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Sociopaths pretending to be religious

Sociopaths like to cloak themselves in a mantel of respect. They seek careers, or pretend to have careers, in fields that people associate with good character, trustworthiness, and authority, such as law enforcement, the military and the clergy.

Pursuing a career in religion or spirituality is particularly useful for sociopaths. People tend to trust religious figures simply because they are religious figures, which puts a sociopath several moves ahead when trying to scam someone. A sociopath claiming an inside track to God has a very powerful tool when it comes to manipulating people.

Plus, for a sociopath, a career in the clergy is easy—the primarily visible job requirement is an ability to talk. With typical inborn charisma, and a willingness to lie about other credentials, the sociopath is a shoo-in.

Lovefraud has written about several pseudo-members of the clergy whose behavior has certainly flouted the Ten Commandments:

Anthony Owens claimed to be bishop of a fellowship of more than 100 non-denominational churches, which was a lie. He was married to eight women at the same time.

Rabbi Fred Neulander founded the largest Jewish temple in southern New Jersey. He was convicted of arranging the murder of his wife.

Terry Hornbuckle founded a megachurch in Arlington, Texas. He was found guilty of raping three women, two of whom were parishioners.

Then, of course, there’s Fred Brito, who impersonated a Catholic priest, even performing a couple’s wedding, when he had no religious training whatsoever.

Lovefraud readers have told us of more cases. AlohaTraveler says her “Bad Man” had been a pastor for an Assemblies of God church in Seattle. Another woman has built a website about the real reason a reverend abruptly departed from the First Presbyterian Church of Fort Lauderdale, Florida—an extramarital affair with her.

Fake believers

Even sociopaths who aren’t clergy put religion to work in their manipulation. Here are some examples from the Lovefraud mailbag:

  • A woman married a guy who was a “Christian” teacher (her quotes) in schools for 14 years. He abandoned her after six months and started an affair with another woman, all the while talking about reconciliation. She then found out she was his eighth or ninth wife, and he had previously been convicted of bigamy.
  • A guy met a woman in a Christian chat room on the Internet. He was in the process of getting a divorce; she claimed she was also. He left everything and moved to her state to be with her. She taught at a Christian school half-days, and would meet him—for sex—after work. She was still married.
  • Girl starts dating guy when she is 18. They belonged to the same Christian faith, which did not allow premarital sex; all their dates were chaperoned. When she was 20, they had a fairytale wedding. That night, he raped her, then started gaslighting her, and convinced a doctor that she was crazy, until she ended up on psychotropic drugs.
  • A woman’s ex-husband claims to be a Christian minister. “The church is a fraud to bilk people out of money. He helps the other pastor get money from poor people who can’t afford it,” she writes. “When he raped me and tried to kill me, and when he and his daughter broke into my house, well the cops saw him wearing preacher pants and didn’t believe me.”
  • Woman meets a guy on a Christian singles site—they both sang, did music ministry, and had an “intense desire to serve the Lord.” They married, started their own church, then she finds out he owed $30,000 in child support and was addicted to hardcore porn. He became physically abusive.
  • Woman marries a 51-year-old Catholic school teacher who is an Episcopalian priest, retired military, widowed after 29 years of marriage. Two months into the marriage, his son moves in with them. The son was selling and using cocaine, and her new husband—the priest—was in business with him.

Predators are everywhere

Lovefraud has heard of many more cases in which sociopathic predators were fishing for victims in churches and on religious dating websites. We’ve heard of sociopaths who quoted the Bible, prayed every day, and emotionally tortured their families.

And then there are the sociopaths who use religion as a reason to keep bleeding their victims. Christian religions, and New Age spiritualism, embrace the concept of forgiveness. Sociopaths use this to claim that they’ve “found God” who has forgiven their transgressions, and you should too.

The key point here is that just because someone claims to be Christian, religious, or otherwise spiritual, does not mean he or she is automatically trustworthy. If your instincts are telling you that something is wrong, no matter what the context, pay attention.



152 Comments on "Sociopaths pretending to be religious"

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  1. Elizabeth Conley says:

    It’s so hard to keep my mouth shut when I see the Sociopath slithering into places I know he’ll do harm.

    Recently a very active church leader came to me with stars in her eyes, over the moon with joy because the Sociopath was going to help her establish an after school program at her church.

    What could I say? This is the same good woman who asked me about his suitability for ministry previously. I told her he had a few good work habits, and some really unfortunate interpersonal problems. I told her SHE SHOULD GET A BACKGROUND CHECK! If she’d gotten the background check, he never would have gotten his foot in the door. But no, bless her sweet little heart. She prayed over it, then hired him. God save us all!

    Now her church wants the S to spend even more unsupervised time with youth. Of course they do. He’s charming. I smiled and nodded. Then asked through gritted teeth, “Will the church be getting BACKGROUND CHECKS on the people participating in the after school ministry?

    Their insurance requires this, for crying out loud! Why do these well intentioned people keep putting un-vetted ministry workers in contact with kids?

    Warning to all: if your kids are participating in a church ministry, ASK them if they have gotten background checks on the youth ministry workers and volunteers. Too many well intentioned Christians think their church is somehow immune to tragedy, just because they’re well intentioned and pray their little hearts out over every candidate. It never occurs to these sweet, naive people that God gave them brains, and they should use this gift in His service. Simple background checks for ministry staff and volunteers would make church a much safer place for all.

    Word to the wise: Sociopaths love to exploit congregations, and those congregations who still won’t vet volunteers and employees properly are a sociopath’s best bet. Never assume you or your children are safe, just because you’re in church. As long as congregations refuse to listen to their insurers, there will be Sociopaths in ministry.



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  2. OxDrover says:

    Dear Elizabeth,

    I AGREE 110%, but keep in mind that not all child abusers have been caught and have a record. I agree that they should completely do back ground checks.

    One of the members of my living history group went to the pen for child porno, got out and got right back in, with few people knowing about his prison record or for waht. I raised holy hell ltil he was expelled and then got him fired from his job (WORKING WITH CHILDREN AT A MUSEUM) Now he is an “independent contractor” working with 4-H kids. I keep following him arouond when I can find where he is working and sending his bosses copies of his criminal record (that is not illegal, just PUBLIC INFORMATION DISTRIBUTION) but he still keeps on finding clients who do NOT check.

    Even Charles “Jackie” Walls III of Arkansas (now in prison) for 20+ years and 1,500 victims in the boy scouts didn’t have a record until they finally arrested him after one of his “kids” was ordered to kill his parents because he told on Jackie. He killed them and got caught.

    Does the S you are talking about HAVE A RECORD? If so, get a copy of it and give it to them. Good luck!



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  3. witsend says:

    OXY,
    Are you on here? A lady posted later last night under How can I help My Children Not Suffer. I think she needs someone to give her some suggestions.



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  4. Rune says:

    Witsend: I just tracked down her story. Yes, I think she needs some immediate encouragement and guidance. I posted a couple of responses to get her name into the current postings.

    Let’s watch for her.

    And, I’m glad to see you. You are also in my prayers.



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  5. Elizabeth Conley says:

    Dear OxDrover,

    This man has no record of child abuse convictions that I’m aware of. He’s been accused several times, but even I am not sure he was guilty. He has a history of assaults, domestic abuse, assault convictions, restraining orders and incarceration for assault. He’s assaulted women as well as men. A simple background check would reveal to anyone security conscious that he is a bad risk.

    He’s a textbook case of anti-social personality disorder, and he’s got the lifelong record to prove it. He is currently on pain management, and the narcotic pain relievers tend to effect his judgment. He’s charming, but interpersonally volatile.

    There’s no reason to ramp up the drama in this case. I’d like to see the drama toned down considerably. If the church did background checks and vetted volunteers and employees according to their insurer’s guidelines, risk would be substantially reduced.

    No drama – just common sense. That’s what I’m praying for. My church uses background checks for volunteers in contact with children. This is common sense.

    This other church is full of very sweet, compassionate Christians. I like them, but their naiveté makes me nervous. The kids and I are involved with a few activities there. They are home-schooler friendly, and we are deeply grateful to them for their hospitality and home school co-op activities. We’d like to continue, but their carelessness with regard to background checks scares me.

    They place great store on “reputation”, based on the gossipy, flighty, shallow insights of the evangelical churches in our area. Earnest and well-intentioned as this network is, it’s absolutely unreliable. They approve people with criminal records and smear people who’ve run afoul of their flamboyant leadership. As individuals, most of these people are quite bright. Collectively, they’re dumb clucks! They’ve made and covered up error after error, all resulting from their reliance on gossip and innuendo over background investigations.

    If I sound cranky about this, it’s because I’ve seen this sweet bunch of dumb clucks blunder along, wondering why “bad stuff keeps happening” in their ministries. Sheesh! It’s a miracle they keep out of the national headlines, and equally miraculous they haven’t been sued yet.

    Make some background checks already!



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  6. Scherer1213 says:

    I googled a question asking why the church will not deal w/ S/P in their congregations…I am still reeling from the betrayal of my ex church in how they threw their full support to my ex. People have turned their backs on me, written me nasty emails, not returned phone calls, etc., simply as I know, they believe his story. After all, he is such a “nice” man.

    He is a true Jekyll/Hyde and has gaslighting down to a T. He plays a wonderful victim….telling me all the while that his first ex divorced HIM. He called her a broom jockey and the wicked witch. Unfortunately, I fell into his trap and believed him.

    I fled last year after he threatened me w/more violence than what he’d already displayed. I’ve been gone for one year and am just now aware of the fact that I was married to a Soc. He’d faithfully read his devotional every morning, spending 15 min. in prayer, and get up to insult me up one side and down the other. He mocked my spiritual commitment to the Lord…”And you call yourself a Christian”, he’d spit out. I was told that the devil was using me to lie and “Do you know where liars go?”..He’d watch John Hagee preach about how men are to treat their wives and then shred me and my family to pieces on the way to church, back from church and once in the house.

    He mocked me. “I don’t go over in a corner and cry. No. I just get over it!”
    When I asked him if he cared how deeply he hurt me w/his words, he replied, “No. I’m just being honest. You’ll just have to get over it.” This is the time I was really heard his sociopathic statement of “No”, he didn’t care how he hurt me. I went to my counselor and said, “My God! I’m living w/ a sociopath!” He was sexually, psychologically, emotionally and mentally abusive. My ex pastor never listened to my cries for help. Neither were the deacons or elders willing to listen….after all, I was the one w/ the history of mental hospitalizations and PTSD…and after all…he is such a nice guy.

    So, I not only have the betrayal and trauma of the one I married to deal with, but an institution created by God as the Body of Christ to protect turned its back on me and turned a blind eye to him. When I asked my ex, just before I fled, “What about treating me as Christ loves the church?”….He said he couldn’t. When I asked him about treating me as the weaker vessel, he again said he couldn’t.

    My ex pastor believes the husband is THE house and his wife is to SUBMIT. My ex asked me to lie on my income taxes. It didn’t matter that I said I should give to Caesar what belonged to Caesar and what belonged to God to God. It didn’t matter that I could go to prison for income tax evasion….and yet, nobody listened to my cries/pleas for help.

    When I told my ex pastor what my ex said to me, “I can’t go to counseling because they’ll find out I have an anger issue and they’ll take my guns away.”….My pastor looked over the top of his glasses at me as he lowered his head and gaze in my direction and calmly replied, “He said he didn’t say that.”…I knew then and there that he’d turned his back on him. Nobody ever confronted to ask why he didn’t seek counseling/reconciliation w/me.

    The “church” does not want to touch 1 Cor. 5:10-13 w/ a ten foot pole; in that if a person says they are a brother, but acts in ungodly ways…”is a reviler”, the believer should not so much to eat w/ such a person. The Apostle Paul says that the church is to judge those inside the church…but that verse has never been quoted in any sermon I’ve ever heard. As Christians, we are to live for Christ and not to man, to dare to touch “the sacred cows” to protect the innocent. I refuse to keep my mouth shut any longer. I will tell anyone who is willing to listen what it is like being married to a Sociopath who used Scripture to beat me to pieces. I was even thinking at one point, “Maybe I’m really not a Christian. Maybe I am this horrid, delusional, possessed person he says I am.”

    Unless someone has experienced the hell of a “Christian” sociopath, they don’t know…but then…they don’t want to know. It’s better for them to go along w/ the gaslighting and thus be an unwitting accomplice to the sadistic, blood lust murder of another’s very soul; for the thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy.

    This the next hurdle to get over…Jesus will get me over it, but in the meantime, it’s another knife thrust into my heart…it just grieves me. Out of a congregation of 150 only 7 women believe me, b/c they once had husbands/fathers like my ex. It’s a sad state and frustrating situation the church is in.

    I am thankful I am now at a much larger church where the pastors are passionate about supporting the women in their congregation. If it wouldn’t have been for my sister-in-law inviting me to attend their church, I would have probably dropped out…After all, who wants to go where their abuser is not called into account for their behavior and therefore the victim is twice betrayed. Their definition of “Love” is just as twisted as the sociopaths. I’m so thankful the Lord delivered me out of there!

    Only by the grace of God am I here today.
    Thank you for listening, and I would appreciate your prayers. I’ll be hopeful one day and crash the next, but thank God I’m not crashing like I used to.

    I continue on the roller coaster of healing…I trust that God will somehow give me beauty for my ashes.



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    • Scherer1213 says:

      Oh yes, and when we’d be in a restaurant and the older teen waitress would inquire if anyone wanted a brownie, his standard reply was, “No, but I’ll take a Girl Scout.”…This always made me sick to my stomach and still does, but of course, he was “just joking”.
      God help us!



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    • 20years says:

      Scherer1213,

      I do not know if anyone has posted this link, but I found this very helpful in trying to overcome some of the same painful experiences of a church that did not understand, did not help as I’d expected, and left me without support when I needed it.

      FWIW, http://www.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/5-indicators-of-an-evil-and-wicked-heart.html

      Blessings to you on your healing journey.



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      • Scherer1213 says:

        Thank you very much, FWIW. I appreciate your response and link. I know that God saved my life and I am in a safe place. I just keep praying he will trip up bad enough to land him in jail to protect the innocent. He absolutely loathes bicyclists and their road rights. I fear for his next victim. But of course, to the soc., it is never their fault….Do I pray for my ex? Yes. I pray he winds up in the slammer so he will be stopped in his tracks before he kills someone.



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        • 20years says:

          I sometimes pray that God will “render all tyrants impotent” and I trust He knows what I mean by that, but still that matter is in His hands. The main thing is, get these spaths “somewhere” where the innocents cannot be harmed. I also pray for the comfort, healing and increased awareness of all people who have been and are being harmed by sociopaths.



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          • Scherer1213 says:

            Bless your heart. Amen and amen. I wrote a card to his first ex asking her to forgive me for making a judgment about her based upon our ex’s lies. He plays the victim to an absolute T. I believe everything she wrote back about their “marriage”. She also disclosed to an old friend how our ex kicked one of their dogs so badly, it died. I have disclosed all of this to his pastor (my ex pastor) in hopes he would finally see through the gaslighting. Didn’t happen. So I’m done trying. It’s all in God’s hands. I’ve done all I could do to sound the alarm.

      • Granny42 says:

        Thank you so much for that link! I am sharing it with my pastor. I asked him to protect his flock from the wolf in our midst, but he dragged his feet and the wolf showed up and I felt so upset and betrayed that I made a scene of confronting the wolf right during services! I apologized to the pastor and am going to apologize to the entire congregation tomorrow, but when the pastor called me mid-week and told me he had talked to the wolf I could tell that he was being bamboozled by the wolf. He said that the wolf had agreed for the time being not to come to this particular church so he won’t upset me, and maybe later we can talk about reconciliation.

        There is a small chance that the wolf is just a garden variety alcoholic. Because, against most evidence, I want to believe this because I don’t want anybody to be beyond redemption, I am in touch with the wolf’s adult daughter filling her in on what her father might be withholding from her and encouraging her to schedule a professional intervention. It’s a long shot, but unlike me she is stuck with him and this is really the only hope for her and her teenage sister. (Thank God the man doesn’t have custody of his younger daughter!)

        This pastor is young and naive even though he became pastor of this particular congregation while they were still reeling from a sociopathic pastor who worked them over.

        We don’t want to believe that such evil can exist in a person who seems so nice. But we are to be as wise as serpents. Sociopaths will stop toying with people for their own amusement when cats stop toying with mice.



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        • Scherer1213 says:

          My ex pastor is 51 and has been in the ministry for 31 yrs. He never believed me; sad to say that churches don’t like to take sides, but they do whether they think they are or not. It’s just a fact.
          The good part is that God knows our whole situation and while He takes care of us in His ICU, He doesn’t expect anything from us. Just that we lie there and let Him love us.
          Blessings,
          Scherer1213



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      • Scherer1213 says:

        Thank you for this link 20years. I read it and shared it w/my ex-pastor….and even though it made no difference to him, it helped me.:)



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        • 20years says:

          I am glad you found it helpful, as I did. Truly, the healing happens within ourselves, by the grace of God. Whether the pastor understands or not, that is his/her journey. It is a tough thing while you are going through it, wanting the support of your church. However, brighter days are ahead — this is a promise!

          And, once you are through it, you can be a light for others. The journey continues…



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    • Granny42 says:

      I am so glad that although the church betrayed you, your faith hasn’t been destroyed. I wonder how many people have been spiritually devastated because of sociopaths finding shelter in the church.

      My own church pastor and lay leader talk about forgiveness and reconciliation between me and J, my sociopathic ex-boyfriend. I pointed out that scriptures are clear that we are to cast such wicked people out of our midst — that the pastor’s job is to protect the flock, not to make wolves welcome. We shall see. The brouhaha is very new, only about a month since J’s cover was blown in my life. (I called him at home only to have his long-term live-in girlfriend answer!)



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  7. Scherer1213 says:

    Personally, I think anyone who has a church home and decides to leave or divorce their narc/soc./path. partner needs to be prepared to leave their current church behind. It just doesn’t work. The pastor and the congregants will swing their loyalty to our offender and we will be betrayed even further.

    My suggestion is to find a Christian Divorce Care Support Group http://www.divorcecare.org in your area and let that be your church time until the Lord directs you to another. The rejection and beyond betrayal and shunning just ends up sending more of a damning message to the one who seeks to get out of their destructive situation. And if you don’t have a friend who will just hold you and let you cry without telling you to just get over it, then that person is not your friend.

    I found my Divorce Care Support Group to be just what I needed. I didn’t have to try to justify myself or explain. They get it!
    With God’s love and blessings,
    Scherer1213
    Num. 6:24-26



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