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Religion Today Blog Christian Blog and Commentary

Amanda Casanova

Religious persecution, missions, Christianity around the world

The ex-wife of one of three pastors who was convicted in a sex trafficking investigation has also been convicted and sentenced to nearly two years in prison for lying to investigators.

Laura Lloyd, of Ohio, told a judge that she lied because she was trying to protect her job and her family.

Lloyd was sentenced to 21 months in prison.

Lloyd is a former county administrator in Toledo who was let go from her job after her ex-husband was suspected on child sex trafficking.

Last month, ex-husband Cordell Jenkins was sentenced to life in prison. Prosecutors say he had sex with a teenager at his home and his office at the church where he pastored. According to the Associated Press, he recorded the encounters with his phone. He pled guilty to the charges last week.

Another one of the three ministers found guilty of sex trafficking is scheduled to be sentenced soon. The pastor could face life in prison.

Anthony Haynes has also pled guilty of multiple charges of sex trafficking and child sexual exploitation. Previously, he denied the charges, telling jurors, “I’m not a pervert.”

A 19-year-old woman told jurors that when she was 14, Haynes encouraged her to have sex with the three pastors. According to ABC News, he also paid the woman during the three-year period after he told her mother that he would protect her.

Earlier this month, two children came forward with sexual abuse allegations against Haynes. Siblings in Toledo, a brother and sister, told police they were also sexually abused by Haynes.

“[Haynes] is a predator in every sense of the word. He used his position of trust to prey on victims who had lost their family or home. His actions make him a true threat and danger to society, and thus the public must be protected from him,” U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said.

Photo courtesy: Hedi Benyounes/Unsplash

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is taking an Alabama High School to task after 18 football players were baptized last month.

According to Fox News, 18 players for the Washington County High school were baptized in a feeding trough by Chatom Baptist Church’s pastor in May. The event was recorded and posted to Facebook where most people rejoiced in the sight. 

One person, however, seemingly did not find the baptism of the players appropriate, prompting them to reach out to the FFRF.

According to Fox News, the FFRF – an atheist law firm claiming to fight to protect the separation of church and state – sent a letter to the Washington County Schools Superintendent in May, claiming that the coach was participating in “illegal” activities because of his involvement in the players’ baptisms. 

The letter claimed that one resident of the 1,200 people living in the town of Chatom contacted the FFRF upset that the players were baptized, some by the coach. 

 Christopher Line, a legal fellow at the FFRF, wrote in his letter to the Superintendent that it is "illegal for coaches to organize or participate in religious activities with students, including baptisms."

He continued, "We request that the district investigate and take the appropriate steps to ensure there will be no further illegal religious events, including team baptisms, during school-sponsored activities.”

"Coaches and school staff should be instructed that they can neither organize nor participate in religious activities with students while acting in their official capacity," the fellow continued.

Evangelical pastor Franklin Graham weighed in on the complaint by thanking God for “coaches and teachers across our country who are boldly living out their faith in Christ.”

Graham wrote in a post on Facebook, “Congratulations to these 18 football players and their coaches from Washington County High School in Chatom, Alabama! These students who had put their faith in Jesus Christ were baptized in a feeding trough while everyone celebrated—well, almost everyone.”

“One person in their small town complained to the atheist Freedom From Religion Foundation and now they’re demanding an investigation about these ‘religious activities,’ Graham added.

“I thank God for coaches and teachers across our country who are boldly living out their faith in Christ and care deeply about the lives of their students. God bless them.”

Deputy general counsel for First Liberty Institute Jeremy Dys also weighed in on the complaint noting that the baptisms are exactly what the constitution aims to protect with the First Amendment right to Free Exercise.

According to Fox News, Dys wrote, "The Constitution never requires people of faith to hide themselves from public view.”

“In fact,” he added, “the ability of students and members of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes to freely exercise their faith in public is the very essence of the First Amendment."

Washington County Schools has yet to make a public announcement regarding the complaint.

Photo courtesy: Unsplash/Ben White

Video courtesy: Bailey Thomas Hill

A Syrian Orthodox church in Sweden was targeted by bombers for the second time last week.

According to Summit News, a bomb went off inside of a building adjacent to St. Afrem Church in Södertälje, Sweden last week around 3:00 am.

The building was being used as a rental space for events and parties.

According to CBN News, police were alerted of the bombing after nearby residents heard loud explosions.

Reportedly, this is the second time in recent months that this church – which is located in an area that is highly populated by Muslim refugees – has been targeted.

According to the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe – a not-for-profit persecution watchdog – St. Afrem was first targeted last September when the banquet hall which was often rented from the church for events was bombed. No injuries occurred as a result of the explosion since the hall was empty at the time.

The National Bomb Guard is investigating the most recent bombing, but police are already speculating that there is “a motive against the church.”

Authorities believe that the investigation will be difficult since suspects typically swiftly flee from scenes where bombings are committed.

According to Summit News, Sweden received a high percentage of refugees in their country of the past few years. Particularly in Södertälje, more than 50 percent of the town’s population is now made up of people with ���migrant backgrounds,” the outlet reports.

A report by Radio Sweden also notes that Södertälje received “the largest percentage of refugees and this, in turn, has caused major problems.”

Reportedly, grenade attacks and deadly shootings – crimes that were not previously major issues in the European country - now represent a “national emergency” in Sweden.

No injuries were reported as a result of the bombing, Summit News reports.

Photo courtesy: Jonathan Brinkhorst/Unsplash