The David Farren Case: Why I Post Reports of Clergy Sexual Misconduct on Facebook

david farren

Recently, I received several emails and social media comments from Evangelicals complaining about my posting of public news reports detailing clergy sexual abuse and misconduct. One Evangelical preacher had this to say:

Do you feel some sense of gratification by posting articles exposing the “sins of evangelicals?” I have found you will search heaven and earth to publish smut on anyone who professes to be a Christian. Many of your posts are nothing but smear campaigns. You ought to be proud of yourself, pat yourself on the back, nominate yourself for an award. What a wonderful person you are. Kudos Bruce, keep up the smear campaigns, because no doubt in your heart it’s all justified and makes sense. One day Mr. Bruce there will be a reckoning, a DAY OF JUDGEMENT. I will go no further, but I know this, our God offers and extends GRACE to the repentant and guilty sinner. His undeserving favor offered through Calvary!

This man, over the past two years, has left numerous comments on my Facebook page, objecting to virtually everything I post. He is an Independent Baptist, an insufferable zealot who cannot or will not make any attempt to see things from any perspective other than his own. His latest comment was on a post about the arrest of David Farren, youth pastor at Anchor Church (link no longer active) in  Texarkana, Texas. According to the Texarkana Gazette:

A youth pastor at Anchor Church in Texarkana was arrested Wednesday on three counts of sexual assault involving a teen girl. David Farren, 41, allegedly assaulted the girl when she was 16 and 17, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Connie Mitchell said. The girl was allegedly a member of the youth group Farren headed. Miller County jail records show Farren was booked at 4:15 p.m. Wednesday. He is expected to appear before a Miller County judge Thursday for an initial appearance, at which time bail will be set. First degree sexual assault is a class A felony in Arkansas. Each of the three counts Farren is charged with is punishable by six to thirty years in prison.

THV11 added:

Texarkana Police Department detectives conducted an investigation after they were notified of sexual assault allegations. Detectives found that Farren had been sexually assaulting a female (who was 16 years when the assaults began) over a period of four to five months in 2013. At the time, Farren was a youth director at an area church.

….

The TPD says the charge is because Farren was a youth director, it “placed him in a position of trust or authority over the victim.”

TXK Today, had this to say about Farren’s arrest:

David Wayne Farren, 41, appeared at the Miller County courthouse with Texarkana attorney Jason Horton for a first appearance on three counts of first degree sexual assault before Circuit Judge Brent Haltom. Horton handed the judge a motion asking that the case be sealed and that a gag order preventing police and court officials from speaking about the case be issued.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Connie Mitchell expressed strong opposition to the gag order. “I don’t believe this case should be treated any differently than other defendants,” Mitchell said. “We’ve not put gag orders in place in these cases before.” Mitchell asked the court to order Farren to have no contact with minor females, other than immediate family. Horton responded by describing Mitchell’s request as “too broad.”

In response, Haltom reviewed a probable cause affidavit and noted that Farren’s alleged sexual misconduct occurred in a private home, not on Anchor Church property. Mitchell pointed out that Farren’s contact with the girl began when he was acting as her youth pastor. “We do believe there are additional victims that will come forward,” Mitchell said. Mitchell said Farren has worked at a number of area churches heading youth groups including Heritage Baptist Church, Trinity Baptist Church and Faith Baptist Church.

As is always the case with such charges, offenders — saintly pillars of morality and virtue — are vigorously defended by family, friends, and fellow church members. Supporters, armed with anecdotal stories, assure everyone that Pastor/Preacher/Bishop/Elder/ Deacon _____________ did not/could not do that for which he has been accused/arrested/charged. As sure as the sun comes up in the morning, blinkered supporters demand that those who aren’t really in the know, forgo making any judgments about the offenders. In fact, rather than consider that their religious leaders could ever do what they are accused of doing, these woefully naive people suggest that perhaps the victims are the ones who should be blamed. In the case of David Farren, the victim was 16 years old when the sexual assaults began. See, says Farren’s supporters, she is almost of age. Why, I bet she came on to him or seduced him. In doing this. Farren’s supporters re-victimize the girl, ignoring the fact that Farren was in a position of trust or authority over the victim. This means the victim could not have given consent, regardless of her age. Farren, as an authority figure, is duty bound to keep his hands to himself and his pants zipped up. The no-sexual-contact rules that apply to doctors, lawyers, and social workers — those who work with the public and hold their trust — also applies to clergymen. They are held to a higher standard because of the vulnerability of those serve.

Several years ago, Jack Schaap, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana was accused of sexual misconduct with a teen girl he was counseling. (Please see What One IFB Apologist Thinks of People Who Claim They Were Abused.) When the accusations were made public, Schaap supporters defended his honor with comments on social media, blogs, and news sites. Even after all the facts of the abuse were made known, Schaap’s defenders insisted that victim was to blame. Schaap is now serving a twelve year prison sentence for his crime.

Stories such as Schaap’s and Farren’s are quite common. While I have been accused of scouring the internet for “dirt” on clergymen, the truth is I don’t need to do so. Using Google Alerts, I receive multiple times a day news reports about church leaders being accused/arrested/charged/convicted of sexual crimes, spousal abuse, child abuse, theft, robbery, and even murder. These reports are everyday occurrences. And here’s thing: in the two years I have been posting these reports on this blog and social media, only one accuser was found to be lying.  Credulous Christians think that the way things work is that a girl walks into a police station, accusing a pastor of sexually molesting her, and the police immediately arrest the offender. This is NOT how it works. In Farren’s case, this was the process used by law enforcement:

Sexual assault cases are investigated using the highest standard of care and consideration of all parties involved. Only when a majority of evidence is obtained is an arrest warrant approved by the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and issued by a Circuit Judge.

Knowing that merely being accused of sexual misconduct can ruin a pastor’s life, law enforcement makes sure they have a case before arresting the offender. In fact, I would suspect that clergymen abuse claims are treated with great deference, knowing that wrongly charging esteemed church leaders could embroil authorities in controversy. Accusations of sexual abuse are often hard to prove, and it likely that more clergymen get by with their crimes than are arrested and convicted.

There are several reasons why I think it is vitally important to publicize clergy sexual misconduct stories:

  • Rarely are clergymen arrested the first time they sexually molest or abuse a minor. Most often, there are more victims, so publicizing these reports makes other victims aware of their abuser’s arrest. If victims know their abusers have already been arrested, they are more likely to come forward and tell their stories to law enforcement.
  • Christian sects — particularly the Roman Catholic Church — are notorious for covering up sexual molestation and abuse claims. It is likely that the Catholic Church covered up thousands of abuse claims, protecting priests by sending them off to new parishes (new hunting grounds).
  • Evangelical churches are often independent. These churches have no denominational oversight. Sexual misconduct claims are often covered up or explained away. Offending pastors often leave one church and move on to a new church. This provides the offender with a new pool of potential victims.
  • There is no national database churches can check to see if a pastoral candidate has been accused of sexual misconduct or child abuse. Some clergymen are sexual predators, moving from church to church, leaving broken lives in their wakes.
  • One-time background checks are no guarantee that clergymen are moral and ethical. If they haven’t been arrested/charged/convicted of a crime, their background checks would come back clean. Some pastors are psychopaths who are skilled in avoiding detection. The late Bob Gray, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida evaded detection for fifty years. (Please see Stop Baptist Predator articles)  Bill Wininger avoided prosecution for twenty years.(Please see UPDATED: IFB Pastor Bill Wininger Outed as Sexual Predator) David Hyles molested his way through several churches, never facing arrest or conviction for his crimes (Please see UPDATED: Serial Adulterer David Hyles Has Been Restored)
  • Americans wrongly assume that churches are safe for their children to attend. They are not. Most congregants are decent, kind, trusting people. It is this naïve trust that makes their churches easy marks for sexual predators. Far too many churches take the testimonies of new pastors at face value. Oh, they love Jesus, trusting, congregants say. Why, their families are wonderful! Such fine Christian people!
  • Americans wrongly assume that churches exist for the teaching of morals. Publicizing sexual molestation and abuse reports serves as a reminder that churches are not bastions of moral purity.

As long as men of God keep “preying” on people, I intend to keep posting public news stories detailing their crimes. Instead of whining about my motives for posting these stories, I suggest Christians should spend their time making sure children, teenagers, and vulnerable adults are not abused, molested, and taken advantage of by church leaders. (Please see How Should Churches Handle Allegations of Abuse? and Is Clergy Sexual Infidelity Rare?)

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21 Comments

  1. Brian

    To the IFB Facebook guy who does not want the truth to be told: The truth will be told. You do not like hearing it but it is said out loud and will continue to be said as time goes on. Long live free information that reveals what modern American Christianity is up to….. Ifb facebook critic, search your own history… there is very likely a good reason you want to protect abusers. Want to admit it here? Want to face your personal truth? Or continue to deny it and give it to the magic mushroom in the sky….

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Quote for the day, — OR —Why we publicize abuse | Civil Commotion

  3. Daniel Wilcox

    Bruce, Thank you for writing your lucid articles against misconduct by ministers.

    Reply
  4. Connie

    Doesn’t the word smear mean lies applied to a person who has done no wrong? I’m certain the words the emailer uses don’t mean what he thinks they mean.

    Bruce – like lucifer you are a light bringer (crossover from another post). You bring facts to light. You shine the light of day into the corners of Christian corruption. Unlike the Prince of lies, you eschew “truth” – which is subjective – for facts which exist independent of anyone’s belief.

    Thanks for being a light bearer. 🙂

    PS – Sending gentle hugs and love to you and yours

    Reply
  5. Connie

    Sort of off topic – Mayor Anthony Silva, of Stockton, California was arrested for allegedly playing strip poker with young men at a camp he sponsors. I found the story on Friendly Athiest.

    If you remember Mayor Anthony Silva’s name it’s because he gave a key to the city to God. What is it with these Domionists who believe they are above the law? People in positions of trust should be, well, trustworthy.

    As for the alleged charges mentioned above they won’t stay that way as events were recorded on a cell phone.

    We need to vote the bums (and Dominionists) out.

    Reply
  6. Ted

    I have no issue with this. I myself often post on facebook incidents of violent and deadly attacks, even done in the name of a religion that claims to be “peaceful”. It has also cost me Facebook friends. Thay will call you hateful but truth must prevail.

    Reply
  7. Natasha

    It seems that many IFB churches are more concerned with maintaining their “testimony” than in holding predators accountable for their actions. “But!” they bleat, “Christians aren’t supposed to sue their brothers and sisters in Christ!” Or they tell the victims that they must forgive their abusers and not let themselves become bitter.

    In my own experiences with IFB’s, pastors harp on the idea that the fathers are the lords of the home and that “good Christian children” don’t speak up for themselves because that would be “rebellious.” David Hyles used to preach this, actually. “Why do you feel a need to defend yourself?” Another Hylesite, who was my youth pastor and later cheated on his submissive wife, used to constantly tell us in youth group, “If you were right with God, you wouldn’t care how others treated you. You’re supposed to be dead to sin.”

    One IFB pastor told me, “I’m your pastor. You SHOULD feel uncomfortable approaching me. . . . The only response I ever want to hear from you is, ‘Yes, Sir.'” My dealings with him were the last straw, even though he lamented, “But I never meant for you to leave the church. I just wanted you to have a servant’s heart and a teachable spirit.” (Note that he accused me of being a boring teacher when his sermons regularly put members to sleep. Physician, heal thyself.) He later went on to defend the Roloff homes against allegations of abuse, dismissing the allegations as coming from troublemakers with active imaginations.

    IFB’s instill a spirit of fear in the most vulnerable: women and children. They do this by using the Bible to justify their intimidation tactics. The same people who insist, “We’re under grace, not under the law,” also point to Deuteronomy to vilify women who wear pants. (Do these people also avoid wearing mixed fabrics or eating shellfish? Those are also commanded in the Old Testament. No one ever told me just who gets to determine which parts of the Old Testament are relevant for today. I was told I was rebellious when I said Christ himself said the law could be broken up into two simple principles: love God, love others.)

    One thing I came to hate about the God of the Bible is that it’s so easy for “good Christian men” to justify their abuses. You can find Old Testament justification for child abuse, misogyny, and slavery—yet no condemnation of spousal abuse or child molestation. That is wrong to me. (And I looked, because I wanted to show my Bible-thumping stepfather why it was wrong of him to fondle me and make inappropriate comments about my body when I was well into adulthood, and beg me to not tell my mother who was in the hospital. To this day, he won’t apologize, even after I told him I would never love him or trust him again because of it. He tried it again just a few weeks ago, and my brother had to involve himself to get him to stop.)

    So many “good Christian men” harp on “Wives, submit to your husbands,” and “Children, obey your parents,” that they completely ignore “Husbands, love your wives,” and “Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath.” David Hyles used to preach that “good Christian children” didn’t question their God-given authority. No wonder so many IFB abuse victims don’t even realize they’re being abused.

    Christ himself said that if an adult leads a child astray, it would be better for that person to be thrown into the water to drown. But here on this blog, you have all these Christians defending predator pastors and vilifying Bruce and others who expect predators to be held accountable, no matter who they are. If these defenders were truly trying to be like Christ, they would sympathize with the victim instead of the predator. After all, doesn’t their Bible say that Jesus won’t even break a bruised reed?

    Bruce, keep speaking the truth. Remember the saying, “the dog that’s hit the hardest barks the loudest.”

    Reply
    1. TW

      My heart hurts when I read accounts like yours. ? It’s just not right! I’m so sorry for the pain you’ve been caused at the hands of so-called “believers”. The more I continue to read these stories of abuse, and how the “bible” is used to justify such abuse and oppress the victims, the more outraged I become! I know that many forms of abuse (can we say “all”?) are difficult to overcome, it always remains with that individual. But I very much hope you will find some measure of peace.

      Reply
  8. anotherami

    As someone who was sexually abused as a child (not by anyone in the religious community), I will add my voice to the chorus of encouragement to keep publishing the facts and giving victims and survivors a platform for their voices. The damage done by these predators is impossible to measure, and the scars can last a lifetime. Silence enables them and fosters the shame the victims often feel, which is reinforced by the teachings of their church, no matter what their age. I came away from 2-3 years of involvement with this breed of religion with almost zero self-esteem and a sense of shame so deep it took years before I ever broke my own silence and still longer to shed the shame.

    Let them howl of forgiveness and redemption all they want. Forgiveness does not redeem the broken lives and relationships this abuse causes, including the victim’s relationship with the very God they claim to worship, serve and live for. If Jesus of Nazareth threw the money-changers out of the Temple in Jerusalem because they preyed on the faithful, how can they hide behind their damned prayers when their preacher is preying today? Even their own twisted creed condemns them.

    Reply
    1. Brian

      anotherami, you are an eloquent and a very necessary voice…. thank-you for including us in your journey…

      Reply
  9. Pingback: Why I Post Reports of Clergy Sexual Misconduct on Facebook – FairAndUNbalanced.com

  10. JR

    Keep it up Bruce. People like this jerk want to sweep the truth under the rug. He is an enabler to abuse.

    So many evangelicals, particularly televangelists, are debunked as con men or abusers but years later can still pull off the same trick. Why? Cos people don’t know the truth. Look up Peter Popoff- he is back on the circuit despite being exposed as a con man live on tv in the 80s. They need to be exposed again.

    True evangelicals should be denouncing these people loudly – on the internet -:not sweeping it under the rug.

    Reply
  11. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)
  12. Shy1

    As a Christian, I applaud what you are doing. It’s time to open the doors, let the sun shine in and clean house.

    Reply
  13. Jalyn

    I’m a Christian who strongly disagrees with pretty much everything the church today teaches. Unlike most of a congregation, I actually read my Bible myself with my own perspective, and as a Christian(actual definition of the word: follower of Christ Jesus)of course I focus more on the NT.
    Do these church goers not know that religious leaders hated Jesus for speaking the truth? Or do they only memorize verses they can twist to fit their own ideology?
    Church leaders sexually abused/ abuse so many children on a regular basis that international organizations have been created in an attempt to protect them. Religious leaders handed Jesus over to be killed; they were blind to the truth, and Jesus Himself spoke about their corruption.
    The disappointing truth is that all too many “churches” today are full of nothing but evil and hatred. The only people angered by truth are ones living a lie.

    I wholeheartedly believe that God is happier with a good hearted atheist, than a hateful Christian.

    Reply
  14. J. Fetters

    I am a Christian and I find your writings about the abuse taking place spot on. You have grit. Thank you for keeping the conversation going. Please keep posting these news reports.

    Reply
  15. John Hubbard

    Plead guilty to 9 counts (of 20+ mentioned). Farren’s guilty plea only got him 15 years. http://txktoday.com/arkansas-news/pastor-sentenced-15-years-sexual-abuse-teen-girls/

    Reply
      1. John Hubbard

        Thanks. Sorry I missed those comments and wanted to keep you updated.

        Farren received greatly preferential sentencing. Two similar cases this month:

        http://txktoday.com/news/man-gets-45-years-for-sexual-indecency/

        http://txktoday.com/crime/miller-county-jury-gives-man-30-years-rape/

        Reply
        1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

          Yes, he did. I was surprised by the sentence. I reported on a similar case where the offender’s church asked that he be given probation! The judge ignore their request. I posted six similar stories yesterday. I felt dirty after after wading through their crimes and the great harm they did to the vulnerable people who trusted them.

          Reply

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