|Page 5 of 5 <|
In Va., a Powerful and Polarizing Pastor
Scott said the goal was to evangelize to crowds at racing events, and "we had thousands of people born again."
County building department records show what many former members describe: a 2,400-square-foot garage on church property where he stored the vehicles. Until last year, when he quit going on the road, Scott carted the vehicles to shows and races across the country in a huge trailer attached to a motor home with granite floors and plasma TVs, said Star Scott Jr., who added that he traveled for years with his father to car events. The son said that his father would be on the road for weeks and that Calvary would pick up the tab, which sometimes included snowmobiling, casino gambling or attending concerts.
He said his father lives off church-paid credit cards, and 2005 card statements he provided to The Post, addressed to Calvary Temple and sent to Pastor Scott's house, show personal spending of $10,000 to $13,000 a month. Items include $2,377 to a company that makes wheels for Harley Davidson motorcycles, $1,450 to a sports memorabilia firm and $544 to a winter sports rental center in Lake Tahoe.
"I don't dispute" the expenses, Scott said, adding that he has no set salary and that his possessions belong to the church. "Some may like it, some may not. I don't tell them what to do with their salary."
Church leaders said that they are selling some of the race cars and that the money will go to support the churches in Africa.
Under federal law, churches can choose any system of governance and are exempt from filing financial information to the government. Federal tax code, however, forbids an individual "such as the creator or the creator's family" from benefiting excessively -- through "unreasonable compensation," for example -- from a tax-exempt organization.
Church finances are not required to be public, but Calvary's lack of transparency is unusual, said experts with the Assemblies of God, whose tenets Scott says he still shares. In Assemblies of God churches, congregations typically vote to select a pastor and are often listed on the title to the property.
"It's not the norm within the Assemblies of God for the pastor to be able to determine everything," said Ron Hall, chairman of church ministries at Valley Forge Christian College and a longtime Assemblies minister. "This is a prime example of someone who wants ultimate control. I would think there would be serious flags."
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.
Rob Foster, the Timmses and 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.
Scott said that Kern's parents initially were supportive of the efforts to help her lose weight and that such measures "are discipline, not punitive."
The school originally was open to any children but was closed to nonmembers in the 1980s as the church became more insular. That growing isolation drove some members to leave. Others left after Scott stood on the sanctuary stage in the fall of 2002, 19 days after the death of his wife after a long battle with cancer, and, according to a transcript, announced that he would take a new wife from the congregation.
Saying the Old Testament calls for a widowed high priest to take a virgin bride, Scott, then 55, said that the next week he would be marrying Greer Parker, whose father is close to Scott. Former members said many congregants were stunned.
"He kept saying it's to keep him from falling into sin, to keep the ministry going," Star Scott Jr. said of his father's explanation to his children.
Others said they began questioning Calvary's theology.
Michelle Freeman, 48, left in December 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.
"I've been praying for your boy," one woman told another.
"I was marked while I was in there," said another, using the Calvary term for a member who leaders say should be shunned.
After 12 years at Calvary, Freeman is livid.
"I paid good money for my children to be brainwashed and for my marriage to be ruined," said Freeman, a U.S. Postal Service secretary.
When asked about the divided families, Scott answered, "That happens." They accepted Calvary's theology until it affected them, he said. "They were ready to see it apply to others' lives for years and served many times in the orchestration of it."
Now, "I'm at perfect peace with them being gone," he said. "We're happy with what we believe, so why aren't they happy?"
Staff writer David S. Fallis and news researchers Meg Smith and Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.