Saeed Abedini, Franklin Graham, Online Behavior
Saaed Abedini, former prisoner held captive in Iran, has published some strange posts on his Facebook page. In the following posts, he rants against Franklin Graham, Jay Sekulow, his ex-wife, the Idaho court system, a pastor who raised money for him, Dr. Wood, etc. Continue reading
Franklin Graham, Twitter, Spiritual Abuse
I would like to discuss this tweet without making it political. I find it spiritually abusive, but not because it has to do with Trump winning. Look within the message. What can you find here that is spiritually abusive?
Saeed Abedini, Naghmeh, Divorce, Domestic Violence, Arrest for Violating Restraining Order, Seeks Money for New Ministry
Yesterday, Naghmeh Abedini, wife of Saeed Abedini, reported on Facebook that her husband had filed for divorce.
It is with a heavy and broken heart that I inform all of you who have prayed and wept with our family the last few years, that Saeed has rejected counseling for anger and abuse and has filed for a divorce. There will be a time to share more fully, but for now, we appreciate your prayers.
Today, Saeed Abedini released a statement about the divorce on his Facebook page:
“My heart is deeply saddened to be sharing the news that Naghmeh and I will be divorcing. She has been my wife of 12 years and she will always be the wonderful mother to our amazing children. While we have experienced struggles, she, along with my children will forever be my heroes, both for what they had to deal with during my imprisonment in Iran and for how they never gave up fighting for my freedom.
There are no words to describe the ongoing effect of the trauma I experienced and my family has experienced both during and in the aftermath of my imprisonment. We are different people, and we are hurting people. It pains me to say, but I have decided the only path toward healing is apart, and not together. Sometimes as Christians, we experience pain for which there is no explanation in this life, yet we must continue, even in the hardest of times, to look to Christ for strength, grace and comfort. I am trying to do that now, and I know Nagmeh is doing the same. Even in our disappointments, when we don’t have all the answers, Christ is still Lord. He is good now and forever.” (Source)
It was also reported in the Idaho Statesman that earlier this year, Saeed Abedini was arrested for violation of restraining order:
Earlier this year, Saeed Abedina [sic] was arrested on three misdemeanor counts of violation of a restraining order. Those Ada County cases are still going through the court system.
Meanwhile, Saeed Abedini has moved away from Idaho, away from his children and is starting up a new ministry (Facebook note):
As you all know I was in prison for more than 3/5 years because Jesus met me 16 years ago and told me ; ” Iam coming back soon Go to preach my Gospel ” and until today I didn’t disobey him and I will never disobey Him.
I want to start a preaching Ministry to hundred thousand people and for this new start, I don’t have any financial support yet.
I need to have 200 people in 2 months who can support my ministry monthly with donating just 20 $ each month to start. You can be one of them, specially if you prayed for me for years.
I need your help to make Jesus known and I can’t do it without your help.
Please send me a massage [sic] and your email in my inbox which I can know when our team is completed to start and send you a news letter.
Administrative note: Michael Newnham has given me permission to cross-post his article from Phoenix Preacher blog. We have both spent countless hours investigating, talking with people, gathering source documentation, first separately, and then when we realized we were uncovering similar information, made the decision to work on this as a team.
As a personal note, I have such great respect for Michael. He led the way on social media reminding everyone each week to pray for Saeed and his family, petitioning God for Saeed’s release from Iranian prison. When news came of Saeed’s release and there were allegations of domestic violence, etc, he was quite shocked. It took quite a bit for Michael to even consider that what we had been told by ministries and leaders that perhaps all was not as presented. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with a man who has much integrity and wants the church to remain true and set apart in this dying world. ~Julie Anne
Seeking the Truth about the Saeed Abedini Story: Part 1
by Michael Newnham
This is Part 1 of a multi part series that will explore the situation around Saeed Abedini, his imprisonment, and his actions before and after his captivity.
When Saeed Abedini was imprisoned in Iran in the summer of 2012, the church here and abroad set about to free him with one of the biggest campaigns in recent memory.
Abedini was presented to us as an innocent missionary, a man of God imprisoned for his faith in Jesus Christ.
He was held in horrible conditions we were told, tortured and beaten, often at the edge of death.
The church mobilized as rarely before as organizations like the American Center For Law and Justice, men like Franklin Graham, and hundreds of churches and individuals took up the cause.
Millions of dollars were raised, millions of words written and messages sent to free Abedini before it was too late.
The more we learn, the more we call into question the truth of the narrative we were fed.
According to an Iranian publication these pictures were taken in the prison Abedini was in from November 2013 on.
When I asked Abedini about these photos, he declined to comment.
Others were told that it was a trick perpetrated by the Iranian government to make it appear that he was fine.
When I personally asked him during a phone interview whether he was beaten and tortured as we were told, he continually reiterated that it had been for the first six months.
That brings into question what was going on in the two years after that.
Many of us were astonished by the fact that Saeed Abedini looked rather fit when he arrived back in the U.S.
We were further astonished to hear that Abedini had a cell phone and was able to not only communicate with his family, but to watch movies and surf the net.
These pictures may explain how that was the case….
These same pictures appeared on Naghmeh Abedini’s wall and then disappeared.
Sources tell us that she was allegedly ordered to do so by the ACLJ.
The question before the house is this…
Were Franklin Graham, the ACLJ, and Naghmeh Abedini aware of and exaggerating the truth of Abedini’s captivity?
Two years ago, the ACLJ published this;
“Pastor Saeed is facing constant threats to his very life in the new prison. There have been several nights where he has awoken to men standing over him with knives. Pastor Saeed’s “cell” is only separated by a curtain from the rest of the violent prisoner ward he is forced to share, allowing dangerous prisoners – murderers and rapists – unfettered access to him 24 hours a day.
He has also been robbed at knifepoint several times, stripping him of what few necessities he has been permitted to purchase for personal hygiene.
As a result of the robberies, the utterly deplorable conditions of the prison, and the lack of doctor-prescribed medication which is being withheld by prison authorities, Pastor Saeed’s health has quickly deteriorated.
The pain in his stomach has returned and he is now experiencing increased pain in what he described to his family as his kidneys. As a result of repeated beatings in Evin prison, Pastor Saeed suffered from internal bleeding. After months of being refused medical care, Pastor Saeed was allowed to see a doctor and was prescribed medication earlier this year. As a result of that medication, his physical condition had improved and his pain had subsided. However, since being moved from Evin to Rajai Shahr last month, Iranian officials have refused to allow him this critical medication and his condition is worsening.
He is being refused medication, prescribed by Iranian doctors, for injuries he sustained from prison beatings. This is one of the most deplorable human rights violations imaginable.
To make matters worse, the prison conditions and lack of basic hygiene have led to his body being covered head to toe in lice. Because of the lice and increased pain, Pastor Saeed has been having trouble sleeping. He is also experiencing symptoms of recurring urinary tract infections. There is no medication to stop the infections. He is now also experiencing significant joint pain.
His family reports that Pastor Saeed has also noticeably lost weight in the new prison from lack of proper nutrition.
The conditions he faces are unfathomable. He faces direct threats to his life on an almost daily basis.
…The time is now to pressure Iran for his release. Each day could be his last.”
Were the conditions of his captivity continually exaggerated to keep attention on his plight?
Some sources say yes… and that Naghmeh Abedini was allegedly instructed by others to lie about them when she had questions herself..
We received this statement from Mrs Abedini’s representative;
“During her husband’s imprisonment, Mrs. Abedini’s driving concern was always the safety of her husband and she followed the advice of the counsellors that were helping her achieve that end. Her information regarding Saeed’s prison experience came directly from him and those who visited him, and when they were able to be in contact, he actively directed her in what he expected her to do.
Now that Saeed has been released, she is praying for the restoration of her family”
Let me be clear…any imprisonment is painful and difficult.
However, the public would have interceded without any embellishment of the facts.
It is purported that Abedini’s situation was a cash cow for both Graham and the ACLJ, as well as a political tool for those hoping to stop the Iranian nuclear deal proposed by President Obama.
Framing his captivity in the direst possible way would have enabled the donations to keep flowing and kept the story on the front burner of American media.
Thus, the public in general (and the church in particular) were possibly subject to, if not outright fraud, gross misinformation.
Today, Saeed Abedini will speak at your gathering…for a reported 7500.00…using the old narrative.
If this narrative is a mixture of fact and fiction, it was mainly propagated by Naghmeh Abedini who tirelessly traveled the world to advocate for her husbands release.
While I believe she is complicit in whatever untruths were spread, I also believe that she was quite possibly a victim of powerful men, especially her husband.
It was that abuse that she said caused her to cease her advocacy and that we will examine more closely in the second part of this series.
Experts on the dynamics of abuse strongly recommend separate, individual counseling for abuser and victim, not couples counseling. If abusers refuse to work through individual counseling on their personal issues, that creates a stumbling block to relational reconciliation.
This blog post was written by Julie Anne Smith, with contributions by Brad Sargent. The post was reviewed by Naghmeh Abedini.
- Counselors with expertise on dynamics of abuse recommend individual counseling – for both the husband and wife – not couples counseling. Couples counseling implies the abuse is equally both partners’ fault, when this type of abuse is definitely more one-sided. It will never be “fixed” if the abuser does not address the personal problem first, and couples counseling gives the abuser multiple opportunities to manipulate the situation and triangulate – get the counselor to side with him against the victim.
- On Valentine’s Day, Saeed Abedini sent a Facebook message about love to his supporters, thanking them for their love, prayers, and encouragement. But, in his post, he also implied that his wife, Naghmeh, is blocking progress in their relationship by not joining him in couples counseling. The context and the language give an example of manipulating the situation to get public opinion to side with him.
- Franklin Graham, who has acted as an advocate/promoter for Saeed Abedini since his release, has no known expertise on the dynamics of abuse, yet has pressured Saeed and Naghmeh Abedini toward couples counseling.
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Yesterday, Pastor Saeed Abedini, who was recently released from an Iranian prison, posted the following note as his first Facebook post in 4 years, thanking his many supporters:
Warm Greetings Dear Saints!
We Love because He first Loved us. (1John 4:19)
This is my first post on Facebook after 4 long years of imprisonment. I see there is a LOVE story between us as I went through hardship of imprisonment by you showing your support with sending hundreds & thousands of letters of encouragement and LOVE to the prison. 1000’s of cities and countries and locations gathering for pray vigils, sending gifts to my wife and children, etc.. .
You created a LOVE story that even Muslims in Iran talked about.
My beloved sisters and brothers, I want you to know how much I LOVE you and how much Your prayers and support changed my situation and how much I am thankful for your heart and Care.
I am grateful for marriage counselors who have been helping me but my wife’s relationship with me is not good at this point, so we need prayer that she joins this counseling process with us.
Free By Christ For Christ
On his post, he included pictures of himself and his beautiful children, including this one:
Some will look at the Facebook note and pictures and will:
- Thank God for his release.
- Thank God that Saeed is back together with his children again.
- Be thankful that they were in consistent prayer for the Abedini family all these years.
- Notice Naghmeh’s absence from the pictures.
- Be moved to pray for Naghmeh, that she would change her heart and seek marriage counseling.
In less than 24 hours since his post went up on Valentine’s Day – February 14, 2016 – at 7:38 pm, there have already been over 3,500 “likes,” 425 shares, and 750 comments. Many who reached out to Saeed left supportive comments, encouraging him with their words, and saying they were praying for Saeed, for his marriage, for his family. However, a few commenters have been critical of Naghmeh directly, and some have attempted to shut down any commenters who bring up the Saeed’s issue abuse, primarily through “sin-leveling.”
You can read those for yourself to see how they are responding overall to him, to her, to them. Meanwhile, let’s consider his post more closely. I’ve seen Saeed’s language and approach before. It’s typical flowery manipulative abuser language meant to draw people to his side. Notice the context, plus what he puts there, what he doesn’t mention, and what is missing:
- The pictures of Saeed and his children, with Naghmeh obviously missing tugs at people’s heartstrings knowing that this family is not whole.
- There could be no better day to choose than Valentines Day to solicit support for his cause. People will notice the contrast in the day when most people are celebrating love, he is soliciting support by revealing that Naghmeh is dropping the ball on marriage counseling.
- A healthy pastor with no vindictive agenda would have briefly said, “Pray for my family.” But instead, Saeed blames his wife under the guise of soliciting prayers for the “marital” problems. For instance, note how he says that “my wife’s relationship with me is not good” – not, “my relationship with my wife is not good” or even “our relationship is not good.” Even from just that one twist of a sentence, how easy is it now for Saeed’s supporters to see Naghmeh as the stumbling block to reconciliation, and certainly not Saeed?
- These words are not words of humility and honesty. They are manipulative words meant to draw people into Saeed’s sad plight. Even if we were to assume that the problem is a marital issue, an honest response would be one where he admits his failures as well. We see none of that.
- A husband interested in saving his marriage would never put his wife under the proverbial bus by publicly disclosing her faults … ever. He would protect her at all costs and try to win her back.
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It’s important to note that there is more going on here than just Saeed and Naghmeh. Their relationship has been …. crowded. Prior to Saeed’s public notice on Facebook, Franklin Graham has been a primary mouthpiece for Saeed since his release. Saeed flew home to the US on Graham’s private plane, and the first pictures of him are with Franklin Graham. Saeed was immediately whisked off to the Billy Graham Training Center in North Carolina. Saeed’s first interview after his release was with Graham’s friend, Greta VanSusteran.
Franklin Graham inserted himself directly into the heart of the Saeed Abedini story, and we all heard about the Abedini family, filtered through his personal perspective – that Saeed and Naghmeh have a troubled marriage and need counseling. Here is what Franklin Graham posted on his Facebook page days after Saeed’s release:
While we rejoice at his new freedom, we now lift him and his wife Naghmeh to the Lord for healing in their marriage. Other than God, no one knows the details and the truth of what has happened between Saeed and Naghmeh except them. There’s an old saying that there are at least two sides to every story. I can tell one thing for sure—not everything that has been reported in the media is true.
As a minister of the Gospel, I have tried to be a friend to both and to assist them in getting Saeed home and in getting access to any help that they may need. Clearly, there is a great need for prayer for their relationship and their family. God has answered prayer by bringing about Saeed’s release from prison, and now, Satan would like nothing more than to continue to destroy their lives. It is my prayer that this will not happen. (Source)
More about Franklin Graham’s prominent role in a moment.
Returning to Saeed’s Facebook post, I found his comment, “we need prayer that she joins this counseling process with us,” conflicting with the public messages Naghmeh has reported. I have read nothing about Naghmeh not wanting to have the marriage restored. Nor have I read anything about Naghmeh not wanting to seek counseling, so I contacted Naghmeh.
After hearing from Naghmeh, I believe Saeed is misleading people with his comments, and in turn, is turning people away from Naghmeh and painting her to be the primary problem.
Naghmeh confirmed to me that she has indeed been and is currently seeking individual counseling. She gave me the name of her counselors (which will remain private). She also mentioned another well-known therapist/author with whom she has been in touch for additional counsel. Naghmeh has also stated publicly that her pastor, Bob Caldwell, is aware of Saeed’s abuse and of the appropriate boundaries she has sought to put in place.
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Now, some may wonder why Naghmeh is only seeking private counseling versus marital counseling. Keep in mind that a few months ago, Naghmeh revealed that during most of her marriage, she has been the victim of abuse by Saeed. Is couples counseling the best choice of action for a marriage in which there is abuse? Abuse experts are in agreement that couples counseling is not appropriate when there is abuse. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has an article, Why We Don’t Recommend Couples Counseling for Abusive Relationships, and offers further explanation:
In order for couples counseling to be successful, both partners must be willing to take responsibility for their actions and make adjustments to their behavior. Abusive people want all of the power and control in the relationship and will focus on maintaining that imbalance, even if it means continuing unhealthy and hurtful behavior patterns. Many callers to the Hotline have related stories of trying and “failing” at couples counseling because of an abusive partner’s focus on manipulating the sessions to place blame, minimize the abuse, and attempt to win over the therapist to their side. If the therapist tries to hold the abusive partner accountable for these tactics, they will often refuse to attend further sessions and may even forbid their partner to see the “biased” therapist again. The abusive partner may even choose to escalate the abuse because they feel their power and control was threatened.
We can see evidence of this type of control in Saeed’s public comment. He minimized the abuse by never even mentioning this topic and, as mentioned earlier, he also put blame on Naghmeh for not seeking counseling. Saeed displayed common tactics of abusers.
Some may dismiss secular counselors’ views on separating couples when there is abuse. This article, “When NOT to Do Marriage Counseling,” gives a Christian perspective. It is by Winston T. Smith who teaches and counsels at Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF). He sees the importance of individual counseling over couples counseling when abuse is present in the relationship:
However, there are situations in which marriage counseling is not the best approach and may actually do more harm than good. Marriage counseling presumes that a couple’s problems are shared and that each spouse is partly responsible for what is happening. But there are situations in which one spouse’s behavior is so destructive (e.g., addictions, abuse) that marital problems are best understood primarily as the result of that behavior, rather than the shared responsibility of both spouses. In these situations, it is best to focus on that individual before addressing the marriage. There are other times when one spouse’s weaknesses, hidden issues, or lack of motivation may limit the effectiveness of marriage counseling. Here again, it may be wise to meet with spouses separately for a season, both to address individual problems and to lay the groundwork for working with the couple together.
Winston T. Smith further explains the character and behavior of abusers:
“[A]buse is a pattern of destructive and dehumanizing words and behaviors that often involves physical battering, intimidation, and attempts to isolate and control. If it becomes clear that abuse is present in a marriage, arrange to see the spouses separately.”
Here is another article you may want to read on the importance of separate counseling: To fix abusive relationships, a counselor must have expertise. The principles in this article are especially important to thinking through the larger context of counseling in this all-too-public relationship. That is because it appears that someone with no understanding of abuse has been pushing for couples counseling: Franklin Graham.
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Ok, now with regard to my conversation with Naghmeh, I think it is important to note that Saeed has not personally reached out to Naghmeh since he has been back in the US. It has only been through Franklin Graham, on Graham’s initiative, not Saeed’s. It should be noted that the post from Saeed on Facebook was really the first time Naghmeh has seen/heard anything directly from Saeed on the subject.
Franklin Graham has been the one to push “marriage counseling.” Why is that? Franklin Graham has not demonstrated any expertise on abuse issues that I am aware of. He has no business putting himself above this couple and telling them how to solve their issues. Why has he intervened to take a pastoral/oversight role here? Why isn’t he backing away from the situation and allowing Pastor Bob Caldwell, their long-time pastor, to do his job?
Naghmeh had been counseled by her pastor and her counselors that the “abuse must be dealt with first before any marriage counseling can occur.” But that is not the setup Franklin Graham devised. Naghmeh specifically noted that when Saeed came to the US, Franklin Graham first “wanted to put us in a cabin together” at Billy Graham’s training facility, The Cove. Naghmeh declined this offer and only agreed to go if there was counseling, and separate cabins with guards. Graham finally “agreed and picked marriage counselors.”
Naghmeh realized what was going on, and at the last minute changed her mind, knowing she could not go under the conditions Graham had created. She knew that individual counseling had to be first, and this was not the direction Graham’s chosen counselors planned to take. His path was solely couples counseling.
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In conclusion, I hope that it is clear that Naghmeh has not declined counseling. She has already been seeking appropriate counseling for the specific issue that has destroyed her marriage: abuse by her husband, Saeed. If there is no success in individual counseling for Saeed and Naghmeh, no marital/couples counseling will be beneficial. The horse must come before the cart.
I applaud Naghmeh for seeking wise guidance in her very difficult and public crisis. She could have easily followed the very powerful and influential Franklin Graham, but his way is not the recommended path chosen by those with expertise on the dynamics of abuse. In fact, his way would have enabled delay in addressing the issues involved. His way would have been counterproductive for Saeed and Naghmeh as individuals, and for their marriage relationship.
Domestic Violence, Naghmeh and Saeed Abedini, Divorce, Marriage, Abuse, Church Response to Abuse
The Qualifications Case of Pastor Saeed Abedini, and the Roles of Pastor Bob Caldwell, Franklin Graham, Jay Sekulow, and the American Evangelistic Association
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
1 Timothy 3:3-7 (ESV/English Standard Version, via Bible Gateway)
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Regardless of which New Testament translation we use, we can’t get away from the essential mandate in 1 Timothy 3:3-7 — that those who want to be in public roles for the Church automatically subject themselves to ongoing “background checks” about their character and actions. ~ brad/futuristguy
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The Saeed and Naghmeh Abedini story is complicated. That doesn’t mean it is unfathomable, but it has many layers and interconnections involving these two individuals with other people and organizations. This post explores some of those key connections to see how they influenced the unfolding storylines, and to see what we can learn about how to do things better in the future.
The world watched as Pastor Saeed Abedini was elevated to hero status. Our hearts collectively ached for Naghmeh and her young children as we heard of his mistreatment in Iranian prison. After 3-1/2 yrs in prison, Saeed was released, and instead of joyous reunions, we heard of troubling details that were not part of Naghmeh’s original storyline.
Most readers have probably heard by now about Pastor Saeed Abedini’s 2007 domestic assault conviction. Where has this news been all of this time? Would Saeed had been the face of American prisoners in Iran if we had known this? Saeed represented religious freedom, the cause of Christ, and the persecuted Church. I suspect his image would not have looked too good with a previous domestic assault conviction.
The Pastor Saeed Abedini Story: I believe influential leaders failed to take responsibility for those entrusted in their care, and thus, Christ’s name has become a mockery to the world. I find many aspects of this story troubling, but two in particular are disturbing:
- Leaders failed to do due diligence with the Abedini family regarding Saeed’s long-time pornography and abuse issues. Saeed Abedini was unfit to be pastor according to biblical requirements. What was done in this situation? Why was he allowed to continue ministry work? Why was he allowed to obtain and retain the pastor title?
- The Abedini family was used by opportunistic individuals and organizations as a pawn to promote political agendas or personal gain.
Let’s take a look at key people involved in this story. There are four key people/groups involved, as I see it, and I believe these four are responsible for not doing due diligence with this family, or for using them for their personal gain and promoting personal or political agendas:
- Pastor Bob Caldwell, Calvary Chapel Boise – This is the home church of the Abedinis in Boise, Idaho.
- Franklin Graham.
- Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).
- American Evangelistic Association (AEA) – This is the organization from which Saeed Abedini obtained his pastoral license.
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Pastor Bob Caldwell
Pastor Bob Caldwell has known Naghmeh since before she married Saeed. He visited Iran when they were married in June of 2004:
Meanwhile, in the U.S., a young woman named Naghmeh from that same country had accepted Christ and was attending Calvary Chapel Boise, ID. Feeling prompted to return to her homeland to share the Gospel with her family, she was sent out as a missionary by CC Boise in 2001. After sharing the Gospel with her family there for two years, she met Saeed. They immediately recognized God’s hand in bringing them together and their mutual calling to share the Gospel with Muslims. During a visit from Pastor Bob Caldwell of CC Boise, Saeed and Naghmeh were married in June of 2004; the couple continued to share Christ in the Islam-governed country. (Source)
Pastor Caldwell and his church were very involved in supporting the Abedini family before, during, and now, after Saeed’s release. In a different article about Saeed’s release from prison, Pastor Caldwell shares more about their relationship and acknowledges the political work Naghmeh has done to help free her husband:
“It’s beyond description really,” said Calwell. “I’ve known him pretty well and have been with him in Iran when he was doing stuff there, starting churches. So I love him a lot and to have him come back is just amazing.”
Caldwell said he’s proud of Naghmeh Abedini’s efforts to free her husband. During Abedini’s husband’s captivity she testified at the United Nations and before Congress. She also met with President Obama last year.
In the same article, Caldwell discusses Naghmeh’s disclosure of abuse by Saeed:
Caldwell said this public revelation – which Naghmeh says she regrets and blames on emotional distress – was a shock to some people in his church who supported Saeed through the years.
“It’s hard for a lot of people because you can turn a person into a hero you know, like a superhero,” said Caldwell. “And that’s kind of dangerous because people don’t want their heroes to be normal.” (Source)
Caldwell, unfortunately minimizes the abuse when he uses the word normal. Why was the word abusive not used? Is it because it is difficult to identify someone you have mentored and supported as an abuser? Most victims understand the importance of correct terminology. To minimize is to dismiss.
Blogger Michael Newnham addresses what Pastor Caldwell knew in his recent article:
We know that as far back as 2007, his spousal abuse and addiction to pornography was known to the pastor he worked under, Bob Caldwell of Calvary Chapel Boise.
We know from sources that Caldwell briefly put Abedini under discipline for this, a time our sources put at 3-1/2 to 4 months.
In the comments section, Michael continues:
I do know that Bob Caldwell exercised authority over him in the matter of his pornography issues.
We read nothing but respect and admiration of Pastor Caldwell from the Abedinis. However, outsiders want answers because they feel they were deceived. Did Caldwell believe Saeed was fit for ministry, knowing his abuse/pornography issues? And did he do anything to prevent him from going overseas and doing ministry work?
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So – what about Franklin Graham? What role did he play in this? Franklin took Saeed and Naghmeh on as his project. The Abedini family was the perfect poster family for religious freedom, and he put his money and his name with both Naghmeh and Saeed over the last 3-1/2 yrs.
You can see how political this situation became and how Naghmeh was used in the process:
“It is not enough,” Naghmeh Abedini said today. “We need to see action to back our rhetoric, in the living, breathing form of Saeed Abedini… having been released.”
“Even if our president can’t see the reality, the rest of the world can,” she said. “I hope and I pray our government… will realize how far we’ve fallen.” (Source)
In the screenshot below, Graham speaks out politically, even naming imprisoned Pastor Saeed Abedini as his friend. The other prisoners are not named. Did you know the other prisoners’ names? I sure didn’t. Someone sure did a good PR job, huh?
A side note about the PR job I mentioned earlier. The DeMoss public relations firm coincidentally represents Franklin Graham, American Evangelistic Association, and Jay Sekulow. Maybe it is not coincidental after all when you look at their political leanings.
Back to Franklin Graham. Graham seemed to be spreading the bulk of news upon Saeed’s release: photos, videos, and statements. We were told that Naghmeh would join Franklin and they would fly together by private plane to Germany to meet Saeed. Naghmeh didn’t go to Germany. Instead, Saeed landed on US soil near Franklin Graham’s place.
These were the first pictures that came out after Saeed returned to the US – pictures with Franklin Graham and his private plane behind them:
We were told Saeed was to rest at Graham’s facility, and Naghmeh and their kids would join him. That, too, did not happen. Instead, Saeed flew to Boise to see his kids. (I read no reports of Saeed seeing Naghmeh – I could have missed something.) Did Naghmeh have a voice in these plans?
What prompted Franklin Graham to be so actively involved in this case? What did he know and when? Did Graham have knowledge of Saeed’s conviction in 2007? Per Naghmeh, he did know about the abuse a few months ago. Naghmeh posted this comment on her Facebook page: “Franklin was giving [sic] letters by religious leaders months ago confirming my allegations of abuse. He knows.”
Franklin Graham frequently mentioned Saeed’s name as he made political speeches about terrorists and the US. Saeed’s name was so well known by now, people didn’t have to know his last name. #FreeSaeed was displayed on social media. People knew who he was, and that he had a beautiful family waiting for him at home. This was great marketing.
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Jay Sekulow, American Center for Law and Justice
Here is Mr. Sekulow’s bio:
“Jay Sekulow is an attorney with a passion for protecting religious liberty – freedom – democracy. For nearly a quarter of a century, he’s been on the front lines – working to protect religious and constitutional freedoms in the courts, in Congress, and in the public arena.” (Source)
I’m not going to get into much from Sekulow except to say that Saeed was once again the poster boy for the kind of causes that Jay Sekulow fights for. Saeed and Naghmeh were used to further his own political agenda.
Check out this article and very short video. The video is basically an infomercial for ACLJ. Take note of the music in the background.
Jay Sekulow: ACLJ leader Jay Sekulow says the fight against Christian persecution is not over just because Saeed was released. Sekulow echoes what each individual involved has stated publicly: Christians must continue to pray and fight for an end to persecution. (Source) http://aclj.org/
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American Evangelistic Association (AEA)
Saeed Abedini received his pastor’s license through this organization. A summary of the historical background of AEA:
To compensate for the highly political hierarchy in a major denomination and the limitations of their overseer systems for organizing and controlling grass roots pastors, in 1954, Dr. [John] Douglas led a group of several dozen pastors in becoming become independent pastors and formed the American Evangelistic Association (“AEA“). (Source)
Did you interpret that the same way I did? I read this as an ideal place to get a pastor’s license if you don’t want to be under someone’s authority. Boom!
American Evangelistic Association recognizes credentials for Pastoral Ordination, Pastoral Licensing, Elder recognition, Deacon/ Deaconess recognition, Church Planting leadership, and missionary. AEA believes the Scripture teaches that both male and female are eligible to serve in all capacities of ministry leadership. (Source)
OK, here’s the important part (bolded by moi):
Background checks are made on all candidates therefore thumb prints are required on the application. (Source)
So – inquiring minds want to know – did they do a background check on Saeed before administering a pastor’s license to him? Here is where it gets confusing. On January 16, 2016, president of AEA, Kerry Fink, sent out two nearly identical statements announcing Saeed’s release from prison. In those statements, there are two different dates indicating when Saeed joined AEA:
This one states early 2010:
And this statement lists June 18, 2008 as the date Saeed joined up with AEA.
Here is the AEA application section where Saeed should have filled out his criminal record:
As we have come to find out from the official Idaho court record on Saeed’s domestic assault guilty plea, the violation date on the case is July 1, 2007, it was filed the next day, and the disposition was on January 25, 2008.
If AEA did their background check as they said they do, and if Saeed was forthcoming with information on his application that he was indicted and convicted of domestic assault, and AEA did invite Saeed into their fold in 2008, then why was he issued a pastor’s license? This blogger wants to know.
In case any of you wanted to become a pastor (male or female, btw), here is what it will cost you, and a brief explanation about the required “contributions.” I never knew that contributions were a requirement!
Since the association is totally dependent on contributions we require all of our members to make a monthly financial commitment to their association. (Source)
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It is my opinion that Saeed Abedini should never have been licensed as a pastor or serving in that role, based on the 2007 case and conviction, and ongoing pornography and abuse issues. Church leaders and the AEA could have done a better job of preventing him from getting into ministries and alerting others to his ongoing problems if he sought out ministry anyway.
It is my opinion that Naghmeh has been a victim of her husband’s abuse, and she was used as a puppet to further the political agendas of Jay Sekulow and Franklin Graham. These two men saw an opportunity for funds, prestige, and power right in front of them and they seized it. However, once the abuse allegations became public, they wiped their hands clean of the mess and I have yet to see anything from them showing real support for Naghmeh now.
Is it any wonder why the world laughs at Christians?