Deacons Sue Pastor Who Had Affairs, Keeping AIDS Secret

Juan McFarland refuses to leave church
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 15, 2014 10:05 AM CDT
Deacons Sue Pastor Who Had Affairs, Keeping AIDS Secret
The sun and clouds are reflected off a glass on the entrance of the Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, where a portrait of pastor Juan McFarland hangs on the wall on Oct. 14, 2014, in Montgomery, Ala.   (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Despite a vote to oust him, pastor Juan McFarland has refused to leave his church in Montgomery, Ala.; now, deacons are suing to fire him. McFarland admitted he'd had affairs with parishioners on church property—without telling them he has AIDS, the AP reports. At that point, "we wanted to get him help," says a church official. But he refused, and next he acknowledged drug abuse, finally prompting the deacons' 80-1 vote to remove him on Oct. 5. Instead of leaving, he changed the Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church's locks and its bank account number. Yesterday, the deacons announced a lawsuit against him asking a judge to force him out; it points to "debauchery, sinfulness, hedonism, sexual misconduct, dishonesty, thievery, and rejection of the Ten Commandments."

"I will command the pulpit from this day forward," says McFarland, 47. He hasn't been charged with a crime, though the knowing spread of an STD is a misdemeanor in the state. Meanwhile, deacons are concerned for their safety, their lawyer says. A backer of McFarland, one Marc Anthony Peacock, allegedly said that if the deacons return to the church, they'll face "castle law," NBC News reports; Peacock denies the claim. But "most of the membership is scared to go to church right now," says the lawyer. "They don't want someone to shoot them." Some 50 people attended McFarland's Sunday sermon; normally, about 170 people attend on Sundays, says the chairman of the board of deacons. (More Alabama stories.)

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