordable Care Act. Republicans try to prevent gay people from marrying and promote civil disobedience in protest of new legal rights. And the march toward equality, while having taken a massive leap forward, still has long slog ahead as racism, homophobia and other tethers of traditional society fray but refuse to break.

The rage is real and the culture war has reached its middle.

So while everyone including major corporations, The White House, LGBT rights activists and most people under the age of 40 celebrate the further propagation of civil rights in a huge rainbow-colored explosion, the COG is right there to join the chorus of hateful apocalyptic doomsayers who think this is yet another sign of the end. COG members are raging and sorrowing on social media, some lashing out against and defriending their secular acquaintances and anyone else speaking out in favor of the ruling. And COG ministers of course are fearmongering about America’s slide into an amoral cesspool, echoing decades of bigotry against even the closeted LGBT people in their midst, the legacy of Herbert W. Armstrong’s hatred still echoing strongly through the splinter cults today.

ICOG’s Mark Armstrong scathed over the ruling:

This is a week that will live in infamy. A majority on Supreme Court of the United States has officially flipped off God. They’ve held that their judgment supersedes His Law. However this monstrous miscarriage of jurisprudence plays out across our lives, there is no question that six of the justices just elevated their temporal authority above that of God.

There appears to be no more remedy under the Constitution or in our judicial system to obey God in the face of those who would force the will of the sodomites upon us all. Certainly Christian ministers will have no protection for opting out of the performance of a queer matrimonial ceremony. They will face law-suits in Federal Court claiming discrimination and all kinds of pain and suffering on the part of the plaintiffs, they will be on the hook for civil damages at the least, and potentially punitive sanctions for having violated Federal Law.

UCG, despite its surface makeover, continues its traditional homophobia by comparing homosexuality to rape and murder:

God’s opinion of homosexuality has not changed—it’s never been okay. Some people feel homosexual feelings now, just as some people have through all of human history. God asks us as His children to choose the right way to live, no matter what hand time and chance deal us in life—whether that be urges to murder others, burn things down, cut ourselves, rape somebody, pursue homosexual relationships, steal someone else’s property, or whatever.

COGWA claims that same-sex couples are simply inferior to heterosexual couples:

God purposely made men different from women so that the two complement each other. There are attributes and abilities that a man has that a woman doesn’t (and vice versa). It is through marriage that two individuals become one, combining the strengths of each, which God calls “very good.” One of the many blessings that come from the marriage union is children.

On the other hand, same-sex couples are incapable of these God-designed results of marriage. Same-sex couples may adopt children, impregnate a surrogate mother, or even be impregnated by donor sperm, but that is not the same as a father and mother sharing in their child’s birth as a result of the oneness they share—sexually, mentally and emotionally.

LCG meanwhile is screaming about perceived persecution of Christians by the evil gays:

Indeed, the facts already show that many claims made by homosexual activists during their march to acceptance are, in the end, lies—whether born of unintended and willful ignorance, confused delusion or practiced deceit.

Artists and craftspeople who serve couples at their weddings—cake decorators, planners and photographers—are already facing lawsuits and financially devastating fines when they exercise their religious convictions and choose not to help celebrate a same-sex “marriage.”

Ministers who run wedding chapel businesses are finding that they must be willing to “marry” same-sex couples or perhaps face fines and even jail time. Local pizza makers who say they cannot in good conscience cater a “gay wedding” have experienced threats to their business. State laws guaranteeing religious freedom are increasingly under attack, out of concern that individuals may use them to express their religious conscience in support of traditional marriage. Millions of Americans are feeling as if their vaunted First Amendment freedom of religion is giving way to the mandate, “Thou shalt embrace gay marriage.”

The deeply-closeted, already struggling gay COG members out there have to be feeling worse than ever reading all this bilge as homosexuality is treated like a subhuman mental illness and the desire to find wedded happiness with a lifelong partner painted as a despicable plot to tear society apart.

The COG, like many fundamentalist Christians, deny not only that LGBT people deserve rights equal to everyone else’s, but also the science behind homosexuality, rejecting the basic facts that sexuality is decided by genetics and exists on a spectrum. After all, if gay people actually didn’t have a choice in their sexual orientation, that would pretty much make the COG a bunch of unfeeling monsters incapable of basic human empathy. Now wouldn’t that be weird?

Jan 032015

For decades, the COG has promoted itself as “elect” and “called” to God’s “special” truths. In the views of many — and certainly as preached by COG ministers — the Holy Spirit really lives with them and all other religions of “the world” are deceived and empowered only by Satan.

Sure, they harp about sin and how humans are imperfect. But that imperfection is too often used as an excuse to sweep terrible crimes under the rug, ignore bad behavior or simply deny that terrible things are happening within their own congregations, perpetrated by people they call brethren — and in many cases elders and other church employees.

When it comes to awful crimes like pedophelia — which have been among the most abundant COG-related news stories in the general media across 2013 and 2014 — this whole “Holy Spirit” guiding the church and its members and leaders thing has to be called into question. Obviously, nobody of any sort of moral fiber — which includes the average COG member — would have anything but sheer contempt for the sort of sick, twisted stories of crimes against children that have boiled up across the world through the courts and into newspapers, nor should members have to shoulder the shame of those around them that perpetrate these horrors. But the problem is, most COG members don’t even know about them. Considering how small even the largest COG groups have become, it takes a special type of tunnel vision to not even hear that someone you once went to church with has been sentenced to life in prison. And yet, so many of the COG members we speak to about these cases don’t have a clue they’ve been in the public eye.

Atrocities like these aren’t only cautionary tales that very real predators are out there, including in the COG, but are also another testament to the cultist mindset and cultural isolation that permeate many Armstrongist splinters. It also calls into question just how “ordained” these ministers are to not even get the slightest hint from the divine that the guy they’ve appointed as a spokesman, elder or congregational charity case has a long history of raping kids. It’s a lapse in judgement that shouldn’t be ignored when asking whether the COG really represents “God’s church.”

Obviously, the COG isn’t the only religious movement that has experienced newsworthy allegations against pedophiles in their midst. The Roman Catholic Church can certainly sympathize. But reveling in not being the worst is a pretty far cry from bragging rights.

These are just the men whose allegations against them have recently surfaced into the public light. If we missed any, please let us know and we’ll add them to the listing. There have been tales of more such monsters who seem to have escaped justice for their crimes.

And of course, Herbert W. Armstrong himself has long been accused of sexual crimes against his own daughter, starting when she was a teenager. Whether or not that’s true (the preponderance of evidence suggests that it is) Armstrong’s legacy is partially that of standard-bearers committing similar crimes.

With the exception of one, each of these men at some point possessed a position of authority within their respective organizations. What measures have these groups taken in response to ensure their ranks are clean of such deviants? We’ve heard nothing but silence over the months and years from the COG on these issues.

Stephen Gough – CBCG

On November 12, 2014, Stephen Gough, a 79-year-old woodworking teacher and member of Fred Coulter’s Christian Biblical Church of God in New Zealand, was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison for molesting children between the ages of three and 16 while reading them passages from the Bible.

Gough was formerly a WCG member and reportedly a spokesman for CBCOG.

British and Kiwi media ran with the story, describing Gough’s abuse as using children as “sexual toys” and “carefully orchestrated” his crimes.

No COG group turned him in. For years he was reportedly in therapy for his “addiction” instead of rotting in prison.

As reported in: The New Zealand Herald, Christianity TodayThe Daily Mail, OTAGosh, Banned! by HWA,

Joseph D. Wagner – COGWA

On June 11, 2014, 63-year-old Joseph D. Wagner — a reported COGWA member in the Cleveland, Ohio congregation — was found guilty of raping two young girls aged 6 and 10, whom he held prisoner in his house, turning his bedroom in a “torture chamber” for his victims.

He was sentenced to life in prison without parole. The two girls in question were reportedly not his only victims.

Wagner was reportedly a frequent host to the local COGWA elder and fellow congregants who helped clean his house, cook food for him and other charity work under the auspices that he was “disabled.” There have been rumblings of a civil suit against Wagner as well, which could also name and blame COGWA for negligence and providing material support to this hideous rapist.

As reported in: Norwalk ReflectorBanned! by HWA

William Koeneke – COEG

William Koeneke, the 86-year-old former WCG deacon-turned-Church of the Eternal God minister, was convicted on four counts of the dreadful crime of child molestation in England in 2013. He had molested young boys in a Paddington, London residence between the years of 1985-1989 while he was an ordained church official in WCG at the height of the cult’s power.

Koeneke since joined the Global Church of God, which later became known as COEG, as a minister who frequently gave sermons and wrote COG literature promoting British-Israelism.

Koeneke was arrested in 2011, his four accusers now in their 30s. Since he is nearly 90, it’s possible Koeneke could die in prison while serving his term for his crimes against children.

As reported in: Eastbourne Herald, Banned! by HWA

Kevin Owen Dean – WCG

A member of Herbert W. Armstrong’s inner circle in WCG’s heyday, 61-year-old Kevin Owen Dean is still on the run from authorities for fleeing a courtroom in 2010 where he was to stand trial for child molestation charges and 12 other counts. Dean was out of jail on a $75,000 bond.

Description: Caucasian man; 5-feet-11-inches tall and 175 pounds; brown hair and hazel eyes.

Last Known: Kennesaw, but Dean owns Imperial Medical, a business in Cartersville.

Anyone with information on Dean’s whereabouts should call  BCSO’s dispatch, non-emergency line at 770-382-5050, option 7.
Cartersville-Bartow County Crime Stoppers accepts anonymous information on its tip line at 770-606-TIPS (8477). It gives cash rewards for tips the lead to an arrest in some cases.

As reported in: Barto County Sheriff’s OfficeCartersville Patch, The Painful TruthBanned! by HWA

hawkinsYedidiyah Hawkins – HOY

In December 2008, then 40-year-old Yedidiyah Hawkins was sentenced to 30 years in prison for sexually molesting his niece when she was 11-years-old. He claimed to be checking her for cervical cancer. His niece testified against him when she was 15-year-old.

Hawkins was an elder in former WCG member Yisrayl “Buffalo Bill” Hawkins’ dangerous bunker-dwelling cult, the House of Yahweh.

He’s still in prison today.

As reported in: Religion News Blog

Aug 142014

Olderandwiser left this comment in response to the story of the COGWA member getting life in prison for raping two children:

There were a couple of perverts in the NYC area in the 60′s when I was a teenager. One groped me before I was rescued by my brother. Years later, he married a young widow with a few young kids. Didn’t take long for him to dessimate that family. 38 years later, my mother found a picture of him in a box of photos. I took it and slowly ripped it up. “Why, that was Uncle Dewitt!” Weel, I told her that Uncle Dewitt was a pedophile, and I knew, first hand. When she asked me why I never told her, I said she would never have believed me. The almighty WCG came first, and we kids were non entities. I got off lucky I guess, but I can’t imagine how many others have been ruined because of the rule of silence.

Aug 022014

From the Norwalk Reflector:

Child rapist gets life without parole

A Milan Township man was sentenced to life without parole Monday for raping two girls several times when they slept over at his Mudbrook Road home.

An Erie County jury convicted Joseph D. Wagner, 63, of 10 counts of rape for sexually assaulting two girls who were younger than 10. The Erie County Sheriff’s Office investigated the incidents which happened between 2011 and 2013 when Wagner lured the victims to his bedroom.

Wagner maintained he didn’t abuse anyone when he made a statement to Erie County Common Pleas Judge Roger Binette.

“I did not abuse anyone, nor have I ever considered the heinous things I’ve been accused of,” said the defendant, who was found guilty June 11.

Binette, according to the Sandusky Register, told Wagner he groomed the victims “in your own sick ways” and made his bedroom “a torture chamber for those two children.”

The judge also told the defendant the sexual abuse was similar to a life sentence for the girls. Binette said he took into that consideration plus a woman’s testimony who alleged Wagner abused her decades ago — and possibly at least five other victims — when he decided the defendant’s sentence.

Banned! tags him as a UCG/COGWA member in the Cleveland congregation frequently visited by the local elder. Sounds about right.

Rage does not describe the feelings this kind of horror conjures. So many dreadful things happen beneath the noses of the ministry, sometimes with their knowledge, all the while anyone, anywhere one might call brethren in the cult could be a monster.

Jun 092014

moneyFinding out any internal information, especially financial information, can be remarkably difficult when it comes to cults, or just churches in general due to the special unconstitutional privileges granted to them by the government.

But every so often we catch a glimpse of a COG cult’s income and financial picture, as we did with PCG recently. But its rare, since as we’ve discussed before, religions are unfairly tax-exempt and don’t have to file forms describing their income like other nonprofits do.

However, despite this gap, we have collected enough information over the years to make a fair estimate of what the combined income is among the most significant COG groups, for the purpose of highlighting how much the sheep are being fleeced and how ineffective the cults are at growth and promotion despite their stockpiles of cash.

From what we know based on past data, we can surmise the following income estimates for various COG cults:

UCG – $20 million (what it inched toward between 1995-2005)
PCG – $19.5 million (2012)
LCG – $14.3 million (2010)
COGWA – $3.8 million (2011)
RCG – ~$2 million (it has to be making at least this much just to function, though no public data exists)

The total hovers around $60 million among these groups. This doesn’t factor in recent membership loss, and income doesn’t indicate wealth, especially since cults like PCG are in considerable debt and RCG pretty much has to be as well after the Wadsworth construction project.

Some notes:

  • WCG at its height was reported to have been generating $200 million in annual income. The top five make around a fourth of that.
  • Membership size doesn’t necessarily seem proportional to annual income, as PCG reportedly makes more than LCG and COGWA combined.
  • It’s long been known that only about 30-40 percent of COG group incomes are spent on media projects and “preaching the gospel” — roughly between $18 million and $24 million of these group’s total income being spent on spreading Armstrongism.
  • That leaves between $36 million and $42 million being spent on organizational overhead like property and staff salaries each year.
  • While this is a massive income fall from WCG’s heyday to a modern day significant remainder of that church, there’s still a lot of money being generated by a relatively few number of people to pay even fewer. COG members are being squeezed hard.
  • It’s entirely possible, perhaps even likely, that COG cults lie about their income, so these numbers could be purposely skewed.