Catholic Church in Netherlands Puts Up Pictures of Defectors

A Catholic priest from the Netherlands (with the most appropriate first name *ever*) has figured out a way to shame the people who leave his Church: Put up their pictures so everyone knows who they are.

What I imagine the Defector Wall looks like (via Mashable)

“This is a large parish, and I don’t know everyone: by putting up the photos I thought someone might recognise someone they know who they could try to make stay in the Church,” priest Harm Schilder told AFP on Tuesday.

“This isn’t about pointing a finger, naming and shaming,” said Schilder, insisting that the plan would help the community pray for these people not to leave the Church and perhaps “persuade them to stay”.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds more like an Atheist Hall of Fame to me. It’s motivation, really. Let’s get more pictures on the wall!

They could always do the less creepier thing and put up pictures of the people who actually attend the church… but it would probably be just as awkward for them every time they have to take a picture down…

Actually, I think Schilder should go a step further: Include the reason people left right next to their image:

  • “This Church is homophobic.”
  • “This Church protects pedophiles.”
  • “This Church believes things that are provably untrue.”
  • “This Church is bad for society.”
  • “This Church treats women as second-class citizens.”

Hell, if my former temple did this, I would donate a picture for their wall.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • PietPuk

    The church said they would take down photo’s of defectors that objected. But how would you check that without setting foot in the church again?

  • Chengis Khan

    “Hell, if my former temple did this, I would donate a picture for their wall.”

    I might even send in my bust.

  • C Peterson

    I don’t know that most (or even many) of these people are or have become atheists, but leaving the Church is certainly start in the right direction.

  • A3Kr0n

    It’s good to see the Catholic church is still making an asshole of itself. Hopefully more people will leave after seeing so many leave before them.

  • EllieMurasaki

    At least that church is acknowledging the possibility of being ex-Catholic? The one I was baptized at hasn’t replied to my letter saying take me off the baptism roll.

  • Quintin van Zuijlen

    Tilburg, could have guessed it. Fortunately I never come around there.

  • MD

    I wish I was from the Netherlands, just so I could send this guy my picture.

  • Wazzadoo

    To me this is the ultimate – You Are Not Alone – billboard – Way to go!

  • anniewhoo

    I hope the children of the church must walk past the photos. What a wonderful way for them to see that they do indeed have choices.

  • Rain

    Here he is casting magic spells:

    Yes, he has an IMDB page too:

  • Artor

    Because church-goers come knocking on your door saying, “We saw your pic at the church, and we wanted to drag you back there, kicking & screaming…”

  • Randomfactor

    They’re gonna need a bigger board…

  • Denise

    Harm is my brother-in-law’s name (not pronounced *quite* the same way we pronounce the word) — it’s not an uncommon Dutch name. :-) But yeah, in this instance…definitely fitting.

  • SecularPatriot

    Harm Childer (sorry, took a letter out and it looked even better).

  • ortcutt

    He’s already dropped the plan after people (including the Church) said this went too far. It’s remarkable how tone-deaf these priests are. Can you imagine a bowling club that shamed people who left and told members to go talk to them to get them to rejoin? The level of coercive social pressure that religion tries to apply is really disturbing.

  • eric

    Oh, I have no doubt all those people will still be counted in church PR. That’s the way it works – when someone else asks, inflate the numbers and make the religion seem strong. Then close the doors, and tell parishoners how the world will end if they don’t become more involved/give more money.

  • jdm8

    You’re a US-based blogger pointing to an article South African news web site talking about something happening in the Netherlands. Nothing wrong with that, I thought it was interesting how widely this news spread.

  • gadlaw

    Thanks for the quick update on this story. Fascinating but unfortunately not surprising attempt at ostracism. I would suspect that the folks who made official moves to leave that church over the Pope’s most recent comments about gays would be happy to get the credit for it.

  • Andrew G.

    Under EU law, a person’s religious beliefs are “sensitive personal data” – given the restrictions that apply, the plan was probably illegal from the start.

  • Lagerbaer

    When leaving the church in Germany, they have the right to read out your name during Sunday service in your home community. I have never seen this acted upon, probably because nowadays, with so many people leaving every day, it would be an advertisement for leaving, as opposed to an exercise in ostracizing it surely used to be back in the days.

  • GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    It would be great if they had a huge empty section of the wall where people could put their own photo on their way out!!

  • bellj

    Holy (pardon the pun) crap! There is alot of people leaving the church!

  • Stev84

    He has nothing on many Protestant cult-like churches in the US who not only harass people to not leave, but also shun them and then inform all other churches nearby of alleged transgressions so they can’t join those

  • Tobias27

    Maybe this is what future atheist billboards should be like – a big wall with all of our pictures – smiling and happy ! Maybe we could even spell out some message with all of the pics.

  • Andrew G.

    Has anyone ever challenged that under EU law? Because I don’t see any way it can be regarded as covered under the allowed exemptions for sensitive personal data.

  • GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    P.S.: I would actually return to the church of my childhood to put up my own photo there if they had such a wall. It would be one of the few things that would have me return there!

  • LesterBallard

    Put up photos of priests who have been accused of abusing children.

  • coyotenose

    Beings a fan of Jaws, this makes me picture a giant shark made of atheists circling a boat full of priests.

  • Thegoodman

    Great comment from the article…

    “Talk about embarrassing. I mean, would you really want people to know
    that you have continued with this church AFTER the child abuse/rape

  • Richard Wade

    Awww, darnit. I was just beginning to enjoy this. I wonder how many calls and emails Schilder got from people saying “Hey, why isn’t my picture up there? I left your hate and ignorance cult a long time ago. Here’s a snapshot. Thanks.”

  • Greg G.

    Talk about a bully-pulpit! They probably made him remove it because people began to question why they were still attending while all those folks were sleeping in.

  • Alcari

    In his blog he points out that quite a few people have sent him picture to put up. He has, however, decided not to put any pictures, and is now discussing how else to keep people in the church. At the moment, he’s falling back to that most useless method of prayer.

    Anecdote time:
    I had the misfortune of meeting this guy once. He and a few others once came up to a small festival I was helping to organize on a weekend to demand, yes demand, that we not open on sunday. When we politely declined, pointing out that he should take it up with the municipality that gave us the permit, he told us that opening on sunday would be highly offensive to over 6000 people who signed his petition (that he didn’t bring).

    We suggested quite cordially that all those 6000 people had to do was buy a ticket, and we’d gladly stay closed. No complaints were had, and the event has happened ever since.

  • Richard Wade

    HEY! What an idea! although Schilder was told to take down his wall of shame, somebody should start an online version, where people from around the world gladly, proudly, and with great relief put their faces up among the throngs who have walked away from the Evil Empire. Is there already such a site?

  • Ubi Dubium

    Yes, and if he actually went through with doing this, he’d have a large and steadily growing collection of photos. How awkward to have to try to explain to the kids why so many people have left! I’d love to see that really happen.

  • Richard Wade

    Ewww. In that Youtube, there’s one moment when he dips the Holy Flicker into the Holy Water in the Holy Bucket that the little victim-in-training is holding, and for a brief moment you can see that the Holy Water is an unholy-looking greenish brown color. It looks like it was scooped up from a puddle next to the roof downspout.

    People, when you get home, wash your cars, your baby, and yourselves.

  • Marco Conti

    The Netherlands you say? Which bible belt state is the Netherlands in?

  • Marcel Bostelaar

    Asshole church, sadly they still have some power left in my country

  • Sue Blue

    That wall of pictures doesn’t shame anyone except the Catholic church. If I were a Catholic and I saw that, I might start to wonder what the hell is wrong with a church that is so graphically losing so many parishioners – and my picture would probably soon be proudly displayed there.

  • Glasofruix

    Actually, I think Schilder should go a step further: Include the reason people left right next to their image:

    I think people who left should write the reason for leaving on their own picture.


    Cripes!! I’d send them an 8 x 12 glossy, with an invitation to kiss my ass written on the margin.

  • chicago dyke

    i’m thinking full body nude marble statue.

  • Carmelita Spats

    The best place to find these perverts is…This is a database of the child molesters with photographs, court documents, victim testimony and a handy map to find out if your local priest is a registered sex offender…Stories of pedophile priests are constantly updated…The best part of the site is the collection of mug shots of the maladjusted virgins (priests)…

  • Carmelita Spats

    It took me four months but I actually got a letter from my local diocese stating that I had defected from the Catholic Church. This really angered me because I had grounds for an excommunication and met their criteria to be officially excommunicated. They told me they would give me the excommunication letter and after four months of hounding them, all I got was a piece of paper stating that the sacramental registry would be changed to state that I had “defected” from the church! No one was willing to explain to me why “defection” and not “excommunication” since I met the criteria for an excommunication. I’ve emailed the local bishop, local priests, various dioceses with no answer. The RCC is a cult.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Expose defectors, cloak and shuffle molesters. Well, that makes perfect sense.

  • EllieMurasaki

    What in general constitutes grounds for excommunication?

  • Kanker Nederlanders

    His first name is classic but his last is Dutch for “painter”.

    Harm Painter


  • TheBlackCat13

    You have got to be kidding me. That is weapons-grade privilege there. Complaining that customers expect you to be open on Sunday is pretty privileged, but demanding that nobody else be allowed to be opened? How does that hurt them in any way? If they don’t want to go on Sunday, don’t go.

  • Paul Caggegi

    This is supposed to be a shame for people to be on the wall? Where do I sign up and get MY picture on there? This is awesome!

  • anniewhoo

    Me too! It would require me to travel 1,000 miles, but it would be well worth the trip.

  • Brian Scott

    Two theories:
    1) they only hang it as a threat on those who want to remain in the church. It’s a tool of “rehabilitation”, but that doesn’t work on those who genuinely don’t want to go back to the church. The less likely possibility.
    2) it’s only used in particularly prominent cases which threaten the power base of the church, such as heretic priests and organisations. Everyone else is small fry and not worth bothering with. The more likely possibility.

  • Anna

    Egads, that’s scary. The Catholic church and school my boyfriend attended has had four different predatory priests working there, one during the time he and his sister were students!

  • Baby_Raptor

    If my church did this, I’d happily send them a picture and a paragraph explaining why I left.

  • Lagerbaer

    I somehow doubt that it got challenged, because if it doesn’t bother you that they read your name, you won’t go through the trouble of escalating lawsuits, and if it does bother you, you don’t want to start a lawsuit that is bound to draw publicity either.

  • roberthughmclean

    “Join the Club!”

  • meekinheritance

    It’s a miracle! He turned water into slime!

  • ReadsInTrees


  • Dennis Blankenship

    Can anyone answer if the Netherlands is one of the places in which you have to be signed out of the church, like Denmark? As I recall, the only impact is that you can’t have your wedding or funeral in the church, nor be buried in the church cemetery.