No Room For Gays In Bethel’s Heaven On Earth

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Digital image by R.V. Scheide

By R.V. Scheide

(Editor’s note: The original version of this story erroneously stated that the Civic Auditorium is a for-profit entity. The information has been corrected.)

Contrary to many of its local detractors, Bethel, the controversial megachurch in our midst, is not a cult. True, it has all the markings of a cult, but for the purposes of this story, Bethel is best thought of as an octopus with seven arms—a septopus if you will.

These seven arms correspond to Bethel’s 7 Mountain Mandate, dominionist Christian theology that calls upon the church’s 11,000 local members and its millions of internet followers to seize the cultural domains of religion, family, education, government, business, media and arts and entertainment.

The idea is to create heaven on earth, a “kingdom culture,” as conceived by the minds of Bethel’s leadership, pastors Bill Johnson and Kris Vallotton, who co-founded in Redding the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry in 1998.

There’s no question the creature Johnson and Vallotton created has become a tremendously successful financial organism, stuffing tax-free, nonprofit Benjamins into its sharp beak at the rate of tens of millions of dollars annually.

As explained by USC sociologists Brad Christerson and Richard Flory in The Rise Of Network Christianity: How Independent Leaders Are Changing The Religious Landscape, Johnson and Vallotton belong to a new breed of non-denominational charismatic preachers who’ve leveraged the internet to increase their flock’s fortunes.

In vast horizontal computer networks stretching across the United States, and indeed the world, these preachers attest to one another’s status as a genuine “anointed” apostles, promote each other’s many books (often ghost-written by volunteers) and speak at each other’s many conferences.

The money gathered by the sale of conference tickets, books, DVDs and audio and video downloads flows from the bottom—from those who consume such media—straight to the brand names on the top.

According to the authors, Johnson and Vallotton were among the first to leverage the internet in this fashion when they created Global Legacy, a horizontal computer network that connects hundreds of like-minded “revival leaders” around the world.

Revival has paid off handsomely for Johnson, Vallotton and non-denominational charismatic churches in general, the only branch of Christianity that is growing, not shrinking, in the United States. With money comes power, and the Bethel beast has been muscling in on its self-proclaimed territory, the seven mountains, at home and abroad.

Nationally, Bethel Music has a firm grip on popular Christian music sales, scooping in almost $13 million in total revenue in 2017, according to the form 990 the nonprofit religious organization filed with the IRS. The form lists just five employees—and 200 volunteers.

Earlier this month, Bethel paid a bundle to debut its first feature-length film, Bright Ones, featuring the precocious, kingdom-minded kids from the church’s performing arts school, in 1000 theaters nationwide. As of yet, no critical review of the film, positive or negative, has materialized.

On the other hand, the recently released Christian-made anti-abortion propaganda film Unplanned, in which Vallotton makes a cameo appearance, has been righteously panned by serious film critics.

In Shasta County, Bethel’s encroachment is best symbolized by the Civic Auditorium, a publicly-owned building that rakes in $750,000 annually from renting out classroom space to the BSSM. The Civic is operated by Advance Redding, the non-profit entity that includes Bethel higher-ups on its board that was first contracted by the city of Redding in 2011. (Editor’s note: The original version of this story erroneously stated that the Civic Auditorium is a for-profit entity. The information has been corrected.)

Some 2000 students pay up to $5250 annually for the privilege of learning the supernatural trade—as espoused by Johnson, Vallotton and their acolytes—at the BSSM. In 2017, Vallotton implied that Bethel’s (the church’s) annual income was $8 million, after the megachurch provided $500,000 to fund four cops for RPD’s neighborhood policing unit.

Christerson and Flory state that Bethel uses the 7 Mountain Mandate theology as an enticement for young adults—the BSSM’s target audience—who are still idealistic enough to believe they can literally transform the world.

Students and church members are encouraged to seek their biblical destiny in the seven mountains, which includes business. Thus the seeming explosion of new businesses locally, mostly high-end coffee shops and fad-food restaurants, listed on the Bethel Affiliated Businesses Facebook page.

There’s even been talk of a “Bethel effect,” of Redding riding to financial success on Bethel’s revivalist coattails, as if Jesus had abolished the business cycle. I’ve seen no hard data that confirms or refutes this claim.

But before we go much further with this idea of heaven on earth, the reader should know there’s no room for gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individuals in Bethel’s imaginary kingdom. If you’re a woman, forget about getting an abortion, even in the case of rape or incest, should this paradise come to pass. All sex outside of procreation will be forbidden.

If you think the separation of church and state, enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and envisioned as a wall by Thomas Jefferson, is going to protect you, your family and our public schools (family and education are, after all, two of the seven mountains) from this intrusive creature and its spawn, think again.

Nowadays, the wall between church and state is more like a picket fence, and even a septopus the size of Bethel can slither through a hole the size of a quarter.

Ground Zero At The Moral Revolution

One evening earlier this year, I met a friend at Club 501, downtown Redding’s solitary gay bar which has a new next-door neighbor—Theory Collaborative, a Bethel-affiliated fru fru coffee shop that purposely set up shop next to the 501 to … what?

That’s what I was wondering. The 501’s bartender was still pissed that one of the first things members of Theory did when they moved in was report 501 to the police for the music being too loud, which, the bartender insisted, was the first noise complaint they’ve ever received in decades of operation.

After a few beers, we walked next door to Theory Collaborative. Like most of these new Bethel-affiliated coffee joints that have popped up around town, the setting was austere, minimal. Popular Christian music was playing. Maybe 20 BSSM students, mostly well-dressed hipster dudes and a few similarly attired females, were nursing expensive beverages.

I ordered a coffee featuring the essence of honeydew consumed by an obscure Madagascan lemur, or something like that. Then I asked a group of young BSSM students sitting at a table if this was “ground zero at the moral revolution”.

“You mean the book written by Kris Vallotton?” a particularly bright-eyed young man offered.

The full name of the book is Moral Revolution: The Naked Truth About Sexual Purity, supposedly authored by Kris and his son Jason in 2012, and yes, that’s exactly what I’d meant. I wanted to see if they were familiar with Vallotton’s work.

They were, but not to the degree that they understood just how obsessed Kris Vallotton is with sex. This is a man who has used his son Jason, one of his five children and now securely in Bethel’s upper tier, as a prop for his various ill-informed theories on human sexuality.

Cases in point? Jason was apparently encouraged to wear a white T-shirt to high school every day to signify his sexual purity—according to The Supernatural Power Of Forgiveness, the book KV and JV wrote about Jason’s disastrous first marriage straight out of high school and his subsequent divorce.

On his blog and social media posts, Kris Vallotton has claimed Jason engaged in quasi-homosexual behavior as a child, then used the incident to bolster his contention that society, thanks to the sexual revolution in the 1960s and the Gay Agenda, has confused the desire for fraternal and sororal love with the sex act, resulting in rampant homosexuality.

In a blog post earlier this year, he also blamed the alleged increase in homosexuality on single mothers, who are supposedly feminizing their fatherless young boys.

Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth. Biological and social scientists have yet to determine what combination of nature and nurture causes some individuals to fall outside the “normal” male-female binary. They just know that some people do, and that’s normal, too.

But there’s no evidence that polite society’s acceptance of this fact has led to an increase in homosexuality. Vallotton and his brethren mistake the increasing visibility of the LGBTQ community, won after decades of hard-fought battles, with their actual percentage in the population, which depending on the survey has remained stable and ranges from 2 percent to 11 percent.

Even Vallotton pretends to acknowledge this fact. In a 2013 Facebook post, he offered his “take on homosexuality, for what it’s worth,” which included the following gem:

“I do believe that there are people that have same gender sexual attractions. I think it’s real and not imagined. But being attracted to something that is wrong does not define you.

“For example, I’m a married man and therefore I am a one woman man by choice. Biologically I have the capacity to be sexually attracted to many other women but I have chosen through covenant to manage my appetite towards one woman.

“Therefore I am not defined by the temptations that I resist. Instead I am defined by the virtues that I embrace. These virtues have become the boundaries for my appetite and they dictate what I allow myself to desire.”

Got that LGBTQ community? You’re attracted to something that’s wrong, just like Vallotton is apparently attracted to women who are not his wife. The difference is, he gets to have sex, at least with his wife, and you don’t.

There is zero evidence that Vallotton’s views have changed since then. In fact, he and Bethel have stepped up their anti-LGBTQ crusade.

Scared Straight

Bethel’s anti-LGBTQ crusade first attracted my attention a year ago, when, in an Easter Sunday morning sermon, Vallotton launched a verbal assault on the gay community and called for his congregation to contact the state Legislature and urge it to withdraw a bill that banned profiting on providing “conversion therapy” services to adults.

Conversion therapy to change sexual orientation has been thoroughly debunked as ineffective and potentially harmful by every major medical association in the United States. It is illegal to practice it on minors in California and a dozen other states.

Thanks to the efforts of Bethel and other right-wing evangelical churches in California, the adult conversion therapy bill was withdrawn, and Bethel was able to continue charging adults for the services provided through Equipped To Love, the megachurch’s conversion therapy “clinic.” For $90 a session, clients seeking to pray the gay away can consult with “once gay” Bethel ministers Ken Williams or Elizabeth Woning.

Bethel and Equipped To Love celebrated this Easter season by launching “Changed: Once Gay Stories,” which consists of a book you can buy and a website you can peruse for free that documents the stories of individuals who claim they were once gay but, through the grace of God, no longer suffer from same-sex attraction, gender dysphoria and a variety of other associated conditions.

Bethel claims “Once Gay—Changed” is also a “movement,” but judging from the testimonies on the website, this hardly seems likely. Most of the accounts fall solidly within the spectrum of expected sexual behavior, which for individuals can change over time, no divine intervention necessary.

To pad the count, Bethel chased ambulances. Two of the stories involve “once gay” men who survived the 2016 Pulse gay night club mass shooting in Orlando, Florida that killed 49 people. Both men promised God during the shooting that they’d give up their gay ways if they somehow survived. Apparently, it took.

Bethel is making a concerted effort to spread its anti-gay gospel throughout Shasta County. Earlier this month, The Stirring, the growing church/coffee house on Churn Creek Road that claims 1500 members, hosted a conference, “Sex. Church. Culture.” Williams and Woning from Equipped To Love were featured speakers, and explained the purpose of the conference on their website.

“The purpose of Sex. Church. Culture. is to unpack the balance of biblical truth and while still walking in grace. We will tackle topics such as LGBTQ, sex education, church staff dynamics, porn, moral failures, building families and more in this one-day intensive on sexuality and leadership.”

Other featured speakers included Vallotton, weighing in for his Moral Revolution nonprofit religious organization, and Josh Chumley from the Alliance Defending Freedom, a right-wing religious legal advocacy organization that has been labeled an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

According the SPLC, the ADF has “supported the recriminalization of homosexuality in the U.S. and criminalization abroad; has defended state-sanctioned sterilization of trans people abroad; has linked homosexuality to pedophilia and claims that a ‘homosexual agenda’ will destroy Christianity and society.”

They’re all on the same page. Even worse, both Bethel and The Stirring may be spreading this message to public schools via supposedly non-faith-based mentoring programs like Bethel’s Justice Collective and The Stirring’s Catalyst Initiative, which plans to have 1000 mentors to serve the area’s at-risk youth by the end of this year.

According to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, mentoring programs are a primary means by which religious organizations attempt to breach the picket fence separating church and state in public primary and secondary schools.

I am currently investigating two such breaches in Shasta County public schools, and I can tell you this much at the present time: People—students, teachers and parents—are frightened of this monster. They may be outraged, but most of them don’t want to talk about it, at least not on the record, due to fear of potential reprisals.

But that’s what it’s going to take to stop this septopus. People are going to have to stand up and say, enough is enough.

What’s the point of having heaven on earth if it’s hell for other people?

R.V. Scheide
R.V. Scheide has been a northern California journalist for more than 20 years. He appreciates your comments and story ideas. He can be emailed at
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156 Responses

  1. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    A septopus cult, perhaps? A cult by any other name . . .

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Well, it’s true, Bethel has all the markings of a cult. I hope its members have the courage to stand up to its leaders and reject their homophobic theology.

  2. Avatar Marilyn Medley says:

    RV Sometimes you make me so angry. This is not one of those times. Thank you for staying on top of this.
    I have lived in Redding for 50 years, so I have seen many changes, but nothing as stealth as this. Please don’t stop doing what your doing.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      The septopus is definitely a stealthy creature. I’ll try to keep tabs on this slippery beast.

  3. Avatar Judith Salter says:

    I am concerned that Catalyst mentoring has a religious bent. I know many who support this group. I really hoped you will pursue this program as its effect on our young could be huge

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Catalyst claims it’s non-faith based, but I see no legitimate reason to believe them.

    • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

      Agreed, Judith. I was planning to donate to Catalyst, but now, learning it’s a Bethel offshoot, nuh-uh. There was an “advertisement” for Catalyst on KIXE prior to Call the Midwife (I think that was the program). Now I wonder, was it a paid ad or considered a public-service free ad? If it was a free ad, I find that troubling.

      • Avatar Julie Driver says:

        Hi Beverly,
        Thanks for calling this to our attention. The spot you mentioned is part of a series of 6 messages we (KIXE) made for Shasta County concerning ACE’s- (Adverse Childhood Experiences). This message was about how mentoring can have a positive impact on those affected and not intended as an endorsement of a particular organization.

  4. Avatar Chris Solberg says:

    “But before we go much further with this idea of heaven on earth, the reader should know there’s no room for gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individuals in Bethel’s imaginary kingdom.”

    Of course “heaven on earth” has no homeless as well, Many LGBT youth who come out are rejected and forced out into the streets by unaccepting parents.

    Must one wear two scarlet letter’s in BethelVille?

    Forgive me but sometimes I speak with a video which far better illustrates my point…

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      You are correct Chris. Sweeping homeless off the streets is why Bethel gave $500,000 to the RPD.

      • Avatar Doug Cook says:

        They gave $500k to keep the Neighborhood Police Unit funded, in addition they put together a fundraising campaign to raise even more money. The NPU has been succesful in getting dangerous drugs off our street…NPU has seized a total of 12.87 pounds of methamphetamine, 10.73 pounds of heroin, and 1.04 pounds of cocaine. To put it in perspective, NPU prevented about 58,301 doses of methamphetamine, 48,606 doses of heroin, and 4,707 doses of cocaine from being distributed into our community. In addition they arrested at least 3 online predators that were going after minor girls, soliciting them for sex. They have removed dozens of weapons out of the hands of criminals…but you think all they do is harass homeless?

        • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

          Doug Cook,

          I don’t know if your information is accurate, but I do know that getting unsightly homeless people off the streets of its world-wide base of operations is high priority for Bethel, which I personally believe is why RPD launched a massive anti-homeless campaign almost immediately after receiving Bethel’s half-million-dollar “donation”.

          Bethel also tossed Senior Nutrition’s one-morning-a-month food distribution out of the Civic parking lot (after 33 years in that central location), and has targeted other groups and activities that serve the poor and homeless. In fact, both Bethel Elder (and now Redding Mayor) Julie Winter and Bethel supernatural school instructor April LaFrance have made public statements to the effect that most of the very negligible help extended to the area’s poor and homeless people (with the exception of the heavily religious Rescue Mission) are bad for the community.

          • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

            It’s also worth mentioning that Bethel is virtually a textbook example of a “Prosperity Gospel” church. According to this belief system, the poor and otherwise afflicted are being punished by “god” for living sinful lives, while the wealthy are supposedly being rewarded for their godliness and virtue.

            This makes it easy for church leaders to live lavish lifestyles at their congregant’s expense, while also giving themselves an excuse to do nothing to speak of for the poor, the homeless, etc.

  5. Avatar Katie says:

    Your last sentence sums up the subject perfectly, “What’s the point of having heaven on earth if it’s hell for other people?” Please continue to investigate and shine the light on this topic.

  6. Adrienne Jacoby Adrienne Jacoby says:

    R.V. DON’T STOP REPORTING . . . . You are ” . . . . .a voice crying in the wilderness!” Let’s just hope your end is not similar to the subject of that quote!
    All good information. All well researched. Just what the members of our larger community need to know.
    Thanks . . .

  7. Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

    Many thanks to R.V. Scheide for this exceptional overview of Bethel and its malevolent intentions for the area (and beyond).

    Bethel tries to create the false perception that its admitted in-progress take-over of the “7 Mountains” is limited to spiritual influence, when in fact this domination is quite literal, and highly political. I would encourage everyone to research 7 Mountains Dominionism and its ultimate goal – which is the complete religious control of government and all other aspects of society.

    Below is an interview with Lance Wallnau, who has co-authored several books with Bethel leader Bill Johnson on world religious domination. In it he describes basically sneaking into positions of power through a vast underground network (something that is very much in evidence on a local level in Shasta County):

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Even the authors of the book I quoted in the story fell for the idea that the 7 Mountains is just a spiritual program. As you correctly point out, it’s quite literal.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Patricia, wasn’t it LOL funny when KV, the day after this story came out, wrote a Facebook post saying no, no, no, there’s been a big misunderstanding about the Seven Mountain Mandate, we just mean “spiritually” man. What a bald-faced liar this guy is, but he’s good for the lulz.

  8. Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

    R.V. says, “There’s no question the creature Johnson and Vallotton created has become a tremendously successful financial organism, stuffing tax-free, nonprofit Benjamins into its sharp beak at the rate of tens of millions of dollars annually.”

    It’s likely sheer coincidence, but I want to read this as a tip-of-the-cap to fellow investigative reporter Matt Tiabbi and his take on Wall Street banks. Birds of a feather, Scheide and Tiabbi.

    As for the rest: Count me among those who don’t think that Bethel’s theology is so far removed from the mainstream that it deserves “cultish” or even “Satanic” status, as many of their fellow Christians shrilly maintain. No, what bothers me about Bethel is the 7 Mountains mandate. I view it as anathema to the foundational ideals embedded in our nation’s constitution. I don’t think separation of church and state has been a “thing” in Redding for a long time, and that situation is trending in the wrong direction. It’s a run-away positive feedback loop that won’t stop unless Bethel implodes.

    As for Vallotton’s views on human sexuality: Thhpppppppppttt. I mean, there’s an internal logic to saying that his self-reported lack of womanizing is analogous to gay people denying their desires, but the external logic of what’s morally right and wrong are out of a rulebook written by Middle Eastern goat herders thousands of years ago, and according to Vallotton those rules of human sexuality are immutable and not to be questioned. (Not so hundreds of other rules in his ancient collection of books that can be ignored or marginalized, but whatever.)

    In case it’s not obvious enough, I admit that Vallotton—former used car salesman and theological lightweight—bugs the royal shit out of me. My annoyance dates back to my coining of “The Bethel Effect” in a Yelp review well over a decade ago, and then years later being told that Vallotton was claiming ownership of both the term and the definition. Ever since, I just think of the guy as a shameless, filching grifter. Pride (of ownership), I guess—one of the seven deadly sins. But then again, isn’t “Thou shalt not steal” one of the 10 Commandments?

    • Steve, whenever the words “Bethel effect” are used, I always give you mental attribution. You said it first. It’s yours. You own it. We know it.

      • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

        According to R.V., Vallotton isn’t shy about taking credit for words written by others, so I shouldn’t be surprised. But I’m betting that if he does have actual ghost writers, they’re getting paid.

    • Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

      “T.S. Eliot, one of those cats, said, ‘The amateur imitates, the professional steals.’ ” – Peter Wolf

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Steve, thanks for noticing the Taibbi reference, I was definitely paying homage to him.

      Modern archaeologists have spent the last 150 years searching for Sodom and Gomorrah with almost no luck. Same goes for David and Solomon and the rest of the Old Testament myths. They’re still not sure if a person, Jesus, actually existed.

      The more I study Christianity, the less Christian I become.

      • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

        It does seem hard to understand how anyone can read the bible (with its endless contradictions, thoroughly debunked claims, primitive brutality, and obvious imitation of the “pagan” religions that pre-date it) and still take it seriously in this day and age.

  9. Avatar Bruce Ross says:

    FYI, it says on the Civic’s website that Advance Redding is a 501(c): Seems to conflict with how the author describes it.

    • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

      I wonder how much of the $686,494.00 Advance Redding’s five paid employees receive from this operation goes into Bethel coffers in the form of tithes and “gifts” to the church? If my math is correct that averages out to roughly $138,000.00 a year for each of what I’ve seen described as “part-time” employees.

      And of course Advance Redding’s Board of Directors is about as Bethel-affiliated as it can get. This three-person Board is comprised of Bethel’s second-in-command Kris Vallotton, Bethel Administrator Charlie Harper, and a woman who is probably the most vocal Bethel defender in Shasta County.

      • Avatar Doug Cook says:

        I wonder what the Civic Center would look like right now if Bethel didn’t step in and rescue it? It would more than likely be a boarded up weed grown eye sore. I have seen numerous concerts and plays since they have been running the venue, my daughters dance recitals are held there every year. Thanks Bethel for saving the civic center.

        • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

          Doug, Redding could have rented out the Civic to the BSSM for $750,000 and continued to run it and it would have survived.

          Tim: At this point, I do not know how many unpaid volunteers from the BSSM help run the Civic. That would lower the average pay even further. In some countries, this is known as slave labor.

      • Avatar Tim says:

        I see at least 7 staff members listed for the civic center not including the 5 board members. That’s an average of $76,800 salaries & benefits for the $922,000 spent on employee salary & benefits in 2017.

        For comparison, the city of Redding spent an average of $91,245 in salary & benefits per employee in 2017.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      My understanding was Advance was a for-profit operation, but perhaps I’m mistaken. I believe I based that on a response Advance wrote to another A News Cafe story last year.

  10. Avatar Matthew Grigsby says:

    The struggle every gay person goes through in their youth is profound. For the vast majority we are raised by straight parents in a straight environment, and are surrounded by family and friends who differ from us in a fundamental way. Coming to terms with this difference is difficult, lonely, confusing and heartbreaking at times but most of us grew up without the tools and support we needed to build a healthy and happy life. Lots of young people don’t survive this process. LOTS. Or they survive but are saddled with shame and doubt and the very real fear of permanent rejection from family and friends. This is reality.

    Bethel’s stance on gays in general and conversion therapy specifically is a sin of the greatest order because it harms the very people who need love and understanding the most. I feel extremely fortunate to have the love and support of family, friends and coworkers and I am painfully aware of how many people in my community don’t have any of those things. I often wonder how many voices have been lost because LGBTQ people didn’t make it. Any part Bethel plays in making a single LGBTQ person feel ashamed or broken or less-than is wrong in every way it could be.

    KV contains his desire for women to his long-term spouse? Bully for him. You don’t get awards for being a decent person. On the other hand I’d love to be able to go out on a date and not be sneered or snickered at, or simply asked to leave. Would a Bethel business allow me to stay and feel welcome? Or any LGBTQ person, for that matter? The mere fact that Bethel church leaders feel compelled to speak out against an entire class of people in this community (a pretty small class, I might add), should offend everyone. What’s to stop them from speaking out against people with brown eyes or red hair? Literally nothing. But apparently they run the show.

    • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

      All that you say, Matthew, is why I won’t patronize an establishment that is Bethel-affiliated. I regret that there isn’t a complete listing of those businesses.

      • Avatar Doug Cook says:

        What if I said that I will never patronize an establishment run by Muslims? You would call me Islamophobic. I, of course would never boycott an establishment based on religion, nor should you. Rather disturbing practice if you ask me. There is a lovely place on Churn Creek…Tantardini’s European Bakery-Deli. The owners are from Milan Italy, came here for Bethel and decided to stay to open up their business. It is a great place for authentic Italian food and bakery items, wonderfully nice people. I dare you to try this place, talk with the owners,sample their food and not come away completely satisfied and delighted…or is Olive Garden good enough for you for Italian food? I am absolutely stunned by your comment.

        • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

          Were you also stunned by Matthew’s post? Or R.V.’s column? Or most of the other posts here by people who find Bethel’s teachings worrisome?

          • Avatar Doug Cook says:

            Yeah…I’m fairly stunned by a lot of what I read from anti Bethel folks. It’s ugly and makes our city look bad. Let me ask you this. I ran a business that was not Bethel affiliated, but I hired a good many Bethel students. Would you have boycotted my restaurant? If you came in and found out your server was a Bethel student, would you ask for a new server? What point are you trying to make by boycotting these businesses?

        • Avatar Matthew Grigsby says:

          Way to miss the point Doug, which I am assuming is kind of your point.

          Guess what? Anyone can patronize any business they like, for any reason they like. That’s the miracle of capitalism. Beverly isn’t saying she would boycott a Bethel business for being Christian, but rather for the policies of that specific church. Yet you scold her (“I would never boycott an establishment based on religion, nor should you”), and then challenge her to go to a place that *you* like for *your* reasons and then make a snobby crack about the Olive Garden? If you didn’t like Ace Hardware because they supported the hunting of unicorns, you wouldn’t go there, and frankly it’s no one’s business if you did.

          • Avatar Doug Cook says:

            What’s the point of boycotting a business of a church you dislike? I don’t particularly like members of the LDS church banging on my door during the day shoving handouts to me….but I will never actively search out for every business that are Mormon in the city and boycott them. I’m sure Ms Strafford has unwittingly patronized Bethel businesses in this town with no repercussions. What is the point of a boycott? Does she believe that Bethel church members are inherently bad? That they don’t deserve to be able to make a fair living? I don’t know…maybe she will answer that. Redding has been a culinary wasteland for years. Home to fast food restaurants and chains. Olive Garden is as Italian as Taco Bell is Mexican. So here we have a place with authentic Italian food from real Italians and you think boycotting it is a good idea? One thing Bethel brings is real diversity to our city, we have people from all over the world living here. I thought that was a good thing? Matter of fact, I believe I will travel over to Tantardini’s European Bakery-Deli right now and have lunch. Yumm…

          • Avatar Matthew Grigsby says:

            Doug, you got things off in to the weeds. Quite on purpose, I figure. You don’t like Olive Garden because you think they’re not authentically Italian, so I presume you boycott them. I’m sorry, you don’t patronize them. You’re making a choice on where to spend your money. You don’t like them, so you don’t go there.

            You have strong opinions on which businesses we should go to, which seems to be the point you’re making. So I guess conversion therapy is totally cool for you then. Understood. Have a nut.

        • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

          Doug Cook,

          As far as I’m aware “Muslims” have no plans to take over everything in Redding, whereas Bethel has been relentlessly following through on its admitted plans to do exactly that.

          • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

            I’d also like to mention that (in my opinion) there is nothing good about the take-over of the local business community by Bethel-affiliated business owners. Where else could they go to receive loans as needed for their businesses (although at 20 percent interest, per the link below), and have a built-in clientelle in the form of thousands of Bethel attendees? I’ve even read of volunteer workers being provided on occassion. I believe all of this gives them an unfair competitive advantage over other local businessess.


          • Avatar Doug Cook says:

            Patricia, The Bethel spokesperson the other day on these pages denied that loans are given to these businesses. He said it wasn’t true. You frequently bring up the ‘volunteers’. From a RS article years ago that mentioned s Bethel business used volunteers to remodel the place. .not volunteers as employees.

          • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

            Doug Cook,

            In my link above Bethel CEO Bill Johnson himself admits that loans are available (at 20 percent interest). As I recall, when offered proof your “Bethel spokesperson” conveniently disappeared.

            And some portion of every dollar anyone spends in a Bethel-owned business goes into Bethel coffers to aid that dominionist organization in its admitted, in-progress plans to make Redding a world-wide example of how to turn an entire city into its version of a theocracy.

      • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

        I won’t go in on the “boycott Bethel-affiliated businesses” bandwagon for a particular reason. I think their views on LGBTQ issues differs little from the majority of local churches. I strongly suspect it differs little from the views of the majority of local business owners.

        This is Shastanistan. You can’t avoid interacting with the resident Calibamans.

        • Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

          I would join the Boycott Bethel bandwagon, but I think I’d soon tire of driving to Red Bluff.

          • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:


            I once asked a master gardener at Redding Farmer’s Market how to defeat aggressively creeping Bermuda grass. His answer: “Move.”

            Same concept.

          • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

            LOL Hal.

    • Avatar Candace C says:

      Matthew, I’ve wondered about some of the things you bring up about openly same sex dating at Bethel establishments (or in Shasta County for that matter) . Since I’m not gay, I can’t test it and if I were I’m not sure I’d want to. My guess is that they might simply ask to pray for you. I don’t see them refusing you business because that wouldn’t look “nice” and I’m not sure if the younger Bethel members agree with the Elders on all things gay. Still, the church’s views are in full view, so if you’re a member you’re complicit unless perhaps you’re trying to change them from within the church. I’m so very sorry that you can’t live your life openly and love who you want, wherever you want, however you want, whenever you want without fear of ANYTHING. My heart goes out to you. Ignorance is only bliss to the ignorant, for the recipients of discrimination it ain’t so blissful. This is what I tell my gay family and friends “ No matter what, know you are loved. Always. No judgement. No strings attached. Just love”.

      • Avatar Doug Cook says:

        Candace, I have worked with dozens of Bethel kids. The vast majority of them have progressive views. I have never met one that was disparaging towards gay people. Some of them were gay themselves. Do I agree that the younger kids don’t agree with everything the elders believe. My experience is that they treat everyone with respect and understanding

      • Avatar Matthew Grigsby says:

        I’ve had a few bad experiences in Redding, being called a faggot while grocery shopping, having waiters snicker and point at my table when I was on a date. I haven’t had this happen at a Bethel establishment and while I like to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume I’ll be treated kindly, how the church feels about people like me is crystal clear. I don’t need to have people pray over me while I eat my sandwich, unless they are praying that I’ll love it.

        • Avatar Candace C says:

          Matthew, “…unless they’re praying that I love it”. LOL

        • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

          Matthew — When I was a kid, gay characters on TV weren’t exactly acknowledged as gay. It was done with a wink, and the portrayals were always wildly unflattering (e.g., Dr. Smith on “Lost in Space,” played as a simpering coward). I was an adult when non-clichéd, openly gay characters arrived on the scene, and even then it was considered controversial.

          When I was in high school homophobic slurs were commonplace, and that was in a relatively progressive city. My kids went to Foothill HS, and among their peers the view was (and remains) that people who use homophobic slurs are ignorant rubes.

          I hope you can take some comfort in the amazing progress that’s been made. But I’m old enough to have a first-hand observer’s understanding of why you fear back-sliding.

          • Avatar Matthew Grigsby says:

            You’re right Steve, the progress has been amazing and heartening. Hopefully kids today aren’t as terrified of being who they were born to be. There is great visibility of LGBTQ characters on tv, which is far more than I ever experienced.

            Sadly, I wouldn’t dare show affection with another guy in public no matter how safe the environment. It provokes weird and hostile reactions from strangers and it’s not worth it. Still, woe to anyone who makes a crack about me in front of my friends. I’ve got good folks behind me.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Thank you Matthew Grigsby for explaining why it is vitally important just who we allow around our young people. The fact that Bethel and the Stirring share the same anti-LGBTQ mindset and have aggressive mentoring programs that are already in our public schools should be cause for alarm. Not only does it totally alienate our LGBTQ students, it feeds straight students a mistaken idea of who LGBTQ students are. As I’ve stated in the past, we know here in Shasta County where this can lead young people–murder.

      On a more positive note, I’m a substitute teacher who’s taught in every high school in Shasta County, and one of the most gratifying things I’ve experienced is to see the high level of acceptance LGBTQ students receive from their classmates in every school I’ve been in. Our public schools, for the most part, are doing a great job. In my opinion, no public school should allow mentors from organizations with an anti-LGBTQ bent.

      • Avatar Matthew Grigsby says:

        R.V. it gives me more peace of mind than I can express that there’s a high level of acceptance for LGBTQ students in our schools. Those formative years are critical and acceptance by their classmates give me hope. I eagerly look forward to the day when this isn’t an issue at all and we can focus on the things that do matter.

        • Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

          I can echo what Steve wrote. When I was in high school, if you *weren’t* homophobic, you were weird. But when my son went to Shasta High, kids who used homophobic slurs seemed to be pretty much written off as assholes by most of the students. My son’s circle of friends included a gay guy, and everyone, guys and gals, greeted him with hugs.

          Not much chance you would have seen that when I was in high school.

          • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

            All the hugging that goes on between kids these days is heartening. I love watching a group of youngsters come together and everyone hugs before the get down to doing whatever they’re gathering for.

            I’ve got issues with Joe Biden that I’ve expressed elsewhere, but I have sympathy regarding the hugging, even if some of it was over the top and not welcomed. I want to believe he’s just a genuinely warm guy.

      • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

        I went to high school in Grand Coulee Dam Washington. There were 97 students in the 1978 senior class, and two of them were gay. There was no such term as “out of the closet” in our podunk town, these guys were effeminate to the point where they couldn’t hide it. I only lived there for my sophomore, junior and senior years, so I have no idea what sort of bullying they might have endured in their younger years. But in high school, both of these guys were protected. One was a white dude, and he was friends with all of the girls, and I mean all of them. One was Native American, and his two brothers were among the toughest dudes on the rez.

        There was an amazing level of acceptance for these two young men at the school. Nevertheless, that acceptance I’ve seen in local high schools and middle schools is several notches above. Progress!

  11. Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

    RV, another well written informative article.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Thanks Bruce. I know you understand I’m writing about this for a reason, not just to pick on religious people in general.

  12. Avatar Doug Cook says:

    Actually Matthew I love Olive Garden. Eat there frequently. I just don’t consider it Italian food. The point I was making is that thanks to Bethel, we have some actual diversity in this city now and we should support these businesses. What did this nice couple from Milan do to deserve a boycott? Because they worship at a church you don’t like? Really? The only time I will boycott a business is if they provide bad service

    • Avatar Matthew Grigsby says:

      We don’t have to support businesses we don’t want to. There is no “should” to it. The couple from Tantardini’s are indeed lovely, and have a wonderful bakery. Go there or don’t. It’s really no one’s concern where anyone shops. I never said I was boycotting anything.

      Be cool with conversion therapy if you want. Also your choice. Support it, embrace it, champion it if that’s the way you wish to express yourself today. The harm Bethel is doing to LGBTQ people is very real and very damaging, and it’s very wrong. I don’t expect you see it that way. I do.

      If you want to have an entire discussion about restaurants, submit an article to ANC. I’m a fool for letting myself get dragged into this debate, and letting it distract from what I said and what the other people here have said. I know better and I’m bowing out of this tangent.

      • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

        I’m with you, Matthew. I’m more than a little bored with this “Doug and pony show.”

        • Avatar Doug Cook says:

          Why Beverly? Because those with differing opinions shouldn’t speak up and be heard? “Doug and pony show?”…rather insulting characterization isn’t it? My opinions are not as valid as yours? Is this forum for you all to pat each other on the back and do nothing but agree with each other? I wasn’t going to comment on yet another anti Bethel letter, but was disturbed after a comment from someone wishing there was a list of Bethel affiliated businesses so she could boycott them. That, in my never to be humbled opinion, is wrong.

          • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

            Doug Cook,

            Aside from Bethel’s admitted in-progress plans to turn Redding into its version of a theocracy – if I were still a Redding resident I would absolutely refuse to financially support Bethel’s political efforts to harm gay people and women by patronizing the businesses of its members. It’s a matter of conscience.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      For the record, the Olive Garden sucks, even though one of my friends works there. I don’t go there because it isn’t authentic Italian food, but being a former restaurant critic, I’m kinda stuck-up about things like that.

      As for businesses that are owned or operated by Bethel members, I’m not a fan of boycotting them. I’m not even sure what “Bethel affiliated business” really means, but it irritates some locals enough that they’ve developed a pretty decent Facebook page documenting them.

      What’s interesting to me about it is since Redding’s population isn’t growing that fast, the economy is a closes system, and every new restaurant that pops up takes revenue away from existing restaurants. I contacted Sheila Stock from the state EDD, and asked her if there was any evidence of a Bethel effect. Here’s here answer:

      “Hi R.V. Unfortunately I do not have any data that can point directly to an economic impact of the church. I would not be able to say whether business or population growth was directly attributed to them. I have seen a report somewhere that gave some stats on the church but I am not sure of the source of those stats.

      “Hope this helps and I’m interested in reading your article.”

      • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

        I gotta admit that I like the probably not very Italian gnocchi soup and salad and bread sticks. And zeppoli. The rest is pretty forgettable.

        • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

          No one really knows what gnocchi is made of. Probably tilapia.

          • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

            Trader Joe’s sells a decent gnocchi in the pasta section. The third ingredient is tilapia.

      • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

        Olive Garden Harvest donates food to food banks and the needy. I saw that in Cheyenne and now see it here in Phoenix. They are committed to helping the communities they are in.

    • Avatar Anita Brady says:

      The issue is that foreign BSSM students are NOT ALLOWED to work per their VISA. Somehow they seem to be in the workforce in Redding.

  13. Avatar Candace C says:

    Matthew, You’re no fool, far from it. As a wise woman once said to me here on ANC “practice radical self care” (or something close to that). Personally I don’t choose to knowingly give my money to businesses that financially support Bethel Church due to its very vocal and public anti-gay stance. It feels very disingenuous to me to financially support something/someone who would like my loved ones to be thought of as “less than”, “other”, “sinners”, etc. My money, my choice.

  14. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    Great article R.V. One of the things on my “time to retire” list was that the superintendent of the Gateway School District attended Bethel and openly admitted that “God sent him” to Gateway to straighten things out. He came to the Continuation School where I worked and, in a meeting, told us that there would soon be no need for alternative education. He planned to shut our school down. (He couldn’t of course because that would be against the law. ) I had spent time arguing with people who claimed that no one could pray at school, or that all of society’s problems could be traced to the fact that “God” had been removed from schools. The truth is that anyone can pray at school. I, on the other hand, couldn’t force my classes to pray my prayers. The reson I’m mentioning this is because, as an educator, I was conscious that I was influencial in student’s lives. I didn’t discuss my political or spiritual beliefs on purpose. That wasn’t my job. The Catalyse mentorship program is troublesome to me. Young people are impressionable and a faith based mentorship worries me. I’m so glad you are doing the research and work to keep us informed.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Joanne, that’s why I called the the wall imagined by Thomas Jefferson separatingof church and state a picket fence. There’s an amazing amount of religious content in our schools. The middle school medieval history text book I’ve been using lately is actually quite excellent, inclusive, and secular. Another school I go to has a “religious release” program that allows students to go to the church next door Friday afternoons, with parent approval. None of this violated the 1st Amendment, even though at first blush you might think it does.

      • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

        A million years ago when I was in fourth grade, our school had release tme for a Sunday school type of session. For whatever reason, even then as a nine-year-old, I was uncomfortable with the program and opted out. As it turned out, the teacher must have resented me — although it wasn’t apparent — because I was the only student who didn’t attend release time, and she had to find something for me to do while the rest of the class was gone.

        • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

          Your teacher may have resented you, but she followed the law: if a student doesn’t want to participate in a religious release program during school hours, the school must provide curriculum for the student, even if there’s only just one.

          BTW, this is the 100th comment!

  15. Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

    Bethel actually offers workshops (aimed primarily at public school teachers) instructing them in how to get around pesky separation of church and state laws in order to bring “God” into their classrooms, and “minister” to the students in their care. They basically claim the only thing that’s forbidden is mentioning the name “Jesus”, which I don’t believe is the case.

    • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

      Patricia, I can’t imagine anyone paying $250 to learn how to bring God into their classroom or business. Thou I did like Bethel’s response to robo calls, I might try it. OMG does that make me a Bethelite?

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Andy and Janine will almost undoubtedly the subjects of a future A News Cafe story.

  16. Avatar CODY says:

    Is there a way to view a list of the affiliated businesses for those of us that are not on FB?

    • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

      My exact question, Cody. I Googled the question, and there were a few answers and some speculation, but I couldn’t find a list. I don’t want to have a FB account just for this. Could some of you with FB copy and paste this information?

    • Avatar Doug Cook says:

      Cody, what criteria do you use to determine what is a Bethel affiliated business?…and why do you wish to boycott them?

      • Avatar CODY says:

        Businesses owned by a member of that church.
        And where did I mention that I wanted to boycott them? You are jumping to conclusions based on a simple question I asked, just like you do with many others on here. I was not even directing my question at you.

        I am not interested in boycotting. I have been to Tantardines a few times, and they have a quality product.

        I was curious as I was just wondering how many new businesses around town were started as a result of someone moving here to attend the church (such as the Italian food place). The church has to have had an effect on local commerce.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      CODY, I could have listed a dozen Bethel affiliated businesses from the Facebook page, but I chose not to because I don’t know enough about what that term means. Just because this or that business owner is a Bethel member doesn’t matter–unless Bethel itself, via alleged loans, volunteer labor, hiring only Bethel students and paying them shit, etc. is competing unfairly against other local businesses. That’s why I’m not a fan of boycotting alleged Bethel businesses.

      • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:


        All of the perks you mentioned above are exactly what’s attracting business owners to a small poverty-ridden city in the far reaches of California. Also, keep in mind that whether or not loans are involved, those business-owning Bethel members and attendees pay at least 10 percent of their income to Bethel. In fact (according to Bethel leaders) 10 percent is not enough. They claim that “god” looks disfavorably on people who don’t contribute considerably more than the bare minimum.

        • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

          Patricia, I believe all those things are happening, but in order for me to write about it, I have to be able to prove it. The slats between the pickets are far wider when it comes to private businesses verses public institutions. But I’m working on it.

          • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

            Thank you R.V. I know you don’t write anything that isn’t backed up with hard proof, and Bethel is a vast and difficult subject (I personally compare it to the NYC sewer system). Thank you so much for all you do to bring this menace to the attention of the community.

  17. Avatar Erica Reagan Hackett says:

    The news I’m hearing about Bethel makes me so angry. I grew up in Redding, and while I had some insecurities while I was coming out, I was able to find a community in Redding that supported me.

    I am worried that Bethel is taking advantage of a generation of Americans who are already struggling to find their way financially. Millennials are less likely than previous generations to own a home and they are more likely to start out their adult lives in significant debt. These Bethel students are paying a lot of money for an education that will not help them make a living outside of the church. How is it Christian to take advantage of millennials, who are now being considered “a lost generation”?

    I don’t think the financial model of building a bunch of small businesses is sustainable. When I am in town visiting fiends I don’t intend to give them my business. I don’t need my large americano from The Stirring with room for fear-mongering and discrimination. There are plenty of other small businesses owned by lgbtq people and other local young adults that need our support.

    The rise of Bethel makes me wish for the “good old days” when meth was Redding’s biggest issue.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Erica, you’re spot-on that Bethel is indeed exploiting millennials and Generation Z, the kids coming up after them. I call these kids “marks.” It is well known that youngsters between the ages of 4 to 14 are more susceptible to being proselytized than older kids, and that is why churches like Bethel are making a concerted effort to gain access to kids in the 4-14 window.

      • Avatar Doug Cook says:

        Exploiting? I keep in touch with many Bethel students that have worked for me, virtually all of them have been quite successful in careers and life. A young lady that worked for me a few years ago is now an airline pilot for a regional carrier, another is a successful independent movie maker. Another is in Thailand helping young girls get out of the sex industry. I could go on and on with the paths of life that these kids have enjoyed. Like Bethel or not, you can’t argue with their success in developing well rounded young people, that have become respected members of our society. My guess is that most commenting on here have never got to know any of these kids. i worked with dozens of them, they are bright, motivated and far from being exploited. Maybe we should boycott the Catholic Church that REALLY exploits kids.

    • Avatar Doug Cook says:

      “…These Bethel students are paying a lot of money for an education that will not help them make a living outside of the church”

      As I explained to R.V. in the post below this, I have known many Bethel kids who are quite successful in life. There are a gazillion students in our colleges with majors that will not help them make a living. Most liberal arts degrees will make you qualified to be a barista at Starbucks.

      • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

        Doug Cook,

        By numerous accounts I’ve heard, there are even more former Bethel students who become homeless and/or suffer serious mental problems. Bethel’s “supernatural school” is teaching them nothing practical (despite the small fortune they pay), unless their goal is to become charlatan leaders of their own mega-church, or start their own supernatural school. That some of them may have gone on to get a real education doesn’t make Bethel’s raise-the-dead school any less exploitative.

        And based on my own extensive research, Bethel’s overseas activities are primarily just money-making scams, which may actually cause more harm than good. A prime example is the “orphanage” scam described below. Bethel has a heavy presence in African orphanges:

        • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

          Patricia, you should stick to the threat Bethel is to Redding. Your link is absurd as Doug Cook’s. No mention of Bethel is made in your link and you are pointing out a charity fraud that has gone on for decades, before BSSM was even formed. Group Homes, Sobering Centers, Orphanges have been profit frauds for decades and eliminating them is like Wack-A-Mole, eliminate one and two pop up somewhere else.
          Arizona, as well as other states, have a problem shutting down unauthorized detention centers and false claims that this is a world wide conspiracy just obscures the fact that it is fraudsters copycatting a profitable scam.
          And are you a troll for Bethel? I clicked on one of your links and now am getting constant requests from Bethel to finish my Bethel application.

          • Avatar Doug Cook says:

            Bruce, “…Your link is absurd as Doug Cook’s”
            Just for the record, I never provided any link…absurd or otherwise.

          • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:


            I mentioned Bethel’s overseas scams because Doug Cook chose to praise those in one of his comments. Also, BSSM is the school – not the church.

          • Avatar Doug Cook says:

            Patricia, what is your proof of Bethel’s overseas scams? I never mentioned a scam by Bethel…I mentioned a certain young lady that has had numerous successes in removing young girls from the sex trade industry. How is that a scam? I have seen evidence of her success, She does not profit from her work…and by the way, her work in this field has nothing to do with Bethel. I brought her up as an example of a well rounded kind person from Bethel who is active in helping the disadvantaged. In contrast to your depiction of Bethel kids. Amazing to me that you would disparage a young woman who is out there doing such important work.

        • Avatar Doug Cook says:

          Patricia, You have no experience with Bethel students, I have known hundreds. I have never met a homeless Bethel person, or one that was even close to being homeless. So you believe that a woman that works tirelessly and successfully to get young girls out of the sex industry is a charlatan and does more harm than good? I personally think she deserves a lot of praise, not derision.

          “… Bethel’s “supernatural school” is teaching them nothing practical” Is our college system always handing out ‘practical’ degrees? Does a person getting a French literature degree being practical? You provide a link about Africa’s orphanages that never mentions Bethel. Because Bethel has a presence in Africa, they are exploiting children? Oprah had real issues and scandals with Africa orphanages she supported, where is your proof that Bethel is exploiting children in Africa?

        • Avatar Doug Cook says:

          Patricia, “…By numerous accounts I’ve heard” I’m sure you can provide proof of these accounts you have ‘heard’.

          • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:


            I’ve devoted literally hundreds of hours over the years to extensively researching Bethel and its activities – both locally and abroad. If you’d care to spend an hour or two going through page after page of its overseas scams on its various websites, you will discover that Bethel is connected to at least four “orphanges” of exactly the type described in my link above. Or you could save some time and just call Bethel. Tell them you’re interested in donating to their orphanges in Africa – I’m sure they’d be happy to provide you with their donation-soliciting propaganda on that subject.

            Also, I had considerable experience with Bethel’s supernatural students and other cult devotees during the many years I lived in Redding. I’ve had to chase them off properties I managed (repeatedly) following complaints from parents that Bethel people were accosting their children after school while they were at work. When I worked with the homeless I met more than a few who couldn’t keep a roof over their heads in addition to giving Bethel leaders everything they demanded.

            As to proof that some cult followers are winding up homeless and in psychiatric wards, etc. – if you weren’t such a blind Bethel defender you could join the closed group of a thousand-plus people I belong to, some of whom work in the local mental health and social services fields. After reading their accounts over time there isn’t any doubt.

  18. Avatar Candace C says:

    Doug, The Catholic Church is being “ gone after”, thus the recently published list to the public of sexual predators in the Catholic Church in the North State and elsewhere. I don’t dispute that there are nice kids from Bethel going on to be lovely, successful and productive citizens. My concern is that Bethel Church’s Elder’s idea of “well rounded” doesn’t include LGBTQ+ kids. To them those kids are broken and need to be “fixed”. The high suicide rate among the LGBTQ+ community is very real and especially for young people desperately needing to feel accepted and accept themselves as whole,“unbroken” human beings. For those kids Bethel’s teachings are cruel and dangerous whether they’re cloaked as “loving” or not. It seems to me that while diversity is wonderful , it’s only wonderful if it’s coupled with inclusivity. For all. Except Nazis (although if they did feel included perhaps they wouldn’t be such assholes? Maybe not. Probably not). Which brings me to something I’ve “sort of” changed my mind about. I don’t think it’s probably reasonable for me to boycott all businesses who’s owners financially support Bethel Church by tithing, donations, etc. There’s no way for me to know all of them and also I’m sure there are many business owners here in Redding with which I may disagree on a whole host of things. There’s no way for me to know that being as I’m not a mind reader or the thought police. However, I won’t go out of my way to support businesses that I know for certain are heavily involved with Bethel and support their political and social views. While I’m personally not interested in a “Bethel Business Hit List” , I am aware of a handful of said businesses. On a personal note, I have a child who became very involved with a couple of local church’s here (not Bethel but yes, one was The Stirring) ) at the age of 13-14. A group of the kids from those churches came to my house frequently. They were very nice kids. They were also very, very naive about life outside of Redding CA. One of my children is gay and the other is not. It became very apparent how conflicted my one child felt about fiercely loving and accepting their gay sibling while at the same time not wanting the other “church” kids to find out for fear of not being accepted (again, being accepted for who you are by your perceived peers is everything at that age). I kept a watchful eye/ear to make sure no anti-gay rhetoric or actions took place in my home by the other kids and let this child work that out on their own unless they asked me for help. While I’m not religious I did not ask these kids to leave my home nor try to change their beliefs and in fact this child went on a mission and church retreats (where kids are baptized in a lake if they choose to without their parents present) aimed at pre teens. Eventually both children left Redding for College and now look back and realize how narrow of a view of life and the LGBTQ+ community some of Redding’s churches have, and yes (whether you agree or disagree with the church’s teachings) how they zero in on the younger age to indoctrinate those views just like any other organization that seeks to groom young kids to follow a certain preferred path in life. My one child doesn’t like to even talk about that that time of their life, they’re wholly embarrassed by it and are very vocally and demonstrably supportive of the LGBTQ+ community and others that are routinely discriminated against. To me, as a mother, that’s a “well rounded” person. And before you ask me if I patronize businesses owned by people of the “not Bethel” church’s I referred to, my guess is yes, I do, seeing as like I previously mentioned, I’m not a mind reader nor do I wish to be.

  19. Avatar Candace C says:

    To all, I apologize for the length of my previous post, I’m afraid I got carried away due to the fact that this subject is a hot button for me.

    • Avatar Doug Cook says:

      Candace, I appreciate your post and can’t disagree with most of it. My only issue is that you single out Bethel as resistant to homosexuality. This is an issue with most Christian churches. Many churches consider homosexuality a sin. One of the reasons I am not a member of a church. But times, they are a’changing. Maybe not as fast as we would like, but they are changing. For example, as recent as 2012, both President Obama and Hillary Clinton were against gay marriage. were they being ‘cruel and dangerous? I guess in today’s world…yes. But back then it was the majority opinion. For most of the country, there is wide acceptance of the LGBTQ community. In 2000, only 35% of Americans were in favor of gay marriage…today it is close to 70%. Are Christian churches and conservatives folks not keeping up with the reality of gay rights? Yes, of course. The Roman Catholic church considers homosexuality an ” intrinsic moral evil”…which is rather ironic to me. The Mormon Church considers homosexuals sinful and undermine the divinely created institution of the family. I could, of course go on and on.
      But what did Kris Vallotton say about the LGBTQ community? He said this “… We have always lived in peace with people of all different persuasions in our community. We have never participated in any protest against the gay community. We also have many friends in this city (and other cities) who are gay, and we do business without reservation with people in our community who are gay. ” You can of course disagree with a certain lifestyle, but can still be respectful and and a good neighbor. I think that is Bethel’s stance.
      My own father, at a ripe old age of 91. A diehard liberal. but he is still resistant to gay rights. Is he a homophobe? No, we have gays in our family that he loves equally. …he is just a person from a different generation. A generation that is slow to change views, as is Christian churches

      I also apologize for my lengthy post.

      • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

        You are simply wrong about Bethel’s stance on the LGBTQ community. Dead wrong. They are the only church in this area publicly attacking the right of gay people to exist. I notice in all your verbose responses about what a wonderful boss you were and how successful all your Bethel employees were, you yourself have never shared with us your views on the LGBTQ community. Are they sinners, Doug? Do you think it’s OK that The Stirring invited the Alliance Defending Freedom, which supports the head-chopping of gays in Saudi Arabia–to our town? Do you get nervous when you go into a unisex bathroom? Inquiring people want to know.

        • Avatar Doug Cook says:

          My views on the LGBTQ community?…I can safely say that I was in favor of gay marriage way before President Obama was. No, I don’t believe they are sinners. I have been a supporter of gay rights for many many years, way before it was mainstream. Because I am a conservative, I am automatically anti gay? Stereotype much? Yes, I was a wonderful boss. One of the reasons is that I didn’t care about the sexual orientation of my employees. I hired the best people I could. Straight gay, Bethel kids, Simpson kids, atheists and anyone in between. I don’t know anything about the group Alliance Defending Freedom…but my guess is that they are not in favor of the beheading of gays. If you have proof of that , I would love to see it.

          “…Do you get nervous when you go into a unisex bathroom? Inquiring people want to know.”

          I will satisfy your inquiring mind. LOL, no…I don’t get nervous in unisex bathrooms. One of the reasons that I supported gay rights many years ago, is when I was in the military, I rented a garage apartment in a house for 2 years from a gay couple that lived upstairs in the beautiful town of Idyllwild in So Cal . They were actually 2 retired Air Force generals. They were a loving dedicated couple that convinced me that they, and others should have the same rights as hetero couples…and yes, I would join them in their hot tub frequently…sometimes without suits. I know, shocking, isn’t it?

          • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

            Actually, it is shocking that such a grand supporter of LGBTQ rights such as yourself things Bethel’s anti-LGBTQ crusade is a big nothing burger.

            You just don’t add up.

      • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

        Doug Cook,

        You are obtusely ignoring the fact that Bethel leaders solicited their vast congregation to contact state legislators to protest a Bill that would have prevented Bethel from continuing to charge exorbitant sums of money to provide harmful, ineffective gay conversion “therapy” (it could have continued to provide this debunked “service” for free, but of course Bethel leaders do nothing that doesn’t turn a notable profit).

        In addition, Kris Vallotton’s claim that Bethel has never participated in a protest against the gay community is ridiculous on its face (has there ever even been a local protest of that kind?) Its leader’s blogs, Facebook and Twitter pages, etc. etc. are just loaded with condemnation for gay people who live as who they are.

  20. Avatar Candace C says:

    Doug, I purposely did not just single out Bethel’s views on homosexuality. I mentioned that the kids at my house were from several churches that were indeed not Bethel (but like Bethel consider homosexuality to be a sin). Maybe I didn’t relate that as well as I thought I had. Bethel very publicly touts their anti-gay views. The quote you used from KV for public consumption does not jive with his encouragement to his members to vote for laws that seek to harm the gay community. Not sure how that translates into being a “Good Neighbor” but whatever. I don’t have the link from KV’s original sermon that kicked off that particular Bethel firestorm but it was not as sanitized as your chosen quote and it hurt and outraged gay members (and to be fair some straight Bethel members) that have been or still are in that church. Generational or not, If I told my gay child that I didn’t think they should have the same human and legal rights as my straight child but that that didn’t mean I didn’t love them equally they’d be devastated, and rightly so because in my opinion it’d be disingenuous hogwash. I look forward to a day when this is a non-subject. For me it can’t come soon enough.

  21. Avatar Candace C says:

    So, even though I quite obviously have very strong differences of opinion with Doug I’m not a fan of what’s happening right now with the last few comments. The intent behind the comments is obvious and whether or not I agree or disagree with them they just come across as being shitty. I’ve had enough of people being shitty to each other. Solves nothing. Bowing out now.

    • Avatar Doug Cook says:

      Considering the rude comments from R.V. and Erica, I will also bow out. Thanks for the interesting conversation Candace.

  22. Avatar Candace C says:

    I’m not sure what just happened to Hal’s last comment but I want to be clear that I meant I was bowing out of this particular conversation comment thread, not out of ANC.

  23. Avatar Candace C says:

    Oh, ok, I see now. (Hal)

    • Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

      Candace, I was agreeing with you, and I didn’t think you meant you would be gone forever.

      I decided to delete my comment because I wrote it while pissed off. I thought it would be best to simmer down a bit.

  24. Avatar Candace C says:

    Hal, ya I figured that was it. Good call.

  25. Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

    There’s personal sniping going on here in the comments and it needs to cease. Some comments have been removed already… keep it civil.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      I’m grown wearisome of Doug Cook insulting my work and our readers. I tried to keep my comments within our rules, but if a little rudeness is all it takes to make him vanish, mission accomplished. Sorry Barbara.

      • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

        How about none of us responding to his comments. Maybe then . . . Apologies, Barbara, if that’s not civil, but when someone, no matter who, commandeers the site with insults and tirades, it’s time to ignore his comments.

      • Avatar Doug Cook says:

        By the way, RV…I just read another insulting comment from you. Inferring that I paid my employees “peanuts”. How do you know what my employees earned?

    • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

      Valerie Ing addressed this very issue with her Blacked Out article. Maybe some readers need to reread her article.
      When I became an umpire the Umpire-In-Chief said we had to be like a duck in rain, let the abuse roll off us. There were certain players that reaped abuse on us umpires but I had to stick to the job of umpiring, not retaliating. I would suggest the same to writers and commentators. I know it is hard, but as an umpire I couldn’t eject, or blackout, a player because of my personal feelings. And on ANews the positive comments far out number the bad comments. Wish I could say that about my umpiring.

      • Avatar Linda Cooper says:

        Well, Bruce Vojtecky, if we are going to use baseball as an analogy, I have some input. My husband coached girl’s fast pitch softball for ten years. He had finally grown weary of the hot shots. With his last coaching year, during the “selection” process, he made a huge decision to select those who appeared to have a positive attitude. Passing up the hot shots with the attitude. He received angry calls from other coaches. Why did he pass up the hot shots? This was when we lived on the Monterey Peninsula, and girl’s fast pitch was huge there. That season, the team went 27-0. I had a t-shirt made for him that simply said, “27-0.” In small lettering. Husband never wore the t-shirt, yet I think he liked knowing it was in his closet. Damn, it’s long gone with the fire. But really, 27-0? I think my point is, that it just takes one (bad) apple to spoil a pot. As far as the “positive comments far out number the bad comments,” I agree. Yet, from my perspective, what I appreciate most is reading the measurable (those who have provided research), comments. Anyone can have an opinion, we all do. However, what is that opinion based on? ANC can feel like a popularity contest to me at times, so I back off during those times. Still, what remains powerful to me is when the dialogue is measurable. I can work with that. I can learn from that.

  26. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    Doug Cook’s comments add to this conversation. I’ve learned so much from the people who have taken time to respond to his posts. This is a good thing.

  27. Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

    Everyone settle down. Back away from the keyboard slowly and nobody gets hurt.

    Jeez. It’s Saturday. I have other things I’d rather be doing than unapproving comments.

    Doesn’t anyone have anything else to do… mow a lawn, wash windows, go fly a kite?

    People get banned not because of their opinions, but for being a jerk. As we say in our forum policy, “The definition of terms is left solely up to us. ”

    And I am sure I have posted this before, but it’s worth repeating. From writer Jon Carroll:

    “Don’t feed the troll: People will make outrageous statements, and they will make them in a way that invites heated refutation. These people (and their postings) are called trolls; the best way to defeat a troll is to ignore it. Not even the most seasoned infighter can get traction when no one else is willing to get in the ring.

    “Remember Godwin’s Law: It goes like this: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.” Which means, as I interpret it, that once you see those words in anything other than a discussion of World War II, the conversation has pretty much played out and it’s time to move on.

    “God bless the bozofilter: This is a handy little tool that allows you to block out all the postings of a specific person. When that tree falls in the forest, you don’t hear it, however loud the crash may seem to others. There are serial offenders online, but they can’t offend if no one is around to be offended.

    “Ban the jerk: Webmasters have absolute power over their Web sites. They can just boot people, for good reasons or for bad. It’s not about free speech; the Web is large. But just as you have the power to boot people out of your home, you have the power to boot them off your blog. And remember: Stalking and harassment are still crimes. Sometimes the real world is a useful place.

    If you spend half an hour in an online forum and you’re not sure which poster is the clueless one, probably it’s you.”

    • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

      Nice civil rebuke, Barbara. No more comments from me on this thread.

    • Avatar Linda Cooper says:

      Barbara Rice, you lost me with don’t “we” have something else to do. I thought the point of having an online news journal was to engage people in dialogue. Perhaps we should fly kites. Instead. However, when such fine articles are written, as RV has written, it’s a challenge for me to not be engaged. You further lost me with “I have other things I would rather be doing than unapproving comments.” Well, then do those mentioned things. Or fly a kite? There is an elephant in the room. Deal with it. Meanwhile, I think I get your point to not engage with elephants. But, please, don’t blame the jungle people. I do think that folks are trying their very best. And have been remarkably civil. With trepidation, I’m pushing the post comment button.

      • Avatar Doug Cook says:

        I am a bit flummoxed by this controversy also. I guess I am the elephant in the room. I believe a forum like this is to express different opinions and discuss them. If you want an online journal where everyone agrees with each other, well…kinda boring if you ask me. You would have just had a handful of people commenting on how brilliant RV is. I believe my comments have been respectful, just expressing a different perspective. Heck, after my comments Candace reconsidered her Bethel boycott. I went back and reviewed my comments on this story and don’t see anything controversial. As I said before, it was others that were rude and insulting towards me. 132 comments on a story, to me, is a good thing. Not something to try and stop

        • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

          Doug Cook,

          You are being more than a little disingenuous. Did you also “review” the several comments of yours that have been removed?

          Many of your comments are obtuse straw-man arguments in which you accuse other posters of religious bigotry, and compare their legitimate concerns over Bethel’s unique, clearly in-progress dominionist activites (which violate the separation of church and state) to discriminating against Muslims, Catholics, etc. based solely on their religious beliefs.

          No one cares what Bethel adherents practice in the confines of their church. However, when they attempt a religious take-over of our public schools, government agencies, public facilities, business community, etc. (a goal plainly stated in Bethel’s “7 Mountains Mandate”, “Expansion Mandate”, and books written by Bethel leaders), it then becomes everyone’s responsibility to object.

          • Avatar Doug Cook says:

            Patricia, I may be mistaken but I don’t think any of my comments have been deleted on this thread. You and I have been debating issues for years now. I believe I have always been respectful towards you. We of course disagree about just everything, but we have had some excellent exchanges. Nothing wrong with differing opinions.

      • Avatar Linda Cooper says:

        Barbara Rice, my apologies. Last night I missed the part where the reason the comments have seemed civil, is because you have generously cleaned things up. If you would kindly delete my post above, I would be forever grateful. It’s Sunday, now this old woman is going to buy a kite. Thank you for all your efforts.

        • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

          I said above that I wasn’t going to comment on this thread any longer. I almost changed my mind when I read the comment you are referring to because it seemed both out of character and, well, hurtful. I’m sure Barbara appreciates your apology. I was certainly glad to see that it was a late-night oversight. My own how-could-I-have written-that comments usually occur because I misread a post at 3:00 AM.

  28. Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

    The Southern Poverty Law Center has a Hate map depicting hate groups around the nation. The only hate group listed for Redding is Identity Evropa, a group highlighted by RV in an article. This group is active throughout the nation. The Nation of Islam is also listed as a hate group through out the nation. The Jettes LDS, which is not part of the Mormon Church is also listed. Several groups around the country, with Patriot Boys are listed. No where does Bethel appear on their map. Bethel is clearly a local cult that appears to have taken over Redding. No matter what they say, or their detractors, they are not part of any world domination plan and there is no proof that they are.

    • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:


      Bethel may not be listed specifically, but individuals and organizations closely associated with – and promoted by – Bethel certainly are. As just a few examples: Bethel leader Bill Johnson’s co-author Lou Engle, the so-called “American College of Pediatricians” (Bethel Elder Andre Van Mol is a co-chair of this small group of disaffected fanatics), the “Alliance Defending Freedom”, the “Family Research Council”, etc. etc.

      But more to the point Bethel has an international presence (on a massive scale), and is a prominent part of an international movement based on 7 Mountains Domionism. A sort of international umbrella for the various dominionist churches and organizations world-wide is NAR (short for the New Apostolic Reformation Movement), of which Bethel’s Bill Johnson and Kris Vallotton are slated to become the next leaders:

    • Avatar Tim says:

      The SPLC has become a joke. They ignore Antifa and bend over backwards to defend liberal darlings like BLM despite their many instances of rioting (“disruptive protests), leaders who believe whites are “subhuman,” and public chants of “pigs in a blanket, fry em like bacon” and “dead cops now.”

      Meanwhile they label Charles Murray an extremist white nationalist for documenting (get this) diversity and seemingly encourage “activists” to shut down his speeches through violence, disruption, and intimidation. Anyone in the alt-right periphery faces similar summary judgment based on loose association.

      • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:


        Charles Murray built his career on the contention that white men are superior – both morally and intellectually – to people of color and women of any race. He doesn’t need the SPLC to “seemingly encourage” (whatever that means) students to object to his presence on their campuses.

        However, this is actually off-topic.

        • Avatar Tim says:

          Last I checked, the Chinese are people of color and Murray’s research generally found them best suited/adapted to the demands of modern civilization – not whites. Certainly Murray must be the only “white nationalist” to proclaim “the Jews are God’s chosen people” – but you won’t see that in the SPLC summary.

    • Avatar Doug Cook says:

      The SPLC is a sham. The FBI no longer used it as a resource because they are discredited; they have no reliable source of information. In addition…what is interesting about the SPLC is The Center paid out $20 million in salaries in 2015, but provided just $61k in legal assistance. So the Southern Poverty Law Center appears to have no poverty – and do virtually no law. The SPLC is simply a money making scheme. The people who run it are frauds and charlatans. They decry and destroy anybody who is ideologically opposed to them. That’s what they do.

      • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

        In the interest of accuracy I need to point out (per the link below) that the FBI did not remove the Southern Poverty Law Center from its page for the reasons claimed by Doug Cook and other ultra-right-wingers. The decision to remove both the Anti-Defamation League and SPLC was based on the fact that they are not government agencies, and that continuing to include them would be exclusionary of other non-government groups that aren’t listed.

        This decision also had nothing to do with complaints from the rabidly anti-gay Family Research Council, which promotes the harmful fallacies that the “gay agenda” is all about victimizing and recruiting children, that pedophilia and homosexuality are fundamentally synonymous, that gay men molest children at a much higher rate than the general population (none of which are true), and that schools shouldn’t offer anti-bulllying campaigns because gay students basically don’t deserve protection or acceptance.

      • Avatar Tim says:

        A SPLC staffer (and former NPR producer) recently published a list of 500 “fake news” sites. An otherwise credible journalism institute republished that list without doing its own fact checking and was forced to retract after readers pointed out that calling conservative publications like The National Review fake news is actual fake news.

      • Avatar Tim says:

        If you are unwilling to look at conservative sources exposing the SPLC, here is a report from Current Affairs (rated as highly leftward biased but with high factual accuracy by mediabiasfactcheck):

        The SPLC is to Democrats what the NRA is to Republicans. It foments partisan hate & discord to enrich itself while failing to protect the rights it supposedly espouses.

          • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:


            I believe the original issue was whether or not the individuals and organizations the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled white supremacists, hate groups, etc. legitimately belong in those categories. Since nearly all fit those labels every bit as much as the Family Research Council I described above, it really doesn’t matter that SPLC is less than perfect. What’s being said may all be true. However, I don’t know that I’d blindly accept everything disaffected former employees say, or put too much stock in “unspecified allegations” (and why would we listen to John Stossel on this subject at all?).

            And to compare SPLC to the NRA is ludicrous. That’s like claiming Bill Clinton’s public policies while in office harmed women’s rights because he was a womanizer in his personal life, which was absolutely not the case. The NRA’s public policies are harmful, period. The SPLC calls attention to rabidly homophobic, sexist, racist, white supremacist individuals and organizations, and goes into minute detail (using numerous direct quotes and actions of the people involved) to explain how it arrived at those designations. Just because right-wingers believe these organizations have the right to discriminate against and harm groups of people they disapprove of under the guise of “religious freedom” (or whatever) doesn’t make it so.

          • Avatar Tim says:

            Someone believing in the biblical definition of marriage, or that quantifiable human diversity exists, or that illegal immigration must be stopped may be antithetical to your politics, but it doesn’t make them an extremist or a hate group. They certainly shouldn’t be banned from Paypal, Amazon smile, or even their local bank because a couple of Alabama charlatans say so in their process of bilking millions from guilt-ridden and/or angry progressives

            Trivia: Which Fake News site has lost and/or settled more defamation lawsuits: Infowars or the Southern Poverty Law Center?

            Answer: The SPLC

  29. Avatar Patricia Barrett says:


    Quite a few white nationalists are also rabid fundamentalist bible-bangers, who believe the Jews are “God’s chosen people”. For anyone interested in what SPLC actually has to say about Charles Murray, there is the very thorough summary of his career and views below. I have nothing more to say on this subject.

  30. Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

    RV, it is interesting how your very informative article on Bethel has turned into a debate on which is worse, the SPLC or the NRA. And Bill Clinton gets a pass on abusing women because he didn’t do it in his personal life(cough, cough.). Joe Biden should use the “Clinton” defense.
    I think Steve called it right, Vortex into negativity.

    • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:


      And yet it was you who turned the conversation toward condemning SLPC. I’m done here.

      • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

        I used SPLC as a guide, I never condemned them. Wrong comment just like your twisted “research”.

  31. Avatar Judith Salter says:

    Catalyst mentoring us NOT connected to The Stirring. They separated some time ago and they even have LGBTQ mentors

    • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

      Per the Catalyst website and his Facebook page, the founder and “Executive Director/CEO” of Catalyst is a former recent pastor at The Stirring. I haven’t had time to check out the rest of the staff. However, their bio’s are loaded with the claim that he or she “has a heart for” this or that, which is a common Bethel and Stirring catch phrase.