Tag Archives: Fundamentalist Christian Pedophiles

Child Sexual Abuse in Protestant Christian Churches

From the PDF following link
https://www.mdpi.com/2077-1444/9/1/27/pdf

This is a long report of 13 pages. I am going to take some sections of it to post, but if you wish to read the whole report? Please download it.

Abstract: Utilizing data from 326 cases of alleged child sexual abuse that occurred at or through activities provided by Protestant Christian congregations, this study examines demographic and contextual characteristics of alleged child sexual abuse that took place within the most prevalent religious environment in the United States. Research questions are addressed in this study. First, what type of child sexual abuse most commonly occurs at or through activities provided by Protestant Christian congregations? Second, where do such offenses physically take place? Third, who are the offenders and what role(s) do they assume in the congregations? We find that the overwhelming majority of offenses were contact offenses that occurred on church premises or at the offender’s home, and that most offenders were white male pastors or youth ministers who were approximately 40 years in age. We conclude with policy implications and recommendations for future research.

Specifically, three faith-based insurance companies that provide coverage for 165,500 churches—mostly Protestant Christian churches and 5500 other religious-oriented organizations—reported 7095 claims of alleged sexual abuse by clergy, church staff, congregation members, or volunteers between 1987 and 2007 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer 2007). This is an average of 260 claims of alleged sexual abuse per year, which resulted in $87.8 million in total claims being paid (Seattle Post-Intelligencer 2007). Although information on the extent and context of abuse is preliminary and limited, these previous statistics suggest to us the need for systematic research on child sexual abuse within US Protestant congregations. This study will provide a more comprehensive understanding of alleged child sexual abuse that occurs with Protestant Christian congregations, while also serving as a strong foundation for future research on this understudied topic.

The overwhelming majority of studies that have been published on this topic have focused on either individual cases of abuse, how to stop abuse from occurring, how to recover from such instances of sexual abuse, or some combination of those (see Capps 1993; Flynn 2003; Horst 2000;Muse 1992; Poling 1999).

Even though the above issues are crucial for study, there is even less information about what offenses occur at a national level, where they physically take place, and who offends. This information is especially crucial when considering Capps’ (1993) three key reasons why religious leaders have the strong potential to engage in sexual abuse. These reasons are the (1) power of access throughout the church and victim accessibility; (2) power from not being under the surveillance of others; and (3) power over congregants by being privy to personal knowledge (e.g., marital issues and addictions).

Garland and Argueta (2010) later identified factors that may be related to sexual abuse committed by religious leaders. These factors are (1) family members, friends, and victims ignored warning signs; (2) the niceness culture (i.e., discounting sexual flirting for being friendly); (3) ease of private communication; (4) no oversight; (5) multiple roles (e.g., pastor, marital counselor, etc.); and (6) inherent trust in the sanctuary.

With the lack of specific research on sexual abuse within these environments, it is pertinent to briefly examine the sexual misconduct literature within these environments for contextual purposes.

1.1.1. Clergy Offender Characteristics

One universal trait that has been found in prior studies pertaining to both sexual misconduct and abuse is that the overwhelming majority of known offenders are male (Francis and Baldo 1998; Friberg and Laaser 1998; Garland and Argueta 2010; Thoburn and Whitman 2004). This characteristic should not come as a surprise since most Christian denominations (88%) only allow males to assume leadership positions within the church (Cooperative Congregations Studies Partnership 2010).

A second key characteristic found regarding clergy that do engage in sexual abuse is that only a small percentage are believed to have some form of paraphilia, which is an extreme fixation on a certain individual, object, or situation that results in intense sexual arousal (American Psychiatric Association 2013). Specifically, 2% are believed to be potentially diagnosable as a pedophile (i.e., sexual focus on prepubescent children), while 4% could be diagnosable as an ephebophile (i.e., sexual fixation on those between the ages of 15 and 19 years of age) (Sipe 1990, 1995).

Other psychological issues that have been attributed to priests that have been known to engage in child sexual abuse include addiction, depression, and even cognitive dysfunction (Blanchard 1991; Plante and Aldridge 2005).

A third key characteristic found regarding clergy who have reported to have engaged in sexual misconduct have had higher-than-normal levels of narcissism when using Raskin and Hall’s (1979) Narcissistic Personality Inventory (see Brock and Lukens 1989; Francis and Baldo 1998; Hands 1992; Muse 1992; Muse and Chase 1993; Seat et al. 1993). Narcissism is seen as a key trait that can amplify instances of sexual abuse for individuals in positions of power.

1.1.3. Offense Locations

For instances of sexual misconduct and abuse that occurred within Protestant Christian churches, Chaves and Garland (2009) found that most (92%) sexual misconduct occurred in a private setting. Garland and Argueta (2010) found that most sexual misconduct/abuse occurred inside the offender’s church office while conducting a counselling session. Since Protestant Christian clergy generally live off the church campus, this may restrict their attempts to commit sexual abuse due to less absolute privacy (Bohm et al. 2014; Fegert et al. 2011).

Despite research that has examined sexual misconduct and abuse within religious settings, there still exists a need for research pertaining to offenses that occur at or through activities provided by Protestant Christian churches. Such information is crucial with an estimated 314,000 churches in the US, with a substantial portion of that population being occupied by the ages with the highest known sexual victimization rates (Grammich et al. 2012; Pew Research Center 2007). Any environment that may be conducive for instances of sexual abuse is essential to study because of long-lasting side effects, such as depression, increased substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts/attempts/completions (see Beitchman et al. 1992; Dube et al. 2005; Najdowski and Ullman 2009; Rossow and Lauritzen 2001; Simpson and Miller 2002). As such, the expansion of research into specific and contextual information regarding child sexual abuse that occur at or through activities provided by Protestant Christian churches is imperative.

1.2. Clergy Sexual Misconduct

Sexual misconduct refers to clergy that have engaged in legal, sexual relations, adultery, or some other related sexual action with a congregant that is deemed unethical or improper within these environments. Several studies have attempted to understand the prevalence of clergy sexual misconduct among Protestant Christian clergy (see Cooper 2002; Francis and Stacks 2003; Meek et al. 2004; Seat et al. 1993; Thoburn and Whitman 2004). Studies 1% to as many as 38.5% of all clergy, across a wide range of Christian denominations, have engaged in sexual misconduct of some form (Francis and Stacks 2003; Meek et al. 2004; Seat et al. 1993; Thoburn and Whitman 2004).

The Present Study

There are three foci for the present study. First, we examine the types of child sexual abuse alleged to occur within Protestant Christian congregations. Second, we provide information on where these offenses are alleged to occur. Third, we examine who commits alleged offenses within these environments and which role(s) they assume within their congregations. It is important to understand these core contextual characteristics, to provide a framework for additional research on this topic, and to provide law enforcement officers and faith leaders with information that could be useful in preventing and controlling child sexual abuse in faith environments.

Results

4.1. Offense Type

Across all 326 cases that resulted in an arrest, a total of 454 individual offenses were alleged to have occurred. Since the 326 cases occurred in 41 total states, numerous local and state jurisdictions were crossed. As such, the name for a particular offense in one jurisdiction may be entirely different in the legal definition, severity, and overall scope than an offense with the same/similar name in another jurisdiction. As such, sexual offenses were organized into the two categories of (1) contact offenses and (2) non-contact offenses.

A similar categorization strategy has been employed in prior studies examining sexual offenses (see Babchishin et al. 2015; MacPherson 2010). Contact offenses are criminal actions that involved the offender making some form of direct physical contact with the victim’s body, whereas non-contact offenses are still sexual in nature, yet do not involve the offender making direct physical contact with the victim.

A third category of property offenses was also developed to include the property offenses (e.g., possession of criminal tools, and burglary) that were alleged to have occurred during the commission of the alleged sexual abuse.

4.1.1. Contact Offenses

Contact offenses refer to alleged offenses that involved some direct physical sexual contact between the offender and the victim(s) (Mair and Stevens 1994). Notable examples of contact offenses include, but are not limited to, sexual assault, rape, and groping. In total, contact offenses represented fully 80% (n = 363) of the 454 total offenses. Therefore, the overwhelming majority of all offenses included direct physical sexual contact between the offender and the victim(s). The total number of
victims per case ranged from one to as many as 20 individuals. However, the vast majority of cases involved only one known victim at 61.7%. We must note here that cases involving child pornography were not included in this part of the analysis. Therefore, the number of cases is 321.

4.1.2. Non-Contact Offenses

Non-contact sex offenses refer to those where the offender did not have physical sexual contact with any victim(s) (Mair and Stevens 1994). Some examples of non-contact sex offenses include stalking, sexual harassment, and possession of child pornography. Across all 326 cases, non-contact offenses represented 18.9% (n = 89) of the 454 separate offenses. Although this is a sizeable minority, it is important to consider that 79.1% (n = 258) of cases involved the offender being charged with both contact and non-contact sex offenses when arrested, and only 7.4% (n = 24) were charged with solely a non-contact sexual offense.

4.1.3. Property Offenses

Some individuals within the present study were also charged with a property offense at the point of arrest in conjunction with a sex offense (i.e., contact and/or non-contact). In total, a mere 1.1% (n = 5) of all offenses at the point of arrest were for a property crime (e.g., burglary and theft of a victim’s clothing).

4.2. Offense Locations

A total of 41 states were represented in the present study. The top five states that had the most reported instances of alleged sexual abuse were as follows: Florida (9.6%; n = 32), Texas (8.4%; n = 28), California (7.5%; n = 25), Illinois (5.1%; n = 17), and Tennessee and Alabama, respectively, at 4.2% (n = 14). Across the 326 cases, the specific offense location was available in 70.9% (n = 231) of the cases. Fully 29.1% (n = 95) cases did not have a specific location reported. Findings were divided into two
primary subsections, being (1) general offense locations and (2) specific offense locations.

4.2.1. General Offense Locations

General offense location was divided into three distinct categories. These three categories were if the offense(s) occurred either exclusively (1) on church grounds; (2) off church grounds; or (3) both on and off church grounds. Among cases with a reported location (n = 231), 45.5% (n = 105) occurred exclusively off-site. Specifically, most cases with a reported offense location occurred within the offender’s home, victim’s home, or some other off-site location (e.g., hotel/motel room). In contrast, fully 35.5% (n = 82) of cases with a known location occurred exclusively on church grounds. Examples of such locations on
church grounds included church offices, the parking lot, and the sanctuary. A sizeable minority of all offenses with a reported offense location took place both on and off the church grounds at 19.0% (n = 44).

4.2.2. Specific Offense Locations

Across all 326 cases, there were a total of 311 reported offense locations. Five unique offense locations were reported across the 311 offense locations. Table 1 presents the findings for the specific offense locations, percentages, and the total numbers.

Table 1. Offense locations.
Location Percentage
at the church 38.9% (n = 121)
offender’s home 31.2% (n = 97)
off-site 12.9% (n = 40)
off-site church-sponsored activity 10.6% (n = 33)
victim’s home 6.4% (n = 20) n = 311.

The most frequent specific offense location reported was that it occurred someplace at the church (e.g., office, basement, bathroom, etc.). Altogether, 38.9% (n = 121) of all offenses allegedly took place on the church premises, with 15.4% (n = 48) occurring within the personal office of the alleged offender.

The second most frequent specific offense location was at the offender’s home (31.2%; n = 97), thus suggesting some degree of planning and/or grooming by the offender to isolate the victim inside a relatively controlled environment. The third most frequent offense location was at a sponsored off-site church-sponsored activity (e.g., mission trips, camping trips, etc.), accounting for 10.6% (n = 33) of all cases with a known location. The fourth most frequent offense location was at an off-site (e.g., offender’s car) location at 12.9% (n = 40). The fifth and final specific offense location was alleged to have occurred within the victim’s home at 6.4% (n = 20).

4.3. Offender Characteristics

To meet the third goal of this study, the offender characteristics are presented. Altogether, 332 offenders across the 326 identified cases were identified. The remainder of this section is divided into the four subsections of (1) offender sex; (2) offender race/ethnicity; (3) offender age; and (4) offender role.

4.3.1. Offender Gender

The overwhelming majority of identified offenders were male. Specifically, male offenders were represented by 98.8% (n = 328) with female offenders at only 1.2% (n = 4) of the offender sample.

4.3.2. Offender Race/Ethnicity

There were five total races/ethnicities represented among the offender sample being White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American. A total of 18.3% (n = 61) of the race/ethnicity of the offender was missing. The overwhelming majority of offenders were identified as White (73.1%; n = 198) with Black representing 18.8% (n = 51) of all offenders. The remaining three races/ethnicities of Hispanic, Asian, and Native American accounted for less-than 10% of all offenders.

4.3.3. Offender Age

In total, 56 distinct offender ages were represented in the sample. Specifically, offender ages at the time of the alleged sexual abuse ranged from 18 to 88 years of age. Altogether, only 2.7% (n = 7) of all offender ages were missing, yielding 325 total cases. The mean age was 40.4 years of age with a standard deviation of 13.7 years. For male offenders (n = 315; 7 missing), the mean age was 40.5 with a standard deviation of
13.7 years. For female offenders (n = 4), the mean age was considerably younger at 23.5 with a standard deviation of 12.8 years. One’s age is oftentimes associated with one’s role within a church, with many positions relying upon a seniority system. Thus, the offender’s role held within the church is an important characteristic for understanding who occupies the role and how such a role can potentially influence one’s opportunities for victim access.

4.3.4. Offender Role

The specific role that the offender held within the church was available in 92.2% (n = 306) of the cases with 7.8% (n = 26) having no reported role. Across all cases, 12 distinct offender roles were represented within the sample. The overwhelming majority (80.1%) of offenders were employed in an official capacity within their respective churches with a substantial minority (19.9%) being volunteers.

Table 2 presents the findings for both male and female offender roles.
Table 2. Offender Role within the Church.
Offender Role Percentage
Male Offender Roles
Pastor 34.9% (n = 110)
Youth Minister 31.4% (n = 99)
Youth Volunteer 8.3% (n = 26)
Associate Pastor 5.4% (n = 17)
Music Minister 4.8% (n = 15)
Volunteer 3.2% (n = 10)
Sunday School Teacher 2.9% (n = 9)
Deacon 2.2% (n = 7)
Church Member 2.2% (n = 7)
Church CampWorker 0.6% (n = 2)
n = 315
Female Offender Roles
Youth Volunteer 50% (n = 2)
Youth Minister 25% (n = 1)
Pastor’s Wife 25% (n = 1)
n = 4

Male Offender Roles

Of the 328 male offenders in the present sample, 94.7% (n = 305) of their roles were known with 4.0% (n = 13) missing. The most frequent male offender role was a Pastor at 34.9% (n = 110) of the sample, followed by Youth Ministers at 31.4% (n = 99). The third most frequent offender role of Youth Volunteers was a sharp contrast in frequency compared to the first two roles consisting of 8.3% (n = 26) of the sample. Youth Volunteers can range from someone that is an unpaid church member to a young adult who assists with the youth ministry. Combined, those who occupy roles that require the direct supervision and/or interaction with youth (generally under 18 years of age), comprised 38.8% of the total offender sample. The fourth most frequent offender role was that of Associate Pastor, followed by Music Ministers. Specifically, Associate Pastors represented 5.4% (n = 17) of the sample, whereas Music Ministers held 4.8% (n = 15) of the total sample. Even though all but one of the male offender roles at this point have
been employees of the church, the remainder of offenders held some volunteer role. Volunteers, the sixth most represented male offender role, made up 3.2% (n = 10) of the total sample. Volunteers is a general category that includes a wide-range of individuals serving in various
capacities, such as a sports coach or bus driver. Yet another form of volunteer that was also represented were Sunday School Teachers at 2.9% (n = 9). Typically, Sunday School Teachers are tasked with preparing
and instructing individuals with religious materials on a weekly or more basis. The eighth most represented offender role, Deacons (2.2%), are also individuals that provide a wide-range of services to the church, such as collecting tithes and visiting church members in the hospital. The ninth most represented male offender role was a general Church Member at 2.2% (n = 7) of the offenders. Somewhat unique when compared to the other offender roles present, Church Members do not occupy a specific role within the church, nor do they hold an official title.
The final two male offender roles were Church Camp Workers (0.6%; n = 2) and Choir Volunteers (0.6%; n = 2). Church Camp Workers are individuals that worked for a short-term summer camp or other camp operated by the respective church. Choir Volunteers are those that sing within the respective church’s choir. Although male offenders held 10 distinct roles, the female offenders occupied only three individual roles.

Female Offender Roles

Even though there were only four female offenders represented, these offenders also warrant discussion. The three female offender roles were a Youth Volunteer, Youth Minister, and the Pastor’s Wife. Youth Volunteers represented 50% (n = 2) of the female offender sample while Youth Minister and the Pastor’s Wife had one case (i.e., 25%), respectively.

Coming Soon to Your Church: A Child Molester

Coming Soon to Your Church: A Child Molester
By Voyle A Glover

(Book excerpt from Protecting Your Church Against Sexual Predators by Kregel Publications).

In church after church around the world, reports have come to light about children being molested by someone in the place where they should feel safest. The Roman Catholic Church is reeling from staggering financial judgments in lawsuits filed by molestation victims. Most of these cases have come into the spotlight many years after the alleged sexual crimes occurred.

For decades, the Catholic Church quietly settled abuse cases out of court and shuffled pedophile priests to different parishes. Not until the early 1980s did the news media start digging into allegations that had surfaced in places such as New Orleans, Louisiana.1 In 1992, the Boston scandals began a nightmare of litigation for Roman Catholic diocese administrators in the United States. After more than a decade, the end of litigation is not yet in sight.

But the Roman Catholic Church is only the most visible defendant. Lawyers also have other church organizations in their sights. In some of the targeted churches, leaders have made the same mistakes that got the Roman Catholic bishops into so much trouble. Incidents were concealed. Law enforcement agencies were stonewalled. Safeguards were lacking. Misconduct was not subjected to church discipline.

Sexual misconduct toward children in the church is not new, but attitudes and perspectives about child molesters have changed and absolutely must change. Otherwise we will continue to cope with devastated lives, financial disaster, and member disillusionment. Church leaders had better take a long, hard look at this issue.

To begin with, let us look at some facts about these crimes:

1. The vast majority of child molesters are male.
2. Victims may be male or female.
3. Child molesters tend to work hard to win positions of trust. Authority, trust, and respect enable molesters to manipulate children, parents, and other leaders.
4. A child molester will create fear in the child, so that the child is afraid to tell anyone.
5. There are no “typical” child molesters. They may be of any age.
6. A child molester in the church looks for and tries to create opportunities to be alone with a child or children.
7. Prior to being caught, the typical child molester attacks thirteen children.
8. Child molesters often are married, may show evidence of
a strong Christian witness, and may be in positions of responsibility.
9. Child molesters often do not recognize that any harm has come to their victims. Frequently, there is more remorse from being caught than for injuries inflicted by the crime.
10. A child molester is very likely to return to criminal sexual behavior after release from prison.

FAQ: Why should I expect a child molester to come into my congregation?

ANSWER: Churches provide one of the best sources for children to be found. An atmosphere of trust and acceptance makes the church one of the easiest places for predators to find opportunities to attack victims.

Child Abuse Statistics on the Rise

Since the 1970s, child abuse is far more likely to be reported than it was before. In California, for example, the number of reports investigated rose from about 119,000 in 1976 to about 475,000 in 1988.5 A similar statistical increase occurred throughout the United States and Canada. In 1976, fewer than 6,000 incidents of a sexual nature involving children were reported to law enforcement and child welfare workers.

Once sexual abuse became more widely recognized and reporting was encouraged, the number of reports increased to 130,000 in 1986. The number tripled between 1980 and 1986 alone. Today, more than 300,000 child sexual abuse reports are investigated annually in the United States.6

So, whereas the church might have been forgiven for being caught unawares by pedophiles in the 1970s, there is no excuse today. Ample warning has been given. The church is a natural magnet for children. Pedophiles hunt children. Thus, it would be foolish to think that pedophile child molesters wouldn’t regard the church as a hunting ground. However, in an interview with Christianity Today, attorney Richard Hammar, an author and expert in legal aspects of church life, said, “Our research indicates that 70 percent of churches are doing absolutely nothing to screen volunteer youth workers.”7

Molesters May Assault Many

There are no “absolute” statistics on the number of children molested every day in the United States, Canada, or any other country. Despite the increased awareness of the problem, and the likelihood that a sexual incident will be reported, many still go unreported. In some nations, molestation is not discussed as freely as it is in North America. We can only trace numbers of complaints, investigations, arrests, convictions, and releases.8 Research on adults who were sexually abused as children suggests that the large majority of victims do not report their abuse at the time it occurs. Children often keep their history of abuse a secret because they fear their parents’ rejection, punishment, and blame.9

In a typical church environment, guilt and the potential stigma associated with abuse, coupled with the understanding of how homosexual acts are viewed by the church, often will silence an abused child, particularly if he or she is in or near the teenage years. Younger children are often sworn to secrecy with threats of violence or some vague, undefined “doom” that will occur. The real tragedy is that, while their little lips are sealed, so are their hearts.

Remember, the typical child molester does not wear a sign. And the victims are not clamoring to tell their stories of molestation. They are sitting in church with sad eyes, quiet, confused, and hurting.

The typical child molester has a string of prior victims and may or may not have been detected yet. He is calculating and cunning, waiting for opportunity. The only question is whether the particular church he has chosen (or that chose him) will afford him the opportunity he needs.

One attempt to estimate the number of victims in 1998 was published in the 2001 Annual Review of Sociology. For all kinds of violent crime in 1998, including sexual attacks, 87.9 of every thousand U.S. adolescents between the ages of twelve to fifteen became victims. A slightly higher rate of 96.2 of every thousand teens between the ages of sixteen and nineteen became victims.

For people in their twenties, the chance of becoming a victim of violent crime drops rapidly. At age sixty-five, only 4.4 of every thousand persons are victims. Ross Macmillan, who wrote the report, observed that the age variables apply to all the kinds of violent crime studied. Robberies and sexual assaults were ten times as likely among adolescents. Other assaults were twenty-three times more likely.10

Sixty-seven percent of all victims of sexual assault reported to law enforcement agencies were under the age of eighteen; 34 percent of all victims were under the age of twelve. One of every seven victims of sexual assault reported to law enforcement agencies was under the age of six.11

Population and Pornography Increase Sex Crimes

Several reasons might be suggested for actual increases in crime numbers, as opposed to increases due to better reporting and a greater willingness to talk about behavior that might be identified as sexual. Natural increases in population certainly play a part in crime statistics. Another factor that is increasingly being blamed is the easier availability of child and adult pornography on the Internet, which may come to the attention of people who have sexual proclivities that they might not have acted upon in the past. Assuming that Internet pornography will not become more controlled and less available, we can expect that the rate of sexual assaults, including child molestation, will continue to outpace population growth. This increases the chances that our communities and our churches have pedophiles or people with pedophiliac tendencies. In short, pedophiles are all around, and some are church members.

MILLIONS UPON MILLIONS OF PEOPLE? WATCH PORNO. AND THEY SURE THE HELL DO NOT TURN OUT TO BE PEDOPHILES. BLAMING PEOPLE WATCHING PORN FOR PEDOPHILIA? ESPECIALLY ADULT PORN? IS BULLSHIT.

FAQ: What does a child molester look like?

ANSWER: He looks like you, especially if you are a man.

• Pedophiliac child molesters are invariably male. Although there are some female molesters, they are few and their victims are typically males in their teens. The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children reports: “In both clinical and nonclinical samples, the vast majority of offenders are male.”12
• A significant percentage of victims are males. A study undertaken by the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, of 457 male sex offenders who had committed crimes against children, found that about one-third of these sexual offenders targeted male victims.13
• Child molesters can be preteens or grandfathers. A U.S. Department of Justice report, titled “Criminal Offender Statistics,” found that criminal offenders who had victimized a child were on average five years older than violent offenders who had committed crimes against adults. Nearly 25 percent of child victimizers were age forty or older.14 Forty percent of the offenders who victimized children under the age of six were juveniles under the age of eighteen—one reason to keep male teens out of the nursery.15

A Child Molester May Have Been a Victim

It is not uncommon for molesters to have been victimized in their own childhood. There is also evidence that the greater number of male child molesters are homosexual. Quoting Journal of Sex Research statistics, David Wagner, an associate law professor at Regent University School of Law, said that heterosexuals outnumber homosexuals by a ratio of at least twenty to one (in other words, homosexuals comprise about 5 percent of the population), yet homosexual pedophiles commit about one-third of all child sex offenses.16

FAQ: Christ forgives sinners. So if a repentant child molester comes into my church, shouldn’t I treat him just as I would any other sinner?

ANSWER: No! If you do that, you may one day be called to account for your failure to recognize the danger posed by such an individual. Ignorance may not be a valid defense.

Preachers Accused of Sins, and Crimes

Preachers Accused of Sins, and Crimes
20/20 uncovers ministers accused of abusing children in their congregations.
By JIM AVILA, BONNIE VAN GILDER, and MATT LOPEZ

https://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=3034040&page=1

Sanctuaries are designed to make us feel safe. They provide us peace and a place to pray. Bells call the good to worship and warn the evil to stay away.

This is the kind of American church that a young Christa Brown was drawn to. As a teenager in the 1960s, Brown learned to love music and her God. She grew up in the church, sang in the choir and played the piano.

But as Brown would find out, churches don’t always protect the innocent. Sometimes these sanctuaries shield the guilty and even lure predators to a place where young people gather.

The Catholic Church has been widely criticized for how it handled instances of priests sexually abusing young people. And a six-month investigation by “20/20” found Protestant ministers, supposed men of God from every denomination, sexually abusing the children who trusted them. The investigation uncovered “preacher predators” in every corner of the country.

‘Nobody Saw It Coming’

The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant organization in the United States. And the organization is structured in a way that makes it difficult to police these preacher predators. The convention has 16.3 million members and 43,000 independent churches.

Shawn Davies was a youth minister at one of those Baptist churches in the suburbs of Kansas City, Mo. Davies was close to his teen followers, and the members of his church soon found out that he was a little too close. In January of this year, Davies began a 20-year sentence for multiple counts of sexual abuse in Missouri and Kentucky.

One member of the Missouri church, Lee Orth, said that “Nobody saw it coming. I think we felt betrayed, blindsided. You know, Shawn was a very charismatic person.”

Davies seduced teenage boys by acting like one of the gang. He talked about girls and sex with the teenagers. He took them on trips, invited them into his office, and showed them pornography. And he took them downstairs or behind the sanctuary to sexually assault them.

Church deacon Greg Arbuckle said, “The viewing of pornography happened before Shawn would come out and lead the choir. Immediately after worship he would go do that, and that to me, taints the entire service.”

Eight boys were sexually abused at the Missouri church by Davies. What bothers people most about what happened is that Davies could have been stopped before he reached their church.

A History of Abuse

A young man in Kentucky was one of Davies’ victims years before he went to Missouri. For four years, the young man, who asked that we not use his name to protect his privacy, lived with his secret. He said that it nearly destroyed him. “It started with watching movies, and he would ask to masturbate,” the man said. “He said it was normal for guys to do it. … One day he just grabbed me while we were watching one of the movies and he just kinda did what he wanted.”

After four years, the man finally told his father, who then went to the police. Kentucky authorities opened an investigation and alerted the victim’s church. By then, Davies had moved on to other churches.

The family is now suing the Kentucky church for failing to supervise Davies. When “20/20” asked to talk to church leaders, their attorney declined our interview requests.

Davies ended up in Missouri in 2003; church leaders there wish the Kentucky church had tracked them down, especially after an indictment was filed.

Church leaders worry that there is no system in place within the Southern Baptist Convention to stop people like Davies. Each church is, for the most part, autonomous, so there is no tight connection with the other churches.

StopBaptistPredators.org

Brown, abused herself when she was 16, went on to form an organization called Stop Baptist Predators, because in her search for justice, she found that the Southern Baptist Convention had no central office, no readily available list of preachers under investigation or even convicted, and no one to help investigate allegations like hers.

Brown said this system allows preacher predators to move from church to church, seduce the devout and the young, and often get away with it.

Ken Ward is a Southern Baptist pastor and teacher in East Texas, who has admitted to molesting more than 40 boys. He said that being a teacher and minister is the perfect job for a child molester, because it puts the molester in direct contact with young people. “I [was] attracted to a certain child, and in my case, it was primarily prepubescent boys,” he said.

Ward is now under house arrest, after serving five years in state prison. He wears a GPS monitor so that he can be tracked by the sheriff’s department, and he cannot be around children anywhere, even in public.

Ward agreed to talk to “20/20” to give insight to parents on how to spot a predator. He said that parents aren’t worrying about the right things. “The idea of a guy in the park with a trench coat on or driving by slowly trying to get a child … I’ve never even dreamed of doing that. … I’ve never touched a stranger,” he said.

‘It’s God’s Little Secret’

Ward preyed on children for decades. One of his victims, Tommy Lee Burt, came forward about the abuse as an adult. He believes that Ward damaged him for life, and used his God to abuse him. “You’re struggling as a kid and you want to get up and he is telling you, ‘No.’ When I would try to leave, he would tell me it’s God’s little secret,” Burt said.

Burt added that he never really recovered, and last year he, himself, was arrested for solicitation of a minor and pleaded guilty to sending obscene material to a police officer posing as a 14-year-old.

There is no way of knowing how many Ken Wards are out there. The Southern Baptist Convention does not keep records, and local churches often seem to be in denial — such as one church in Denton, Texas, where the minister publicly confessed to “making a terrible mistake” last November after a woman sued, claiming she’d been raped as a teen.

Church members responded by throwing the minister a retirement party and raised $50,000 as a “love offering.” To this day, he has a church building named after him.

The Southern Baptist Convention said the problem is neither widespread nor systemic, despite a recent rash of cases. But just last week, a pastor of a Florida church — Lyle Whittaker — committed suicide after he was charged with sexually abusing an 11-year-old-girl.

The Local Level

Frank Page is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and a minister himself. He told “20/20” that independent congregations present a challenge when it comes to tracking preacher predators. The organization has yet to create a national database of preacher predators. “We have no such database and again, we encourage churches to investigate. … They have to do background checks,” he said.

But this approach puts a lot of pressure on the individual church, and a lot of faith in the ministers who were predators to come forward and tell the truth about their past.

And the autonomy of each Baptist church does not stop them from creating other kinds of databases, from Baptism lists to lists of ordained ministers.

Some Baptist church leaders are concerned that even if a Baptist preacher is convicted of sex crimes, the national organization has no authority to act.

The Southern Baptist Convention said the biblical and best way to handle these terrible cases is by the local church, which should call the police. But former minister and sex offender Ken Ward stayed under the local radar and moved from church to church for years, and he said the church can’t do it alone.

“Anybody could have talked to the churches I was with, and they would have praised me. They would not have said, ‘Don’t hire this guy, he likes kids.’ Never, never, and I suspect that has not changed.”

La Luz Del Mundo’s ‘Apostle’ Faces Sexual Abuse Charges. Here’s Why That Has Rattled Many In LA

La Luz Del Mundo’s ‘Apostle’ Faces Sexual Abuse Charges. Here’s Why That Has Rattled Many In LA
By Aaron Schrank on June 10, 2019
https://laist.com/2019/06/10/arrest_of_la_luz_del_mundo_apostle_on_sexual_abuse_charges_rattles_many_in_la.php

his picture taken on August 9, 2017 shows the leader of the Church of the Light of the World, Naason Joaquin Garcia, walking among his parishioners in Guadalajara, Mexico. - The leader of La Luz Del Mundo, an international religious organization based in Mexico, has been arrested in California on charges of human trafficking, child rape and other felonies, authorities said on June 4, 2019. Naason Joaquin Garcia, who heads the organization that claims one million followers worldwide, and three co-defendants allegedly committed 26 felonies in southern California between 2015 and 2018. (Photo by ULISES RUIZ / AFP)        (Photo credit should read ULISES RUIZ/AFP/Getty Images)
This picture taken on August 9, 2017 shows the leader of the Church of the Light of the World, Naason Joaquin Garcia, walking among his parishioners in Guadalajara, Mexico. – The leader of La Luz Del Mundo, an international religious organization based in Mexico, has been arrested in California on charges of human trafficking, child rape and other felonies, authorities said on June 4, 2019. Naason Joaquin Garcia, who heads the organization that claims one million followers worldwide, and three co-defendants allegedly committed 26 felonies in southern California between 2015 and 2018. (Photo by ULISES RUIZ / AFP) (Photo credit should read ULISES RUIZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Naason Joaquin Garcia, the leader of the Mexico-based church La Luz Del Mundo, is scheduled to be arraigned in Los Angeles on June 21. The list of charges is long and disturbing. Among them: rape of a minor, extortion and human traficking.

But what exactly is La Luz Del Mundo? And what role does Joaquin Garcia have among his followers?

WHO IS JOAQUIN GARCIA AND WHY WAS HE ARRESTED?

Joaquin Garcia isn’t just the leader of La Luz Del Mundo. Adherents of the fundamentalist Christian group consider the man now being held on $50 million bail a living apostle of Jesus Christ, like his father and grandfather before him.

Joaquin Garcia was arrested at LAX last Monday on charges including child rape and human trafficking, after four church members from L.A. County filed reports using the California Attorney General’s clergy abuse tip line. The alleged crimes occurred in L.A. County between 2015 and 2018.

Prosecutors say Joaquin Garcia and three female co-defendants coerced underage victims into performing sex acts by telling them that if they defied Garcia’s desires as “the Apostle,” they were defying God.

In a news conference Thursday, Attorney General Xavier Becerra said his heart goes out to the many Mexican immigrants in Los Angeles who depend on La Luz Del Mundo, or The Light of The World church, for support.

“I understand many are probably very frightened and confused,” Becerra said. “Many of these folks are not well-versed in American society, are not totally fluent, and depended quite a bit on what this organization provided to them.”

Still, he urged local members to step forward with any additional evidence of abuse against their spiritual leader.

“I would simply say to them that no law of California, no law of humankind, and certainly no law of God would permit what Naason Joaquin Garcia is alleged to have committed against these young women,” Becerra said.

HOW HAVE LA LUZ MEMBERS REACTED?

Since Joaquin Garcia’s arrest, some members have held prayer services for their embattled leader and church leaders have issued statements of support.

“The church categorically rejects the false accusations against Joaquin Garcia,” La Luz spokesman Nicolas Menchaca told LAist, adding that “the Apostle” has always acted according to the law.

During a service this week at La Luz Del Mundo’s East L.A. church, a crowd of about 100 people gathered — the focus was largely on Joaquin Garcia himself.

“Our reaction has been to come to church and to pray, and to put everything in God’s hands, because we trust that God will answer our prayers,” said Priscilla Granados, 25, standing outside after the service.

The Greek-style, gold-columned temple is the group’s largest in Southern California, with more than 1,200 members. Joaquin Garcia once served as pastor at the East L.A. church. In 2014, he became the international leader of La Luz Del Mundo, based in Guadalajara.

Granados, who joined the church with her family at age 12, said she believes Joaquin Garcia is innocent of the charges against him.

“I only speak of what I know, and what I know of him, for the years that I’ve been part of the church, I’ve never seen anything, witnessed anything, or heard anything relatively close to what’s being spread right now,” Granados said.

Some former members of La Luz Del Mundo have spoken critically about Joaquin Garcia. One online forum is aimed at “exit support” and discussion.

WHAT IS LA LUZ DEL MUNDO?

La Luz is the largest evangelical church in Mexico and the second largest religious body there after the Roman Catholic Church. It’s also a transnational movement with between 1 and 5 million members worldwide and dozens of churches in Southern California. That includes the East L.A. location and a church in Pasadena.

The religious group was founded in Guadalajara in 1926 by Joaquin Garcia’s grandfather, Eusebio Joaquin Gonzalez, still venerated by adherents as the “first Apostle.”

After the Great Depression, Joaquin Gonzalez recruited migrants returning to Mexico from the U.S. In the 1950s, he began to evangelize in Los Angeles.

“This is a migrant church that was born in the most historically and traditionally migrant place in all of Mexico,” said Patricia Fortuny, a cultural anthropologist based in Mexico City, that’s researched the group since 1989. “It has the highest rate of migration to the United States historically, since the 19th century.”

For that reason, Fortuny said California, with its large population of Mexican immigrants, has the largest concentration of La Luz adherents in the U.S.

Joaquin Garcia’s father, Samuel Joaquin Flores, led the church from 1964 until 2014. He was the subject of sexual abuse allegations in 1997, but never faced criminal charges.

WHAT IS THE BELIEF SYSTEM OF LA LUZ MEMBERS?

The La Luz belief system is a mash-up of Pentecostal theology and regional Catholic culture, Fortuny said.

La Luz followers identify as Christians who follow the Bible and believe that Jesus Christ is humanity’s savior. But they’re taught salvation can only be achieved by following the international leaders of their church, past and present.

This belief system fostered an intense connection and trust among many members who view Joaquin Garcia as the key to their religious movement.

La Luz traditions are unfamiliar to many in the U.S. Churches offer three prayer services each day. Male and female worshippers sit on opposite sides of churches. Women wear long skirts and cover their heads with lace veils. Church members aren’t supposed to drink, smoke or gamble. The church does not celebrate Christmas or Easter.

While Fortuny said the religious group is too large and well-organized to be considered a cult, La Luz Del Mundo’s focus on its “apostles” does set the church apart from other Latin American evangelical Pentecostal movements.

“Most Pentecostal churches don’t worship their pastors,” Fortuny said. “Having this ‘living apostle’ is the strongest feature of the church, because it’s fantastic for the people. They feel unique, like they are chosen to be part of the restored primitive Christian Church. But it’s also the weakest feature of the church, because of that coercive power the leader, in this case Naason Joaquin Garcia, has.”

As a minority religion in heavily Catholic Mexico, La Luz Del Mundo members have faced some marginalization and persecution. Fortuny said Joaquin Garcia’s arrest will only worsen relations between Catholics and non-Catholics in Mexico.

“There’s already violent discourse against La Luz Del Mundo in Guadalajara,” Fortuny said. “Now, this is probably going to extend into many other evangelical groups who are not La Luz, and who are not as fundamentalist. Other churches will be painted with the same brush.”

Fortuny also worries about millions of La Luz faithful, whose lives are now thrown into disarray.

HOW WILL THE ALLEGATIONS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT AFFECT THE CHURCH AND ITS FOLLOWERS?

While a faction of believers are defending Joaquin Garcia, Fortuney said there’s likely another faction that believes he’s guilty and will fight to keep the church going without him.

“The church could be divided and weakened, but it could also become stronger,” Fortuny said. “Naason can be perceived as an innocent man wrongly persecuted by the state. This persecution can become symbolic social capital for the Church to use.”

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Joaquin Garcia’s $50 million bail set a new record in Los Angeles County, because of concerns his followers might be able to raise enough funds to help him flee prosecution.

Last Friday, La Luz Del Mundo officials held a press conference in Los Angeles, introducing the legal team that will defend Garcia against 26 felony charges.

UPDATES:

Wednesday, June 12, 11:52 a.m.: This article was updated with the new arraignment date and details from members.

This article was originally published on Monday, June 10 at 7 a.m.

Aaron Schrank covers religion, international affairs and the Southern California diaspora under a grant from the Luce Foundation.