More Reporting on the Michael Cohen-Jerry Falwell Jr. “Racy Photos” Story

U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump shakes hands with Jerry Falwell Jr. during a campaign event in Sioux City Iowa

Last night we did a post on this story.  Get up to speed here.  Since then, Washington Post writers Felicia Sonmez and Sarah Pulliam Bailey have done some additional reporting.  It turns out that actor Tom Arnold is part of the story.  But here is some material from the article that the original Reuters piece did not include:

Michael Cohen, President Trump’s longtime personal attorney, claimed to have helped prevent the release of personal photographs embarrassing to Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. shortly before the influential evangelical leader endorsed Trump’s insurgent presidential bid in 2016.

Cohen made the assertion, which was first reported by Reuters, in a phone call in March with actor Tom Arnold. Arnold provided The Washington Post with a recording of the call Tuesday night.

“There’s a bunch of photographs — you know, personal photographs — that somehow, the guy ended up getting,” Cohen said on the call. The person who had the photos, who is not identified on the call, was demanding money from the Falwells, and Cohen threatened to report the person to legal authorities, according to Reuters.

Reuters reported that the alleged episode took place months before Falwell’s endorsement of Trump. Arnold told The Post that Cohen told him it occurred during the presidential race.

A statement released by an attorney for the Falwells called the account “not accurate.”

Read the entire piece here.  Let’s see how this plays out.

The Spiritual Journey of David Brooks

Brooks speaking

We have written a few things over the years about the faith of David Brooks.  See our posts here and here.

Sarah Pulliam Bailey has an interesting piece on Brooks at The Washington Post.  Here is a taste:

New York City evangelical pastor Tim Keller, who has been having conversations with Brooks for about five years, said that some evangelicals have been keenly interested in the faith of Brooks and Jordan Peterson, a Canadian psychologist who also has a large conservative following. (Peterson considers himself a Christian but whom some would consider unorthodox in his beliefs.)

“In their own different ways, they have platforms religious people don’t have anymore,” he said.

Even though one chapter of his new book includes his personal experience with faith, Brooks does not push a particularly religious message, Keller said.

“Brooks has the ear of a lot of people and is basically saying there has to be a higher allegiance than your individual self,” Keller said. “It’s not a call to repentance and see Jesus.”

Read the entire piece here.  Benjamin Wallace-Wells also has a piece on Brooks’s religious faith but I can’t get to it because it is behind the New Yorker paywall.

More on the Paige Patterson Story from *The Washington Post*

PaigePatterson(2)

Michelle Boorstein and Sarah Pulliam Bailey continue to work the Paige Patterson story for the Washington Post.  In their recent piece, they share additional stories of women treated poorly by Patterson.  Here is a taste:

Melissa Medley was there from 2010 to 2014 for her undergraduate studies in missions work when, she says, she was groped by her favorite professor. She went to a chaplain, who reported it to Patterson.

Patterson called and was “cordial,” and told her “corny jokes” before addressing the allegation, Medley said.

“The first thing he said was, making sure I understood the severity of what I was saying. I said yes,” said Medley, now pursuing a counseling master’s at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. “He said: ‘Do you have witnesses? Do you have proof?’ ”

She said that Patterson told her he would treat it as a “he said-she said” until he spoke to the professor — who denied everything. That was the end of the process, she said.

“That crushed me, because I knew nothing would be done,” she said.

Medley said she is not angry and, in fact, she “loves” the Southern Baptist Convention and is proud to be part of it. However, “Southern Baptists aren’t taught how to handle these situations. . . . We’ve got things we need to change.”

Ueckert, the board chairman at Southwestern, said last week that he didn’t know of the allegation. The professor denied it in an email to The Post.

Read the entire piece here.

I also found this part of the piece intriguing:

Patterson and a Texas judge named Paul Pressler — who now faces a state lawsuit alleging sexual abuse by a man in his Bible study, which he denies — met in a New Orleans cafe to sketch out a plan to get conservatives into all the leadership positions in Southern Baptist institutions, according to historians of religion.

The takeover, which lasted over a decade, was no holds barred, with Patterson keeping files on ideological opponents and cultivating spies in seminaries, according to historical accounts. A 1991 profile in D Magazine — which covers the Dallas area — said Patterson had been “likened to the Rev. Jim Jones and Joe McCarthy” by his critics in the denomination. “He’s been reviled as a power-mad fundamentalist on a witch hunt for heretics.”

What is the Current Status of the Paige Patterson Files Removed from Southeastern Seminary?

SOutheasternWe blogged about this last week.  Southern Baptist blogger Wade Burleson suggested that files pertaining to a 2003 rape of a student at Southeastern Seminary during the Paige Patterson presidency were removed from the seminary archives when Patterson left for Southwestern Seminary.  Get up to speed here.

It looks like Danny Akin, the current president of Southeastern, has weighed-in.  Here is a taste of Michelle Boorstein’s and Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s reporting at The Washington Post:

Danny Akin, president of Southeastern seminary, said he couldn’t confirm if the Southwestern leaders were referring to Lively’s alleged 2003 rape at his school. Akin said he believes files that would help them investigate the incident were taken from Southeastern when Patterson left that same year to become president at Southwestern in Texas.

“Whether by mistake or intentionally, I don’t know. We think there are files that probably belong to Southeastern so we’ve asked folks at Southwestern to look into that. They’re in the process of doing that,” he said.

Read the entire piece here

*Washington Post* Reporter Sarah Pulliam Bailey Joins a Christian Nationalist Tour of D.C.

Providential HistoryHere is a taste of her report:

The girls in red, white and blue plaid skirts and boys in khaki pants climbed aboard the bus with their parents before it pulled away from the Red Lion Inn in Arlington, Va.

The 46 Mississippi sixth-graders from Tupelo Christian Preparatory School were headed to the Mall for a conservative “Christian history” tour — a theme that stands out in largely liberal, diverse Washington, even given the city’s role as host to tours for practically every interest.

“We are a nation founded by people who put their trust in God,” said Stephen McDowell, co-founder of the Providence Foundation, the right-leaning Christian educational nonprofit group in Charlottesville that sponsors the tours.

“What’s our motto?” McDowell called out to the students.

“In God We Trust!” they yelled back in unison.

“America is exceptional,” McDowell continued. “This nation was unlike any in history.”

The tours attempt to explain the buildings, monuments and symbols in the nation’s capital through a Christian lens, as visible proof of religious foundations upon which the country was built.

And here is my small contribution to the article:

Many historians takes issue with the idea of a tour that focuses at looking at national history solely through a conservative Christian perspective.

“People like McDowell get some facts wrong, but my real issue with them is the way they try to spin the past to promote their present-day political agenda,” said John Fea, a professor of American history at Messiah College, a Christian school in Mechanicsburg, Pa. “They cherry-pick. … This is not how historians work.”

The political leanings of the Christian history tour group were apparent.

For example, the students and parents watched Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) give an address in the Senate chambers about labor rights for Native Americans and his opposition to Trump’s stance toward Russia and the recent tax reform law.

“He sounded like he was from somewhere in the North,” Julia Jane Averette, 12, said over lunch. “I wish a Republican had been talking when we went through.”

Averette said she is inspired to become president some day. “I would lower taxes and spend money on things that are useful, like protecting the country, not what Obama did,” she said.

Read the entire article here.

Paige Patterson Fires a Student and Takes Away His Financial Aid After a Disloyal Tweet

PaigePatterson(2)

Sarah Pulliam Bailey is reporting at the Washington Post that Southwestern Baptist Seminary president Paige Patterson just fired a Ph.D student from his job in the seminary kitchen and took away his financial aid because he was disloyal to the seminary.  (That should probably read “disloyal to Patterson”).

Why did the 31-year old student get fired?  Because of this tweet:

Montgomery’s tweet endorses Wheaton College’s Ed Stetzer‘s Christianity Today piece calling for Patterson’s retirement in the wake of an audio tape in which Patterson suggests that women undergoing physical abuse from their husbands should submit to it.  See our post on Stetzer’s article here.  (It looks like the old “Christianity Today crowd” is up to their old tricks! 🙂 )

Here is a taste of Bailey’s story:

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, numerous powerful men have come under scrutiny over sexist treatment of women. But Patterson, who has long held a special status within the nation’s largest Protestant denomination for his role in a conservative takeover of the convention going back decades, is known for not backing down from positions.

After his 2000 comments were published on a blog, he stated that while he would never recommend divorce, he has advised abused women to leave their husbands. Though Patterson issued a statement earlier this week with his trustees that did not mention resignation or retirement, two seminary graduates who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the trustees of the seminary, who control Patterson’s future, have been divided over how to handle its controversial president who some say has a pattern of poor behavior.

Patterson, in the interview, referred to the PhD student who was fired. “If you are going to be problematic and you’re indiscreet, you’ll be fired,” he said.

Nathan Montgomery, a PhD student in the philosophy program at the seminary, who recorded the meeting where he was fired, was told that his tweet did not exhibit loyalty to the seminary and that it did not reflect the institutional voice…

In Montgomery’s tweet promoting Stetzer’s blog post, he said he felt like he should say something publicly, but he said he didn’t expect anything to happen.

Patterson said in the interview that Montgomery had “a long history,” but declined to provide specifics. The document that lists reasons for Montgomery’s termination cited just one previous incident, which Montgomery said was a misunderstanding over catering for Patterson’s wife. He said he has never been given any warnings.

Montgomery still hopes to stay at the seminary, where he expects his PhD will take another four years to finish.

Read the entire piece here.

This should not surprise anyone who is familiar with Patterson’s tyrannical and authoritarian rule at Southwestern. This is what tyrants do.  They circle the wagons and purge dissent.

Paige Patterson’s World” is falling apart before his very eyes.

Trump’s “God and Country” Language in National Prayer Breakfast Speech

Trump prayer

I offered my take on the speech here. I also contributed to Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s piece at The Washington Post.  Here is a taste:

In some ways, Trump’s speech fit the types of prayer breakfast speeches given by presidents in the past, said John Fea, a professor of history at Messiah College. Trump spoke about the role America has to play to create a more just world, an idea President Barack Obama would have promoted as well.

“There are Christians both on the left and the right who see America as a force for good,” Fea said.

However, Trump went a bit further, he said, where American exceptionalism was implied. “This is something that gets the Christian right … very excited,” he said.

Read the entire piece here.

Evangelicals Urge Congress and Trump to Act on Immigration

Immigration

Evangelical leaders took out an ad in tomorrow’s Washington Post urging Congress and Trump to allow more refugees into the United States and keep the DACA program.  The letter was signed by Max Lucado, Beth Moore, and Jen Hatmaker, among others.  According to the Washington Post‘s Sarah Pulliam Bailey, none of the court evangelicals signed the ad.

Here is a taste of Bailey’s piece about the ad:

A diverse group of evangelical leaders have put their names on a full-page advertisement in Wednesday’s Washington Post urging President Trump and Congress to act on immigration and refugee policy, issues that have become especially divisive among conservative evangelicals.

Last year, a similar group took out an ad denouncing Trump’s attempt to ban certain refugees, a controversial executive order that has been caught up in legal battles during the past year. This year’s ad also includes controversial immigration issues that have been tied up in recent congressional battles.

It has some of the same signatures, including popular authors like Max Lucado and Ann Voskamp,  who have long focused on the welcoming part of immigration. However, it also adds some interesting names, including Bible teacher Beth Moore and popular author Jen Hatmaker, two women who have become increasingly vocal in the Trump era. Some of these leaders focus mostly on the Bible and spirituality and don’t typically get too involved in political issues.

Read the entire piece here.

Evangelicals Respond to the President’s Racist Remarks

Metaxas

I was going to do some posts on this today, but Warren Throckmorton has things covered pretty well.  Read his post here.

I will make a few comments based on Throckmorton’s post:

Eric Metaxas appears to have lost his way.  Even his fellow New York City evangelical and The King’s College chancellor Greg Thornbury has called him out.  I think it is so ironic that Metaxas is saying evangelicals who oppose Trump’s remarks vile are “People… in love w/feeling morally superior.”  Let’s remember: this is the guy who once told his fellow evangelical Christians that “God will not hold us guiltless” if we did not vote for Trump.

Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s piece at The Washington Post is the gold standard on this controversy.  She quotes A.R. Bernard, the New York City megachurch pastor who resigned from Trump’s evangelical council after Trump blamed “both sides” for the racial conflict in Charlottesville last August.  Here is a taste:

A.R. Bernard, a black pastor of a 40,000-member church in New York City, resigned from the evangelical council in August after Trump blamed “both sides” for deadly violence in Charlottesville.

While back then Bernard said he didn’t think Trump was a racist, that changed Thursday.

“His own comments expose him,” Bernard said. “They were elitist and blatantly racist.”

Bernard said Trump’s comments Friday honoring civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. “added insult to injury.”

The silence of the mostly white men who remain on the informal council, he said, “is getting louder.” While members say they’re there because they’re influencing the White House on topics from Israel to religious freedom, Bernard said he doesn’t believe the council has any real influence.

“I think they’re politically convenient to the president,” he said.

Bernard is a former court evangelical. He has left the court and now has a story to tell.  I also find it a bit strange (to put it mildly) that Metaxas is saying via Twitter that Bernard fails to understand the true meaning of racism.

Again, read Throckmorton’s round-up.

Sarah Pulliam Bailey Reports on A.R. Bernard Resignation

File Photo: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump shakes hands with Jerry Falwell Jr. at a campaign rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa

I am glad that Sarah Pulliam Bailey is on the story!  Over at the Washington Post she reports on A.R. Bernard,  the first court evangelical to leave Trump.  I learned several new things from Bailey’s piece:

  • James McDonald, a Chicago-era megachurch pastor, is no longer a member of the Trump evangelical advising team.  He resigned about the Access Hollywood tape.
  • Johnnie Moore, the apparent leader of this evangelical advisory group and the man who does not shy away from the label “modern day Dietrich Bonheoffer,” says that he will still invite Bernard to meet with the group “on various issues.”
  • Jonathan Falwell, the brother of Jerry Falwell Jr. and the pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, condemned racism from the pulpit last Sunday morning.  Meanwhile his brother tweeted this.  Bailey writes: “The brothers’ responses to Charlottesville reflect the largest divide in evangelicalism right now over how to respond and politically charged issues.”

Read the entire piece here.

Pro-Trump Evangelicals Still Support Trump

Trump Jeffress

As I wrote last night, evangelical leaders who support Donald Trump cling to what I am calling a “What Trump said was reprehensible, but Bill Clinton…” line of argument.  I thought some of these leaders–Tony Perkins, Robert Jeffress, Jerry Falwell Jr., and others–might change their minds after a night of sleep.  This does not seem to be the case.  In fact, the recent Trump scandal seems to have had no effect on these evangelical leaders.

Sarah Pulliam Bailey of The Washington Post has been doing some great reporting on this.  Here is a taste of her most recent piece:

Ralph Reed, a conservative Christian activist and the head of Trump’s religious advisory board, said that as the father of two daughters, he was disappointed by the “inappropriate” comments.

“But people of faith are voting on issues like who will protect unborn life, defend religious freedom, grow the economy, appoint conservative judges and oppose the Iran nuclear deal,” he said in an email.

He contrasted Trump with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, saying that her “corrupt use of her office to raise funds from foreign governments and corporations and her reckless and irresponsible handling of classified material on her home-brewed email server, endangering US national security, that will drive the evangelical vote.”

“I think a 10-year-old tape of a private conversation with a TV talk show host ranks pretty low on their hierarchy of their concerns,” he said.

Some evangelicals have pointed out how Reed called for the importance of character from political leaders in the past. In 1998, when he was running the now-defunct Christian Coalition, the New York Times wrote about the organization’s meeting. The newspaper wrote that the group’s leaders used former President Bill Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky scandal as “the ultimate evidence that Washington was in need of a restoration of ‘family values.’ ”

“Character matters, and the American people are hungry for that message,” the Times quotes Reed as saying. “We care about the conduct of our leaders, and we will not rest until we have leaders of good moral character.”

Trump’s campaign has driven wedges between some evangelicals, who have no formal leadership or hierarchy and have been increasingly divided over who may speak for those who choose that label. A group of evangelicals released a letter on Thursday condemning Trump, saying his campaign “affirms racist elements in white culture.”

The newest poll from the Public Religion Research Institute said that 69 percent of white evangelical Protestants favored Trump while 19 percent supported Clinton. The latest Washington Post/ABC poll indicates that 52 percent of evangelicals of any race favored Trump compared to 40 percent who supported Clinton.

On Friday night, Trump released a video apologizing for his comments, calling them “foolish” and saying he pledges to “be a better man tomorrow.”

Other Christian leaders varied in their responses to Trump’s comments.

“The crude comments made by Donald J. Trump more than 11 years ago cannot be defended,” evangelist Franklin Graham wrote on Facebook on Saturday morning. “But the godless progressive agenda of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton likewise cannot be defended.” Graham, who has not formally endorsed a candidate this election but endorses issues Trump has said he stands for. “The most important issue of this election is the Supreme Court,” Graham said.

Darrell Scott, a black pastor from Cleveland who supports Trump, wrote on Twitter, “I don’t condone the conversation; but I don’t condemn the man!”

Popular author Rachel Held Evans, who grew up in an evangelical home, called on evangelicals to speak out against Trump’s words.

“Evangelicals, misogyny is wrong. Sexual assault is wrong. Adultery is wrong. Calling women ‘bitches’ & ‘pieces of ass’ is wrong. SAY SO,” she tweeted.

Read the entire piece here.