What we know about Cecil Newton and the Holy Zion Center of Deliverance

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There are a lot of layers in the Cam Newton controversy — probably more than we realize and some of them, I’m sure, will be revealed with time. Others might drift silently to the bottom of the endless stacks of paper filled with documents, phone statements and the like.

Even more numerous than the layers are the opinions and, oh, boy, there are a lot of those, too.

Seemingly absent, however, from endless tirades and report after report of misconduct, are facts. The question remains: what do we actually know about Newton’s allegations?

One of the layers of the Newton story resides in Newnan, Georgia, where Cecil Newton, Cam’s father, is a pastor at the Holy Zion Center of Deliverance. Aside from the fact that the church name sounds like a cult, there would seem to be nothing spectacular about Cecil’s establishment. That is, until, the New York Times and ESPN made quite a link between the allegations against Cam and recent renovations done to his father’s struggling church. The NYT article reads …

Over the past year, he [Cecil] has struggled with Newnan officials about the condition of his church. The city has threatened to demolish it because it did not comply with building codes. Last week, a local newspaper, The Times-Herald, reported that the church had completed its work and was in compliance.

While ESPN quoted …

“If you’ve ever seen our church, you’d know we don’t have any money,” said Cam Newton‘s mother, Jackie. “We have nothing.”

In light of a recent report by ESPN’s Joe Schad that Newton and his father indicated money was involved in the college selection process , the natural question in this layer becomes “Is there a link between Cecil’s recent ability to upgrade his church to the accusations that money was involved with Cam’s college selection?”

Winston Skinner and Elizabeth Melville, who covered the church’s struggles for some time for the Newnan Times-Herald, agree that if there is a link, it wasn’t pursued.

“To my way of thinking, and maybe I’m misjudging what I saw, but it didn’t seem to me that they (the Newnan City Council) were so concerned about the money as they were about the work getting done,” said Skinner. “This is a big project that the city of Newnan has really worked to try to upgrade substandard structures.”

Melville added that the goal of the Newnan City Council was to work with public properties like the Holy Zion church to keep them from being demolished.

In September, 2009, after two extensions were granted by city council, Newton claimed the church would be brought to code “within six months” after being classified as a “new construction”. According to Newnan’s Public Information Officer, Gina Snider, the new code meant that Newton would only have to adhere to three minimum requirements to keep the building from being torn down.

As for the work itself, Melville believed Newton was reportedly in the talks with an unnamed contractor who would do the work for the church Pro Bono, but it appeared that, after some time, that had fallen through due to the poor economy. In addition to four other churches, Cecil also owns a construction company.

Calls made to the Holy Zion church were met with error messages that the line had been disconnected.

So, what does all of this mean?

First of all, it doesn’t tell us directly that Cecil Newton was able to renovate his church using any alleged payments from his son’s recruitment. On the flip side, though, it doesn’t tell us that he didn’t, either. Often in a developing story such as this, when there’s smoke, there’s fire and there’s been an awful lot of smoke surrounding Cam Newton and his father.

I’m not saying anyone’s guilty, but there is, at least, a reasonable suspicion when you consider Newton’s troubled past and the complexity of the allegations.