Tag Archive: Sexual Abuse

Black Collar Crime: Civil Suit Against Temple Baptist Church in Kokomo, Indiana Dismissed

pastor mike holloway

Please read previous posts on this scandal: Black Collar Crime: Woman Claims Evangelical Pastor Mike Holloway Knew She Had Been Sexually Abused and Did Nothing, Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Mike Holloway Denies He Knew Anything About Woman’s Sex Abuse Claim, Black Collar Crime: Another Victim Comes Forward in Temple Baptist Church of Kokomo Sex Abuse Scandal, Black Collar Crime: The Temple Baptist Church of Kokomo Sex Abuse Scandal Continues, Black Collar Crime: Alleged Victim Count Up to Ten in Temple Baptist Church of Kokomo Sexual Abuse Scandal, Black Collar Crime: The Cover-up Continues at Temple Baptist Church in Kokomo, Indiana and Black Collar Crime: Jane Doe Files Civil Suit Against Temple Baptist Church and Pastor Mike Holloway.

In 2017, a civil lawsuit was filed against Temple Baptist Church in Kokomo, Indiana, alleging the church and its pastor, Mike Holloway, covered up sexual abuse. Last month, Cass County Superior Court II, Judge Richard Maughmer ruled in favor of the church, saying the suit fell outside the bounds of the statute of limitations and that evidence being submitted by the alleged victime was inadmissible.

The Herald Bulletin reports:

In an effort to eliminate future legal fees and end any doubt of innocence regarding what it refers to as unsubstantiated allegations, Temple Baptist Church in Kokomo has entered into a “nuisance” settlement with a former member.

That woman claimed church officials did not take proper action when they discovered allegations of sexual abuse against her that took place nearly 30 years ago.

During a hearing on the civil case last month in Cass County Superior Court II, Judge Richard Maughmer actually ruled in favor of Temple Baptist, stating there was an absence of evidence to support the woman’s allegations, a church press release stated.

The nuisance agreement — which essentially means the plaintiff won’t be able to take the church back to court for this matter in the future — came as a result of a recommendation by the church’s insurance company, a Temple Baptist press release stated.

According to the release, Temple Baptist’s insurance company is set to pay the woman $7,500 for attorney fees and related expenses, and any remaining balance will be paid to the woman’s creditors as she filed for bankruptcy prior to filing the civil lawsuit.

“We intended to see the process through and continue defending what was being said about our church,” Temple Baptist Pastor Dr. Mike Holloway said in the release. “After much deliberation, we eventually decided to accept our insurer’s decision, which allows us to return to a singular focus of reaching our community for Christ and continuing to spread the Gospel around the world.”

….

“As a church in operation for more than 50 years, we understand some people disagree with our beliefs, and we accept that detractors will sometimes provide information critical of our church and those beliefs,” Holloway noted in the release.

“However, the campaign far exceeded all decency in an attempt to ruin the lives of innocent people and the testimony of the church. … I am grateful for the steadfastness of our church members and supporters during this time. Let us continue to show sympathy to those involved, while being grateful that our church has been vindicated.”

We will likely never know for certain what happened at Temple Baptist Church. I will leave it to readers to decide if the church and its pastor aren’t as “innocent” as they say they are. I am of the opinion that something smells in this sordid story. What, exactly, remains unknown. Yes, sometimes people make false allegations. Is this a case of a vindictive woman going after an IFB church and its pastor? I don’t think so. That said, the Superior Court has ruled and the woman has agreed to a financial settlement. This effectively puts an end to this story.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Teacher Austin Greenway Charged with Sexual Abuse

austin greenway

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.

Austin Greenway, a teacher at North Valley Early Learning Center in Margaret, Alabama, was charged earlier this week with sexually abusing a 9-year-old child. The Center is a ministry of North Valley Church in Odenville, Alabama.

AL.com reports:

In June, the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office Investigators were contacted by the Margaret Police Department to look into allegations of sexual abuse of a 9-year-old child at North Valley Early Learning Center in Margaret. The center is a ministry of North Valley Church.

The suspect, Austin Blake Greenway, had been employed at North Valley as a teacher for the past two years. After an extensive investigation, the case was presented to a St. Clair County grand jury, resulting in an indictment for sexual abuse of a child under 12 years old, and school employee engaged in a sex act with a student under the age of 19.

Greenway was released on a $50,000 bond.

D-Day in New York – It’s About Time

guest post

Guest post by MJ Lisbeth

On August 15, Catholics will celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. That is, supposedly, the date on which the Virgin Mary was bodily hoisted into Heaven, thus ending her earthly life.

The day before, the 14th, just might be D-Day, at least in New York State. That day will mark the beginning of a one-year window in which survivors of child sexual abuse can file civil suits against their abusers, under terms of the Child Victims Act (CVA) passed earlier this year.

Nearly everyone expects a flood of suits to be filed that day. Some will have waited years, even decades for this opportunity: previously, if a child was molested in New York State, he or she could file a lawsuit or seek criminal charges until he or she was 23. Given what we’ve seen, it’s easy to see how this works against victims: it often takes decades for someone (as it did for me) who was molested or abused as a child to speak about it.

After the one-year window provided in the CVA has passed, victims can still file civil suits until age 55 and seek criminal charges until age 28. While these provisions are an improvement on previous statutes — which were among the most victim-unfriendly in the nation — the Empire State will still lag behind its heavily-Catholic neighbor Massachusetts, which gives victims 35 years to sue their abusers.

What galls people such as I, though, is that it took sixteen years for the state legislature to pass the CVA. Although I rarely have kind words for politicians, I must say that some members of the State Legislature–among them Assembly members Brad Hoylman and Linda Rosenthal, both Democrats from Manhattan — should be commended for their efforts. That it took so long is mainly a testament to how hard some organizations fought against them.

Will it surprise any of you to know that two of the main opponents of this Act–and its “window” in particular — are the Boy Scouts of America and — wait for it — the Roman Catholic Church? Although New York is one of the “bluest” states in the country, the Church still wields a fair amount of influence in the politics of both the state and New York City. Church leaders howled that the “window” will result in a flood of lawsuits that could impose “financial hardship” on the state’s dioceses and archdioceses. They have a point: California passed similar legislation in 2003, and within a few years, the dioceses of San Diego and Stockton filed for bankruptcy.

Still, the protestations of Church leaders in New York are at least somewhat disingenuous, if not entirely hypocritical. In claiming that the “window” could lead to thousands of lawsuits, the Church in New York is tacitly conceding that many children (and adults), over many years, have indeed been sexually exploited by priests, nuns and other authority figures such as deacons. But what is less-widely known is that, in a way, the dioceses of the state have implemented some version or another of the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP), which allows victims to file claims for past sexual abuse. There can be little doubt that this program was implemented because Church leaders knew that passage of the CVA (and similar laws in other states) was all but inevitable, and that by giving victims nominal compensation on the condition of confidentiality, they could forestall a number of lawsuits.

And, while some victims might reap substantial payouts for lawsuits filed under the CVA, it will probably take years to settle and collect. The IRCP process, in contrast, takes months, and therefore may appeal to older victims who don’t want to spend significant portions of their remaining years in a court case. I have little doubt that Church leaders knew this, too.

It will be interesting, to say the least, to see what happens to the individual dioceses as well as the church as a whole as a result of New York’s CVA. For years, individual parishes and Catholic schools (including the one I attended) have been closing, mainly in the five boroughs of New York City, but also in other parts of the state. While few people expect the Archdiocese of New York or the Diocese of Brooklyn to go belly-up, mainly because they still own lots of valuable real estate and other assets, it’s not hard to imagine some of the less-affluent dioceses upstate filing for protection.

I realize that I have focused on the effect the CVA will have on the Catholic Church. So have most of the media. As I mentioned, the Boy Scouts will also be affected. Although the Catholic church is the largest denomination in the State and City (though many claimed members have long since stopped practicing the religion, or even renounced it altogether), there are a number of other religious organizations that could be affected. Chief among them, I believe, are the Hasidic and Ultra-Orthodox communities. (In Orange County, there is a village, Kiryas Joel, which is essentially governed by Satmar Hasidic interpretations of Halakhic law, and most of whose residents speak Yiddish.) In addition, there are a number of insular religious communities ensconced in upstate enclaves and some outer-borough New York City neighborhoods. It’s hard not to believe that some current or former members of such communities will come forward as a result of the CVA.

Whatever happens, I am glad that some people who suffered sexual abuse from priests and other religious leaders will have an opportunity, however brief, to break the hold of their abusers and hold them to account.

Black Collar Crime: Church of Christ Preacher Charles Andrews Arrested on Child Porn Charges

pastor charles andrews

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.

Charles Andrews, pastor of Osprey Church of Christ in Osprey, Florida, stands accused of possession of child pornography. In yet another case of churches not vetting their ministers, news reports state that Andrews is a registered sex offender who was convicted in 2006 in Alabama of second-degree sexual abuse.  It took me all of sixty-seconds to find this:

charles andrews registered sex offenderThere’s no excuse for churches NOT doing their due diligence regarding potential or current pastors.  Shame on Osprey Church of Christ for giving a registered sex offender access to their church and its children.  Just remember, while he was preaching Jesus on Sunday morning, after church he was allegedly looking at photos of children being sexually abused. What say ye, members of Osprey Church of Christ?

Channel 8 News reports:

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported Charles Andrews to the Sarasota County Sherif’s Office after learning he had downloaded approximately 70 images of child pornography using two different e-mail accounts, the latter agency said.

According to the release, Andrews is a minister at Osprey Church of Christ, 406 Pennsylvania Avenue. He is also a registered sex offender who was convicted in 2006 in Alabama of second-degree sexual abuse.

Investigators say Andrews shared six images of child pornography a total of 70 times. He also shared “non-illegal images of child erotica” using both accounts.

Investigators traced the IP address that Andrews allegedly used to download the images to his home in Englewood. There, they confiscated a computer, external hard drive and other digital storage devices.

Deputies say they discovered more than 500 images of child pornography, including at least 50 depicting sexual battery of a child.

“We usually charge about forty counts at a time for possession, possession of child pornography,” said Kaitlyn Perez, a spokeswoman for the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office. “In this case, Mr. Andrews’ database of child pornography was so specifically heinous … it really elevated the crime. Of those five hundred images, at least fifty of them depicted sexual battery on a child.”

Andrews was arrested Tuesday for 500 felony counts of Possession of Child Pornography and three counts of Failure to Meet the Registration Requirements of a Sex Offender.

Dear Charlie, I’m Only Going to Say This Once

peanut gallery

Email From the Peanut Gallery

Warning! Trolley cars of snark ahead. You have been warned.

Yesterday, Charlie, a Trump-loving IFB preacher, sent me the following message on Facebook (all grammar in the original):

i only going to say one thing, and i wll never bother you again. God does exiist, and you need Jesus as your Savior. Hell also exists, and you are headed there. of course we are all entitled to our beliefs. So i will respect yours. and i hope you would respect mine. hope to see you in heaven one day.

Charlie was raised in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. Educated from elementary school through college in IFB institutions, Charlie is certain that his peculiar beliefs are right. Charlie attends Fellowship Baptist Church in Clayton, North Carolina. If that church name sounds familiar to you, it’s because I wrote about it last week, about Jon Jenkins, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Gaylord, Michigan becoming the new pastor of Fellowship Baptist.

What follows is my letter to Charlie:

Dear Charlie,

This is my response to the message you sent me on Facebook. I am only going to say these things once, and once said, I promise to never, ever contact you again. Not that I contacted you in the first place. For whatever reason, you took it upon yourself to contact me, thinking that your seven preachy sentences would somehow cause me to rethink the sixty-two years of my life, and hopefully lead me to repenting of my sins and asking Jesus to save me. I hate to break it to you, Charlie, I am already saved! Don’t you believe in once-saved-always-saved; the belief that once saved, a person can never lose his or her salvation? Well, I want to share some good news with you: I was gloriously born again at age fifteen and called to preach a few weeks later at Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio. I spent the next thirty-five years devotedly following after Jesus. Granted, I am now an atheist, but remember, once-saved-always-saved.

You say God exists, yet you provide me no evidence for your claim. Should I just take your word for it? How do you know that your version of God is the true and living God? If I said to you that the true and living God was Loki, would you accept that without me providing evidence for my claim? Of course not. You could point to the natural world and say, SEE, GOD CREATED EVERYTHING! My reply is simple and direct, WHICH GOD? There’s nothing in nature itself that proves the Christian God is the creator of everything. Now, if you told me you were a deist, and your God set everything in motion and then said, “there ya go, do with it what you will,” I might at least listen to your claim. However, there is no evidence for the God of Evangelicals/Independent Baptists/Young Earth Creationists being the creator of the universe. Believing your God created everything is a faith claim. Even the Bible admits as much in Hebrews 11:1,3

 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

….

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

Did you read what the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God said, Charlie? “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God.” Believing the Christian God created everything requires “faith,” a faith I do not have. I am unwilling to “faith-it.” If you want me to believe in your deity, Charlie, you are going to have to prove his existence to me. If not, I will remain in unbelief.

You go on to tell me that I need Jesus as my Savior. Charlie, why do I need Jesus as my Savior? What is it that you think I need to be saved from? As I mentioned previously, I was saved at age fifteen. At age nineteen, I left home and enrolled at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan to study for the ministry. While there, I married a beautiful IFB preacher’s daughter. We just celebrated forty-one years of marriage. Our marriage was saturated with Jesus 24-7 for many years.

Are you now saying that Jesus failed in some way when he saved me forty-seven years ago? Jesus promised that he would never leave me nor forsake me, yet the extant evidence of my life suggests that Jesus has left the building and is never, ever coming back. I am beginning to wonder if Jesus is like Baal in 1 Kings 18. I am sure you remember the story. The Prophet Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to a God-off. Whoever could call fire down from Heaven would be the winner. My favorite part of the story is when Elijah mocked Baal’s prophets, saying:

Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.

Elijah said that Baal’s inaction was likely caused by him talking to too much, taking a shit, being on vacation, or sleeping. Funny, that is exactly what I think about the Christian God. Wherever he is and whatever he is doing, one thing is for certain, he has no interest in helping people — well outside of helping Granny Louise find her car keys. Look around, Charlie. Look at all the war, violence, suffering, hunger, disease, death, and losing seasons by the Cincinnati Reds. If God is all that you say he is, why does he sit on the sidelines of the human experience and do nothing? My Gawd, man, your God couldn’t even protect children from sexual assault at your new pastor’s former church. If your God can’t protect innocent church children from IFB preachers/deacons/Sunday school teachers/evangelists/Christian school teachers preying on them, what good is he? (Please see the Black Collar Crime series.)

Your message to me goes on to say that Hell is real, and I am headed there. How do you KNOW Hell is real, Charlie? Can you take me there so I can see for myself?  Supposedly, Hell is in the bowels of the earth. Don’t they have cell reception in Hell? I thought Verizon’s signal reached everywhere. Perhaps you can check this out for me. I would sure love to talk to my dear friend Steve Gupton, Christopher Hitchens, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, and Stephen Hawking. I want to know about the weather in Hell and make sure that they are taking care of my condo until I arrive. Oh wait, I am not going to Hell! Once saved, always saved, right? Ah, the absurdity of Evangelical theology.

You said one thing I agree with, “we are all entitled to our beliefs.” You, Charlie, are free to believe what you want. As a fellow evolving primate, I respect you as a person. Most of the people where I live think as you do. Life would be miserable for me if I didn’t respect my neighbors and try to get along with them. That said, when it comes to the beliefs themselves, I don’t respect your beliefs, and neither do you respect mine. Let’s put to rest the notion that we have to respect the beliefs of others, no matter how crazy those beliefs are. Sorry, but I can’t do that. Your beliefs are irrational and contradictory. (Please see The Michael Mock Rule: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense) Such beliefs cause all sorts of political, social, and personal harm. The psychological harm done by Evangelical beliefs runs deep, and the best thing that could happen is that Evangelicalism dies a quick death. While it is unlikely that I will live to see that day, I hope that one of my grandchildren will be there holding the pillow over Evangelicalism’s face as it draws its last breath.

You end your message with a passive-aggressive statement: “hope to see you in heaven one day.” First, why do you think I won’t be in Heaven, Charlie? Remember, once-saved-always-saved. Even you can’t take away the salvation given to me by the triune God of Christianity. Second, you do realize that no one goes to Heaven or Hell when they die, right? I know you have been taught differently, but orthodox Christianity teaches that when people die their bodies go to the grave to await the resurrection of the dead — the resurrection of the just and unjust. Until that day, Heaven is populated with God, angels, and spirits. It’s only when Jesus returns to earth that all humans will be resurrected from the dead, judged, and then fitted with bodies suited for eternity in God’s eternal Kingdom (Heaven) or the Lake of Fire (Hell). When I die — and believe me, that’s going to happen sooner, and not later — my body will be cremated and my family will scatter my ashes along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. There I will remain — intermixed with sand and lake water — until Jesus reanimates me and gives me a body that will withstand the whoop-ass he plans to put on me for eternity in Hell. That is unless, once-saved-always-saved, right?

Ask yourself this, Charlie, why would I want to spend eternity in Heaven with the likes of you? You see me as little more than a soul in need of saving. Imagine the praises that would come your way if you were instrumental in winning the infamous Evangelical-pastor-turned-atheist Bruce Gerencser back to Jesus? Man, when it comes to making the Soulwinning Top 100®, bagging me would surely be a Top Ten conversion!

Well, Charlie, you went for it and lost. Did you really think you could say anything that would cause me to reconsider my decision to divorce Jesus in November 2008? Did you read any of the posts listed on the WHY page? If you had read even a few of the posts on that page, you would have quickly learned that I am not a prospect for your supercalifragilisticexpialidocious IFB salvation. Been there, done that, remember?

I know you meant well, Charlie; that the Holy Spirit told you to message me; that you felt a momentary “burden” for Bruce Gerencser. I hope that the content of this letter will cause you to pause the next time you feel “led” to contact strangers on the Internet. That “feeling” you think is the “Holy Ghost,” is likely just the Taco Bell bean burrito you had for lunch.

Be well.

A sinner saved by reason,

Bruce

P.S. I am kidding about all that once-saved-always-saved stuff. I have never believed I am still a Christian. You are required to believe I am because your soteriology demands it. However, I know that people walk away from the Christian God all the time. Scores of people do it every day. In my case, I once was a Christian, and now I am not. I am, according to the Bible, an apostate and reprobate. According to the book of Hebrews, I am beyond God’s saving grace. And I am okay with that. Life is good — without God.

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.

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Black Collar Crime: Southern Baptist Youth Pastor Christopher “Cody” Stutts Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison

christopher stutts

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 February 2018, Christopher “Cody” Stutts, youth pastor at Westwood Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, was accused of sexually abusing a child younger than twelve.

The Tuscaloosa News reported at the time:

A former youth pastor for a Birmingham church is accused of sexually assaulting a teenager.

Christopher Cody Stutts, 36, was charged with sexual abuse of a child younger than 12 and second-degree sodomy. Members of the Tuscaloosa Violent Crimes Unit responded to a home in the 12000 block of Mulligan Drive Friday on a sexual assault call. A 14-year-old girl reported that Stutts had assaulted her on Friday and had been for the last three years.

Stutts remained in the Tuscaloosa County Jail Wednesday with bond set at $40,000.

He was fired from his position as a part-time youth pastor at Westwood Baptist Church in Birmingham.

In April 2018, Stutts was arrested again on additional sex crime charges.

Yesterday, Stuttz pleaded guilty to “one count of sexually abusing a child younger than 12.” He was sentenced to twenty years in prison for his crimes.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Jordan Baird Sentenced to Three Years in Prison for Sex Crimes

jordan baird

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 2017, Jordan Baird, director of music and youth pastor (the church disputes the charge that Baird was its youth pastor) at The Life Church in Manassas, Virginia was arrested on charges of “indecent liberties with a child by a custodian” and “sexual offense with a minor by computer.”

The Fauquier Times reported at the time:

A new jury trial date has been set for Jordan Baird, the Warrenton-based pop star and son of Manassas megachurch leaders accused of having an inappropriate relationship with an underage girl in his congregation.

Baird, 27, is facing seven counts of indecent liberties with a child by a custodian and was recently indicted for one count of sexual offense with a minor by computer. The former model was scheduled for trial Sept. 6, but the trial was postponed after someone came forward the night before it was to begin with a recording of the victim reportedly making her first allegation against Baird at a prayer circle, according to court records.

Both the prosecution and the defense agreed they needed time to process the new evidence.

Baird is now schedule to face a jury trial Jan. 8 through Jan. 10 in Prince William County Circuit Court.

All of the charges Baird face relate to one victim who attended The Life Church. The new indictment is based on the same set of facts, but a new legal theory, according to attorneys in the case.

Prosecutors will likely try to introduce testimony from other women who say Baird used his position of power in the church to make sexual advances toward them, according to a motion filed by Fredericksburg Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Kevin Gross, who has been appointed special prosecutor in the case. The motion does not stipulate if the women were underage at the time of the alleged encounters.

Baird is accused of touching the victim and asking her to touch his genitals, among other allegations, according to a criminal complaint filed in circuit court

Baird has maintained he is innocent since the allegations went public, according to his attorneys.

Prosecutors say Baird was a youth pastor at The Life Church in Manassas and was in a supervisory role over the girl during several alleged acts of sexual abuse between January and September 2015.

However, his attorneys say Baird was the church’s director of music and was never employed as a youth pastor.

….

A 2016 WTOP report stated:

A second teenage victim has claimed a 25-year-old church employee had inappropriate sexual contact, exposed himself and made inappropriate statements inside a popular Manassas church.

Jordan Baird, of Warrenton was charged Tuesday with one count of indecent liberties by a custodian, in addition to two previous counts of the same charge, after incidents at the Life Church, located on Balls Ford Road in Manassas.

A 17-year-old victim came forward, after media reports of Jordan Baird’s arrest for inappropriately touching a 16-year-old female on more than one occasion between January and September of 2015, according to Prince William County police.

Jordan Baird is the middle son of the church’s senior pastor, David Baird.

“Jordan is the worship director of the church — he oversees the music for all of our services,” his father told WTOP.

The father disagreed with the notion that Jordan Baird is a youth pastor.

“The charge said he was a youth pastor, and that’s what’s been reported by the media,” said David Baird. “We’ve not been able to tell our side of that — Jordan has never been a pastor in our church.”

The senior Baird said the charge facing his son is not appropriate, given his son’s employment in the church.

“He’s not ordained as a pastor,” said David. “He’s an employee of the church, but he’s not a pastor, and he’s not the youth pastor of the church.

“That’s very important because the charge said he was in a custodial oversight of these students,” David said. “He was not in a custodial position over these students.”

David said he first heard of the police investigation into his son in July when Prince William County detectives came to the church asking if he had heard allegations that Jordan had been sending inappropriate text messages.

“The church was made aware by the parents of the first victim that there was improper texting by Jordan to the 16-year-old in 2014,” said David. “Immediately the church put Jordan on a leave of absence, pending its own internal inquiry.”

David said he recused himself from the church’s inquiry into  his son’s activities.

“The outcome of the internal inquiry was that no criminal activity had occurred, but we have kept Jordan on a leave of absence, pending the outcome of the legal investigation,” said David, referring to the criminal charges against his son.

….

According to a January 12, 2018 news report, Baird was found guilty. InsideNoVa reports:

The Prince William County Circuit Court jury found 26-year-old Jordan David Baird guilty on five counts of indecent liberties with a minor by a custodian, delivering the verdict Jan. 11 after two days of deliberations. The jury declined to convict Baird on two other counts of the same crime, in addition to a charge of electronic solicitation of a minor.

Prosecutors described Baird as a “deceiver, a manipulator and a sexual predator” over the course of a three-day trial, accusing him of repeatedly groping and propositioning a 16-year-old girl who worshipped with him at the Life Church in Manassas. Baird’s father, David, is the lead pastor of the large church, while Jordan Baird helped coordinate music services and mentor young people.

Fredericksburg Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Kevin Gross, who was tabbed as a special prosecutor in the case, told the jury that Baird “exploited” his relationship with the girl to abuse her, and “thought he could get away with it” because he was the son of a powerful church leader.

The teen, who is now 19, testified that Baird repeatedly groped her at the church over the course of 2015, including two incidents where he rubbed his genitals against her body. She also detailed his history of propositioning her for sex through messages in a trivia app.

InsideNoVa is not identifying the girl because she is a victim of sexual assault.

Baird’s attorney, Todd Sanders, argued that those messages “did cross an emotional line,” but didn’t amount to a crime. He also suggested to the jury that the girl’s story was unreliable, as she initially told church leaders that Baird touched her leg, and only later provided more graphic details to police.

In particular, Sanders argued that the girl’s family likely pressured her into embellishing her story, considering the rift that these accusations prompted with the Baird family. He also claimed there was “absolutely no corroboration” for the teen’s claims.

But Gross pushed back forcefully against Sanders’ claims in his closing argument, noting that the girl had “everything to lose” by accusing Baird of misconduct. He noted that she had attended the church since she was 7, and considered the Bairds a “second family.”

“She knew the defendant for years; this was not some random guy groping her,” Gross said. “This is where she grew up. She spent the formative years of her life at the church. You can understand why she didn’t want to come forward immediately.”

Gross also pointed to Baird’s long history of sexually suggestive messages to the teen as evidence of his intent. He convinced the girl to download the “Trivia Crack” app, then used it to frequently ask her if he could be her “first kiss” or “first time,” urging her to meet him in a hotel room so as to avoid suspicion from his wife.

….

On February 21, 2018, Baird was sentenced to eight months in prison. Prince Williams Times reported:

A former youth leader of a Manassas megachurch who was convicted of having a sexual relationship with an underage girl in his congregation was sentenced to spend eight months in jail today.

Prosecutors allege Jordan Baird, 26, of Warrenton, used his position as the son of the leader of the Life Church and as a Christian pop singer to manipulate young girls and women into having inappropriate relationships with him. Baird was found guilty of five counts of indecent liberties with a minor by a custodian, all of which were related to one victim, after a four-day jury trial in Prince William County Circuit Court. Jurors recommended Baird serve five months in jail for those convictions.

The jury couldn’t reach a verdict on one charge—using electronic means to commit a sex crime with a minor. As part of a plea deal, the charge was amended to electronic solicitation of a minor and Baird pleaded no contest to it today.

“You kept me silent for a year-and-a-half and I want you to know you no longer have control over me,” the victim said during Baird’s sentencing hearing. “This is not your story. This is my story and I will use it to help other victims. You picked the wrong girl to mess with. Thank you for empowering me to stand up and fight for what is worth fighting for.”

Prosecutors said Baird is a “deceiver, a manipulator and a sexual predator” who groomed the girl for abuse, sent her sexually-suggestive messages and groped her multiple times at the Life Church between January and September 2015. The teen testified during the trial she refused Baird’s unwanted sexual advances and told him what he was doing was wrong on more than one occasion.

Judge Burke F. McCahill sentenced Baird to five years in jail, with all but three months suspended for the solicitation charge and five months for all of the indecent liberties charges. McCahill said the law did not allow him to impose a higher sentence than the one the jury recommended, even though the state sentencing guidelines were between one and five years in prison for each indecent liberties charge.

….

During the trial, Special Prosecutor David Gross tried to introduce the testimonies of three other women who say Baird used his power in the church and his notoriety as a Christian pop singer to manipulate them into having inappropriate relationships and performing sex acts in the church. One of the girls was underage at the time of the alleged misconduct, the prosecutor said. But the judge wouldn’t allow the women’s testimonies because he said the information would be highly prejudicial in the criminal trial, citing case law.

….

According to testimony presented at trial, the girl’s family initially asked the church to bring in a third-party to investigate what took place. But the church selected Steve Dawson, a close friend of the Bairds’ who was once a co-pastor at the church who does not have a background in law enforcement or investigations.

Gross suggested Dawson left out key details he learned during his internal investigation when he was interviewed by police and refused to hand his notes over to law-enforcement officials. Gross also suggested the Life Church’s law firm instructed Dawson through his investigation.

The teen’s father said he recorded a meeting with Dawson in which he told the pastor Baird touched his daughter. On the stand, Dawson said he didn’t “recall” the father saying this.

The girl and her family said they have been “shunned” by the church since they came forward. They said the teen’s childhood friends were “stolen” from her and she was mocked and ridiculed by people she once considered family.

“Many people have abandoned them to align with you,” said McCahill as he handed down his sentence. “They were victimized a second time by this.”

….

In February 2019, Baird pleaded guilty to new charges of taking indecent liberties with a minor while in a supervisory position. He was sentenced yesterday to three years in prison.

InsideNoVa reports:

Kevin Gross, an assistant commonwealth’s attorney, argued that Baird used his position in the church, including having family in leadership positions, to prey on his victim and her family.  Baird’s father was a pastor and founder of the church and his family continues to serve in leadership roles at Life Church.

The victim testified that she has known Baird since she was 13 years old, and he would inappropriately give her back rubs and whisper to her. InsideNoVa is not identifying the victim.

In late 2014, Baird was teaching music to the girl at the church. He was 23 at the time, and she was 16.  The victim said Baird was waiting for his wife to leave.

“Once he saw his wife leave he closed the blinds,” the victim said.

The victim said Baird exposed himself and forced her to touch his penis.

Later, he asked her in messages if she wanted to do that again and she said no. He replied, “me neither.”

Gross argued that Baird’s messages were manipulative, because he believes Baird’s intent was to solicit further contact with the victim.

Prosecutors called 13 witnesses to speak about how Baird’s actions affected their lives, including the victim, her family members and a psychologist who evaluated Baird.

The victim told the court she didn’t have a normal high school experience due to Baird’s actions, and she thinks his abuse prevented her from having good grades in high school and attending college.

“I will not be the same person,” she said. “I can’t get the feeling of being scared to go away.”

The victim’s mother said “nothing will change the damage that’s been done.”

“It’s been five years and my daughter has been suffering nonstop,” the mother said, noting her daughter had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder due to Baird’s abuse.

Another woman, now 22, testified that Baird sent her a message when she was 17 that said he was home alone from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. At the time, the girl said she would not go to his home and said it was an inappropriate thing to ask. Jordan Baird apologized and asked her to delete the messages.

Gross asked the woman why she didn’t report the incident. She said it was because her family attended the church and she didn’t want them to stop attending.

Susan Frank, a licensed clinical psychologist who evaluated Baird, testified that Baird had an abnormal sexual attraction to late adolescents. He needs treatment and has an average to above average risk of reoffending, Frank said.

Frank said Baird groomed his victims to get them alone and take advantage of their trust.

“He was their teacher, pastor and paying them special attention,” Frank said

Baird told the court, “I am trying to change,I sincerely apologize to [the victim]. I was irresponsible and selfish. I hope this doesn’t affect your faith. It’s not the Lord’s fault, not other people’s fault, it’s my fault.”

I find it interesting that Evangelicals tell unbelievers that Jesus is the cure for what ails them, yet Jesus was unable to help Jordan Baird. What is that, I wonder?

Black Collar Crime: IFB Pastor Thomas Griffin Leaves His Wife’s Alleged Crimes in the Lord’s Hands

shannon griffin

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 see Black Collar Crime: IFB School Teacher Shannon Griffin Charged with Sexual Assault)

Yesterday, I posted a story about alleged sexual crimes of Shannon Griffin, an IFB pastor’s wife and a kindergarten teacher at Jordan Baptist School in Burbank, Illinois. Today, the Chicago Tribune reported an alleged conversation between Shannon Griffin’s husband, Thomas, and a church member by the name of Mike Mollo:

Parents at the school said they sent their children to the private school because they trusted the Griffins. Now they are feeling betrayed.

“He said, ‘Dad, you got to see this,’” parent Mike Mollo said. “He pulls his phone out, and it’s a bunch of pornographic videos of her doing things to herself.”

Mollo’s two children went to the school, and his family belonged to the church.

“The second I saw that video, the very next day, I pulled my kids out of that school, and we stopped going to church there immediately,” he said.

He said explicit images of Griffin began circulating among students. Photos were provided to CBS 2 by an adult.

Mollo said he went to police and confronted his pastor, Griffin’s husband.

“I called the pastor, and I said to him, ‘You better get in front of this.’ I said, ‘All these kids are passing videos around of your wife.’ And he said, ‘It’s not my wife. It’s not her. We’re just going to pray about it. Let the lord take care of us,’” Mollo said.

Mollo said he feels beyond betrayed by what happened.

“You pay that kind of money to send your kids to a school to where you can trust these people, and they go and do this?” he said. “Betrayed is an understatement. Violated, betrayed, angry. There’s no words to describe what I was feeling.”

Note carefully Thomas Griffin’s response to Mollo:  “It’s not my wife. It’s not her. We’re just going to pray about it. Let the Lord take care of us.”

First, Pastor Griffin lied. He and his wife have been married for twenty-eight years. I am sure, by now, he knows what his wife looks like naked, and otherwise.

Second, clergy in the state of Illinois are mandated reporters, as are school teachers. Pastor Griffin was legally obligated to immediately report his wife to law enforcement. So were any school officials who heard rumors or knew about Shannon Griffin’s sexual misconduct. Sometimes, doing the right thing is hard, but Pastor Griffin had a duty to protect church and school children from his wife’s predatory behavior.

Third, it is absurd that Pastor Griffin, instead of doing what was legally and morally required of him, wanted to pray about the matter and leave it in the Lord’s hands. This is exactly what more than a few IFB preachers are known for: covering up criminal behavior. Griffin is a graduate of the late Jack Hyles’ college, Hyles-Anderson College. I can’t help but see a connection between Pastor Griffin’s response and the pernicious teachings of Hyles.

Pastor Griffin just wants to put his wife’s misconduct in the Lord’s hands. Sadly, Jesus has never, ever called law enforcement to report one of his children. Instead, he forgives their “sin” and wipes their slate clean. This is why sexual abuse allegations CANNOT be left in the hands of pastors and churches to investigate and control. In IFB churches, in particular, protecting the testimony of the church is far more important than protecting and caring for those who have been victimized by pastors and congregants alike. Cover-ups abound.

Fourth, how is it that Pastor Griffin has not, at the very least, been suspended or put on leave? His comments reveal that he does not have the best interests of the church and the school at heart. (And at some level, I understand his desire to protect his wife and their three children.) According to several news reports, Shannon Griffin was doing at least some of the things she is accused of for six years! Six years! Jordan Baptist Church is not a huge church, attendance-wise, and the school only had a hundred or so students. I find it hard to believe that no one heard any rumors about Mrs. Griffin’s alleged criminal behavior over the past six years.

It will be interesting to see how this story plays out. The overwhelming majority of Black Collar Crimes series stories feature male perpetrators. When it comes to female wrongdoers, there’s often a double standard. An adult male teacher has sex with a teenage student and it’s rape. Let a female teacher do the same with a teen boy, and it is considered every boys’ wet dream.

Black Collar Crime: IFB Pastor John Martin Charged with Sexually Abusing Children

pastor john martin

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 “J” Martin, father of five and pastor of Lighthouse Baptist Church in Florence, Alabama, stands accused of sexually abusing several children. Lighthouse Baptist is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation.

AL.com reports:

John Martin, a 41-year-old from Florence, is held in the Lauderdale County jail with bail set at $60,000. Martin recently resigned after nine years as the pastor of Lighthouse Baptist Church in Florence.

On June 23, Martin resigned and admitted to church members that he had inappropriate relationships with young men, said Angie Hamilton, an assistant district attorney in Lauderdale County. Church members told the authorities about the admission, and a criminal investigation began.

….

“We have identified several potential victims,” Hamilton said. “We believe other charges are forthcoming.”

Martin is charged with four counts of first-degree sexual abuse, records show. Hamilton said those charges involve a victim younger than 16. Court records weren’t yet publicly available Monday afternoon.

Prosecutors and investigators are asking anyone with information to come forward. They say Martin worked as a pastor in other states before joining Lighthouse in Florence.

“We believe there may be other young people that he may have had contact with,” Hamilton said.

Kudos to the church for reporting Martin to law enforcement. Sadly, it is not uncommon for IFB churches to fire offending pastors and shove allegations under the proverbial rug. That the church acted immediately and decisively deserves praise, albeit I am not sure how much praise is necessary for doing what decent, caring people should do.

According to the church’s doctrinal statement:

Human Sexuality

1. We believe that God has commanded that no intimate sexual activity be engaged in outside of a marriage between a man and a woman. We believe that any form of homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality, bestiality, incest, fornication, adultery, and pornography are sinful perversions of God’s gift of sex. We believe that God disapproves of and forbids any attempt to alter one’s gender by surgery or appearance. (Genesis 2:24, 19:5, 13, 26:8-9; Leviticus 18:1-30; Romans 1: 26-29; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:9; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8; Hebrews 13:4)

2. We believe that the only legitimate marriage is the joining of one man and one woman. (Genesis 2:24; Romans 7:2; 1 Corinthians 7:10; Ephesians 5:22-23)

Evidently, Martin didn’t practice what he preached. I know, I know, shocking, right? (That’s sarcasm, by the way.)

Church Facebook page

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Douglas Rivera Sentenced to Six Years in Prison for Sexually Assaulting a Child

pastor douglas rivera

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 February 2018, Douglas Rivera, pastor of God’s Gypsy Christian Church (website no longer active) in Glendale, California was accused of sexually assaulting a preteen girl.

CBS News reported at the time:

Douglas Rivera, the pastor accused of sexually assaulting a preteen girl at a Covina hotel last week, turned himself in to police Sunday morning and was out on bail by early afternoon, CBS Los Angeles reports. Police have confirmed that Rivera, accompanied by his attorney, turned himself in to Covina Police Department at 11 a.m. local time. He was out on bail by 2 p.m.

Rivera, 40, was accused last week of assaulting a girl visiting from China at the Vanllee Hotel and Suites, located at 1211 E. Garvey Ave. North, Wednesday night.

The pastor of God’s Gypsy Christian Church in Glendale had been on the run since Friday. Later in the day, he posted a video to social media claiming his innocence.

Police said Rivera drove through the parking lot of the Vanllee Hotel late Wednesday, stopping to peer into a room where two girls were staying during a school trip from China.

Rivera allegedly masturbated outside the room, then pretended to be on the phone for about 30 minutes. He then entered the hotel and knocked on the girls’ door. Thinking he was their chaperone, the girls opened the door. Police said Rivera then entered the room and sexually assaulting one of the girls, police said.

After images from the hotel’s security footage were made public, Rivera was identified as a person of interest in the case.

Police raided his Baldwin Hills home Friday, towing a truck similar to the one seen in the security video.

According to a neighbor, Rivera was painting that truck black with a roller and paintbrush Thursday.

Late Friday, Rivera, whose congregation shares a building with Glendale City Church, posted a video to Instagram from inside a vehicle in which he said he “was at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

He went on to say the accusations against him were false, asking people to keep him “in prayer.” He also said he planned to turn himself in to police Wednesday accompanied by his attorney.

In April 2018, Rivera pleaded not guilty to committing a lewd act against an eleven-year-old Chinese girl.  Rivera insisted he was innocent, saying “I did not do nothing wrong. I was at the wrong place at the wrong time.”  An NBC-4 report stated at the time that Rivera exposed himself to two minor girls and inappropriately touched one of them. Video evidence puts Rivera at the scene of the alleged crimes. Rivera’s bail was set at $1.1 million.

Yesterday, Rivera entered a no contest plea to a felony count of committing a lewd act on a child. Rivera was sentenced to six years in prison for his crime.  Rivera was also ordered to register as a sex offender.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Mitchell Conte Accused of Sex Crimes

mitchell conte

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.

Mitchell Conte, pastor of Oceanlake Christian Church in Lincoln City, Oregon, was charged last week with two counts of third-degree sodomy, two counts of contributing to the sexual delinquency of a minor, second-degree sex abuse, first-degree online sexual corruption of a child and luring a minor.

KATU-2 reports:

The brother of the victim found Instagram messages between the victim and Conte that were sexually explicit, and wasn’t sure what to do. Later, the brother noticed the victim’s window open and no one inside, so he went in to her room through the window and found more exchanges over Instagram between the victim and Conte. The brother confronted the victim in the morning, and the victim said she was with Conte at the beach.

The victim told police she snuck out five times to see Conte, and that they were alone other times when Conte would pick her up from work or she would babysit Conte’s daughters, who were 4 and 6 years old.

When police arrested Conte, he said he knew the victim was around 15 years old.

Conte’s bail was set at $295,000

Two teen boys were instrumental in exposing Conte’s alleged criminal behavior. You can read their interview here.

Black Collar Crime: Southern Baptist Youth Pastor Rodney Harmon Sentenced to 37 Years in Prison

rodney harmon jr

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.

Rodney Harmon, Jr, the former youth pastor at Bayside Community Church in Pocomoke City, Maryland, was convicted in February 2019 on three counts of sexually abusing a minor. In January 2019, ABC-47 reported:

According to charging documents obtained by 47 ABC Harmon allegedly preyed on at least 7 teenage boys from January of 2018 to July of 2018 through his work as a youth group leader for Bayside Community Church in Pocomoke City.

With at least three victims Harmon promised the teenage boys they could make money for shooting videos of themselves masturbating if they sent them to him. However, none of the victims ever received payment.

One of the victims, only identified as Juvenile 2, seemed to be the most involved with Harmon. According to charging documents Hardmon sodomized him with an adult toy at least once and performed oral sex on the 15-year-old several times at Harmon’s House in the car to and from a mission trip and at a house the 15-year-old was dog sitting at.

A November 2018 news story at Lancaster Online reported:

Rodney O. Harmon Jr., 33, of Stockton, Maryland, was youth director for Bayside Community Church in Pocomoke City, Maryland, when he accompanied a church group to the Colerain Township retreat center, where the alleged abuse happened, the Lancaster County District Attorney said.

The alleged victims, ages 14 and 15, were part of the Maryland church group that attended the retreat between Aug. 1 and 4.

State police filed 12 charged against Harmon, eight of which are felonies, including statutory sexual assault and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. Harmon is awaiting arraignment on the charges.

Harmon is already in prison at the Worcester County Jail awaiting a hearing on charges there for making and distributing pornographic videos, and other sex acts involving four people, including three minors, according to charging documents.

Bayside Community Church is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. Charging documents posted here.

Friday, Harmon Jr. was sentenced to 75 years in prison, with all but 37 years suspended.