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.
In July, I reported that Jonathan Young, a Sunday school teacher at Firstborn Baptist Church — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation — in Benson, North Carolina was accused of raping several church girls. WRAL-5 reported that Young had been charged with ” six charges of first-degree rape of a child, three charges of statutory rape, two charges of first-degree sexual offense and two charges of indecent liberties with a child.” The charges against Young covered alleged crimes committed between 2004 and 2014.
Since then, former church members Cherith Roberson and Beka Faust accused Firstborn Baptist leadership of operating a cult. WRAL reported:
It began with the arrest of a Sunday school teacher on 13 charges of sexually assaulting children earlier this month.
Now, investigators with the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office are speaking with more people who have come forward to say they too were molested or abused in other ways at the church.
Some of those same people have reached out to WRAL News, saying they will no longer be silent.
Not unlike the opaque windows of the Firstborn Baptist Church in Benson that let in very little light, seven former members tell us there is a dark climate within those church walls.
“There’s this culture of fear and you have to obey the ultimate leader and authority,” said Cherith Roberson, 32, a former church member. “And it starts from the beginning.”
Roberson’s family joined when she was 7 years old.
“It was taught, it was preached about, that you break a child’s spirit. And you do that by whatever means necessary,” she said.
Her little sister, Beka Foust, was just 5 years old.
“I knew this was not normal,” Foust said. “I didn’t know what normal was.”
The sisters said all the children attended school at church. They said they were told what to wear, what to believe, and were not allowed contact with anyone on the outside.
“You were ostracized from everybody else,” Foust said.
And they said there were serious consequences for breaking rules.
“They would put me in the closet with a light out and I would just sit there all day,” Foust said. “I was allowed to eat once.”
“There was a lot of physical and emotional abuse that went way beyond spanking,” Roberson said. “From spanking, to beating, there was a huge paddle in the church school that I attended.”
They said church members were publicly humiliated from the pulpit and children were beaten so others could hear their screams.
Sadly, nothing surprising here. Typical cultic behavior by IFB preachers who use the Bible to abuse congregants and force them to “obey” the church’s interpretation of its words.
In September, Young’s bond was reduced from $1 million to $400,000. The church denies any and all accusations levied against Young and church leaders.