Thursday, February 7, 2013

When Religion Trumps Humanity

Rev. Alois Bell
A Missouri pastor for a St. Louis-based religious organization got creative last week after getting a bill with an 18 percent gratuity added on.  Her charge for a meal at Appleby’s was $34.93, but that was only part of the tab for a large gathering that included four adults and five children. Their total charge topped $200.

Appleby’s, like most restaurants, automatically adds a gratuity to large bills, ensuring that those servicing the crowd gets adequate compensation.  After all, servers get paid less than minimum wage and must depend on tips to make a decent income.

Paster Alois Bell left no tip.  Instead, she wrote that “I give God 10 percent; why do you get 18?”

When that nasty comment was posted on the internet, the godly pastor went ballistic and demanded that everyone at Appleby’s, from servers to manager, be terminated.  The woman who posted the pastor’s comment – and who makes around $9 an hour counting tips – actually was fired.

Bell has since apologized. “My heart is really broken,” she said. “I’ve brought embarrassment to my church and ministry.”  She said the note represented a “lapse in judgment that has been blown out of proportion.” 

No, it’s not.  It’s more of the same from the sanctimonious religious right.

A Cornell University study found that Christians are “more likely to tip badly than diners with no religious affiliation.  The study found that “while Christians gave an average of 17.3 percent for good service, a significant minority -- 13 percent -- left less than 15 percent gratuity for good service, which is double the percentage of unaffiliated diners who tip in that range and six times the percentage of Jewish diners who do the same.”

Bell was not the only religious figure to leave a note.  In another notorious situation, a server got a counterfeit $10 bill as a tip with the words "some things are better than money" written on the back along with "like your eternal salvation, that was brought and paid for by Jesus going to the cross."

Try paying for your electricity with that claim.

The efforts by holier-than-though sect to avoid paying caught the attention of more considerate religious leaders.  Daniel Readle, a pastor at a Baptist church in Cleveland, wrote in his on-line blog: "By leaving tracts and not tips, that person is saying to their waiter or waitress, 'You are not a person, but rather just a notch on my belt of evangelistic pride.' "

Added an on-line reader commenting on the Bell story: “People who feel entitled are poor tippers.”
Gates of Heaven?

Perhaps the truly faithful are mindful of Jesus’ admonition that it’s harder for the wealthy to get to heaven than a camel to pass through the idea of a needle.  (Matt: 10:25) No reason to give those wealthy waitresses more money and block their entry through the Pearly Gates, right?

Then, too, the message on the check reflects the importance of religion too many place over the value of a person. 

Anyone who wants to see where that leads merely has to look at the 12,000 pages of documented child abuse reluctantly released last week by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles after losing a lengthy battle against a court order.  The papers reveal decades of abuse involving 192 priests and bishops going back to the 1930s.

"I find these files to be brutal and painful reading. The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil," said Archbishop Jose Gomez.

Cardinal Roger Mahony
As punishment, retired Cardinal Roger Mahony was released from all administrative or public duties.

That’s not even as bad as leaving no tip.  The man is retired, after all.  Not leaving a tip creates real financial hardship for the server.  Mahony can continue to enjoy his well-funded retirement.

According to published reports, during Mahony’s tenure from 1984-2011, church officials plotted to conceal the molestation from law enforcement.  Those documents showed that Mahony and former top aide Thomas Curry, who has resigned as bishop of Santa Barbara, “both worked to send priests accused of abuse out of state to shield known molesters in the clergy from law enforcement scrutiny in the 1980s.”

Mahony did "express his sorrow.” Bell said she was sorry, too, for the note.  More significantly, she didn’t mention the phone call afterwards to demand everyone lose their jobs.

That’s because she, and Mahony, were really unhappy that their “lapses in judgment” became public. Neither of them ever thought their despicable behavior would ever be widely known.

The real blessing here belongs to the American system which exposed their hypocrisy.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.

You can enroll in his on-line class, Comparative Religion for Dummies, at

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