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Jesus Wept

Pastor who admits to having AIDS and sleeping with parishioners won't step down

A pastor in Alabama is refusing to step down after confessing to having AIDS, sleeping with church members without telling them about his HIV infection, taking drugs, and misusing funds.

Rev. Juan Demetrius McFarland has been at Montgomery's Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church for 21 years. In Sunday sermons starting Sept. 14, McFarland admitted his health status, then his misdeeds, the pastor and members of his flock told WSFA 12 News. The church membership voted 80-1 to remove McFarland on Oct. 5, but he will not leave.

A lawyer representing deacons in the church said McFarland and a supporter would not let them on the premises, telling deacons trying to change the locks they would face "castle law" if they tried to come to services. "They're worried if they show up to church, they could get shot," Kenneth Shinbaum said. "Unless the pastor steps down voluntarily, this may very well end up in court." McFarland may turn up in court for another reason: In Alabama, spreading a sexually transmitted disease is a Class C misdemeanor; since nobody has filed a complaint, McFarland isn't under investigation at the moment.

The announcement stunned parishioners, who at first were worried about McFarland's health, and then were upset by the rest of his revelations. "Who does this to people, and you are the leader?" one congregation member told WSFA 12 News. "Who does this?"