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Why I Write The Black Collar Crime Series and Will Continue to Do So Despite Criticism from Evangelicals

black collar crime

The Black Collar Crime series is in its seventh year, having published over one thousand reports of clergy and church leader criminal misconduct. Most of the reports are about Evangelical pastors, evangelists, youth directors, and other church leaders who committed sex crimes. 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 what 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 readership numbers 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.

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 abuse reports 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 sixteen years I’ve been writing about clergy misconduct, I can count on one hand the number of pastors/priests/religious leaders who were falsely accused — less than five, 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 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 Abused and Evangelicals 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 problems 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 receive 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.

I primarily use Google Alerts for Black Collar Crime reports. I also rely on readers to alert me to new stories or updates of previous reports. I am one man with a limited amount of time each day to slog through the brackish Evangelical swamp, so I don’t see every report or know the outcome of every case I’ve featured in the Black Collar Crime Series. Keep in mind that I require EVIDENCE for me to update a story. Not gossip or personal opinion. Actual evidence such as reputable news stories (with links). Just because a reader or drive-by commenter says something doesn’t make it so. I appreciate your understanding.

I realize that nothing I say in this post will change the minds of preachers such as Dr. David Tee, whose real name is Derrick Thomas Thiessen. Thiessen has a sketchy background. He has been accused of abandoning his family, including an infant child, failing to pay child support, and fleeing to South Korea/Philippines to avoid being held accountable for his behavior.

Thiessen has been a vocal critic of me personally and of the Black Collar Crimes Series. Thiessen is known for defending clerics who commit sex crimes. Just this week he wrote two more posts defending Ravi Zacharias. He has also defended men such as Bill Cosby and Bill Gothard. Thiessen goes to great lengths to defend his support of offending preachers, but I find his defenses lacking in every way. Thiessen repeatedly rejects the substantial work done by law enforcement in investigating, prosecuting, and convicting pastors who commit sex crimes. Why? This is the judgment of the “world,” not God. Of course, God is unavailable for comment. All we have are our legal processes, albeit imperfect, they are the best we have to hold clergy and churches accountable.

Thiessen frequently blames victims for what happened to them. Thiessen is not alone in this approach to women (sometimes men) and children who have been sexually violated and taken advantage of by so-called men of God. Again, Thiessen claims that victims are following the ways of the “world” instead of God. Of course, God’s ways in Thiessen’s mind are his peculiar interpretation of the Protestant Christian Bible.

Today, Thiessen, in response to the post, Dr. David Tee Thinks Everyone Who is Not a Christian is an Atheist, renewed his objections to the Black Collar Crime Series. Here’s some of what he said:

He [Bruce Gerencser] is right in one thing, we do not like his black collar series but not for the reasons he thinks. We [Derrick Thiessen] do not like it for many reasons and two of them are, it is not being fair or just. That owner [Bruce Gerencser] ignores all the unbelievers and atheists who are caught, tried, and convicted for the same crimes.

….

[Speaking of being fair and just] Christians have to do both to be able to make an impact for Christ. But this is not the end of the hypocrisy and injustice carried out by the owners of the BG [The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser] and MM [Meerkat Musings] websites, as well as other unbelieving websites.

There have been other similar stories about drag shows in schools, and so on. Yet not one peep from either owner about how bad, immoral, or wrong these actions are. Instead, they would rather target Christians as that is the group of people, as well as Christ, that they hate.

This is another reason God told us to never follow in the counsel of the ungodly. They do not have fairness or just behavior in their thinking. Look at all the CRT, equity, BLM  re-education going on today. None of those and anything similar is of God nor are they just and fair.

….

Another reason we do not like the black collar series over at that website [The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser] is that it is unneeded. It does nothing constructive for society nor does it help redeem those men who failed in their Christian lives, if they were Christians at all.

All it does, as we said earlier, is influence others to hate Christ, pastors, and the church, and turning people to hate is wrong. It is not fair to those men highlighted and the series does not have people being just or fair towards them. In fact, it helps stoke the misguided guilty-until-proven-innocent mentality that many unbelievers endorse.

It is also redundant as the local papers will carry the same stories and his series is just wasting everyone’s time. When the Christian sees those stories they need to ask God how to reach those men so that Christ can redeem them.

….

{we would link to the article we talked about but it is so filled with lies and eisegetical comments that it is nothing but trash [which I can’t rebut] }

I have explained my motivations for writing the Black Collar Crime Series several times. He knows exactly why I do what I do, so I can only conclude that Thiessen is a liar and his goal is to impugn my character and impair my coverage of clergy sex crimes.

Let’s suppose I operated a site whose mission was to cover the Cincinnati Reds. Every day I published news stories about the Reds and individual players on the team. One day, a man named Deirere TeeDee sent me an email, complaining about me not writing any posts about the NHL, particularly me not covering the Detroit Red Wings. Duh, I replied, I write about the Reds, and Major League Baseball, not the National Hockey League and the Detroit Red Wings. Your complaint has no merit.

Yet, this is exactly what Thiessen has done with his complaint about me not covering atheists and other unbelievers who commit sex crimes. He knows that this site focuses on four things:

  • Helping people who have questions and doubts about Christianity
  • Helping people who have left Christianity
  • Telling the story about my journey from Evangelical Christian to atheist
  • Critiquing Evangelical Christianity

I have been blogging since 2007 — sixteen years. I have stayed true to these four focus points, rarely veering off the path to talk about politics, sports, food, and travel. Why Thiessen cannot understand why I write the Black Collar Crime Series is beyond me. I know that all sorts of people commit sex crimes, but my focus is on Evangelical preachers who commit such crimes. This is NOT a sex crime blog. If it was, I would cover unbelievers and believers alike. And even if I did, it would still be true that the vast majority of people who commit sex crimes are Christian or religious. Why? Because most Americans are Christians.

I have repeatedly explained to Thiessen why the Black Collar Crime Series is needed. I assume, at this point, he is being obtuse. Most of the stories I write require numerous news stories to tell the complete story. They also require research on my part to find out what sect the offender was a part of and their background and beliefs. Sometimes, these reports take a lot of time to put together. Other times, a Google search quickly gives me everything I need to write the story.

These reports are based on news reports, court records, social media, and other verifiable sources. I rarely interject my personal opinion. My goal is to provide a one-stop website for people looking for information about a particular preacher/church and their crimes. Blog traffic numbers suggest that this is exactly what is happening.

It is not uncommon for news sites to either delete stories about clergy sex crimes or put them behind paywalls. That’s why it is important for me to make these stories available to the public free of charge. The public has a right to know what is going on in Evangelical churches. Surely it is important to cover criminal behavior by clerics. Surely it is important to say to victims that I hear you and I will make your story known far and wide. The bigger question, then, is this: why do Derrick Thiessen and other Christians of his ilk want to muzzle me and keep these stories from being known?

One answer to the questions above is that the Thiessens of the world don’t care about the victims of clergy sex crimes. I suspect many of them believe that the victimized women (and men) and children and not victims at all. Thus, they view sexual predators as the real victims; that the “world” is out to get them. Thiessen admits as much when he says “When the Christian sees those stories [about rape, sexual assault, child molestation, along with theft, fraud, and murder] they need to ask God how to reach those men so that Christ can redeem them.” Remember, Thiessen has called sex crimes “mistakes.” He has yet to write one positive post about the victims of clergy sexual misconduct. All that Thiessen cares about are the poor preachers who rape, assault, misuse, and abuse vulnerable people. In his mind, these preachers just made “mistakes.” If they will just shoot a 1 John 1:9 ( If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness) to Heaven, Jesus will forgive them and cleanse them from all unrighteousness. With that, the offending preachers are forgiven and should get right back on the ministry horse. Thiessen seems oblivious to the fact that most pedophiles are incurable; that Jesus himself can’t fix them. He seems to be oblivious to the fact that preachers caught committing sex crimes, particularly child pornography, have likely been doing so for years. When a 60-something-year-old preacher is arrested for sexually assaulting a child, it is likely that he has committed this crime before. Most clergy sex crimes go unreported/unprosecuted (as is the case in the general population). What I cover with the Black Collar Crime Series is but a fraction of the crimes committed by Christian clergy. I read sites such as Ministry Watch, The Roys Report, Bishop Accountability, Baptist Accountability, and the Black Collar Crime listings published monthly for members by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. I am astounded by how many stories about clergy sex crimes I actually miss.

It’s clear to all who are willing to see that Evangelicalism has a clergy sex crime problem of epic proportions. These reports are not a few bad apples. The sex scandal roiling through the Southern Baptist Convention certainly proves that the proverbial barrel is littered with rotten, stinking apples.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

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6 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Matilda

    I appreciate your posts on Black Collar crime, though have to confess I often skim through them as the details are too traumatising to know in detail. One observation, Bruce, am I right that you don’t seem to get any comments from supporters of the accused like you once did? Folk who know them and say they couldn’t possibly believe that they’d ever do such a thing and you’re very wicked to give publicity to the (false, they say,) accusation.

  2. Avatar
    Ben Berwick

    Thiessen recently made use of that classic phrase, ‘let he who is without sin cast the first stone’. Well, based on what we know (and yes, I’ll admit, we don’t know everything), he should not be making any criticisms of anyone.

  3. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    It’s important for people to understand that religious leaders are NOT exempt from scrutiny. Indeed, their position of authority or leadership, coupled with people’s assumptions that if someone is a religious leader they are somehow “better” or more ethical than the rest of us, means that these folks get less scrutiny and have greater access to potential victims.

  4. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    As someone who was sexually abused by a Roman Catholic priest, I feel that the “Black Collar” series is one of the most valuable public services I’ve seen. Although his main focus is on Evangelical pastors who abuse their authority, he has also reported on other religious leaders who use their putative authority to abuse those who are more vulnerable.

    I may not comment on every “Black Collar” post, but I read all of them. Every time I read them, I feel as if I, and other victims, have been given a voice.

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Bruce Gerencser