God Made Me Do It (September 2001)

Faith killing. A young mother maintained that voices in her head told her to test her faith in God, causing her to repeatedly slam her infant son to the ground and down a flight of stairs. Jennifer Cisowski, 21, of Connecticut, killed her 8-month-old son Gideon Fusscas in his grandmother’s upscale Florida home on Aug. 21, later saying she believed he would rise from the dead if her faith were strong enough. Source: Tampa Tribune, Aug. 22, 2001

“Mama, I love you.” A Talladega County jury in August found Teresa Ann Archie, 40, guilty of the 1996 murder of her daughter Shavon Jackson. Archie, a paranoid schizophrenic, chased her daughter through their home, shooting her twice in the back after becoming convinced her 16-year-old was possessed by Satan, and that God wanted her to cleanse her home of all Satanic influence. She told police Shavon’s last words were: “Mama, don’t shoot me, I love you.” She replied, “I know, Baby, but I have to do the Lord’s will.” Source: The Daily Home, Aug. 15, 2001

“Killer, we support you.” “I killed the women for the sake of God, and for the protection of my religion because they were prostitutes and [were] corrupting other people,” Iranian construction worker Saeed Hanaei admitted to reporters in July, after police fingered him as their suspect in the killing of 19 prostitutes in Mashhad. Each was killed on a Sunday–strangled with a headscarf. Neighbors gathered outside his home chanting “Hanaei, the killer of corrupt people, we support you.” Source: Associated Press, July 26/30, 2001

“Possessed woman.” Andrea Yates, the religious Dallas mother charged with drowning her 5 children in the bathtub, told family members from jail she thinks the “devil” is in her.Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, July 1, 2001

Naked avenger. A naked man who pelted rocks at a woman walking her dog and struck her with his car in January told police “demons wanted him to destroy her,” and he was naked “so he could enter the kingdom of God.” Jessica Fulcher, 28, survived the assault. Source: Loveland Reporter-Herald, Jan. 15, 2001

God’s crime spree. God made him commit a crime spree was the defense of bible-toting Henry Glen West, sentenced by an Okahoma County judge in April to two life terms. During West’s 5-hour crime spree in January 1998, he severely beat his brother, raped his brother’s girlfriend, broke into a house, robbed a convenience store clerk and then tried to run her over twice. At a second convenience store, he repeatedly shot the husband-and-wife owners. Source: Daily Oklahoman, April 21, 2001

Religiously-motivated stabbing. A man who fatally stabbed his son and tried to kill his mother-in-law and daughter was motivated by religion, according to relatives. Joseph Herman Dartez, Jr., 31, Houston, was pondering whether to leave a Christian church to join the Muslim faith when he assaulted his family in the middle of the night. Source: San Antonio Express, May 30, 2001

Sainted mob. A mob summoned by a church bell in Mexico City beat to death a man accused of trying to steal a statue of the neighborhood’s patron saint. The 3-hour beating occurred next to a local police station. Source: AP/Tulsa World, July 27, 2001


Stealing in the Name of God

“I’ve been a securities regulator for 20 years, and I’ve seen more money stolen in the name of God than in any other way,” Deborah R. Bortner, president of the North American Securities Administrators Association, said at a news conference on Aug. 7.

She warned that “affinity fraud”–the building of trust through religious and other loyalty, is increasing. In the last three years, religious con artists in 27 states have scammed at least 90,000 investors, costing more than $1.8 billion.

By comparison, about 13,000 investors lost $450 million in religion-based fraud over the previous 5-year period.

“Con artists are clearly preying on the faithful more than ever before,” said Bortner. “The con artist makes faith in God synonymous with faith in the investment scam.”

The caveat by the Association came a day after the sentencing of Gerald Payne, founder of the Tampa-based Greater Ministries International Church, to 27 years in prison for one of the nation’s largest Ponzi schemes. Payne and his partners took in almost $580 million by promising 20,000 investors that the ministry would double their money through “divinely-inspired investments.”

Another recent high profile case involves the Baptist Foundation of Arizona, created in 1948 under the auspices of the Southern Baptist State Convention of Arizona, which raised $590 million through 120 shell corporations.

Freedom From Religion Foundation