Why I Write The Black Collar Crime Series

black collar crimeThe Black Collar Crime series is in its third year, having published almost six hundred reports of clergy and church leader criminal misconduct. Using Google Alerts, I receive an immediate notice any time a news story about clerical malfeasance is posted on the internet. It is important that these stories receive wide circulation. Victims need to know that there are people standing with them as they bring to light that which God’s servants have done in secret.

I realize that these reports are often dark and depressing, but the only way to dispel darkness is to turn on the lights. Clergy who prey on congregants — especially children — must be exposed, prosecuted, convicted, and sent to prison. By leveraging this blog’s traffic and publishing these reports, I am serving notice to law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges: we are paying attention, and if you fail to provide justice for victims, we will hold you accountable.

Sadly, many clerics have enormous power over people. How else do we explain that alleged repeat abusers of children and sexual predators such as Lester Roloff, Jack Patterson, and Mack Ford — to name a few — never spent a day in jail for their crimes? Mack Ford, in particular, spent decades physically and psychologically destroying teenagers, yet, thanks to his connections in the community, he was never prosecuted for his crimes.(Please see Sexual Abuse in the Name of God: New Bethany Home for GirlsTeen Group Homes: Dear IFB Pastor, It’s Time for You to Atone for Your SinWhat Should We Do When Religious Freedom Leads to Child Abuse?)

Sometimes, these seemingly untouchable predators are brought to justice, but not before the public puts pressure on law enforcement and prosecutors, forcing them to act. The sordid story of abuse at Restoration Youth Academy is case in point. Decades of reports about abuse were filed with local law enforcement, yet nothing was done. Yes, they finally acted and the perpetrators are now in prison, but what do we say to the hundreds of children and teenagers who were ritually abused before prosecutors got around to doing their job?

I am sure that this series will bring criticism from Evangelical zealots, reminding me that accused/charged clerics are innocent until proven guilty. While they are correct, all I am doing is sharing that which is widely reported in the news. In the eleven years I’ve been writing about clergy misconduct, I can count on three fingers the number of pastors/priests/religious leaders who were falsely accused. Three, out of hundreds and hundreds of cases. The reason for so few false accusations is that no person in his or her right mind would mendaciously accuse a pastor of sexual misconduct. The social and personal cost is simply too high for someone to falsely accuse a religious leader of criminal conduct.

People often believe that “men of God” would never, ever commit such crimes. One common thread in the crimes committed by Jack Schaap, Bill Wininger, Josh Duggar, David Farren, Naasón Joaquín García, and a cast of thousands, is that family and fellow Christians were absolutely CERTAIN that these men of God could/would never commit the crimes with which they were charged. Even when presented with overwhelming evidence, their supporters, with heads in the sand, refuse to believe that these servants of Jesus did the perverse things they are accused of. (Please see What One IFB Apologist Thinks of People Who Claim They Were AbusedEvangelicals Use ‘We Are All Sinners’ Argument to Justify Sexual Abuse)

Secondary reasons for this series have to do with exposing the lie that Evangelicalism is immune to scandal and criminal behavior. I remember when the Catholic sex scandal came to light. With great glee and satisfaction, Evangelical preachers railed against predator priests and the Catholic Church who covered up their crimes. Now, of course, we know — with the recent Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) and Southern Baptist sex scandals — that Evangelicalism is just as rotten, having its own problem with sexual abuse and subsequent cover-ups. Evangelicals love to take the high moral ground, giving the perception that their shit doesn’t stink. Well, now we know better. Not only does Evangelicalism have a sexual abuse problem, it also has a big problem with pastors who can’t keep their pants zipped up. (Please see Is Clergy Sexual Infidelity Rare?)

I am receiving an increasing number of threats from people defending their religious heroes. Threats of legal action are common, even though all I am doing is republishing stories publicly reported by news agencies. A pastor featured in one of my reports contacted me and said that reporters had it all wrong. As I do with everyone who asserts they are being falsely accused, I told this preacher that he could give his version of the facts, sign his name to it, and I would gladly add it to the post. Usually, this puts an end to any further protestations. Most often, the accused want to bully me into taking down my post. In this preacher’s case, he provided me his version of events and I gladly added it to my post. After adding the information, I decided to investigate this pastor further. I found more information about his past indiscretions and crimes. I dutifully added them to the post. I have not heard anything further from the good pastor.

I am not immune from making mistakes, so if you spot a factual error in one of the stories, please let me know and I will gladly correct it. If you come across a story that you would like me to add to this series, please use the contact form to email me. Please keep in mind that I need links to actual news reports in order to add them to this series.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

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18 Comments

  1. Michael Mock

    Seemed pretty obvious to me: far, far too often clergy of any form are perceived as being holy – closer to God, able to withstand temptation, wiser, better.

    And that simply isn’t true.

    As these stories show.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Yep, and it’s not that atheists, agnostics, and others don’t commit such crimes. They do. The difference, of course, is that pastors and church say that they are arbiters of morality. They claim that religion makes people more moral and ethical than the “ world.” We now know these claims are untrue. I also think it’s fair to point out that religious settings are often hunting grounds for predators. Most pastors are decent human beings, but more than a few of God’s men are molesters, abusers, and misusers. I hope by giving public exposure to these stories that victims and criminal alike know we are paying attention.

      Reply
  2. Bob Felton

    Way back in 2009, I launched a Web site named PietyInc.com, and it covered clergy crime exclusively. I used Google alerts as a sort of tip-sheet, and then got busy making phone calls; you probably won’t be surprised to learn that few people were willing to talk.

    After 8-months or so, I got tired of spending all day, every day, wading through sewage, and shut it down.

    A few of the things that I learned:

    1) Proportionally, there are more screwed-up men standing in the pulpits than sitting in the pews.

    2) The willingness of congregations to rally around even pastors who have confessed — the almost invariable reaction — points to an awful lot of damaged people sitting in the pews. If not overtly screwed-up and in need of psychological care, they are at least grievously debased and submissive.

    3) There are a lot more stories of abuse out there than we know about. After all, the victim (usually a child) has to complain; the complaint has to be believed and acted upon; the police have to investigate and believe; a district attorney has to believe there is sufficient evidence, and properly prosecute the complaint; a newspaper has to report it; Google has to find it. There are a lot of points between the abuse event and our e-mail boxes where coverage can be derailed. So however much we see — there is a lot more.

    Which is why I use ‘Holy Man’ as a sarcasm.

    Bob

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      I told my counselor that sometimes the sheer number of these stories depress me. I feel “ dirty” after working on them.

      Reply
  3. Matilda

    I applaud your exposures. It has always been completely clear to me that you report only what is in the public domain. Mind you, I have to skim some of the posts, they are appalling. I’m sorry you are bullied for it and understand it must affect you.
    In the UK, my fundy DD’s church has just started a Kids’ Club and several parents in that rough part of town said, ‘I won’t send my children, they’re all pedophiles in churches.’ The club is run with the doors wide open and there’s a space at the back for parents to stay, have coffee – and get evangelised too of course. But it seems the atmosphere is different here from in the USA. There are historic cases of child abuse by priests/pastors in the news as they come to court. But I feel our Criminal Records Bureau checks – for which there are no exceptions for churches or any other group – are stringent and allow many fewer abusers to slip through the net. And parents, like those at my DD’s church, are hyper aware.

    Reply
  4. Melody

    I’m glad you’re calling these people out on the things they (alledgedly) have done. Pastors and priests often (undeservedly) have a lot more credit than ordinary people have and some of them abuse that. It’s good to focus on the bad apples of the bunch.

    Reply
  5. Don Ridgeway

    This is a great series that demonstrates the depravity of man. People who love justice have a reason to applaud when justice is exacted on lawbreakers. Of course ministers are just men (even if you’re Catholic). This whole blog is a testament to false teachers, why wouldn’t it call out others for same? I wonder if these crimes rise to the level of capital punishment in the “mind” of the atheist. What standard would the atheist espouse that would hold some sway over the preferences of people to “love” children in this way (Isn’t “love” the overriding concern?)? Curious how upholding justice for innocent children is so laudable in this instance, but not in others (abortion). Of course school teachers and administrators or government officials who hold power and influence over the population could be the targets of the author’s wrath, but he’ll not train his laser like focus there (that would hurt his god). Taking pride in “upholding justice”, while advocating for other morally repugnant behaviors, is par for the course.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      I am not a supporter of the death penalty. I would like to see the barbaric practice outlawed.

      The focus of my writing is Christianity in general and Evangelicalism in particular. I abhor child abuse wherever it is found, but I leave it to others to write about non-clergy child abuse. No one person can be all things to all men. I focus on what I know — Evangelicalism.

      Fetuses are not children until they are born. 88% of abortions take place in the first trimester — a period when what is in the mother’s womb is best described as potential life.

      I have no god.

      And now Skippy I’ve answered your questions. Take a hike.

      Reply
    2. Bob Felton

      The claim that gods have something to do with morality was debunked by Plato 4-centuries before Jesus was even born, in the dialogue Euthyphro; read it and be prepared to answer its argument if you want to be taken seriously instead of considered a blowhard and a nuisance.

      Reply
    3. Dave

      Mr Ridgeway, there are many reasons I rejected my faith of many years. You are the living embodiment of one of those reasons.

      Reply
  6. Don Ridgeway

    Comment deleted.

    Reply
  7. Kris

    It seems to me that clergy should be grateful in a way that this is being exposed. The rats should be defrocked, run out and sent to prison if it is appropriate. That would discourage future rats from being members of the clergy and make the clergy a truly ethical body. Everyone would benefit to me it seems.

    Reply
  8. ObstacleChick

    I find the series most effective when you post 4 or 5 stories consecutively. It really points out the prevalence of Christian clergy/staff crime.

    Reply
  9. Troy

    I’ve never been a fan of this particular series, though I have to say this explanation makes me recognize the importance. I didn’t figure that you had many religious readers, but if you’re rankling some feathers, it no doubt is shedding some light on the problem.

    As ObstacleChick points out it does seem to indicate a high degree of prevalence of clergy crime. I’m a bit skeptical about anecdotal evidence being used to determine a trend though. It would be interesting to find out exactly what the odds are of having a predator at any random church and then break it down by denomination. Of course the general advice from the series, to treat fellow churchgoers as strangers with possible nefarious motives, is always a wise course of action.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      I don’t like the series either, but the good it does far outweighs any discomfort I have. Sometimes, I won’t post stories for a week or two, letting my mind clear a bit. Currently, I’m sitting on 200+ stories I have not yet posted. Sad, to be sure.

      Reply
  10. Brian Vanderlip

    Thank-you, Bruce, for he difficult work you do in documenting God’s soldiers of abuse. Ridgeway thinks you should do more and expose every diddler and dingo rapist in the world and that if you do not do as he advises, you reveal yourself to be somebody undeserving and worthy of chastisement. This is typical of real fundy believers. They get their kicks by harming others, by pointing at everyone outside the club and suggesting any ol’ thing to tar and feather for Jesus.
    The way I judge their ‘sincerity’ in shitting on outsiders is by searching for any glint, any tiny chink of light that could be human insight in their expression. If there is total darkness in their expression (eg. Skippy) I know they are real McCoy and have been given over. That, THAT is depravity in my view.

    Reply
  11. Wayne Beamer

    Hi Bruce: Have you thought about posting your Black Collar stories as a weekly “police blotter” instead of doing them individually? I like reading your personal stories a lot, but skip nearly all of the Black Collar posts. Do people read them a lot?

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Wayne,

      These stories drive a good bit of traffic to this site. Sometimes, a few hundred visitors, other times thousands. Lots of social media traffic too — especially Facebook. So, from a numbers standpoint, clergy sex crimes and misconduct are good for business. 🙂 The bigger issue is that I think it is important to provide a database of sorts of these stories. Many media sites make such stories unavailable after a certain amount of time or put the stories behind a paywall. I want to make sure predator preachers can’t hide, even after doing their time. Individual posts rank far better in Google than do compilations, so that’s another reason for doing things the way I do.

      I hope this explains everything to your satisfaction.

      Thanks!

      Bruce

      Reply

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