Pentagon welcomes 'Christian fundamentalist scam-artist' as guest speaker at prayer breakfast

Pentagon (Image from wikipedia.org)
The Pentagon has invited a pastor who stole more than $10,000 from a cemetery and faked a doctorate degree to speak at the prayer breakfast this week.

Raymond Giunta, 47, will speak at the Pentagon Chaplain Wednesday morning during the prayer breakfast, even though he has a history of fraudulent activity, the Huffington Post reported.

The Las-Vegas based pastor was found to have taken more than $10,200 in cemetery trust funds intended for graveyard upkeep while he worked as the director of the California Cemetery Board in the mid-1990’s, according to a state audit. Giunta transferred the stolen money into a new bank account, using it for personal expenses.

The pastor, who currently works as a motivational speaker, is a man who deceived many under different titles, the Las Vegas Sun reported in 2008. With a Ph.D. diploma he purchased for $769 off a website, Giunta pretended to be a trained clinical psychologist and was even sent on medical mission trips by his church. With his fake degree, for which he took no classes, Giunta recommended medical treatments for adolescents and diagnosed children with mental health disorders. He also acted as a counselor, “getting kids to talk about stuff the law enforcement officers didn’t even know about,” according to Kathryn Hooper, supervisor of the Youth Firesetting Intervention Program.

Critics referred to the man as a “master manipulator”. His skills led him to become the co-founder and chaplain of We Care Ministries, as well as an encouragement pastor at the Central Christian Church in Las Vegas. But despite his history of fraud and theft, the Pentagon is welcoming the man to give a motivational speech to its employees.

The Office of the Pentagon Chaplain provides proactive religious support and ministry and is dedicated “to enhance the spiritual lives and well-being of all Pentagon military personnel, their Family members, civilian employees.” But Michael Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), was disturbed when he heard of the fraudster’s invitation and called for a revoke of this invite.

“Arming a well-known Christian fundamentalist scam-artist like Giunta with an homage so profound as to be the designated special guest speaker at this highly visible Pentagon religious event is simply beyond the pale of acceptability and literally strains credulity,” he told the Huffington Post.

The MRFF has demanded an investigation into how the pastor was chosen to speak at this event. One of the MRFF clients, a major at the Pentagon, also expressed his disturbance with the event.

“My concern is that we’re going to ruin the Pentagon’s reputation, the DOD reputation, for the sake of this guy,” he told the Huffington Post on condition of anonymity. “With the way things are with budget cuts and everything else going on, we can’t afford to sully our reputation – certainly not by associating with folks like this.”

The prayer breakfast will be held Wednesday at 7 a.m. A Pentagon spokesperson said the Office of the Pentagon Chaplain will go through with the event, since it welcomes a diversity of speakers.