From: Michael Lacy ([email protected]) Subject: Atheist Charity (was:RE Quest for the Ark) Newsgroups: alt.conspiracy, alt.atheism, alt.christnet, talk.religion.misc, alt.blasphemy, sci.skeptic, talk.origins, alt.recovery.catholicism Date: 1997/02/04 A christian posted the following to an athiest on sci.skeptic; >> when was the last time you did something that had nothing to do with >> helping yourself, but with making the world better? spreading love >> instead of hate, compassion instead of judgement, hope instead of >> cynicism. these are christian ideals. This reminds me of a true story that happened about 7 years ago at Arizona State University. I was a member of an informal skeptic group of undergraduates at the university, and one of our favourite occupations during the afternoon was to engage in debate the various religious preacher-types who would gather on the campus mall to harange the passing students. One time we were having a rather one-sided debate (we were debating, he was shouting) with an itenerant christian man who was preaching rather more vigorously than most of his fellows - so much so in fact, that the campus police eventually (after several warnings) arrested him for a breach of the peace and took him away. He was a poor man, homeless and with a small dishevelled family. I remember he had a large home-made cross made out of white wood that was hinged so he could take it apart for travel. During his tirade, members of our arch-rivals, the local christian youth society came out and were giving him their vocal moral support, as was their want. When he was taken away, we all sort of wandered off, back to our college lives. However, that evening, a group of the skeptics including Jim Lippard (who some of you may know from his work in the skeptic society) went down to the local lock-up to find out what happened to the preacher. He was spending the night in jail, because he could not afford to pay the fine (I think it was 100 dollars). His family had no place to go, he had no friends or relations to come to his aid, and the "campus crusade for christ" (christian student group), his loyal supporters on the mall, was nowhere to be seen in his hour of need. The skeptics did a quick hat-pass, and came up with the money, and got the preacher out of jail. They then took him and his small family to a local Denny's and bought them a dinner, before dropping them off to continue their travels. Michael LacyI'd like to expand on this and correct some errors. First, the preacher in question is now famous for his apparent influence on convicted murderer Andrea Yates, who killed her children--his name is Michael Woroniecki. Second, he was not actually jailed--he was brought up on charges of disrupting the peaceful activity of a university (or some similar Tempe ordinance) for preaching on the campus of Arizona State University in an area where another event (non-academic) was going on--on the mall near the Hayden Library, before the underground library addition was built. This arrest was a citizen's arrest by an ASU student, who didn't show up for the hearing, and the case was dismissed. Third, I don't recall a dinner at Denny's, but the hearing was attended by myself, Michael Norton, and perhaps a few others such as Keith Hemstreet, Jamie Busch, and Mike Lacy. Fourth, neither Michael Norton nor I recall collecting any funds; we just provided moral support at the hearing, as we thought the charges against him were bogus and in violation of his freedom of speech. These events would have taken place between 1983 and 1988 (my years of attendance at ASU). Since I think this took place before or during the transition of the skeptics group from an informal ASU group (started in August 1986; it became more formal around May 1987), since Woroniecki visits schools at the beginning and end of the school years, I think this occurred between April and September of 1987. I received some pamphlets and an audio cassette from Woroniecki shortly after these events which I still possess, but unfortunately they are undated and the postmark on the envelope is completely illegible. On the audio cassette, Woroniecki speaks of having four children, and his fourth child was born in 1987. A definitive date could possibly be established from Tempe Municipal Court records, doing a name search for a case against Michael Peter Woroniecki.
UPDATE: The Arizona State University State Press of November 3, 1986, reports that Woroniecki was arrested on the previous Friday, which was October 31, 1986, so above I put the events a few months too late.
UPDATE (February 3, 2010): Woroniecki's son, Joshua, responds to charges of his father's involvement with the Yates family. Contrast that with Wikipedia's discussion.