Top Ten Posts in 2015

The ten top posts during 2015 are as follows with the most popular first:
1. Open Letter to Gateway Church Pastor Robert Morris from a Former Member of Mars Hill Church – This was posted on November 2, 2014 but remained popular throughout 2015. Driscoll recently joined Jimmy Evans as a director to form The Trinity Church in Phoenix.
2. Former Chief Financial Officer at Turning Point Claims David Jeremiah Used Questionable Methods to Secure a Spot on Best Seller Lists – This story about David Jeremiah’s questionable tactics from a former insider was a scoop but not one which stuck to Jeremiah like  a similar scandal did to Mark Driscoll.
3. Hillsong’s Brian Houston Interviewed Mark and Grace Driscoll After All (VIDEO) (AUDIO) – First, he said he would interview Driscoll, then he said he wouldn’t, then Brian Houston aired an interview with Mark and Grace Driscoll. It was great theatre but didn’t draw good reviews from former Mars Hill leavers.
4. A major study of child abuse and homosexuality revisited – This post from 2009 is one of the most popular articles in the history of the blog. In it, I demonstrate a key mistake in a journal article often used to link homosexuality and child abuse.
5. Southern Baptists Say Enough to Perry Noble and NewSpring Church – I am surprised that this post got so much attention.
6. Gospel for Asia Faces Allegations of Misconduct; GFA Board Investigation Found No Wrongdoing – The GFA story received the most attention from me this year.
7. Pastor of Willow Creek Presbyterian Says Church Reaction to Hiring Tullian Tchividjian is “Overwhelmingly Positive” – I briefly covered Tullian Tchividjian’s comeback as a development minister at a PCA church in FL.
8. A Few Thoughts on The Village Church Controversy – Village Church’s leadership apologized for their response to a young woman who sought a divorce from her husband who had admitted having child porn.
9. Hillsong Founder Brian Houston Issues Statement On Mark Driscoll at the Hillsong 2015 Conference – Mark Driscoll’s return to the spotlight garnered much reader attention.
10. Gospel for Asia’s K.P. Yohannan and the Ring Kissing Ritual – While the financial scandals were of interest to readers, this article ranked higher than the money problems.
To fully capture activity on the blog, one should consider the Gospel for Asia scandals (Patheos considered my coverage as a part of one of their top ten Evangelical stories of 2015).
It has been a good year and I thank my readers and those who support the blog with their comments and regular visits.

U. S. Customs and Border Protection Reports Aggressive Enforcement of Cash Smuggling and Smurfing Laws

In May and June, I wrote posts about cash smuggling on the part of staff and students affiliated with Gospel for Asia (link, link, link, link, link). GFA leaders gave individual travelers envelopes of cash containing $4500 which was to be carried in personal belongings and then given to Believers’ Church headquarters in India. Since the travelers traveled in groups, the total amount of unreported cash was often over the $10,000 allowed by law. Travelers may take any amount of cash out of the country but any amount over $10k must be reported to Customs and Border Protection. Breaking up the total amount into smaller portions carried by individual travelers in a group to avoid detection (sometimes called “smurfing“) is illegal and can result in seizure of the cash and sometimes criminal charges.
After my reports on the practice, GFA leaders said they stopped sending cash to India via student groups, telling staff they were told by their auditor (Bland Garvey) that the practice was legal. Bland Garvey referred me to their attorney who refused to confirm or deny GFA’s claim. Inexplicably, GFA has remained publicly silent about the reasons for cash smuggling or how the donations were used.
In the mean time, U.S. Custom and Border Protection has aggressively enforced laws on cash smuggling. On the U.S. CBP website, numerous press releases detail enforcement actions related to cash smuggling. For instance just yesterday, USCBP reported the following activity:

LAREDO, Texas – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and agents at the Laredo Port of Entry seized $266,000 in unreported currency in an outbound enforcement action this weekend at the Gateway to the Americas Bridge.

 “Our outbound team maintained their vigilance, utilized their keen inspection skills and seized a significant load of unreported currency,” said Port Director Joseph Misenhelter, Laredo Port of Entry.  “Seizures of unreported currency like this one remove the profit potential from possible illicit activity and help advance our border security mission.”

Stacks of bills totalling $266,000 in unreported currency seized by CBP officers and agents at Laredo Port of Entry
From the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website

The interception occurred on Saturday, Sept. 12 while CBP officers and Border Patrol agents conducting outbound (southbound) inspections at the international bridge referred a 2007 Chevy Equinox driven by a 22-year-old U.S. citizen from Dallas, Texas for a secondary inspection.  CBP officers conducted an intensive secondary examination of the vehicle and discovered packages within the vehicle that contained $266,000 in unreported currency.

CBP officers seized the currency and the Chevy Equinox.  The driver was turned over by CBP officers to Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents for further investigation.

Individuals are permitted to carry any amount of currency or monetary instruments into or out of the U.S., however, if the quantity is more than $10,000, they will need to report it to CBP. “Money” means monetary instruments and includes U.S. or foreign coins currently in circulation, currency, travelers’ checks in any form, money orders, and negotiable instruments or investment securities in bearer form. Failure to declare may result in seizure of the currency and/or arrest.

According to their website, CBP seises just over $650,000 each day in illegal cash:

CBP seized $50,510 in unreported U.S. dollars and Chinese yuan from a family that arrived Saturday from China after the family reported possessing $3,000.
CBP seizes $650,117 in undeclared or illicit currency every day. There is no limit to how much currency travelers may bring to, or take from the U.S. However, federal law requires travelers to complete financial reporting forms for any amount that exceeds $10,000 in U.S. dollars or equivalent foreign currency.

Since I last reported on cash smuggling, CBP has reported several other actions relating to smuggling (list, list, list, list, list, list, list, list, list, list, list, list, list, list,  and smurfing (list, list, list, list). In GFA’s situation, some groups carried over $100k in cash without reporting the cash to U.S. Customs or Indian Customs.