Last week, Benjamin Nelson, pastor of Peoria Baptist Church (link no longer active) in Hillsboro, Texas was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl. The Star-Telegram reports:
A man who leads a small Baptist church and is attending seminary in Waco was arrested Monday and faces child sexual assault charges.
Benjamin William Nelson, 28, was arrested at his home and booked into the Hill County Jail. He was being held Sunday on two charges of aggravated sexual assault of a child and one charge of deadly conduct, according to Whitney police.
Whitney police told Fox4News a mother found Nelson in a car with her underage daughter in a Whitney shopping center late Sunday. Police said the deadly conduct charge stems from Nelson driving recklessly near the teen’s mother as he left the scene.
According to Nelson’s Facebook page, he is married, is pastor of Peoria Baptist Church and is attending George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University.
A local pastor who was arrested by the Whitney Police Department Monday, February 27, on charges of sexual assault of a child is facing two new charges.
Benjamin William Nelson, 27, of Waco, who was pastor of Peoria Baptist Church at the time of his arrest, was initially facing two charges of sexual assault of a child and one charge of deadly conduct.
On Thursday, March 2, Whitney Police filed two new charges on Nelson.
Whitney Police Chief Chris Bentley said that charges of indecency with a child and online solicitation of a minor were added.
Justice of the Peace Shane Brassell set bonds totaling $755,000 on Nelson on the initial charges.
Bonds totaling $50,000 were added on the two new charges.
Bentley said that additional charges are pending, and Nelson’s electronic devices have been sent to a Waco facility for investigation.
The chief added that police are concerned Nelson may have had contact with other children online.
As of today, Nelson is still listed as the pastor of Peoria Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist congregation. According to Nelson’s about page: (link no longer active)
Rev. Ben Nelson was born and raised in deep east Texas, behind the pine curtain, in Center, Texas. He was dedicated, baptized, licensed, married, and ordained by the First Baptist Church of Center, where he met his wife Casey. Ben earned undergraduate degrees at the University of Texas at Austin, and Casey earned undergraduate degrees at Baylor University.
From 2011 to 2016 Ben served as a Campus Pastor with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Texas A&M University. He’s preached revivals, coordinated evangelism campaigns, led overseas mission trips, planted new Bible studies, and equipped generations of college students to follow Jesus faithfully for the rest of their lives.
In 2016 Ben and Casey felt the Lord calling Ben to begin in the pastorate and begin coursework on his Masters of Divinity degree at Baylor’s Truett Seminary. He came to us in view of a call in August of 2016, and he’s been preaching the Word to our congregation ever since.
Ben serves as a leader among equals, and works alongside the deacons and the congregation to see Christ’s Kingdom come, and Christ’s will done in our church and our community.
A Rhode Island pastor who also is chairman of the Republican Party in Providence has been accused of molesting a boy over six years.
Roy D. Bolden Jr. was arraigned Wednesday on child molestation and sexual assault charges. Providence Police Sgt. Philip Hart says the 33-year-old pastor, an apostle of the Legions of Christ Ministries, will likely face more charges after the case moves to the attorney general’s office.
Messages were left seeking comment from Bolden’s Providence church.
City Police Maj. David Lapatin says a 21-year-old man told police Friday that he met Bolden at the church and that Bolden began sexually molesting him when he was 12 years old.
Lapatin says police are distributing a photo of Bolden and meeting with church members to determine if there are more alleged victims.
Orick is accused of three counts of aggravated statutory rape, three counts of statutory rape by an authority figure and two counts of sexual battery by an authority figure after a 16-year-old girl who lived with him for three months in Jacksboro reported incidents to her mother. According to the report, the girl has audio recordings of at least one of the alleged encounters.
Columbia Road recently found itself the center of attention after its youth pastor — Brian Mitchell — was accused and convicted of four counts of sexual battery. Mitchell was sentenced to ten years in prison for his crimes. A 16-year-old female member of Columbia Road sought spiritual advice from Mitchell, only to find herself a target of his sexual advances. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports:
The girl [said] in a letter to the judge that she looked up to Mitchell, and that she sought him out to learn how to live a more spiritual life through religion.
Mitchell began sending her text messages that became more and more frequent. Someone brought it to the attention of church leaders and the texting stopped for a time.
He started up again, and the girl said the tone of the messages quickly turned from innocent and fun to serious. She said he complained about his wife and their marital problems.
She wrote that she wanted the texts to stop but felt scared to say anything because he was a powerful figure in the church and in her life.
One day, he drove to her home and told her to come out to his car. He kissed her and told her he wanted to see her again.
The next time he drove out to her home, he had sex with her in his car. Another time he had sex with her at her home while his wife was out of town, Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Kristen Karkutt said.
“I did not give him permission,” the girl wrote. “I clearly said ‘no, didn’t want to.’ I felt like he tricked me.”
Mitchell directed her to delete text message exchanges between the two and told her never to tell anyone. He picked her up during her lunch break from school. He sent her flowers for her birthday, then asked her mother at church if she knew who sent them.
Normally an outgoing teen who played sports and worked two jobs while going to school, she found herself unable to get out of bed. She struggled in school.
The girl wrote that she still has nightmares and displays what Corrigan called textbook symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
“This is a perfect example of the psychological damage caused by these types of crimes,” [Cuyahoga County Judge Peter] Corrigan said.
Friedman said Mitchell acknowledges that he betrayed the girl, her family, his own family and the church.
“The whirlwind two or three months of Snapchats and texts and the secrecy involved created an adrenaline- and lust-filled situation where he felt like there could be a future,” [defense attorney Ian] Friedman said.
According to the Plain Dealer, once Columbia Road Baptist leaders were made aware of the matter, they reported it to the police. What I want to know if this:
When did the church find out?
How much time expired between finding out and reporting it?
Did the church investigate the matter first, before reporting it to law enforcement?
Did the church consult a lawyer or their insurance company before reporting it to law enforcement?
The reason for asking these questions is that IFB churches routinely try to handle allegations of sexual conduct in-house, hoping to minimize damage to their “testimonies” (reputations).
According to the victim’s mother, Columbia Road church leaders asked the victim to apologize to the sexual predator youth pastor’s wife. In fact, according to the mother, they were told they could not come back to church until they did so. For those of us who investigate, report, and/or follow the foibles of the IFB church movement, blaming victims of sexual assault is far too common. In this case, I suspect the church believes — as many members did when Jack Schaap, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana was accused of sexual assault — that a 16-year-old church girl enticed or came on to the their fine, upstanding, married, father-of-three youth pastor. Surely, Pastor Mitchell would never, ever have had sex with this girl had she not batted her eyes, showed a bit of cleavage, and led him on.
This is nothing more than what is commonly called slut-shaming. IFB churches promote the false notion that women are responsible for weak, pathetic male church members — including pastors, youth directors, deacons, bus workers and Sunday school teachers — “falling” into sin. This line of thinking is reinforced every time women are reminded that if they don’t dress or behave a certain way, their brothers in Christ will find themselves unable to resist throwing them on the church pew and savaging them while the congregation sings What a Friend We Have in Jesus.
In typical fashion the victim was blamed, and youth pastor Mitchell received dozens of letters which were given to the judge, telling him what an awesome, loving, God-fearing man he is. While I can understand Mitchell’s mother might write a letter on his behalf, it is beyond belief that church members would make any attempt to support a man who sexually assaulted a minor who had been placed in his trust. Ohio law is clear. Mitchell had a professional relationship with the victim. He was obligated to act morally and ethically, meaning that in no circumstance could he have an intimate relationship with the victim. Simply put, she was off-limits, as were every male and female with whom Mitchell had a professional relationship . This is the law. Every pastor, doctor, dentist, social worker, and psychologist knows this — Mitchell included.
According to Columbia Road’s now-disabled Facebook page:
Columbia Road Baptist Church, North Olmsted, Ohio cached Facebook page
According to Columbia Road’s senior pastor elect (2018) Bill Giallouraskis:
I was not privy to any information where church leaders asked that of the mother. There was to my understanding, a time when the wife of Brian and the mother talked together and the wife suggested that it would do a lot to heal the relationship with the young lady ’cause of course she was involved with the youth as a mentor as well, being Brian’s wife. That it would do a lot to help, that if they could make amends with each other. Perhaps the mother misunderstood that to be more than it was.
When asked if Mitchell’s wife felt betrayed by the victim, Giallouraskis said, “I can tell you we were all very surprised. We were all very grieved, we all felt very betrayed.”
Giallouraskis also said:
We have a pretty rigorous process that we put all of our workers through especially any of our workers who are going to work with children or youth. We run background checks, we also have an interview process that we go through that asks some pretty poignant questions about whether there are issues going on in the lives of the people” like sexual immorality or pornography.
I guess the difficulty with Brian was that there have been no prior incident that would have ever come up on a background report. He has a very good recommendation from the previous church that he worked at…He married into a family that has been in our church for four generations. There was just no red flag that came up in our process.
Surely Giallouraskis is aware that criminal background checks only show if someone has been convicted of a crime. Just because Mitchell was well thought of and came from a “good” family doesn’t mean he has not, in the past, preyed on, vulnerable teen girls. As his criminal conviction shows, he has at least preyed on one church teenager. Was he a predator virgin? Time will tell. Virtually every day there are news reports about Evangelical pastors being accused/charged/convicted of sex crimes. I could spend the next hour detailing stories about IFB preachers who were convicted of sex crimes or were caught committing adultery. Giallouraskis ignorantly thinks that by asking prospective employees and volunteers if they are committing fornication/adultery or watching porn that they have done their due diligence. In what setting would a prospective pastor/volunteer ever say, Yo, I like having sex with teenagers and I love watching porn. Never!
For those of us who have spent much of our lives wading in the cesspool called the IFB church movement, the youth pastor’s sexual assault of a church girl and the mother’s claim that the church asked for an apology sound all too familiar. Circling the wagons, protecting the clergy, and blaming the victims have, sadly, become standard operating procedure. In classic IFB-fashion, Columbia Road Baptist Church, instead of making a full disclosure, disabled their social media accounts and posted the following on their website:
Rick Trotter was once a pastor at Fellowship Memphis — a generic Evangelical church affiliated with the Acts 29 network (started by Mark Driscoll, the disgraced pastor of shuttered Mars Hill in Seattle). In 2010, Trotter was accused of sexual misconduct. Female church members accused Trotter of secretly filming them in the bathroom. Fellowship Memphis, pastored by John Bryson, fired Trotter. Trotter’s behavior was NOT reported to law enforcement. Trotter was later hired by Downtown Church in Memphis. Downtown is pastored by Richard Rieves.
The leadership of Fellowship Memphis and Downtown Church got together to discuss Trotter’s voyeuristic behavior prior to Downtown Church hiring him. Evidently, they came to the conclusion that he had sufficiently repented, paving the way for Trotter to join the Downtown Church staff. Last May, Trotter was accused of taking upskirt videos of women while they knelt at the church altar. This time, Trotter was arrested and charged with eight counts of photographing people without consent. According to an August 12, 2016 Christian Post article:
Rick Trotter, the man behind the voice of the Memphis Grizzlies who also served as an employee of Downtown Church in Memphis, Tennessee, was arrested Tuesday for “making upskirt videos of church members,” reportedly “while services were going on.” …. Court documents cited by WMC says police found videos on Trotter’s church-issued laptop showing him kneeling behind at least four women during worship service and recording under the women’s skirt or dress with his cell phone.
The Grizzlies told The Commercial Appeal that the organization fired Trotter last month, but didn’t announce that until Tuesday, when news of his arrest was made public.
“Rick Trotter is no longer affiliated with the Grizzlies organization. We have no further comment on the matter,” the team said in a statement.
The Appeal noted that the Grizzlies chose Trotter as their announcer in 2006. He had no previous experience in the field and was managing a Chick-fil-A in Atlanta before moving to Memphis to work with his church.
We, the elders of Downtown Church, are deeply saddened to announce that, effective May 27, Rick Trotter was terminated as an employee of Downtown Church. This was the result of deception and moral failures of a sexual nature.
As you can imagine, this revelation has been deeply devastating to all of us. We, as elders, have come around his wife and children offering spiritual, emotional and financial support. We will continue to support and encourage them, and we know the Downtown Church family will follow suit.
We have responded swiftly as information has emerged, with counsel from trusted professionals. As we move forward in this process, we want the congregation to know we are fully committed to operating with integrity and transparency.
On August 11, 2016, Fellowship Memphis and Downtown Church released a joint statement (link no longer active) regarding Rick Trotter’s sexual misconduct:
To ensure our congregations are fully informed, Fellowship Memphis (Fellowship) and Downtown Church (Downtown) have come together to provide a joint narrative with the facts as we understand them regarding Rick Trotter and his employment with our institutions.
Let us first say we are here for the victims. Trotter’s actions are contrary to our values, and we are deeply sorry for the suffering of the victims.
Trotter was employed as a Worship Director by Fellowship from August 2005 to February of 2010. In February 2010, it was reported that Trotter was engaged in inappropriate conduct of a sexual nature at the corporate headquarters of Fellowship. Specifically, a single incident of Trotter recording people in a bathroom was reported. This was immediately reported to Fellowship’s lead pastor at the time. When confronted, Trotter did not deny the charges and was thereby terminated.
The individuals victimized, all adults, by this incident were notified of Trotter’s misconduct, made aware that he had been terminated, and asked whether they wanted to press charges. The victims were also offered independent professional counseling paid for by the church. It is our understanding that none of the victims at that time chose to press charges.
After Trotter’s termination, the church body was informed he was terminated. Upon termination, Fellowship Memphis decided to financially support Trotter’s wife and children along with paying for his three month in-treatment intensive counseling for sex addiction. Trotter was also told he was ineligible for rehire. After his three months of counseling, Trotter asked and was allowed to read a letter of apology confessing to sexual addiction along with other improprieties of a sexual nature to the members of the church body.
In August of 2011, Fellowship Memphis was contacted by Downtown Church about the possibility of Trotter joining their staff. Prior to joining Downtown Church, elders and church leaders from both churches met to discuss the details concerning Trotter’s termination from Fellowship Memphis. The leaders openly discussed Trotter’s prior sexual misconduct and the counseling he attended for sexual addiction.
Trotter gave permission for both parties to openly discuss his sexual misconduct. Downtown Church also spoke with several counselors, including two that worked closely with Trotter during his time in counseling, to determine the effectiveness of the treatment as well as his readiness to re-enter the ministry. Downtown Church also met with Trotter and his wife to assess his readiness to re-enter the ministry as well as overall health.
As a condition of employment, Trotter was given an accountability plan and hired as a part-time subcontractor at Downtown Church in 2011. In 2014, Trotter requested to become a full-time employee and as a condition of full-time employment, was required to make a statement of full-disclosure before the members of Downtown Church. In Trotter’s disclosure, he admitted to the sexual misconduct and issues with voyeurism. Trotter began working full-time and remained in this position until his termination.
The current incident regarding Trotter is under criminal investigation. To ensure we do not disrupt any ongoing investigation or jeopardize the rights of anyone involved, especially the victims, we will refrain from discussing the details of the incident which caused his termination from Downtown Church.
We can state that when Downtown Church discovered an incident of sexual misconduct by Trotter, they immediately investigated the matter, terminated his employment, and turned the matter over to the sex crimes unit of the Memphis Police Department.
Downtown Church also contacted all of the victims (all adults) they could identify and encouraged them to seek independent outside counseling at the church’s expense. The church also told victims they would fully support them if they chose to press criminal charges, and then a congregational meeting was held to inform the body of Trotter’s misconduct and termination.
Obviously we cannot make comments regarding the current criminal investigation, but we will cooperate fully with the authorities to ensure that justice is found.
Thank you for your understanding and we are praying for all involved in this terrible situation.
John Bryson, Lead Pastor of Fellowship Memphis
Richard Rieves, Lead Pastor of Downtown Church
While both churches are circling the wagons and covering their asses with numerous layers of legalese, one of Trotter’s victims is accusing John Bryson and Fellowship Memphis of covering up Trotter’s crimes. Here’s what she had to say, as reported on August 23, 2016 by the Christian Post:
Our worship pastor, Rick Trotter, who is also the PA announcer for the Memphis NBA team, secretly videotaped me, and a host of other women and children in the restroom of the Fellowship Memphis church offices and in his home when he was on staff at the church as the worship pastor,” wrote the victim.
After getting caught by the staff, Rick’s brother in-law, Bryan Loritts, and lead pastor and elder, John Bryson (ACTS29 Board), claimed to have destroyed the evidence (Rick Trotter’s iPhone) after watching the footage. They told all the women that they had consulted an officer and attorney and if we pressed charges it would ruin Rick Trotter’s life and the video would be played in court.
They set up meetings with all the women to sit down individually with Rick Trotter and his wife, Heather, so he could apologize. I can’t tell you how distressing it all was. He was fired from Fellowship Memphis and the church helped pay for him to go to rehab in his home town of Atlanta.
John Bryson denies that there has been a cover up. In fact, he has hired a private investigator to get to the bottom of things. The aforementioned victim had this to say about Bryson:
John Bryson often preaches about the role of women and mothers that lead to men being persecuted, weakened and turned into women. He has taught classes for men in the church and at Downline Ministries on how to stand up to women, their mothers and their wives. Fellowship Memphis was hostile towards women, their role in the church and in families, the church even passed out dish rags to all the women of the church for Mother’s Day! Rick Trotter spent years attending John Bryson’s men’s training called Fight Club. It’s no wonder this issue was swept under the rug.
In the joint statement released by Fellowship Memphis and Downtown Church, pastors Bryson and Rieves stated:
Let us first say we are here for the victims. Trotter’s actions are contrary to our values, and we are deeply sorry for the suffering of the victims.
“We are here for the victims?” Bullshit. If Bryson and Rieves had any concern for the victims they would have reported Trotter to law enforcement in 2010 and they would NEVER have allowed him to be in a position to sexually prey on women again. Bryson had a duty to report the allegations against Trotter. Instead, Bryson, either through negligence or direct action, covered up Trotter’s crimes. Bryson and Rieves later paved the way for Trotter to CONTINUE his disgusting behavior by allowing him to once again be a part of a church staff.
Having reported on these kind of issues for years, I am confident that Trotter’s sexual misconduct in 2010 was not a first time offense. We will learn more once Trotter is brought to trial. As long as churches such as Fellowship Memphis and Downtown Church and pastors such as John Bryson and Rick Rieves turn a blind eye to sexual misconduct — thinking that sexual predators can be rehabilitated through prayer, repentance, and promises — perverts will continue to prey on innocent children, teenagers, and women.
Recently, I received several emails and social media comments from Evangelicals complaining about my posting of public news reports detailing clergy sexual abuse and misconduct. One Evangelical preacher had this to say:
Do you feel some sense of gratification by posting articles exposing the “sins of evangelicals?” I have found you will search heaven and earth to publish smut on anyone who professes to be a Christian. Many of your posts are nothing but smear campaigns. You ought to be proud of yourself, pat yourself on the back, nominate yourself for an award. What a wonderful person you are. Kudos Bruce, keep up the smear campaigns, because no doubt in your heart it’s all justified and makes sense. One day Mr. Bruce there will be a reckoning, a DAY OF JUDGEMENT. I will go no further, but I know this, our God offers and extends GRACE to the repentant and guilty sinner. His undeserving favor offered through Calvary!
This man, over the past two years, has left numerous comments on my Facebook page, objecting to virtually everything I post. He is an Independent Baptist, an insufferable zealot who cannot or will not make any attempt to see things from any perspective other than his own. His latest comment was on a post about the arrest of David Farren, youth pastor at Anchor Church (link no longer active) in Texarkana, Texas. According to the Texarkana Gazette:
A youth pastor at Anchor Church in Texarkana was arrested Wednesday on three counts of sexual assault involving a teen girl. David Farren, 41, allegedly assaulted the girl when she was 16 and 17, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Connie Mitchell said. The girl was allegedly a member of the youth group Farren headed. Miller County jail records show Farren was booked at 4:15 p.m. Wednesday. He is expected to appear before a Miller County judge Thursday for an initial appearance, at which time bail will be set. First degree sexual assault is a class A felony in Arkansas. Each of the three counts Farren is charged with is punishable by six to thirty years in prison.
Texarkana Police Department detectives conducted an investigation after they were notified of sexual assault allegations. Detectives found that Farren had been sexually assaulting a female (who was 16 years when the assaults began) over a period of four to five months in 2013. At the time, Farren was a youth director at an area church.
The TPD says the charge is because Farren was a youth director, it “placed him in a position of trust or authority over the victim.”
David Wayne Farren, 41, appeared at the Miller County courthouse with Texarkana attorney Jason Horton for a first appearance on three counts of first degree sexual assault before Circuit Judge Brent Haltom. Horton handed the judge a motion asking that the case be sealed and that a gag order preventing police and court officials from speaking about the case be issued.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Connie Mitchell expressed strong opposition to the gag order. “I don’t believe this case should be treated any differently than other defendants,” Mitchell said. “We’ve not put gag orders in place in these cases before.” Mitchell asked the court to order Farren to have no contact with minor females, other than immediate family. Horton responded by describing Mitchell’s request as “too broad.”
In response, Haltom reviewed a probable cause affidavit and noted that Farren’s alleged sexual misconduct occurred in a private home, not on Anchor Church property. Mitchell pointed out that Farren’s contact with the girl began when he was acting as her youth pastor. “We do believe there are additional victims that will come forward,” Mitchell said. Mitchell said Farren has worked at a number of area churches heading youth groups including Heritage Baptist Church, Trinity Baptist Church and Faith Baptist Church.
As is always the case with such charges, offenders — saintly pillars of morality and virtue — are vigorously defended by family, friends, and fellow church members. Supporters, armed with anecdotal stories, assure everyone that Pastor/Preacher/Bishop/Elder/ Deacon _____________ did not/could not do that for which he has been accused/arrested/charged. As sure as the sun comes up in the morning, blinkered supporters demand that those who aren’t really in the know, forgo making any judgments about the offenders. In fact, rather than consider that their religious leaders could ever do what they are accused of doing, these woefully naive people suggest that perhaps the victims are the ones who should be blamed. In the case of David Farren, the victim was 16 years old when the sexual assaults began. See, says Farren’s supporters, she is almost of age. Why, I bet she came on to him or seduced him. In doing this. Farren’s supporters re-victimize the girl, ignoring the fact that Farren was in a position of trust or authority over the victim. This means the victim could not have given consent, regardless of her age. Farren, as an authority figure, is duty bound to keep his hands to himself and his pants zipped up. The no-sexual-contact rules that apply to doctors, lawyers, and social workers — those who work with the public and hold their trust — also applies to clergymen. They are held to a higher standard because of the vulnerability of those serve.
Several years ago, Jack Schaap, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana was accused of sexual misconduct with a teen girl he was counseling. (Please see What One IFB Apologist Thinks of People Who Claim They Were Abused.) When the accusations were made public, Schaap supporters defended his honor with comments on social media, blogs, and news sites. Even after all the facts of the abuse were made known, Schaap’s defenders insisted that victim was to blame. Schaap is now serving a twelve year prison sentence for his crime.
Stories such as Schaap’s and Farren’s are quite common. While I have been accused of scouring the internet for “dirt” on clergymen, the truth is I don’t need to do so. Using Google Alerts, I receive multiple times a day news reports about church leaders being accused/arrested/charged/convicted of sexual crimes, spousal abuse, child abuse, theft, robbery, and even murder. These reports are everyday occurrences. And here’s thing: in the two years I have been posting these reports on this blog and social media, only one accuser was found to be lying. Credulous Christians think that the way things work is that a girl walks into a police station, accusing a pastor of sexually molesting her, and the police immediately arrest the offender. This is NOT how it works. In Farren’s case, this was the process used by law enforcement:
Sexual assault cases are investigated using the highest standard of care and consideration of all parties involved. Only when a majority of evidence is obtained is an arrest warrant approved by the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and issued by a Circuit Judge.
Knowing that merely being accused of sexual misconduct can ruin a pastor’s life, law enforcement makes sure they have a case before arresting the offender. In fact, I would suspect that clergymen abuse claims are treated with great deference, knowing that wrongly charging esteemed church leaders could embroil authorities in controversy. Accusations of sexual abuse are often hard to prove, and it likely that more clergymen get by with their crimes than are arrested and convicted.
There are several reasons why I think it is vitally important to publicize clergy sexual misconduct stories:
Rarely are clergymen arrested the first time they sexually molest or abuse a minor. Most often, there are more victims, so publicizing these reports makes other victims aware of their abuser’s arrest. If victims know their abusers have already been arrested, they are more likely to come forward and tell their stories to law enforcement.
Christian sects — particularly the Roman Catholic Church — are notorious for covering up sexual molestation and abuse claims. It is likely that the Catholic Church covered up thousands of abuse claims, protecting priests by sending them off to new parishes (new hunting grounds).
Evangelical churches are often independent. These churches have no denominational oversight. Sexual misconduct claims are often covered up or explained away. Offending pastors often leave one church and move on to a new church. This provides the offender with a new pool of potential victims.
There is no national database churches can check to see if a pastoral candidate has been accused of sexual misconduct or child abuse. Some clergymen are sexual predators, moving from church to church, leaving broken lives in their wakes.
Americans wrongly assume that churches are safe for their children to attend. They are not. Most congregants are decent, kind, trusting people. It is this naïve trust that makes their churches easy marks for sexual predators. Far too many churches take the testimonies of new pastors at face value. Oh, they love Jesus, trusting, congregants say. Why, their families are wonderful! Such fine Christian people!
Americans wrongly assume that churches exist for the teaching of morals. Publicizing sexual molestation and abuse reports serves as a reminder that churches are not bastions of moral purity.
As long as men of God keep “preying” on people, I intend to keep posting public news stories detailing their crimes. Instead of whining about my motives for posting these stories, I suggest Christians should spend their time making sure children, teenagers, and vulnerable adults are not abused, molested, and taken advantage of by church leaders. (Please see How Should Churches Handle Allegations of Abuse? and Is Clergy Sexual Infidelity Rare?)
Thanks to ever-increasing media scrutiny and the willingness of sexually and psychologically abused people to tell their stories, Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches can no longer pretend that they don’t have a problem with sexual predators and child abuse. For years, IFB preachers have — with lustful glee — used the Catholic church sex scandals as sermon illustrations, reminding congregants that IFB churches don’t have such problems. We now know that predator IFB preachers, deacons, Sunday school teachers, and bus drivers, over the years, have had their perverse way with countless church children and teenagers. We also know that more than a few IFB pastors talk a great line when it comes to marital fidelity, but behind closed office, bedroom, and motel rooms, these “pillars of moral purity” are fucking their way through the church membership.
IFB churches are predominantly single-pastor run outfits or pastor/deacon run institutions, These pastors are often treated as demigods and given absolute control of their churches. When rumors of sexual misconduct become known, church members are expected to report the rumors to the pastor and/or deacons. It is then up to church leadership to determine what should be done about the rumors. Sadly, far too often church leaders hide these reports from congregants, preferring to quietly make problems go away. I know of two churches where numerous acts of sexual misconduct took place, yet congregants were never given a complete accounting of what happened. Hiding behind insurance company lawyers and following the advice of IFB “cleaners” such as the Attorney David Gibbs and the Christian Law Association, church leaders keep church members in the dark. Always protect the ministry, the church’s name, leaders are told. If congregants are told ALL the facts, why who knows what might come falling out of church closets!
Frustrated victims and their families have turned to law enforcement and the courts in attempts to hold IFB pastors and church leaders accountable for the vile things that have happened on their watch. In some instances, as in the case of the Catholic Church, settling lawsuits have impoverished and bankrupted offending IFB churches. I would think that IFB churches, now knowing that accusations of sexual misconduct or abuse could bankrupt them and lead to criminal prosecutions, would do their utmost to make sure their churches are safe places of worship. And many have done just that. While I still consider their theology to be psychologically harmful, I am grateful that some IFB church have taken steps to make sure church children and teenagers are not being sexually abused and that adult women are not being preyed upon by predator preachers.
Unfortunately, some IFB preachers think that church members suing is the problem. Using the Bible as a bludgeon, these so-called men of God warn congregants that God prohibits lawsuits against churches and fellow congregants. Thou shalt NOT sue churches, pastors, or fellow church members, IFB preachers often say. Allen Domelle is one such preacher,
In a July 18, 2016 post for the Old Paths Journal titled Suing a Church, REALLY? (link no longer active) Domelle writes:
Every pastor is always cognizant of the fact that one day his church may get sued. In a day when ambulance-chaser attorneys are very willing to represent clients who sue a church, pastors have to make sure they are extra careful with how their ministry is run. Every pastor knows that the Devil is more than willing to use one mishap to encourage someone to sue the church and cause them to face litigation for months, and sometimes years. Satan knows that this litigation will take focus and energy away from what the church is supposed to do; reach the world for Jesus Christ.
What is unexpected is for a church to be sued or threatened litigation by respected Christians. What surprises me is how well-known “Christian” leaders are not afraid to break the glass ceiling and actually file lawsuits against a church, or have their attorney send letters that threaten the church of litigation if they don’t do what the individual wants them to do. Whatever happened to the fear of God? I’m amazed that in recent years some of my pastor friends have had to deal with litigation because of preachers suing their church.
Never in my lifetime would I have imagined churches being sued or threatened with a lawsuit, especially by people who know better. There used to be a time in America when nobody would do anything against a church. Yet, somehow we have come to a low point in Christianity where people have stooped to the spiritual level of the church at Corinth. The church of Corinth was guilty of court litigation against fellow church members because they felt they had been defrauded. The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:6, “Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?” I can only imagine that the Apostle Paul was just as shocked about Christians suing each other as I am.
Let me make this clear; it is just as evil to sue or threaten litigation as it is to attack or change the KJB, play rock music in church, live a sodomite lifestyle, or commit adultery. It is just as wrong for a Christian to sue or threaten litigation against a church or fellow Christian as it is never to run one bus or lead one person to Jesus Christ. Your Christian credentials are out the window if you would even consider suing a church.
My friend, suing a church is a direct contradiction of Scriptures. It doesn’t matter what the reason may be, it is always wrong. Just because others have chosen to disobey the Scriptures doesn’t make it right when you have been wronged. Listen, we have all been wronged, but for the sake of Christ, it is better to be defrauded than to go to law and make a mockery of the name of Christ.
While Domelle doesn’t mention abuse or sex-related lawsuits, there can be no doubt they are included in what he considers sinful acts of litigation against IFB churches and pastors. I find it interesting that Domelle calls such claims “mishaps,” acts inspired by Satan meant to sidetrack churches from their singular purpose — winning souls to Jesus Christ. Evidently, Domelle doesn’t value truth, justice, and restitution as much as does protecting — at all costs — the “good” name of IFB churches and pastors.
While I am indifferent towards IFB preachers suing each other or pastors suing former churches over being fired, when it comes to punishing predatory behaviors, I passionately support victims and their families in their use of law enforcement and the courts to punish offending churches and their leaders. The only way to put an end to rampant abuse is to make it so painful for offenders and their enablers that they will stop treating victims are collateral damage in their war against Satan.
Allen Domelle is best buds with Bob Gray, Sr. Both men are graduates of Hyles-Anderson College, and both sport honorary, pay-for-play doctorates. (Please see IFB Doctorates: Doctor, Doctor, Doctor, Everyone’s a Doctor .) Both men worship Jack Hyles — an IFB demigod who was once accused of adultery. (Please see The Legacy of Jack Hyles.) Domelle, an evangelist, considers the Longview Baptist Temple to be his home church. Longview was pastored by Gray, Sr. for many years and is now pastored by his son, Bob Gray, II.
Both Domelle and Gray, Sr. know about the plethora of rumors concerning sexual misconduct in IFB churches. Several readers have told me that Domelle’s preacher father was caught up in a sexual scandal of his own years ago. Since this scandal allegedly took place before the invention of the internet, I have been unable to verify this claim. Knowing these things, however, casts Domelle’s post in a different light. Of course he doesn’t like congregants suing IFB churches and pastors. Doing so opens up IFB outhouse vaults for all to see (and smell). If these accusations make it to court, defenders of the one true IFB faith know that discovery and sworn testimony will expose hidden secrets, dredging up past sexual misconduct claims.
Over the years, I have spoken privately with several victims of pastor sexual misconduct and child abuse. Their stories are heartbreaking, especially the parts about IFB adults and church leaders who were supposed to love and care for them and didn’t. Putting church “testimony” and reputation first, these abuse enablers shamed victims into silence, often suggesting that what they experienced is their fault of some sort of perverse test from God. Upon hearing such stories, I encourage victims to do three things:
Tell law enforcement
Consult a competent, non-Evangelical lawyer
Publicize your story
By publicizing their stories, other victims often find the courage to tell their stories. As is often the case, IFB sexual predators and abusers rarely, if ever, stop their behavior. This is why victims, if they are able to do so, should use the legal system to punish IFB churches and their leaders for their misconduct. If doing so forces churches to close their doors, so be it. As Tony Barretta famously said, Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time.
For forty-two years, Jack Hyles was the king of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana. During his tenure, Hyles’ son David served as youth pastor. After his son became enmeshed in a sex scandal, Jack Hyles moved David to Garland, Texas so he could assume the pastorate of Miller Road Baptist Church. There, David Hyles continued his predator ways. Once pictures of Hyles with naked female church members were discovered, he was fired. If you are not familiar with Jack or David Hyles, please read The Legacy of Jack Hyles, UPDATED: Serial Adulterer David Hyles Has Been Restored, Serial Adulterer David Hyles Receives a Warm Longview Baptist Temple Welcome, The Scandalous Life of Jack Hyles and Why it Still Matters and The Mesmerizing Appeal of Jack Hyles. Rumor has it that David Hyles is planning on making a comeback. As far as I know, Hyles has never publicly apologized for past sexual misconduct. There are three reasons that Hyles refuses to address his immoral past. First, he is the son of Jack Hyles, and if there is one thing that we know about Hyleses, it is that they NEVER admit making mistakes or being wrong. David Hyles’ father was a narcissistic megalomaniac who saw admitting wrong as weakness. He taught countless First Baptist members and Hyles-Anderson College students what I call the Jack Hyles Maxim: If You Didn’t See it, It Didn’t Happen. (Please see If You Didn’t See it, It Didn’t Happen.) David Hyles, taught well by his father, has yet to confess the error of his ways.
Second, David Hyles knows that he could be held criminally liable for some of his past actions, including the bizarre death of his 15-month-old son. It is likely that Hyles had illicit sex with numerous women. Some of them might have been minors. As his preacher-brother-in-law Jack Schaap learned, sex with minors can land you in prison. Schaap, who became pastor of First Baptist after the death of his father-in-law, had a sexual relationship with a minor girl he was counseling. Schaap is serving a 12-year federal prison sentence for his crimes.
Third, David Hyles’ theological beliefs are such that restitution and public confession are unnecessary. Hyles wrote the following on Facebook:
Some would have us confess our sins endlessly. Instead we should confess them but once and then give thanks for His forgiveness endlessly.
David Hyles believes if he says “my bad” to Jesus, that all is forgiven. No need to make restitution or publicly account for his vile behavior. I talked to God, Hyles thinks, and he said, Hey David, you are my son, I forgive you, end of discussion! Hyles wrongly thinks that his “sin” is between him and God. People such as myself — an atheist to boot — have no right to poke our noses into his sex life — past or present. Ironically, David Hyles supports attempts to legislate private sexual behavior between consenting adults. If Hyles supports government and religious intrusion into the sexual affairs of Americans, shouldn’t his sexual behavior be fair game — especially those acts that were criminal in nature? For Hyles, the blood of Jesus, applied in 1 John 1:9 fashion: if we confess our sins, he [God] is faithful and just to cleans us from sin and ALL UNRIGHTEOUSNESS, is his get out of jail free card. Pray, confess, and God wipes his slate clean. A sweet deal, I’d say. One that allows people to commit horrific acts and have them erased by saying a bit of religious mumbo jumbo.
This is why men such as Bob Gray, Sr. and Bob Gray II, past and present pastors of the Longview Baptist Temple, can warmly welcome David Hyles into their church. Hey, the Grays think to themselves, God has forgiven David Hyles. Who are we to withhold forgiveness from him. If God can forgive the David of the Bible, surely God can forgive the David who once preyed on the young women of First Baptist Church.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement is rife with sexual abuse problems. I know of one church where a man was caught TWICE having inappropriate sexual relationships with minor boys, yet today he is faithfully serving Jesus in an IFB church. Evidently, IFB men are free to stick their dick wherever they want, knowing that God will forgive such sins and wipe slates clean. Never mind the fact that these predators often continue to prey on unsuspecting people, no matter how many times their records are washed clean by Jesus.
In 2015, David Hyles wrote a book titled Jack Hyles’ Passion for Sunday School. The forward was written by his mother Beverly Hyles and the book was published by Hyles-Anderson graduate and Jack Hyles worshiper Bob Gray, Sr. I wonder if David Hyles will use the proceeds from his book to make restitution to the people he has harmed? I wonder if Bob Gray, Sr. will forgo his profits on the book and use them to set up a fund to pay for psychological therapy for those who lives have been destroyed by Jack Hyles, David Hyles, Jack Schaap, and those who have followed in their footsteps? Not a chance. Prayers have been prayed, time to move on. What about those who can’t move on, people who could be greatly helped if David Hyles or other sexual predators at the very least admitted what they did? Shouldn’t David Hyles and those who continue to shamelessly support him do everything they can to bring wholeness to those so deeply harmed by his debauchery? Of course not. These “sins” happened years ago. Time to forgive, forget, and move on. Follow in the footsteps of David Hyles! Stop being bitter or angry. A brand new life awaits those who will just pray the magic prayer. Imagine how many souls could be saved if everyone just forgot about the past and got busy preaching the old-time gospel. Or so goes the thinking of David Hyles and those who continue to carry the water for the Hyles family. I, for one, will continue to periodically remind readers of past IFB transgressions, hoping that offenders will one day make restitution, victims will find peace, and predator-friendly churches are metaphorically burned to the ground.
It is summertime, a time when school children spend their waking hours in leisure pursuits. I have many fond memories of the warm days of summer, three months of freedom from the rigors of the classroom. I spent countless hours at the swimming pool, riding bikes, playing baseball, going to Kings Island/Cedar Point, overnight camping, and aimless hanging out with friends. I suspect children today do many of the things I did half a century ago.
Evangelical churches know that they will have numerous opportunities over the summer months to — through coercive means — win boys, girls, and teenagers to Jesus. Church members are encouraged to scour their neighborhoods in search of children to invite to their church’s Vacation Bible School (VBS), Backyard Bible Club, or Day Camp. Non-Christian parents, unaware of the ulterior motive of Evangelicals, readily allow their children to attend programs that serve no other purpose than to turn children into Christians.
Evangelical churches are quite savvy when it comes to methods used to attract children to what can only be described as indoctrination camps/meetings. Years ago, Vacation Bible School was the main tool used by churches to evangelize neighborhood children. While many churches still use this method, other Evangelical churches use day camps to draw children to their lair. These camps are fun-filled weeks sure to thrill most children. Some of these camps focus on sports. Regardless of the theme or focus, the end game is always the same — evangelizing children and teenagers.
Most of the time at these events will be spent doing fun activities. Fun! Fun! Fun!, says advertising material. What’s never stated is that the fun is a means to an end — making sure every attendee has an opportunity to ask Jesus into their heart/get saved/become a Christian. Some churches even baptize youthful converts at special services at the end of the week.
Sadly, many non-Christian (and Christian) parents are way too trusting. If Evangelical neighbor Susie stops by to invite their children to VBS or day camp, many parents quickly say yes. After all, the events are being held at churches, parents think. What harm could possibly come from allowing my children to go? As those of us who follow closely the machinations and shenanigans of Evangelical churches know, churches are NOT safe havens for children and teenagers. I would never advise parents to send their children to churches unattended. The risk is too great, especially now that we know that sexual predators and child abusers are often fine, upstanding church members, pastors, deacons, youth group leaders, and Sunday school teachers. No parents in their right minds would allow their children to spend time with neighborhood registered sex offenders. Doing so would warrant a visit from child protective services. Yet, these very same parents don’t think twice about letting their children attend church activities that are magnets for predators. (Churches rarely do criminal background checks on summer program workers or the ministry teams that go from church to church holding camps/meetings.)
Evangelical churches should state very clearly their motives when inviting neighborhood children to VBS or day camps. Imagine what the response would be if advertising material contained the following:
VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL
We are Wonderful Baptist Church 666 Salvation St Defiance, Ohio 43512 419-956-Jesus
Come Join Us June 13-17 6:00-9:00 P.M.
Lots of Fun and Games Crafts and Snacks Too
And while your children are with us we plan to use coercive means to evangelize them. We plan to scare the hell out of your children, teaching them that if they do not repent, they will spend eternity being tortured by God.
Disclaimer: We plan to use workers who have not been thoroughly vetted. It’s too darn expensive to do a background check on everyone. Besides, we are Christians. Everyone knows Christians would never hurt children.
Something tells me that doing so would drastically reduce VBS/day camp attendance. Maybe not. Surely the fine folks down at First Baptist Church would never, ever do anything to harm children, right? People need to open their eyes and pay attention to the nefarious methods used by Evangelical churches (and some mainline churches) to evangelize and indoctrinate unchurched children. Just remember, it’s never just about fun, food, and fellowship. The ultimate goal is always to win wicked, sinful children to saving faith in Jesus Christ.
In any other setting such methods would be roundly criticized and condemned. Churches, however, get a free pass because they are considered depositories of morality and ethics. Until people realize that churches do not warrant such trust, children will continue to be targeted for evangelization and indoctrination.
According to a complaint filed by FBI Task Force Officer and Hamilton County Sheriff’s Detective Donald Minnich in U.S. District Court, Jory Leedy, 46, engaged in sexual contact with two boys under the age of 10 on multiple occasions between 2013 and 2015.
Minnich filed the complaint in support of an arrest warrant for Leedy.
In the complaint, the detective details the investigation by the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, which began in December, 2015. Investigators found Leedy first met the two brothers in the fall of 2012, one age 8, the other age 7.
Leedy met the boys while volunteering as a bus driver for Target Ministries in Dayton, Ohio, where he would give rides to and from church services to members of the area’s poorer neighborhoods, according to the complaint.
A short time after meeting them, the complaint continues, Leedy “showed an interest in the boys” and initiated a friendly relationship with their family. This included frequent visits for dinner, playing in the yard, and even becoming a part of the boys’ nighttime routine, when he would tuck them into bed, the complaint states.
In the months to come, Leedy began taking the boys to his church, Crossroads, based in Cincinnati, the complaint states. With the boys’ mother’s approval, Leedy eventually began staying in a nearby hotel room, “so they would be closer to Crossroads.” This continued roughly every-other Saturday evening from the summer of 2013 to the summer of 2015, according to the complaint.
Leedy also began taking the boys on trips out of state — including to North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, New York and New Jersey, the complaint states.
On these trips, the complaint says, the boys testified that Leedy would take showers with the boys, sleep in between them in bed, “tickle” their genitalia, and — on at least one occasion — engage in sexual intercourse and oral sex.
By September 2015, the complaint concludes, Leedy and the boys’ father got into an argument because their father felt Leedy was “overstepping his bounds.” When that argument turned confrontational, Leedy called the police.
The complaint went on to say that this was when officers informed the boys’ parents that Leedy was a registered sex offender. Early on, the boys’ mother had done an Internet search for Leedy, who had falsely identified himself as “Jordan Leedy,” preventing the mother from discovering his registered sex offender status.
According to Montgomery County Common Pleas Court documents, Leedy was found guilty in 2003 of gross sexual imposition after detectives accused him of inappropriate sexual contact with an 11-year-old. According to WCPO news partner WHIO, Leedy was a youth hockey coach in the Dayton area at the time…
Here’s what we know:
Jory Leedy was convicted of a sex crime against children in 2002.
Jory Leedy is a registered sex offender.
According to the latest criminal complaint, Leedy continues to seek out young boys to have sex with them.
Jory Leedy drove a church bus for Target Ministries in Dayton, Ohio.
Jory Leedy also attended Crossroads Church (which Cincinnati area Crossroads church is not made known in news reports).
Target Ministries did not do a criminal background check on Jory Leedy.
The parents of Leedy’s latest victims showed an unprecedented and naïve amount of trust in Jory Leedy, a man they knew very little about. They trusted Leedy enough to let him take their children on trips to other states.
Target Dayton Ministries recently learned that the government has filed criminal charges against a person, Jory Leedy, who formerly attended Target Dayton Ministries on occasion a few years ago. Target Dayton Ministries is a Christian outreach effort, primarily to poor and homeless adults in the Dayton region. Hundreds of volunteers from around the region come to Target Dayton Ministries with the purpose to reach and to care for the poor and homeless in the name of Christ. Target Dayton Ministries does not have a children’s ministry or a youth ministry because its primary focus is adult ministry. Target Dayton Ministries has a couple of large vans that we use to pick up adults who want to come to our church for worship and meals. The vans run regular routes and pick up people in the Dayton region at specified locations, where people are waiting to board the vans. After the service has ended, the vans return the people to the same route points to be dropped off.
When Mr. Leedy attended Target Dayton Ministries back in 2012, he did volunteer on occasion to help with immediate ministry needs. On at least one occasion a few years ago, he filled in on an emergency basis for one of our regular van drivers who was not able to drive on a particular day.
Target Dayton Ministries is not personally aware of any connection or contact between Mr. Leedy and the alleged minor victims in the government’s case. Target Dayton Ministries has no record of the minor victims or their parents ever attending one of our services. The only information we have is what we have read in the government’s complaint against Mr. Leedy or what has been reported in the news.
Like you, we were deeply saddened to hear the government’s allegations. We ask that you join us in praying for all concerned, that God will reveal the truth and that he will redeem, heal, and restore the broken lives of those involved.
The leadership of Target Ministries would have people believe that there is some sort of “truth” that has not yet been revealed. They ask people to pray to God and ask him to reveal this supposedly unknown truth. However, based on news reports, there’s not much more truth that needs to be known. The only truth that might yet be revealed is reports of other children Leedy sexually molested between 2002 and 2016. No one who follows these kinds of stories believes that Leedy molested children in 2002 and then took a child-diddling hiatus for ten or so years. Child molesters are constantly on the prowl for new victims. Child molesters know that churches are great places to troll for new victims because Christians are big on love, trust, and forgiveness. Why Brother So and So would never harm anyone, naïve church members think. He is a loving husband and father, and he teaches Sunday school! Yes, and by night he watches child porn videos and rapes children — perhaps even his own.
Though Target Ministries has not publicly said whether they ran a criminal background check on Leedy, I think it is safe to assume that they didn’t, Had they done so, they would have quickly found out that Leedy was a convicted child molester and listed on the sex offender registry. And here’s the thing, criminal background checks are not a sure-fire way to keep child molesters from working with children. Many child molesters have never been caught or arrested. Or, as in the cases of Dennis Hastert, Jerry Sandusky, and Bob Gray, they could sexually molest children for decades before they are caught (often long after the statute of limitations have run out). Churches and parents relying on criminal background checks to flag child molesters are putting their trust in a system that can never reveal every child sex offender. All the system can do is report whether a person has been convicted of a sex crime. There is no possible way to divine what people have done in the past or what they might do in the future, and it is for this reason that I strongly recommend parents STOP allowing their children to ride church buses. As is now clear for all to see, Evangelicalism has a huge problem with sex crimes being perpetrated by pastors and church members. In time, I suspect that these scandals will equal in number the plethora of Catholic priests who have sexually molested children and teenagers. Evangelicalism also has a problem with adult sex crimes — pastors and church leaders using their position of authority to prey on vulnerable women. Throw in the garden variety clergy adultery, and it is safe to conclude that Evangelical churches have turned into sex clubs for perverts and adulterers. (Please see Is Clergy Sexual Infidelity Rare?)
Most churches that operate bus ministries target poor, working class people. Target Ministries states that their ministry is to “reach and to care for the poor and homeless in the name of Christ.” The poor are easy targets. Desperate for help — be it food, clothing, rent money, or childcare — the poor often trust anyone who comes with hands open and says, let me help you. Believing that good, loving, kind Christians would never, ever hurt their children, the poor are willing to trust churches to properly care for them. I pastored churches in the 1970s and 1980s that used buses to bring thousands of poor children, teenagers, and adults to church. Using advertising gimmicks, prizes, money, gifts, candy, ice cream, hamburgers, bicycles, and a host of other enticements, the church had no difficulty getting children to ride the buses. Many parents viewed the three hours their children were at church as the only time they would have peace and quiet. Here, PLEASE take them, parents seemed to say.
I pastored one church — Somerset Baptist Church, Mt Perry, Ohio — for almost 11 years. For five of these years, we operated four bus routes that brought children in from the surrounding area. This was in the days before criminal background checks. The church was located in one of the poorest places in Ohio. Poverty was on display everywhere one looked. It was easy then, using the aforementioned gimmicks, to attract bus riders. Our intentions, I believe, were sincere. We wanted the bus riders to get saved. Everything we did was geared towards leading people to faith in Jesus Christ. Scores of children and adults made professions of faith. However, in our zeal to win the lost, I have no doubt we didn’t adequately pay attention to what was going on, not only on the buses, but in Sunday school classes and church events outside of the church facility proper.
There were a handful of sex-related incidents that took place during this period of time:
One concerned church member told me that an occasional visitor — an unmarried 30-something man — was inviting church children to spend the weekend with him at his nearby farm. This man was Bible-quoting, Jesus-loving Christian — judging from outward appearances (a horrible way to judge anyone). Based on his mannerisms, I had wondered if the man might be gay. After hearing the report about the weekend stays, I told the man that he was no longer welcome at our church. That was the end of that. This man joined another nearby Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB). I did call its pastor and warn him about this man.
One 40-something woman — an occasional bus rider — threw a sex and booze party for church teenagers. It was quite a raunchy affair. I found out about it after the fact. I quickly notified the parents of the teenagers, which led to numerous church teens being grounded. The woman who threw the party was banned from riding the bus. Some of the teens later admitted that she had had sex with several of them. In retrospect, I should have reported this to the police and children’s services.
One man — who later became a leader in the church and was active in the bus ministry — was accused of sexually molesting his daughter. Due to the statutes of limitations, the man was not prosecuted. He later moved on to another church.
One man — a recent transplant from Kentucky — was, unbeknownst to the church, a convicted child molester. He was accused of attempting to sexually assault a mentally handicapped girl -— a regular bus rider. The alleged assault took place near her home. I reported this to the police, but nothing came of it. The girl soon after stopped riding the bus. This man also had a teenage son who had been charged and convicted of several child-related sex crimes. When I found this out, I instructed the bus driver for that community to NOT pick this family up.
One area where we picked up riders was considered the poorest area in the tri-county area. Incest was common, leading to children born with all sorts of defects. The incestuous behavior spanned multiple generations, so much so that many of these people considered it normal behavior. I naïvely believed at the time that Jesus could cure their incestuous ways. While many of them did get saved, none of them stopped screwing their siblings and cousins. Jesus has not proven to be an effective means of combating sex crimes — or consensual fornication and adultery, for that matter.
At the time, I thought that these were isolated incidents. They certainly were not reasons to stop operating our buses. I now know that bus and children’s ministries are magnets for pedophiles, perverts, and sexually deviant preachers, youth directors, and ministry leaders. The last two decades have brought to light countless reports of sexual misconduct in Evangelical churches and parachurch ministries. Evangelicalism’s defenders can no longer say that these reports are just a few bad apples in a barrel full of sweet, tasty fruit. Virtually every day brings news of an Evangelical pastor, deacon, Sunday school teacher, or ministry worker committing a sex crime. On the good days, all we have are reports of big-name Evangelical pastors committing adultery or covering up the illicit behavior or crimes of others. If the various porn addiction ministry promos are to be believed, the majority of Evangelical men (and pastors) regularly watch pornography. Tell me again, why would ANY parents in their right minds EVER allow their children to ride a church bus?
I am of the opinion that if families plan on attending church they shouldn’t let their children out of their sight. Oh Bruce, you are being cynical. There are a lot of good people in churches. You just hate God, so you have it out for Christians. Damn right I am cynical. I wish I could share the emails I have received from men and women who were sexually molested while attending Evangelical churches when they were young. I wish I could share what I know about people who were sexually molested by their pastor, father, or some other church leader. While these crimes took place decades ago and are beyond statutes of limitations, the damage they caused is an ever-present reality. One woman, a few years ago, told me about being sexually molested as child by a church deacon. Decades later, she revisited this church, and what did she find? There was Deacon Bob singing in the choir. In that moment she was traumatized all over again. I urged her to make this man’s crimes known, but she couldn’t bring herself to do so out of fear of what would happen if she did (the man was friends with her parents). Having a checkered sexual history, the woman felt, would result her story not being believed. And she is probably right. Sadly, sexual assault can and does cause all sorts of sexual dysfunction and acting out. This is then used against the victim. See, you are a whore, the thinking goes. Why should we believe anything you say?
Let me be clear, this post is not meant to be an indictment of all Evangelicals. Most Evangelicals are fine, decent people, even if they have irrational beliefs (my opinion). The issue is not theology as much as it is practice and institutional control. Evangelicals need to stop trusting everyone who says Lord, Lord. Being Christian does not make people impervious to deviant sexual desires. Christians can and do rape, murder, steal, and molest children. There is nothing inherent to Christianity that inoculates its adherents from bad behavior. All one has to do is follow the news to find out that reported sex crimes are common occurrence in Evangelical churches. Just because a man says he’s a preacher doesn’t mean he is worthy of trust. Preachers can and do commit all sorts of crimes. Again, read the news. Pay attention!
Evangelical churches need to stop the cover ups of sexual misconduct. I guarantee you as soon as Target Ministries heard about Jory Leedy’s arrest, they called their lawyer and their insurance company. When Jack Schaap was arrested and charged with having sex with a church teenager, what did First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana do? They called attorney David Gibbs — widely known as the IFB church movement’s fixer. Gibbs’ job is to limit damage and make sure the church survives. Church leaders are told to circle the wagons and stop talking. I have seen such behavior more times than I dare to count. The goal is always to protect, not the victim, but the church. (I was quite pleased to see that David Gibbs’ son is the lawyer for the victims in the Bill Gothard sex scandal. Perhaps he watched his father smooth over one too many IFB scandals.) Evangelical churches need to stop worrying about their testimony and how the scandals might affect their ministries. When rumors of sexual misconduct are heard, church leaders should immediately report them to the police or children’s services. Pastors and church boards need to stop thinking they are Columbo. Do your duty…REPORT IT! Let the authorities determines the validity of the rumors. (Please see How Should Churches Handle Allegations of Abuse?)
I have known Stephen Pohl since the day he was born. I seriously doubt that these allegations will be proven. He said mass at my mothers [sic] passing and has been a friend to my family for over 50 years. It is painful because we are again seeing the pillory [sic] of another priest. Father Joe Hemmerly has been dogged by allegations all stemming from putting Lotion on the Sun Burn of a camper at the summer camp he ran. Many priests are unfairly targeted and I will be seriously surprised if these allegations pan out.
Father Stephen Pohl Supporter
Another day, another catholic priest is arrested/charged/convicted of sexually molesting children. In August, 2015, Stephen Pohl, 57, a pastor at St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church in Louisville, Kentucky was arrested and charged with the possession of child pornography. According to the Courier Journal, Pohl “admitted to accessing the pornographic images of nude underage boys on computers at the church rectory and office between January and August 2015.” In January, Pohl admitted his guilt and signed a plea agreement that could result in him spending 33 months in a Federal penitentiary. Pohl would also be required to register as a sex offender and face a “lifetime of supervision by the U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services.”
The federal case began after a 10-year-old St. Margaret Mary student told his mother that “Father Steve” singled him out at an after-school club to take a series of “weird” photos on his cell phone. The youth posed with his hands on his knees and legs spread apart, following the priest’s orders, according to the affidavit.
When the parents eventually confronted Pohl about the pictures, the affidavit details, they saw similar pictures of another child on the priest’s phone and reported it to law enforcement.
“One can clearly see up the child’s shorts and underwear,” Jackman wrote of one of the photos while another is “focused on the child’s genitals.”
You would think that St. Margaret Mary parishioners would be calling for Father Pohl’s head. Nope. According to WLKY, several Pohl supporters have written U.S. District Judge David Hale, asking him to be lenient when sentencing Pohl on March 29th. After all, Pohl is “presently working with a psychologist. It has assisted me in understanding what is happening here.” What is happening here? What is happening is that a Catholic priest is sexually attracted to boys and he got caught accessing internet child pornography. He also took photographs of young St. Margaret Mary boys. What more does anyone need to know? Pohl is a pedophile. Does anyone honestly think this was Pohl’s first time looking at child porn? Does anyone seriously think that he looked but didn’t touch? Not me.
While I don’t think Pohl should be locked away for life, I have serious reservations about any treatments that purport to “cure” pedophiles. If there is no cure, should men such as Pohl be permitted to roam free in public? Should they — after 20 hail Marys and 50 Our Fathers — be permitted to return to the church and have access to children? I hope not. Pohl should NEVER be permitted to be alone with children.
And what’s with those who write letters of support? I have noticed in other sex crime cases involving children/teenagers and clergymen that these predators always have supporters urging the courts to not be too hard on the convicted felon. Several years ago, Jack Schaap, former pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, was convicted of a sex crime and sentenced to 12 years in prison. I was astounded by all the letters that were written in his support. Schaap’s supporters commented on this blog, suggesting that Schaap was not to blame for his crimes. He was tired, had medical problems, the girl seduced him, said Schaap supporters.
Why is that many Christians are unable to see people as they are? I suspect the main reason is cognitive dissonance. On Sundays, members see nice, loving, kind, and supportive Father Pohl or Pastor Schaap. During the week, these “nice” men are surfing child porn sites or shagging church teenagers. Every year, hundreds of “nice” preachers are arrested, charged, and convicted of sex crimes. How can these things be? cry church members. On Sundays, these men preached sermons, blessed the communion elements, and glad-handed with parishioners after services. During the week they visited the sick, cared for widows, and took groceries to the hungry. Everything about their lives said, these are “nice” men. Yet, in the shadows of their lives, these men committed crimes that Christians and atheists alike find reprehensible. The cognitive dissonance is so great that parishioners convince themselves that their sexual predator pastors and priests are misguided and weak — but still “nice” men. Yet, when asked if they would let their children or grandchildren spend an unsupervised weekend with these men, I suspect most parents and grandparents would emphatically say, NO!
I have long argued that the Christian notion of atonement and forgiveness gets in the way of people seeing sexual predators as they are — men who prey on trusting, defenseless children and teenagers. No amount of prayers, magic mumbo-jumbo at an old-fashioned altar, or confessions can erase the fact that these men committed heinous crimes. They are not “nice” men. They are sexual predators who deserve punishment for their crimes. Let the mothers of convicted sexual predators tell the courts how nice their sons are. That is what mothers do. Church members should spend their time helping the victims and making sure such crimes NEVER happen again. Louisville Catholics should be demanding a full accounting from diocese officials. What did they know and when did they know it? Were they aware of Pohl’s perverse desires? If they were, what steps did they take to make sure he no longer had access to parish children? As is the case in many Catholic parishes, sex crimes by priests are buried with the hope that they will remain so until the statute of limitations runs out. Just what Jesus would do, right?
Evangelical missionary Matthew Durham was sentenced Monday to 40 years in prison for sexually molesting children while working at Upendo Children’s Home in Nairobi, Kenya. Durham, 21, “engaged in sexual acts with multiple children, male and female, aged between 4 and 10 years.” Casi Marlowe, a writer for Dead State, reports:
A U.S. federal court passed a 40 year prison sentence on a former missionary from Oklahoma for molesting children at a Kenyan orphanage. Twenty-one-year-old, Matthew Lane Durham, was accused of molesting eight children at the Upendo Children’s Home in Nairobi, Kenya in 2014.
Although Durham claimed he did not molest the children, prosecutors revealed he told staff members at the children’s home that he had been possessed by an “evil spirit.” He also claims he doesn’t remember the crimes.
During a preliminary hearing, prosecutors revealed that a live-in caretaker at the orphanage said the children reported that Durham either touched them sexually or encouraged them to touch themselves while he watched. According to a criminal affidavit, Durham was confronted by the founder of Upendo along with several church members, where he allegedly confessed to his crimes.
Despite pleading not guilty to 17 charges last June, a federal judge found Durham guilty on seven counts, including engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places. However he was acquitted on three of the counts by US District Judge David Russell in January because the judge felt prosecutors failed to establish enough evidence that Durham had engaged in sexual acts with with (sic) one of the victims.
Prosecutors argued Durham used his position as a missionary to win the trust of the children in order to prey on them. But Durham’s attorney claimed his handwritten and taped confessions were coerced. Officials at the children’s home only reported Durham to the authorities after sending him home to the United States.
In 2014 Durham told friends that he was possessed by a demon. Here are several screenshots of text messages Durham sent to his friends prior to his return home from Kenya.
Readers might remember my posts on Durham after he was arrested in 2014. Durham will be an old man before he is released from prison. I hope his story will serve as a warning to Evangelicals who use their position of authority to abuse, sexually assault, molest, and rape those who trust them to do no harm.