Whisteblower Demands Church Change Sexual Assault Policies, Hints at Lawsuit

Danny Wicentowski
Dawn Varvil.
For critics of First Christian Church of Florissant's embattled lead pastor Steve Wingfield, the road to reform has been paved with hollow promises and paper victories.

In April, Wingfield sued four former members of the north St. Louis County megachurch for defamation. These so-called whistleblowers, Wingfield insisted, were actually spreading lies about how he'd supposedly ignored early warnings about Brandon Milburn, a charismatic youth minister who this March was sentenced to 25 years in prison for sexually abusing two young boys between 2007 and 2009.

Milburn's crime devastated the 2,500-member congregation, some of whom believe Wingfield hasn't done nearly enough to help Milburn's victims or come clean about the full scope of his work at the church. Some current and former members are calling for Wingfield's resignation, while his supporters (including the church's board of elders) have stood firm behind their leader.

But the tide may be shifting. Last month, Wingfield dismissed the defamation lawsuit against the four former church members. Now, one of those defendants, a woman named Dawn Varvil, is taking some demands of her own to Wingfield.

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Springfield Says Yes to Anti-Gay Discrimination

RFT Street Team
A couple getting engaged at St. Louis' PrideFest.
Last year, the city council of Springfield took a historic stand, extending the city's non-discrimination ordinance -- which governs housing, employment and public accommodations like parks and city pools -- to gay, lesbian and transgender men and women.

Last night, voters repealed it.

In a narrow margin, 51.43 percent voted to repeal the LGBT protections, while 48.57 percent voted to keep them.

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Protesters Can Use "Profane Speech" Near Worship Services, Says U.S. Court of Appeals

Flickr via Philip Leara
Protesting outside the Cathedral Basilica? A federal court says the First Amendment has your back.
It takes a hell of a good reason to limit the First Amendment.

Flexible and elegant, its provisions uphold the rights of people praying to their preferred God in their preferred house of worship, while at the same time ensuring that a pack of blasphemers can picket on the sidewalk outside.

These broad powers of free speech work well most of the time, which is why regulating the First Amendment, as former Missouri GOP Representative Rob Meyer tried to do in 2012, can turn out to be very tricky business. Signed into the law at the time by Governor Jay Nixon, Meyer's House of Worship Protection Act criminalized "using profane discourse, rude or indecent to disturb the order and solemnity of the worship services."

On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled that the law is too vague, too broad and too subjective -- basically, it conflicts with the First Amendment. The decision follows legal challenges from ACLU of Missouri and SNAP, the St. Louis-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a group that regularly protests outside churches.

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Ex-STL Archbishop Raymond Burke Ready to "Resist" Pope On Divorce and Gay Marriage

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Cardinal Raymond Burke can't stop stirring up pope drama.
If Pope Francis wants to change Church doctrine on divorce and gay marriage, he'll have to go through Cardinal Raymond Burke.

That shouldn't shock anyone who has followed Burke's career path since he left St. Louis as archbishop in 2008, especially since the cantankerous, ultra-conservative prelate mansplained his way into the headlines last month by blaming women and gay clergy for the Church's molestation crisis. In October, when it appeared -- for a moment -- that the Vatican was ready to make a "seismic shift" on gay rights in the church, Burke used it as an opportunity to publicly remind folks that expressions of gayness can damage children.

But Burke went further this week, telling a French news program that he would feel compelled to "resist" Pope Francis if the pontiff tries to soften Church doctrine.

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Ex-St. Louis Archbishop Burke Blames Gay, "Feminized" Clergy For Molestation Crisis

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Cardinal Raymond Burke (with the staff) has a problem with women-filled churches and gay clergy.
A beacon of old-timey religion, Cardinal Raymond Burke still enjoys the admiration of those traditionalist churchgoers who like their liturgy intoned in Latin and their prelates dressed like a satiny Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade float.

One of those admirers is a group called the New Emangelization Project (yes, that's their real name), which recently let Burke weigh in on Christianity's so-called "man-crisis" by way of a lengthy interview posted to the organization's website. Burke's closed-mindedness particularly shines through when he casually states that "disordered" (read: gay) priests are ultimately to blame for the molestation and child-abuse cases that continue to rock the Catholic church.

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TV Reporter Wears Crucified Jesus Shirt During Hanukkah Segment with Rabbi [UPDATED]

'Twas the day before Hanukkah, and all through FOX 2,

There was hustle and bustle to bring us the news.

The reporters out reporting, so bright and alert --

But what of Kim Hudson, in her pink Jesus T-shirt?

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Pope Francis Demotes Former St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke

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Cardinal Raymond Burke is being transferred out of his powerful post in the Vatican courts.
Since September, rumors sweeping in from the Vatican said Pope Francis would demote former St. Louis archbishop Raymond Burke, an outspoken, hard-line conservative cardinal.

On Saturday, the pope made the demotion official. Burke has been removed from his lofty position as prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the Catholic church's highest court, to be replaced by archbishop Dominique Mamberti, who was serving as the Vatican's foreign minister.

"I very much have enjoyed and have been happy to give this service [to the Apostolic Signatura], so it is a disappointment to leave it," Burke told Buzzfeed, adding later, "I trust that by accepting this assignment, I trust that God will bless me, and that's what's in the end most important."

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More St. Louis Churches to Offer Prayer Vigils, Shelter After Ferguson Grand Jury Verdict

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St. John's Church says it'll offer sanctuary to people who are blocked from their homes by protesters.
Religious groups are preparing for the unrest, protesting and, possibly, violence that many fear will erupt in St. Louis after a grand jury decides whether Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson should face charges for fatally shooting unarmed teen Michael Brown.

The St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney's office says the jury's decision won't be ready until mid-November at the earliest. But the Lou's rumor mill is working overtime with predictions of when the verdict will be released and how violent (or not) the reaction will be.

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Ex-STL Archbishop Raymond Burke Confirms Ouster from Top Courts Post, Criticizes Pope

Via YouTube
Cardinal Raymond Burke says he's being transferred out of his powerful post in the Vatican courts.
Cardinal Raymond Burke doesn't know exactly when he'll be ordered to step down from the Catholic church's highest court, but he's disappointed to be leaving his post for a smaller, less influential role.

That's according to an interview former St. Louis archbishop Burke gave to Buzzfeed, a rare instance of Burke sharing with the secular media, as the two-week, worldwide meeting of church leaders, the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, came to a close in Rome.

Burke says he's been informed he'll be transferred to his new role as patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, but he's yet to receive his official orders.

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As Vatican Shifts Toward LGBT Acceptance, Ex-Archbishop Burke Denounces Gay Relationships

via YouTube
Cardinal Raymond Burke says being gay is "intrinsically disordered."
In case you didn't hear the big news out of the Vatican this week, the Catholic Church showed a dramatic softening in its approach to gay and lesbian people during a weekslong meeting about family.

The new approach, called a "seismic shift" and a "dramatic new tone" by experts, indicates that church leadership is warming up to tolerance of LGBTQ people -- even if it's not yet making any actual changes that would allow gays more rights within the church.

Update: The church has backtracked on its "changing" view of gays in the congregation. We'll see what the final report says at the end of the synod.

But while something from the Vatican's two-week synod on family issues seemed to open bishops' minds toward acceptance for gays and lesbians, former St. Louis archbishop Raymond Burke managed to make it through the meeting while stubbornly holding strong to his anti-LGBT stance.

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