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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, January 27, 2014

Our Modern Pharisees

Pharisees were actually a reform movement in Judaism. They stood up for the little guy being oppressed by the aristocratic and priestly classes. But they are depicted as the bad guys in the New Testament.  We Gentiles got them mixed up with the Sadducees, the Old Testament equivalent of the Lehigh Valley Partnership. Today, both Pharisees and Sadducees are synonymous with hypocrisy. This story is about a group of modern day Pharisees, right here in the Lehigh Valley.

You've seen them, especially if you go to church. You might even be one of those phonies who makes ostentatious displays of religious ritual or fine theological points, without bothering to do any good works yourself. One recent Pharisee includes Vic Mazziotti's pastor, who was quick to condemn same sex benefits, but has been curiously silent about Allentown's recent homeless crisis. This Bishop-in-training is par for the course. Lehigh County Conference of Churches Exec Director Jack Felch is a Pharisee, too. So are some  officials in the Allentown Urban Growth Regime.

The recent homelessness crisis makes this clear.

Fegley and Teti
Diane Teti, who has advocated for the homeless for the past year, has probably accomplished more in that time than the numerous nonprofits and government agencies who proudly herald themselves as the safety net for our voiceless. She, along with Allentown Brew Works' Richard Fegley and Chris Cocca, have publicly shamed the Urban Growth Regime by casting a very public spotlight on one of local government's biggest failures. They have brought several homeless survivors to meetings, letting government officials and nonprofits get a good look at the people they'd prefer to brush under the rug.

As temperatures plunge, that's getting harder to do.

Although Fegley is passionate and sometimes gets emotional, Teti is fairly nonconfrontational. She just wants to help people, as you can see from video of a recent Commissioners' meeting. One of the people she brought has slipped through the cracks of the system, and is unable to examine his own file in Lehigh County's overly bureaucratic system of human services.

Some groups, like the Allentown Rescue Mission, have actually appreciated the attention. They do have rules, but Program Director Rob Romig explained them, and they are relatively innocuous. They helped 760 homeless men last year, and do not force them to go to chapel.

"We don't make you pray," he explained.

Lehigh County Exec Tom Muller is another person who has tried to help. Unlike Mayor Edwin Pawlowski, who skipped out on a City Council meeting dealing with homelessness, Muller was there, listened, and prevailed on the local Y to open their doors for homeless during this emergency.

Not bad for someone derided as a country club Republican.

Commissioner Scott Ott blamed the homeless, to some extent, for being unwilling to use places like Allentown Rescue Mission. You could call that heartless on his part, but it's no secret that many homeless are mentally ill and exercise poor judgment. So I think he was being realistic. After listening to homeless advocates last week, he went to Allentown's most desperate shelter, Safe Haven, along with fellow Commissioners Lisa Scheller and Vic Mazziotti.

Despite all these positive signs, some in the Urban Growth regime are angry.

Allentown's Managing Director, Francis Dougherty, tried to deny there's a problem at all in a memo circulated among City Council members. He derided Teti as a "competing interest group", insisted that homelessness is actually a County problem. He also objected to the scorn expressed at the City's Homeless Commission, whose committee heads meet every month and basically go round and round.

The hypocrisy does not stop with modern Pharisee Francis Dougherty.

The Lehigh County Conference of Churches has been shamed by this crisis into opening up a gym as a warming center, but only on code blue days. Their Executive Director, Dr. Jack Felch, wants everyone to send him money. He used the warming center as an excuse to seek donations. In addition, he just had to take some potshots at Teti's group, as noted by Allentown blogger Michael Molovinsky. Like any good Pharisee, Felch praises himself while condemning others.
You have most likely seen press coverage concerning the plight of the homeless during this recent spell of dangerously cold weather. We have chosen not to participate in public debates about how "others" should solve this problem, particularly since the Conference has for the past decade been doing the heavy lifting when it comes to stabilizing the lives of "the least of these, my brothers and sisters" without the need for shining a media spotlight on that work. Instead of being divisive and derisive, we joined with partners who are problem solvers. Our initial plan is to open the Alliance Hall gym only when needed for emergency Code Blue weather conditions. Funding for this initiative is not guaranteed. Staffing details have not been determined.
One of Michael's readers, BB, sums it up quite nicely.
Wow. Where to start? Obviously this church commentary is riddled with sarcasm and passive aggressive jabs at caring activists. Who wrote this? From "plight of the homeless" "heavy lifting" referring to homeless people as "the least"? Choosing not to participate in public debates when cold temperatures dictate a life or death sentence is far less than honorable. Personally, I would be ashamed. Implying the media was involved for any reason other than to shine a spotlight on a dire situation is just plain asinine. This is a perfect example of everything that is wrong with our democracy in the year 2014. Caring citizens petition their government to help improve a situation, and they are stifled, insulted, and oppressed by the gatekeepers, people with the power to actually do something. Better yet, let's imply they are crackpots on the fringe, outsiders, not even part of our community. How is 'choosing not to participate in public debates' to solve a problem somehow a badge of glory? After ten-years of "heavy lifting" why don't you have more than an "initial plan" for a code blue? And why hasn't funding or staffing been addressed... yet? ~BB
I wrote to Felch. He's too important to write back, but one of his underlings, Ira Faro, tells me that Team Teti started it and even threatened them at a recent City Council meeting. I find that impossible to believe. Faro adds that he raised the money to build WDIY and writes grants for the homeless, so he apparently has some sort of diplomatic immunity.

Felch and Faro, quite clearly, are also Pharisees more worried about someone cutting into their turf than in solving a very real problem.

The denial and vilification does not stop with Dougherty, Felch and Faro. The Blog  Mentor has also jumped into the fray, attempting to dirty up Fegley and Teti.

Teti has a civil dispute over money that will be heard in February. The Blog Mentor has branded her a "civil scofflaw."

Even worse, he's calling Fegley a "violent offender ... who has been arrested for assault and violent physical harassment."

The problem is he's got the wrong Fegley. He has been defaming a homeless advocate on his blog, Facebook and in emails to Felch and Allentown City Council President Julio Guridy. 

He never bothered to check whether he had the right person.

Obviously, the Blog Mentor is a Pharisee, too.

Allentown's Urban Growth Regime always will deny a problem exists, alternatively shift the blame somewhere else and vilify those who point out the problem.

The good news here is that somehow, nobody has died from exposure in the Lehigh Valley. A homeless man in Philly was not so lucky on Thursday.


Anonymous said...

BO, in Bethlehem it's a different story. The Bethlehem Emergency Sheltering is a faith-based partnership of local churches that provides a network of care and hospitality for the homeless. Overnight sheltering is provided during the coldest months of the year--every December through March. Various churches in the city serve as sheltering sites on a rotating basis. They do good work. Their website may be found here - http://bethlehememergencysheltering.com/

Anonymous said...

Muller asked someone else to do something, how wonderful of him. I think the country club moniker is still safe with that smug would be aristocrat.

Anonymous said...

The "blog mentor" is a courageous truth warrior who has to deal with a corrupt local media and justice system. WAEB will be his new home

Bernie O'Hare said...

He is a disgusting liar who couldn't even be honest about his radio show. He said he'd have a regular show starting in early January. Maybe he can pay Not-so-Jolly Joe to defame people like Gregory did. He's a loon who just defamed someone. He is a merchant of lies.

Anonymous said...

I am sure you think Mr. Brown is a Pharisee. Is there anything he can do to please you?

Allen said...

Can the 'Blob Mentor' be sued civilly for false accusations and defamation of character?

michael molovinsky said...

i have to disagree with including the blog mentor with the list of pharisees. although they may be guilty of hypocrisy and other human flaws, they strive to be good people. the blog mentor traffics in distortion. he accuses people of doing to him, what he actually does to them. this despicable behavior is specifically mentioned in Isaiah, people who call evil good and good evil,people who substitute bitter for sweet.

Anonymous said...

He is a Villian!

Anonymous said...

and so he Zionist comes to the rescue of the pharises

michael molovinsky said...

@9:12, you're quite a distorter yourself. before you accuse me of killing christ, lets clarify that the pharisee analogy is bernie's, not mine. my point is that mr. felch and company do not engage in outright evil behavior, like the blog mentor.

Anonymous said...

What a bunch of girls.

Lehigh County is an ugly place.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Can the 'Blob Mentor' be sued civilly for false accusations and defamation of character?"

Yes, when you falsely accuse someone of being a violent criminal, and do no investigation into whether you are right, that's libel per se. I believe his wife could be added, too.

I hope Fegley sues his ass.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"and so he Zionist comes to the rescue of the pharises"

What a fuckin' anti-Semite, exactly what I would expect from this guy.

Anonymous said...


Speaking as a representative of the council of a local Catholic Church, here is what I found out. Some of the local parishes donate to local homeless shelters and food pantries. Actually, our church donates a lot. But I specifically asked about opening up our Church Hall for places for the homeless to stay. It comes down to bureaucracy and red tape. The priest cited a case of Bloomberg in NY that does not allow a local bagel maker to donate his bagels to the poor. We had the same thing in our Church, we couldn't donate the left over food to any of the homeless shelters for fear of being prosecuted for health code violations. I know some of the grocery stores, like Wegman's, and fast food places, like Burger King, run into the same problem. He also cited problems with the insurance rider on the facility, especially if the Church is not equipped to house people. And he advised that his Bishop would allow the people to sleep in the Church Hall, if they would indemnify the Diocese from any lawsuits if someone got hurt or whatever happened to them under the roof of the Church.

If never realized the restrictions and chances that the Church or a volunteer take on just by trying to live the Golden Rule.

Lazarus' House

Bernie O'Hare said...

What does a bagel shop in NY have to do with a church opening its doors to the poor? Don't you think a cold person would sign a release in a heart beat? I don't think they're trying hard enough to find a way to say yes. They are instead trying to justify a No, citing red tape and laws, just as the Sadducees would have done 2000 years ago.

When I was a boy, I remember that the Catholic Church prided itself as being one whose doors are always open. That is no longer so.

On cold code blue nights, the church could throw open its doors so that people could "pray." Let some code enforcer try to deal with that.

Anonymous said...

"Blog Mentor" comes off as an insane person. I do not know him personally but I do know folks who do.

Some say he honestly believes what he does is for good reasons. But his methods and tact are absolutely deplorable...

If he would tone down the "rolling around on the floor and foaming at the mouth" as Bernie likes to say (which IS pretty much an accurate description of what he does) he'd be a valid voice... maybe?

Not saying I agree with ANYTING he says... but he'd be a valid voice in civic discourse. His tact and tone completely discredit him.

Anonymous said...

I am not a lawyer, but I have had outrageous libelous statements made about me (in court and to the police). When I talked to my lawyer about it he said the only way to have this person pay would be to prove loss of income on my part as a direct result of the libel (ex.: loss of job) and that it would cost me thousands in court costs with not even a guarantee of an apology. The lawyer recommended against it. Perhaps Mr. Fegley would have a better chance since he may be able to claim loss of customers to his business because of the accusations, but unfortunately it seems falsehoods can made about one’s character without any legal consequence to the accuser.

Bernie O'Hare said...

This is not really the place to debate defamation law. When one is libeled per se, damages are presumed. You do not have to show specific monetary loss. When someone repeats a defamatory accusation after being made aware it is false, the conduct is malicious.

Your attorney is correct. It is extremely difficult to prove libel. But the Blog Mentor made it easy. He published a false accusation of criminal behavior on his blog, on facebook and in emails to the Lehigh Conference of Churches and to Julio Guridy, without undertaking any investigation at all to determine if what he was saying is true. His purpose in doing so was to damage Fegley's reputation.

I'd agree that most attorneys veer away from libel. Only a few of these cases succeed. But Fegley may very well have something. I recommend he name the Blog Mentor's wife as well, since she participates in the blog and publishes it along with the Blog mentor.

Maybe they'll think twice about defaming someone if they know they could lose their home.

Ira said...

For the record, in the email exchanges between us, Bernie, I never mentioned anyone by name and I never said that I attended a City Council meeting. You made that stuff up out of whole cloth. And I mentioned WDIY and my grant writing after you called me a phony liberal and a hypocrite, pointing out that I had done some good, enduring things for the community of which I was proud. Attack me if you will. Just get your facts straight. You have the email exchanges. Am I mistaken?

Bernie O'Hare said...


Enclosed you will find the first email I rec'd from Pharisee Ira Faro:

"Dear Mr. O'Hare

I will be happy to forward your email to Dr. Felch. I would also like to make two comments as I do. First, I do not remember seeing you in the room when the advocates that you speak of used vulgar, accusatory, and threatening language regarding the Conference's and the community's efforts on behalf of the homeless, so you cannot know if the email of which you speak was an accusation
or a description. If you read your Bible, you will see many descriptions of bad behavior as cautionary tales in both the Old and the New Testaments. In this
case, the moral of the tale is that such behavior hinders rather than furthers solutions to problems. Secondly, if money was not an issue, the advocates of
whom you speak would have solved the problem long ago. But no nonprofit, including the Conference or the Grand, should promise to do what they cannot afford to do. Nonprofits that do so die quick deaths and leave the people that they serve in the cold.

Ira Faro"

Unless he's parsing words like good pharisees do, Faro definitely conveyed the impression that he was at the City Council meeting. Why else would he state that he did not see me if he himself was not there? Also, it's clear that he is referring to the only people I know who are advocating for the homeless. It is immaterial whether he mentions them by name.

Ira said...

Inferences and excuses, Bernie. Your readers deserve better.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I called Faro a phony and false liberal after getting that email. Faro retorted,

"I'm proud of my record of not only doing good work but finding the resources necessary to keep the good work going. From having raised the money to build WDIY to having written the grants that will pay the rent for 40 chronically homeless men, women and families tonight, I am confident that I have been of service - tangible service - to my community."

Like a good Pharisee, he points to what he's done to justify his bad behavior.

Ira said...

Speaking of bad behavior, do you really believe that there are only three people advocating for the homeless in Lehigh County?

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Your readers deserve better."

Actually, Ira, the homeless and their advocates deserve better than he self-serving crap you've spoon fed them.

You're a phony who had to be embarrassed by a brewer into doing the right thing, and you don't like it one bit.

And as you attacked them, you attack me. But this time you had to sign your name.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Speaking of bad behavior, do you really believe that there are only three people advocating for the homeless in Lehigh County?"

If you bothered to read what I wrote, you'd see that I credit quite a few people.

I would not count you among them. I would call you "divisive and derisive."

Where's your Exec Director? Picking up checks?

michael molovinsky said...

@11:20, you wrote in regard to the Blog Mentor, but he'd be a valid voice in civic discourse. His tact and tone completely discredit him. his tact and tone aside, what you would be left with are lies.

Ira said...

So in Bernie's world, it's OK to accuse me of attending meetings that I didn't attend, naming names that I didn't name, then calling me a hypocrite. It must be a cozy world.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Ira, your email speaks for itself.

But let's get this out there. Are you willing to state now, and for the record, that you have never heard Teti or Fegley use "vulgar, accusatory, and threatening language" concerning the Lehigh Conference of churches? Let's get your denial out there so we can stop marginalizing these advocates, as you and the other Pharisees have been trying to do.

Anonymous said...

I would be embarrassed too.

Unknown said...

Ira Faro was at the COMMISSION meetings. I have never seen Mr. Faro at an Allentown CITY COUNCIL meeting and I've attended almost every meeting for the last two years now.

Ira Faro was in attendance at the First Lady's Commission to End Chronic Homelessness in Allentown in mid 2013. This was a full Commission meeting that I attended.

This same meeting of the Commission was when Diane and I started asking some tough questions to the group of people at the table that day. Obviously Mr. Faro didn't like our questions or our concerns. Concerns that the Commission was moving too slowly to be prepared for Winter 2014.

Here we are. Do the readers feel we were prepared? Look at how these men have scrambled!

After this Commission meeting, the Commission was broken into sub-committees. Diane and I were relegated to the sub-committee and Dale Smith, alone, was allowed to report back to the main Commission.

They kicked Diane and me out of the First Lady's Commission to End Chronic Homelessness.

Bernie made an error thinking that Mr. Faro was at a City Council meeting when Mr. Faro never attended City Council but he did attend meetings of the First Lady's Commission to End Chronic Homelessness. There was some confusion Mr. Faro.


Ira said...

I never heard Diane or Rich use vulgar or threatening language. For the record. That's not to say that others didn't. But you just asked about Diane and Rich. And Rich is correct. He and Diane were on a committee of the Commission that was supposed to address the winter sheltering issue. They asked questions, true. It appears, however, that they never managed to find a solution. And since you're so concerned about money, Bernie, check out the website of the Bethlehem emergency sheltering group. They are very clear that their services cost money and they ask for donations. You'd better call them out, too, in order not to be hypocritical.

Anonymous said...

Does your concern for the poor extend to criticism of Charlie Dent for voting to slash food stamps?


BGW said...

Yo anonymous apologize publicly and spare yourself a verbal onslaught via the AM dial.

Lehigh Di said...

For the record:

We, being the GRAND, actually did find the solution. Dale Smith, one of our co-founders, actually presented a proposal to use Alliance Hall on the 17th prior to the Conference announcing that the Conference took a "leap of faith" on the 23rd to "lead" these efforts with partner groups.

We have also offered to help solicit volunteers and donations for these efforts...

Anonymous said...

Wasn't Easton's Safe Harbor born in St. Bernard's Church? I vaguely remember a time (in the 80s?) when the church ran through its cash and emergency fund to house the homeless.

Ira said...

A nonprofit (the GRAND) founded to assist the homeless tells another nonprofit (the Conference of Churches) that it should institute a new program that is outside of its normal purview, never having done sheltering at any level. Seven days later, that nonprofit (the Conference)announces it is indeed going to institute the program. In the nonprofit world, that seems to me to be a pretty nimble response.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I was critical of Dent's food stamp vote, wrote about it and discussed it with him in detail. So the answer is yes. But Dent told me the fonal bill, when passed, would not be nearly so draconian. He just wanted to get it into the Senate so the matter could be debated and resolved.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Ira, now that you've acknowledged, on the record, that there have been no threats or vulgarities from Teti or Fegley, I believe you owe them both an apology. So does your Executive Dirrctor.

Bernie O'Hare said...

St. Bernard's did at one time feed and house the poor. Don't remember if it was called Safe Harbor, but it did good work just as St. John's Lutheran is doing in Allentown.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Ira, your response was nimble, but the attitude was and is appalling.

Lehigh Di said...

To the contrary Ira, last year when we took over 30 people into what we considered an overflow shelter for Safe Haven, we were told that they were no longer considered "homeless" and they were denied various benefits of being homeless by the Conference of Churches despite assurances otherwise.

This year, we looked for a solution that wouldn't jeopardize anyone's status of being homeless and since we don't control the space, all we could do is suggest a proposal. And again, we have offered to assist with volunteer and donation solicitation.

We are very sincere in our intentions to help the homeless and I'm not quite sure why we are under fire for that mission.

Ira said...

You made an inference, Bernie. It was mistaken. I should apologize because YOU got it wrong? The apology should come from the person who dragged their names into the discussion in the first place. Bernie O'Hare. But I'll never know. This will be my last visit here. I've been called a phony and a hypocrite and I've not responded in kind. I've been accused of being at a meeting that I didn't attend. I've been accused of naming names that I didn't name. And now I'm being told to apologize for the mistake of my accuser? No.

Anonymous said...

And Bernie likes picking on the Catholic Church, too.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,I'm glad you were critical of Dent's food stamp vote, but I would not let Dent off the hook so easily. If he had voted against the Draconian cuts,the bill would still have made it to the Senate.
It is all too characteristic of Dent to want it both ways, vote one way and say I didn't really mean to. I hold him responsible for his vote.
By the way, I missed your previous writing about this issue. Could you supply a link to your words on this topic?

Bernie O'Hare said...

The topic here is modern pharisees and homelessness. Give the anti-Dent campaign a rest. I have a search feature on this blog and you could easily locate my stories.



Bernie O'Hare said...

Ira, I made no mistake. You claimed that you were subjected to threats during a meeting, and it does not matter whether it is a City or a committee. You actually created the inference, and the inference was that Fegley and Teti are the persons who threatened you. You owe them and everyone else an apology. So does your Exec Director.

Bernie O'Hare said...

5;38, aka Blog Mentor, is trying to switch the subject bc he and his buddy Ira look like the phonies they are.

Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to the rev Brown and marlene mertz? Are they living in gods country now? They sure did go there alot back than?

Were is the accountability in this arganization too? The lehighcounty VATICAN of allentown pa?

patent pending

Anonymous said...

6:59 Bernie, thanks for the links to your articles on the food stamp vote. I don't see that my concern is off topic, because making it more difficult for poor people to afford food is likely to lead to more homelessness. If people need to pay more for food, they will have less for rent, and the increased family strains could easily lead to family breakup.

We all have one Representative in Congress, Dent in my case. It is very relevant to me if by his votes he makes this problem worse. To your credit, you did call the Republican action a shameful vote.

Chris Casey said...

Bernie; I have he more faith in a church helping folks without concern for profit than an organization such as Faith Mission that does. It is all about the money period

Chris Casey said...

seraphThe Blog Mentor is Irrelevant much like both County Parties. They are both a laughingstock to the rank and file and ignored.

Harry J Shellhamer said...

"Allen said...
Can the 'Blob Mentor' be sued civilly for false accusations and defamation of character?"

Doubt team Fegley/Teti/Todd/Molovinsky have a "Sharp" enough lawyer to take that route, maybe the author of this blog can set them up with Orclownski.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Bob Not-so-sharpe is the same person who frivolously attacked a Jim Martin nomination petition even though he belonged to a different political party. That was brilliant, especially when he was bounced out of court in ten minutes. "I meant to do it," was his idiotic explanation. Orloski has already won a defamation case against Mezzacappa, with damages to be determined soon. And she got her ass kicked in court today, losing another harassment case despite a Philly lawyer. Maximum fine, too. Yep, just brilliant. That's one of my stories tomorrow, Harry. Care to tell us who you really are?

Harry J Shellhamer said...

If Fegley really cares about the homeless he should consider ending his production of alcohol beverages that contribute to the overwhelming addiction problem that plagues that demographic.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Blog Mentor, if you really cared about anything, you would identify yourself and start being honest. Your trolling behavior contributes to the lack of civil discourse that plagues this nation.

Anonymous said...

Ira Pharo, latest victim of the hate machine!

Bernie O'Hare said...

The latest phony to be exposed.

DWSLV said...

Hopefully, we can ALL direct this energey into helping the YMCA and Alliance Hall with the volunteer coverage they need.


Anonymous said...

As someone who actually experienced being set up and in my experience assaulted. The Fegley family members - I would disagree that there is nothing to some of the issues surrounding adversarial relationships with the Fegleys. I think you are misled in who you are supporting Mr. O'Hare but not in the causes you are supporting. No doubt they have attached themselves to good causes and create a positive public image. They are also very well trained and highly connected. They are not as innocent as you might like to believe. Haven't read the blog you are referring to but did have an actual experience.

Bernie O'Hare said...

We all have histories. None of us is truly innocent and none of us is truly guilty.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Rich Fegley has responded to the anonymous attack. I have edited his comment:

Anonymous 10:44 - nameless and shameless

"adversarial relationships"? huh?

"They [the Fegleys] are also very well trained and highly connected. They are not as innocent as you might like to believe."

What exactly does this mean?

How am I "trained"?

Trained to do what?

I am a trained meditator and hatha yoga practitioner. Never finished my training in Golden Shield Chi Gong and Shaolin Kung-fu.

Who am I highly connected to? I honestly have absolutely not one single high connection above me. If I do, please let me know who it is so I can call them and ask them where the hell they have been my whole life.

I could say a high connection is God. But that would mean each and every one of us would be highly connected...we are all connected to God.

I am not innocent? What exactly am I guilty of?

All of this coming from an anonymous troll.

You should be ashamed of yourself. What is the point of attacking me? It's so sad and pathetic. LOL

Allen said...

The unabashedly shameless and bold beyond bragging rights hide behind anonymous penmanship and automobile steering wheels.