Tag Archive: Rape

Black Collar Crime: Southern Baptist Pastor John Ward Arrested on Rape Charges

pastor john ward

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 Ward, pastor of Bellview Baptist Church in Westlake, Louisiana, stands accused of 10 counts of first-degree rape, 40 counts of indecent behavior with a juvenile, and two counts of pornography involving a juvenile.

KFLY reports:

A tip led to an investigation and arrest of a 45-year-old Westlake man on multiple sex crime charges involving juveniles.

An anonymous called contacted the state Dept. of Child & Family Services’ tip line. On June 17, the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office arrested John Michael Ward.

Ward reportedly admitted to detectives he had been molesting an 11-year-old girl since 2017 when she was 9 years old. Ward reportedly also told detectives he videoed the victim while she was nude on two separate occasions, authorities said.

….

District Judge Sharon Wilson set Ward’s bond at $640,000.

Bellview Baptist released the following statement:

Bellview Baptist Church leaders are cooperating fully with the Sheriff’s office in the investigation. The Deacons, in consultation with Carey Baptist Association, unanimously voted to immediately terminate Ward’s employment with the congregation because of his sexual immorality and failure to maintain the high standard of integrity for the office of Pastor outlined in the Bible.

Church leaders immediately met with the victim’s family to minister to them in their grief and to offer to help underwrite the counseling needed to help the child and other members of the household to heal.

The Deacons also offered to continue to provide financial support to the wife of the fired pastor as well as to minister to the spiritual and emotional needs of her and her family.

The Carey Baptist Association and the Louisiana Baptist Convention have connected with church leaders to coordinate various resources that are available to the church in meeting these various commitments.

Bellview Baptist Church leaders request prayer, respect, and privacy as we process this traumatic event.

Black Collar Crime: Southern Baptist Student Intern Benjamin Widrick Accused of Rape

benjamin widrick

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.

Benjamin Widrick, a student intern at Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee, stands accused of three counts of statutory rape involving a church minor. Widrick is a student at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.

The Tennessean reports:

The sexual abuse occurred while the former intern was serving 10 weeks with the student team at Long Hollow’s Gallatin campus, Gallaty said. A student pastor first heard rumors in December and immediately notified the Gallatin Police Department and the church’s leadership team, he said.

The Sumner County Sheriff’s Department is now is handling the case and an arrest was made on Tuesday, June 4.

….

he details are still unfolding, Gallaty said, but the church is sure the incident did not happen on church property nor at their summer camp.

“Regardless of the time and location, the fact is that an intern who was representing our church abused their position of influence with a student,” Gallaty said. “That is unacceptable to us. We will continue to work closely with law enforcement in every way we can.”

Gallaty said he reached out to the victim and her family on Thursday. He asked for prayers for all affected.

“As we grieve for the victim, we are also deeply saddened that an event like this took place, especially with a student who was entrusted to our care,” Gallaty said. “It sickens me that our processes and safeguards didn’t prevent this from happening. Long Hollow is a place where we take moral integrity and accountability seriously, and nowhere is that more crucial than on our staff.”

The church requires that interns pass a background check and an interview process before serving at Long Hollow, Gallaty said. The church is trying to figure out how the relationship developed and figuring out how to prevent it from happening again, he said.

They are stopping interns from connecting with students on social media, the church has updated its transportation policies and improved its training process. Church leadership has developed a child protection policy, too.

….

According to online court records, a bench warrant for three counts of statutory rape by an authority figure was issued for Benjamin Widrick, 24, on May 10. Widrick was arrested June 4 and arraigned June 5. A church spokesman confirmed Widrick is the former intern.

Widrick’s bond was set at $20,000, which was posted on June 4.

All three acts of statutory rape took place on Aug. 1, 2018, according to the court records.

 

What’s the Point of the Black Collar Crime Series? — Nobody’s Perfect

christians arent perfect black collar crime series

A man who lives not far from my home left the above comment on my Facebook page (if you have not yet LIKED the Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser page, I would appreciate you doing so.) Based on a bit of social media stalking, I have determined the commenter is retired and is a King James-Only Baptist. That he is a Baptist gave me a bit of context as I determined how best to respond to his comment. Last year, emergent church guru Brian McLaren said:

I feel that the role of Baptists — not Cooperative Baptist Fellowship but other Baptists — in doing harm to our nation and world is so great. I really feel well-meaning, sincere people who are deeply committed to the term ‘Baptist’ are often at the forefront of being careless about the environment. They are often at the forefront of being hateful towards Muslims. They are often at the forefront of promoting — unconsciously very often — white supremacy and continuing harm being done to racial minorities. We don’t even need to mention the harm being done to LGBTQ persons.

….

I think one of our great challenges in the Christian religion at large is for Christianity to grow up, to be a world religion meaning not just an American religion and certainly not just a southern or rural American religion, but a religion that grapples with all the challenges of our interconnected world.

In my mind, the underlying issue is actually patriarchy. We could talk about white Christian supremacy, but at the core of this is white, Christian, patriarchal supremacy. It’s a way of organizing life around powerful men.

A whole lot of people are wondering, can the Christian religion extract itself from patriarchy, or is belief in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit so inherently patriarchal that Christians actually believe in a patriarchal universe?

….

Watching the success of Donald Trump win over especially white people, and especially white Christians and especially white evangelical and Baptist Christians, in my opinion this is a pivotal moment.

Baptists, those damn Baptists. Their theology fuels the continued support of the pussy-grabbing, adulterous president of the United States, Donald Trump. Franklin Graham and Robert Jeffress — both are Baptists — continue to defend Trump against accusations of rape, sexual assault, and adultery. It was primarily the Baptists who held the line of defense for Independent Fundamentalist (IFB) Baptist pervert Roy Moore. (Keep in mind, many generic Evangelical churches are Baptist in everything but their name.) According to Baptist theology, there’s no sinful act that can kick you out of the family of God once Jesus has saved you and the Father has adopted you into his family. This is why more than a few Evangelicals believe that I am still a Christian. Once saved, always saved; once married to Jesus, no divorce. This is why serial killers Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy went to heaven when they died. No matter the sin, if your soul has been washed in the blood of Jesus, you are forever a child of God.

Thus, for the aforementioned commenter, there’s no good reason for publishing the Black Collar Crime Series. Yes, Evangelical pastors, deacons, Sunday school teachers, worship leaders, and church congregants can and do rape women, sexually assault children, and commit all sorts of sexual crimes, and as long as these saved-by-grace Christians are in the flesh, they can and do sin. But, no matter what they do, God will forgive them. That’s what so w-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l about Evangelical soteriology; forgiveness is only a prayer away.

Evangelicals are frequently reminded of 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.” No matter what Evangelicals do, the most-awesome-God-ever stands ready and willing to grant forgiveness. Awesome, right? No matter how heinous the crime or behavior, Evangelicals are just a prayer away from a clean slate.

The commenter reminds me that all of us are sinners, and that Christians often continue to sin after they are saved. If this is so, why bother to get saved; why read the Bible, pray, tithe, and attend church on Sundays if the new birth doesn’t turn sinners into new creations (as the Bible says it most certainly does)? Of course, according to the commenter, sinning Evangelicals aren’t really to blame for their sinfulness — Satin is. Those damn satin sheets I just knew that they would lead to the fall of the human race. Humor aside, I’m sure the commenter meant SATAN was to blame for the sexual sins and crimes detailed in the Black Collar Crimes Series. Doesn’t the Bible say of believers, “greater is he (God) that is in us than he (Satan) that is in the world?” Doesn’t the Bible say that Christians are overcomers and have victory in Christ? Doesn’t the Bible say that Evangelicals who sin are of the Devil and Christ does not abide in them? Doesn’t the Bible say that faith without (good) works is dead (and I assume sexually assaulting children and raping women are not good works)?

It seems, then, that the commenter has a problem with the Bible. Perhaps his bankrupt Baptist theology has warped his thinking, leading him to believe that Christians can be perverts and adulterers and still make it to God’s Trump Hotel in the Sky®. I wonder if he has read 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

And such were (past tense) some of you, the Apostle Paul says.

Revelation 21:27 and 22: 14,15 says:

And there shall in no wise enter into it [New Jerusalem] any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.

But, what do I know, right? According to the commenter, Satan has deceived me, bringing me down to the level of Evangelical Christians — his words, not mine. Say it isn’t so! How dare the commenter drag me into the Evangelical gutter. My humanistic morality teaches me that raping women, sexually assaulting church teens, and abusing children are bad/harmful behaviors. I value people and, as such, I would not abuse/assault/harm others. I don’t need salvation, and I sure as hell don’t need forgiveness from a mythical deity. I’m more in the Tony Baretta school of life: Don’t do the crime if you don’t want to do the time. (Too bad Robert Blake didn’t follow his own advice.) To the Evangelical sexual abusers, child molesters, and rapists I say this: if you don’t want to be featured in the Black Collar Crime SeriesDON’T DO THE CRIME! It’s really that simple.

Why, then, is there an ever-widening Evangelical sexual abuse scandal? The short answer is this: Baptist theology; the very theology espoused by the aforementioned commenter. When people believe they are weak, helpless sinners in need of God’s power and forgiveness to make it through the day, what do you expect? Churches are filled with people who believe they can’t help themselves; that the flesh and Satan keep them from doing right. Their lives consist of a constant cycle of sin/forgiveness. You might remember what one Catholic priest said when he was arrested for abusing boys: I asked for forgiveness after every time I abused a boy. Evangelicals do the same when they pray for forgiveness AFTER they have harmed others.

God, I have an idea. How about getting the Holy Spirit — who supposedly lives in every believer, teaching, guiding, and directing them in righteousness and holiness (talk about bad job performance!) — to stop believers from harming others BEFORE they do so! Surely, an all-powerful, all-seeing, all-knowing, always-present God can act like a pre-crime bureau for Christians, stopping them from committing crimes before they do them. How hard can it be, God?

As for the WHY of the Black Collar Crime series, let me conclude this post with an excerpt from a previous post titled, Why I Write The Black Collar Crime Series :

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

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

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

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

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

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

To the commenter I say, instead of getting all peachy-preachy about the Black Collar Crime Series, how about focusing your outrage on the sex crimes and cover-ups that are being committed by pastors, deacons, evangelists, missionaries, choir directors, worship leaders, Sunday school teachers, janitors, bus drivers, preschool teachers, school principals, high school teachers, and church board members in scores of Evangelical churches, including Independent Fundamentalist Baptist congregations. Instead of being all worked up over the messenger, how about focusing on the message? Ask yourself, what would Jesus do? Don’t know what Jesus would do? Let me leave you with Jesus’ words in Mark 9:42: “And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.”

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Black Collar Crime: Pastor Naasón Joaquín García Charged with Human Trafficking and Child Rape

naason joaquin garcia

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.

Naasón Joaquín García, pastor of La Luz del Mundo, a Mexico-based Evangelical church with branches in the U.S. claiming more than one million members, was charged Tuesday with human trafficking, child pornography production, and child rape.  (Church website)

KTLA-5 reports:

García, 50, faces 26 felony counts that range from human trafficking and production of child pornography to rape of a minor. The charges detail allegations involving three girls and one woman between 2015 and 2018 in Los Angeles County.

The fundamentalist Christian church, whose name translates to The Light of the World, was founded in 1926 by García’s grandfather. It has been the subject of child sex abuse allegations for years but authorities in Mexico have never filed criminal charges. It has more than 15,000 churches in 58 countries, according to its website. The church’s followers must adhere to a strict moral code in exchange for the promise of eternal salvation.

García — who was a minister in Los Angeles and other parts of Southern California before becoming the church’s leader — coerced the victims into performing sex acts by telling them that refusing would be going against God, authorities said. He allegedly forced the victims, who were members of the church, to sexually touch themselves and each other. One of his co-defendants also allegedly took nude photographs of the victims and sent the pictures to García.

García told one of the victims and others in 2017, after they had completed a “flirty” dance wearing “as little clothing as possible,” that kings can have mistresses and an apostle of God cannot be judged for his actions, the complaint states.

La Luz del Mundo and Garcia have faced previous allegations of sexual misconduct.

David Correa, a spokesman from the headquarters of La Luz del Mundo in Guadalajara, Jalisco, said in a phone call:

We categorically deny those false accusations. We know him personally and he is an honorable and honest man.

Should Religiously Motivated Good Behavior Play a Part in Sentencing, Commutation, Clemency, or Parole?

donnie johnson

Seventh-day Adventist minister Donnie Johnson

In 1984, Donnie Johnson brutally murdered his wife by stuffing a 30-gallon trash bag down her throat until she suffocated. The Commerical Appeal reported last week:

More than a year and a half before her death, Connie Johnson had purchased a life insurance policy with Donnie Johnson as primary beneficiary, according to legal documents. After Connie Johnson’s death, both Donnie Johnson and a sister made claims for $50,000.

In 1984, Donnie Johnson was working at Force Camping Center in Memphis. Connie Johnson had worked there too until about 18 months before her death, according to a newspaper article, when she decided to stop because her daughter was entering school.

It was there that Donnie Johnson killed his wife, suffocating her by shoving a plastic bag down her throat. A Shelby County medical examiner said during the trial that she had cuts and bruises on her head, that she bled internally and had fought back.

“There was testimony that she would have been conscious during the terrifying ordeal and that from one to four minutes would have elapsed before she expired,” wrote Tennessee Supreme Court Justice William Harbison in an opinion affirming the judgement of the trial court. “The homicide was inhuman and brutal to an almost indescribable degree.”

Johnson was convicted and sentenced to death. He is scheduled for execution this Thursday.

Thirty years ago, Jimmy Pitt started a Seventh-day Adventist Bible study at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution. Johnson was one of his converts (1985). Johnson later became a Seventh-day Adventist minister, and currently leads Bible studies at the prison and ministers to other inmates who are on death row.

Now that Johnson’s date for meeting the Grim Reaper is approaching, several Christian zealots have been working hard to keep the convicted murderer alive. Why? He is a new man in Christ Jesus. That’s right. J-e-s-u-s, the man, myth, and legend, who purportedly washes all sins away through his blood. Never mind the fact that the Bible says several times that murderers shall NOT inherit the kingdom of God. Mustn’t let the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God get in the way of a feel-good story; a story of redemption.

Furman F. Fordham II, pastor of Riverside Chapel Seventh-day Church in Nashville, Tennessee, told the Tennessean:

He [convicted murderer Donnie Johnson] has been leading and serving in such a way that what he’s doing in there is the exact kind of ministry that we would definitely ordain someone for out here.

I was accustomed to being at different churches where you’d have a prison ministry, but I had never seen one of the prisoners leading it. We were his assistants.

The wife of the late Jimmy Pitt said of Johnson:

Don is one of those people that is not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and he will share that with any and everybody that gives him an opportunity.

I used to be fairly set on if you did the crime, you pay the price. I really would love for him to get clemency of some sort because there’s always forgiveness.

Pastor Fordham believes Johnson should be spared due to his decades-long religious transformation:

Transformation is real. This is a new gentlemen. He just is. And I think that there should be room for that caveat to be considered and I think that is why in our state constitution the governor can press pause.

Should jailhouse conversion be grounds for sentence commutation, clemency, or parole?  Would a Muslim, atheist, humanist, witch, or pagan inmate be afforded the same opportunities? How many death row inmates have Pastor Fordham and his merry band of Christians advocated for in the past? Or is their advocacy predicated on Johnson being on their team?

I am a pacifist. On principle, I oppose the death penalty, period. That said, when Governors and parole boards are considering sentence commutation, clemency, or parole, there should be a strict separation of church and state. Religious conversion is quite easy to fake. What’s the empirical standard by which to judge whether someone is “really” a born-again, saved-by-the-blood Christian? Can their good works ever ameliorate the brutality of their crimes?

I support the commutation of Donnie Johnson’s sentence, but not because he is a super-duper, oh-so-awesome Christian. He could be a Muslim terrorist for all I care, or a Baptist. I oppose state-sanctioned murder, be it in prison kill houses or on the battlefields in the Middle East. That the followers of Jesus can’t come to such a conclusion is, in my opinion, astounding and in direct contradiction to what the Bible teaches on the matter.

Johnson’s son, Jason, sees his devoutly religious father in different light, saying: “He’s an evil human being. He can talk Christianity and all that. “That is all my father is. That’s all he’s ever been, is a con man.”

pastor david richards jr

David Richards Jr, pastor of My Father’s House Church of God in Lenoir City, Tennessee.

Sometimes, judges let convicted criminals off easy because of their supposed love for JESUS before they committed their crimes. Take David Richards Jr, pastor of My Father’s House Church of God in Lenoir City, Tennessee. Richards was convicted of repeatedly raping his 14-year-old daughter. Prosecutors argued the severity and heinous nature of the crimes deserved a minimum of seventy-two years in prison, but the judge thought otherwise and gave Richards a 12-year prison sentence. Judge Steven Sword defended his light sentence by extolling all the good things Richards did in the community, including starting a Bible study while in jail awaiting trial. Again, would a “good” atheist, Muslim, humanist, or pagan receive similar treatment?

Sword gave Richards this sentence, even after hearing him refuse to take responsibility for his crimes. Instead, Johnson blamed his daughter:

I stand before you convicted of crimes I did not commit. I simply believe the system just erred in this case. I’m not sure why I’m here. . . but I assume it’s for His [the Christian God’s] purpose.

The Knoxville News reports:

David Richards took the stand in his own defense, painting his accuser as a defiant teenager who first made her allegations of sexual abuse amid his attempts to impose strict rules for his children.

Forensics found Richards’ semen on the victim’s bed frame, leaving little doubt that he was guilty. Jurors agreed, convicting Richards on nine felony counts, including rape, incest and sexual battery by an authority figure.

David Thompson, Richards’ fellow pastor at My Father’s House, doesn’t believe he’s guilty:

I find it impossible for me to believe he’s guilty of this. His business needs him. His family needs him. Our church needs him.

In fact, over thirty fellow church members packed the courthouse to show their love and resolute support Richards.

How do we explain their continued support of Richards even after hearing testimony that put Richards’ penis in the vicinity of the victim’s bed? Some reports have suggested that Richards’ daughter was “rebellious,” and this necessarily proves she is lying or trying to get even with her father. However, the knowledge that My Father’s House is a Fundamentalist Christian congregation should cause anyone buying this argument to ponder for a moment the fact that “rebellion” in such congregations is defined very differently from the way in which the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world define it. As former inmates at Baptist group homes such as New Bethany or Roloff Homes can attest, rebellion was defined as any act of disobedience, including skipping church, not reading the Bible or praying, going to movies, smoking, drinking beer, having sex, or listening to rock music. I suspect that the victim’s “rebellion” is far different from the behaviors that land teens in criminal detention centers. Whatever it might have been, it must be viewed through the lens of his or her religious background. And even then, her supposed bad behavior should play no part in discussions about her father’s crimes. That some of Richards’ fellow Christians are bringing the victim’s ill-behavior up suggests that they are straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel in hopes of finding justification for their unwillingness to believe their pastor could be a rapist. Can anyone say cognitive dissonance?

The victim, Amber Richards, had this to say about her father:

I wanted to throw my body away. Not a day goes by that I don’t, in some way, think of what he did to me. . . I firmly believe if given the opportunity, he would victimize another young girl.

Too bad thirty-plus members of My Father’s House and their pastor David Thompson didn’t hear a word Amber Richards had to say.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Christopher Cox Accused of Rape

pastor christopher cox

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.

Christopher Cox, pastor of Long Lake Church in Traverse City, Michigan, stands accused of luring two men to his office and raping them after incapacitating them with methamphetamine and GHB.

The Traverse City Record Eagle reports:

Michigan State Police investigators interviewed a 19-year-old man who claimed Cox contacted him March 12 looking for a “drug buddy,” according to court records. Cox promised the man — who was homeless at the time — drugs and women if he came back with Cox to his home, the man claimed.

Cox gave the man meth to smoke and “CBD shots,” making the man “extremely inebriated,” according to a probable cause statement. Cox raped the man numerous times over the course of several hours that night, according to the account.

The accuser said Cox dropped him off at Safe Harbor the following morning, threatening to kill him if he told anyone about the night prior.

Records show the accuser went to Munson Medical Center where a sexual assault exam revealed bruising and redness “consistent with anal trauma.”

Mike McDonald, chairman of Safe Harbor’s executive board, said homeless people are much more likely to be victimized than the average person.

“It’s appalling to me that something like this could happen to anybody under any circumstances, especially by someone who purports to be a minister,” McDonald said.

A second man told troopers that Cox gave him meth sometime in October 2018 at Cox’s office in Traverse City — Moeggenberg did not immediately know the location. Like the account given by the other man, Cox gave the man meth and waited until he was high, drunk and incapacitated before assaulting him, despite the man’s efforts to fight him off, records show.

The man told Michigan State Police troopers that Cox stopped several hours later, claiming he had to get back to his wife and child.

“Based on what I know, I would be surprised if there weren’t more victims,” Moeggenberg said.

A search of Cox’s home and office uncovered items like lubricant, male enhancement pills, a blindfold and nylon webbing police suspect was used for bondage, records show.

They also found lighters, glass pipes, single-use syringes, meth and a substance police believe was GHB, known as the “date rape drug,” according to records. Moeggenberg said investigators also seized electronic devices. MSP’s Computer Crimes Unit searched the devices recovered during the March 18 search and uncovered “additional evidence,” according to a press release.

Black Collar Crime: IFB Pastor Richard Mick Faces New Trial, Out on Bond

richard mick

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 2016, Richard Mick, pastor of Lighthouse Baptist Church in Sandusky, Ohio was convicted of child rape and sentenced to life in prison. I previously wrote about Mick’s trial here. In 2018, an Ohio appeals court overturned Mick’s conviction. The Sandusky Register reported at the time:

An Ohio appeals court said a Sandusky pastor previously sentenced to life in prison for child rape must receive a new trial.

Richard Mick, 56, who was sentenced in Erie County Common Pleas Court in 2016, had his conviction overturned Friday by the Sixth District Court of Appeals. A jury originally found Mick guilty of four felony charges of rape and gross sexual imposition.

Mick, formerly a pastor at Lighthouse Baptist Church, appealed his conviction after his trial was notably marked by his then-attorney K. Ronald Bailey refusing to participate in the trial.

Bailey, in 2016, argued the trial should have been delayed, and Judge Roger Binette held him in contempt of court after Bailey told Binette he was “not participating” in the trial. Bailey eventually served a 30-day sentence in the Erie County jail for the contempt charge.

Bailey did not respond to requests for comment Friday afternoon.

Mick’s appeal, filed by his new Cleveland-based attorney, Russell Bensing, alleged Bailey’s refusal to participate in the trial violated his right to effective counsel, according to the appeal.

The appeals court agreed with Mick, according to a court opinion written by Judge Thomas Osowik.

“Although Mick could have waived his constitutional right to counsel, the record shows he did not,” Osowik said.

There are not any court dates set following the overturned conviction Friday.

Mick has another pending court case in Erie County Common Pleas Court, where he faces more counts of gross sexual imposition, according to court records. He has a pretrial in that case set for May 16.

Mick’s new trial is scheduled for June 3. Last week, Mick posted an $80,000 bond and was released from jail.

Black Collar Crime: Christian Man Repeatedly Rapes Woman, His Pastor Puts in a Good Word For Him

thomas jackson

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.

Without fail, it seems, pastors can be found putting in a good word for parishioners convicted of sex crimes. Why is it pastors feel a need to speak on behalf on sexual predators? God forgives and forgets, these pastors might say, and so should we. To that I say, bullshit. The only person who is in the position to forgive is the victim. We as a society must hold such people accountable, not only legally, but in the court of public opinion. There are some crimes that are so heinous that there can be no redemption. Punishment is in order, end of story.  Such is the case of Michigan City police officer Thomas Jackson.

Today, a tearful Jackson was sentenced to 36 years in prison for repeatedly raping an intellectually disabled woman. The Michigan City News-Dispatch reports:

Jackson admitted during his first jury trial to having engaged the 25-year-old in vaginal, oral and anal sex on various occasions and at different locations over the course of approximately two years when she was in her early twenties.

During that trial, he was acquitted of one count of rape, and the jury hung on the remaining three counts.

A new jury in his second trial delivered guilty verdicts on all three remaining counts in December.

“I wish I could go back and undo everything, and I pray, one day, that (the victim and her family) do forgive me,” Jackson cried from the defense table Friday. “ . . . I’m so sorry and I’m so ashamed of what happened.”

According to the probable cause document in the case, the victim possesses the emotional and mental capacities of a child between the ages of 10 and 12.

For that reason, Deputy Prosecutor Mark Roule drew parallels between Jackson’s rape case and cases of child molesting.
“Intellectually, a child was sexually abused – repeatedly,” Roule said of Jackson’s victim.

Jackson’s lawyer called on several people to put in a good word for his client. While the News-Dispatch story does not give the exact words spoken by Jackson’s pastor, it did say:

The defense called multiple witnesses to testify on Jackson’s behalf, including his former pastor, a childhood friend and the field officer who handled Jackson’s case when he was on pretrial probation. All three talked of what they perceived to be Jackson’s high moral character or spirituality.

High moral character or spirituality? Really? I know we live in a Trumpian world now, where everything is turned upside down, but surely rational people would say that repeatedly raping an intellectually disabled woman and high moral character/spirituality are incompatible. Someone with high moral character does not rape a child. Jackson, by his actions, showed he is anything but moral or spiritual. And from my seat in the atheist pew, there is nothing Jackson can do in this life to redeem himself. Perhaps, Jackson loved puppies and was nice to his kids. He might have been a wonderful police officer. None of those things matters. His crime was such that any goodness in his life was obliterated by his vile actions. Wouldn’t it be nice if just once a pastor at a sentencing hearing stood before the court and said, “this man is a vile miscreant who deserves everything he gets, and if I had my way he would be locked up until he dies”? Why is it that so-called men of God can never rise to the occasion? Does their theology stand in the way; the necessity of forgiving all who sin? Perhaps they fear causing harm to the perpetrator’s family. Fine, then say nothing. Surely that is a better path than choosing to paint a sexual predator as a moral/spiritual man who happened to take a wrong turn.

Judge Michael Bergerson didn’t buy the whole “Jackson was a moral/spiritual man” line of thinking:

The repeated rape of [the victim] on the whim of the defendant over the course of several years is hard to fathom and evidence of a depraved mind.

Notwithstanding his position as a Michigan City Police officer, as a human being, the defendant had a duty to protect a person with obvious cognitive disabilities who had been entrusted to his care, custody and control. In doing so, the defendant transgressed a boundary of sickening proportions.

For further context on this story, please read this South Bend Tribune story from September 2018. The woman’s parents, in my opinion, showed a lack of awareness and discretion in allowing their daughter to have a relationship with the married Jackson.

Bob, the Saved Rapist

barbara gerencser 1978

Mom and Bruce, Rochester, Indiana, 1978

Bob was my mom’s brother-in-law. Married to my dad’s sister, Bob was a rough-and-tumble truck driver and dirt-track race-car driver. Bob’s parents were devout Fundamentalist Baptists. Bob was raised in the church, and at the age of seventeen he walked the sawdust trail at a revival meeting and asked Jesus to save him from his sin. According to Baptist theology, Bob was now an eternally saved child of God.

After high school, Bob left home and abandoned the Baptist faith of his parents. Over the next six decades, Bob lived as if God did not exist. In every way, he lived as the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. He was a booze-drinking skirt chaser known for sexually harassing and assaulting women. Female family members knew to steer clear of Bob lest they find themselves a target of his sexual advances. Age didn’t matter to Bob, and more than a few teen family members endured his touches, squeezes, and other demeaning behaviors.

Women got “used to” Bob’s sexual assaults. Viewing him as harmless, they would recount to me, “Oh, that was just Bob being Bob.” It was the 1960s and 1970s, after all, and that’s just how men were, I was told. As I will share in a moment, Bob was anything but harmless.

In early 1969, we lived east of Farmer, Ohio in a farmhouse owned by my dad’s sister and brother-in-law. I was in the sixth grade at Farmer Elementary School. One day, I was home from school sick. I spent the day in bed recuperating. In the early afternoon, Bob pulled into the drive. I figured he was there to see my mom, so I stayed in my room. A short time later, Bob left and I heard my mom calling my name. She was crying, saying that Bob had just raped her. She asked me to go to the neighbor’s house and call someone (I can’t remember who). I did, but no one ever came to our home.

You see, Mom had mental health problems — lots of problems. This meant, of course, in the minds of “healthy” people, she couldn’t be relied on to tell the truth. Bob was well-known in town. Bob would never rape anyone. Yes, he was a “little” too friendly with women, but, hey, that was just “Bob being Bob.” A few months later, we moved to Deshler, Ohio. Mom never talked about Bob after that. I suspect that she buried the rape deep in the recesses of her mind, right next to memories of her father repeatedly sexually assaulting her as a child.

Bob died a few years ago. His funeral was held at the local Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church. Bob’s parents helped start this congregation and were pillars of the church for decades. I attended the funeral, wanting to see what kind of send-off the once-saved-always-saved Baptists would give Bob, the Saved Rapist. The pastor giving the sermon spoke of the night sixty years prior that Bob had been gloriously saved, and that he was now in Heaven with his mom and dad. The pastor never mentioned that Bob hadn’t darkened the doors of the church since the 1960s and he, in every way, lived a life of debauchery. The pastor cared more about protecting the memory of Bob’s parents than he did telling the truth. I have seen this behavior countless times over the years: degenerate people preached into Heaven, all because they mentally assented to a set of theological propositions. And therein lies the vulgarity of once-saved-always-saved soteriology. It’s the same theology that says I am still a Christian, and that no matter what I say or do I will go to Heaven when I die. Just pray the right prayer, believe the right things and Heaven is yours!

As the funeral service went along, I found myself becoming increasingly angry. I wanted to rebuke the pastor for his lies. I wanted to scream at the congregation for their willful ignorance of what kind of man Bob really was. Most of all, I wanted to be my mom’s voice. Not a mile away, Mom lay silent in her grave. Oh, to bring her to life again so she could give testimony to what Bob did to her! On that day, I so wished that there was a Hell. If anyone deserved endless torment, it was Bob. Alas, there is no Hell, so the only satisfaction that comes from Bob’s death is that no other woman will ever have to suffer the indignity of being sexually assaulted by him. I wish Mom had been alive to see Bob meet his end. Unfortunately, fifteen years prior, Mom turned a Ruger .357 on herself, pulled the trigger, ripping a hole in her heart. Her beautiful, tragic life instantly came to an end at age fifty-four, due in no small part to men who saw her as an object of sexual desire and gratification and not as a thoughtful, intelligent — and yes, beautiful — human being she really was.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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: Evangelical Youth Pastor Daniel Goodloe Charged With Rape

daniel goodloe

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.

Daniel Goodloe, a youth pastor at the West Nashville Dream Center in Nashville, Tennessee, has been arrested and charged with five counts of rape by an authority figure. Goodloe was also one of the stars on A&E’s Undercover High — a show featuring adults posing as high school students.

The West Nashville Dream Center is a ministry of Crosspoint Church, pastored by Kevin Queen.

The Dream Center released the following statement:

We are deeply saddened by the circumstances surrounding the arrest of Daniel Goodloe, a former part-time employee at the West Nashville Dream Center. Goodloe has not been employed nor associated with the center since he left the program in April 2018.

The mission of the West Nashville Dream Center is to protect and empower those in our community living in distress. Anything that compromises the young people in our care is of the utmost concern to us. Our top priority is to provide a safe environment for our students, volunteers and staff. We have a zero-tolerance policy for harmful behavior, and require our employees and volunteers to undergo thorough training on appropriate interactions with students.

Our prayers are with all who have been negatively impacted by this situation, especially the student and her family.

Queen released a video statement about Goodloe’s arrest. You can view it here.

Black Collar Crime: Southern Baptist Pastor Gary Miller Charged With Rape

pastor gary miller

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.

Gary Miller, pastor of Sycamore Baptist Church in Springfield, Missouri, stands accused of raping a female church member. Previously, Miller had been investigated on child abuse allegations, but never charged.

According to the Springfield News-Leader:

Officials say a Springfield man accused of using an elaborate scheme to extort and rape a woman was a pastor.

And a former churchgoer says the pastor admitted at least parts of the act to his congregation six years ago.

Gary Miller, 41, was charged Tuesday with forcible rape and forcible sodomy following allegations that he sent “anonymous” threat letters to set up a sexual assault in 2012.

Sherry Clark said Miller was her pastor in 2012 at Sycamore Baptist Church in Springfield.

Clark said one day in 2012, Miller stood in front of the congregation and admitted to having sex with the victim.

Clark said she could not remember if Miller also admitted to other parts of the alleged scheme, like sending the threat letters.

“I was shocked because he’s got kids of his own,” Clark said. “He never seemed like he would be that type of guy.”

Clark said the day of Miller’s admissions was her last at Sycamore Baptist Church, and she assumed that Miller would soon face legal consequences.

Clark said she doesn’t understand why it took six years for charges to be filed in the case.

“Why they are just now opening up a case about it is insane to me,” Clark said.

Public court documents indicate police only recently became aware of the alleged rape scheme while they were investigating other sexual abuse allegations made against Miller.

According to a probable cause statement, a woman told police last week that in August 2012 she got a letter in the mail from an “anonymous” sender that threatened harm against her loved ones if she did not film herself having sex with Miller.

The statement says the woman confided in Miller about the letter, and he suggested they meet in person to discuss what to do.

Miller allegedly told the woman that he did not want to have sex with her, but he felt like they had no choice.

The statement says the woman first pushed Miller away but eventually gave in and had sex with Miller as he used his cellphone to film the encounter.

After the incident, the statement says Miller insisted on tucking the victim into bed and praying with her.

The statement says that last week Miller admitted to writing the letters and carrying out the scheme in a conversation with his wife.

….

Miller faces a possible life sentence if convicted of forcible rape.

Black Collar Crime: Tim Omotoso Trial FINALLY Underway

tim omotoso

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.

Please read my previous report about Timothy Omotoso here.

After eighteen months of investigations and delays, the trial of famed Nigerian/South African pastor Timothy Omotoso has begun. Omotoso, pastor of multi-branch Jesus Dominion International Church in Durban, South Africa, stands accused of sexually molesting young women, rape, and human trafficking.

The Sunday Times reports:

Graphic details of how a 14-year-old girl was groomed to perform lewd sexual acts on controversial Nigerian pastor Timothy Omotoso were laid bare in the Port Elizabeth High Court on Wednesday.

The state called its first witness to testify in the trial against Omotoso and his two co-accused‚ Lusanda Sulani‚ 36‚ and Zukiswa Sitho‚ 28‚ which has seen its fair share of grandiose shenanigans‚ including drum majorettes performing in front of the court building while two off-duty policewomen were thrown out onto the street.

On Wednesday Cheryl Zondi‚ now 22‚ told the court how at first she was in awe of Omotoso after watching clips of him performing “miracles” but soon became disillusioned by him after she realised the sexual acts he made her perform on him were nothing more than predatory sexual assaults.

Omotoso and his co-accused face 63 charges in total ranging from racketeering to sexual assault and rape allegedly committed across the country and abroad‚ including in Nigeria and Israel.

Please take time to watch the following short video. The victim’s testimony is heartbreaking, a poignant reminder of how “men of God” use religious terminology and persuasion to prey on vulnerable teenagers and women.

Video Link