Monday, November 18, 2013

Baylor president writes letter of support for child molester

Kenneth Starr

Tucked away in a Washington Post article last month was the news that Baylor University’s president Ken Starr wrote a letter of support on behalf of a child molesting school teacher.

Baylor is the largest Baptist university in the world, and Ken Starr is the man at the top. Formerly, Starr served as a federal judge, as the United States Solicitor General, and as a special prosecutor during the presidency of Bill Clinton.

The child molester who inspired Starr’s letter is Christopher Kloman. For nearly 30 years, Kloman taught at the elite Potomac School in Virginia, which Starr’s own daughter attended.

Faced with multiple accusations of having molested female students, Kloman pled guilty last summer to four counts of indecent liberties with a child younger than 14 and one count of abduction with intent to defile.

At Kloman’s sentencing hearing in October, five victims provided what was described as “harrowing”accounts of the sexual abuse they suffered as kids and of the long-lasting impact it had on their lives. One woman testified that school officials had been informed about Kloman’s conduct, but that they merely sent him for counseling.

“My sense of self-esteem had been crushed,” she said. “No one thought what he did was bad enough to help me.”

As reported by the Post, “some of the women testified that they had been through years of therapy after the abuse. For decades, most never revealed what had happened.”

Despite the enormous harm that Kloman caused in so many lives, and despite Kloman’s guilty plea, over 90 people wrote letters on Kloman’s behalf in anticipation of his sentencing hearing.

Among those letters was one from Ken Starr, the president of Baylor University. According to the Wikipedia account, Ken Starr urged leniency for Kloman, and asked that the judge sentence Kloman to community service rather than jail time.

Thank goodness the judge on this case had a good deal more sense and sensibility than Ken Starr. Kloman was sentenced to 43 years.

Meanwhile, I’m wondering why anyone should believe that Baylor University officials learned any lesson at all from the horrific saga of murdering minister Matt Baker – a minister who got his start at Baylor where officials simply filed away a sexual assault report – when even today we see that Baylor’s current president will write a letter in support of a child molester.
Why should parents of high-school students feel any trust in sending their kids off to a university whose president writes a letter urging leniency for a man who molested teens?

Thanks to Frederick Clarkson for quoting this posting in his 12/10/2013 article in the Daily Kos.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Kudos to Boulder law enforcement!

Robert Phillip "Bob" Young
This week in Boulder, Colorado, police served summons on two pastors and two elders at an independent evangelical church after an “investigation revealed the officials failed to report a youth pastor” who allegedly sexually assaulted a child. “A fifth church official, who is currently out of the country, will be served a summons when he returns to Colorado.”

Luke Michael Humbrecht
Five grown men -- all of them leaders at the Vinelife Church -- and according to police, not one of them chose to do the right thing when one of their clergy colleagues was accused of child sex abuse. In fact, police point to evidence that the youth pastor had “repeatedly confessed” to the church officials, and investigators believe the five church officials “knew about the crime.” Yet, they failed to report it.

Those church officials who now face charges are:

Edward Charles Bennell
• Robert Phillip ("Bob") Young, executive pastor
• Luke Michael Humbrecht, pastor
• Edward Charles Bennell, elder
• Warren Lloyd Williams, elder

Warren Lloyd Williams
Police say they will release the identity of the fifth church official at the time he receives the summons. However, 9-News reported that the accused youth pastor, who now faces six felony charges, is the son of one of the church’s senior pastors. The accused youth pastor is named Jason Allen Roberson, and the church's website shows that its senior pastor is named Walt Roberson. A photo gallery of senior pastor Walt Roberson along with the rest of Vinelife’s staff is here.

Jason Allen Roberson
(Boulder County Sheriff's Office)
According to news reports, the abuse began when the girl was fifteen. She is now 23. As reported by 9-News, when she reported the abuse to church officials, “the church launched their own investigation and made Roberson go through counseling before returning him to his position as youth pastor.”

In other words, it’s still another case of a church that tried to handle clergy abuse allegations internally without involving outsiders. It's a recipe for disaster that leaves kids at risk of terrible harm. As we’ve seen far too often, “without outsiders, you get cover-ups and cronyism.”

Because it was apparent that the church was going to continue to allow Roberson to have access to kids, and because she feared the church was not taking the matter seriously, the victim finally went to police. Thank goodness she did.

And thank goodness for Boulder law enforcement. “Duty to report” laws are on the books all over the country, but they seldom get enforced. Kudos to Boulder police for going after, not only the accused perpetrator, but also the many other church officials who knew and kept quiet.