Orick is accused of three counts of aggravated statutory rape, three counts of statutory rape by an authority figure and two counts of sexual battery by an authority figure after a 16-year-old girl who lived with him for three months in Jacksboro reported incidents to her mother. According to the report, the girl has audio recordings of at least one of the alleged encounters.
What follows is an excerpt from a Newsweek article by Art Levine titled, The Harrowing Story of Life Inside Alabama’s Most Sadistic Christian Bootcamp. I hope you will take the time to read the entire article. It serves as a reminder of the fact that the practices and methodologies of men such as Mack Ford and Lester Roloff still influence Evangelicals churches and pastors, encouraging yet another generation of Christians to violently abuse children in the name of God. We must not rest until every last one of these type of homes are closed and their operators prosecuted, convicted, and given a long prison sentences.
It was October 2011, and Captain Charles Kennedy, a veteran policeman, was in the main office at the Restoration Youth Academy (RYA), a Christian home for troubled teens in Prichard, Alabama, when he caught a glimpse of something shocking on a close-circuit monitor: a naked boy crouching in a 6-by-8-foot isolation room as a light bulb burned overhead.
Kennedy had been waiting for William Knott, the program’s manager, to return with some paperwork, and when he walked back into the office, Kennedy asked about the boy, whose name he later learned was Robert. He wanted to know what the boy had done to deserve such treatment. Knott, a squat, powerfully built ex-sailor, calmly explained his rationale: “He’s got an attitude. He’s only been there for a day, and he’ll be there for another day or two.”
“Can’t you give him some clothes?” Kennedy asked.
But Knott offered only a vague answer.
Kennedy had been investigating RYA for little more than a week, spurred by a few complaints by parents of kids in the program. RYA’s executives had promised parents “hope for their teenagers’ future, when hope doesn’t seem possible,” as its website declared. And many were grateful for that. “I was scared I would find my son hanging from a rope or dead from a needle,” says Leslie Crawford, from South Portland, Maine, who paid $1,500 a month to send her truant, drug-using son to RYA.
But what Kennedy had found behind the school’s forbidding metal gates disturbed him. He’d come after hearing from two mothers who were alarmed that their kids had been facing severe punishment. Knott had provided a tour of an empty classroom inside interconnected mobile homes and an adjoining cafeteria filled with quiet, unsmiling children. Afterward, he had allowed Kennedy to speak alone with one of the boys whose mother had called him.
That’s when he learned firsthand about the teenagers’ accusations of abuse. As he investigated, he found that many of the school’s “cadets” were afraid to talk. But those who did left Kennedy with the impression that he had stumbled across something terrible. The boys, for instance, told him they were often grabbed out their beds in the middle of the night and forced to fight one another until one was beaten to a pulp. All of them were subjected to a brutal, daily regimen of exercises, sometimes stark naked—pushups, jumping jacks and running in place. Drill instructors, including Knott, frequently punched them, choked them and body-slammed them as they worked out. On his first day in the program, one boy claimed, Knott crouched down next to him, and, after yanking his head up by his hair, started pounding his skull against the floor while shouting, “You will exercise until I get tired!” Another told Kennedy he had been held upside down in shackles and hit with a belt, an allegation later supported by an eyewitness letter by another teen. (Newsweek has either provided anonymity to the minors in the program or changed their names to protect their privacy.)
Kennedy wanted to protect the cadets from abuse, but he also knew he lacked the hard evidence needed to make an arrest. So for the next week or so, he periodically returned to RYA, which is how he found himself with Knott, asking about the naked boy named Robert in the isolation room.
The officer was concerned. The United Nations considers the use of solitary confinement as punishment to be torture. But the police officer knew what he’d just seen wasn’t illegal in Alabama if it took place over a relatively short time span. He also knew these institutions bar the young people they control from unmonitored communication with family and outsiders—and most states, including Alabama, don’t even protect workers who report child abuse from being fired. The result: Abuse isn’t reported until long after it was committed, which makes prosecutions nearly impossible.
As Kennedy continued checking on Robert, the boy eventually told him about his stay in isolation. Knott and the school’s founder, John David Young Jr., the pastor of Solid Rock Ministries in Mobile, were frustrated by Robert’s “poor” attitude and persistent depression while in solitary confinement; and they were determined to change his behavior. So after days in solitary confinement, they dragged him from the isolation room to Knott’s bedroom, where Knott handed the boy a .380 automatic pistol. “If you’re so determined to kill yourself,” Knott said, “you should put the gun next to your head and pull the trigger.”
“I pulled it, and it went click,” Robert told the officer.
Kennedy was appalled. He immediately confronted Knott and Young about this sadistic bit of theater, but they didn’t deny the boy’s accusation. In fact, Knott went to his nearby bedroom and returned with the gun and placed it Kennedy’s hand. “I was just teaching him a lesson,” he said.
“I knew then I was dealing with crazy people,” says Kennedy. “You don’t do that to a human being.”
But the insanity had only begun.
The template for these schools is Roloff’s Rebekah Home for Girls in Corpus Christi, Texas, which he created in the 1960s and that became the centerpiece of a chain of religious reformatories. Roloff’s program involved vicious corporal punishment and locking kids in isolation rooms where his sermons were played endlessly. Over more than two decades, the controversial preacher was arrested a few times and his Rebekah school relocated to various states in part to sidestep any state laws mandating oversight, such as one in Texas requiring inspection of all child-care facilities. Yet Roloff faced few consequences, even though one lawsuit featured affidavits from 16 girls saying they were whipped with leather straps, severely paddled and handcuffed to pipes. “Better a pink bottom than a black soul,” Roloff famously declared at a 1973 court hearing.
The stern spirit of Lester Roloff lives on in the resistance by church leaders—often abetted by local politicians—to any government oversight under the guise of separation of church and state. Nine states, including Florida, Alabama and Missouri, have wide-ranging “faith-based” exemptions protecting various church programs and schools from direct government oversight (while 26 states have no requirements for any private schools, religious or secular). Regulations in the U.S. are so loose that controversial organizations are rarely sanctioned despite allegations of rampant abuse. Some programs such as Teen Challenge, the world’s largest fundamentalist treatment chain for adults and youth, are often subsidized by taxpayer dollars—despite many public accusations of abuse and neglect. (Over the years, Teen Challenge has denied any wrongdoing or misconduct.)
As Kennedy says of the nation’s unmonitored religious programs: “They’re hiding behind a cross, but there’s for damn sure evil going on.”
Lucas Greenfield was prepared to scale the razor-wire topped fence surrounding Restoration Youth Academy if it meant his freedom.
While an instructor was busy, Greenfield seized his chance. He was nearly out the door when another student ratted him out.
His punishment for the attempted escape was “isolation,” an empty 8×8 room lit by a lone bulb that burned overhead day and night.
He was clad only in his underwear. That was the rule. Instructors let him out, briefly, twice a day to use the bathroom. Sometimes he got to take a shower. Mostly he just sat or slept.
Greenfield, then 14, spent two months in isolation.
“When you’re inside a tiny room where all you can see is four walls,” he said, “you start – I won’t say hallucinating, but you start going crazy.”
His thoughts ran in dark circles: “What’s the best way to kill myself? Is there any way out of this? This is ridiculous. I hope I die.”
Restoration Youth Academy was a Christian bootcamp-style residential school for troubled youth, squatting in one of the grittiest neighborhoods in Prichard, the worn-down working-class city on Mobile’s north side. Owner and Pastor John David Young and instructor William Knott tightly controlled how the “cadets” – boys and girls ages 10-17 – ate, slept, learned and exercised.
Despite multiple investigations by the Mobile County district attorney’s office and the Alabama Department of Human Resources, and despite complaints of abuse from some students – vehemently denied by Knott and Young – it took officials five years to close down the school.
An investigation of Restoration Youth Academy in 2012 by the Mobile Press-Register found that multiple school employees had criminal records. Prior to joining the academy in Prichard, Knott was a drill instructor at a similar troubled-teen boot camp in Lucedale, Mississippi, that was plagued with lawsuits and allegations of abuse and torture. It was eventually closed.
Restoration Youth Academy and Saving Youth Foundation were affiliated with churches pastored by Young. As church schools, they were exempt from state regulation or oversight. The state kept no records on them. State law didn’t require they file any registration papers to show that they existed.
Alabama law (Code of Alabama 16-1-11.1) says state regulation of any religiously affiliated school would be an unconstitutional burden on religious activities and directly violate the Alabama Religious Freedom Amendment. State law also says the state has no compelling interest to burden nonpublic schools with licensing or regulation.
While Alabama does have a few basic reporting requirements for private schools, it exempts those that are church schools in every instance. Teachers do not have to undergo background checks and schools do not have to be inspected. While many church-affiliated schools do choose to pursue licensing or accreditation by outside agencies, it’s not a mandate in Alabama.
“This is not a church versus state issue,” he said. “The state has the right to tell these people that they can’t hurt kids. They’re causing these children lifelong damage and we allow it.”
He said, “If I get these children declared as domestic animals, I could get them protection I can’t get them as human beings,” said Kennedy.
All of the students interviewed told of boxing matches at the school. Knott or one of the other drill instructors would frequently force two cadets to box each other, sometimes in the middle of the night.
Students said the fights were often mismatched by design, pitting a small boy against a much larger boy. Neither had the option to refuse.
“They’d have the bigger kid beat the [expletive] out of the other kid,” said Greenfield, the boy who spent two months in isolation. “They’d make us form a big circle. You can’t get out and you can’t get back in.
“They would always have somebody, normally me, pray before we’d have the boxing match. Will (Knott) told me to pray nobody got killed. I was like, really? You’re the one making them fight.
“So I would never say ‘die’ in the prayer; I’d pray nobody gets severely bashed up.”
Physical abuse from Knott, Young, Moffett and other instructors was common at the schools, according to Greenfield and others.
“Basically everything revolved around a beating,” said Angelina Randazzo, who was sent to the Prichard school when she was 14. “They made people kneel on rocks to cut up their knees. Made people be out in the sun all day, out in the mud, didn’t give anybody water. I’ve gotten shoes thrown at me, hit in the face, thrown at a wall.”
Greenfield bears scars on the backs of his ankles he said are from being forced to wear shackles.
“They would handcuff and shackle us, kids who were at risk of running away or harming another person, and make us wear it all day,” he said. “They handcuffed this one kid to his bed.”
On February 22, 2017, Pastor John David Young, “boys’ instructor William Knott, 48, and girls’ instructor Aleshia Moffett, 42, received 20-year sentences to be served concurrently for each of three counts of aggravated child abuse.”
Having disclosed his “sin” of masturbation, Mark Stibbe, age 17, was ordered to strip naked and lean over a wooden chair in the garden shed of a lavish Hampshire mansion on the southern coast of England.
Then came the first blow from a cane, its impact so ferocious that it sent the boy into a state of paralysis that lasted through at least 30 more strokes that left him collapsed on the floor, blood oozing down his legs.
“I remember being so appalled by how vicious the first lash was that I couldn’t scream,” Mr. Stibbe, now 56 and an acclaimed Christian author, recalled on a recent afternoon in his Yorkshire home. “You’re in this tiny shed full of canes with this man. I felt utterly powerless.”
Until that day in the late 1970s, the man he says beat him, John Smyth, was known to Mr. Stibbe and his friends as a charismatic lawyer and influential evangelical Christian leader who regularly attended the Christian forum of their nearby boarding school, Winchester College, the oldest in Britain. Now, Mr. Smyth, 75 and keeping a low profile in South Africa, stands at the center of a widening scandal of sadistic abuse of dozens of boys over three decades that has ensnared the leader of the Anglican Church, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, archbishop of Canterbury, though only peripherally.
The accusations against Mr. Smyth, which were first reported in February as part of a Channel 4 news investigation, are the latest in a string of large-scale child abuse and sex scandals that have embroiled British institutions in recent months, exposing a long history of denial and cover-ups.
The Hampshire police have begun an investigation into Mr. Smyth’s conduct, and more victims are speaking out in the hope that he will come forth in South Africa and face justice. The most recent account was from the bishop of Guildford, Andrew Watson, who said in a statement that he, too, had received a beating in the infamous garden shed that was “violent, excruciating and shocking.”
Mr. Stibbe said, “The sin that seemed to preoccupy him more than anything was masturbation, and he managed to persuade me that I needed to purge my body of that sin.”
Mr. Smyth would explain to the boys why they needed to be punished so severely. “He quoted from the Bible and told me I had to bleed for Jesus,” said another victim, who attempted suicide on his 21st birthday, after Mr. Smyth promised him “a special kind of beating” for the occasion.
“When he was done, he would lean in towards me and put his face on my neck telling me how proud he was of me,” said the man, who asked that his name not be used because of the deeply personal nature of his remarks.
The scale and severity of the abuses Mr. Smyth is accused of first surfaced in 1982, after the suicide attempt, which prompted an internal investigation by the Iwerne Trust, a Christian charity headed by Mr. Smyth that ran summer camps. He is said to have used his position at camps to win the trust of the boys he was to abuse.
Five of the 13 victims who came forward in 1982 told investigators for the trust that they had received 12 beatings and about 650 strokes. The other eight said they had each been hit about 14,000 times over a period of years.
Some of the victims received up to 100 strokes at a time for masturbating, having indecent thoughts or looking at pornography — beatings that caused some to faint or bleed for up to three weeks, the trust found.
The trust’s report concluded that all the cases were technically criminal offenses, and yet none were reported to the police. Instead, Mr. Smyth was removed from the trust in 1984 and sent to Zimbabwe, where he set up similar Christian summer camps for privately educated boys, the South African news media have reported.
In 1997, Zimbabwe’s prosecuting attorney arrested Mr. Smyth on a charge of culpable homicide in the death of Guide Nyachuru, a 16-year-old boy who was found dead at the bottom of the swimming pool of one of Mr. Smyth’s camps in Zimbabwe. Mr. Smyth denied any involvement in the drowning, calling it a tragic accident, and a year later all charges against him were dropped.
In court documents in the case, he was accused of brutally beating five other boys at the camps there.
“He would strip us naked and hit us with wooden bats to purge us of sin,” said one of the victims in Zimbabwe, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal by Mr. Smyth.
In 2002, Mr. Smyth moved to South Africa, where new accusations of abuse have surfaced in news outlets in recent weeks. Last month, he was removed from the Church-on-Main in Cape Town, where there were claims of inappropriate behavior but not proof of criminal acts, the church said in a statement.
My son is 2 years and 10 months. He is a bright, affectionate, patient, obedient child. Or at least he was until about 3–4 weeks ago. At that point he decided to start fighting me on EVERYTHING. Today I told him that he couldn’t wear his shoes upstairs (he never wears his shoes in the house, far less upstairs, and he was already wearing just socks) and he threw himself down on the stairs pouting. I told him to come talk to me, and when I picked him up he refused to look at me, and when I made him, he started screaming.
Then I told him he needed to eat his carrots at lunchtime (vegetables have been our number one battle his entire life, but had been going great the last year or so), and he had a gigantic tantrum. He screamed and yelled and refused to do it. I gave him mild spankings, then he went back to the table and still refused. I told him he could go eat by himself and he told me no. So I gave him a good spanking and he laid across my lap screaming “NO! NO! I DON’T LIKE IT!!!!” continually, refusing to be quiet. Eventually he gave in, but he was still angry, not repentant.
He will throw fits about the craziest things. Yesterday we went to the park, and my mom (who had played with him the whole time) asked if he had a good time. He definitely had, but decided to say “No!” I told him that wasn’t true and it wasn’t polite and he needed to say “Yes, thank you.” He refused and threw himself down on the ground and made me drag him to the car (although he stood up right quick when I accidentally drug him through dog poop). Once in the car he tried to fight me on getting buckled and then tried to hit me.
He never used to hit me, but in the last week it is like his tantrums are not effective so he is trying more intense techniques. He refuses to answer me when I talk to him if he doesn’t feel like it. Any time I ask him to do something he doesn’t want to do, he throws himself on the floor either in a pouty lump (which to me is a quiet tantrum) or in a full-on screaming tantrum.
The mother has tried to beat her son into submission, but her assaults have proven ineffective. Here’s what she has tried so far:
I can spank him for ten minutes and he is still screaming angrily at me to stop. Today my HAND has a broken blood vessel. I know you suggest a plumber’s pipe, but my husband bought one that was way too big so I hate to use it, and end up using my hand most of the time.
I want to clarify, I don’t spank him nonstop for ten minutes straight. I spank him a few times, tell him to stop screaming, wait ten to thirty seconds, and if he isn’t trying to obey I spank him a few more times, and so on. I give him a swat every time he screams no (or something similar) at me. But I’m not whaling on him for ten minutes, it just takes a ten-minute block of time sometimes for him to submit.
Pearl begins by correcting the woman about using a plumber’s pipe to encourage her child in the Lord. Evidently, the woman’s husband bought a rigid PVC pipe, and not the quarter inch supply line Pearl recommends:
I have never suggested a plumber’s pipe be used to spank a child. That was the fabrication of a sodomite reporter for Salon magazine, picked up and quoted by The New York Times and repeated by CNN’s Anderson Cooper, another anti-Christian sodomite, and repeated again by Dr. Drew, the BBC, and two dozen other media outlets. In my book To Train Up a Child, I wrote of how I saw an Amish woman wearing a ¼-inch plastic plumber’s supply line around her neck on a string to be ready at hand when needed. It is flexible and will roll up in your pocket or purse. It is not PVC and it is not a pipe. I suggest any small instrument that is light and will not cause damage to tissue—like a kitchen utensil: spatula, wooden spoon, ¼-inch dowel rod, etc., but not your hand.
Pearl goes on to restate what he calls Biblical child training principles:
For the sake of our readers, especially those who are new to our material, I will briefly state the concept of traditional, common-sense child training. Children, like adults, are complex souls of conflicting drives and emotions. They [infants] come into the world with all of the passion and lust but with none of the wisdom or self-control. To say it another way, small children have a gas pedal but no steering wheel and no will to apply the brakes. Infants, toddlers, and small children require steering and restraint. Parents must apply the brakes from time to time whether the children like it or not. Children must be made to submit to the oversight of caretakers, for “a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame” (Proverbs 29:15b).
When children are a little older (4 or 5) they are more responsive to being guided through reason and modeled behavior, but when they are two or three years old, reason is about as useful as a set of encyclopedias. Furthermore, good modeling goes unnoticed by a 2-year-old, whereas bad modeling seems to be very contagious at any age, more so when they are very young. A 2-year-old will pick up a lousy attitude like a cold in a toy store.
All psychologists and so-called “child rearing experts” agree that parents and caretakers must set boundaries, or “limits” as they sometimes call them. They also agree that parents must “enforce” those boundaries. One psychologist says, “If you don’t set and stick to clear limits, your kids will push and push until they get their way.” But the professionals don’t offer any definitive means that parents can employ to “enforce” limits. “Time outs,” where children are sent into isolation for a period of time, are not enforcement; they are abdication of authority to the attrition of time. The entire Bible verse quoted above is: “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame” (Proverbs 29:15).
Pearl spends a good bit of time analyzing the woman’s plight, looking for unstated reasons for the child’s aberrant behavior. Pearl puts much of the blame back on the mother and her inconsistent child-rearing methods. If she is consistent, Pearl says, then beating the child with the rod of correction will effectively end the child’s rebellion. He goes on to remind the woman that “the principle is that you as the lawgiver must win all contests of will. You must be the chief potentate and he the obedient servant to the rule of law.”
Michael Pearl continues to preach the gospel of ritualized child abuse. His materials are widely read in some Evangelical circles, generating $1.5 million in annual sales. I pastored numerous families over the years who thought Pearl’s book, To Train Up a Child, was the go-to text for parents wanting to practice Biblical child training. The good news is that Pearl’s sphere of influence is shrinking. Some Evangelical parents now realize that beating their children into submission is child abuse, and that there are other, more effective ways to discipline their children.
Recently, I received several emails and social media comments from Evangelicals complaining about my posting of public news reports detailing clergy sexual abuse and misconduct. One Evangelical preacher had this to say:
Do you feel some sense of gratification by posting articles exposing the “sins of evangelicals?” I have found you will search heaven and earth to publish smut on anyone who professes to be a Christian. Many of your posts are nothing but smear campaigns. You ought to be proud of yourself, pat yourself on the back, nominate yourself for an award. What a wonderful person you are. Kudos Bruce, keep up the smear campaigns, because no doubt in your heart it’s all justified and makes sense. One day Mr. Bruce there will be a reckoning, a DAY OF JUDGEMENT. I will go no further, but I know this, our God offers and extends GRACE to the repentant and guilty sinner. His undeserving favor offered through Calvary!
This man, over the past two years, has left numerous comments on my Facebook page, objecting to virtually everything I post. He is an Independent Baptist, an insufferable zealot who cannot or will not make any attempt to see things from any perspective other than his own. His latest comment was on a post about the arrest of David Farren, youth pastor at Anchor Church (link no longer active) in Texarkana, Texas. According to the Texarkana Gazette:
A youth pastor at Anchor Church in Texarkana was arrested Wednesday on three counts of sexual assault involving a teen girl. David Farren, 41, allegedly assaulted the girl when she was 16 and 17, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Connie Mitchell said. The girl was allegedly a member of the youth group Farren headed. Miller County jail records show Farren was booked at 4:15 p.m. Wednesday. He is expected to appear before a Miller County judge Thursday for an initial appearance, at which time bail will be set. First degree sexual assault is a class A felony in Arkansas. Each of the three counts Farren is charged with is punishable by six to thirty years in prison.
Texarkana Police Department detectives conducted an investigation after they were notified of sexual assault allegations. Detectives found that Farren had been sexually assaulting a female (who was 16 years when the assaults began) over a period of four to five months in 2013. At the time, Farren was a youth director at an area church.
The TPD says the charge is because Farren was a youth director, it “placed him in a position of trust or authority over the victim.”
David Wayne Farren, 41, appeared at the Miller County courthouse with Texarkana attorney Jason Horton for a first appearance on three counts of first degree sexual assault before Circuit Judge Brent Haltom. Horton handed the judge a motion asking that the case be sealed and that a gag order preventing police and court officials from speaking about the case be issued.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Connie Mitchell expressed strong opposition to the gag order. “I don’t believe this case should be treated any differently than other defendants,” Mitchell said. “We’ve not put gag orders in place in these cases before.” Mitchell asked the court to order Farren to have no contact with minor females, other than immediate family. Horton responded by describing Mitchell’s request as “too broad.”
In response, Haltom reviewed a probable cause affidavit and noted that Farren’s alleged sexual misconduct occurred in a private home, not on Anchor Church property. Mitchell pointed out that Farren’s contact with the girl began when he was acting as her youth pastor. “We do believe there are additional victims that will come forward,” Mitchell said. Mitchell said Farren has worked at a number of area churches heading youth groups including Heritage Baptist Church, Trinity Baptist Church and Faith Baptist Church.
As is always the case with such charges, offenders — saintly pillars of morality and virtue — are vigorously defended by family, friends, and fellow church members. Supporters, armed with anecdotal stories, assure everyone that Pastor/Preacher/Bishop/Elder/ Deacon _____________ did not/could not do that for which he has been accused/arrested/charged. As sure as the sun comes up in the morning, blinkered supporters demand that those who aren’t really in the know, forgo making any judgments about the offenders. In fact, rather than consider that their religious leaders could ever do what they are accused of doing, these woefully naive people suggest that perhaps the victims are the ones who should be blamed. In the case of David Farren, the victim was 16 years old when the sexual assaults began. See, says Farren’s supporters, she is almost of age. Why, I bet she came on to him or seduced him. In doing this. Farren’s supporters re-victimize the girl, ignoring the fact that Farren was in a position of trust or authority over the victim. This means the victim could not have given consent, regardless of her age. Farren, as an authority figure, is duty bound to keep his hands to himself and his pants zipped up. The no-sexual-contact rules that apply to doctors, lawyers, and social workers — those who work with the public and hold their trust — also applies to clergymen. They are held to a higher standard because of the vulnerability of those serve.
Several years ago, Jack Schaap, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana was accused of sexual misconduct with a teen girl he was counseling. (Please see What One IFB Apologist Thinks of People Who Claim They Were Abused.) When the accusations were made public, Schaap supporters defended his honor with comments on social media, blogs, and news sites. Even after all the facts of the abuse were made known, Schaap’s defenders insisted that victim was to blame. Schaap is now serving a twelve year prison sentence for his crime.
Stories such as Schaap’s and Farren’s are quite common. While I have been accused of scouring the internet for “dirt” on clergymen, the truth is I don’t need to do so. Using Google Alerts, I receive multiple times a day news reports about church leaders being accused/arrested/charged/convicted of sexual crimes, spousal abuse, child abuse, theft, robbery, and even murder. These reports are everyday occurrences. And here’s thing: in the two years I have been posting these reports on this blog and social media, only one accuser was found to be lying. Credulous Christians think that the way things work is that a girl walks into a police station, accusing a pastor of sexually molesting her, and the police immediately arrest the offender. This is NOT how it works. In Farren’s case, this was the process used by law enforcement:
Sexual assault cases are investigated using the highest standard of care and consideration of all parties involved. Only when a majority of evidence is obtained is an arrest warrant approved by the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and issued by a Circuit Judge.
Knowing that merely being accused of sexual misconduct can ruin a pastor’s life, law enforcement makes sure they have a case before arresting the offender. In fact, I would suspect that clergymen abuse claims are treated with great deference, knowing that wrongly charging esteemed church leaders could embroil authorities in controversy. Accusations of sexual abuse are often hard to prove, and it likely that more clergymen get by with their crimes than are arrested and convicted.
There are several reasons why I think it is vitally important to publicize clergy sexual misconduct stories:
Rarely are clergymen arrested the first time they sexually molest or abuse a minor. Most often, there are more victims, so publicizing these reports makes other victims aware of their abuser’s arrest. If victims know their abusers have already been arrested, they are more likely to come forward and tell their stories to law enforcement.
Christian sects — particularly the Roman Catholic Church — are notorious for covering up sexual molestation and abuse claims. It is likely that the Catholic Church covered up thousands of abuse claims, protecting priests by sending them off to new parishes (new hunting grounds).
Evangelical churches are often independent. These churches have no denominational oversight. Sexual misconduct claims are often covered up or explained away. Offending pastors often leave one church and move on to a new church. This provides the offender with a new pool of potential victims.
There is no national database churches can check to see if a pastoral candidate has been accused of sexual misconduct or child abuse. Some clergymen are sexual predators, moving from church to church, leaving broken lives in their wakes.
Americans wrongly assume that churches are safe for their children to attend. They are not. Most congregants are decent, kind, trusting people. It is this naïve trust that makes their churches easy marks for sexual predators. Far too many churches take the testimonies of new pastors at face value. Oh, they love Jesus, trusting, congregants say. Why, their families are wonderful! Such fine Christian people!
Americans wrongly assume that churches exist for the teaching of morals. Publicizing sexual molestation and abuse reports serves as a reminder that churches are not bastions of moral purity.
As long as men of God keep “preying” on people, I intend to keep posting public news stories detailing their crimes. Instead of whining about my motives for posting these stories, I suggest Christians should spend their time making sure children, teenagers, and vulnerable adults are not abused, molested, and taken advantage of by church leaders. (Please see How Should Churches Handle Allegations of Abuse? and Is Clergy Sexual Infidelity Rare?)