Every once in awhile, I like to repost content from my original blog that means something significant to me, even if my readers aren’t all that interested. After I wrote about Jerry Falwell Jr. yesterday, I was reminded of a religious cult in Virginia that I blogged about in June 2018. I’m going to repost that content today as/is, just so it’s easily available for the future.
Yesterday, I was perusing RfM and noticed a thread about a church in Virginia that encourages members to shun their children. Since I’m originally from Virginia, I opened the thread and found a Washington Post article about Calvary Temple, a Sterling based Pentecostal church led by Star R. Scott. I immediately, recognized the pastor’s name, and not just because it’s unusual.
A few months ago, I wrote a post about WYAH, an independent Christian television channel that was owned by Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network, and operated in southeastern Virginia. WYAH no longer exists today, but it thrived in the era of over the air and basic cable television. I grew up in the 80s and watched too much TV. I often watched WYAH, not because of its wholesome and/or sanitized programs, many of which were religious, but because despite being a religious channel, they did air some funny sitcoms. I remember WYAH played shows like Diff’rent Strokes, WKRP in Cincinnati, Benson, The Jeffersons, and my personal favorite, The Brady Bunch. They also aired some of my favorite cartoons in the afternoons. When I wasn’t riding my horse, I’d tune in. The censors would dutifully blank out any swear words. Can’t be listening to any cussing if you’re a good Christian, right?
Another thing that WYAH had plenty of were religious ads. In my last post about the network, I included some clips of ads that aired regularly on WYAH. The videos I shared included some folks I had completely forgotten about, including Star R. Scott. His ad for Calvary Temple and the weekly television show that used to air on WYAH on Sunday nights at 11:00pm had a memorable musical track that stuck in my head.
This is the show that aired on WYAH. This particular episode is from 1986. Check out Star R. Scott’s hair.
Skip to 4:26 and you can see the ad for Star R. Scott’s show, “Sword of the Spirit”. It uses a vital, energetic soundtrack. The music suggests the show will change your life for the positive. The graphics suggest space… the future… Listen to this message and your future will be vital and powerful.
In 1989, WYAH was sold and the programming turned secular. The call letters are now WGNT and the channel no longer bears any resemblance to what it was during my childhood. I’m actually kind of sad about that. I like independently run TV channels. They’re more interesting than channels that are part of a huge conglomerate and show the same programming.
I read the article in the Washington Post about Star R. Scott’s church, Calvary Temple, which was regularly advertised on WYAH. To be honest, although I didn’t know about weird religions when I was a kid and wasn’t raised in a weird religion myself, I always kind of got creepy vibes from some the religious shows WYAH broadcasted. Sometimes I used to watch The Rock Church Proclaims, which aired at about 10:00pm every Saturday night. The church was kind of local, since it was based in Virginia Beach and run by Anne and the late John Gimenez. The pastors used to sing and dance behind the pulpit to the music, which included a lot electric instruments… nothing like the organ and piano used at my very conservative Presbyterian church. For some reason, it gave me the willies.
A clip of a service at the Rock Church from 1990, which is kind of like what WYAH used to air. Lots of speaking in tongues, swaying to music, and dancing. I’ve never heard anything bad about the Rock Church.
According to the Washington Post’s article about Calvary Temple, Star R. Scott’s church is quite abusive. The story, written by journalist Britt Peterson, follows the experiences of several former members of Calvary Temple. Ex churchgoers report that they were expected to shun anyone in their family, including children, who left the church. In one case, a mother was ordered to send her 15 year old non-believing daughter away from the home because church leaders feared she would influence her 13 year old sister. In another case, a mother decided to leave the church and four of her five children shunned her.
Scott is also accused of other kinds of abuses. Former members report that they were required to send their children to Calvary Temple’s privately run school. Although corporal punishment in public schools was banned in Virginia back in 1989, it is apparently still alive and well at Calvary Temple’s school. Cynthia Azat, whose mother shipped her off to live with her grandmother at the behest of church leaders, reports that when she was attending the school in the 1990s, she would be paddled regularly. At one point, she’d be paddled as often as daily. Sometimes, she didn’t even know why she was being punished. The paddlings were painful and humiliating; if a student moved during the strikes, he or she would get more. Moreover, parents were expected to sign legal paperwork that would allow church leaders to discipline their children whenever they wanted to.
Here’s a Washington Post article about Calvary Temple from 2008 with more detail about Scott’s leadership. Ten years ago, people were calling him toxic and dictatorial. Below is a snippet from the 2008 article, detailing more abuses by Calvary Temple leaders.
About 400 members remain and are at the church most days for services or activities including fellowship breakfasts and student basketball games, former members said. Families are expected to send their children to Calvary’s school, which has classes from kindergarten through high school.
…others who attended the school say punishments ranged from spankings with a thick wooden paddle to spending the day outside digging, filling and redigging holes.
Charm Kern, a nursing student and mother, says she was traumatized by Calvary teachers telling her in her early adolescence that she was too overweight to be on the cheerleading squad. As punishment for being a “glutton,” said Kern, who is 20, she was tied by a rope to faster children and pulled during runs. She and her brother, who was also overweight, would be required to run while other children ate lunch, she said. By ninth grade, she was rebelling against her teachers, and pastors tried to place her and her brother with another family. Her parents pulled the family out of Calvary.
And further, from the same 2008 article,
Michelle Freeman, 48, left in December 2007 after church leaders and other members urged her to reject her son and her husband, who was not a member. Her son, Channing, had left Calvary as a high school sophomore, setting off heated debates between his parents, leading to their separation.
Channing, 18, wrote an essay this year at his public school describing terrifying dreams about God and Satan he had while in the church. Calvary, he wrote, has “stolen so much of my life. For eleven years I’ve been devoid of a real life. I don’t know what it’s like to live.”
Now, Michelle Freeman is among more than two dozen former members who gather for support. At a Loudoun Starbucks recently, Freeman cried as those around her talked about their wounded families.
In 2002, Star R. Scott’s wife, Janet, was dying. Rather than mourn for his partner, Scott remarried two weeks after her death. His new bride was a 20 year old woman named Greer Parker. Scott was 55 years old and had told his congregation that the book of Leviticus forbade “high priests” to mourn; instead, they were to “take a wife in her virginity.” He brought Parker up from the congregation after he finished delivering his sermon.
Six years later, there was another scandal within the church, when Scott’s son, Star R. Scott, Jr., and his then-wife sent an email to Scott Sr. accusing him of molesting his two nieces. The email was circulated among church members. Other allegations of Scott’s sexual proclivities toward young girls came out, although there were never any criminal charges brought against him. Although Scott has claimed that the email was full of inaccuracies and “gossip”, he never expressly denied the accusations.
Star Scott is also not above wringing money out of his congregants. Not only are they expected to tithe ten percent, they are also expected to give money to other projects, some of which never materialized, even when they’re barely able to scrape by. Meanwhile, Scott owns several expensive cars and motorcycles, which he shows off regularly. According to Peterson,
Scott started a race car ministry that, to this day, holds shows to display his collection of expensive cars and motorcycles. Around the same time, he led the church leadership to vote for independence from Assemblies of God, which had required that pastors tithe to the umbrella organization. Scott then rewrote the Calvary constitution to eliminate the traditional voting process and end financial transparency, according to several former members.
I could go on about what was in the Post’s article, but I think it’s best for people to read it for themselves. I did find a few interesting YouTube videos about the church, including one posted by someone who is mentioned in Britt Peterson’s article. Below, you’ll hear Pastor Scott preaching, sounding very belligerent as he refers to Mormonism as a cult…
“Okay, we’re a cult. Now go on with your life. What’s your problem? What is your problem? Go grab a Mormon and hassle him!”
Pot… meet kettle! Although to Scott’s credit, he does admit that his church is a cult. Then he says that Christianity is a cult.
I find cults fascinating. There’s always a charismatic leader who convinces people to submit to strict rules and makes high demands of the cult members. Those demands keep the members busy and prevent them from thinking about what they’re doing and how they’re being sucked dry and abused.
This is an excellent video about cults. I highly recommend taking the time to watch it because it very clearly illustrates what cults are and how they damage people.
I guess the hinky feelings I used to get while watching WYAH were genuine. For all of their sanitizing of sex and profanity from their programming, they were actually encouraging abusive cult leaders like Star R. Scott. But since that channel was owned by Pat Robertson, I guess I can’t be too surprised. Robertson himself is a bit of a nut.
You might get AIDS in Kenya…
And demons can attach themselves to clothes… This man once ran for president… I suppose he’s no worse than the man who is in the White House now.
Anyway, I’m grateful that I survived a childhood watching Channel 27 without being sucked into a cult. But then, I did marry a man who was sucked into Mormonism, so there you go…
Another video about Star R. Scott and how his church has damaged families… Be careful about the church you join. It might be a cult.