Tag Archive: Child Abuse

Does the IFB Church Movement Promote Ritual Child Abuse?

dennis the menance being spankedThe Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement is a collection of loosely affiliated independent churches.(See Let’s Go Camping: Understanding Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Camps.) There are thousands of such churches in the United States and many foreign countries. What exactly is an IFB church? you ask. While IFB churches and pastors have varied peripheral beliefs, foundationally IFB churches, colleges, evangelists, missionaries, and pastors believe:

I stands for Independent

The local, visible church is an independent body of believers who are not associated or affiliated with any denomination. The pastor answers only to God, and to a lesser degree the church. The church answers to no one but God. Most IFB churches oppose any form of government involvement or intrusion into its affairs (though, in recent years, thanks to their support of the culture war, some IFB preachers no longer believe in a strict separation of church and state). While some IFB churches have deacon boards or elders, almost all of them have a congregational form of government.

F stands for Fundamentalist (or Fundamental)

The independent church is fundamentalist in its doctrine and practice. IFB churches are social and theological fundamentalists. (See Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?) Fundamentalists adhere to an external code of social conduct. (See An Independent Baptist Hate List and The Official Independent Baptist Rule Book.) Often this code of conduct is called “church standards.” The Bible — or should I say the pastor’s interpretation of the Bible — is the rule by which church members are expected to live. IFB churches spend a significant amount of time preaching and teaching about how God and his spokesman, the pastor, expect people to live.

IFB churches are also theological fundamentalists. They adhere to a certain and specific theological standard, a standard by which all other Christians and denominations are judged. Every IFB pastor and church believes things such as:

  • The inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy of the Bible
  • The sinfulness, depravity of man
  • The deity of Christ
  • The virgin birth of Christ
  • The blood atonement of Christ for man’s sin
  • The resurrection of Christ from the dead
  • The second coming of Christ
  • Separation from the world
  • Salvation from sin is by and through Christ alone
  • Personal responsibility to share the gospel with sinners
  • Heaven and hell are literal places
  • Hierarchical authority (God, Jesus, church, pastor, husband, wife)
  • Autonomy and independence of the local church

I am sure other doctrines that could be added to this list, but the list above is a concise statement of ALL things an IFB church and pastor must believe to be considered an IFB church.

B stands for Baptist

IFB churches are Baptist churches adhering to the ecclesiology and theology mentioned above. Some IFB churches are Landmark Baptists or Baptist Briders. They believe the Baptist church is the true Christian church and all other churches are false churches. John the Baptist baptized Jesus, which made him a Baptist, and the first churches established by the Baptist apostles were Baptist churches. Churches like this go to great lengths to prove their Baptist lineage dates all the way back to John the Baptist, Jesus, and the Apostles. (See The Trail of Blood by J.M. Carroll)

Other IFB churches and pastors believe that Baptist ecclesiology and theology are what the Bible clearly teaches. They grudgingly admit that other denominations “might” be Christian too, but they are quick to say why be a part of a bastardized form of Christianity when you can have the real deal?

What binds IFB churches together is their literalistic interpretation of the Protestant Bible, a book they believe is inspired, infallible, and inerrant. Thus, when it comes to training and raising children, IFB Christians look not to the “world,” but to the Bible. They are fond of saying, God said it, I believe it, and that settles it for me! IFB pastors have a  commitment to literalism and inerrancy that forces them to defend anything and everything the Bible says. In their minds, the Bible is God speaking to man. While humans wrote the Bible, they did so under the direction and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It was human hands that wrote the words, but it was God who determined what those words would be. Thus, whatever the Bible says about marriage, children, and discipline is viewed as a direct order from God. There is one way and one way only to raise and train children, and that is God’s way. Want to see what happens when people ignore God’s instructions? Just look at the “world.” Look at how the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world raise their children, IFB preachers say. Want to keep your children on the straight and narrow? Want them to grow up fearing God and keeping his commandments? Practice and obey whatever the Bible says about training children!

So when I ask the question, Does the IFB Church Movement Promote Ritual Child Abuse? the short answer is yes. Their theological beliefs and interpretive practices demand parents ritually abuse their children. The Bible says:

  • He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes. (Proverbs 13:24)
  • Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell. (Proverbs 23:13,14)
  • Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. (Proverbs 22:15)
  • The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame. (Proverbs 29:15)
  • Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul. (Proverbs 29:17)
  • Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying. (Proverbs 19:18)
  • And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. (Hebrews 12:5-11)
  • My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth. (Proverbs 3:11,12)
  • A fool despiseth his father’s instruction: but he that regardeth reproof is prudent. (Proverbs 15:5)
  • A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool’s back. (Proverbs 26:3)
  • The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil: so do stripes the inward parts of the belly. (Proverbs 20:30)
  • If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear. (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)
  • Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. (Ephesians 6:1-3)
  • Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. (Colossians 3:20)

It is clear from these verses, and others, that God commands parents to beat their children if they are rebellious or disobedient. To say otherwise is to disagree with God.

spanking with belt

In the IFB church movement — which is complementarian and patriarchal — children are expected to obey their parents at all times. Why? So they “may live long on the earth” and be “well pleasing unto the Lord.” IFB parents genuinely love their children. This is why many parents either send their children to private Christian schools or homeschool them. They take their parental responsibilities seriously. Not only do they want their children to be saved, they also want them to grow up in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” — serving the Christian God all the days of their lives. IFB parents believe God made the following promise to them: Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6) The question, then, is what methods should be used by parents to ensure that their children will be Christians all the days of their lives? The aforementioned Bible verses tell them all they need to know about how to reach this goal.

IFB parents believe that their children are born sinners, little hellions who are at variance with God. According to the Bible, children, by nature, are rebellious. 1 Samuel 15:23a says, For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. The goal, then, is to drive rebellion and stubbornness from the hearts of their children. God says that the way to do this is with the rod of correction. Not time outs; not grounding; not taking their toys away; not any of the other unbiblical disciplinary methods used by the “world.” God commands parents to beat their children with a rod. No, I won’t use the word spank. When a parent picks up a dowel rod, belt, toilet fill tube, brush, paddle, switch, electric cord, or, as the Gerencser children “fondly” remember, John R. Rice’s book, Home: Courtship, Marriage and Children: A Bible Manual of 22 Chapters on the Christian Home, and hits his child with it, it’s a beating not a spanking. The goal of such physical violence is to drive rebellion and disobedience from the heart of the child.

Many IFB parents begin beating their children while they are still infants. Psalm 58:3 says, The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies. Infants are at odds with God from birth. They are liars. Just because they cry doesn’t mean they need tending to. If they are fed and dry, then their cries are viewed as the infant’s way of demanding his or her own way. This kind of thinking carries right on through the teenage years. Children want their own way, and parents have a God-given duty to beat their children into submission — just as God does with rebellious Christian adults. The goal is to break the child’s will. A willful child will not obey his parents or God, so it is crucial that parents thrash their children every time they rebel against the commands of God or disobey their parents.

These practices are, without a doubt, child abuse. Of course, IFB parents don’t see themselves as child abusers. How can it be abusive to follow the teachings of the Bible? they ask. Pastors will point not only to the Bible as justification for ritual child abuse, they will also point to history, saying that back in the days when America was great parents weren’t afraid to beat their children. These preachers point to the decline of Western Civilization and say that one of the reasons for the decline is a lack of rigorous, through discipline of children.

I am almost sixty-one years old. I came of age in the IFB church. My parents, thankfully, did not beat me, but I knew countless children who were methodically beaten by their parents virtually every time they disobeyed their parents or failed to measure up to a certain standard. One dear friend of mine — a pastor’s son — was mercilessly whipped by his father if his grades weren’t up to expectations. I witnessed one of these beatings (my friend was in eighth grade at the time). It was violently brutal, yet the punisher believed he was doing what was best for his son. My friend’s grades, by the way, never improved.

I am sure someone is going to ask if I beat my own children and if I considered this discipline to be child abuse. Yep, the violent beatings my three oldest sons received were, in every way, without exception, ritual child abuse. I have apologized to them numerous times for how I disciplined them. They know, of course, that I did so because I thought that’s what God and the Bible required of me. They also know that I beat them out of some warped sense of “love.” The good news is that my three younger children were spared the rod. I came to see, while they were still young, that beating them, regardless of the reason, was child abuse. Unfortunately, I must bear the burden of my actions, not only as a parent, but as a pastor. I taught countless church members that it was their solemn duty to use the rod of correction on the back sides of their rebellious children. All I can do, at this point, is honestly write about my past life, including how I ritually abused my three older boys.

Were you raised in an IFB family? How were you disciplined? What did your pastor and church teach about training children?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

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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Lori Alexander Says Beating Children is God’s Approved Way of Controlling Children

spanking with beltRecently, Christian Fundamentalist Lori Alexander took to her blog to promote beating children as God’s approved way of controlling children.  In particular, Alexander objects to Dr. Spock’s no-violence approach to effectively raising children into responsible adults. Alexander will have none of that. Beat your kids, she says. God demands that parents use a rod on the backside of rebellious children. Not beating your children means you love them more than you love God; that you are more concerned with their welfare than you are being obedient to the violent tribal deity of the Bible.

Here’s some of what Alexander had to say:

Dr. Spock: “[Physical punishment] certainly plays a role in our acceptance of violence. If we are ever to turn toward a kindlier society and a safer world, a revulsion against the physical punishment of children would be a good place to start.” (p. 173)

Lori Alexander: This is in direct contradiction to what God tells us in His Word. “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” (Proverbs 22:15) “Oh, but the rod isn’t a physical instrument,” people will tell me. Really? Please study all of the verses that mention the rod and you will see that this isn’t true. How does God discipline us? Is He only positive and encouraging? No! “For whom the Lord loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives” (Hebrews 12:6). Chasten means “to correct by punishment; to punish; to inflict pain of reclaiming an offender; as, to chasten a son with a rod.” Scourge means “to afflict for sins or faults, and with the purpose of correction.” Who are we to think we know better than God? No, God doesn’t mean that we should physically abuse our children in any way. [actually, he does] We use the rod of correction as a tool to make them obey and this teaches them self-discipline which benefits them for life. Many things in God’s Word have been taken to extremes and have caused harm for people. This is not God’s way. His way ends in peace and goodness not in evil and harm.

Spock: “My other reasons for advising against physical punishment are, in brief, that it teaches children that might makes right, that it encourages some children to be bullies, and most fundamentally, that to the degree that it results in good behavior it’s because of the fear of pain. I have a strong belief that the best reason for behaving well is that you like people, want to get along with them, want them to like you.” (p. 173)

Alexander: On the contrary, pain and fear are great motivators for good as I shared in the above verse about how God disciplines us. My children were all spanked when they sinned against us or others and none of them were bullies or got into physical fights with others. They were kind to others, respected authority, and were a joy to raise. A one year old can’t comprehend “liking people” as much as they can quickly comprehend a small amount of pain that is swiftly administered for disobedience.

Spock: “I don’t think physical punishment is necessary or particularly effective.” (p. 215)

Alexander: It sure has been for centuries before you wrote your book, Dr. Spock. Children were much better behaved than they are now. God’s ways will always trumps man’s ways.

Spock: “All schools should be friendly, creative places like the best I’ve seen. We should wean ourselves away from physical punishment.” (p. 33)

Alexander: When I went to elementary school, the principal had a wooden paddle in his office and he used it! Children were well-behaved for the most part. There was nothing going on like there is in the schools today. A swat on the back side is a quick, effective method against disobedience.

Spock: “Recently I visited a small private school . . . with the idea of asking children . . . what advice to parents they’d like me to incorporate in the forthcoming revision of Baby and Child Care. In a thoughtful mood, the class was unanimous that parents should not hit their children. . . One child added that if you’re crying and your parent tells you to stop and then hits you when you don’t stop, it only makes you cry more.” (p. 229-233)

Alexander: And asking children how they should be disciplined is a wise thing? If he asked adults how they would like their government to run, I’m sure some immature adults would say that they shouldn’t be put in prison for abusing drugs, driving drunk, and getting tickets for speeding and running red lights. Children do NOT know best how they should be raised. Why not interview parents of adult children who are now upstanding citizens and ask how they raised their children instead?

Spock: “I hope American parents can outgrow the conviction . . . that physical punishment is necessary to bring up well-behaved children. . . There are parts of the world where it has never occurred to any adult to strike a child. I have known personally or professionally dozens of families in which the parents never lifted a hand–or otherwise punished or humiliated their children–and yet the children were ideally cooperative and polite. Children are eager to be ever more grown up and responsible.” (p. 13)

Alexander: Yes, I am sure parents can raise good children without ever spanking them but it takes a lot more time, energy, and effort and to tell you the truth, I haven’t seen many who are successful at it. In order for spankings to work, a parent must be consistent, firm, and loving. It doesn’t work without these three key ingredients. [In other words, busy parents beat their children so they will have time to do other important things such as reading the Bible and going to church.]

Spock: “There are several reasons to avoid physical punishment. It teaches children that the larger, stronger person has the power to get his way, whether or not he is in the right. Some spanked children then feel quite justified in beating up on smaller ones. The American tradition of spanking may be one reason there is much more violence in our country than in any other comparable nation.”

Alexander: No, it teaches children that they must obey and respect the authority in their lives, whether they be parents, teachers, coaches, bosses, and government which is a good thing. My children never beat up on the smaller ones. If they did, they would have been spanked and would have never done it again!

The patriarchy lives on, and the children cry.

Black Collar Crime: Over Hundred People Report Allegations of Sexual Abuse in UK Jehovah’s Witnesses Congregations

jehovahs witnessess

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

According to a blockbuster report in The Guardian, over one-hundred people have contacted the newspaper with allegations of sexual abuse in Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations.

The Guardian reports:

More than 100 people have contacted the Guardian with allegations of child sexual abuse and other mistreatment in Jehovah’s Witness communities across the UK.

Former and current members, including 41 alleged victims of child sexual abuse, described a culture of cover-ups and lies, with senior members of the organisation, known as elders, discouraging victims from coming forward for fear of bringing “reproach on Jehovah” and being exiled from the congregation and their families.

A Guardian investigation also heard from 48 people who experienced other forms of abuse, including physical violence when they were children, and 35 who witnessed or heard about others who were victims of child grooming and abuse.

The stories told to the Guardian ranged from events decades ago to more recent, and many of those who came forward have now contacted the police.

They told the Guardian about:

  • An organisation that polices itself and teaches members to avoid interaction with outside authorities.
  • A rule set by the main governing body of the religion that means for child sexual abuse to be taken seriously there must be two witnesses to it.
  • Alleged child sex abuse victims claiming they were forced to recount allegations in front of their abuser.
  • Young girls who engage in sexual activity before marriage being forced to describe it in detail in front of male elders.

A solicitor representing some of the alleged victims said she believed there were thousands of complainants in the UK and that the people who have contacted the Guardian were “just the tip of the iceberg”.

One alleged victim, Rachel Evans, who has waived her right to anonymity, claimed there was a paedophile ring active in the 1970s, although details of the case cannot be divulged due to a current investigation.

“Within the Jehovah’s Witnesses there is an actual silencing and also a network where if someone went to the elders and said ‘there is a problem with this’ and they believe you, the whole thing will be dealt with in-house. But often these people are not dealt with, they are either moved to another congregation or told to keep their head down for a few years,” she said.

Another victim, who did not want to be named, said she was abused by a ministerial servant (someone with congregational responsibilities) in the organisation in the 1970s.

“I was sexually abused many times a week from the age of three until I was 12. Congregation elders knew that when I told them, at 12, what had been happening. No steps were taken to tell the police. I had to tell three male senior figures what had happened. Imagine that? A young girl telling a bunch of men what this man did to me. I wasn’t even allowed to have my mother there with me.”

After she went to the police about what had happened, the person who abused her pleaded guilty and was eventually convicted. “The Jehovah’s Witnesses should lose their charity status as they are not protecting children,” she added. She said she had mental health issues as a result of what happened and how it was dealt with.

….

When a Jehovah’s Witness experiences sexual abuse they are supposed to report it to elders, who are always men, who will take further action if there is a second witness to the offence. The perpetrator will then be called before a judicial committee if they admit abuse or if there is a second witness.

“This causes further trauma to the victim and coupled with the two-witness rule, is undoubtedly the reason that so many victims have never reported it,” said Kathleen Hallisey, senior solicitor in the abuse team at Bolt Burdon Kemp, who is currently acting on behalf of 15 alleged victims.

She also noted that the problem with the two-witness rule in the context of sexual abuse was that there were rarely witnesses to it, “meaning that [these] reports … are usually dismissed”.

….

The Charity Commission launched an investigation in 2013 looking into the Manchester New Moston congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, concluding that it did not deal adequately with allegations of child abuse made against one of the trustees.

The commission is still running an inquiry into the main government body of the group, the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Britain. This is examining the child safeguarding policy and procedures further.

Following the investigation into the Manchester New Moston congregation last year, the Watch Tower changed its policy so that victims are no longer required to confront their abuser face to face.

A former elder, who was asked to investigate a child abuse case in 2007, claimed he was urged not to contact the police, although it was decided that the perpetrator should not be assigned to work with children.

However, the then elder – who left in 2012 over how the case was handled – said that this rule was not followed by everyone and when he raised this as a concern he was told to back off.

“I hugely regret the fact that I wasn’t able to do anything at the time and I didn’t have the strength. And that lives with me,” he said.

Other former Jehovah’s Witnesses told how they were forced to share personal sexual experiences at a young age, after breaking rules set by the religion.

One woman, who wished to be anonymous, was called to a meeting with elders after she had sex at 15, which goes against the rule of no sex before marriage. “This meeting was three older men and me, a scared 15-year-old, who had just had sex for the first time. They had to know all the details before they chose my punishment,” she said.

….

You can read the rest of the feature story here.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Missionaries Jim and Paige Nachtigal Sentenced on Child Abuse Charges

jim and paige nachtigal

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Two former Evangelical missionaries to Peru, Jim and Paige Nachtigal, have been convicted of child abuse charges and sentenced to thirty-two months in prison. Jim Nachtigal was, for ten years, the CEO of the Kansas Christian Home in Newton, Kansas. His wife was a missionary for World Outreach Ministries at the time the abuse allegations surfaced.

Amy Renee Leiker, a reporter for The Wichita Eagle writes:

It’s been more than two years since North Newton Police Chief Randy Jordan removed three Peruvian orphans from a tidy home in a tidy neighborhood in his town.

He still gets choked up when he talks about the signs of abuse he saw.

Sitting on the witness stand in a Harvey County courtroom on Thursday morning, he paused to wipe away tears when a prosecutor asked him to describe the children’s injuries.

On the day he took them away from their adoptive parents, Jim and Paige Nachtigal, two of the children – a boy and a girl who were both 11 – looked so thin he was confident they’d been starved. The third, 15, had managed to escape the brunt of the abuse.

The boy had a knot on his elbow, he noticed. The younger girl was limping because her leg had been broken. Both talked of being beaten with a cane and a wooden spoon when they didn’t do the pushups, sit ups and jumping jacks that had been dolled out for punishment quite right. The bruises and welts on their bodies corroborated the account.

Jordan’s testimony came just a few hours before Harvey County District Judge Joe Dickinson ordered Jim and Paige Nachtigal to serve 32 months in prison over their treatment of the children. Known in the local religious community for their involvement at church and their missionary work abroad, the couple was convicted of several counts of child abuse last summer.

Initially they pleaded not guilty. But in August they entered an Alford plea, which allows a person to be convicted of a crime and take advantage of any deal that’s being offered by prosecutors without admitting guilt. The state agreed to drop several other felony charges in exchange, Yoder said at the time.

The Nachtigals’ defense attorneys, Kevin Loeffler and Brent Boyer, asked that they be placed on probation. Neither has prior convictions, are not a danger to society and could receive treatment in the community, their attorneys argued.

Prior to his arrest, Jim Nachtigal served as the chief executive officer at Kansas Christian Home in Newton for 10 years. His wife a missionary at World Outreach Ministries when the abuse surfaced.

….

Jordan, the North Newton police chief, launched an investigation into the children’s welfare in February 2016 after the 11-year-old boy ran away from his home, 401 E. 24th St. in North Newton, for the second time. A Kansas Highway Patrol trooper who was part of a team searching for the boy found him wandering barefoot in a field. The boy told the trooper he feared returning home because he hadn’t done his homework and that was a sin.

What Jordan discovered next – that the kids had been given little or no food, beaten and isolated – eventually led to the Nachtigals’ arrests and criminal charges.

Later medical examinations of the 11-year-olds by pediatrician Kerri Weeks, who specializes in abuse cases, revealed what she said in court was the “extremely severe” nature of the abuse.

The children, she testified, both had calloused hands and cracked feet from excessive exercise and wearing ill-fitting or no shoes, open and sometimes “weeping” sores on their buttocks from spankings, 2-inch long welts consistent with cane whippings and malnourishment so severe that their bones were wasting away.

The starvation had gotten so bad that when the children did get to eat, their bodies “didn’t know what to do” with the food, she testified.

….

The Nachtigals adopted all three children from a region of Peru where they had previously done missionary work. The older girl was adopted through an agency around 2012. The younger girl and the boy were adopted together about a year later. Jordan has previously said that the Department for Children and Families received around a dozen reports from people voicing concern about the Nachtigals treatment of their adoptive children – some coming as early as 2014 – but none were forwarded to his department for investigation.

School staff were among those who contacted DCF after they noticed the boy would bring only a peanut butter sandwich for lunch and would beg for his teacher not to make him go home on Fridays.

….

jim and paige nachtigal 2

Black Collar Crime: Christian Couple and Their Son Accused of Abusing Their Adopted Children

sharon, donald, and steven windey

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Sharon Windey stands accused of abusing and neglecting her adopted children. As of the writing of this post, her husband, Donald, nor their biological son Steven, have been charged with a crime. The Green Bay Press reports that charges against the father and son are forthcoming. The father is sitting in jail, unable to post bond. The son posted a cash bond and was released. Their next court date is March 9, 2018.

The following article does not mention the name of the church attended by the family. it will be interesting to find out exactly where Sharon and Don Windey learned their child-rearing “skills.”

ABC-2 reports:

A De Pere woman and former Wisconsin State Trooper has been charged with several counts of child abuse and neglect of her adopted children. The abuse allegedly went on for over a decade despite reports to police and officials.

Sharon Windey, 54, appeared in Brown County court Thursday on charges of physical abuse of a child; strangulation and suffocation; battery; child neglect; and mental harm to a child.

A 42-page criminal complaint obtained by Action 2 News details years of emotional, physical, and mental abuse inside the Windey home.

The complaint states the investigation found “overwhelming” confirmation that since 2006, there have been Child Protective Services referrals, police contacts and reports from school officials about the three children being victims of physical abuse, mental abuse, child neglect and inappropriate sexual contact in the home on Sullivan Street.

On Feb. 12, 2018, De Pere Police assigned a sergeant to investigate reports of possible abuse at the home where the children lived with Sharon Windey, her husband Donald Windey, and the couple’s 25-year-old son Steven Windey. One of the kids described Steven as a “third parent.”

Investigators started interviewing the three adopted children–a girl aged 15; a girl aged 14; and a boy aged 15.

The kids described being punched, choked, spanked, thrown against a wall, hair pulling, food punishment and exercise punishment.

Both girls said the parents used “excessive feedings of oatmeal” as a punishment. The boy once threw up the oatmeal and the father “made him eat his own vomit and the oatmeal,” reads the complaint. The father told the boy “people were dying in Africa and he needed to eat the puke and oatmeal.”

One of the girls described locks on the freezer, cabinet and pantry.

One girl told investigators that her dad would make her sit on his lap and he would kiss her on the lips. She said he would also touch or grab the girls in other places on their bodies.

She also talked about a punishment in which the kids were forced to strip down to their underwear and kneel in front of a fireplace.

The kids described a shower punishment. If they took a shower longer than seven minutes, they would have to pay money for every minute they go over.

One of the girls said the parents are “very careful” to try not to leave visible marks on them.

The boy described the parents as “delusional … religious freaks.” The boy said his dad hears his guardian angel who tells him what to do.

“They are outgoing and they try to put up the facade of being the perfect family outside of our house,” the boy told investigators. “They will scare us with punishments. They will take things out of our room. For being disrespectful, they will hit them; slap them across the face and stuff. The hitting has happened multiple times.”

The boy described the day of Feb. 11, 2018. He said Donald wanted the kids to go to church but they refused. The father told them to clean everything out of their rooms. One of the girls was denied medicine for not going to church. He said the mom started struggling with one of the girls. During the struggle, the mother was pushed down the stairs. The boy said Steven heard the commotion and charged at him and started to punch him in the head.

The police arrived at the home. The boy said the officers told Sharon and Steven to call the police earlier so it doesn’t escalate to this point. The officers left.

Later there was another fight when when of the girls wanted medicine. After the fight, the kids went to a friend’s home. The man at the home called police to report the abuse.

….

Neither Donald Windey or Steven Windey have been charged. They are identified by name in Sharon Windey’s criminal complaint.

Why Do Pastors Defend and Support Criminals?

god of second chances

As I wade through the neck-deep filth in the Evangelical gutter gathering information for the Black Collar Crime series, one common event shows up in story after story: that when these criminals are on trial or they are being sentenced for their crimes, their pastors are on hand to let everyone know that the predator pastor was a good person who did a bad thing. Often, these testifying pastors tell judges and juries that the criminal’s good works outweigh any bad that he might have done; that molesting and raping children or sexually assaulting church members is somehow atoned for by the church member’s or ex-pastor’s good works. These so-called men of God even go so far as to ask the courts to grant the convicted offender probation, promising that the child molester/rapist has turned over a new leaf and has crossed-his-heart-hoped-to-die promised that he will never, ever rape, molest, look at child porn, or take sexual advantage of woman. Why do pastors seem so willing to be character references for criminals?

First, when a church member or colleague in the ministry is accused and convicted of a sex crime, it makes the church and pastor look bad. Churches and their pastors supposedly set the moral standard for their communities. Yet, here’s a fine, upstanding congregant or pastor behaving in ways that make a mockery of Christian morality. So the testifying pastor, by putting a good word in for the criminal, hopes to remediate his church’s reputation. Unfortunately, by testifying, what he really says to the community is that he believes there should be a separate standard of punishment for Christian church members and pastors.

Second, many pastors believe “sinning” church members and pastors deserve a second chance. If Jesus forgave them, shouldn’t everyone else? Think of all the good Child Molester Bob or Rapist Jack could do in the community if they were given probation. Why, they could travel from church to church telling how God delivered them from sexual deviancy. Isn’t God wonderful? Bob says. I stand before you today as a humbled man forgiven by God. I am so grateful that my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ gave me another opportunity to serve him! Later that night, Bob slips into his car and drives the streets looking for another child to molest. God will forgive him, he thinks. Isn’t God awesome?

Testifying pastors seem to forget that our justice system is expected to mete out punishment to those convicted of crimes. Why all the pleas for understanding and forgiveness? These same pastors will preach thundering sermons about God’s judgment of sinners and their impending doom in hell, yet when it comes to criminal church members and pastors, it is expected that they be treated as if their crimes were insignificant or worthy of special treatment.

Forgiveness is up to the victims and not the courts. Courts are supposed to weigh facts and evidence and render appropriate judgment. Testifying pastors are callous and tone deaf when they ask courts to grant convicted congregants and pastors probation or community service. Should not the victims be their primary concern? Yet, in case after case, pastors re-victimize victims by their unwavering love, compassion, and support for rapists, child molesters, and those who use their positions of power to take advantage of others.

Third, some testifying pastors don’t believe the crime was as bad as prosecutors made it out to be. Yes, Youth Pastor Jim was thirty and in a position of authority, but come on, the girl was sixteen, Why, she was a-l-m-o-s-t an adult. I wonder if pastors who think this way would do so if it was THEIR daughter Youth Pastor Jim had sex with in his church office? I doubt it.

Fourth, some testifying pastors simply refuse to live in the real world. Surely, there must be some other explanation for Suzie accusing Deacon Joe of molesting her. Deacon Joe is a fine family man, the pastor says. I’ve known his family for forty years. I assure you that Deacon Bob could never, ever — I mean NEVER — molest his daughter. (Deep down he believes Suzie is possessed by a demon.) Even after the judge says GUILTY! some pastors refuse to believe the truth staring them in the face; that they didn’t know this or that pastor or church members as well as they thought they did.

Child molesters and sexual abusers can hide their behavior for decades. It is often only when children become adults that they have the courage to speak about what their father, pastor, youth pastor, deacon, teacher, or Sunday school teacher did to them. Testifying pastors wonder, why didn’t they come forward sooner? It sure looks like they did so for the money.  Evidently, such pastors expect children to act like adults, refusing to see that when an authority figure has power over someone, a victim often becomes incapacitated by fear or loss of love from family and church. It’s not that they don’t want to report what has happened to them — they can’t. And often, when victims DO speak up, what happens? They aren’t believed or they are accused of being culpable for what happened to them. This is especially the case with churches on the right-wing fringe of the Evangelicalism. More than one girl has been forced to stand before her church and “confess” her sins.  Imagine being raped by a church leader, only to be forced to apologize for being such an easy target for the rapist.

I have some advice I would like to give to testifying pastors. SHUT THE HELL UP! Don’t testify. Don’t be a character reference. Don’t talk up the abuser’s good works and family. Instead, support the victims and their families. Help them find professional care for their psychological scars. Let the criminal face the just consequences of his behavior. Surely you have not forgotten that the Bible says that a man reaps what he sows. There will be plenty of time for you to minister to your convicted church member or colleague in the ministry. In open court is not the time. Are you listening, pastors?

Black Collar Crime: Hyles-Anderson College Teacher Joe Combs Sentenced for Raping His Daughter

joe combsIn March 2000, Joe Combs and his wife Evangeline were tried and convicted on numerous criminals charged related to their ritual abuse and rape of their adopted daughter. Joe Combs was the pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Bristol, Tennessee. He previously had been a trusted member of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana and a teacher at Hyles-Anderson College.

The Combses case was brought to memory recently when police arrested “David Turpin and Louise Turpin earlier this month in Riverside County, California, on charges of torture, child abuse, dependent adult abuse and false imprisonment.”

Dalena Mathews and Robert Sorrell, reporters for the Bristol Herald Courier had this to say:

Sullivan County District Attorney General Barry Staubus said news of the Turpin case brought back memories of a case he prosecuted in 2000.
“I immediately remembered the Combs trial and started comparing it to what’s happening in [the Turpin] case,” Staubus said in a recent interview with the Bristol Herald Courier.

“The difference is that in the Combs case, it centered on the sadistic, brutal treatment of Esther Combs.”

….

In November 1998, Bristol Tennessee Police arrested Joseph D. Combs, pastor of the now-defunct Emmanuel Baptist Church on Weaver Pike, and his wife, Evangeline Combs, on charges that they brutalized, Esther, a girl they were raising as their daughter.

The couple and their children were living in the church parsonage at the time the abuse took place.

Grand jury indictments against the couple were the culmination of a multi-jurisdictional investigation that began in February 1997, according to Blaine Wade, who now serves as Bristol Tennessee’s police chief.

Police began investigating when Esther, then 19, was taken to Bristol Regional Medical Center for treatment after she attempted to commit suicide.
Hospital staff discovered that her body was covered in layers of scar tissue. It was revealed during the trial that she had more than 400 scars.
The case went to trial more than a year later in March 2000. Lawyers questioned 121 jurors over six days before agreeing on the 12-member jury. The 12 jurors selected for the case included five retirees, a nurse, a press room manager, a bread salesman, a fast food restaurant manager and several Eastman employees. The group also included two church deacons and a Sunday school teacher.

….

Subpoenaed witnesses for the defense included two Michigan lawyers who represented Esther in a civil action against the Combses and against the Indiana adoption agency that placed her with the family.

Esther led a tortured life behind the locked doors of a Bristol church, enduring rapes, beatings and burnings at the hands of the people who should have protected her, Staubus said in his opening statement.

“Inside this locked, closed fellowship hall, there were sinister things going on,” Staubus said.

The couple systematically beat and abused the girl with baseball bats, wood burners, pliers, pieces of tin and metal whips, the prosecutor said.
“Mrs. Combs found out about [the abuse], and she blamed Esther and she viciously abused her,” Staubus told the jury.

Along with physical abuse and rape came other forms of cruelty, Staubus said. Esther was starved, denied an education and medical treatment and was “separated out to be the family servant,” the prosecutor said. “You will hear and see evidence of lies, betrayed trust, assaults, injuries, brutality, molestation and even torture.”

Defense attorneys, Spivey and Joe Harrison, said Esther had an ulterior motive. “She has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit, and has received compensation for stories she has told to news agencies and newspaper people,” Spivey said.

Spivey said the most important evidence would come from the girl’s five brothers and sisters, who would testify she was a “disturbed young woman who inflicted injuries on herself.”

The jury was shown 58 photographs, which were taken by Richmond on the day the young woman was admitted to the hospital. The photographs showed red, whip-like marks covering the young woman’s back, raised scars on her buttocks and near her genitals, and other scars on her forehead, chin, neck, wrists, arms, breasts and legs.

When the detective tried to uncover the cause of the disfiguring marks on the young woman’s body, she was met by silence, Richmond said.

“Joe Combs told me he did not know she had scars and that he had never seen the scars before,” Richmond said. “He said she was very clumsy and she fell down a lot on the pavement.”

Esther took the stand on the 12th day of the trial, where a standing-room only crowd filled the courtroom. Joseph and Evangeline Combs showed little reaction to the testimony and rarely looked at Esther Combs while she was speaking.

“My earliest memory is of being tied to the high chair and thrown down the stairs by Mrs. Combs,” Esther testified, drawing gasps from the crowd of courtroom spectators.

She testified that the abuse continued for the next two decades as she detailed numerous incidents of abuse by Joseph and Evangeline Combs.

So many people wanted to observe the trial, Judge Beck set up a lottery system to determine which members of the public would get seats for the court session. He said he would not let spectators stand in the courtroom, but on certain days, some were allowed to do so.

A number of witnesses testified on behalf of the defense that the Combs children were “normal, happy children.”

The couple’s other children denied the allegations against their parents.

The former pastor adamantly denied allegations that he raped, tortured or enslaved Esther.

“I love her. I thought she loved me,” Joseph Combs said. “I’m bewildered by all of this. I can’t get my mind around it. It doesn’t make sense.”
Combs took the stand, but his wife did not.

After deliberating for just four hours, the jury delivered a guilty verdict. Joseph and Evangeline Combs were found guilty of especially aggravated kidnapping. Joseph Combs was also convicted of aggravated rape, aggravated assault, aggravated perjury and seven counts of rape. Evangeline Combs was also convicted of four counts of aggravated child abuse. The trial ultimately lasted 31 days, one of the longest in Sullivan County history.

On April 26, 2000, Joseph Combs was sentenced to 114 years behind bars. He later died in prison. Evangeline Combs received a 65-year sentence.

….

What follows is a video from the trial. Warning! This video is graphic:

Video Link

In 1998, The Chicago Times reported:

The fundamentalist Baptist minister charged with kidnapping, raping and torturing a girl he took from a Porter County children’s home was once a respected Bible teacher at Hyles Anderson College in St. John Township.

When the Rev. Joseph and Evangeline Combs allegedly illegally adopted a 4-month old girl from the Baptist Children’s Home and Family Ministries in Kouts, he was “probably the foremost Bible instructor at Hyles Anderson,” said Jerry Kaifetz, a former student at the school and now an ordained minister. The family settled in a comfortable ranch home along a cul du sac in northwest Merrillville, where neighbors say the children were polite, well behaved and said they were not allowed to talk to adults unless their parents were present.

….

Joyce McGowan, a neighbor of the Combs family when they lived in Merrillville, said the Combses often tried to talk McGowan and her husband into accompanying them to Sunday services at First Baptist Church in Hammond. The Combs children were not allowed to exchange even small talk with McGowan, she said. McGowan also said she recalled the Combses often commenting how often their adoptive daughter seemed to be ill. “She was the one we didn’t see too often,” McGowan said. “She was small at that time, I think she couldn’t have been but 9 or 10 when they moved away. When we did see her, she had the saddest little face you ever saw.”

Prosecutors in Tennessee said the girl lived a hellish existence with her adoptive parents, being tortured and sexually abused as she was brainwashed into believing she was being raised to be the family’s slave because it was “God’s will.” The alleged abuse was discovered when the woman, who turns 21 on Monday, was hospitalized after a suicide attempt last year. Federal court records show the Combses were given the little girl in March 1978 by the operators of the Baptist Children’s Home. The adoption process was never completed. In a lawsuit filed Friday in federal court in Hammond, lawyers for the woman said their client was systematically tortured by the Combses, never allowed to attend school and not told she was adopted or that a judge never awarded custody of her to the Combses. The lawyers are suing the Combses for their alleged abuse and the Baptist Children’s Home for negligence. The lawsuit does not specify the damages being sought.

….

Kaifetz said Combs left the area, probably in 1985, during a controversy over his sale of Bible study books at the college. He has had no contact with Combs since then, but did see an advertisement for his ministry several years ago in a religious publication.

The Rev. Jack Hyles, the pastor of the First Baptist Church and chancellor of Hyles Anderson College, could not be reached for comment Saturday. Beverly Hyles, his wife, said neither one of them has had any contact with the Combses since they left the area, taking 40 or so Hyles Anderson students with them to start their Tennessee church. “He has called us several times,” Hyles said. “We have not returned any of his calls.”

The woman’s lawsuit says she faces huge medical bills as the result of her alleged mistreatment. Among the injuries the Combses are alleged to have inflicted upon the woman were broken bones, dislocated joints, severe and repeated lacerations and trauma and damage to the nervous system and vascular systems. She is being cared for in Michigan by a foster family and has met both of her birth parents since her suicide attempt, said Gregg Herman, one of her lawyers.

Jennifer Talirico, another former neighbor of the Combses, said she was horrified to learn of the charges pending against the Combses. “They kept to themselves, they certainly weren’t the type to have neighbors over or anything like that,” Talirico said. “But God, I wish I knew what was going on in that house.”

The Pastor as Gatekeeper and Why Evangelical Churches Continue to be Rocked with Scandals

gatekeeperAs the Black Collar Crime series makes clear, Evangelical churches have just as big a problem with sexual abuse, rape, sexual assault, and sexual misconduct as Catholic churches do. Thanks to the internet and an increasing awareness of sexual abuse, people are now more willing to speak out, and if warranted, report their assaults to law enforcement. Some victims are turning to civil courts to extract justice from their abusers and those who facilitated a climate where sexual predators could prey with impunity. Churches and their leaders are learning that it is quite expensive to ignore or cover-up allegations of sexual impropriety.

I am convinced that we have yet to see the full depth and breadth of criminal conduct that has gone on behind the closed doors of countless Evangelical churches. As I think about the fifty years I spent in the Christian church, including twenty-five years pastoring Evangelical churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan, I am increasingly grieved over how little churches and pastors did to address allegations of sexual misconduct. Victims were routinely disbelieved or accused of lying. Why Deacon Bob would never do such a thing, Sally. Why are you lying? Sometimes, victims were believed but told to forgive their abusers. Jesus forgave you, Sally. Shouldn’t you forgive Pastor Billy Bob? Other times, predators were run out the church, and told never to come back. He’s gone now, Sally. It is time to move on. That what Jesus would want you to do. What rarely, if ever, happened was the arrest and prosecution of offending pastors, evangelists, missionaries, deacons, worship leaders, Sunday school teachers, and congregants.

I can only remember one instance where a predator was accused, arrested, and convicted of his crime, and this only happened after he was caught a second time sexually assaulting a teen boy.  Even then, after “justice” was served, he joined up with a new Evangelical church and is “faithfully” serving Jesus. As a pastor, I regularly attended pastor’s conferences and meetings. It was not uncommon to hear whispers and stories about this or that pastor being accused of sexual misconduct. I would hear stories about pastor so-and-so abruptly leaving his church, only to find out later that he was caught at a motel with a church teenager or was fucking the choir director’s wife. One pastor was having sex with his secretary in his church office every Saturday while devoted members were out knocking on doors, inviting people to come to church and hear their “godly” on-fire pastor preach.  He was run out of the church, but later surfaced, as Jack Hyles’ son David did, in another community busily “serving’ Jesus.

Years ago, a concerned congregant told me that an unmarried man who had been attending our church was inviting young boys to spend the weekend with him on his farm. I investigated the issue and concluded that the man was probably a pedophile. What did I do? I ran the guy out of the church. I angrily told him that I knew exactly what he was. I also called the pastor of another Evangelical church the man attended and told him about the allegations. He agreed that the man, who is now dead, was likely a pedophile. Both of us thought we had done our duty by protecting church children from a predator. However, neither of us reported it to law enforcement, knowing that doing so would embroil our churches in controversy and harm the reputation and “testimony” of our respective churches. I now know that I did not do all I could have and should have done.

There were other instances of allegations of sexual misconduct or physical abuse, where I reported matters to the appropriate authorities. Later in my ministerial career, a man confessed to me that he had viciously murdered his girlfriend. I immediately called the police, who I knew were looking for him, and he was arrested. The man is now serving a life sentence in an Ohio penitentiary. Early in my ministerial career, my father-in-law, with whom I worked with as assistant pastor, came to me and told me that a congregant had confessed to shaking his infant baby to death. At the time, the cause of death had been attributed to SIDS. I told my father-in-law that he should immediately report the crime to the police. He did, and the man was arrested and convicted of manslaughter.

child sexual abuseThe common thread running through the anecdotal stories above and current allegations/crimes is that often pastors serve as gatekeepers for their respective churches. Congregants are encouraged to bring ALL reports of sexual misconduct or other criminal behavior to their pastor. It is up to the pastor, then, to decide whether the authorities should be called. Keep in mind, pastors are not lawyers, nor do they have investigatory skills as law enforcement professionals do. Unfortunately, pastors are often treated as a jack-of-all-trades. Most Evangelical pastors are not qualified to provide competent, professional counseling to congregants, yet, countless congregants are counseled by pastors who know little more than to quote Bible verses. Pastors are often considered vast repositories of wisdom and advice. Few congregants ponder whether their trust is misplaced. When pastors hear of accusations that could tear their church asunder, their natural inclination is to protect their churches’ reputations, thinking that in doing so they are protecting God.

Pastors wrongly think that they and their churches are indispensable parts of their local communities. Why, if scandal rocked the church, it would ruin our “testimony,” pastors think. There are souls to be saved and chicken dinners to be served. And just like that, pastor rationalize keeping wraps on all sorts of sexual misconduct, including the sexual and physical abuse of children. Where, oh where, are pastors who are willing to sacrifice everything to stand along-side of victims of abuse? Is it not better for a church to close its doors than for it to silently stand silently by while sexual crime goes unpunished. No pastor, deacon, Sunday school teacher, or congregant should be above the law. Yes, making allegations public can and will cause harm to churches and the families of abusers. But, the only way to stamp out sexual abuse in churches is for people in the know to be willing to report allegations to law enforcement and child protective services.

It is time for churches to take the gate keys away from pastors and other church leaders. It is time for congregants to be instructed to take their allegations to law enforcement and let them determine whether crimes have been committed. The duties of pastors are simple: preach, teach, and eat chicken dinner at potlucks. When pastors hear whispers of sexual misconduct that could be criminal in nature, they should not pass Go, nor should they collect $200. These men of God should IMMEDIATELY pick up the phone and call law enforcement (and if a police officer attends the church, he should NOT be the person to whom the alleged crimes are reported). Pastors shouldn’t investigate, call a board meeting, accuse the perpetrator, or pray about it. All of these things can wait until law enforcement has been contacted. The only people who matter are the victims. Yes, an allegation doesn’t equal guilt, but it not up to pastors and other church leaders to determine guilt; that’s for police and prosecutors to do.

Local prosecutors can help prod pastors and churches along by prosecuting them if they fail to report alleged sexual abuse. Many states consider pastors and church leaders mandatory reporters, who are REQUIRED to immediately report sexual abuse allegations; not investigate and then report, not pray and then report, not get your ducks in a row and then report; not huddle with church board and then report. Throwing a few pastors in jail for not reporting might help other pastors “see the light” concerning sexual abuse.

The days of covering up allegations of sexual abuse are over. Pastors and churches who ignore this, do so at their own peril. From jail time to million-dollar awards, pastors and churches are learning that not only did Jesus take a dim view of those who harm children, so do those of us who believe that children deserve protection from those who dare to prey on them in the name of God.

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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Black Collar Crime: Convicted Child Molester Faithfully Attends Church and is of Good Character, Pastor Says

karl lawrence

This story is about two criminals — a school janitor convicted of statutory sodomy and his pastor who said the man was a Christian with good character. The child molester will serve time in prison, but his partner in crime, his pastor, will continue to serve up religious bullshit without facing any consequences. The man’s pastor is a criminal in the sense that he sells forgiveness from God as a way to reboot your life, no matter what you have done. I have no doubt that this pastor thinks that since Jesus has forgiven the child molester, so should everyone else. Slap him on the wrists, judge. Jesus has forgiven him and he promises to never, never sexually molest children again.

Karl Lawrence, a former school janitor, was convicted last week of two counts of statutory sodomy.

The Springfield News-Leader reports:

A Greene County jury convicted a former janitor at Willard Public Schools of two counts of statutory sodomy last week.

Karl David Lawrence, 51, sexually abused a girl twice in 2012.

During Lawrence’s sentencing hearing, prosecutors said Lawrence abused multiple children over several years.

None of the abuse had any apparent connection to Willard Public Schools, where a district spokeswoman said Lawrence worked from 2006 to 2014.

Lawrence was charged in 2016, four years after the abuse of the girl took place.

According to a probable cause statement filed by Republic police, three girls accused Lawrence of sexually abusing them in Republic and in Florida.

The statement said one girl disclosed that when she was 12 or 13, she was in a garage in Republic when Lawrence came up behind her, put his hand down her pants and touched her genitals.

According to the statement, the girl said Lawrence “stuck his fingers inside me” a different time and she told him to stop.

Lawrence allegedly replied: “Why?”

The girl said Lawrence grabbed her breasts often, according to the statement.

Family of both the victim and Lawrence attended the sentencing hearing Thursday, filling three pews in the courtroom.

Dawn Diel, an assistant Greene County prosecuting attorney, said Lawrence has “fooled his family for all these years.”

The first person to testify at the sentencing was the victim, who prosecutors say is now 18.

“I am scared all the time,” the victim said, her voice breaking. “I have been diagnosed with severe anxiety. I get panic attacks. My mom has tried to help me though it.”

She said she has been put on medication for anxiety.

“When I see headlights behind me, I think they’re following me,” the victim said. “I feel like I’m always going to be scared because of what happened to me.”

Several people took the stand on behalf of Lawrence.

His mother called him “one of the most caring, loving people in the world.”

His wife, who broke down crying multiple times, said they got married in 2013, a year before the allegations surfaced.

“He’s a wonderful husband. He’s a wonderful father,” Lawrence’s wife said. “He provides for us. He takes care of us.”

She started crying.

Lawrence’s pastor testified that Lawrence and his wife are faithful attendants of church and Bible study. The pastor described Lawrence as a “man of good character.”

….

 

“The fact that even his own family and people around him … think he has good character shows his true danger because he has that ability to manipulate and he was able to create such devastation in plain sight,” Chapman said. “Every day that he’s out, children are going to be at risk.”

The jury recommended a sentence of 15 years on both counts of statutory sodomy.

….

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Sunday School Teacher John Ware Charged with Sexual Battery

john ware

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

John Ware, a Sunday School teacher at First Baptist Church of Pine Castle in Orlando, Florida was charged Tuesday with the sexual battery of a child.

WFTV-9 reports:

An Orange County Sunday school teacher faces charges of sexual battery on a child under 12 years old, deputies said.

John Maxwell Ware, 53, who works at First Baptist Church of Pine Castle, was arrested Tuesday, deputies said.

Investigators were notified Monday that Ware abused the child Saturday at a fall festival at the church at 1001 Hoffner Ave. in Orlando.

The child said the child’s legs were tired from setting up for the festival, so Ware asked the child to sit in his car, investigators said.

Ware began driving to the back parking area and tickling the child on the upper thighs and sexually battered the child, investigators said. The child told Ware to stop, but he kept going, investigators said.

Ware denied the sexual battery to the child’s parent and investigators, deputies said.

Ware later admitted it’s possible he may have touched the child.

“It’s possible because the child was squirming (during tickling), but it wasn’t on purpose,” Ware told the parent.

Ware is being held without bail at the Orange County Jail.

It’s unclear if there are more victims, but investigators urge anyone who may have been a victim to come forward.

Ware was arrested in 1997 and pleaded guilty to prostitution or lewdness, according to court documents.

….

Update

In a November 17, 2017 WESH-2 report, it is alleged that Ware might have molested additional victims (Link to video):

A Central Florida Sunday School teacher already charged with molesting a young girl on a church campus may soon face more charges.

John Ware, 53, could face more charges for sex crimes in addition to a charge stemming from a prior investigation of him.

Ware is currently facing one count of sexual battery on a child under age 12, but that list could grow.

Since that time, we have had several victims come forward and they are working with our sex crimes detectives,” Jane Watrel, of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, said.

Deputies said they want more people to look closely at Ware’s mugshot.

Detectives said the alleged new victims told a story similar to that of a young girl who claims she was molested by Ware, a volunteer Sunday School teacher at First Baptist Church Pine Castle.

The girl said Ware gave her a ride to the back parking lot during the Fall Festival on Nov 5.

According to the arrest affidavit, the girl said Ware reached his hands into her “blue jean shorts.”

“Several have come forward, but they (detectives) do believe there are more and that is very troubling to us,” Watrel said.

Ware was investigated for an incident involving a child, by the sheriff’s and state attorney’s offices seven years ago.

WESH 2 News has obtained information from local law enforcement that indicates the alleged incident in 2010 happened at the Lake Gloria Shores community. His arrest affidavit and property records show Ware lives there.

….

Beware of Deacon Bob

child abuse 2The following is loosely based on a true story recounted to me by a Baptist pastor’s daughter.

Every church has a Deacon Bob — a Jesus-loving man who loves getting close and personal with children. Deacon Bob is a hugger. He loves intimate physical contact. Deacon Bob goes from person to person, handing out hugs and warm embraces. Everyone loves Deacon Bob. Knowing no boundaries, Deacon Bob embraces everyone. Deacon Bob focuses his “love” on children. Children love Deacon Bob. He is known for always having candy in suit coat pocket.  Sunday after Sunday, church children run to Deacon Bob, begging him to give them candy.

Every night, without fail, Deacon Bob and his wife — both lifelong members of Calvary Baptist Church — had their devotions and prayed together. Afterward, Deacon Bob’s wife retired for the night. Deacon Bob told his wife that he would be to bed soon, but first, he needed to study his Sunday School lesson — Deacon Bob taught the fifth-grade girls. Soon his wife was fast asleep and Deacon Bob sat down in the computer room to study his lesson — a place where he would commune with God undisturbed. Done with studies, Deacon Bob got up from his chair and locked the computer room door. Safe from interruption, Deacon Bob sat down, put on his headphones, and typed in Netscape the internet address for one his favorite child pornography websites. Soon, Deacon Bob began pleasuring himself as he viewed children being sexually molested and violated. Once he was finished, Deacon Bob felt an overwhelming sense of guilt. Oh, Jesus, I am so sorry for what I have done. Please, Lord, forgive me. I claim the promises found in 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. Thank you, Lord for forgiving me of my sin. In Jesus name, I pray, Amen.

Night after night, year after year, Deacon Bob repeats this ritual — seeking self-gratification and then asking Jesus to forgive him. Deacon Bob started each morning with prayer, reading that day’s entry in Our Daily Bread, and a silent promise to God that he would never look at child porn again. Deacon’s Bob’s resolve lasted for a day or two, maybe a week, but soon, with deviant passions stirred by church children unaware of who and what he really is, Deacon Bob returned to the internet to seek out images and video sure to satisfy — for a moment — his perverse sexual desires.

Deacon Bob is a sexual predator hiding in plain sight. His church family thinks he’s wonderful — a lover of Jesus and children. He’s just like Jesus, Pastor Billy was heard saying. Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. (Luke 18:16) Deacon Bob just wants to minister to children, sharing with them his love for Jesus. We need more Deacon Bob’s in this church! Clueless to Deacon Bob’s true nature and desires, Pastor Billy and the church “trust” Deacon Bob with their children. Sister Eatmore was overheard saying, Why Deacon Bob sure does love children. I would trust him to take my children anywhere.

The whole church thinks Deacon Bob is their very own Mister Rogers — everyone except Margie Buttermore, that is. Sister Buttermore told her husband one Sunday after church, That Deacon Bob sure is friendly with children. I am worried that he might be a sexual predator or a pedophile. Just today, I saw him give Julia a hug, and as he did his hand slid down to her buttocks. I think he did that on purpose. Brother Buttermore replied, Oh, Margie, Deacon Bob is a fine man. He teaches Sunday School, sings in the choir, and just last year he gave a large donation to the building fund. I would KNOW if Deacon Bob is a pervert. Men KNOW these kinds of things. Deacon Bob is NOT a pedophile. Sister Buttermore said nothing more, but she decided to pay attention to how Deacon Bob physically interacts with children.

Week after week, Sister Buttermore watched Deacon Bob, becoming more certain each week that he was not the kind of man everyone thought he was. One Sunday evening after church. Sister Buttermore decided to talk to Pastor Billy about her concerns. And just like her husband months before, Pastor Billy assured Sister Buttermore that Deacon Bob was a fine, upstanding Christian. Years ago, Pastor Billy told her, we had a man in our church who really was a pedophile. Everyone knew he was a child molester. I ran him off before he could hurt any of our children. Deacon Bob is nothing like this pervert.

Several years later, Deacon Bob took his fifth-grade girl’s Sunday School class out to eat — a reward for winning the Sunday School Perfect Attendance Award. Most families dropped their girls off at the local Chuck E. Cheese. Sister Eatmore had something come up at the last minute, so she called Deacon Bob and asked him if he would pick up Julia for the party. Deacon Bob told Sister Eatmore that he would be glad to pick Julia up and safely return her home after the party. Thanks! Deacon Bob. There’s no one I trust more with our children than you. Deacon Bob replied, no problem, Sister. I love our church’s children. I want to help every child come to know Jesus as their Savior.

Just as planned, Deacon Bob picked up eleven-year-old Julia and took her to the party. On the way home, Deacon Bob told Julia to slide over close to him. With nary a thought, groomed for this very moment, Julia complied. Deacon Bob had been hugging her for years. Everyone loved and trusted him.

Several miles away from Chuck E. Cheese, Deacon Bob takes his right hand and puts it on Julia’s thigh. Julia doesn’t seem to mind. Julia, Deacon Bob said, you know Jesus loves you, and so do I. Julia replied, I know, I love both of you too!

Years later, Julia told her therapist what happened the night Deacon Bob drove her home from the party. Twenty years had passed and Julia had never told anyone about what Deacon Bob had done to her. When Julia graduated from high school, she left home, moving three thousand miles away to San Diego. From time to time, Julia would travel home to visit her parents, but she always planned her visits so she wouldn’t have to go to church. She couldn’t bear to go to church — any church.

One year, Julia returned home for her parents’ wedding anniversary. Calvary Baptist wanted to recognize the Eatmores for being faithfully married for fifty years, so they held a party for Brother and Sister Eatmore. Julia’s mom said, Julia, I hope you will come to church for our anniversary party. Please, honey! I know you don’t like going to Calvary, but won’t you do this for us?

Guilted into submission, Julia relented. As she entered the church, Julia looked off in the distance, and there was Deacon Bob — in his eighties now — hugging a young girl. Overcome with grief, guilt, and homicidal rage, Julia ran from the building and walked back to her parents’ home. Brother and Sister Eatmore finally came home, and found Julia, with tears streaming down her face, packing her bag. What’s wrong, Julia? Sister Eatmore asked. Julia told her mom what Deacon Bob had done to her when she was eleven. Oh honey, surely you must be mistaken. Deacon Bob loves Jesus and he would never, ever do such a thing. And with that, Julia called Uber for a ride to the airport, never to return to her parents’ home.

Deacon Bob died several years later, leaving behind the testimony of a man who loved Jesus and children until the end.

Did your church have a Deacon Bob? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

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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Black Collar Crime: Baptist Pastor John Yelton Charged With Child Abuse

pastor john yelton

John Yelton, a Baptist pastor and traveling preacher, was arrested earlier this year and charged with child abuse. Yelton did not appear for his court appearance and was on the lam for months until he was apprehended this week in Panama City, Florida.

Earlier this year, a WSOC-9 report stated:

A Charlotte-area pastor is accused of using his work as a preacher to target vulnerable women and abuse them.

Investigative reporter Paul Boyd found seven women who said there’s another side to John Yelton.

YouTube videos of the preacher showed he is very energetic behind the pulpit, and Channel 9 confirmed that he spent time at a church in Gastonia, formerly known as Canaan Land Baptist Church.

Yelton said he’s traveled throughout North Carolina, preaching “the word of God.”

But April Justice and the other women said this preacher is actually a predator.

“It was a nightmare,” Justice said.

Justice said she was approached by Yelton on Facebook a year ago. She said his page had photos showing he was an ordained pastor.

“He says, ‘I’m a pastor,’ and I was, like, OK. And he said, ‘How would you feel like being a pastor’s wife?'” Justice said.

Justice believes he used his preaching background to earn her trust.

“It made me trust him a lot more than it would an average guy,” Justice said.

They married three months later.

“He asked me to marry him at the Bible book store in Hickory,” Justice said.

The wedding in rural North Carolina was picture perfect.

Justice thought Yelton was an answer to her prayers, but three weeks after the wedding,she said his “true colors” started to show.

She said he abused her verbally and physically. A few months later, she said she walked in on him hitting her 9-year-old daughter.

“Hit her. Kicked her. She had bruises on her arms, legs, face and everything,” Justice said.

April called police and said she took these photos of the bruising.

Yelton was arrested and charged with child abuse, false imprisonment and communicating threats.

Justice obtained a protective order and quickly discovered other women through social media who told similar stories about the pastor.

“I thought it was my fault. Until I found out he’d done it to all of them, and then I was, like, wow. This guy’s a monster,’” Justice said.

A Whistleblower 9 investigation connected seven different women to Yelton, including another ex-wife. All of the women said he told them that they would make a great preacher’s wife.

Sarah Hopper said she became involved with Yelton more than a decade ago when she was only 17 years old.

“I was young, and I was stupid,” Hopper said.

They met through the former Canaan Land Baptist Church in Gastonia. She said Yelton was involved with the church’s youth group at the time.

“When you get with him, it’s like the devil’s come out, and you can’t get away,” Hopper said.

She said they moved in together when she turned 18. Yelton is 6 years older.

“As he got drunk, the violence started,” Hopper said.

She said the abuse continued when she became pregnant.

She said she finally left him a few years after giving birth to their daughter and has full custody of the child.

“He’s not a preacher. Preacher’s don’t act like this,” Hopper said.

Boyd tracked Yelton down the day of a child abuse hearing in Catawba County.

He denied using his preaching background to pick up women and take advantage of them.

“God knows I didn’t. That’s the only person I have to answer to is God,” Yelton said.

….

Today, the Panama City News Herald reports:

A former North Carolina pastor on the run from child abuse charges for months has been tracked down in Panama City by his bondsman, according to official reports.

John Yelton, 36, faces charges of child abuse, false imprisonment and communicating threats after his arrest. He is accused of using his position as a North Carolina preacher to target women and then abuse them, officials reported.

Bay County court records also indicate Yelton pleaded no contest in July to a local domestic battery charge and was sentenced to a year of probation.

….

Yelton denied all of the charges but left town shortly after, skipping out on $6,500 bond. After learning of his disappearance, a bail bondsman tracked Yelton to Panama City, where he was working at a local manufacturing job. The bail bondsman took Yelton into custody and transported him back to North Carolina.