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This page outlines major religious scandals propagated or covered up by major church institutions. For stories on issues involving individual adherents or churches see Theists in the news, Priest Abuse and It's a miracle.
Baptist founder abandoned his own church
The founder of the Baptist Church, John Smyth, eventually broke away from the church he founded and joined the Mennonites! That’s right--the founder of the Baptist Church, John Smyth, had so little faith in his own creation that he abandoned it. In addition, he tried to convince as many of his congregation as possible to abandon the Baptist Church--and a majority of them did.
The End of the World
1914 was one of the more important estimates of the start of the war of Armageddon by the Jehovah’s Witnesses (Watchtower Bible and Tract Society). They computed 1914 from prophecy in the book of Daniel, Chapter 4. The writings referred to “seven times”. The WTS interpreted each “time” as equal to 360 days, giving a total of 2520 days. This was further interpreted as representing 2520 years, measured from the starting date of 607 BCE. This gave 1914 as the target date. When 1914 passed, they changed their prediction; 1914 became the year that Jesus invisibly began his rule.
Since late in the 19th century, they had taught that the “battle of the Great Day of God Almighty” (Armageddon) would happen in 1914 CE. It didn’t. The next major estimate was 1925. Watchtower magazine predicted: “The year 1925 is a date definitely and clearly marked in the Scriptures, even more clearly than that of 1914; but it would be presumptuous on the part of any faithful follower of the Lord to assume just what the Lord is going to do during that year.”
The Watchtower Society selected 1975 as its next main prediction. This was based on the estimate “according to reliable Bible chronology Adam was created in the year 4026 BCE, likely in the autumn of the year, at the end of the sixth day of creation.” They believed that the year 1975 a promising date for the end of the world, as it was the 6,000th anniversary of Adam’s creation. Exactly 1,000 years was to pass for each day of the creation week. This prophecy also failed.
Realizing how stupid they were looking every time they made a new failed prediction, they announced that the end of the world would occur 6000 years after the creation of Eve - a date that can not be calculated.
After a variety of newspaper reports claiming that a man had discovered a variety of wheat that was far more productive than normal wheat, the Jehovah’s Witnesses believed it to be a sign of a covenant from God relating to the end times. As a result, they bought up a lot of the wheat and offered it for sale at exorbitant prices. The official statement from the organization was:
Brother Bohnet writes us that he has gradually accumulated a crop of miracle wheat from the few grains he obtained as a start. He prefers that the first opportunity for obtaining this wheat shall go to THE WATCH TOWER readers. He will sell it for $1 per pound, including postage, and give the entire proceeds to our Society. All orders for this wheat should be addressed, Miracle Wheat Bohnet, 17 Hicks street, Brooklyn, N. Y. This will keep mail on this subject separate from his personal mail and from ours.
At trial, Mr. Russell admitted the seed packets had been mailed from the Watch Tower offices: “For the accommodation of our readers, we allowed this seed-wheat to be put up in pound packages and mailed from THE WATCH TOWER Office, just as the U.S. Government handles such seeds at Washington.” (ZWT 02/15/1913).
Needless to say, the wheat was not miraculous and behaved exactly like normal wheat.
Other Christian Sects
The Jonestown Massacre
Jonestown was the communal settlement made in northwestern Guyana by the Peoples Temple, a Christian cult from California, founded in the mid-1970s by Jim Jones, for whom it was named. It stood amidst jungle, about seven miles southwest from Port Kaituma. It had a population of about one thousand once it was fully established and the bulk of Jones' followers had moved there, but they occupied it only for a few years.
Jonestown gained lasting international notoriety in 1978, when nearly its whole population died in a mass murder-and-suicide ordered by Jones. Somewhat over nine hundred men, women and children were slain, Jones among them. Jones ordered the mass suicide when a Congressman from California flew to the settlement to investigate claims made by people who had family in the cult. Poisoned flavored drinks were handed out to men women and children, who laid down and died. This act has morphed into the euphemism for blind loyalty: drinking the Kool-aid.
Need content here on David Koresh's cult.
Thuggee, The Hindu Cult of Kali
Accounts of a secret cult of murderers roaming India go back at least as far as the 13th century, but to modern history their story usually begins with the entrance of the British Empire in the early 1800s. For some years, India’s British administrators had been hearing reports of large numbers of travelers disappearing on the country’s roads; but, while disturbing, such incidents were not entirely unusual for the time. It was not until the discovery of a series of eerily similar mass graves across India that the truth began to dawn. Each site was piled with the bodies of individuals ritually murdered and buried in the same meticulous fashion, leading to an inescapable conclusion: these killings were the work of a single, nation-spanning organization. It was known as Thuggee.
More than 40,000 deaths in modern times and perhaps more than 2,000,000 historically, are attributed to this cult that practices ritualistic sacrifice of non-members of its group. They befriend travelers and tourists, often spending days and traveling hundreds of miles with their victims, gaining their trust, at which point when they least expect it, the group attacks and murders as a homage to the god Kali.
On the Jews and their Lies
Unfortunately the founder of protestantism Martin Luther was also a religous bigot. In his most famous book about Judiasm (written in 1543) we find the following gem:
"base, whoring people, that is, no people of God, and their boast of lineage, circumcision, and law must be accounted as filth. They are full of the devil’s feces … which they wallow in like swine, and the synagogue is an incorrigible whore and an evil slut..."
If you want to read the entire booklet, it is available here. Two other books by Luther, Against the Papacy at Rome Founded by the Devil, and Against Hanswurst, are described as “rivaling his anti-Jewish treatises for vulgarity and violence of expression”, and “[are] so inexpressibly vile that a common impulse of decency demanded their summary suppression by his friends.”
The Book of Abraham is believed by Mormons to be the handwritten account of the prophet Abraham. In 1835 Smith was able to use his “Angel-given” tools to translate some Egyptian scrolls that he was given access to (at that time no one could read hieroglyphics). Upon inspection, Smith declared that they contained the Book of Abraham. He promptly translated the lot and it was accepted as scripture by the church (it is included as part of the Pearl of Great Price). The scrolls vanished and everyone thought the story would end there. But it didn’t - in 1966 the original scrolls were found in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. The scrolls turned out to be a standard Egyptian text that was often buried with the dead. This fraud caused a number of Mormons to leave the church and is still a hotly debated topic amongst mormons and their critics.
Mountain Meadows Massacre
The Mountain Meadows massacre was a mass killing of the Fancher-Baker wagon train at Mountain Meadows in Utah Territory on September 11, 1857, by a group of Mormons and Paiute Indians. The Arkansas emigrants were traveling to California shortly before Utah War started. Mormons throughout the Utah Territory had been mustered to fight the invading United States Army, which they believed was intended to destroy them as a people. Initially intending to orchestrate an Indian massacre, two men with leadership roles in local military, church and government organizations, Isaac C. Haight and John D. Lee, conspired for Lee to lead militiamen disguised as Native Americans along with a contingent of Paiute tribesmen in an attack.
The emigrants fought back and a siege ensued. Intending to leave no witnesses of Mormon complicity in the siege and avoid reprisals complicating the Utah War, militiamen induced the emigrants to surrender and give up their weapons. After escorting the emigrants out of their fortification, the militiamen and their tribesmen auxiliaries executed approximately 120 men, women and children.
Joseph Smith's 33 Wives
While the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints officially condemns polygamy, its founder was quite the ladies man.
Historians widely agree that Joseph Smith Jr. taught and practiced polygamy. This position is supported by "sealing" records, public marriage licenses (in many cases notarized), affidavits, letters, journals and diaries. The church even publishes Joseph Smith's geneaology to back it up.
Established Brothels to Catch Gentile Public Officials
While the federal government was investigating Mormon leaders practice of polygamy, the church hatched a plot to catch these officials using brothels. Brothels were established in 1885 and invitations were sent to government officials. When the plot was discovered the brothels were closed and the women sent out of the territory. 
Posthumous baptism of Holocaust victims
In 1995 it came to light that the Mormon church had been posthumously baptizing Jews killed during the holocaust. This outraged the Jewish community. It was agreed the LDS church would cease such activities, but again in 2002, evidence came to light indicating the church was still practicing these baptisms of deceased people of other faiths.
Even as of 2008, this is still a controversial issue:
- (11/2008) CNN reports holocaust survivors said they are through trying to negotiate with the Mormon church over posthumous baptisms of Jews killed in Nazi concentration camps, saying the church has repeatedly violated a 13-year-old agreement barring the practice.
Origin of American Indians
For 175 years the leaders and general membership of the Mormon Church have believed American Indians and Polynesians are descended from Israelites based on their understanding of the Book of Mormon. We now know from DNA studies that the ancestors of these native peoples were essentially all derived from Asia. Latter-day Saint apologists have claimed the DNA research has “little or no bearing on the question of Book of Mormon historicity” and that it is all a “contrived controversy,” blown out of all proportion by critics with another agenda.
Joseph Fielding Smith (presiding patriarch's homosexual affair covered up by the church)
Joseph Fielding Smith (30 January 1899 – 29 August 1964) was presiding patriarch and a general authority of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) from 1942 until 1946.
At the age of 43, Smith was ordained a high priest and Patriarch to the Church on 8 October 1942 by Church President Heber J. Grant. He served but four years before it was reported by the church that he had requested to be released from his position. His request was granted by Church President George Albert Smith on 6 October 1946, with the church announcing that Smith was released for reasons of "ill health." After Smith's death it was discovered that the patriarch had been involved in a homosexual affair with a 21-year-old U.S. Navy sailor, who was also a Latter-day Saint.
Use of "Lucifer" Term Shows Joseph Smith Copied From the KJV And Not Earlier/Divine Origins
Mormons claim that an ancient record (the Book of Mormon) was written beginning in about 600 BC, and the author in 600 BC supposedly copied Isaiah in Isaiah's original words. When Joseph Smith pretended to translate the supposed 'ancient record', he included the Lucifer verse in the Book of Mormon. Obviously he wasn't copying what Isaiah actually wrote. He was copying the King James Version of the Bible. Another book of LDS scripture, the Doctrine & Covenants, furthers this problem in 76:26 when it affirms the false Christian doctrine that "Lucifer" means Satan. This incorrect doctrine also spread into a third set of Mormon scriptures, the Pearl of Great Price, which describes a war in heaven based, in part, on Joseph Smith's incorrect interpretation of the word "Lucifer" which only appears in Isaiah.
The problem with the Mormon scripture's use of "Lucifer" is that it never existed in any early versions of scripture. The name "Lucifer" was added later by scribes and was a commonly-used period era metaphor for kings, the planet Venus and other "lightbringers". Like the Book of Abraham, historical documents contradict claims regarding the true origins of LDS scripture.
Mormon church used church discipline records and criminal history of a rape victim to smear her, as well as releasing her name to the media.
In the email, he unspools a five-page dossier about the past of the woman who had accused his father of rape.
The email included the woman’s criminal record, alleged false allegations she’d made in the past, and jobs she’d lost.
It even included details about an incident that occurred when she was 17 years old. Bishop encouraged reporters to examine the woman’s past adding, “consider the source.”
In the last two days, 2News has obtained a letter that was written by David Jordan, a lawyer at the firm, Stoel Rives, acting on behalf of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The document is a response to a letter from the woman’s attorney, Craig Vernon, requesting a settlement from the LDS Church.
The document includes everything we saw in Bishop’s email, plus a review of her ecclesiastical church record.
At the bottom, the Jordan indicates that he sent the letter to Greg Bishop.
It appears Bishop took portions of the letter, and at times, repeated allegations word for word and sent it to the media.
At least three media outlets did stories based on the letter.
Jordan acknowledged that he wrote the letter and only sent it to Bishop because he had been included in an email chain by the accuser’s attorney. Jordan says he did not release the letter to the media.
Salt Lake City attorney Greg Skordas said the document was meant to be used for negotiating a possible settlement, releasing it was improper.
“It’s a little bit problematic to me that this kind of information is now released,” Skordas said.
Turner Bitton with the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault said even if the church didn’t put out the letter, the methods used in it are intended to silence accusers.
“It sends a message to that individual person, but to everyone else, that if you come forward we are going to dig through your past we're going to dig through your experiences who you are your very identity,” Bitton said.
Bitton also said the church has every right to collect the information it did on Bishop’s accuser, but said, the way they did it and what they collected, may not sit well with church members.
"The vast majority of people that I know that are people of faith who are don't want to see this kind of behavior,” he said. “What they don't want to see is the church engaging in a way that looks like a ruthless corporation at times."
Aisha, 9-year-old child bride
Aisha was the six year old girl that was betrothed to Muhammad. At the age of nine she married him - becoming one of his 11 (or 13 depending on the source) wives. While most Muslims do not object to this marriage, it is a source of great scandal to many non-Islamic people. In Islamic tradition, she is attributed as the source of many stories about the life of Muhammad. It is believed that she was his favorite wife.
Lisa McPherson (February 10, 1959–December 5, 1995) was a Scientologist who died of a pulmonary embolism while under the care of the Flag Service Organization (FSO), a branch of the Church of Scientology. Following her death the Church of Scientology was indicted on two felony charges “abuse and/or neglect of a disabled adult and practicing medicine without a license”, putting under trial the nature of Scientology beliefs and practices. The charges against the Church of Scientology were dropped after the state’s medical examiner changed the cause of death from “undetermined” to an “accident” on June 13, 2000.
A civil suit brought by her family against the Church was settled on May 28, 2004.
- . J.K. Lee (2003). The Theology of John Smyth: Puritan, Separatist, Baptist, Mennonite. Mercer University Press
- . http://www.damninteresting.com/?p=873#more-873
- . Facing the Truth of Mountain Meadows, Salt Lake Tribune, 09/08/07 
- . http://www.exmormon.org/mormon/mormon363.htm
- . http://edition.cnn.com/2008/US/11/11/baptizing.dead.jews.ap/index.html
- . "Patriarch to the Church: Released from Duties", Improvement Era 49 (Nov. 1946), 685, 708.
- . Quinn, D. Michael (2001). Same-Sex Dynamics among Nineteenth-Century Americans: A Mormon Example. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. p. 370. ISBN 978-0-252-06958-1.
- . http://kutv.com/news/local/lds-church-responds-to-allegations-of-sexual-assault-by-former-mission-president
- . http://kutv.com/news/local/woman-who-accused-mtc-president-of-sexual-assault-has-been-telling-her-story-for-3-decades
- . http://kutv.com/news/local/exclusive-the-woman-at-the-center-of-the-mtc-abuse-scandal-shares-her-story
- . http://kutv.com/news/local/exclusive-documents-reveal-how-the-lds-church-responded-to-mtc-sex-scandal
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