The late Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana — a man considered by some of his followers to be the greatest preacher since the Apostle Paul — made famous the statement:
If You Didn’t See it, It Didn’t Happen
Over the years, at Sword of the Lord conferences and Bible conferences, I heard Jack Hyles make this statement. When Hyles was accused of having an illicit relationship with his secretary, it is this very line he and his followers used. This, If-You-Didn’t-See-it-it-Didn’t-Happen, thinking was taught to countless pastors at Pastor’s School and Hyles-Anderson College. These Hyles-trained men carried this thinking home to their churches and used it to rebuff accusations of impropriety and immorality.
This is the argument that one commenter used when dismissing Bethany Foeller Leonard’s accusations against Pastor Bill Wininger. Since the abuse occurred almost two decades ago, there is no physical proof that Wininger sexually molested Leonard. While others have now come forward and added their name to the accusations, they too have produced no hard, physical evidence to prove their claims.
According to this commenter, since there is no actual physical evidence, it is likely the abuse never happened. According to him, Bethany Leonard and others are lying and are out to ruin a man of God. In his mind, since there is no Monica Lewinsky blue dress, any claims of abuse should be rejected out of hand.
This is the same kind of argument that Ken Ham uses when ignoring the overwhelming evidence for evolution and the age of the universe being billions of years and not thousands of years old. Countless Evangelicals have been swayed by Ham’s Jack Hyles impersonation when he says, were you there? Since none of us was there when the earth was birthed into existence, we can not know how old the universe, earth, and the human race is. We should accept what God says in his inspired, infallible, inerrant Word — that the universe is 6,019 years old. According to Bishop James Ussher, a 17th century Ken Ham, creation began on the “nightfall preceding 23 October 4004 BC.”
While this kind of thinking sounds insane to people who are not Evangelical, millions of American Evangelicals believe as Ken Ham does. Since none of us was there, we must accept what the Bible says about the beginning of the universe. Never mind the fact that the writers of the book of Genesis weren’t there either. The oldest manuscripts, which are not the originals, are dated thousands of years after the events recorded in Genesis. Even if Moses actually wrote the book of Genesis, and we have no evidence for this other than that the BIBLE says he did, he would have written the book of Genesis thousands of years after the events recorded in Genesis. In other words, Moses, or whoever the authors were, weren’t there at the moment of creation, so how can they know what happened?
The commenter I mentioned earlier refuses to believe that Bill Wininger sexually abused Bethany Foeller Leonard because there is no physical evidence to prove Leonard’s claims. No one saw it, there is no proof of it, so it didn’t happen.
I wonder if this commenter, and others who think like him, realize the huge problem they are creating for themselves. As Christians, they believe:
Jesus came to earth and was born of a virgin
Jesus worked miracles in Palestine more than 1,980 years ago
Jesus was crucified on the cross
Jesus resurrected from the dead three days later
Jesus ascended into the clouds and left the earth 40 days after he resurrected from the dead
Every Christian believes these things to be facts, yet there is no evidence for any of these claims. None. Nada. Zip. Using the commenters objection to Bill Wininger being considered a child molester, should he not refrain from calling himself a Christian or from evangelizing others in hope that they will put their faith in Jesus? Where is the evidence?
When it comes to Bethany Foeller Leonard and others who are claim they were abused by their pastor, we have living people who can be questioned. Yet, according to the one commenter, their claims should be rejected. Their testimony, which Leonard has put in written form, can be read by everyone, yet, because there is no physical evidence, the claims must be rejected out of hand. Why is this same rationale NOT applied to the Bible and the claims Evangelicals make for Jesus?
I can know Bethany Foeller Leonard wrote a letter about Bill Wininger abusing her, however I have no way of knowing who wrote the various books of the New Testament. I wasn’t there, to use Ken Ham’s illogical logic, and I didn’t see it, so it must not have happened, to use Jack Hyles’ illogical logic. Surely this is one of those what-is–good-for-the-goose-is-good-for-the-gander moments.
Please explain to me how it is reasonable and rational to reject Leonard’s claim out of hand, but not apply the same thinking to the claims made for Jesus that I mentioned above? Or, can reasonable people put their faith in Leonard and the others and come to the conclusion that they are telling the truth, just as the Christian would do concerning the historic witness of the Christian church concerning the claims the Bible makes for Jesus Christ?
Why are people such as the commenter mentioned above so willing to accept what they are told about Jesus, a Jesus they have never met, never seen, and for which there is no physical evidence, yet when a few women say, this man abused me, their claims are rejected out of hand?
Bossier Parish detectives believe they may have a major break in the case of an unidentified woman found stabbed to death in the woods 34 years ago. And they have requested a DNA sample from a relative of a Michigan woman whose last contact with her family was more than three decades ago.
“Bossier Doe fits more closely than anything we have ever found” in the search for Cole, Thorington said Wednesday (Feb. 18). But after years of false leads, Thorington said she is holding out for more conclusive evidence.
Lt. Bill Davis said detectives have requested a DNA sample from one of Cole’s relatives. The results could take weeks, he said. In the meantime, New Bethany Home for Girls has become a strong source of leads for the investigation, Davis said.
Two days after detective Lt. Shannon Mack of Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office launched the Bossier Doe Facebook page, she started reaching out to former residents of New Bethany Home for Girls after someone who was familiar with news coverage of the New Bethany school suggested it might hold some clues.
The unidentified stabbing victim was believed to have been in her mid-teens to early 20s when she was killed in late 1980. Her body was found four to six weeks later, on Jan. 28, 1981, by hunters about 40 miles northwest of New Bethany off Louisiana 157. She was fully clothed and wearing athletic socks and shoes with the name “D. Davies” written in marker on the inside — not unlike the clothing that former New Bethany residents say they were required to wear.
Davis said Wednesday that detectives have not conclusively determined that Cole attended New Bethany. Cole turned 17 in November of 1980. When Thorington learned about New Bethany, she said she posted a photo of Cole to a Facebook page for former residents to see if anyone there recognized her…
A composite drawing from LSU FACES Laboratory shows what investigators believe a woman found dead on Jan. 28, 1981, may have looked like before she was stabbed to death four to six weeks before her body was located in a wooded area in east-central Bossier Parish.
Her stab-pocked body was found in the woods off a public logging trail in north Louisiana on Jan. 28, 1981. She was in her late teens or early 20s and had been dead for four to six weeks, a coroner determined. There were scribbles on her sneakers, including a name written on the inside: “D. Davies.” It looked like she had removed the braces from her teeth.
In 34 years, no one has identified the body of the 5-foot-6 blonde found off Louisiana Highway 157. But now Bossier Parish law enforcement officials are investigating a potential link between the woman they now call “Bossier Doe” and a notorious girls home 40 miles away.
Lt. Shannon Mack, lead detective in Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office cold case No. 81-018329, said she first learned of New Bethany Home for Girls in Arcadia, after creating a public Facebook profile for Bossier Doe on Friday (Feb. 6) in an attempt to generate more leads. She has since reached out to former New Bethany residents for help.
Open from 1971 to 2001, New Bethany marketed itself as a boarding school for troubled girls. Youth came from across the country, some court-ordered, others by request of parents or guardians. Bienville Parish law enforcement and nearby residents became accustomed to encountering runaways from the strict, Independent Fundamentalist Baptist home, located behind barbed wire fences in a rural area off of Louisiana Highway 9.
Simone Jones, 47, a former resident who herself scaled the fences and ran to law enforcement seeking an escape, said that when Mack reached out to her about the 1981 case Sunday, her mind started spinning.
Jones, who was at the home from 1981 to 1984, said that while she doesn’t remember anyone by this name or description, details about Bossier Doe’s case were reminiscent of New Bethany:
Girls were required to write their names in marker on the insides of their shoes and on all their clothes, as it appeared someone did inside the victim’s shoes. When Bossier Doe was found, she was wearing size 7 Evonne Goolagong brand, a washable canvas sneaker sold by Sears. Other names were scribbled in ink on the outside of the shoes, including “Resha,” “David” and “Dena & Michael Brisco.”
Bossier Doe was wearing white athletic socks with blue and yellow stripes, Mack said. The New Bethany uniform at the time included white athletic socks with stripes on them. Jones said the uniform required the stripes be red or blue. “But there were other colors around,” she said.
To date, law enforcement has found no indication anyone by this young woman’s description was ever reported missing. It’s well-established that many of the girls of New Bethany were often disconnected from their families — either by force of the school’s rules, by circumstance that led them there, or both. In 2013, for example, Bienville Parish Sheriff John Ballance told NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune that after he encountered an 18-year-old runaway from New Bethany in 1975, he contacted her father by phone and was told the man wanted nothing to do with her.
Here’s another detail that raised interest of the former New Bethany residents.
Bossier Doe had bonding residue from braces on her teeth, Mack said, which led investigators to believe either she or someone else had removed her braces without the help of a professional.
Teresa Frye, 47, another former resident who Mack reached Sunday, said that detail stood out to her. When Frye arrived at New Bethany in 1982 from North Carolina, she was taken to have her braces professionally removed earlier than her orthodontist had instructed. Frye said she believes it was done so that she wouldn’t require additional medical care while at the home.
Many former New Bethany residents interviewed by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune since 2013 have described being denied medical care, a complaint that was also documented in a child welfare investigation in the 1980s. It would not be implausible, said Jones and Frye, for a resident to attempt to remove her own braces.
Mack said she is looking to speak with anyone whose memory might be jogged by the details of this girl’s death…
David Hyles, son of adulterer Jack Hyles, once an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor and a serial adulterer, has come out of the hole he crawled into (Hyles deleted his blog after it was publicized) over twenty years ago, and he telling all who will listen that he has been restored.
Restoration in the IFB movement is like a slum lord who remodels a house. The slum lord is only concerned about the rent money so he rehabs the house just enough to make it look acceptable and then he puts the FOR RENT sign in the window. Behind the paint and underneath the stained carpet is the same cockroach-infested house that existed before the slum lord rehabbed the house. So it is with restoration in the IFB church movement and in much of Evangelicalism.
David Hyles has found two preachers to help him rehab his life: Mike Johnston and David Baker. Johnston runs a ministry called Promise Ministries International Center for Biblical Studies (PMI) in Battle Creek, Michigan. PMI is a distance Bible and pastoral training ministry that focuses its efforts on people in prison.
What kind of church is Lighthouse Baptist? A screenshot from the church’s web page will tell us all we need to know:
Lighthouse Baptist Church, Columbia, Tennessee
David Hyles has found two pastors who hold to his dead father’s philosophies and beliefs to help him restore his life. Asking IFB pastors, especially those who hold to a perverted, truncated, cheap view of grace, to help you restore your life is like asking the town drunk to help you stop drinking.
I am all for people trying to turn their lives around. I am all for people trying to change their ways. However, I think to do so a person must own his past behavior, be honest about his actions, and not expect people to just forgive and forget.
David Hyles, by all accounts, was a serial adulterer. He had sex with numerous women in multiple churches. Some of them may have been underage. His sexual conquests are well documented. His father covered up his son’s perverse behavior and helped him get a fresh start at a new church. At the new church David Hyles repeated the same conduct that got him into trouble in the first place.
In 2007, the following expose of David Hyles appeared on The Conservative Babylon website (no longer active):
Claims to fame: Son of Jack Hyles; former Youth Minister, First Baptist Church of Hammond; ex-pastor, Miller Road Baptist Church (Garland, Texas); accused serial adulterer; divorcé; cohabitator; alleged child abuser; suspected child killer
Moral apex: As the story goes (we don’t know; we weren’t there), somebody at Hyles’s church discovered porn magazines containing ads for group sex which, they reportedly claimed, featured photos of Hyles having sex with church member Brenda Stevens (by some accounts, the daughter of a deacon). A story soon surfaced that Hyles had had extramarital sex with some 19 female members of the church.
Every one of these women was apparently stupid enough to think she was Brother Dave’s “one-and-only,” according to a voice on a taped phone conversation attributed to Dave’s wife Paula. And, as you can guess, it appears more than a few marriages where destroyed when the truth came out.
What happened next: It appears to outsiders that Miller Road Baptist threw him out, and his wife divorced him and took off with their two kids, and he started living with Stevens (out of — gasp! — wedlock) in Illinois.
Where it gets really tragic: Stevens had a small son, Brent. Dave Hyles was suspected of abusing the boy — who had suffered some eight or nine broken bones in his short life, which had never been treated. Brent was taken out of Hyles and Steven’s Illinois home and given to his biological father in Texas. Within a few months, for reasons beyond comprehension, Brent was returned to Stevens.
And then, in late 1985, 15-month-old Brent was found dead in his crib. Hyles, who had been alone with the child, claimed he found him not breathing, and called police. It has been suggested in a few online articles that Dave’s father Jack arrived before the cops did.
A coroner’s inquest into Brent’s death (at which Hyles took exercised his Fifth Amendment rights — and which the baby’s mother doesn’t appear to have attended) was apparently thwarted because the little boy had been embalmed and buried (reportedly the very next day after his death), before a proper autopsy could be performed. (An empty bottle of Actifed — for which a prescription had been filled only the day before Brent’s death — was found at the scene.)
Without any physical evidence of wrongdoing, Hyles was not indicted. The case remains open.
If those who follow the Hyles story are correct (waving at the Fighting Fundamentalists!), n the mid-1990s Hyles went to work teaching Sunday school at a Pinellas Park Baptist Church in Florida — which reportedly expelled him on charges of adultery. It’s also been reported that he was thrown out of the next church he attended (Berean Baptist Church in Orange Park, Florida), for “sexual misconduct” with three different women.
(One of those women is assumed to be church secretary Joyce Phaneuf, who appears to have been arrested for prostitution in 2003. Assuming this is the same Joyce Phaneuf, her mug shot and arrest report — which notes the tattoo on her right-upper thigh, reading “David’s Girl” — are available at everybody’s favorite finger-wagging site, The Smoking Gun.)
Just when you think it can’t get any more tragic: Hyles, it’s said, finally married Stevens and they had their own child together, a boy named Jack David. In March, 1999, when the child was five years old, Stevens was reported to have run over him with her car, killing him. According to news reports, she claimed he must have fallen out of the vehicle, and she didn’t know it….
What does David Hyles say to reports like the one on The Conservative Babylon? He ignores it and refuses to directly confirm or reject the behaviors he is accused of. Instead, in a blog page titled, David Hyles: My Story (page no longer available), Hyles writes:
Others may be reading this book merely out of curiosity. You heard of me and read many of the horrible stories about me. Now you want to know what I am going to say in defense or in explanation. I trust you will not be too disappointed, but this is not a tell all book. I have no intention of defending myself nor do I plan on trying to separate the truth from the legion of lies. I do not believe it would bring honor to God for me to try and explain what is and is not true. Explanation often leads to excuse or blame and I desperately fear that. You do not need to read about my sins. You just need to know that whatever I did do when I was away from the Father, God in His rich mercy and grace has restored me to HIMSELF. This is a book about grace. I trust that God’s grace and not my sins will be glorified.
In other words, whatever Hyles did or didn’t do, he ain’t tellin’. God has forgiven him, it’s under the blood, time to move on. Time to move on meaning, I have written a book I want you to buy.
Jack Hyles, David Hyles, Jim Krall, World’s Greatest Men
Hyles has some sharp words for his critics:
First you are hurting the lost. Several years ago I worked with a young man who knew I was a Christian. This young man was searching. He had dabbled into several religions in his search. He respected me and began to question me about Christ. God was working in his life and I felt he was very close to accepting Christ as his Savior. Someone, in an attempt to hurt my business began circulating an email through my workplace and he received it, anonymously, of course. He never again listened to me and eventually our paths parted. I pray every day for God to save him. It was not MY sins that turned him away. No, actually it was the evil spirit of those my accusers who claimed to be Christians. He wanted no part of that.
Secondly, you are hurting the fallen. Countless Christians have seen what you have done to me and to others who have fallen and decided to just disappear rather than being restored. I believe that there have been suicides and other tragedies that could have been prevented if a fallen brother or sister had felt there was hope. You diatribes on your filthy forums serve Satan’s purpose well.
Thirdly you are hurting those who I have hurt. Please hear me on this. Every fallen pastor or Christian leaves hurting people in their sinful wake. I did. I know that. It breaks my heart. David did too and his heart was broken. There is little we can do to repair the damage. Their deliverance must come from God and it will not come from revenge or retribution. It will come only from forgiveness. Please allow God to be God and to deal with his children as He will. Stay out of it and encourage those who have been hurt to find their peace from God not from your vigilante system of internet justice.
Allow me to elaborate on this just a bit more. People who are hurt by a sinner are destroyed by bitterness. No one’s sin can destroy your life. Our loving Father would not allow that. He stands ready as a loving Father to pick you up and mend your broken heart. Sinners (and that includes us all) do bad things that affect other’s lives. For all have sinned… However, if we get them to take their eyes off of the offender and place it on the Savior they can be healed. Closure does not come from our flawed idea of justice. It comes from letting God heal us even as He deals with the one who offended or hurt us.
Fourthly you are hurting you! The manure you are hurling fails to hit me but your hands sure do smell of the filth you have no business picking up. I am sorry for the pain that makes you feel that somehow you will gain some kind of satisfaction from trying to hurt me. I wish this book could give you the peace you are lacking but I sincerely doubt it will.
Finally and most importantly, you are hurting the Father. I have news for you that is not going to please you, but here goes. GOD LOVES ME and I AM SAVED AND FORGIVEN! I fell but, you see, when a Christian falls we do not fall away from grace, we fall into it, hence the name of this book. I am in His grace and one day I will stand before Him clothed in the righteousness of His Son and not the sin of my own. Why would you dare try and hurt the heart of God? Is it because there is unconfessed sin in your life? Are you so far from Him that you have lost the sweetness of His mercy and grace in your own life? That is sad.
David Hyles, in the manner of countless abusers before him, refuses to own his past behavior and points the finger at those who attempt to hold him accountable for what he did. Hyles thinks he has a get out of jail free card. He thinks the blood of Jesus has cleansed him from all of his past actions, and if God has forgiven him so should everyone else.
David Hyles perpetrated acts against real flesh-and-blood people, and if he is serious about turning his life around he MUST deal with the men, women, and children he hurt. Putting his past actions under the blood, cast into the sea of God’s forgetfulness, might play well in IFB churches, but here in the real world where real hurt must be atoned for, David Hyles is expected to own his past behavior, make a complete confession, and, as much as is humanly possible, make restitution to those he hurt.
It is clear from David Hyles’ blog, Fallen In Grace, (which he deleted once it was publicized) that he is still a believer in IFB doctrine. No matter what “sins” he committed, no matter how perverse his life was, because of the IFB doctrine of “once saved, always saved,” Hyles was always a Christian. No matter how many people he hurt and abused, he was always God’s child. This turns the Christian gospel of grace on its head, and no matter what a person might have done, if he, at one time or the other, mouthed the right prayer, he is a Christian.
This is why David Hyles can reinvent himself and start fresh. As countless preachers before him, his God has hosed off the shit from his life, and he is a clean, fresh-smelling Christian. However, I suspect the people David Hyles hurt and abused can still smell the shit. Their lives were forever marred by the perverse actions of David Hyles.
I have no doubt David Hyles will convince a lot of people that he is truly a new man and that God has a wonderful, new, exciting ministry for him. Christians love a comeback story and Hyles is counting on their gullibility to make a new life for himself.
For those of us who lived through the David Hyles scandals and the Jack Hyles scandal, we are not easily fooled. When David Hyles demonstrates true acts of repentance and restitution, then people such as I might, in time, be willing to give him a twelfth chance. Based on what Hyles has written so far, he sees no need for repentance or restitution. He sees no need to make things right with those he victimized. God has forgiven him and THAT is all that matters. Because of this, I am inclined to think that David Hyles is just another disgraced IFB preacher trying to make a comeback because he needs some money.
Bob Gray’s version of Christianity leaves no one beyond the grace of God. It requires no repentance or restitution. It requires no accounting of crimes committed or people defrauded. All that matters is that a sinner prays the prayer and his or her ticket for heaven is punched. According to Gray, David Hyles has a fire insurance policy that can’t be revoked.
The publishing of this book is a reminder that David Hyles, like his father, is a narcissist. Imagine if Hyles wrote a book titled, I was Wrong: My Apology to Those I Hurt. Most people would appreciate his willingness to come clean about the past (though fessing up to what might have been murder might land him in the slammer). Instead, Hyles writes a book about his father. By doing so, Hyles reminds everyone that is paying attention that nothing has changed. Ain’t God good!
Let me be clear, I don’t think David Hyles is evil personified. He is a man with a wife and a family. He has sisters and a mother. I must never forget that is he a fellow human being. But, he also has a sordid past, a past he is unwilling to deal with. His unwillingness to do so casts a long shadow over his present life. Hyles thinks that the blood of Jesus is some sort of magic potion that makes the past disappear. While that might play well in places like the Longview Baptist Temple, there are a number of people, IFB pastors and church members included, who are outraged by Hyles’ narcissistic, unrepentant behavior. To these people, men like Bob Gray are enablers who encourage people to make light of their sin. Is there no sin that carries a societal and church death penalty? In Bob Gray’s world, evidently not. A decade from now, when convicted sex offender Jack Schaap is released from the federal penitentiary, I have no doubt he will find a home at the Longview Baptist Temple. Why, he might even become a worker in the youth group, sharing, like the Apostle Paul, stories from prison.
Much of Hyles’ Facebook wall is private, but his older status updates are public. Take a few minutes to read them. I suspect you will notice, as I did, that he loves to quote himself, proving that he is a chip off of his father’s block.
Several preachers are listed as friends on Hyles’ Google+ page including Bob Gray, retired pastor of Longview Baptist Temple, Bob Gray II, current pastor of Longview Baptist, and Joel Fugate, assistant pastor Clays Mill Road Baptist Church. (Jeff Fugate’s son)
As many of you know, I have long been an advocate for those abused at Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) teen group homes. These homes, some of which are still in existence, routinely used violence to force teenagers into submission. Some of the residents were sexually violated. Where was the state, you ask? Sitting on the sidelines, often ignoring the cries of those who were beaten, abused, sexually molested, and raped.
One such home was the New Bethany Home for Girls, owned and operated by IFB preacher Mack Ford. Ford was a protégé of famed abuser Lester Roloff. The New Orleans Times-Picayune has published numerous articles about New Bethany. If you aren’t familiar with this story, I encourage you read The Long Road: To the Gates of New Bethany and Back. (Link no longer active. To find New Bethany stories, do a search for them on the NOLA website.)
Over the years, the victims of Mack Ford and the staff at New Bethany have tried to bring their abusers to justice. Unfortunately, Ford wears a Teflon suit and nothing seems to stick to him. Two weeks ago, a grand jury declined to charge 82-year-old Mack Ford.
A grand jury has declined to indict a man accused of raping girls who were under his care at a notorious religious boarding school in north Louisiana decades earlier.
Mack W. Ford, 82, of Arcadia, was the target of what law enforcement officials describe as a year-long investigation into reports he molested young residents at his now-shuttered New Bethany Home for Girls.
A written statement released Tuesday (Jan. 6) by Bienville Parish District Attorney Jonathan Stewart, said “the grand jury was given research and information regarding the statute of limitations with regard to each alleged act and, after deliberation, returned a no true bill.” A no true bill represents a grand jury’s decision not to indict.
Three women who lived at the home in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s traveled from three states to testify before a grand jury Dec. 18 about their experiences with Ford. Other witnesses testified Oct. 15 and Dec. 29, according to state officials.
The women said their grand jury testimony was the closest they felt they had come to achieving justice for the crimes they said were committed against them as young girls in the place Ford once described as “a mission project to the incorrigible, unwanted rejects.” But after a Louisiana State Police investigator notified them by phone Monday evening that Ford would not face charges, the former residents sounded variously dazed, outraged and despondent.
“If he had been indicted for just one thing, it would have been justice for so many people,” said Simone Jones, a 47-year-old police dispatcher in Kansas who told police that Ford raped her in 1982 or 1983. “Why does this man continue to walk free?”
The grand jury convened almost exactly a year after Jones and other former residents journeyed to Bienville Parish to support Jennifer Halter, an ailing woman from Las Vegas, as she fulfilled a dying wish to report Ford, who she said began molesting her shortly after she arrived at the school in 1988 until her 1990 departure. Their trip was documented in an April NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune series that chronicled decades of abuse allegations at the home for which no one was ever prosecuted.
Ford, who still resides at the former New Bethany compound at 120 Hiser Road, has declined to comment about the allegations against him. He could not be reached by phone Tuesday morning, nor could Jesse Lewis Knighten, a nephew who court records show assumed power of attorney for Ford in January 2013.
Halter and Jones said that Mike Epps, an investigator with Louisiana State Police, told them Monday evening that the grand jury decided that the crimes they described were not prosecutable under current law.
“The reason given in the short-term was not that the grand jury didn’t believe us. It was because of the statutes,” Jones said.
Jones told police she was 14 when Ford approached her while she was doing chores, asked her if she was “a pure lady,” unbuttoned his overalls and then forced her to perform oral sex.
Jones said that Epps explained to her Monday that though current law considers oral sexual intercourse to rise to the level of “forcible rape” in some circumstances, at the time she said she was victimized in the early 1980s, the law only considered it “oral sexual battery.” Forcible rape has no statute of limitations, while sexual battery does.
“They let us down again,” Halter said. “I can’t understand why it’s OK for these people to do what they do and walk away like nothing was done wrong. It’s like laughing in our face all over again. What is justice? When is enough enough?”
Halter told police that Ford was chief among her abusers during her time at the home. In interviews with NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, she described repeated abuse, including frequent sexual contact by Ford during choir trips he chaperoned to churches in nearby towns and states — information she said she also reported to police in 2013.
Louisiana State Police Capt. Doug Cain said Epps would not be able to discuss the investigation or the grand jury’s decision. “We have to respect the court’s decision,” Cain said.
Former residents who were aware of the latest police investigation, recalled decades of abuse allegations recorded by state social workers and local police that never materialized in criminal charges.
“This has gone on for years,” said Tara Cummings, a resident at the home from 1982 to 1983. She said that if the statute of limitations was an issue, the state attorney should not have convened a grand jury to begin with…
…Ford created New Bethany Home for Girls 44 years ago on a plot of land 50 miles east of Shreveport, on more than six acres he bought for $30,000 from a 60-year-old widow, according to court records. The site had served as a penal farm and later a nursing home before he turned it into a home for what he called “wayward” girls.
New Bethany was affiliated with the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church. Residents were subject to strict rules, harsh punishment and maintained restricted access to the outside world, according to interviews, news reports and legal documents.
“We are reaching out as a mission project to the incorrigible, unwanted rejects,” Ford told attorneys in a 1997 court deposition. “Destitute, lonely, prostitutes, drug addicts … These kids haven’t been loved and they haven’t had a chance in life.”
Ford was a high school dropout-turned-tire-salesman who said he was inspired to open the school during a retreat in Arkansas. There, he once said in a court deposition, he met two little blonde 12-year-old girls who had been impregnated by their father and was inspired to help such troubled children.
Until its closure in 2001, the school took in hundreds of children and young women from across the state and country.
To some who heard of New Bethany’s mission and others who encountered the school through its traveling girls’ choir it appeared a worthy charitable cause. But records, interviews, news reports and other documents show residents also went to extraordinary lengths to escape the home.
Stories of physical and mental abuse plagued New Bethany for almost as long as it was open, documents and news stories show. Girls who ran away from the school described brutal paddlings and harsh physical punishment. They were rarely allowed to call home and when they did, their calls were monitored, according to accounts.
Runaways often scaled the tall chain-link fence, crawling over the inward facing barbed wire at the top, and ran through dense woods to find someone who might believe them.
State and local officials escorted girls from the property during several raids. But the home was repeatedly allowed to reopen and reenroll children.
Ford became known for his resistance to outside interference. He filed federal civil rights lawsuits twice after state officials from child protective services and the state fire marshal sought to inspect the facility or question children and staff about their complaints of abuse. A federal judge in 1992 dismissed a lawsuit in which Ford asked the government to keep officials from interfering in New Bethany operations. Seven years later, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision determining there was no evidence that state officials were plotting to shut down New Bethany, as Ford complained…
…Joanna Wright, 54, of Houston, sounded tired when she spoke about the grand jury decision this week.
Wright, a preacher’s daughter, arrived at the home in the mid-1970s at age 14, excited for an experience outside what she describes as her insular, fundamentalist upbringing. But she said Ford soon began molesting her and, in 1977, forcibly raped her on the New Bethany compound.
Wright said news of the non-indictment left her feeling numb. She said she had told authorities about what happened to her on several occasions — she said she told a social worker about it in 1993 and spoke to a district attorney in 1998 — and nothing ever came of it.
But in July 2013, haunted and frustrated by her experience and the experiences of those she knows, Wright reached out to Jump, the assistant district attorney in Bienville Parish, and told her she was ready to make a police report in person.
On July 11, 2013, Jump wrote back:
“We are a long way from being able to arrest him. I have to sift through this stuff and talk to someone who was raped at the home and is willing to testify to that fact. And then determine if I can win the case. I don’t think it would be good for anyone [sic] of the victims to go through with what it would take to convict him if we can’t convict him. I will do my best and anything within my power to see that justice is done. But unfortunately justice for some of the victims will not be served on this earth. He will have to answer to God.”
I am personal friends with a handful of the women who were incarcerated at New Bethany. I know from talking to them that their time at Ford’s group home left horrible, deep scars. Some of the survivors have decided to put together a YouTube video about Mack Ford and New Bethany Home for Girls.
Jack Schaap’s father-in-law, Jack Hyles, had a long-running illicit sexual relationship with his secretary. The evidence against Hyles was overwhelming, yet the church rejected the evidence and Jack Hyles continued to pastor the church until his death in 2001. (Please read The Biblical Evangelist’s report on Jack Hyles)
David Hyles, the son of Jack Hyles and youth pastor of First Baptist Church, had numerous sexual relationships with women in the church. The church quietly sent him away to pastor another church, not telling the new church about his sexual proclivities, and he continued to have numerous sexual relationships with women in the new church.
Many people praised the church for publicly exposing Jack Schaap’s “sin.” This is the same church that ignored Jack Hyles’ “sin,” covered up David Hyles’ “sin,” and whitewashed numerous other scandals in the church and college, so forgive me if I don’t think they are acting “better” than the Catholic Church (as one commenter said).
The people of First Baptist Church were taught by Hyles and Schaap that if they didn’t see something it didn’t happen. They were taught that unless an allegation could be confirmed by two or more witnesses (Matthew 18) they were not to believe it. This kind of thinking resulted in a culture where “sin” was ignored or swept under the proverbial rug (a rug that is so high now that you have to walk up a five- foot hill to get into the church).
In general, the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement abhors scandal and its members do everything they can to cover it up. More important than the sin or the victims is the church’s testimony. The church’s testimony must be protected at all costs, even if a pedophile in their midst is ignored , as was the case with Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida. (Please read Stop Baptist Predators articles on Trinity and Bob Gray.)
For First Baptist Church of Hammond to out Jack Schaap, they had to have been backed into a corner without the option of covering it up or quietly making the “problem” go away. Calling in attorney David Gibbs to “manage” the crisis speaks volumes about depth of the scandal.
The root of the Jack Schaap scandal is found in the ministry, teaching, and doctrine of his predecessor, Jack Hyles. The remainder of this post will focus on Jack Hyles. It is impossible to understand the Jack Schaap story without first looking at Jack Hyles’ forty-two year ministry at First Baptist Church of Hammond (a church that was an American Baptist Church until Hyles pulled it out of the Convention a few years after he arrived there in 1959).
In its heyday, First Baptist Church of Hammond was the largest church in the United States (and at times, claimed to be the largest church in the world). The Church was built around two things: the bus ministry and Jack Hyles.
Jack Hyles, 1973
In 1973, the church saw attendances exceeding 25,000 people. At the center of this huge church was its pastor, Jack Hyles. In the late 1960s and 1970s, Jack Hyles was, as many of us described, the pope of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Church movement. He authored numerous books with titles such as Let’s Go Soul Winning, Let’s Build an Evangelistic Church, Enemies of Soul Winning, The Hyles Church Manual, How to Rear Infants, How to Rear Children, How to Rear Teenagers, Satan’s Bid for Your Child, Marriage is a Commitment, Woman the Completer, and Blue Denim and Lace.
There is a hard-and-fast rule in the IFB movement: the greater the church attendance, the more authority the pastor is granted and the more weight his words have. I heard countless big name IFB pastors say, “until you have as many eggs in your basket as I do you have no right to criticize me.” Pastors with small churches were looked down on and were expected to shut up and learn from those whose baskets were overflowing with eggs.
From 1976 to 1989, I heard Jack Hyles preach numerous times. I traveled to a number of Sword of the Lord Conferences, often taking with me people from the churches I pastored. Hyles was a dynamic preacher, a real motivator. He used very little of the Bible in his preaching. His sermons were always topical or textual and were littered with personal stories and illustrations.
Hyles was a narcissist. Most of his stories and illustrations were about his own personal life and exploits. His stories about him and his mother are legendary.
Over time, as I became more and more dissatisfied with the IFB movement, I paid closer attention to the substance of Hyles’ sermons. In particular, I focused on the stories that Hyles told. I came to the conclusion that Hyles was a narcissistic liar.
Hyles would often talk about how important and busy he was. In several sermons he talked about how many people he counseled every week. I sat down and did the math and I concluded it was physically impossible for Hyles to have counseled as many people each week as he claimed.
Hyles was a ruthless man. I watched him, during Q and A time, at a conference at the Newark Baptist Temple, dress down and belittle pastors for asking the “wrong” question. He refused to allow anyone to challenge his authority as the king of the IFB hill.
To understand the scandals at First Baptist Church in Hammond, we must understand the gospel that has been preached at First Baptist for over 50 years. It is the same gospel that is/was preached by men like Bob Gray of Texas, Bob Gray of Jacksonville, Curtis Hutson, Dennis Corle, and thousands of other IFB pastors.
Jack Hyles preached a bastardized version of the Christian gospel. The Hyles gospel has been labeled as decisional regeneration or one, two, three, repeat after me. I used to label the gospel of the IFB church movement as:
Jack Hyles, Let’s Go Soulwinning
The only thing that mattered was winning souls. IFB Evangelist Dennis Corle told me one time that I should spend more time soul winning and less time studying in preparation to preach on Sunday.
In the IFB church, the key to church growth is to keep more people coming in the front door than are going out the back door. IFB churches are notorious for turning over their church memberships, especially when a pastor leaves and a new one comes in.
The Hyles gospel focused on praying the sinners prayer. Pray this prayer and you are saved. Good works? They were desired and even expected, but if saved people never exhibited any change in their lives they were still considered saved.
If a pastor dared suggest that new life in Christ meant a change of conduct, they were accused of preaching “works salvation” (the Lordship Salvation controversy). According to the Hyles gospel, it was all about praying the prayer, and once a person prayed the prayer they could NEVER EVER be lost again. This is why some people insist that I am still saved, even if I don’t want to be. Once God has you he never lets go of you.
The Hyles gospel filled churches with people who had made a mental assent to a set of propositional facts. Every year churches like First Baptist Church in Hammond and Longview Baptist Temple report thousands of people being saved. Most of these new converts stop attending after a short while, but this is of no consequence. They prayed the “prayer.” On to the next sinner in need of saving.
The IFB church movement is centered on men. Most IFB churches are pastored by one man who has total control of the church. Most IFB churches are congregational in name only, with the pastor being the autocratic king of the church.
Jack Hyles, David Hyles, Jim Krall, World’s Greatest Men
Jack Hyles, Jack Schaap, and countless other big-name IFB traveling preachers routinely promote the notion of pastoral authority. The pastor, under the authority of Jesus and powered by the Holy Spirit, is the final authority in the church. He is the hub around which everything turns.
An IFB church is not known for their name but for who its pastor is. IFB church members routinely say, when asked about what church they attend, I go to Pastor So-and So’s church.
Churches aren’t known for what they believe or even the works they do. They are known for who their pastor is. When asked where he goes to Church, a Christian will often say “I go to Pastor Smith’s Church.”
The focus of everything is on the pastor. He is the mover and shaker. He is what powers the machine. Without him it all fails.
Christian TV, radio and publishing is all about the personalities within the Church. Name recognition is the name of the game.
Does anyone really believe Rod Parsley is a good writer? Yet, his books sell. Why? Name recognition.
Everything is focused on and culminates with the sermon and the preacher.
I had people drive 40 minutes to the church I pastored in SE Ohio. They loved my preaching. They thought I was the greatest preacher since the last guy they thought was wonderful. Really? As much as I think that I am a pretty good public speaker, they had to drive past 40 churches to get to the church I pastored. Not one of those churches had a preacher that could preach competently? ( Well maybe not, after hearing more than a few preachers.)
What happens when the pastor leaves the church? What happens when the personalities change, when a new preacher takes over? Strife. Division. People leave the church . Why? Because church became about the preacher rather than about Jesus and serving others.
Why is it the pastor’s name is on everything? The sign out front. The bulletin . Every piece of literature the church produces. If it is really is all about Jesus then why does it matter if anyone knows the pastor’s name?
Ah, but it does matter. Many Evangelical Christians are good capitalists (serving a socialist Jesus). They are consumers first and Christians second. They know people are “attracted” (the attractional method) to the church by the pastor, the programs, the building, etc.
They know the pastor becomes the face of their church. It shouldn’t be this way, but it is, and quite frankly, it is the church itself that must bear the blame for this.
The church members revel in the cult of personality. They love having a name- brand preacher. They watch Christian TV and listen to Christian radio because Pastor/Rev/Dr/Evangelist/Bishop/Apostle so-and so is on. Take away the names and it becomes as interesting as eating a no-name hamburger at a no-name restaurant surrounded by no-name people…
Is it any wonder IFB pastors and churches have the scandals they do? Members are taught to obey their pastor without question. He is the man of God. If he is doing something wrong God will chastise him.
This kind of thinking allows IFB pastors to commit adultery, molest children, and steal from the church without anyone ever knowing about it. I could spend the next two days writing about IFB pastors who have abused their place of authority and committed heinous acts against the people they pastored.
IFB churches think they are above the world and other churches because of what they believe. They are Bible believers and their pastors preach hard against sin. Because of this, they have a hard time believing that their pastor or any other noted preacher could ever commit sins like Jack Hyles, Jack Schaap, David Hyles, and Bob Gray did.
May I present the practical side? There exists more molestation cases proportionately reported in the 42,000 churches of the Southern Baptist Convention than in the 22,000 independent Baptist churches. Consider the largest denomination in our nation, the Catholic Church, and then think on their sexual transgressions for a while. This is not to take lightly one person who is violated by a leader in a church.
Look carefully at the argument Gray is making here. The Southern Baptists and the Catholics are worse than us! Praise Jesus! Such thinking should sicken all of us.
Here is what I know about the IFB movement. They will wail and moan for a while, but, in a few weeks or months, the scandal will pass, and they will go back to “winning souls” and “preaching hard against sin.” It is only a matter of time before a-n-o-t-h-e-r scandal rocks the IFB movement. Until the IFB movement repudiates its corruption of the Christian gospel and changes how their churches are governed, there is no hope of meaningful change.
Change is not likely to come because of their literalism and their belief in the inerrancy of the Bible. Armed with certainty, knowing they are right, they will continue to preach a corrupted gospel and allow narcissistic pastors to rule over them. Why? Because, it IS in the Bible…
Under attack over their handling of sexual abuse and rape complaints, fundamentalist Christian university, Bob Jones University, hired GRACE (Godly Response for Abuse in the Christian Environment), to do an investigation. Towards the end of the investigation, Bob Jones ended its contractual arrangement with GRACE and refused to allow any report to be issued. The outrage over this was such that Bob Jones was forced to re-contract with GRACE and the report has now been released.
For those of us raised in Christian fundamentalism, this report tells us what we already know. I saw nothing shocking or surprising in the report, and anyone who is shocked or surprised has not been paying attention for the past 30 years.
I have often stated that the internet will be the undoing of places like Bob Jones University. They can no longer hide their sins. They no longer have the power to keep the stories from getting out. While my heart aches for those who have been abused, I am glad that these stories are being brought into the light of day. As people tell their stories, preachers, professors, churches, and colleges are forced to confront the horrible, sickening abuse that has taken place on their watch. Just as the Catholic church has predator priests, so the Christian fundamentalist movement has their own predator preachers. It’s time to knock the halo off Christian fundamentalism.
From the recently released Bob Jones University GRACE report:
In his book, Becoming An Effective Christian Counselor: A Practical Guide For Helping People, Dr. Fremont discusses counseling victims of incest and explains that the first objective is to ensure that blame is appropriately assigned to “the older person who took advantage of the younger innocent person.”However, Dr. Fremont states, “If the victim has deceived either parent or both parents, he needs to confess and repent of his own sin.” As an example, Dr. Fremont describes the case of a “teenage girl who takes a bath only when her mother is away from the home and leaves the bathroom door unlocked, inviting the father’s corruptness.” Dr. Wood similarly discussed the importance of a victim’s repentance if there is any wrongdoing. In his counseling training video, “Scriptural Principles for Counseling the Abused,” he teaches that, “If [abuse victims] have sinned, and some of them have not and some of them have, but you handle a guilty conscience always the same way: by confessing to God you are sorry for your failure and by not doing that same thing again and by asking forgiveness.” When asked what he thinks the spiritual impact is upon victims of sexual abuse, Dr. Wood told GRACE:
“I think that people internally are angry at God for allowing this to happen.So you have to get beyond that and it is a very difficult thing to get beyond because I can’t tell you why something like this happened. I can tell you it did happen but I can’t tell you why it happened or why the Lord allowed it to happen. I assume that there is some reason that this has happened and that you have to work it out within your own mind about why, and it is interesting that in many cases that it really is the root problem. The girl may have caused it to start and that is the root problem with her and she has to handle that somehow or another.”
GRACE asked Dr. Wood if he could offer any examples of when a girl might have caused abuse to start, and he stated, “I mean if she is aggressive with a man, then she may have caused it. It is pretty easy for things like that to get started between individuals. I think that generally a girl will feel guilty about it, she will feel that she shouldn’t have had anything to do with it, but she knows down in her heart that she did have something to do with it.” Dr. Wood further explained how the victim’s provocation is sin just as a perpetrator’s assault is sin. Both the victim and the perpetrator need cleansing from their sins, according to Dr. Wood.
The report details the story of a woman called 777:
In the mid-2000s, a disclosure of a rules violation to Student Life staff resulted in a victim’s “withdrawal at the request of the administration.” In this instance, 777 disclosed to her Assistant Prayer Captain, the Resident Counselor, and her Resident Supervisor that she “had been abused by her pastor since she was 15 years old and was expecting a child in January.” 777’s pastor, who was married with children, came to Greenville on several different occasions while she attended BJU. During these occasions, she said they went to Spartanburg and stayed in a hotel together. During one of the pastor’s visits when she was 20 years of age, she became pregnant. Upon learning that she was pregnant and believing she would be expelled, 777 began to pack up her belongings in the dorm. The residence life staff confronted her and asked why she was packing and leaving. At that point, she explained to them that the abuse began when she was 15. She also acknowledged to them that she had lied about her whereabouts when she obtained the overnight passes to leave campus.
Consequently, she was asked to withdraw at the request of the administration for lying about the overnight passes. 777 wrote a letter to her prayer group explaining the reason for her departure, a copy of which was turned over to BJU officials. The letter describes their relationship, as well as the pastor’s manipulative use of biblical passages to facilitate and justify the ongoing abuse.
Due to these dynamics, 777 told GRACE, “I had to break rules to go off campus, but I didn’t feel like I had a choice in the matter.” According to administrative officials, 777 was asked to withdraw at the request of the administration for lying on the overnight passes.Dr. Berg explained to 777 that her withdrawal was required, “because the offense was publicly known and because she did have some ethical responsibility in the matter, even though her pastor was very manipulative.”
Several months after 777 left BJU, she called Dr. Berg to ask if she could be allowed to take her final exams since she had been very near the end of the semester. This request was denied. 777 stated that in the letter to her prayer group that she “loved being loved and needed” and “[the pastor] said he wouldn’t make it if I walked away and he would walk out on his family and the church if I left. So, I stayed and kept my mouth shut.” 777 also stated that Dr. Berg said, “it was some sort of consensual relationship,”so he would not allow her to take her finals.
Dr. Berg agreed that the situation was “complicated” and “heartbreaking” but nonetheless defended the university’s decision to remove her from school because of the school’s policy about automatic expulsion for lying about overnight permissions. When GRACE brought this case to the attention of Dr. Jones, III, he acknowledged, “Well there is a case that is the kind of thing we wanted to know about that needed to be brought to our attention. Anyway, that is heartbreaking.”
For decades, Bob Jones University (BJU), a self-described fundamentalist Christian college, has urged sexual abuse victims not to go to the police and counseled them to repent for the blame it said they share, according to an extensive independent investigation published Thursday.
The report, nearly two years in the making, is a catalog of grief stretching back four decades, based on hundreds of survey results, dozens of in-depth interviews and a wealth of corroborating documentation. It details a culture that shamed victims into believing they were ruined by their abuse. It also strongly criticizes the school’s brand of counseling, which rejects modern psychology and urges victims to look for the “sin” behind their rapes and view their continued trauma as a struggle with God.
More than half the alleged victims surveyed reported they felt the school’s response was hurtful or very hurtful. Some victims said they found counseling sessions worse than their abuse. But the vast majority of the 50 self-identified victims interviewed for the study said they loved Bob Jones University, that they wished it no ill and hoped sharing their experiences would bring much-needed change.
A nonprofit group, Godly Response for Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE), conducted the probe at the request of Bob Jones, after revelations that one of the university’s trustees covered up sex abuse at his church. The scope of such a review would be extraordinary for any university, but BJU, a campus of about 3,000 in Greenville, South Carolina, known for its strict biblical teachings, is one of the most insular in the country.
The GRACE report not only indicts the culture and counseling philosophy at BJU but also names four individuals it considers the main architects of the school’s approach. Among its many policy recommendations, GRACE urges BJU to strip its campus bookstore of the works of these individuals, bar its onetime primary counselor from counseling and take action against Bob Jones III — the chancellor and a former president of university and a grandson of its founder, for whom it was named.
BJU has maintained an insular, conservative culture that prohibits drinking and television. Unmarried men and women may not touch. Opposite sexes may gather socially only in well-lit outdoor areas on campus until 10:20 p.m. Even Christian music is not permitted if it has a rock, pop, jazz or hip-hop beat. Much of the outside world — from “worldly friends” to websites, which are deemed un-Christian — is shunned.
On Wednesday, BJU President Steve Pettit released a statement on the report, writing on behalf of BJU, “I would like to sincerely and humbly apologize to those who felt they did not receive from us genuine love, compassion, understanding and support after suffering abuse or assault.” He promised victims “who felt we failed them” that school officials were thoroughly analyzing GRACE’s findings and recommendations.
Former BJU student Katie Landry, who spoke to ”America Tonight” as part of our exclusive investigation into Bob Jones earlier this year, recounted how when she reported her rape to then-Dean of Students Jim Berg, she was so devastated by a barrage of questions — Had she been drinking? Had she been impure? What was her root sin? — that she raced out of the administration building, dropped out of school and didn’t tell anyone else for five years.
He just confirmed my worst nightmare,” Landry said. “It was something I had done. It was something about me. It was my fault.”
In candid remarks published in the report, Berg denied that the “sin behind every sin” was a concept he used and said he couldn’t remember the details of that session. But he acknowledged that the investigatory nature of his counseling, hurried schedule and “eagerness to bring real resolutions” may have made him brusque towards sex abuse victims in a way “that is probably more threatening than helpful.”
Berg, who was dean of students and chief counselor on campus for three decades, and is a current faculty member, estimated that he’s counseled 200 to 300 sexual abuse victims at Bob Jones. The report names Berg, along with former Dean of Education Walter Fremont, longtime Executive Vice President Bob Wood and Gregory Mazak, who oversees undergraduate and graduate degrees in biblical counseling as key figures in shaping the university’s counseling philosophy, which was imparted to thousands of students, pastors, counselors, teachers and missionaries. But none of these men had any formal training in psychology, or a license to practice.
“What this report found was that the materials made available by these individuals had caused an incredible amount of damage in a large group of people,” said Boz Tchividjian, the head of GRACE. “The report didn’t find that any of it was intentional or malicious. But it did cause harm.”
Of 141 self-identified abuse victims who answered the question in the GRACE survey, more than 60 percent said Bob Jones’ culture was filled with messages that blamed and disparaged victims.
Some pointed to a fixation on women’s dress and teachings that seemed to imply that women were responsible for a man’s lust. Many interviewed by GRACE said the school’s sermonizing on sexual sin left them feeling like damaged goods, as it failed to differentiate between those who chose to have sex and those who had it forced upon them…