Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Twenty years later and at least twenty more kids

Daniel M. Acker Jr.
Daniel Acker Jr. was a Southern Baptist youth minister at Westwood Baptist Church in Shelby County, Alabama, when he was accused of molesting a fourth-grade girl in 1992. “Churches, teachers, schools and parents rallied to his aid.”

“They held pancake dinners to raise money for his defense, proclaimed his innocence on marquees, demonized the fourth-grader who accused” him. (In light of all that, I suspect if there were any other kids who even thought of speaking up, they surely squelched such thoughts and politely ate their pancakes instead.) 

Another Southern Baptist church, First Baptist of Pelham held a spaghetti supper as a fund-raiser for Acker Jr.

“Shelby County circled the wagons to fight for its own. And it won.”

Now, twenty years later, police say Acker Jr. has “admitted to groping little girls on at least 20 occasions, including the child involved in the 1992 allegations.”

The preacher at Acker Jr’s current church, Rev. Mark Liddle of Dominion Baptist Church stated: “I have nothing to say.” (Very pastoral of him, don’t ya think?)

Acker Jr’s resume also includes stints as a music and youth minister at Mayberry Baptist Church in Montevallo and as a camp counselor at the Alabama Baptist Boys Camp. He also worked as an elementary teacher in Shelby County schools, and he did volunteer work with mission projects and the Special Olympics.

When Acker Jr. was accused in 1992, the school board initially suspended him with pay. However, a grand jury declined to indict, and after a day of hearings, the school board decided to reinstate Acker Jr.

The former school superintendent, Norma Rogers, said she had talked at length with the accusing child and her mother “and found the story credible.” “She also noted that a state investigator had reported reason to believe the allegation.” Rogers recommended that the school board fire Acker Jr., but public sentiment was in favor of Acker Jr., and the school board voted to reinstate him.

“Testimony at the school board meeting came mostly from church members,” Rogers said. “’Their testimonies went a long way’ in swaying the decision to Acker Jr.’s favor.” And that fourth-grader watched while church members chose to protect their pastor rather than protecting kids.

“Acker Jr.’s job was saved by the outpouring of support, despite a note he had written to the mother of the girl who first accused him.” The note was his attempted explanation for why he had included a question about the color of the girl’s underwear on a quiz he gave to the fourth-grader.

“While supporters rallied around Acker Jr. … the girl’s mother said at the time that her daughter was being harassed constantly….” “The harassment eventually led the mother to transfer her daughter to another school.”

Twenty years later, in January 2012, Acker Jr. was arrested on two charges of child sex abuse involving allegations of molesting a 12-year-old. Since then, more counts of child sex abuse have been filed, and there is now an 8-count indictment involving 6 different victims.

But that’s not all. Police say that Acker Jr. has “confessed to molesting more than 20 other female children," including the child involved in the 1992 alegations.

3/7/12 ABP: "The school board ... planned to fire him, until members of the church where he was serving as youth minister showed up at a meeting and convinced the school district to let him keep his job."