Dont forget, tomorrow: Loudoun Out Loud kickoff, celebrating the new monthly Loudoun PFLAG support groups, Sunday January 23, 4-6 pm. The organizers want RSVPs; if you haven’t done so elsewhere, leave it in comments and I’ll forward it.
I was chatting with my friend who was on her way to a training to become a PFLAG support group facilitator, which got me thinking about how professional and rigorous this organization is. Every volunteer who works with adults or teens is carefully screened, with an independent background check in addition to the training before they are allowed contact with anyone seeking support. People seeking support from PFLAG are often pretty vulnerable, and need to know they and their kids will be safe. PFLAG takes that responsibility to them very seriously.
Now, compare that to this situation: Scott Lively, director of two hate groups that made the very exclusive list compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center, recently announced that he has a new mission.
But Scott Lively says he is toning down his antigay rhetoric and shifting his focus to helping the downtrodden. And he’s found a home and a receptive audience in this struggling city where many, but not all, have embraced his mission to “re-Christianize Springfield [Massachusetts].’’
The centerpiece of Lively’s new enterprise is a coffeehouse, opened about two months ago. It’s near the depressed downtown, and offers free coffee and Bibles to the local folks, including many struggling with homelessness and/or substance abuse and large groups of teenagers. The coffeehouse is also located very close to a high school, and local school officials have complained about it becoming a hangout for truant youth during school hours. Lively has discussed the “possibility of providing such services as after-school tutoring at the coffee shop.”
The manager (pictured above chatting with some teenage visitors) is a man named Michael Frediani. Frediani, who moved to Springfield at the beginning of January and lives rent-free in an apartment above the coffeehouse, was going by the name “Michael Free” when he was interviewed by The Republican on January 7.
Frediani said he has managed the coffee house for Lively and offered the visitors free coffee, tea, hot chocolate and “anything they want.” He estimated that as many as 30 youth have been in the coffee house at one time.
“I talk to all the kids,” Frediani said. “We have a place that is safe.”
“The presence of God is here right now,” Frediani said Friday. “I invite God to touch them and he does.”
While he might ask for a donation of $1 for a coffee, the youth “not to worry” if they do not give a donation, he said.
Michael Frediani was arrested last week for failing to register as a sex offender. “Michael Free,” you see, had been convicted and spent three years in a New York state prison for “deviant sexual intercourse” with an 11 year old girl. New York state classifies him as a Level 3 sex offender, defined as most likely to repeat an offense.
Lively says that he didn’t know his new manager was a sex offender, and “saw no need for a criminal background check.”
“That’s the beauty of the salvation of Christ,” Lively said. “When you come to Jesus Christ, and you accept his forgiveness for your sins, then you are forgiven by Him and enter a new life. It doesn’t surprise me that he had a rough past, that he has a criminal record.”
But he saw “no need” for a background check. What does this mean? It’s known as “exceptionalism,” a free pass that other people don’t get. Because he affirms the “right” Christian doctrine, Mr. Frediani is, by definition, trustworthy. And if Mr. Frediani had not been apprehended and ended up “offending” with another young vulnerable girl, the statement would be exactly the same as it is now: he is fallen, but he is ready to accept the salvation of Christ, enter a new life, and ultimately be forgiven. In no way am I saying that someone can’t change and enter a new life. But that doesn’t mean there’s “no need” for a background check.
Every reputable organization that places adults and children together knows this: PFLAG, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, church youth groups, all have policies in place to make sure children are protected from harm. Lively is either delusional or just doesn’t care whether they get harmed because that’s not his ultimate concern. Either way, he’s dangerous and shouldn’t have responsibility for the welfare of children.
The willingness some folks have to confuse evil with forgiveness is heart-breaking at times.
On the other hand, yesterday’s Loudoun Out Loud kick-off was a thing of pure joy. Very glad to have been invited and to have been there.
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