Briefs: Local Religion January 03, 2009

Utah man ordered to pay $2.4 million in fraud scheme targeting fellow Mormons

• BOISE, Idaho — Idaho will attempt to collect $2.4 million from a Utah man and his company as part of efforts to help investors who were defrauded in a scheme that allegedly targeted primarily Mormons from southwestern Idaho.
Fourth District Judge Patrick H. Owen in Boise ordered Gabriel Joseph of Cedar Hills, Utah, and his company, Annuit Coeptis LLC, to return more than $2.4 million obtained illegally from 45 Idaho investors.
Owen also ordered Michael Breinholt and his company, Streamline Financial LLC, to pay $5 million for their role in the fraud, but he’ll pay just $12,000 annually for 10 years, or $120,000 in all, because he said he has no money.
Idaho Department of Finance investigators said it appears the case involves affinity fraud, in which a perpetrator takes advantage of people who share the same background or beliefs. James Burns, investigations chief of the department’s Securities Bureau, said it appears most of the people bilked were, like Breinholt, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Mormon church.

Women’s Bible study every Wednesday

• Explorer’s Bible study will have a women’s interdenominational study from 9:45 to 11:15 a.m. each Wednesday through May 6 at the Redlands Community Church, 2327 Broadway. The group will study Hebrews and First Peter. Nursery and preschool care is provided. For information, call 858-3315.

Philosophy class to be throughout Jan.

• Two Rivers Center for Spiritual Living, a Science Mind Community, will have a Science of Mind philosophy class at 10 a.m. each Sunday in January at 3150 Lakeside Drive, No. 103. For information, call 201-9089 or visit http://www.tworiversspiritualcenter.org.

Mom sues school over religious ed class

• HUNTINGTON, Ind. — School officials in a northeastern Indiana district deny that a religious education program offered during the school day illegally advances religion, as a federal lawsuit claims.
A complaint filed by attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana on behalf of an unnamed woman and her 8-year-old son asks a federal judge to shut down the program and bar the school district from providing it with utilities or any other support.
The boy, identified only as “J.S.,” attends Horace Mann Elementary School, which offers third- and fourth-grade students a “release time” program for “By the Book Weekday Religious Instruction” through the Associated Churches of Huntington, the suit states.
The Huntington County Community School Corp. argued in a response to the lawsuit that the release time program neither advances nor inhibits religion.

Storms, economy hurt Texas churches

• HOUSTON — Some Texas religious centers are closing their doors while others are laying off staff as a result of the struggling economy coupled with the devastation of hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike.
The centers have responded by eliminating unfilled positions, recruiting volunteers to take on paid positions, reducing hours of operation to save energy costs and postponing building construction.
St. John’s Methodist Church in Houston is reducing its staff of 40 people by 20 percent, the Rev. Rudy Rasmus said. Philanthropic gifts at St. John’s are down 30 percent, Rasmus said. He’s cutting services and budgets at the same time some are searching for spiritual anchors.
“It’s hard to hear that kind of news and feel holiday cheer,” Rasmus said. 
The Rev. Ken Gurley of First Church in Pearland said his congregation has helped to pay mortgages for three other Pentecostal churches.


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