To Shirk Its Financial Obligations, a Powerful Pennsylvania Church Railroaded a Contractor With False Charges

Most church scandals, when they come to light, are sharply delineated events — a pastor raped a child, a priest got caught stealing from the collection plate, et cetera.

What officials of the influential Salem Baptist Church in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania did to contractor Walter Logan was more longterm and insidious. The gist of it, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, is this:

The church’s lawyers accused Logan of a crime they knew he didn’t commit. Then, well-connected church members used their power and political pull to see to it that Logan got arrested, cuffed, and perp-walked, destroying his reputation and his business. They carried out this dishonesty and venality in an effort to gain the legal upper hand in a contractual dispute between Logan and Salem Baptist.

Walter Logan’s company had been hired by the church to build a family center, but Salem Baptist unexpectedly pulled out of the agreement in 2007. This triggered a “groundless termination” lawsuit from the contractor, who claimed that his ex-client still owed him more than $200,000.

As the parties took their civil fight to arbitration in 2007, Salem’s legal counsel, the Doylestown firm of Eastburn & Gray, devised a strategy of filing a criminal claim against Logan as leverage to force him to settle. In a series of March 2008 e-mails filed as evidence…, Eastburn lawyers describe the plan as risky. One, Timothy Caum, acknowledged that pressing charges against Logan might “be a stretch.”

But with the church’s blessing, the pettifoggers pressed ahead. Without any basis in fact, they claimed that Logan had stolen large sums of money from the church.

The Salem camp knew it had a couple of heavyweights in its corner. Two of its own high-profile church members were Oscar Vance, the county’s chief detective, and Garrett Page, a County Court judge who at the time served as the county’s treasurer. Unconcerned about creating a conflict of interest, Vance allegedly pressed the District Attorney to investigate and prosecute. When she agreed to sic county detectives on Logan, guess who was ultimately in charge of the investigation? Oscar Vance was.

Vance claims he recused himself, but

Anders, his detective, told lawyers that Vance had e-mailed her early on to make sure she knew he was a Salem member and would be keeping an eye on the case, court records show. …

County authorities cooperated extensively with Salem’s legal team in building their case, relying almost entirely on church-provided evidence. They allowed its lawyers to rewrite the charging documents and scheduled the timing of Logan’s arrest to benefit the church financially. …

Handcuffed and caught in the glare of a TV news camera, Walter Logan did the one thing a man in his position is expected to do: proclaim his innocence.

Fast forward:

Nearly everyone involved can now agree on one point: Logan and [his site manager Lester] Mack did not steal from the church. The theft charges against them were dropped nearly a year after they were filed, and an independent arbitrator found that it was Salem that owed them money in [the] dispute over the family center.

Logan will most likely have his day in court now that a district judge has given the county and Salem Baptist the judicial equivalent of a bitchslap:

U.S. District Judge J. Curtis Joyner said the evidence suggests county authorities may have “acted with reckless disregard for the truth.” He was equally critical of the church and its lawyers. “Unfortunately, in an attempt to gain the upper hand in the contractual dispute, Salem and its legal counsel pursued questionable criminal charges against Logan,” Joyner wrote.

A Philadelphia Inquirer editorial about the affair, published Friday, raises the likelihood that Logan will be able to clear his name — if not in the civil suit, then at least in the court of public opinion.

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder and Main Mischief Maker of Moral Compass, a site that pokes fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards.

  • WallofSleep

    “A Philadelphia Inquirer editorial about the affair, published Friday, raises the likelihood that Logan will be able to clear his name — if not in the civil suit, then at least in the court of public opinion.”

    Not good enough. The people who perpetrated this conspiracy against Logan and co. need to face criminal charges.

    • primenumbers

      No just charges, but convictions and significant jail time.

      • http://www.everydayintheparkwithgeorge.com/ Matt Eggler

        In addition the members of the firm of Eastburn & Gray should be disbarred and prevented from practicing law in any capacity in the US ever again.

        • sane37

          These above three thoughts would be the minimum action taken in a just society.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      Absolutely.

    • Jeff

      Since it involved more than one church member, and more than one public official, it is conspiracy. Since it involved such large sums of money, it could fall under the RICO act which means FEDERAL prosecution. I wonder what Mr. Logan is going to do with his new church property?

      • WallofSleep

        Under just about any other circumstances that is what should, and likely would happen. That fact that the perps were christians while in America tends to complicate things.

        • Celina Anderson

          Perhaps a social media campaign can rally some outside, Christian influence. While I don’t agree with religion in the slightest, I do know from things like the evolution debate that there are other, saner, more responsible, intelligent Christian leaders from various denominations, who have denounced the more ridiculous behaviour perpetrated by certain Christian groups. Fight fire with fire, and have the “better” Christian leaders chastise those who forget what they’re supposed to stand for.

          And yes, I hope there are serious charges and consequences for all those involved in railroading this man and killing his reputation. RICO Act charges and disbarments all around!

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        I so, so hope they get charged with RICO violations. Not going to happen, but it’s a happy dream.

      • smrnda

        I don’t see any reason why RICO would not apply here. I do believe that it has been used against religious organizations before.

        • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

          It seems difficult, because RICO has a broad but finite set of predicate offenses that precisely meet the definition for “racketeering activity”; even granting that all of the allegations against the Church were true, I’m not sure any of them hit that jackpot. The shenanigans by the judge might fall under “obstruction of justice”, and if they used the US Mail, they might have accidentally committed mail fraud (similar to Grisham’s “The Firm”); however, it’s not clear that the facts can be shoehorned in to the US Code defined criteria for either, and other predicate offenses are even more of a stretch. (EG: I see no way this can be construed as trafficking in nuclear materials.)

          If no predicate, then no RICO.

          • baal

            The practice though of RICO prosecutions has applied it in ways that seem at odds with the base anti-drug (organized crime) rationale. It’s only christian privilege and the political fall out that would occur from a major prosecution of say the RCC that keeps it from really being used.

            • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

              Yes, it’s widely and often dubiously applied outside the putative “organized crime” rationale; but always with a predicate offense. While Christian privilege and political fall out are doubtless factors impeding a RICO prosecution of the RCC, the most essential factor is that the RCC is not alleged to have committed (in the US) any of the required predicate offenses.

              Even if speculatively Pope B16 was himself proven a kiddy-diddler actively covering up for other kiddy-diddler priests with the full knowledge and participation of every Bishop on the planet (which is vastly more than currently alleged), it still doesn’t look like the RCC would have breached any of the RICO predicates in the list from 18 USC 1961. While child prostitution for money and distributing child pornography are predicate offenses, even such RCC offenses would not seem to meet the letter of the criteria; and sexual abuse of a minor using coercion via religious authority does not seem to meet the criteria on the list. Similarly, while several bishops reportedly have been convicted on various “obstruction of justice” charges, it does not appear from what I can make out in the news pieces that any of those were the types that are RICO predicates (EG: juror bribery).

              It’s still possible something may come out to change that. (Or even that I missed something on the RICO predicate list.) However, prospective RICO prosecution of the RCC remains irrelevant to the question of RICO prosecution of Salem Baptist.

              If no predicate, then no RICO.

      • Fizzypuddin@yahoo.com

        Start preaching…ROFL!

  • WallofSleep

    “Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness”

    Funny how Christians in power have absolutely no regard for the Book of Rules they’re trying to shove down everyone else’s throats.

    • Golfie98

      Isn’t that the point – the rules are for all of us sinners not the righteous ones in charge (or who think they are in charge)

      • WallofSleep

        I think that was always the point, from the very moment the first human declared him/herself the very first ‘official’ representative of a deity.

      • Tesla Ranger

        Believers are saved (or can ask for forgiveness) and therefore can do whatever they want. Non-believers are in danger of hell until they believe and therefore need to live by the believers’ set of rules. (Do as I say, not as I do.)

    • Fentwin

      And its not like its only referred to once in their owner’s manual. The book is smattered, smothered and covered with admonitions against lying. A few examples;

      Leviticus 19:11 You shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another.

      Psalms 119:163 I hate and abhor lying: but your law do I love.

      Proverbs 12:22 Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight.

      Proverbs 13:5 A righteous man hates lying: but a wicked man is loathsome, and comes to shame.

      Proverbs 14:5 A faithful witness will not lie: but a false witness will utter lies.

      Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers.

      • WallofSleep

        But it’s as you say*, these rules are only meant for us rank and file citizens. You know the saying: “We are all equal in the eyes of the Lord, but some of us are more equal than others.”

        EDIT: *I mean, “… it’s as Golfie said…”

        • evodevo

          In the original, they really WERE meant only for Jews … you could deal as you wanted with “outsiders”. They didn’t count. Same old, same old.

      • FTP_LTR

        But they’re all metaphors, taken out of context without the spiritual essence of the… Jesus!

      • UWIR

        Admonitions against lying, not admonitions towards.

        • islandbrewer

          Doh! I think I figured out their problem!

        • Fentwin

          thanks. :)

    • Randy Meyer

      Since that doesn’t have anything to do with homosexuality or unborn children, it didn’t matter.

      • WallofSleep

        Or a woman’s sovereignty over her own body.

        • Jason Adams

          Now now, everyone knows that women are the property of their fathers and then their husbands. The Bible tells us so…

          • baal

            Wives are chattels of the husband and the husbands are chattels of the church. It’s part and parcel of why the role of the laity is to obey. The framing always was that you were sheep, live stock owned by the lord.

    • John Schwytzer

      Maybe we should take up a collection and buy them a Ten Commandment display. It seems that they need it more at the churches than on government property.

    • closetatheist

      Funny how you never see Joe Klein shoving Books of Rul – er, no. Uhm, that doesn’t work. Nevermind.

    • sane37

      It only applies to each other.

  • Fentwin

    WWJD;

    Who Would Jesus Defraud?

    • WallofSleep

      If his followers are any indication, I’d say fucking anyone, including christians.

    • WallofSleep

      Of course this brings to mind the fable of Jacob, a story in which any reader with decent sensibilities would label the lead character an inexorable shit. A truly dirty, double-dealing, back-stabbing, lying, cheating, fink.

      Jacob was a man who deceived his father, conned his brother, had multiple wives at the same time, and apparently tried to beat the shit out of his brother while still in the womb.

      So here we have a deceiving, conniving, polygamist (and remember, as we’ve heard over so many elections, god set in stone from the very beginning that marriage is between ONE man and ONE woman, so polygamy should be just as grave a sin as homosexuality). A man who clearly thinks nothing of fucking over his own flesh and blood for his own personal gain, and this is the dude that god picks as his man on earth? I think that says a lot about those who wrote such fables, and those that continue to hold such fables to be true.

      Oddly enough, I think if you were to put out the story of Jacob today as if it were brand new, what with the current climate in religious right circles, the wingnuts would embrace the rugged, manly Essau and reject the duplicitous, “thoughtful” Jacob.

      • Artor

        I think that’s one of the stories that got me reconsidering Xianity. I was never super devout, but while attending Catholic school, I thought I should give it a try, so I decided to read the Bible through. As usual, I came out of the process an atheist. Most of the characters the Bible holds up as Moral heroes come off as bullying assholes. Jacob, Abraham, Moses, David, etc. I wouldn’t let any of them use my bathroom.

        • Greg G.

          I wouldn’t let any of them use my bathroom.

          Especially since none of them would have any idea what a commode was for.

          • CB

            If you let those characters use your bathroom, it would look like the truck stop restroom down the road from the state penitentiary.

        • Jason Adams

          They don’t strike me as being bullying assholes, they all strike me as being more along the lines of genocidal psychopaths and serial killers.

        • http://springygoddess.blogspot.com/ Astreja

          I wouldn’t trust them to clean My cats’ litter boxes, either.

  • Mick

    I’ll bet the church has already moved its cash and assets into its charity wing where Logan can’t get at it.

  • LesterBallard

    “Christians aren’t better than anyone else, they’re just forgiven.” Good. They usually have a shitload to be forgiven for.

    • Intelligent Donkey

      Forgiven by god, perhaps, but not forgiven by me.

      • LesterBallard

        They seem to care more about being forgiven for their imaginary sins than the actual wrongs and injury they’ve committed against their fellow human beings.

        • WallofSleep

          Because with God’s Forgiveness, the devout never need make reparations to those they’ve wronged. They’ve received Divine Reprieve, and there is no human that can hold them to account for that which God has washed away.

          EDIT: Or so they believe.

          • smrnda

            They also argue that since everybody is a dirty disgusting sinner, all the kid deserved to get molested and this sinful contractor deserves to be defrauded and subject to a conspiracy. I actually heard an Xtian say ‘there is no such thing as an innocent victim’ which I found appalling. (At the same time, he was strangely concerned about the innocent victims of homosexuality. You know, employers who have to provide benefits and such.)

            Bullshit all the way through.

  • Rain

    With a name like “Salem Baptist”, what could possibly go wrong?

  • Justin Miyundees

    “Never do business with a religious son-of-a-bitch. His word ain’t worth a shit — not with the Good Lord telling him how to fuck you on the deal.”
    ― William S. Burroughs

    • smrnda

      I love that Burroughs quote.

  • primenumbers

    I hope to see some jail time for the church and it’s members who perpetrated these lies.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    With God anything is permissible

    (paraphrasing The Hitch paraphrasing Dostoyevsky)

    • primenumbers

      Yup, you just have to say “God told me” and you can get away with anything.

  • Paul Iannacone

    always good to see my hometown on here. (Doylestown, not Jenkintown). Pennsylvania keeps trying to move itself closer to the south (in ideology, if not location. )

    • BryceButler1

      There’s a reason PA is known as
      “Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in Between”

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Astonishing corruption. Rotten to the core. Christians, please tell me again why you harp on how the alleged source of your morals makes yours superior to my morals, rather than WHETHER OR NOT YOU PRACTICE MORALS.

    • WallofSleep

      Because “Jesus”, that’s why. Now shut up!

      (Hmm… funny, that “shut up” thing used to work wonders on atheists. I wonder what’s different? Must be all that persecuting of christians I’ve heard so much about.)

      • Stev84

        It always helps when you can follow up those words with torture and execution.

    • GarColga

      Ha that’s easy! They’ll say they weren’t “real” christians.

    • Jason Adams

      Well it’s because we’re all “born sinners” so it’s only expected that they would act so rotten. And since their “faithful” and “true Christians” all they have to do is say “I’m sorry” to their invisible sky fairy and they are “forgiven.”

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    The people that ruined the man and almost got him thrown in prison deserve to have their lives ruined. I’d sue them for so much that the church needs to shut down and not that I am even slightly suggesting anything bad happens, but it’d be a shame if their building were to catch fire.

    I love the law firm defending what happen by arguing that they were merely mistaken about what was going on. I say throw the judge and the cop in prison without any protection.

    • Artor

      I’d like to see all involved bankrupted, publicly disgraced, sent to prison, and the building sold and used as a concert hall for rock bands.

      • Jason Adams

        I think a better use of the building would be as an out-patient treatment center for recovering theists, or as a deprogramming center for rescued cult members…

  • LonesomeDove

    As the song says: “I’ve been slandered…libeled…I heard words I never heard in the bible…”

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    In case anyone would like to contact the church: roslyn@salem-baptistchurch.com

    • WallofSleep

      I’d recommend sending nothing but bible verses about bearing false witness, and signing the emails:

      “This applies to you too, BTW,
      -God”

      • closetatheist

        Please tell me you did this.

  • A3Kr0n

    Churches (churches). What are they good for?
    Absolutely nothing.
    Say it again!

    • Artor

      No Gawd y’all!

  • Bruce Martin

    It is ironic that this church-based evil happened just TWO MILES from Abington Township, famous for the 1961 Supreme Court case in which they were trying to force bible readings on all school children. Fortunately, the Shempp family won. But apparently some of the Christians in the area never got over it.

  • WallofSleep

    “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and render unto Logan what you fucking owe him you lousy cheapskates!”

  • Artor

    If only these people had some rule about bearing false witness. They should mark that one on a tablet or something and display it. But only at their own place. I think most of the rest of us already figured that one out.

    • Little_Magpie

      wish i could upvote that more than once.

      • Sam

        Let me get that for you then.

  • Fentwin

    A thought;

    Every church should be required by law to have not just a dinky 10 commandments monument, but a super-super, oh my gawd look at that, oversized monument of their precious commandments.

    Whenever the church (not its members, but the organization and those that administer it) breaks a commandment, that commandment is sand blasted from their monument, to be replaced with a big red, bold lettered ‘failed”.

    I wonder how many churches would have the full 10 by a years end?

    • WallofSleep

      That will likely never happen in reality, but it definitely needs to happen in a comedy sketch.

      • Fentwin

        Oh yeah, thats more wishful day-dreaming on my part, with maybe a touch of fist in air “if I were in charge”. :)

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      Oh, the ones about not having other gods would probably still stand. It’s still reasonably rare for one of the administrators to convert or become atheist.

  • smrnda

    Lesson I take from this – never do business with a church.

    • Ted

      I seem to recall hearing a while back that that’s actually standard wisdom within the construction industry, generally on the basis that “churches tend to act like they deserve everything for free”.

  • Gabriel

    How is this behavior anything but criminal? How is it that they aren’t going to be charged and prosecuted?

    • Stev84

      Why are you violating their freedom of religion?!?!

  • Debbi

    Fair play and honesty? My work experience with the very religious (not only Christians but other faiths as well) was very similar. Not all are like that,,,,, but many are and they were vicious, seeming to enjoy using dirty deeds far more than reputable hard work, that was for their inferiors!

  • Croquet_Player

    Jaw-dropping arrogance. I hope somebody does time for this.

  • Cattleya1

    I am sure they have already prayed to JEEEzus and he has forgiven them. After all, they were just acting in the best interest of their church. JEEEzus must be so proud of them!

  • G. Michael Williams

    Takes god for good people to do bad things.

    • David Kopp

      I’m not entirely sure the church was good in the first place. This isn’t really a doctrine-backed plan of theirs.

      That said, I do agree that religion can encourage people to do immoral things that they otherwise wouldn’t. I’m just not convinced this is one of those cases.

    • DavidMHart

      We should be wary of that trope. In order for well-intentioned people to do harmful things, they don’t necessarily need to believe in gods; they just need to believe some stuff that isn’t true that has a morally relevant effect on their behaviour.

      Of course, god-beliefs are among the most pervasive almost-certainly-not-true beliefs out there (presumably because they have an easier time avoiding reality-checks than false beliefs about matters entirely related to the natural world), but they are not the only ones.

  • DougI

    As I always say, “Never trust a fundy.”


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