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Archive for May, 2012

Update: PA jury finds Laneer Fisher guilty

We first reported on Dr. Laneer Fisher in  October 2010 after news reports surfaced about his arrest. Although proclaiming his innocence,  Fisher,  pastor of the Miracle COGIC in  Aliquippa, PA failed to convince a jury that he was innocent of charges that he molested two teenage boys in his congregation. Fisher was arrested in August 2010 and charged with indecent exposure,  aggravated indecent assault,  sexual assault and corruption of minors [source].

After nearly seven hours of deliberations, a jury of six men and six women found the pastor of an Aliquippa church guilty of having unlawful contact with a teenage boy in his congregation.

Just after 11 p.m. Friday, the jury reached its verdict and announced they found the Rev. Laneer Fisher, 39, of 205 Centerdale Road, Moon Township, guilty of indecent assault, unlawful contact with a minor and corruption of a minor.

“The jury got it right,” Assistant District Attorney Justin Quinn said after the verdict. “The jury saw what we saw. We believed him (the victim) all along.”

sher took the stand in his own defense Friday morning and denied all of the allegations made by the victim, who testified Thursday that Fisher kissed him and rubbed his torso underneath his shirt. Fisher told a jury he never kissed the victim, asked him to sit on his lap or touched him inappropriately. The Times is not naming the victim because of the nature of the charges.

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Fisher told the jury.

Fisher, who is the senior pastor of the Miracle Church of God in Christ, said he had a spiritual and father-figure type of relationship with several teenage boys in the church, including the victim.

Fisher, who became the senior pastor in 2004, said he did have many conversations with the victim, some of which were emotional, and whether the door to his office was closed or locked depended on the nature of the conversation.

Unfortunately for Fisher this trial isnt the end of  the consequences of his actions.

The victim’s attorney told the jury there was once the conviction of an innocent man, and they put him on the cross. He called it the “worst travesty of justice in history. Let’s not have a false conviction,” he said.

Quinn told the jury it wasn’t unreasonable to think it would take the victim a long time to tell someone considering that Fisher was the head of the church. “Is a 15-year-old going to come forward right away and accuse the pastor,” he asked.

Quinn said the victim came forward after his mother had resigned from the church.

“It only came to light when [the victim] was removed from his (the pastor’s) obsession, his possession,” Quinn said.

Quinn asked the jury to consider the pastor has motivation to lie because he has a whole congregation that looks up to him. He then asked the jury to consider what motivation the victim would have to lie. He said the victim was missing his first week of college and putting himself in front of the public to testify about an embarrassing situation.

Fisher has a second case pending against him set to go to trial in October. He was charged by Beaver Falls police with indecent assault, indecent exposure, corruption of minors and unlawful contact with a minor. In that case, police said Fisher is also accused of having illegal contact with a teenage boy nearly 10 years ago. [source]

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New COGIC legal-constitutional information site debuts

Its no secret that the maze of policies, rules, subrules, motions, demotions, revisions, loopholes, edicts and laws forming the Church of God in Christ’s internal legal system can be head spinning to its nonvoting constituency.  In fact, the average COGIC member is 100% clueless about how the legal business of the church it pumps millions of dollars into yearly, operates. Complaints about the church’s oftimes comatose legal department and its futive chief counsel are legendary. Worse still,  the heirarchal system of  the church is position friendly. That explains the explosion of nepotism in the denomination. The need for a comprehensive informational site helping victims and individual members to navigate the church’s tricky justice system is now just a click away via www.cogicjustice.net.

According to still developing the site:

“COGIC Justice was established in 2012 to assist in accomplishing two parallel missions.  The first, is to serve as an online clearinghouse, providing information on the rules and procedures necessary to access the Judicial system in the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), and to the lay-member who seeks to understand the church’s justice policy components.  Secondly, COGIC Justice exists to raise awareness of the pursuit of justice in the body of Christ.”

The new site includes easy to read books and documents that many COGIC lay members have never before seen. Of particular interest: Presiding Bishop Charles Blake’s self defense book on why he battled the late Bishop Chandler Owens in an Orlando court over disgraced former Pastors and Elder’s Council Chairman Derrick Hutchins, Sr.

If you are a victim of COGIC clergy abuse, trapped in a church where the pastor has turned into an unyeilding dictator or you suspect violations of COGIC doctrine and constitution and you want to do something about it other than pray, take some time to educate and explore your options.

Related: Surveying COGIC’s Justice System

Categories: announcements

Aftermath: Eric Cooper press release disappears from COGIC site

May 9, 2012 10 comments

On May 4th, the Church of God in Christ official website posted a tersely worded press release stating that it had confronted Arizona pastor and evangelist Eric Cooper after “calls” to its national office about lewd conduct and sexual immorality. Sometime last night or this morning, it was taken down with no further comment.

Since Report COGIC Abuse published the story, it quickly widened to questions about COGIC’s still MIA “zero tolerance policy,  the lack of a comprehensive victim’s advocacy plan and the truthfulness of its press release on the issue. For unknown reasons, the Cooper saga has struck a nerve in the church’s constituency.

Clearly, there is still widespread interest in uncovering the truth about Eric Cooper. Not just the narrow situation that occurred per COGIC’s  press release, but much broader questions about how the denomination allows men who have extended  histories of sexual immorality to continue enjoying the benefits of association, prominent platforms and approval of senior church leaders. That is, until they are exposed.

Since we reported the story on the afternoon of May 4, the story has garnered over 7,000 hits.

Supt. Harvey Burnett of Peoria, IL first raised strong objections to the way the church handled the issue with Cooper and its linking the story to victim’s advocacy.

“To try to link a supposed “victims advocacy” to that policy is simply incredulous, not to mention false. If I am wrong, PLEASE correct me openly and place the policy front and center that addresses victims in any manner…I would like to be embarrassed regarding this issue and be proven wrong. I would like to think that in a church such as COGIC that we would have a VICTIMS ADVOCACY program clearly outlined whose ONLY focus is to minister to victims and their needs, NOT an advocacy co-mingling their duties with pastoral discipline, but I guess that may be asking too much.

2- COGIC goes from one extreme to the next. It’s either go into complete silence on issues or throw everyone out and call them anathema…this is not BIBLICAL NOR IS IT GODLY. Certainly this man should have been removed from office, but to dis-fellowship him??? What is that??? Does he NOT have a soul? Does he NOT need to be saved and restored as well???”

But later, after receiving several calls from anonymous COGIC (unfortunately church culture breeds such secrecy) leaders , Burnett amended his comments to say that the press release was somewhat disingenuous.  Burnett wrote that post release reports conflicted the official version of the story. Some details, like the fact that Cooper was “in revival” at a General Board member’s church when he was confronted in person by a female victim wasnt mentioned. The female victim allegedly threatened to sue the church over the incident.

Supt.  Burnett writes that the Cooper case raises serious questions about how the Blake administration selectively applies its constitutional rules:
“It could be because this man had a history of sexual impropriety and was yet promoted through the ranks. It could be because he was a regular guest at some of the more influential churches and could raise an offering. In fact the word is that one of the persons he was having an affair with showed up at a revival which he was conducting at a General Board member’s church with certain evidence of his sexual sins, to which he denied when questioned.  The doors certainly closed, but it doesn’t appear to be because of the righteous zeal of COGIC policy, it seems that there was no other option, except legal options, which if undertaken would seem to have led COGIC into the path that it was trying to avoid. In other words it was cheaper to leave him rather than try to preserve and or restore him in the name of COGIC, or argue that he hadn’t left the church properly.
Was this release an attempt to simply say…”We don’t own him so don’t sue us?” Pastor Sherman Allen followed the same path. Remember, Allen was a card carrying member of COGIC preaching at many venues regularly until his alleged sins hit the wall also. When he was accused, Allen departed and some COGIC spin doctors claimed that Allen had never a part of the organization, even though everyone knew he was. Then there is Donald K. Barrett, whom I know personally that is said to have dis-fellowshipped himself as well rather than repented and gone through a period of voluntary discipline.”
If  Cooper was indeed a serial adulterer and unrepentant sexual predator, why and how was he continually given access, influence and approval by some of the church’s senior leadership?

COGIC removes Pastor Erik Cooper for sexual immorality

May 4, 2012 7 comments

In a surprising break from its previous struggles with sexually immoral pastors in the ranks, the nation’s largest black pentecostal denomination today issued a strongly worded statement about the removal of one its Arizona pastors while reiterating its sometimes nebulous sexual abuse policies.

The Church of God in Christ (COGIC) said that reports to its national office prompted them to investigate the “…alleged lewd conduct and inappropriate sexual acts alleged to have been committed by Pastor Erik M. Cooper, of Phoenix, Arizona, with an adult female church member. ”

Since this was no crime, the church in essence must bear the burden of following biblical truth and holding leaders accountable with consequences.

Pastor DL Foster, who has monitored and reported on issues of sexual immorality and crimes committed by denominational clergy members since 2010,  praised the church for what he called a “strong and biblical response”.

“The statement really is commendable for two reasons. It shows that COGIC leadership is rethinking its previously self-wounding policy of silence and it sends a signal to other hidden offenders to change their ways voluntarily or get confronted. “, he said.  “RCA definitely has worked hard to bring more openness and a more biblically defined approach to dealing with the unrepentant sexual sins of leaders.”

Its comforting to legitimate victims for the church to acknowledge them in its public discourse about clergy sexual misconduct. The Cooper statement did just that. “Ultimately, this policy outlines ways in which to address the specific needs of the victim(s) and the perpetrator(s) in such a way that the good of all will be met.”

Cooper, pastor of Dominion Harvest Christian Church in Phoenix, had resigned after being confronted about the accusations.

“Upon presentation of these accusations to Pastor Cooper, he submitted his resignation and official separation from all responsibilities within the Church of God in Christ (“COGIC”).  This includes his local church, district, the Arizona jurisdiction, and the National Church.

The Church of God in Christ has accepted Pastor Cooper’s resignation and has taken steps to cancel and nullify his COGIC credentials, of every kind and description, including his ministerial license, his ordination, his appointment as pastor, and his membership in the Church of God in Christ.”

Cooper appears to have been a somewhat well known “evangelist” which might have prompted the public statement by COGIC.

Interestingly, the COGIC statement didn’t say if Cooper admitted guilt or that  he repented  then resigned, just that he resigned. That could explain why the church took a slightly harsher approach to removing him from office and nullifying his membership. Gal 6:1 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.

If a person refuses to acknowledge their sin through repentance which could lead to restoration,  the church should take the necessary steps to ensure such a person can no longer represent the organization.

Read the full statement

COGIC Charities Executive hit with federal ‘African gold scheme’ lawsuit

May 2, 2012 1 comment

Aside from serious issues with sexual crimes and sexual immorality, some leaders in the COGIC seem to also have other problems controlling their lust for money.

A Church of God in Christ Charities executive and his church in Brockton, MA are defendants in a federal lawsuit which claims a fraudulent attempt to make money off an African gold scheme.  In the US, federal courts are not courts of general jurisdiction, thus only certain types of cases or issues may be filed in a federal lawsuit.

Dr. Alexander Hurt, Sr. and the Dominion Christian Church of God in Christ are accused by the Pennsylvania based American Capital  Holdings of cheating them out of an estimated $232,000. Its not clear whether Hurt had ever had any success with buying African gold.

The Enterprise News reported that Hurt devised a scheme that never produced the promised payout for the investor.

A city church and its pastor have been sued in federal court for what the plaintiff says was a failed scheme to make money off African gold.

The suit, filed April 24 in U.S. District Court, claims the Dominion Christian Church and its pastor, Alexander Hurt, took money from a Pennsylvania company, American Capital Holdings LLC, that was never returned, and the company never saw any payout from its initial investment.

In October 2011, the suit alleges, Hurt approached American Capital Holding and said he would be able to buy discounted gold from Uganda and sell it at a profit. The company says it paid Hurt an initial payment of $150,000 that was supposed to turn around into a profit of $300,000 within 15 days.

The initial money was supposed to be protected be a corporate bond, which the suit claims was never issued.

Hurt told the company he had success doing this and was making a “substantial” return on his investments, according to the suit.

On Feb. 25, American Capital says, it received an email from an account belonging to Hurt that said he had gone to Africa, but had “lost the gold, all the money and nearly lost my life.”

In the email printed in the suit, Hurt claims he was kicked out of his church and was being hunted by a Congolese agent.

“That money was going to change both of our lives and get our reputation back,” the email stated.

American Capital Holdings is seeking a return of the $232,000 it says it paid to Hurt, along with interest and attorney fees. They also want a full accounting of what happened to the money, according to the suit. They are also asking the court for double or triple damages for alleged violations of state and federal law including the RICO anti-racketeering statute.

According to an email allegedly sent by Hurt to ACH, he blames to loss of the money and gold on his “greed”.  You can review the full suit here (pdf).

Hurt is listed on COGIC’s official site as a board member and  ironically as executive Director, Search Committee Chair of COGIC Charities.  COGIC Charities is the the “benevolent arm” of the  denomination providing money to causes such as disaster relief. In addition, under Bishop Charles Blake, in 2008 COGIC Charities began awarding scholarship money to students. According to the website, Blake has directed the charity to give “the most dollars for scholarships in the organization’s history”.

Although this case does not involve church funds, nevertheless its troubling. If Hurt did indeed take the $232k, what did he do with it? Is this a sign of a man with serious financial problems?

Given the nature of the lawsuit —and Hurt’s  connection to an arm of the church whose focus is money management, it would be wise for the denomination to remove Hurt until this has been legally resolved.