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“God is With You,” says Sioux Center Christian School Principal Josh Bowar to Students Molested by Curtis Van Dam

god the child molester

Note: As you will soon see, I was very angry when I wrote this post — the eighth post today dealing with sexual/financial misconduct by clergy and church leaders. Day after day, these kind of stories show up in my email in-box. I often feel dirty, disgusted, and depressed after reading them. Is there no end to the predatory behavior of Christian clergy? That’s a rhetorical question. The answer, of course, is no. What makes these stories worse is the fact they are often covered up, explained away, or coated with Grade A religious bullshit. I started the Black Collar Crime series in March. Since then, I have posted almost 250 stories. These reports are but the tip of the iceberg. Most sexual abuse goes unreported. As we are learning with Hollywood’s sexual harassment/abuse/rape scandal, men (and it is almost always men) with power and authority over children and women can and will use that power to satisfy their perverse desires. What makes Evangelical and Catholic scandals worse is the fact that pastors, priests, and other church leaders are naively viewed as pillars of morality and virtue. People, especially children, implicitly trust clerics and church leaders, and these degenerates take that trust and use it harm their charges. 

Curtis Van Dam, a fifth-grade teacher at Sioux Center Christian School in Sioux Center, Iowa, was arrested and charged with sexually molesting numerous students. The Globe Gazette reports:

An elementary teacher at Sioux Center Christian School arrested last month for committing a lascivious act with a student at the school has been charged with an additional 84 counts of sexual abuse involving “numerous” children, police said Wednesday.

Curtis Van Dam, 35, of Sioux Center, was arrested Oct. 23 after a complaint was lodged against him five days earlier for inappropriate conduct with a student.

The latest charges are tied to incidents that occurred over a four-year period, between August 2013 and last month. Van Dam now faces 101 felonies and 39 misdemeanors.

The felonies include 72 counts of second-degree abuse, 12 counts of third-degree sexual abuse, 14 counts of sexual exploitation by a teacher, and three counts of lascivious acts with a child.

The alleged acts took place at various locations, including the private school, the release said.Police Chief Paul Adkins said the investigation is continuing, and additional charges are possible. Adkins declined to identify the number of alleged victims or their ages.

Van Dam, a fifth-grade teacher at the school, was fired following his arrest last month.

Police searched Van Dam’s residence on Oct. 21, two days before his arrest. He is booked into the Sioux County Jail.

Van Dam started teaching at the school after he graduated from Dordt College in 2004.

Sioux Center Christian School was founded in 1905. According to the school’s website, the school has 509 students in grades K-8 for the 2017-18 school year.
In a statement, the school said it removed Van Dam from the school immediately after hearing the initial complaint and terminated him on Oct. 19. The case, the school said, is now “in the hands of our criminal justice system and we trust that justice will be served.


Evidently, no one, not even God, knew that Van Dam was preying on school children for FOUR FUCKING YEARS. Josh  Bowar, the principal at Sioux Center Christian had this to say to the children abused by Van Dam:

Kids, we want you to know that we consider you brave for telling your parents, the police, and the interviewers what happened to you.  We praise God that your testimony has brought to light a dark secret that none of us adults knew was there. Please know that thousands are lifting you before the throne of your Father in heaven…. Trust Him to restore you completely.

Sioux Center Christian is a Reformed institution. These institutions’ philosophy is such that they believe that Van Dam’s heinous behavior was decreed (or permitted) by the sovereign, all-knowing God of John Calvin (and yes, I know all the arguments Calvinists use to escape the logical conclusion of their deterministic theology). A statement put out by Bowar states:

We have been told from the beginning that additional charges for a former teacher at Sioux Center Christian would be coming. Today, Mr. Curt Van Dam, was charged with 101 felonies and 39 misdemeanors. We have been informed that he was arrested this afternoon. On Oct 18, within hours of hearing a complaint, school officials removed Mr. Van Dam from the school and immediately contacted authorities. His employment was terminated on Oct 19 and we have been in full cooperation with civil authorities since. This case is in the hands of our criminal justice system and we trust that justice will be served.

Though the number of charges do not necessarily reflect the number of students, we are grieved again as we hear the extent of the charges. We’ve wept, now it’s time to weep again. We’ve prayed, now we need to continue praying. We’ve brought our anger and fears to the Lord, and now we need to lay those feelings again at His feet. We need to remember that though the charges are many, it also means that many students are no longer carrying secrets. Kids, we want you to know that we consider you brave for telling your parents, the police, and the interviewers what happened to you. We praise God that your testimony has brought to light a dark secret that none of us adults knew was there. You have played an important role in keeping others safe. Please know that thousands are lifting you before the throne of your Father in heaven… trust Him to restore you completely.

Our focus at Sioux Center Christian continues to be the Christ-centered education of our students, while also providing daily support and guidance to students as needed through their teachers and professional counselors. Tonight, there is a parent group session with All Things New Therapy Services. It is at 6:30pm in our gym for parents. Next Wednesday, Nov. 15, we will have a parent/5th – 8th grade student opportunity with Pastor Aaron & Nicole Baart at 6:30pm in our gym.
We are planning additional specialized support for our students in the months ahead and for as long as it takes. If this news especially hurts because you have suffered or are suffering abuse, we encourage you to bring it out of the realm of secrecy, so that it loses its powerful grip on you. We encourage you to talk to a professional Christian counselor.

We know hearing these new charges is incredibly painful and heartbreaking, but we need to be reminded again that we are walking this road of pain, so that another child need not. In the midst of this hurt, we proclaim hope. Hope in our sovereign God, who is so very trustworthy and true in His promises of life and healing. He gave His only Son, who lived as one of us, died on the cross, rose again, and reigns on high, so that we could enjoy eternal life in Christ’s unfolding Kingdom. As a community of people bound together by our love and care for kids, let us persevere through the trials that lay before us. This will be an enduring process but we rest in our Living Hope, Jesus Christ. Let’s continue to pray and encourage one another. We have been overwhelmed by the love and support shown by our entire community and beyond …you have done more for us than words can define. Be assured that God is good and He is at work mightily in this school. Thank you for your continued prayers and support.

Below was not part of our public statement, but we want to share this with those who read the statement. We have all experienced comfort and assurance through Scripture and in songs of faith during this trying time. Here is one Bible verse that has been especially encouraging to us:

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:6-9

This is, of course, a horrible story. I find it hard to believe that NO ONE had any suspicions about Van Dam’s predatory behavior. Not one person questioned Van Dam’s behavior? Not one child complained? Not one parent wondered if Van Dam’s was up to no good?

Bowar offered the abused children thoughts, prayers, and Christian counseling. The thoughts and prayers are worthless, little more than empty religious platitudes meant to make adults feel better about allowing a sexual predator to run wild at Sioux Christian. And the Christian counseling? This allows the school to keep the matter in-house. Students will be counseled according to Biblical principles, with, I suspect, a healthy dose of Calvinistic thinking. Will these counselors tell the children the truth; that their abuse at the hands of their teacher was all part of God’s plan for their lives; that God was “with” them through every disgusting, vile act perpetrated by Van Dam.

I wonder if anyone will dare to ask the question,WHERE WAS GOD when Van Dam was violating these children? And while you are at it, explain to these precious children why an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing God stood by and watched — doing nothing — while their innocence was ripped away. Shouldn’t God be held accountable for his indifference?

Of course, God didn’t intervene because he couldn’t — he doesn’t exist. Religion might provide a temporary salve to soothe these wounded children, but there is coming a day, perhaps years from now when they are adults, that those abused by Van Dam will have to wrestle with the things done to them by their Christian school teacher. Perhaps then, far away from the empty words of Josh Bowar, they will find healing. I hope they will seek out competent counselors who put them, and not God, first.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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  1. Avatar

    I just hate to hear the vampire code scriturally intoned words of Christians used to deal with the abuse that is allowed to prosper over generations in their midst. What good is a faith that covers ‘sin’, that offers forgiveness to perpetrators who never have to face their own inner damage except in the grand admission that they have, like all, fallen short of the glory of God. Evangelical Christianity is a fucking soother for a sick, stunted man whose sensual life was harmed at a young age and who then buried the pain. When he was saved, he was offered his sweet blanket eternal life denial to further bury his injury. Then he gets himself training to work with kids a certain age and begins his quest to continue in denial. Some hundred(s) of victim later, it takes a child to stop the abuse by risking harm and speaking up against the adults who fill them with delusions of a sweet, perfect God, a loving Jesus. How long will we continue to read about evangelical believers who need to hide the harm they do? Why doesn’t the magic power of salvation free adults to care for their children and allow them to speak freely and not have to hide the harm done to them? Evangelical Christianity tells children they are evil and need to be saved. Then it harms them further and further until they get the real message. The sick patriarchy lives strong. The Bible is literally true, word for word! We believe! Give us your innocent ones, your weak and diseased and we’ll show you what to do with them. Please stand while we sing, How Great Thou Art.
    Hey Christian! Why is your club not able to rise even one bit higher in achievement in these matters and why do you claim that Christianity heals when the evidence of action proves it false, time after time. Oh wait, I forget theTrump…. I forgot. It’s that Devil, that Beelzebub whose dark magic is beyond us…. sheesh.

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    I’ve long felt that telling a suffering person that “god” was with them was just mean. What the hell is that going to mean to a child, even an indoctrinated child? It never did anything for me but tick me off.

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    How they can justify that the seal abuse of a child is part of “God’s perfect plan” is beyond my comprehension. What good god would sit by and watch an adult abuse a child? And what followers would try to make it all better by saying, “God loves you, he has a plan for your suffering, come to church and our counseling and we will show you God’s love”. Bull effing crap. It sounds like this disgusting excuse for a teacher abused literally dozens of students. One is too many, but dozens?????

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      “He has a plan for your suffering” is so cruel. I got this a lot as a teenager when I had a serious breakdown. The same people who said it knew my parents, the very people who were being abusive (not sexually but abuse is abuse) and making my life intolerable. Did they make any connection? No. Partly because my parents knew how to be charming and so to manipulate people but also because a hell of a lot of religious people in particular have a kind of wilful blindness to any abuse committed by others of their ilk: they tell themselves it doesn’t happen, that it CAN’T happen. I don’t believe that no adult at the Sioux Center knew or suspected what was happening during those 4 years; what almost certainly happened was that some people did know, or at least suspect, and then they argued themselves (and maybe each other) out of it. “But this man’s a CHRISTIAN”, etc.

      “Christian counseling” is an oxymoron. There is non-directional counseling, i.e. proper counseling, where the counselor creates an environment in which a client can move towards their own solutions in a way that feels right for THEM. Any “counselor” who seeks to frame those experiences in a particular way, and to achieve a specific outcome, is someone to be avoided.

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        My abuser told me that his abuse of me was part of God’s plan for my life. I probably would have become atheist even if he hadn’t said that, but it sure did help me find my way to atheism.

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    God is with you? Really? So this All-powerful-Father who stands by watching innocent children being raped, abused, starved, etc., who, if they live, will have their lives forever scared, is loving them through their ordeal. Really? And this is comforting how? The only way through such a horrible ordeal is to procescute these criminals to the full extent of the law. They belong in prison. These victims need people to support them through the legal process. They need to be celebrated for exposing these scumbags. As long as the “clergy” keep covering up the crimes committed in their churches, Bruce will have to keep posting and exposing these horrible people. Why not tell these children/adults the truth, that they are brave, courageous, and strong to expose and prosecute these fiends, and that by doing so, saved the lives of other victims.
    God held their hand and blessed them through it? Don’t insult these children’s intelligence.

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    I just found this posting and I really feel I need to reply.

    Just a few things first:
    1. I respect every American’s right to the religion of their choice, which also includes the absence of religion
    2. In no way is anything I’m about to say a defense of Curt’s actions
    3. I’m not denying that there is sin in churches. Christians are “just as bad” and “just as good” as everyone else. We’re not different. It’s not that only good people believe in God. If I took 500 random people and gave them “ratings” with 10 being “really good person” and 1 being “really bad person,” and then did the same thing with 500 people from a church, I’d likely come up with the same number of 10’s and 9’s and 2’s and 1’s and everything in between.

    About myself:
    1. I am a lifelong member of the Christian Reformed Church
    2. I went to a school exactly like Sioux Center Christian
    3. I lived in Sioux Center
    4. I’m also one of the 53 people who spent four years of high school with Curt Van Dam

    You’re covering a huge number of topics here. Let me see if I can pull them apart a bit.

    1. Predestination — this is a very misunderstood concept. I don’t claim to be a theologian. It’s a very difficult idea because we think of everything in linear time. Loosely, it states that God knows who will be saved and who will not and if you are going to be saved, then nothing can change that. Instantly that brings out the claim that, “Oh then I can do whatever I want because I’m saved and nothing can change that.” That’s completely untrue. The concept of choice is paramount in Christianity. Adam and Eve were responsible for their actions and held to account. The best way I can explain this, is that the sum of one’s actions still need to equal the requirements for salvation and that God does know which people will make those choices and meet those requirements.

    2. Where was God? Wow, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked this question! As a personal hobby, I study the World Wars. I wish I could forget 90% of what I know about the Holocaust. There’s one small story that always sticks with me and I won’t quote it here. I agree. How could God allow that? Really what it boils down to is why was the tree put in the garden in the first place? Why were people ever even given the choice between doing good or doing evil? I can’t answer that. Here’s what I can tell you. Evil is not a building block of salvation and evil is not a tool of God. I hate it when something bad happens and people try to explain it away that it will all work for the good in the end. Salvation doesn’t happen through evil, but rather in spite of evil. Please do not think that Christians believe that sexual abuse is ok because it will work towards salvation. That’s not the message.

    3. I absolutely believe that no one suspected anything over a number of years. The first reason is that Christians are very guilty of losing vigilance over each other. We tend to become complacent. “Oh he’s one of us so we don’t have to worry about him.” I’m not Catholic, but I believe that’s a huge reason for what’s happened in the Catholic church. A second reason is that a community like Sioux Center tends to be very innocent and naive to the evils of the world. That’s not entirely a bad thing. I mean my own children have been very sheltered to many of the world’s evils. I really do believe that those young men didn’t fully know what to do or how to recognize abuse. You’ll probably laugh at that sentence, but it’s true. The third reason is that I was completely blown away when this story broke. Curt was the NICEST guy ever. I remember him as being very gentle and just all around kind. I’ve known him for almost 25 years. I would never ever have guessed that he would even consider something like this.

    I’m a very practical Christian. There was a time where I was out of work and our financial position was very difficult. I remember my dad saying he was praying for a miracle. I said I didn’t need a miracle. I just needed a job! One of my favorite lessons on Christianity is in this following story:

    A man was drowning. He prayed for God to save him. A fisherman came by in a boat and offered his hand to the man. The man said, “Don’t need it; God’s going to save me.” A boat plane landed by him, but again he said he was good and God would save him. Finally the man drowned and then stood before God and asked God, “Why didn’t you save me?!” And God looks at him and says, “Really?”

    I’ve had a lot of funny conversations in church administration. I remember a man arguing with me that we should never lock the church doors because a church should always be open to everyone. He told me we didn’t need to worry about theft or vandalism because God would take care of his house. I said no….. God puts us in charge of taking care of his house and he gives us brains to come up with the idea that we need to lock the doors!

    Being a Christian does not mean that you pull on to this smooth highway and you can set the cruise and just coast. Being a Christian is choosing the hardest road and being a teacher, a pastor, or anyone else in positions of authority or guidance have the hardest roads of all. They need to be absolutely vigilant of themselves and need to be held to the highest standards.

    What happened at Sioux Center Christian was a terrible thing. I have a lot of issues about how it was handled, but that’s not for discussion here. I know you don’t believe as I do, and that is your right and your choice. I wish I had all the answers to your questions but I don’t. All I can say is that there is evil and there is good. Evil does not bring about good, and also good does not cause evil.

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    Hi Bruce; I was a parent with four kids who were required to go to Van Dam’s school and an associated Christian high school as a condition of my wife’s employment at the local reformed college/now “university.” They are all affiliated in a kind of feeder system and loosely (but significantly) affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church in North America. This is not at all my background, and the many problems of these kinds of semi-theocratic fundamentalist enclave cultures are both evident to and denied by the people who have to live in them, especially those who were born in them. I married in; it was a kind of progressive discovery for me of just how crazy things could get. I grew up for a time in or rather close to similarly but less totalistic and influential groups that my parents fortunately moved away from. In retrospect, the things I have read and experienced about abuse in many different religious communities suggest I and my family have been lucky.

    My suggestion to you is that the main lesson here is not to score a point for atheism but to look at how certain communities engage in denial, repression, and willful ignorance about the whole spectrum of human sexuality, and then they put married men of the church in a mental “safe” category while giving them considerable power and lack of scrutiny. Sioux County is an odd place where the mass majority are regular church attending single-issue, straight ticket Republican voters with an ethnic and religious heritage rooted in antimodernist ideologies and increasingly radicalized since the 1960s (especially in the Obama years) to see themselves as a resistance against a godless, secular, communist government and mainstream society. In the time I lived there (and since) there have been many other forms of closeted sexuality that led to other crises, some criminal and some not, although this is a place that has a history of trying to make divorce criminal and litigated in the most extreme ways possible. People lose jobs, are shunned, and family feuds carry on for generations because they are gay or have an affair, and so on. It is s continuous cycle and nobody seems to learn from it. It is the insanity of repetition, and truly a type of hell.

    In Van Damme’s case, his behaviour was so extreme and troubling to students that years ahead of him being “caught,” parents were trying to have their kids kept out of his class. We were told stories by friends whose kids had Van Dam as a teacher that were certainly odd but only in retrospect added up to what they in fact were. It was enough for us to understand his classes were out of control, boys in them were acting out, and he had some very odd and inappropriate disciplinary procedures where he’d take kids into a “box” alone. It was enough for any proper school to make its own investigations and certainly take the complaints seriously, but that is not how this school and town work. They are the authorities and you are subordinate and subjected to their total authority.

    How this played out for my family — my wife and I requested one of our kids not to be placed in Van Dam’s class when that became a possibility. (There were two teachers for his grade.) When this request was denied, it was the final straw on many other problems we had with the school — militant creationist views, conspiracy theories, islamophobia, racism, and sexual bullying, including a rampant culture of sexting that went on into the high school. I took out younger kids out and home schooled them, as this was the only permissible alternative in my wife’s job contract. (This particular culture identifies public schools as the main tool of their main enemy.) We eventually left the town and the country because there were so many forms of craziness and persecution aimed at us and others who were more vulnerable.

    In a shame culture, no one can see or learn what is truly harmful because they will read comments like this as an “attack” on their precious identity and way of life, which must be absolutely resisted. It is a kind of narcissistic reaction; rage is often a part of it. It is also a form of Stockholm syndrome for some, where the abusers are family so we must accept them no matter what. Call that forgiveness, blame the devil, blame porn and the secular world,… it is not a culture capable of healing itself.

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Bruce Gerencser