Black Collar Crime: IFB Church Reportedly Asks Sexual Assault Victim to Apologize To Perpetrator’s Wife

youth pastor brian mitchell

Brian Mitchell, Columbia Road Baptist Church, North Olmsted, Ohio Youth Pastor

Columbia Road Baptist Church   is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation of three hundred located in North Olmsted, Ohio. Pastored for 32 years by Alan Jenkins, Columbia Road is a typical IFB church: King James-only, staff members with advanced degrees from unaccredited colleges or diploma mills, and a website that hides their extremist views.

Columbia Road recently found itself the center of attention after its youth pastor — Brian Mitchell — was accused and convicted of four counts of sexual battery. Mitchell was sentenced to ten years in prison for his crimes. A 16-year-old female member of Columbia Road sought spiritual advice from Mitchell, only to find herself a target of his sexual advances. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports:

The girl [said] in a letter to the judge that she looked up to Mitchell, and that she sought him out to learn how to live a more spiritual life through religion.

Mitchell began sending her text messages that became more and more frequent. Someone brought it to the attention of church leaders and the texting stopped for a time.

He started up again, and the girl said the tone of the messages quickly turned from innocent and fun to serious. She said he complained about his wife and their marital problems.

She wrote that she wanted the texts to stop but felt scared to say anything because he was a powerful figure in the church and in her life.

One day, he drove to her home and told her to come out to his car. He kissed her and told her he wanted to see her again.

The next time he drove out to her home, he had sex with her in his car. Another time he had sex with her at her home while his wife was out of town, Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Kristen Karkutt said.

“I did not give him permission,” the girl wrote. “I clearly said ‘no, didn’t want to.’ I felt like he tricked me.”

Mitchell directed her to delete text message exchanges between the two and told her never to tell anyone. He picked her up during her lunch break from school. He sent her flowers for her birthday, then asked her mother at church if she knew who sent them.

Normally an outgoing teen who played sports and worked two jobs while going to school, she found herself unable to get out of bed. She struggled in school.

….

The girl wrote that she still has nightmares and displays what Corrigan called textbook symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

“This is a perfect example of the psychological damage caused by these types of crimes,” [Cuyahoga County Judge Peter] Corrigan said.

Friedman said Mitchell acknowledges that he betrayed the girl, her family, his own family and the church.

“The whirlwind two or three months of Snapchats and texts and the secrecy involved created an adrenaline- and lust-filled situation where he felt like there could be a future,” [defense attorney Ian] Friedman said.

According to the Plain Dealer, once Columbia Road Baptist leaders were made aware of the matter, they reported it to the police. What I want to know if this:

  • When did the church find out?
  • How much time expired between finding out and reporting it?
  • Did the church investigate the matter first, before reporting it to law enforcement?
  • Did the church consult a lawyer or their insurance company before reporting it to law enforcement?

The reason for asking these questions is that IFB churches routinely try to handle allegations of sexual conduct in-house, hoping to minimize damage to their “testimonies” (reputations).

According to the victim’s mother, Columbia Road church leaders asked the victim to apologize to the sexual predator youth pastor’s wife. In fact, according to the mother, they were told they could not come back to church until they did so. For those of us who investigate, report, and/or follow the foibles of the IFB church movement, blaming victims of sexual assault is far too common. In this case, I suspect the church believes — as many members did when Jack Schaap, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana was accused of sexual assault — that a 16-year-old  church girl enticed or came on to the their fine, upstanding, married, father-of-three youth pastor. Surely, Pastor Mitchell would never, ever have had sex with this girl had she not batted her eyes, showed a bit of cleavage, and led him on.

This is nothing more than what is commonly called slut-shaming. IFB churches promote the false notion that women are responsible for weak, pathetic male church members — including pastors, youth directors, deacons, bus workers and Sunday school teachers — “falling” into sin. This line of thinking is reinforced every time women are reminded that if they don’t dress or behave a certain way, their brothers in Christ will find themselves unable to resist throwing them on the church pew and savaging them while the congregation sings What a Friend We Have in Jesus.

In typical fashion the victim was blamed, and youth pastor Mitchell received dozens of letters which were given to the judge, telling him what an awesome, loving, God-fearing man he is. While I can understand Mitchell’s mother might write a letter on his behalf, it is beyond belief that church members would make any attempt to support a man who sexually assaulted a minor who had been placed in his trust. Ohio law is clear. Mitchell had a professional relationship with the victim. He was obligated to act morally and ethically, meaning that in no circumstance could he have an intimate relationship with the victim. Simply put, she was off-limits, as were every male and female with whom Mitchell had a professional relationship . This is the law. Every pastor, doctor, dentist, social worker, and psychologist knows this — Mitchell included.

According to Columbia Road’s now-disabled Facebook page:

columbia road baptist church facebook

Columbia Road Baptist Church, North Olmsted, Ohio cached Facebook page

According to Columbia Road’s senior pastor elect (2018) Bill Giallouraskis:

I was not privy to any information where church leaders asked that of the mother. There was to my understanding, a time when the wife of Brian and the mother talked together and the wife suggested that it would do a lot to heal the relationship with the young lady ’cause of course she was involved with the youth as a mentor as well, being Brian’s wife. That it would do a lot to help, that if they could make amends with each other. Perhaps the mother misunderstood that to be more than it was.

When asked if Mitchell’s wife felt betrayed by the victim, Giallouraskis said,  “I can tell you we were all very surprised. We were all very grieved, we all felt very betrayed.”

Giallouraskis also said:

We have a pretty rigorous process that we put all of our workers through especially any of our workers who are going to work with children or youth. We run background checks, we also have an interview process that we go through that asks some pretty poignant questions about whether there are issues going on in the lives of the people” like sexual immorality or pornography.

I guess the difficulty with Brian was that there have been no prior incident that would have ever come up on a background report. He has a very good recommendation from the previous church that he worked at…He married into a family that has been in our church for four generations. There was just no red flag that came up in our process.

Surely Giallouraskis is aware that criminal background checks only show if someone has been convicted of a crime. Just because Mitchell was well thought of and came from a “good” family doesn’t mean he has not, in the past, preyed on, vulnerable teen girls. As his criminal conviction shows, he has at least preyed on one church teenager. Was he a predator virgin? Time will tell.  Virtually every day there are news reports about Evangelical pastors being accused/charged/convicted of sex crimes. I could spend the next hour detailing stories about IFB preachers who were convicted of sex crimes or were caught committing adultery. Giallouraskis ignorantly thinks that by asking prospective employees and volunteers if they are committing fornication/adultery or watching porn that they have done their due diligence. In what setting would a prospective pastor/volunteer ever say, Yo, I like having sex with teenagers and I love watching porn. Never!

For those of us who have spent much of our lives wading in the cesspool called the IFB church movement, the youth pastor’s sexual assault of a church girl and the mother’s claim that the church asked for an apology sound all too familiar. Circling the wagons, protecting the clergy, and blaming the victims have, sadly, become standard operating procedure. In classic IFB-fashion, Columbia Road Baptist Church, instead of making a full disclosure, disabled their social media accounts and posted the following on their website:

columbia road baptist church

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6 Comments

  1. Steve

    Classic IFB

    Reply
  2. kittybrat

    Of course they told the victim to apologize. You know very well they blame her for inciting the youth pastor. Glad they got rid of him, but you know they merely believe he succumbed to the victims tempting charms.
    TOXIC environment.
    Meanwhile, this young woman has to somehow wade through her trauma of being betrayed, tricked, and preyed upon by those very people who were supposed to uplift and guide her. She was harmed where she was taught to be safe. How can she trust again? Add to that the scorn from the church, delving through guilt that is not hers to bear, yet being told she IS guilty… Gads!
    My heart aches for her.

    Reply
    1. Brian

      Kittybrat, I hope she comes to read your words. It is in being heard that we are set free to be who we are… IFB religion crushes the self and shames any sense of decent freedom of the individual but your words acknowledge and encourage! This is how I confirm that I belong among those who choose to be outside the church: They care for people first, not patriarchal verses of judgement, of shame and blame condemnation. Christianity is a toxic world.

      Reply
      1. Kittybrat

        I hope someone helps her to understand all this. AND I really hope her counselor is secular.
        Also, Brian, you hit the nail on the head. Those who choose to be outside the church are much more compassionate. Perhaps this is one reason why none of us could abide there. We have actual morals.

        Reply
  3. Mike Wiggins

    This may sound cynical coming from a Christian, but having been to dozens of churches over 35 years and served in virtually every capacity within a church, including teaching Sunday School, giving sermons, taking part in more evangelism efforts than I can count, serving as paid ministry staff, twice been an elder, etc., I have sincerely come to believe that an inordinate number of those in church leadership are not just naive dupes, but instead full-blooded sadists who take secret and perverse pleasure in abusing people–including things such as making a rape victim apologize. I think some of these people get a sexual thrill out of it and know exactly what they are doing.

    I have a different story from you, believe I’ve seen true faith and the true kindness of Jesus, but had to leave the organized church to preserve my sanity and relationship with Him. Am tired of sadists, NPDs and sociopaths who’ve taken the helm of too many churches. I’m out.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      While I think the percentage of ministerial bad actors is small, the number of people they can cause harm to is quite large. Predator preachers can harm generations of congregants.

      Most pastors are products of their environment, teaching what they have been exposed to and that which was taught to them as children, teens, and college students. Pastors must be held accountable for their teaching and behavior, but we must also recognize that these spokesmen for Jesus are often products of lifelong indoctrination. In some instances, they were raised in cultic environments. People raised this way, don’t know any better. I speak from experience. I sincerely believed I was doing right by the people who called me pastor. I now know that some of my beliefs, teachings, and practices caused harm to congregants and my family.

      Reply

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