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Local/National Faith Briefs

Catholic Daughters to meet Monday

The Catholic Daughters of Americas meeting is Monday in Carlin Hall following the 5:30 pm. Mass. A light lunch will be served followed by the business meeting.

Member of secretive church set to enter plea in fraud case

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A member of a secretive North Carolina church will enter a plea on a federal fraud charge as part of an investigation into an unemployment scheme benefiting businesses with ties to the congregation, according to court documents.

Diane McKinny is scheduled for a plea hearing Friday in Asheville on a federal charge of making a fraudulent claim for unemployment benefits, according to a court filing this week.

Prosecutors allege that McKinny used tax reporting software to help prepare workers’ unemployment claims while she was corporate secretary for a business owned by Kent Covington, who was also a minister at the Word of Faith Fellowship in Spindale.

“In reliance on McKinny’s submissions, (government officials) caused the payment — ultimately, from federal funds — of substantial benefits to which the claimants were not, in fact, entitled,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing Tuesday.

Amos Tyndall, a lawyer for McKinny, declined to comment Wednesday.

Prosecutors have said Covington’s business Diverse Corporate Technologies laid off employees in 2008 so they could collect unemployment benefits. But the employees continued to work at the company, with government money replacing their salaries and essentially giving the business “free labor,” according to court documents.

Covington used his position as a church leader to coerce employees, many of whom were members of the congregation, to comply, prosecutors say.

Covington and McKinny also encouraged other businesses owned or managed by church members to manipulate unemployment benefits in a similar way, according to the court documents filed this week. Prosecutors wrote this week that the schemes at multiple businesses cost the government hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Covington was sentenced last month to 34 months in prison on a charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Two others listed on a church website as ministers have been sentenced to probation after admitting fraud at a podiatry clinic.

The court cases are the latest developments in the investigation by The Associated Press that, beginning in 2017, documented claims of physical and emotional abuse at the church. AP also reported that authorities were looking into the unemployment claims of congregants and their businesses.

Former members have told AP that congregation leaders encouraged the schemes to help the businesses survive the economic downturn and keep money coming into the church.

Attorney now US Episcopal Church’s 4th black female bishop

CORDOVA, Tenn. (AP) — A former New Orleans attorney has become the fourth black female bishop of the U.S. Episcopal Church and the first in the Episcopal Diocese of West Tennessee.

NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune reported the Rev. Phoebe Roaf was officially titled Saturday. She previously served as the rector of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia.

A Harvard College and Princeton University graduate, the Arkansas native pursued a career in public policy and law before attending the Virginia Theological Seminary school and graduating in 2008. The newspaper says she was the first black woman to be ordained an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Louisiana and the first person of color to serve at the New Orleans Trinity Episcopal Church.

Her brother, Willie, played for the New Orleans Saints and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012.

Pennsylvania school drops ‘God bless America’ after pledge

SPRINGFIELD, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania school principal will no longer say “God bless America” after leading students in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Peter Brigg’s practice at Sabold Elementary School in Springfield led at least one parent to complain to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, whose attorney contacted the district. The group claimed it violated the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition of government sponsoring religious messages.

The district decided to cease the practice after consulting with its lawyer. In a statement, the district says it is not prohibiting students from reciting “God bless America” after the pledge on their own.

The foundation said “young elementary school children don’t need to be coerced into affirming God’s name every morning.”

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