Church & State

Church says Papua riot sparked by

military burning Bibles

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — A major church in Indonesia’s predominantly Christian Papua province said a riot in the provincial capital last month was sparked by the military burning Bibles, contradicting the police account of events.

A report by the Evangelical Christian Church in Papua said a priest and another man from a local congregation took photos of burnt New Testament Bibles at a military base in Jayapura and took several away as evidence.

It said the two men and city officials unsuccessfully tried to calm the crowd that gathered outside the base on May 25 after reports of Bible burning spread on social media. Protesters threw rocks, burned tires and blocked a road as they demanded that soldiers be handed over to them for punishment.

At the time, police said soldiers had burned rubbish and distributed photos of a mass of burned materials that included a book on theology that they annotated with text saying “this is not the Bible.”

The military’s spokesman in Papua, Teguh Pudji Rahardjo, on Thursday acknowledged that Bibles had been burnt but said it was an accident that was still being investigated.

He said some bibles and theological books that had been brought from Java for distribution to Christians in Papua were inadvertently mixed in with rubbish that was cleared out of the base’s mess.

“Like all Indonesians, we as members of the Indonesian Military are religious people, and we respect all religions,” Rahardjo said.

The incident is indicative of the tensions that simmer in Indonesia’s two easternmost provinces of Papua and West Papua, which are culturally and ethnically distinct from the rest of the sprawling Southeast Asian archipelago, the world’s most populous Muslim nation.

A low-level insurgency and resentment at Indonesian rule has endured since the 1960s, when Indonesia annexed the region. It restricts foreign journalists from reporting in both provinces.

Jayapura’s chief of police was bruised in an attack by protesters and his aide was hospitalized with stab wounds and an injured nose and jaw, according to both church and police accounts. Three protesters suffered gunshot wounds when police and troops dispersed the crowd.

The police statement said a water cannon was used but the church’s report said two armored vehicles from the military base had fired at the crowd.

The Evangelical Christian Church in Papua has about 600,000 members and dates its origins to German missionaries in the 1850s.

Fired gay music

director loses suit against Catholic church

CHICAGO (AP) — A federal judge has ruled in favor of the Archdiocese of Chicago in a lawsuit brought by a gay music director who was fired after announcing his same-sex marriage engagement.

The (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald reports that U.S. District Judge Charles P. Kocoras granted a motion for summary judgment in the case sought by the archdiocese and Holy Family Catholic Community in Inverness.

Former music director Colin Collete filed the lawsuit in March 2016 seeking his job back, back pay and damages. His attorney didn’t return messages from the Daily Herald seeking comment Tuesday. He had worked at the church for 17 years.

The judge ruled that religious organizations have the right “to select their own leaders” and said Collette was one a “key ministerial employee.”

Missouri superintendent suspended for praying at graduation event

WILLARD, Mo. (AP) — An outgoing superintendent at a southwest Missouri school has been suspended with pay since shortly after he said a prayer at the high school’s graduation.

The Willard School Board voted in May to suspend Superintendent Kent Medlin. The Springfield News-Leader reports the move is largely symbolic because Medlin planned to retire and was scheduled to work only until June 30.

The board said in a statement that Medlin’s prayer at the May graduation violated school policy.

A group of Willard seniors demanded an apology after Medlin credited his “savior,” quoted the Bible and asked the crowd to join him in prayer during a commencement speech.

Medlin apologized the day after graduation, saying he didn’t intend to offend anyone.

$2M jury award to young relative of Trinity founders

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A Southern California jury awarded $2 million to the granddaughter of Trinity Broadcasting Network founders Jan and Paul Crouch, finding that her grandmother acted outrageously in refusing to report the girl’s sexual assault by an employee.

Carra Crouch, now 24, says she was assaulted when she was 13 by a 30-year-old Trinity employee in an Atlanta hotel room. But when she reported it to Jan Crouch, the employee was fired and the assault kept quiet, Carra Crouch said.

On Monday, the jury in Santa Ana awarded her $1 million for past emotional damage and $1 million for future pain and suffering.

Trinity attorney Michael King said after the verdict that the organization disagrees and plans to appeal. Paul and Jan Crouch both died in the five years since the lawsuit was first filed, but they denied the allegations after the lawsuit was first filed.

Both sides agree that during Trinity Broadcasting’s 2006 “Praise-a-Thon” fundraiser, Carra Crouch and the man smoked a cigarette together, drank alcohol together, and watched a movie on a bed in her room. But Carra Crouch and her attorneys allege the man fondled her, tried to kiss her, and gave her a glass of water that she believed was laced with a drug. She suspected she had been raped when she awoke.

The lawsuit says that when Carra Crouch reported the incident to her grandmother back in California, Jan Crouch berated her and screamed “it’s your fault.”

The lawsuit said that as an ordained minister, Jan Crouch was required to report potential sexual abuse to authorities.

King argued during trial that Carra Crouch did not approach her grandmother as a minister. The jury agreed but said her actions were still egregious.

“They determined that her behavior in the way that she treated Carra qualified as outrageous conduct,” plaintiff’s attorney David Keesling told The Associated Press by phone.

The jury found that Trinity Christian Center, the nonprofit parent of TBN, was on the hook for $900,000 because Jan Crouch was 45 percent responsible for her granddaughter’s suffering.

“This has been going on since I was 18, so that has consumed my entire adult life,” she said. “It’s exciting that they’re being held accountable for at least part of the blame.”

The jury also found that Carra Crouch’s mother and the Trinity employee were also partially responsible, but neither was named in the lawsuit.

Keesling said a court most likely would revisit the issue later to determine how the money should be paid.

Carra Crouch told reporters outside court that she felt huge relief after such a long lawsuit.

The Associated Press doesn’t normally identify the victims of possible sexual crimes. But Carra Crouch has spoken openly and publicly about the incident, and through her attorney approved the use of her name.

The Crouches founded TBN in 1973 and built it into an international Christian empire that beams prosperity gospel programming, which promises that if the faithful sacrifice for their belief, God will reward them with material wealth. The opulent sets and outfits on their broadcasts showed off the fruits of that wealth.

Their TV empire started showing cracks about five years ago, with allegations from members of their large extended family of financial shenanigans including lavish spending on private jets and mansions.