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Black Collar Crime: Southern Baptist Pastor William Kannarney Arrested on Prostitution Charges

william kannarney

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

William Kannarney, pastor of Blue Ridge View Baptist Church in Pickens, South Carolina, was recently arrested and charged with first-degree prostitution. Blue Ridge View Baptist is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

WYFF-4 reports:

A pastor in South Carolina has been charged with prostitution, according to an arrest warrant and police.

William Martell Kannarney is charged with first-degree prostitution. He was arrested this week, according to Seneca Police.

The warrant said in October Kannarney either engaged in prostitution or aided or abetted prostitution knowingly at a location off Seneca Drive and Bypass 123 in Seneca.

Kannarney was listed as Senior Pastor at Blue Ridge View Baptist Church, in Pickens, in a February 2024 church bulletin.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Update: Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Bret Welty Pleads Guilty to Sexually Molesting Teen Girl

bret welty

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

In 2019, Bret Welty was formerly a sound tech at Calvary Chapel in Boise, a pastor at Common Ground Biker Church in Meridian, and currently the pastor of Hard Rock Revival Church (a home church) in Boise, and the operator of Sound Harvest (all in Idaho) — a business that set up audio equipment for churches and events. (According to Linkedin, Sound Harvest was owned by Michelle Welty.) Welty also sold real estate.

Hard Rock Revival Church described itself this way:

We are a new church with old roots!  Doing our best to recapture and revitalize Jesus’ mission here in Boise.  We have started off as a home based church and plan to grow as the Lord ads [sic] to us and we would love to serve you and your family.  Our Pastors Bret and Kelly Welty have served as ministers and Worship Leaders for over 30 years and worship is a center point here at Hard Rock Revival.  So is connecting people with Jesus and God’s word!  We endeavor to give our utmost towards raising up God’s people to be active, healthy, and loving people who want to make a difference in this crazy world.

In August 2019, Welty was charged with “sexual abuse of a minor younger than 16 years old, and lewd conduct with a minor younger than 16 years old.”

The Idaho Press reported:

One of the members of his congregation was a 15-year-old girl who was having family troubles and living with anxiety. The family felt it might help her to spend a weekend at the Welty household, where Welty lived with his wife, 15-year-old son, and 24-year-old stepdaughter. She was at the home Aug. 9.

Police and prosecutors say that night Welty entered her room and touched her inappropriately. He continued to touch her for between 30 minutes and an hour, until he was interrupted by his wife, Fouts explained in court.

“The defendant confessed to his conduct,” Fouts said. “He stated that he’d struggled with such behavior before, although not with victims of this age, this young age.”

Fouts asked Magistrate Judge Michael Lojek to set Welty’s bail at $350,000. Smith asked for far less.

“He’s been a pillar of…various churches that he was ministering at, and I would just ask the court to set bond at $25,000,” Smith said.

Lojek set Welty’s bond at $250,000. He also ordered Welty stop ministering, until given permission from the court “so as to protect any other…vulnerable potential victims he may come into contact with in that capacity.”

Lojek said he considered the nature of the relationship between Welty and the girl. It was unique, given that he was her pastor, and the pastor for the rest of her family. He issued two no contact orders in the case, barring Welty from having contact with the girl, as well as with her father.

Matthew Fouts, of the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office, stated “The defendant confessed to his conduct. He stated that he’d struggled with such behavior before, although not with victims of this age, this young age.” This tells me that there is likely more to this story than has been reported. I suspect there are more victims.

Bret Welty was also a musician. His bio page stated:

Bret Welty is a blues rock singer, songwriter, and guitar player with an inspired approach to blending the soul of blues with a variety of musical genres. Bret has been playing in bands for over 25 years, in a variety of roles.

Born in California and raised on a variety of music, Bret spent his formative high school years split evenly between Oregon and later California, where he was exposed to blues and rock. “The first time I heard guitar and blues put together, I was hooked,” Bret explains. As a young man, Bret tried his hand at 11 instruments before settling on the guitar. He received his first real guitar at age 15, and by the summer he had saved up enough money to buy his first electric guitar. Within 6 months, he was in his first band, and his love of performing live grew from there. Bret studied jazz in college, and has worked as a guitar teacher and faith music leader.

A true musician in every sense of the word, Bret plays drums, bass, lead guitar and mandolin. He has played all over the Northwest at both intimate and large venues, including state fairs and music festivals. Bret has played shows with Daryl Mansfield and has performed with Dennis Agajanian in concert.

Bret will release his album in 2014 “Unlimited Edition” a collection of rock and blues originals, is due to be released August 23rd 2014. It features a song dedicated to wounded service men and women whohave been hurt in the service of our country.  Coves of Bill Withers and the Marshal Tucker band can be found on this release.

Blues is at the heart of Bret’s music, but listeners will also enjoy elements of jazz, rock, funk, Latin, R&B, southern rock, and country. His albums feature original song writing and topics that listeners can easily identify with: love lost, hard times, triumph, freedom, and patriotism.

In December 2019, Welty pleaded guilty to molesting the girl:

A Boise man who ran a church out of his home has pleaded guilty to molesting a teenage girl whose parents had asked him to help her with her anxiety. 

Bret Welty, 48, admitted to sexual abuse of a minor Dec. 4 as part of a plea deal in which prosecutors dropped a charge of lewd conduct with a child.

Welty was the pastor of the now-defunct Hard Rock Revival Church, which was attended by both the 15-year-old victim and her parents. Prosecutor Erin Pittenger said in court the sexual abuse happened Aug. 9, after the girl’s parents had sent their daughter to stay at Welty’s home for the weekend. 

“The reason for having the victim stay with the defendant and his family is that she was suffering from some anxiety issues, and her family believed that a weekend with the pastor and his family would help,” Pittenger said.

According to prosecutors, the teen was in a bedroom when Welty walked into the room, refused to leave, and had the girl undress under the guise of giving her a massage. Pittenger said Welty touched the girl sexually for between 30 minutes and an hour, only stopping when his wife knocked on the bedroom door, interrupting the assault. 

Welty later admitted to abusing the girl during a recorded phone call, and told her not to tell anyone about what had happened.

Welty’s wife filed for divorce the month after his arrest. At his plea hearing, Welty told the judge he had decided “early on” to admit guilt in the case. 

Under the plea agreement, prosecutors will ask for a 15-year prison sentence, with three years before Welty could be eligible for parole. The judge ordered him to undergo a psychosexual evaluation before his Feb. 11 sentencing. 

If evaluators determine Welty is a low risk to re-offend, prosecutors will consider recommending the rider program, which could drastically reduce Welty’s time behind bars.

The defendant’s attorney, Jeffrey Smith, asked the judge to reduce Welty’s bond, noting that his client had been held in the Ada County Jail on a $250,000 bond since his arrest in August.

mith asked for the bond to be dropped to $20,000 or $25,000 instead, arguing that release from jail would enable Welty to care for his mother after a major surgery and get back to his work of scheduling and performing music. 

His lawyer said those shows would either be held locally “or within a couple hundred miles of Boise,” and that Welty would not leave the state unless given permission by the court.

Smith also pointed to Welty’s volunteer work, which included leading youth groups, coaching children’s sports teams, and teaching music at both middle and high schools “to thousands of students during his time here in Boise.”

Since his arrest, Welty has also started a Bible study for other inmates in the Ada County Jail, his lawyer said.

In his argument for the bond reduction, Smith described Welty’s sexual abuse of the 15-year-old as “a one-time occasion,” and asked Judge Deborah Bail to take into consideration that Welty has a very minimal criminal history.

“He’s basically crime-free,” Smith said. 

“Well, that’s fine, but he just pled guilty to a major felony,” Bail responded. 

The judge rejected the motion to lower Welty’s bond, telling him she was concerned about his access to minors. 

“He appears to me to have quite a lot of access to children, with a position that would make parents likely to drop their guard, because one would expect that a person in that role would be a safe person for one’s child to be around,” she said. 

Bail added that she wanted to see the results of Welty’s psychosexual evaluation before she would weigh in on whether he could be safely out of custody, and reminded him again that he had just admitted to a significant crime. 

“It’s a serious invasion of a person’s personal space and an extraordinary breach of trust,” she said. “I’m not changing anything until I know what’s going on.”

In October 2020, Welty was sentenced to up to twelve years in prison.

The Idaho Press reported:

The Idaho man who ran his own church and pleaded guilty to lewd conduct with a 15-year-old girl last year will spend at least three years in prison.

A judge on Monday sentenced Bret Welty, 49, to up to 12 years in prison after Welty in December pleaded guilty to sexual abuse of a minor younger than 16 years old.

Welty is now out on parole.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Luverne Zacharias Accused of Sexually Molesting Minor Church Girl

luverne zacharias

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Luverne Zacharias, a pastor at Christian Family Church in Owatonna, Minnesota, and principal at El Shaddai Christian School, stands accused of sexually molesting a church teen.

The Roys Report reports:

A former Minnesota pastor has been charged with several felony sex crimes for allegedly sexually touching a girl in a school basement and at his church office, beginning when she was 14, court records show.

Luverne Daniel Zacharias, 46, former pastor of Owatonna’s Christian Family Church (CFC), reportedly told the girl she was his “kryptonite,” according to records from the Steele County District Court. And when the victim reported the matter to the head pastors, they reportedly discouraged her from going to police, telling her to think about how that would affect his own kids, records show.

Zacharias is being charged with six counts of criminal sexual conduct, including charges related to penetration, sexual touch, and abusing his position of authority, court records show. Zacharias was the victim’s youth pastor at the time of the abuses and was also the principal of El Shaddai Christian School, a school associated with CFC.

The abuse allegedly happened from 2006-2009, beginning when the victim was a middle school student at the school, records show. Later, Zacharias was reportedly promoted to campus pastor, then resigned a year ago, stating “poor choices” as the reason.

….

The victim told police in her statement that “teachers would send kids to the basement to retrieve milk from the fridge, sometimes Zacharias would be down there.”

Zacharias wrote her notes and told her she was “beautiful,” that she reminded him of her daughter, the victim’s statement says. He reportedly added, “I can’t control myself around you,” and “you’re my kryptonite.”

He initially sexually touched her at least once a day over her clothing, she reportedly told police. Eight or nine months later, he started touching her underneath her clothing, penetrating her. He also would move her hand to feel his penis over his clothing. The abuse happened at the school and the church until the victim graduated in 2009, court records state.

In 2019, Zacharias contacted her, asking for oral sex, she told police in a statement. In 2021, he reportedly asked her to send him nude photos or videos of her.

The victim refused and then reported the abuse to Tim and Cherrie Peterson, pastors of CFC, her statement to police states. In 2022, she reported the matter to the Owatonna Police Department.

The Petersons did not respond to multiple requests by The Roys Report (TRR) for comment.

A relative of the victim, also a former student, told police in a statement that Zacharias also contacted her in 2011 and asked for oral sex and for her to send him pictures.

“When she would go to the church and see him, he would close off his door and right (sic) the messages on pieces of paper so no one would hear,” police stated in court documents. “The former student stated she would say no to him or freeze and tense up when he asked these questions.”

….

The victim told police in her statement that “teachers would send kids to the basement to retrieve milk from the fridge, sometimes Zacharias would be down there.”

Zacharias wrote her notes and told her she was “beautiful,” that she reminded him of her daughter, the victim’s statement says. He reportedly added, “I can’t control myself around you,” and “you’re my kryptonite.”

He initially sexually touched her at least once a day over her clothing, she reportedly told police. Eight or nine months later, he started touching her underneath her clothing, penetrating her. He also would move her hand to feel his penis over his clothing. The abuse happened at the school and the church until the victim graduated in 2009, court records state.

In 2019, Zacharias contacted her, asking for oral sex, she told police in a statement. In 2021, he reportedly asked her to send him nude photos or videos of her.

The victim refused and then reported the abuse to Tim and Cherrie Peterson, pastors of CFC, her statement to police states. In 2022, she reported the matter to the Owatonna Police Department.

The Petersons did not respond to multiple requests by The Roys Report (TRR) for comment.

A relative of the victim, also a former student, told police in a statement that Zacharias also contacted her in 2011 and asked for oral sex and for her to send him pictures.

“When she would go to the church and see him, he would close off his door and right (sic) the messages on pieces of paper so no one would hear,” police stated in court documents. “The former student stated she would say no to him or freeze and tense up when he asked these questions.”

When the first victim reported the assault to the Petersons, they told her they’d “hold Zacharias accountable for his actions,” according to the victim’s statement to police. But they also reportedly discouraged her from reporting the matter to police, noting the impact on the Zacharias family, records state.

A former church member reportedly told police that she was present for a “reconciliation” meeting with Zacharias, Cherrie Peterson, and the father of a victim, records show.

Cherrie Peterson told police in her statement that Zacharias admitted to the Petersons that he gave the victim “a couple of hugs when she was fifteen or sixteen from behind,” but said it was a “quick hug” that he regretted. In her statement, Cherrie Peterson told police Zacharias knew he should resign, but the Petersons were also trying to “restore him.”

Cherrie Peterson later told police that she knew about “inappropriate texts” Zacharias sent a then 17-year-old student. She said she suggested Zacharias “got counseling at the time,” court records state.

In a statement, a witness told police that the day Zacharias stepped down as pastor, the Petersons told the congregation not to record the church sermon. This seemed off, so the witness did it anyway, according to the witness’ statement.

The recording showed that Tim Peterson talked about “rebuking wrong behavior and restoring people of the congregation,” according to the police statement. Zacharias also spoke to the congregation to say he was resigning as campus pastor due to “poor choices,” police said in a statement.

“Today I am sharing with my church family that I have made poor choices in my past that I am not proud of,” Zacharias said in the recording provided to police. “These choices caused me to be unfit for my pastoral position. To protect my two girls and wife I will not share the details. I am now focusing on restoration.”

Please read the entire story at the Roys Report. This church and its pastor need to be held accountable for ignoring sexual abuse allegations.

The Steele County Times adds:

Leaders of at least one local church are taking steps to let their members know that they have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to allegations of abuse.

A letter from the three pastors and the youth director at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Owatonna sent a letter to “members and friends” of the church after the Steele County Times’ reporting of alleged pastoral abuse at Christian Family Church.

It addresses the story of Luverne Daniel Zacharias, 46, of Medford, who stands accused of sexually assaulting a former student at El Shaddai Christian School, where he served as a teacher and principal. The criminal complaint against him said the abuse continued into the victim’s adulthood, including an incident at the church, which is affiliated with the school.

Zacharias has been charged with one count each of first- and second-degree criminal sexual conduct, as well as two counts each of third- and fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, all felonies.

The letter begins by calling the local charges “serious and damaging to the child … We pray for the victim as they deal with the abuse that was inflicted upon them, and try to recover from this pain.

“Whether it is in Sunday school, Confirmation, youth activities and trips, or just hanging out in the building, children’s safety is a primary focus for the staff and volunteers,” the letter goes on to say.

“At Our Savior’s, all staff and anyone who works with children and youth are required to complete a background check, processed by a third party,” the pastors wrote.

The safeguards are part of the church’s policy, as well as a requirement of its insurance company.

The pastors, specifically, “have gone through a more rigorous criminal and work history background check,” they said.

The staff members at the church are also required by the Southeastern Minnesota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Churches in America to attend a Boundaries Training Workshop every three years.

Like most denominational churches, Our Savior’s is governed by several larger bodies, with oversight for everything from finances to policies to personnel, provided by committees on the local, state and national level.

“There is a zero-tolerance policy for any type of abuse by pastors in the ELCA and staff of congregations,” the letter says. “If there is any proven abuse in a person’s history, they are not allowed to work in an ELCA congregation.”

Non-denominational churches, including Christian Family Church, are not formally aligned with, or part of, any specific Christian denomination. As a result, there are no hard and fast rules for what a non-denominational church is or how it operates.

As such, they are self-governing entities.

Former CFC church members have told the Times that the majority of people who sit on its governing board are members of pastors Tim and Cherrie Peterson’s family.

The Petersons have not responded to multiple requests for comment.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Children’s Pastor James Dryden Arrested on Child Pornography Charges

james dryden

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

James Dryden, children’s pastor at Stein Highway Church of God in Seaford, Delaware, stands accused of ten counts of child pornography possession.

Delaware Online reports:

A former Seaford children’s pastor has been arrested on 10 felony charges after admitting to possessing and viewing child sexual abuse material, the Delaware Department of Justice said Friday.

James Dryden, 74, was charged last week following an investigation by the state’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which includes Delaware State Police and the state Justice Department. The investigation began in July 2022 after the task force received cyber tips that Dryden’s IP address had accessed the material, court documents say.

After receiving the tips, law enforcement contacted Dryden at his home and seized his devices. A forensic examination of the items showed he had additional material, the Justice Department said.

According to the Justice Department, Dryden had been a children’s pastor at Stein Highway Church of God in Seaford for more than 20 years. In a Friday morning statement, Pastor Dan Southern defined Dryden as a “volunteer children’s worker.”

Southern added that the 74-year-old hasn’t been working with children at the church for about three years.

Still, “following proper policy, he is immediately suspended from any and all activities at the Stein Highway Church of God, pending investigation and disposition of these charges,” Southern said.

The Department of Justice said though Dryden is not charged with contacting a child − nor are investigators aware of any victims affiliated with the church − investigators are requesting anyone with information to come forward.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Update: Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Philip Grandine Finally Headed to Prison for Drowning His Wife in Bathtub

anna and philp grandine

In 2019, Philip Grandine, pastor of Ennerdale Baptist Church in Toronto, Canada, was convicted of killing his pregnant wife. Grandine’s first conviction in 2012 was overturned on a technicality. The CBC reported:

A former Toronto pastor accused of secretly sedating his pregnant wife before she drowned in the bathtub was found guilty of manslaughter Thursday, his second conviction in a case that has spanned more than seven years.

Jurors convicted Philip Grandine Thursday after deliberating for just over a day.

The man, who has been out on bail for more than six years while the case wound its way through the justice system, looked straight ahead as the verdict was read.

Prosecutors alleged Grandine drugged his wife with the anti-anxiety medication lorazepam, better known as Ativan, so she wouldn’t be as vigilant while he continued an affair with her friend.

The Crown alleged he then did not prevent Anna Karissa Grandine from getting in a bath in her incapacitated state one night in October 2011.

Anna Grandine was 20 weeks pregnant when she died. Tests later revealed she had lorazepam in her blood despite never being prescribed the drug.

Defence lawyers had argued Anna Grandine took the medication herself and either slipped in the tub, hitting her head and drowning, or took her own life.

….

The Crown alleged Grandine was behind the searches, noting some occurred roughly at the same time as searches for escorts and other sex-related topics. Prosecutors also said lorazepam was not a drug that should be used by pregnant women and Anna Grandine was conscientious about the health of her baby.

The defence argued it was Anna Grandine who looked up lorazepam, suggesting she sought to self-medicate in light of the recent upheaval in her life.

Court heard Philip Grandine stepped down as pastor after it came to light that he was having an affair with a parishioner, who was also his wife’s friend. The congregation, to which Anna Grandine belonged, was also told of the affair, court heard.

Another pastor agreed to give them marriage counselling if Philip Grandine stopped cheating and gave up pornography, conditions the couple accepted, court heard.

But Grandine quickly resumed the affair and over time, his wife became suspicious, even challenging him on the issue in an early October counselling session, court heard.

Then, in mid-October, Anna Grandine suddenly experienced dizziness, fatigue and other symptoms, prompting her husband to take her to hospital, court heard. Her sister said Anna Grandine was afraid; her mother testified the 29-year-old asked her husband if he had given her a pill, which he denied.

Three days later, Anna Grandine drowned in the bathtub. Court heard toxicology tests detected Ativan in her system and then checked the samples taken during her hospital visit, where they also found the drug.

Twelve years later, the murderous Grandine is now headed for prison.

The Toronto Star reports:

The Ontario Court of Appeal has upheld the manslaughter conviction and sentence given to an ex-Toronto pastor found guilty of his pregnant wife’s “diabolical and violent” bathtub drowning.

The decision means Philip Grandine, 35, is finally headed to prison to serve out the 15-year sentence a judge imposed after a Toronto jury found him guilty on Feb. 28, 2019.

Karissa Grandine, 29, drowned in a bathtub in the couple’s Scarborough home on Oct. 17, 2011. She was 20 weeks pregnant with their first child. The anti-anxiety drug lorazepam was found in her system. Her husband, a registered practical nurse originally from Paris, Ont., was charged with first-degree murder.

In 2012, during a trial in Toronto, the Crown alleged that he had drugged his wife with lorazepam and had intentionally caused her death by drowning.

The jury found Grandine guilty not of murder but guilty of manslaughter. On appeal, the verdict was overturned and a new trial ordered. The appeal court found the trial judge had erred by introducing a new theory that Grandine could be guilty of manslaughter by allowing his wife to take a bath after he knew she had ingested lorazepam.

Grandine was retried at the same downtown Toronto courthouse in 2019 on a charge of manslaughter and was convicted again by another jury. The Crown’s theory was that he administered the drug in order to pursue an extra-marital affair and to indulge his pornography obsession, or that he was criminally negligent in permitting his wife to enter the bath when he knew she was heavily sedated.

The defence argued Karissa voluntarily ingested the lorazepam and either drowned by suicide or died accidentally.

In January 2020, the judge sentenced Philip Grandine to 15 years in prison. She concluded Grandine was hostile toward his wife and administered the drug intending to incapacitate her and that his actions were planned, premeditated, diabolical and violent.

He immediately applied for bail and was released pending appeal. This time, his lawyers argued three grounds against conviction. Those arguments included that there was no evidence that Grandine knew his wife had consumed lorazepam or that she was at risk if she took a bath.

They also argued the sentence has harsh and excessive.

On Monday, Ontario’s highest court released its decision finding there was no error in the sentence, nor was it unfit. The appellate panel also found there was sufficient evidence for the jury to conclude Grandine knew she had taken lorazepam and was criminally negligent by omission by leaving her alone in the bath.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Don’t Believe One Word Ohio Republicans Say in Support of In Vitro Fertilization

save the children

By Marilou Johanek, Used with Permission from Ohio Capital Journal

Don’t believe a word. The same extremists lining up to support a federal abortion ban, that would override hard-earned reproductive freedoms in states like Ohio, are now tripping all over themselves to profess their support for IVF and personal choice. Yeah right. The truth is freedom-killing MAGA Republicans were caught off guard after the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos (created and stored for in vitro fertilization) are children under state law. 

Public reaction to the decision — that repeatedly invoked scripture as its legal foundation for effectively stopping in vitro fertilization treatments across Alabama — was highly negative. Of course it was. Millions of Americans struggle with infertility issues. Many have turned to IVF for hope. So the patriarchal zealots on a mission from God to force their religious beliefs down our throats — to control what you read, say, do, who you marry, when and how you have kids — saw the polls on IVF and rushed to pretend they would absolutely protect access to it.

Don’t believe a word. The extreme agenda of Christian nationalists to inject government into our private lives and subjugate women as vessels of the state was bluntly exposed in the Alabama IVF case. MAGA Republicans, inextricably linked to that extremism with their minority rule, panicked. It’s an election year. An urgent, if superficial, GOP course correction was hastily activated in MAGA circles to minimize political fallout in the wake of the IVF outrage. 

It is “imperative that our candidates align with the public’s overwhelming support for IVF and fertility treatments,” warned the memo from the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Every Republican running for the U.S. Senate in Ohio took heed and raced to cover their anti-choice backsides. Every one of them affirmed their solidarity with those appalled over the Alabama ruling. Every one of them is a fraud. 

Just a few months ago, Frank LaRose, Bernie Moreno, and Matt Dolan aggressively opposed a statewide issue that established a constitutional right “to one’s own reproductive medical treatment,” including the freedom to make decisions on abortion, contraception, fertility treatments, continuing one’s own pregnancy and miscarriage care. LaRose spearheaded the campaign against access to reproductive choices that encompassed IVF.

Multi-millionaire Moreno fought reproductive freedoms with six-figure donations to anti-abortion groups mobilized to defeat the right of Ohioans to make their own reproductive decisions. Matt Dolan disparaged the constitutionally protected freedoms Ohio voters decisively approved last November as too extreme — and then disparaged voters as being too dim to really understand what they were voting for. 

Heading into the March 19 GOP primary, all three Republicans say they’re open to canceling the will of state voters to impose federal restrictions on abortion rights and reproductive health care. The day an Alabama court decreed frozen embryos “extrauterine children” and the legal equivalent of human beings in a wrongful death lawsuit, Moreno suggested that his religious certainties about embryonic personhood were in sync with the court’s.

 “Your faith teaches you that life begins at conception,” he said, which would seem to preclude access to IVF services. LaRose echoed similar beliefs about life starting at fertilization that concurred with the religious views that influenced the all-Republican Alabama Supreme Court in  finding that fertilized eggs have the same legal status as people — which prompted an immediate pause in IVF treatment at hospitals and fertility clinics in the state. 

It’s not the first or last time the religious (not scientific) concept of fetal personhood justified banning abortion from the moment of conception or ending popular fertility treatments for would-be parents. There is a right wing through line from the theocratic justices on U.S. Supreme Court, who overturned Roe and punted on prenatal personhood, to the scripture-quoting state supreme court justices in Alabama, who granted legal status to frozen embryos, and the uptick in fetal personhood bills introduced in scores of Republican-dominated legislatures in the country. 

Ohio House Republicans have pushed their own extreme versions of personhood-at-conception legislation to ban abortion outright and threaten IVF medical practices in the state (for fear of being criminally culpable for discarded embryos not implanted.) Even after abortion became a constitutional right in Ohio, anti-abortion advocates continue their Statehouse crusade to obstruct or obliterate that right with bills drafted to ultimately overturn Ohio’s constitutional amendment protecting reproductive freedoms. 

Republican Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, a zealous opponent of allowing women to make their own health care choices, is dragging out litigation to keep the state’s six-week anti-abortion law on the books — although abortion rights are enshrined in the Ohio Constitution — to save “other provisions” of the draconian ban that might pass constitutional muster?? He’s brandishing his anti-abortion bona fides, instead of respecting the voters of the state, for a possible gubernatorial run in 2026. Depressing.

The GOP’s Handmaid’s Tale of dystopian extremism has come home to roost for MAGA Republicans at war with women and their fundamental right to self-determination. The party owns what Dobbs has wrought in pain and suffering. No matter what its presumptive presidential nominee (who is most responsible for Dobbs) says about the Alabama IVF ruling or what a bunch of course-correcting senatorial candidates say after fighting to deny women their reproductive rights and reproductive choice — don’t believe a word.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Is it Possible to Reform the IFB Church Movement?

for sale sign midwestern baptist college
For Sale Sign in Front of Midwestern Baptist College. The property was eventually sold and turned into apartments and a senior center.

Several years ago, I was interviewed for the Preacher Boys podcast by Eric Skwarczynski. The primary purpose of Eric’s podcast is to expose abuse within the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. Eric and I share a common purpose when it comes to sexual abuse and clergy misconduct in IFB churches, so I was more than happy to lend my voice to his noble cause.

At the end of the show, Eric asked me whether I thought the IFB church movement could be reformed. I told him I didn’t think it could be reformed, and that I hoped to be alive when the IFB church drew its last breath. I want to be the person standing at the bedside with a pillow in hand, smothering the last breath out of a cultic religious movement that has caused incalculable harm. I have seen first-hand (and participated in) the carnage caused by IFB churches, colleges, and pastors. I have talked to and corresponded with countless people whose marriages, families, and personal lives were ruined in the name of the IFB God. The psychological wounds and scars run deep. The widening exposure of abuse within the IFB church movement is a sign that people are no longer willing to be cowed into silence by men who value protecting their reputations and their ministries more than they do victims/survivors. This exposure is in its infancy, so we can expect to see more and more abuse stories come forth in the days, months, and years ahead.

While it is certainly true that some IFB churches and pastors have “reformed,” I have found that the changes that they have made are largely cosmetic. I don’t know of an IFB church that embraces progressive theology, liberal social values, or inclusivism. Big change in “reformed” IFB churches usually means they use translations other than the KJV, use drums, have praise and worship teams, allow women to wear pants, and permit men to have hair over their ears. Real “reformists” now let congregants go to movie theaters, drink beer from time to time, or read books not published by the Sword of the Lord or Bob Jones Press. Why, some IFB churches are so liberal that high school graduates are now permitted to attend colleges other than the ones attended by their pastors. Talk about unholy ecumenicism! Such changes, however, are window dressings meant to give the appearance of a new, improved IFB. Once in the store, people find the same authoritarian practices and exclusionary doctrines. The fundamental problem with the IFB church movement is their beliefs and practices. These things will never change. They can’t. The very foundation of the IFB church movement is the notion of certainty and right belief. Countless IFB churches and pastors believe that they alone have the truth; that they alone are God’s voice and God’s chosen people in their communities. The IFB church movement has always been separatist and anti-cultural. I haven’t seen anything in recent years that suggests this has changed.

gary keen bruce mike fox greg wilson midwestern baptist college 1978
Gary Keen, Bruce Gerencser, Mike Fox, Greg Wilson, Midwestern Baptist College, 1978

The only cure for the IFB church movement is death. And the good news is this: IFB churches, colleges, mission agencies, and parachurch organizations are in numerical and economic decline. The heyday of the IFB church movement was 40-plus years ago. In the 1970s, many of the largest churches in the United States were IFB churches. Today, many of these same churches are either closed or are shells of what they once were. From 1976-1979, I attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan — an IFB institution started by Dr. Tom Malone in 1954. Midwestern was never a big college, but today it roughly has ten percent of the students it had in the 1970s. Its website is outdated, and current information about the college hasn’t been posted in ages. The spacious 32-acre college campus has long since been abandoned and sold. Midwestern is now an ancillary ministry of Shalom Baptist Church in Orion, Michigan. Its president, David Carr, like his father Harry Carr, is a Midwestern grad. I predict that there is coming a day when I will hear that the college has closed its doors.

Dr. Malone was the pastor of the nearby Emmanuel Baptist Church. A product of Bob Jones College, Malone started Emmanuel in 1942 after becoming increasingly troubled over what he perceived as liberalism in the Southern and American Baptist conventions. In the uber-sanitized authorized biography Tom Malone: The Preacher from Pontiac, Joyce Vick shares the following apocryphal story:

People ask me all the time, “Brother Tom, to what group do you belong? Of what association are you a member?”

I answer, “None.”

They ask, “Are you a Missionary Baptist?”

“Yes, I am.”

It may sound like a lie, but they do want to know what I am. “Are you a Southern Baptist?”

I say, “I am Southern and I am a Baptist.”

“Are you a Conservative Baptist?”

“Sure, I am conservative.”

“In what association book does Emmanuel Baptist Church appear?”

“Don’t have any.”

“Where are your headquarters?”

“I don’t have one.”

“You mean you don’t belong to anything?”

“No, I belong to the same thing to which the church at Antioch belongs. There is only one tie between New Testament churches, and that is the tie of fellowship. Each church is a local, autonomous church within itself. We have God, El Shaddai, and that’s enough.”

I have never felt I was called to preach for anybody, but I have felt I was caused to preach to everybody. I am not preaching for anybody but Jesus. There is nothing so wonderful, nothing so wholesome, as for a preacher to know there are no strings attached.

Thank God, I don’t have to fit into a denominational program. Thank God, I don’t have to get my orders from some national headquarters. Oh, thank God for the privilege of going to God for my directions! (pages 303, 304)

for sale sign emmanuel baptist church pontiac
For Sale Sign in Main Entrance Door, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Pontiac, Michigan

Emmanuel would be a new kind of Baptist church: an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist congregation. In the 1970s, Emmanuel had over 7,000 active members, and had attendances on special days of over 5,000. Today? The doors of the church are shuttered, and its few remaining members scattered to other Fundamentalist churches in the area. The same story could be said of countless other IFB churches. Even First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana, pastored by the late Jack Hyles and once arguably the largest church in the United States, is a shell of what it once was. Sure, you can find growing IFB churches here and there, but most of them are dying. Oh, they will still brag about the number of souls saved, but actual attendance numbers don’t lie.

My wife’s uncle, the late James Dennis, graduated from Midwestern in the 1960s. After pastoring a church in Bay City, Michigan, Jim moved to Newark, Ohio in 1968 to assume the pastorate of the Newark Baptist Temple. A church plant by the Akron Baptist Temple (started by Charles Vaden), the Baptist Temple, as it is commonly called, would see exciting numeric growth in the 1970s and early 1980s. However, by the time Jim died, after serving the Baptist Temple for forty-two years, the church was a shell of what it once was. Its one-time large Christian school was forced to drastically reduce its staff. Licking County Christian Academy (LCCA) at its inception was an Accelerated Christian School (A.C.E.) institution. It would later morph into an unaccredited traditional K-12 school. Today, a skeleton crew of staff use prerecorded Abeka videos to instruct students. Some of our relatives currently attend LCCA, as did our three oldest children for a short time.

emmanuel baptist church 1983
Emmanuel Baptist Church, Buckeye Lake, Ohio, Bruce Gerencser’s ordination April 1983

Polly and I attended the Baptist Temple for a short time decades ago. I could write for hours about our experiences there — good and bad. We left the Baptist Temple in early 1981 to help Polly’s father, a 1976 graduate of Midwestern and Jim Dennis’ pastoral assistant, to plant a new church in Buckeye Lake, Ohio. I continued to have interaction with Jim and the Baptist Temple into the early 2000s. When our family briefly relocated to nearby Frazeyburg, Ohio in late 1994, people were shocked that we decided to NOT join the Baptist Temple, choosing instead to join the Fallsburg Baptist Church, an IFB congregation pastored by my former best friend Keith Troyer.

Over the years, I have watched the Baptist Temple “evolve.” While the church and its leaders are no longer as dogmatic as they once were over “church standards” (extra-Biblical rules used to govern and control the behavior of congregants), they are still a hardcore, right-wing, King James-only authoritarian congregation. When asked what I think has “changed” at the Baptist Temple, I laugh, and reply, “men are allowed to have facial hair now.” I suspect that this is not the kind of “reform” Eric Skwarczynski is talking about.

IFB institutions don’t reform. At best, they pretty themselves up a bit, hoping to attract unsuspecting visitors. Most IFB churches, however, remain committed to what they call “old-fashioned” Baptist beliefs and practices. They are proud to never have changed anything except their underwear. James Dennis was proud of the fact that he believed the same Biblical “truths” when he retired that he believed when graduating from Midwestern years before. No one should wear unchangeability as a badge of honor. “I have never changed my mind on anything. Bless your heart, my beliefs have never changed! Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and so am I. Can I get an AMEN?” And it is for this reason alone that I am convinced that it is impossible to reform the IFB church movement. The movement has chosen to die on the twin hills of arrogance and certainty. All any of us can do is to help them swiftly meet their end.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Update: Black Collar Crime: United Methodist Pastor Dennis Laferty Sentenced to Two Years in Prison for Sexually Molesting His Daughters

dennis laferty

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

In 2023, Dennis Laferty, pastor of Thompson United Methodist Church in Thompson, Ohio, was accused of the sexual abuse of minors: five counts of sexual battery, one count of gross sexual imposition, and one count of sexual imposition. It was alleged that the church covered up Laferty’s crimes. The victims were his two daughters.

Cleveland.com reported:

The minister of a church in Geauga County has been arrested and is facing multiple criminal charges after he was accused of the sexual abuse of minors.

Dennis Laferty, 37, who is pastor at Thompson United Methodist Church in Thompson Township, is charged with five counts of sexual battery, all third-degree felonies, according to Geauga County Common Pleas Court records. He also is charged with one count of gross sexual imposition, a third-degree felony, and one count of sexual imposition, a misdemeanor. A judge ordered he be held on a $100,000 bond.

Laferty was arrested Friday in Crawford County, the Geauga County Sheriff’s Office says. If Laferty is convicted, he could be sentenced to a maximum of five years on each felony count.

A news release from the sheriff’s office says Laferty is accused of sexually abusing minors beginning in 2019 and continuing until January of this year. Investigators believe there might be more victims.

The Geauga County Maple Leaf added:

The seven-count indictment against Laferty states a county grand jury found between Nov. 30, 2019, and Jan. 30, 2023, Laferty engaged in various acts of sexual misconduct with one or more minors. Specifically, Laferty was charged with five counts of third-degree felony sexual battery, one count of third-degree felony gross sexual imposition involving a person less than 13 years of age and one count of third-degree misdemeanor sexual imposition involving a person 13 years of age or older but less than 16 years old. The third degree felony counts in the indictment each carry a maximum potential sentence of five years in prison.

Laferty, a former staff sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, joined TUMC in July 2018 after serving three years as pastor at The United Methodist Church in Nevada, Ohio. He is married and has three daughters, according to his Facebook page.

On March 8, a former member of TUMC contacted the Geauga County Maple Leaf with information that Laferty was removed from his home on or about March 7 and was not allowed to have contact with his family. The person agreed to speak with the Maple Leaf on condition of anonymity.

“The Thompson Methodist Church is trying to cover this up, but the town’s people have a right to know,” the former member said. “The Thompson Police Department along with a few unmarked Chevy Tahoes were at his residence across from Dollar General. They came back later and confiscated some of his belongings.”

The former member was aware of at least one minor victim who is a member of TUMC and said one or more of the church leaders have known about other inappropriate behavior involving Laferty, but have covered it up for years.

“It has torn the church apart,” the former member said. “They don’t want anyone to know, especially the people of Thompson Township or the United Methodist Church District.”

Whether the leaders knew about the sexual battery allegations is unknown, the former member said.

Flaiz said as the investigation is still ongoing, he is unable to comment further on Laferty’s charges at this time.

“An indictment is only a probable cause finding by the grand jury,” his statement said. “A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the State’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

A law enforcement source familiar with the investigation, but not authorized to speak publicly, told the Maple Leaf authorities learned of Laferty’s alleged sexual battery through a current TUMC member who was concerned with how the matter was being handled internally at the church.

In addition, the former member said Laferty has a criminal history and provided the Maple Leaf with a copy of a 2012 sentencing entry filed in the Richland County Court of Common Pleas. According to the entry, Laferty admitted to aggravated trafficking in drugs, a third-degree felony. He was ordered to pay a $1,500 fine to the City of Mansfield Police Department and hand over a Kimber .45 semiautomatic handgun to the state of Ohio. He also was ordered to complete a mental health evaluation and treatment program.

The former member claims some church leaders knew of Laferty’s prior conviction but failed to inform the “majority of the hiring committee” before he was hired in July 2018.

In October 2018, Laferty paid to have the 2012 case record sealed so he could get a passport to go to Jerusalem, the former member said, which he did earlier this year, according to his Facebook page.

The Maple Leaf reached out to the lay leader and president of the church, Steve Roessner, for comment on Laferty’s hiring, current status with the TUMC and the criminal allegations. Roessner, who is a tax map manager in the Geauga County Engineer’s Office, did not respond to a text message requesting comment.

The Maple Leaf also reached out to board member Kirk Fowler for comment. Fowler also did not respond.

Thompson United Methodist Administrative Council released the following statement:

We have recently been made aware of very concerning allegations regarding Pastor Dennis Laferty. Please be aware that we are taking matters very seriously and allowing the appropriate authorities to take action. At this time, we ask that you pray for our church and community, and that answers may be brought in a just manner. Please know that we at Thompson United Methodist Church do not condone any form of harm to any person and we care for all our members. To ensure the protection of our congregation and community Dennis has been suspended as Pastor.

The Geauga Maple Leaf reported:

On March 8, a former member of TUMC contacted the Geauga County Maple Leaf with information that Laferty was removed from his home on or about March 7 and was not allowed to have contact with his family. The person agreed to speak with the Maple Leaf on condition of anonymity.

“The Thompson Methodist Church is trying to cover this up, but the town’s people have a right to know,” the former member said. “The Thompson Police Department along with a few unmarked Chevy Tahoes were at his residence across from Dollar General. They came back later and confiscated some of his belongings.”

The former member was aware of at least one minor victim who is a member of TUMC and said one or more of the church leaders have known about other inappropriate behavior involving Laferty, but have covered it up for years.

“It has torn the church apart,” the former member said. “They don’t want anyone to know, especially the people of Thompson Township or the United Methodist Church District.”

Whether the leaders knew about the sexual battery allegations is unknown, the former member said.

….

In addition, the former member said Laferty has a criminal history and provided the Maple Leaf with a copy of a 2012 sentencing entry filed in the Richland County Court of Common Pleas. According to the entry, Laferty admitted to aggravated trafficking in drugs, a third-degree felony. He was ordered to pay a $1,500 fine to the City of Mansfield Police Department and hand over a Kimber .45 semiautomatic handgun to the state of Ohio. He also was ordered to complete a mental health evaluation and treatment program.

The former member claims some church leaders knew of Laferty’s prior conviction but failed to inform the “majority of the hiring committee” before he was hired in July 2018.

In October 2018, Laferty paid to have the 2012 case record sealed so he could get a passport to go to Jerusalem, the former member said, which he did earlier this year, according to his Facebook page.

The Maple Leaf reached out to the lay leader and president of the church, Steve Roessner, for comment on Laferty’s hiring, current status with the TUMC and the criminal allegations. Roessner, who is a tax map manager in the Geauga County Engineer’s Office, did not respond to a text message requesting comment.

The Maple Leaf also reached out to board member Kirk Fowler for comment. Fowler also did not respond.

On March 13, Geauga County Engineer Joe Cattell told the Maple Leaf that Roessner had been placed on paid administration leave pending an investigation into the matter. Cattell explained his office was investigating whether Roessner’s alleged actions or inactions violated any office policies or procedures.

In a March 11 Facebook post, the Thompson UMC Administrative Council stated Laferty has been suspended as pastor.

“We have recently been made aware of very concerning allegations regarding Pastor Dennis Laferty. Please be aware that we are taking matters very seriously and allowing the appropriate authorities to take action,” the council stated. “At this time, we ask that you pray for our church and community, and that answers may be brought in a just manner. Please know that we at Thompson United Methodist Church do not condone any form of harm to any person and we care for all our members.”

The council also stated that “to ensure the protection of our congregation and community”  Laferty has been suspended as pastor.

Ten years ago, the Mansfield News Journal wrote a feature story about Laferty, then the pastor of Adario United Methodist Church in Shiloh, Ohio:

Dennis Laferty, 29, admits he joined the Marine Corps to run away from his true vocation.

After 71/2 years, three tours in Iraq and various injuries, Laferty was honorably discharged for medical reasons.

Today, he is the senior pastor of the Adario United Methodist Church.

“I planned to stay in the Corps for 20 years and retire,” he said. “But you can’t run away from God.”

He admits he was still running away when he and his wife, Lisa, moved to Tiro in Crawford County after his discharge.

By habit, he and Lisa attended the United Methodist Church.

“But I was still angry. I had no idea what it was like to be a civilian,” he said. “But a lot of love from a lot of people helped.”

But, Pastor Laferty said, church members such as Elvon Pry “took me under their wings.”

The running was over.

Laferty obtained a degree in criminal justice from North Central State College and looks forward to earning a master’s degree in divinity soon.

After some training, he was assigned to the United Methodist Church in Adario. He and Lisa found a small, comfortable home just down the road from the church.

He is a licensed local pastor who can serve communion, perform marriages and funeral services, as well as conduct baptisms and Sunday services.

He has come a long way from the Marine “gym rat” who served in Iraq three times too many.

A native of Mansfield, Laftery attended the local United Methodist church.

“I knew by the sixth grade that the church was where I belonged. But I didn’t want it,” he said.

He met Lisa at Mansfield Senior High School, and the two were married in between his junior and senior years.

They have three children — Jessica, 9; Abigail, 6; and Rebecca, 2 — plus a friendly dog named Alice.

Laferty joined the Corps right out of high school and was trained in logistics. But every time he went to Iraq, he was on the road with the infantry.

Halfway through his third tour, his vehicle was blown up by a mine.

“The engine was blown almost 500 feet away,” he said.

But of the six men on board, only he was seriously injured — with a concussion and broken ribs.

His real problem was a bone cyst in his right arm. Four operations failed to eliminate it, and he was discharged with disability.

He went from a muscular gym rat to a smaller size.

He also had to face reality. The running was over. God, as he said, was calling.

He doesn’t lift weights any more, but he hopes to lift hearts.

“I was appointed to Adario last July. I needed a new ballgame, and I’ve loved every minute of this.”

His congregation has 71 members, and many are elderly. He knows them all.

This is a busy church with several activities, including free meals for people who need them.

His sermons are taken from a few notes he marks down in his small home office.

“I’m no theologian,” Laftery said.

He takes off from there, hoping to reach the members of his congregation.

While his home office is filled with books on theology and the Bible, a Marine Corps sword sits prominently on a table.

Laferty is a man of God, but always a Marine.

Laferty pleaded guilty to two counts of gross sexual imposition.

Fox-8 reported:

A Geauga County pastor has pleaded guilty to sex crimes relating to the abuse of minors.

Under a plea agreement reached Wednesday, Dennis W. Laferty, 37, of Tiro, in Crawford County, could face up to 10 years in prison on the two felony counts of gross sexual imposition to which he pleaded Wednesday, as well as two months in jail on a misdemeanor count of sexual imposition.

He could also be subject to five years of probation upon release and be made to register as a tier II sex offender.

Attorneys have not agreed on a sentence.

Laferty was indicted in March on seven total counts, including five felony counts of sexual battery, one of which was amended to a gross sexual imposition charge in his plea agreement. The other charges were dismissed.

He was released a week after his indictment, after posting 10% of the $100,000 bond ordered in the case.

The offenses to which Laferty pleaded happened between November 2019 and January 2023 in Geauga County, according to his indictment.

In July 2023, Laferty was sentenced to two years in prison for sexually molesting his daughters. Laferty testified:

Your honor, I don’t dispute that I deserve to go to prison, however, I believe that if I went to jail, it would only make a bad situation worse. You’ve read the letters from my daughters and my wife. These are the victims and they do not want me to go to prison,” he told Ondrey. “Instead, they wish to reconcile and move forward. My wife is currently suffering from seizures as a result from having brain surgery and is unable to work. This means they would not be able to pay the mortgage, the car payment or any other bills and lose everything. I ask your honor to show mercy and not sentence me to prison. And if this is your decision, I will continue therapy, I will get a job to support my family and I will do what is required to reconcile with my family, because that is what they want. And I will follow all orders of the court.

The Geauga County Maple Leaf reported:

Geauga County Assistant Prosecutor Christian Bondra saw Laferty’s crimes much differently, recommending a four-year prison term on each count of gross sexual imposition, served consecutively for a total of eight years.

“The state does feel the defendant’s conduct is more serious. It’s our position there was physical harm. We do feel that the digital penetration of a minor would constitute physical harm,” Bondra said. “Counseling services were engaged because of this incident, so the state believes that speaks to the psychological harm and impact to these victims, as well. We also feel the conduct was made more serious given the relationship. (These were) incidents that took place at home, that took place when father was going to pick these children up … there was a familial relationship there that led to and furthered these acts by the defendant.”

Bondra emphasized this was not just one incident with one child, but several incidents with more than one child.

“I would note that … the defendant’s own words of what happened was that he reached his hand into the pants of one of his children and into the pants of another one of his children. What the victims in this case shared was far more gruesome than that, was far more extensive than that,” he said. “That speaks to the defendant’s accountability for these actions, his remorse for these actions. While he sits here today and feels sorry for what he did, we don’t believe he’s still taking full accountability or fully believes everything he did was harmful to these children.”

Bondra acknowledged the letters submitted by the victims, but said it was “somewhat telling” to the state the letters did not really speak of forgiveness, but rather concern for the financial impact of Laferty’s imprisonment.

“The harm and impact to these children is going to continue far past today and into their adult lives. We do believe consecutive sentences are appropriate, your honor,” he concluded. “We believe this was a continuing course of conduct. It was two victims and several different occasions. We would ask the defendant be required to register as a Tier II sex offender.”

Ondrey said he took into consideration Laferty having no prior conviction for offenses of this nature, his service in the marines leading to PTSD, his significant history of mental health challenges, his family’s expressed desire for him to return home as soon as possible, as well as the financial hardship Laferty’s absence would bring his family.

He also considered past sentences for similar offenses, particularly involving father-daughter situations.

The judge said while he does not have sufficient evidence to know whether the victims suffered serious psychological harm, he acknowledges they probably have.

“Lastly, I also have to consider the need for some significant punishment for behaviors that are deemed wholly unacceptable in our society, as you acknowledged today, taking advantage of your relationship with your children and ruining their innocence,” Ondrey said. “No doubt, destroying their faith in you as their father, at least for a period of time.”

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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IFB Pastor Bobby Leonard “Apologizes” for Saying Women Deserve Being Raped If They Wear Immodest Shorts

pastor bobby leonard

When you go to Pigeon Forge, sit in mall parking lot, you’ll find more women with shorts on than pants & dresses put together. If you dress like that and you get raped, and I’m on the jury, he’s going to go free. You don’t like that, do you? I’m right, though. Because a man’s a man.

— Bobby Leonard, Pastor of Bible Baptist Tabernacle in Monroe, North Carolina

Bobby Leonard is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher, pastor of Bible Baptist Tabernacle for fifty-four years. His vile comment in his sermon resulted in widespread condemnation, resulting in Leonard apologizing:

I want to express my deep regret for the statements made from the pulpit. I am only beginning to understand the hurt and offense caused, and I take full responsibility for my words. As a pastor I failed to uphold the biblical values of love and compassion. I apologize for the pain caused and commit to learning from making this foolish and sinful statement. Bible Baptist Tabernacle and I unequivocally stand on the biblical position that rape under any circumstances is a heinous crime to be punished severely and is never excusable.

What are we to make of Leonard’s apology, especially considering he made this statement six months ago and only apologized AFTER his words were revealed by Bad Preacher Clips on Twitter? Leonard apologized because he got caught. His words caused such outrage, he had no choice but to eat them and “apologize.”

Generally, preachers such as Leonard say what they mean the first time. Apologies are damage control, not repentance and contrition. Leonard has been an IFB Christian his entire life. He has heard similar statements countless times over the years; I know I have.

Here’s the late IFB demigod Jack Hyles saying virtually the same thing; suggesting that if women who dress immodestly (show their thighs) get raped, they deserve it.

Video Link

Here’s what a few other IFB/Baptist preachers said about women dressing immodestly:

An immodestly dressed woman is like a cigarette at a gas pump. The cigarette does not explode; the explosion comes as a result of the inherent instability of the fuel. But whoever lit the thing is an absolute fool. I can hear the responses being typed furiously all the way from Iowa. “Well, he should control himself!” Amen, sister, amen. He should walk in the Spirit and thus not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. And you should not run around half-clothed.

— Tom Brennan, pastor of Bible Baptist Church in Dubuque, Iowa, Brennan’s Pen, The Relationship Between Modesty and Lust, April 25, 2022

The entire eighteenth chapter of Leviticus is on nakedness. Although most Christians still consider bestiality as being wrong, they no longer consider homosexuality as being wrong or dressing improperly as being wrong. Many see nothing wrong with dressing scantily. Many see nothing wrong with mixed bathing, yet God calls it an abomination. How many cases of incest have taken place in homes where passions have been inflamed by immodesty among family members? How many boys and girls have been raised in homes that practiced immodest dress and now live lives of promiscuity?

— Gerald B. Collingsworth, pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in Mogadore, Ohio, Right Living is Not Legalism, May 18, 2019

It’s that beautiful yet dreadful time of year when summer clothes come-out.  And it seems that every summer shorts get shorter, necklines plunge lower, styles get tighter, and fabrics are so thin that one could read a newspaper through them.  Yet issues over modest clothing aren’t just significant to the Amish and crotchety old people who complain about “those ‘dang teenagers.”

When a glutton eats too much, no one else gets fat.  And when a thief steals from a convenience store, only the thief goes to jail.  But when a young lady dresses inappropriately, the effects of her sin are expansive.

Her sin spreads.

As she strolls down the beach in her immodest bathing suit or worships on a Sunday wearing a revealing dress, everyone who sees her is handed temptation.   The men and boys around her must battle the sin of lust, while the women and girls around her must battle the sins of bitterness and jealousy and the temptation to show-off their bodies, too.   Everyone is distracted by the young lady’s clothing and everyone struggles to think pure thoughts.

— Kara Barnette, wife of Tim, pastor of Heritage Hills Baptist Church in Rockdale County, Georgia

There is an infatuation with the body, and, of course, the sexual aspects of the body as well. Some sports encourage immodesty, revealing large portions of the body and this happens in some sports. These are the risky sports. Here they are, what are the risky sports? Gymnastics. Gymnastics and swimming. These are the sports in which there is an added risk.

Why are all of the gymnasts [at] more of a risk than other sports? Do you really want your daughters involved in a sport that involves a fair amount of immodesty in which red-blooded American male coaches are interacting with these girls? Or, worse yet, where the infatuation of the body eventually effects the lesbian coaches?

— Kevin Swanson, Gymnastics and the Sexual Abuse of Kids, February 9, 2018

Leonard should be fired for what he said, but he won’t be. Why? I suspect more than a few church members agree with him. What Leonard spoke out loud is not uncommon in IFB circles. Just good ‘ole old-fashioned, pulpit-pounding, toe-stomping, fire-and-brimstone preaching, right?

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Women Should Not Dress “Immodestly” Lest They Tempt Their Brothers in the Lord

marjorie taylor greene

This might be an unpopular opinion and could hurt some feelings. There are many conservative Christian women, who are influencers or leaders, that are selling themselves short and not being good role models by conforming to the world’s sexualization of women. If you are conservative and a Christian you know you don’t have to express yourself in sexual ways and you know you are attractive by dressing nice and feminine, and you can be beautiful and modest at the same time. Men will respect you more and think of you much more highly than just a sexual object for gratification. It’s also good to not tempt your Christian brothers and cause them to stumble. As conservative Christian women let us always be an example to girls and young women by displaying actions that our faith believes and not conform to the patterns of this fallen world. Be the light, don’t fall into the darkness.

— Marjorie Taylor-Greene, Twitter, February 22, 2024

Bruce Gerencser