We have been informed that some black churches have ATM machines-and many of these churches request your W-2 form to determine how much you can give while other churches debit your checking account for monthly church donations.

People are also complaining that collection plates are being passed around at a record pace and the more you give, the closer you sit to the pulpit.

We have heard stories of ministers preying on young single women and embezzling church funds.  These same ministers drive fancy cars and live in fancy mansions with their wives and children.

A church scandal broke earlier this year involving Bishop Terry Hornbuckle (based in Texas) who was convicted of drugging and raping three women (two of them former church members).  By day, Hornbuckle lived in a $750,000 mansion with his wife, by night, he was a sexual predator who preyed on church women.  Hornbuckle was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Recently, a local news broadcast featured three women who had been sexually abused by their minister, from the ages of 13-15.  The church elders knew of the abuse but chose to look the other way.  Some parents offered up their daughters to this particular minister, 'Don't keep the prophet waiting.'

Last year, a police sting caught a high-ranking 'married' black deacon trying to solicit street prostitutes in Oakland.  This was his second arrest for solicitation.

We now have gospel 'TV personalities' who dress more like pimps than men of the cloth. These same TV personalities (men and women) drive $250,000-$500,000 Maybach's/Rolls Royces and travel in private jets.

"The Gospel" has become big business, a multi-billion dollar business and crooks & con men are flocking to the church in record numbers.

In the bay area, a popular black church has bible study courses during the week and women are discouraged from attending.  A male friend went to one of these courses.  He said, 'It is nothing more than a meat rack for men seeking men.'  That's the real reason they don't want women attending.'  The bible study never took place because men were too busy trying to hook up with each other.  The same men you see in church with their wives and children.'  He added, 'The minister was even in attendance, trying to get his freak on! This is the same minister who condemns homosexuality from the pulpit.'

We have also heard rumors regarding some of the gospel workshops being held across the country-where people in the gospel community offer to mentor your child if they have musical talent.  A incident occurred, when a mother became concerned about the attention a obviously gay man was giving her son.  He had offered to mentor him and he had connections that would have helped her son's career but she passed on the opportunity because something just didn't seem right, especially when he began calling her underage son all hours of the night and sending him gifts, she cut off communication.

We were also informed that a well known gospel star was accused of sexual behavior with a underage boy-whose parents threatened to go to the authorities.  The gospel star hurriedly paid them off and his family used their connections to cover up the incident.

In the past, we reported on a gospel icon who was allegedly a pedophile who died of AIDS.  Again, church members and elders heard the rumors, but they chose ignore them because they worshipped this man.

Despite the fact that AIDS is ravaging black communities across this nation, the majority of black churches will not address this issue due to homophobic attitudes.  Instead, they should be informing people of safe sex methods while passing out literature and pamphlets.  Many black people say they have to go to the gay community to find out about support groups and other vital information.

Downlow behavior is not confined to men in the gospel community.  I know of two black female gospel stars (well known), both located in California, who are having 'female affairs' on the side.  Both women are married.

We are not implying or suggesting that all black churches are bad and that all black ministers are crooked and that gospel workshops are a breeding ground for seduction.  This is a special report "focusing" on scandal, greed, AIDS and homosexuality in the black church.

'Legally, I became his'

(The Following interview was conducted in 1994)

The case of the Rev. James Cleveland may best epitomize the magnitude of the silence. Christopher Harris certainly feels that way.

When he was 13, Harris was the only boy alto in the choir at Cleveland's Los Angeles church. He was strapping 6 feet tall and looked 20.

Cleveland was a giant in the industry. He wrote more than 400 songs, recorded more than 100 albums, 16 of them gold, and won four Grammys. He founded the Gospel Music Workshop of America and mentored a young Aretha Franklin.

When he died in 1991 at age 59, 6,000 attended his funeral. Harris is now 25 and has HIV. "It has its moments, but mostly it doesn't affect me unless there is stress," said Harris, who is Cleveland's former foster son.

Harris once went by the name Christopher Cleveland. That was before he filed suit against Cleveland's estate alleging five years of sexual contact that ended with Harris testing positive for HIV.

"Legally, I became his," he said in a telephone interview from his home in Los Angeles.

The case was settled out of court. The terms prohibit him from discussing the settlement. But he is free to discuss his live with Cleveland.

"I went to his church. He looked into my face and saw my dreams and he used it," he said. "I wanted to sing, I didn't want to be like him. He promised that he would help me. He just played it to his advantage, he used my naiveness to his gain," Harris said.

Harris said his sexual encounters with the older singer were not molestation. Nor, he said, were they his first such encounters with a man. He says that they were typical of the secretive lifestyle of many of the people to whom he was exposed.

"People in [Cleveland's] inner circle knew, people at church knew," he said. "But they pretended it didn't exist. I guess what you don't see you can't say. But I can."

"No. He didn't die of heart failure--heart failure is just a delusion," Harris said, nearly laughing. The he hesitated. "Let's just leave it at that."

Source for James Cleveland story: grd.org





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