11 posts categorized "Religion"


Former Texas priest accused of, uh, "bashing the bishop" on airplane, FBI says

Can’t blame the TSA for this one: Sometime after a plane's liftoff from Baltimore-Washington Taking offInternational Airport, a former Texas priest reportedly engaged in a takeoff of his own.

Daniel Michael Drinan, 63, who now lives in Reno, Nev., was arrested for sexually touching himself on an aircraft in full view of other passengers, according to the FBI and other federal authorities. He was previously accused of inappropriate behavior with a child in the Catholic Diocese of Austin.

No assigned seatingDrinan was on a flight to Denver when he connected to the aircraft’s WiFi and began viewing pornography, according to an affidavit filed with a criminal complaint. A woman seated next to Drinan saw him touching himself, gave up hope he would stop, and alerted flight attendants, the FBI said.

A male flight attendant reportedly asked Drinan to “put his pants back together.”

“At the time the male flight attendant talked with Drinan the defendant’s genitalia was totally exposed,” a press release said. Drinan was taken into custody Saturday night at Denver International Oh boyAirport for lewd, indecent, or obscene acts in public aboard an aircraft.

In 2002, Drinan was accused of what the Austin diocese called “inappropriate behavior with a child.” BishopAccountability.org, which describes itself as a database of publicly accused U.S. priests, says Drinan was charged with misdemeanor assault not involving sexual contact or injuries to a child. He paid a fine over the matter, the site says.

If convicted of crimes aboard an aircraft, he faces not more than 90 days in jail and up to a $250,000 fine, according to the FBI.

-- Darren Barbee


Burger King smites Christian fired for wearing skirt, so feds smite back, suit says

A Texas Burger King is being accused of skirting the law, which, as you will see, is a very bad pun.

Creepy Burger ManA Christian woman's claim of religious discrimination based on her beliefs about clothing has brought the wrath of a somewhat higher power — the federal government — to the home of the Whopper.

The woman adheres to an interpretation of scripture about wearing clothing that is “befitting of specific gender,” the EEOC said. (Rumors have circulated for years that no BK uniform befits either gender.)

A Grand Prairie, Texas, Burger King is accused of discriminating against the Pentecostal cashier, who Do not buy a burger from this woman was fired after she wore a skirt to work instead of pants, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in a lawsuit filed Wednesday. But be honest, would you buy a CROISSAN'WICH from a woman dressed like this anonymous person (pictured right)?

The woman told the company about her religious beliefs during her job interview and was told she could wear a skirt, the EEOC said. Then, at orientation, she was informed her apparel was inappropriate and was sent home.

Such conduct would violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars religious discrimination in the workplace, the feds contend. The EEOC is seeking back pay and damages for the woman.

The Burger King is owned by Fries Restaurant Management, LLC, which operates at least 10 BKs in Texas, according to Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts data. A person reached at the company could not comment on the case. No one else called back.

This brings us to the Quote of the Week: Regional Attorney Robert A. Canino of the EEOC’s Dallas District Office said the nation apparently hasn’t figured out religious liberties if there's a problem “posed by letting an employee ‘hold the pickles’ and ‘hold the lettuce’ while wearing a skirt.”

-- Darren Barbee

Side note 1: If the feds really want their pound of flesh, they should join the 11 million people who each day visit Burger Kings globally. Here's how that works out if people just bought Whoppers without cheese and no fries or drinks:

Food stuffs calories Total fat (grams) Total calories for 11 million people Pounds of fat
WHOPPER 670 40           7,370,000,000         970,039
DOUBLE WHOP 900 57           9,900,000,000       1,382,306
TRIPLE WHOP 1140 82         12,540,000,000       1,988,580

Side note 2: Yes, we know Natalie Portman is Jewish.


Texas auctioneers offer crooks' spoils: Rembrandts, Picassos and Goofy

Goofy and goofy

They may be convicted swindlers, but don't accuse these felons of bad taste.

Once again, the gavel is falling on a few miscreants, courtesy of Gaston & Sheehan Auctioneers of Pflugerville, Texas. The auction house is handling paintings and other items seized by U.S. Marshals

For the easy to please, there's a couple of Picassos available. But if you're looking for something a little more sophisticated, consider depictions of Dora the Explorer, Tinkerbell, Goofy and Minnie Mouse "Courting" -- all on oil and canvas.

One auction features the collection of his ex-holiness, Shawn R. Merriman, a convicted Ponzi schemer and former Mormon bishop

Merriman bilked investors out of as much as $20 million, according to federal authorities. Merriman bought the usual load of swag: Classic car collection. Guns. Boat. John Deer Bobcat.

Pitching machine? You bet. 

But second only to his joy of ripping people off, was apparently a wicked craving for Biblical art. U.S. Marshals seized 375 pieces of art, including Old Masters Fine Art, contemporary art and bronze busts from Merriman. Rembrandt

Offerings include a Rembrandt painted in 1655, Christ Presented to the People, opening at $68,000. So far, no takers. 

At the low end, a Hermann Van Swanevelt etching of The Flight into Egypt from the 1650s (give or take) is currently going for $55 after two bids.

For duds, look no further than convicted embezzler Sujata “Sue” Sachdeva's raided closet. Swindling Sue siphoned off $34 million and blew it on designer clothes and bags.

Shouldn't buying this Judith Leiber clutch handbag have earned Sue an extra five years?


An auction of her other effects runs through July 10 and is available at www.txauction.com. A one money deal includes belt, leather skirt, leather suit, five cocktail dresses, evening gowns and more, at $9,140. 

One wonders, though, is it chic to wear a thief's fleece?

-- Darren Barbee


University's generosity study cost $360,000, included trips to Paris, Milan, Dublin

Press release of the week: Arizona State University is promoting a study of what motivates generosity in people. And boy, was it an expensive study.

Benjamins from heaven“Generosity is accepted and encouraged as a practice, but the reasons behind the behavior are not well understood. An interdisciplinary team of faculty working with Arizona State University’s Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict are exploring what motivates people to be generous and how religion influences their actions,” the press release says.

The study focused on Muslims and Catholics.

That’s all very good and well, but none of it woldn’t have been possible without funding from a $363,000 grant from the John Templeton Foundation/University of Notre Dame Science of Generosity Initiative.

If there was a saying for this sort of thing, it would probably go, "it takes money to figure out why people are giving their money away."

Still here are some clues: The study took researchers to Dublin, Milan, Paris and Istanbul. Hope the researchers tipped well.

An Arizona State media relations officer said the study involved field research that involved more than 1,000 participants. 

Anyway, following the logic here, a generous gift  of cash is helping researches understand why others Giving folks give. Isn’t that a conflict of interest? Nah, probably not.

“Researchers examined factors within each religion that might motivate generosity, such as a sense of duty to one’s God, the love of Jesus or Mohammad, feelings of being blessed and the way each religion is organized. The work involved interviews, participating in religious group activities and conducting experiments,” the press release stated.

Findings include that members of the religions were more likely to volunteer if the person asking for the donation was personally known to themm such as an imam or priest.

Notre Dame has a list of some of its findings here

-- Darren Barbee


Shrinkage? Religious experiences may reduce size of brain part, study finds

12838_loresThis is your brain.



12838_loresCould this be your brain on religion?


While skeptics, hotheads and Internet flamers like to say religious people are narrow minded, a study by Duke University Medical Center researchers finds there may be a sliver of truth to that: certain religious experiences and beliefs actually shrink part of the brain.
To be clear, the brain bit in question, the hippocampus, shrinks in all humans as we age. That’s the part of the organ involved in learning and memory, and shrinkage of it has been linked to depression and Alzheimer’s disease.
Duke found that that Protestants who did not identify themselves as born-again had less atrophy — meaning shrinkitude — in the hippocampus region than did born-again Protestants, Catholics, or those having no religious affiliation.
That may reflect potential stress associated with being a member of a religious minority. Of course, religious factors have been associated with positive mental health. But studies have shown members of religious minority groups may also experience stressors related to these group affiliations. 
People with a life-changing religious experience were also found to have atrophy in that slice of the brain, according to a study by Duke University Medical Center researchers.
The Duke study eyed relationships between religious factors and changes in the volume of the hippocampus over time in older adults. In standardized interviews, 268 men and women aged 58 to 84 were asked about their religious group, spiritual practices, and life-changing religious experiences.
A study from a few years ago also pointed out some interesting links with religion and brain change. University of Missouri scientists found religious experience is associated with decreased activity in the brain’s right parietal lobe – the part of the brain associated with orienting yourself in the space around you.People with injuries to the right parietal lobe report increased levels of spiritual experiences, Scientific American reported. 

The researchers said stress may be one explanation for the problem.

The full Duke study can be found here.

-- Darren Barbee



Poverty-hating Haltom City televangelist Murdock's $1.5 million mansion for sale

Haltom City Cashevangelist Mike Murdock, who asks donors to send him money by assuring them God could possibly, if things go right, Mike Murdockreward them with big bucks, is selling his Argyle estate, valued at $1.5 million by the appraisal district.

A quote attributed to Murdock goes like this: “You will never become rich, until you hate poverty.”

His mansion - which includes an indoor fish pond, 3,000-square-foot tennis court, game room, water fall, jetted tub, four media rooms, swimming pool, exercise room, guest quarters and other amenities on 6.89 acres - certainly screams “I have something of an aversion to non-richness.” Murdock Manor

Perhaps not surprisingly, Murdock, who goes by the moniker “Dr. Mike Murdock” on television  — it’s an honorary degree — is trying to make a little profit on his 9,825-square-foot manor.

Its listed price is $3.2 million. (See video below for a virtual tour.) If you're lucky, he may also toss in a copy of his $10 Twitter tips book.

Murdock’s website for his church, The Wisdom Center, doesn’t indicate where MM may be moving. 

Still, consider this, potential homebuyers: Not only do you get a home with five balconies, four gazebos and a sunken fire pit, you’ll be able to show others that they don't have to wait for heavenly rewards. 

No matter how you raked in the money.

-- Darren Barbee



Texas minister's scam had him living the high life -- while collecting food stamps

Burro The Burro of the Month goes to a lying, thieving uberweasel and Waco minister who ripped off $385,460 by selling stock in a bogus company called Petro America.  

Joseph Harrell, 49, of Waco, told investors the company stock tips were from the heavens. All the while, he was secretly raking in Social Security disability and food stamp benefits, according to the Justice Department.

Harrell acted as the CFO of a Petro and while on the government cheese drove fancy cars, bought Cheese himself World Series tickets and rented cars for $423 per week.  

That must have been why he needed food stamps: for beans and cornbread. Except not. Harrell frequently used Petro money to pay for meals at expensive restaurants for himself and others.

Mr. “Liar Liar Preaching the Fire” told 90 investors that the company was worth $284 billion and had assorted gold mines. Harrell couched many of his sales pitches in religious language, saying Petro was a blessing from Gawd.

Not to be outdone, his co-conspirators, The Rev. Edward D. Halliburton, 56, of Kansas City, Kan., purchased – wait for it – a 2004 S500 Mercedes (cue the Janis Joplin) for $20,000. Halliburton also used some of his Petro money to pay off his mortgage ($81,000), buy a tennis bracelet for his wife and himself lots of clothes.

Both men pleaded guilty in separate appearances before a magistrate judge to conspiracy to commit securities fraud and wire fraud. During the scam, Petro and its agents sold unregistered stock to over 12,000 investors in the Missouri, Kansas, and across the United States and Canada.

They were part of a ring of pastors who called themselves the “White Hat Guys.”  

This is one of the many reasons Watchdog prefers the Man in Black

-- Darren Barbee



Blowtorch used during rape threats against 15-year-old boy, lawsuit says

A 15-year-old student at a San Antonio religious school had a lit blowtorch waved in his face while fellow students pinned him down and made repeated threats to rape him last year, Ouch according to a lawsuit (Download Light em up)obtained by Watchdog. 

From September through early October of last year, the student, identified in court documents as John Doe 102, was also called “gay” and “a Nazi” and he was thrown against a wall, grabbed by the throat and chased into a dorm common room. 

Other attacks included instances when up to six students repeatedly rushed into Doe’s bedroom at night chanting “all for Allah.” Even in Watchdog's warped mind this makes utterly no sense. 

Spooky cross The suit, which names Episcopal Diocese of West Texas and the Texas Military Institute of San Antonio, Texas, which does business as TMI The Episcopal School of Texas, was filed by Dallas attorneys Tahira Khan Merritt and Lori Watson. The diocese had no comment, according to this article by the San Antonio Express News.

-- Darren Barbee


Meat, blood and bones thrown at Muslims, EEOC says

Supervisors and coworkers at a meat packing plant threw blood, meat and bones at Muslim employees, according to U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission press release.
The EEOC says JBS Swift & Company was bad to the bone when it discriminated against the Somali and Muslim employees. The company didn’t respond to an email requesting comment.
A suit filed in Colorado alleges that there was offensive graffiti in the restrooms, including “Somalis are disgusting” and the F-bomb before the words “...Somalians,” “...Muslims” and “...Mohammed.”
Supervisors and coworkers are also accused of saying to employees “lazy Somali” and “go back to your country,” according to another suit.
The complaints accuse JBS Swift of engaging in a pattern or practice of religious discrimination when it “failed to reasonably accommodate its Muslim employees by refusing to allow them to pray according to their religious tenets,” according to a press release.

Philosophical thought of the day: You know, this kind of accusation is just red meat for extremists.

-- Darren Barbee


Fort Worth Roman Catholic Diocese settles lawsuit with women raped by priest

FORT WORTH - Two women raped and sodomized by a Roman Catholic priest at Federal Medical Center Carswell have reached an out-of-court settlement with the Diocese of Fort Worth, according to a statement from attorneys for the women.

In 2007, Vincent Bassie Inametti, 51, pleaded guilty to sexual abuse of the women and the next year was sentenced to four years in prison.

Terms of the settlement, reached this week, were not disclosed at the women's request, said Tahira Khan Merritt, a Dallas attorney for one of them.

"They are both afraid of Inametti," she said. "He said he would kill them."

Inametti, described as a "predatory wolf" in the women's 2008 lawsuit, was a member of a religious order called the Missionary Society of St. Paul, based in Nigeria. It is unclear whether the process to defrock him is under way. Before 2000, Inametti served in parishes in Eastland County as well as at Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church in Fort Worth.

"Under the terms of the arbitration agreement, we're restricted on commenting," said Jeff Hensley, diocese spokesman.

In court filings, the diocese had argued that no evidence showed it employed Inametti during the time he was accused of sexually assaulting the women. Both women were serving long sentences for drug distribution offenses.

" Inametti was employed by [the] Federal Bureau of Prisons at the time" of the assaults, according to the diocese's filings.

Attorneys for the former inmates, identified in the lawsuit as Jane Doe I and Jane Doe II, responded that Inametti counseled, heard confessions, converted inmates and conducted Mass for them.

"As a priest, he was granted faculties to minister by the Fort Worth bishop and thus assigned by the diocese," according to the lawsuit.

According to a joint statement by Merritt and Robert L. Greening of Dallas, who represented Jane Doe I, the diocese knew that Inametti had fathered a child and that other reports described his behavior with women as aggressive and inappropriate.

"The diocese dumped a dangerous priest off on the federal prison system when they knew or should have known he had problems, including prior reports of physical and emotional misconduct against vulnerable women," they said. "He was too risky to work as a priest in a parish, but the church had no qualms about representing to the government that he was 'suitable' as a prison chaplain."

Jerry Murad Jr., a Fort Worth attorney for Jane Doe II, challenged the diocese to release the names of all priests who have been accused of sexually abusing vulnerable adults.

The diocese posts on its website a list of priests who have allegations "with a semblance of truth" against them involving sexual misconduct with minors.

Inametti was sentenced far above federal guidelines by U.S. District Judge Terry Means. The judge called Inametti's conduct "grossly predatory, threatening, traitorous and abusive."

Inametti, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen, is set for release in October 2011.

-- Darren Barbee