Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Baptist Children's Home Director urged no prison time for pedophile

Fifty people showed up at a North Carolina courthouse to support a church youth leader who pled guilty to child molestation. Among the supporters were numerous other ministers, who urged the judge to be lenient in his sentencing of the child molester.

This recent news brought to mind lots of similar cases, but the one I couldn’t stop thinking about was the Leslie Mason case. That's his prison mugshot.

Not that long ago, Mason was a prominent pastor and “a star” on the rise among Southern Baptist leaders. Just days before he was scheduled to preach the keynote sermon at the Illinois Baptist State Association’s annual convention, Mason was charged with multiple counts of child molestation.

Ultimately, Mason struck a deal. He pled guilty to two counts of felony sexual assault involving a teen girl in exchange for the prosecutor’s dismissal of eight additional counts involving another girl at Mason’s church.

At the sentencing hearing, Mason’s lawyer entered into evidence 32 letters of support for Mason. Many were from other Southern Baptist ministers and deacons in the community.

The one that really caught my eye was this one that has a child’s hand as part of its logo. It’s from Doug Devore, the Executive Director of Baptist Children’s Home & Family Services. He asks for leniency and urges that Mason should receive no prison time.

You got that? The Illinois director of Southern Baptist children’s home services said “it would serve nothing to imprison” a minister who sexually abused teen girls.

This wasn’t just some personal letter on Devore’s part. He wrote it on Baptist Children’s Home letterhead and pointed out that he had “30 years of experience in working with children and families with similar issues.”

Take a look at this guy Doug Devore. Even with 30 years of experience in Baptist Children’s Home services, Devore still doesn’t seem to have a clue about the horrific harm that is caused to children when a trusted minister sexually abuses them.

It’s deeply disturbing that a Baptist leader with 30 years worth of children’s home experience would so minimize this terrible crime. And it’s a betrayal to Illinois Baptists that this man would so misuse the “Baptist Children’s Home” name as to turn it into a support system for a child molester.

Obviously, Mason’s attorney thought those “30 years” worth of experience from the director of the Baptist Children’s Home might carry some weight with the judge. He made Devore’s letter “Defendant’s Exhibit 1” and placed it at the top of the pile.

Thank God the judge cared more about kids than Devore. The judge sentenced Mason to 7 years.

It’s no wonder Southern Baptists have such a serious problem with blind-eyed responses to clergy child molestation when even their children’s home director urges NO prison time … as though this crime wasn’t even a matter of serious consequence.

Ironically, the stated mission of the Illinois Baptist Children’s Home is “to care for children who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected or are otherwise in crisis.”

But how much “care” does it show for abused children when a high official like Devore thinks it’s of so little consequence that he urges no prison time for a child molester? Devore sold out “care for children” to try to protect a crony from prison.

You might imagine that some higher-ups at the Illinois Baptist State Association would have called Devore to task for that letter. But you would be mistaken. Devore is still the statewide executive director of Illinois Baptist Children’s Home & Family Services.

The person who was called to task wasn’t Devore, but was instead the editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper, Michael Leathers, who dared to publish the news about Mason’s child molestation charges. Leathers was forced to resign.

Glen Akins, the executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association, explained by saying it was “God’s will” for Leathers’ tenure there to end and that Leathers would be happier in a position that didn’t require a “high degree of spiritual sensitivity.”

Huh? It looks to me as though Leathers may have been the only person connected to this saga who demonstrated “spiritual sensitivity.”

But of course, in spiritual matters, people often view things differently. After invoking “God’s will” to oust Leathers, Illinois Southern Baptist officials then took additional steps to restrict the newspaper’s independence and to assure that reporting like the sex-abuse story wouldn’t happen again.

I guess hushing up clergy sex abuse is THEIR notion of “spiritual sensitivity.”


Lin said...

Christa, this is incredible from so many angles. All the support for a child molester? Of course we can forgive when he repents and serves his time. But a Childrens Home Director? And a reporter was forced to resign because he wrote a story about it?

Talk about cheap grace. this is most definitly cheap grace in action. This is a mockery of a Holy God and the 'least of these'.

This makes me physically sick

Christa Brown said...

lin: You're right, of course - it makes "a mockery."

New BBC Open Forum said...

It doesn't really surprise me. When Bellevue's Paul Williams resigned from teaching his adult SS class a few months before the story about him molesting his son came out, members of his former class were saying that they'd go to any class he taught -- if he'd just come back. Someone asked them if that wouldn't make them feel bad for the victim, and their response was, "No, Paul's the best there is!"

The day Steve Gaines announced Williams' "moral failure" to the congregation, he never expressed any concern for the victim (other than a generic "pray for the family") or about any potential victims. This was the sum total of his statement. Three days later he had this to say. Still not a word about concern for the victim. He wasn't saying "love on" the victim. He was saying to support PW.

New BBC Open Forum said...

And Steve Gaines reportedly has told people, as recently as just a few months ago, that he still sees no reason why PW shouldn't still be on staff.

A divorced man cannot be a deacon, but a confessed child molester can still be a staff minister. What's wrong with this picture?

Christa Brown said...

New BBC: Over and over again, I've seen congregants support their ministers NO MATTER WHAT, and at the same time, show zero concern for the victims. In the North Carolina case that's linked in the posting, while 50 people sat in the courtroom to support the convicted child molester, the victim's family sat alone and was ostracized.

"What's wrong with this picture?" At Bellevue and lots of other Southern Baptist churches, quite a lot... but I think you probably already know that.

Phyllis Gregory said...

Oh my gosh! All the stuff about Paul Williams, all the stuff about the people in Christa's blog -- when I think I have heard it all -- then something else happens that shocks me.

It really makes me crazy! How anyone who has been abused by a SBC clergy or any other clergy -- I don't know how you continue to go to those churches. It truly is beyond me.

How can people be so blind and out of touch with reality -- and that is what these people seem to be. What causes that? It makes me physically ill also.


Anonymous said...

Phyllis . . . I understand and share your outrage. Some of us, who are victims of SBC clergy have chosen to become a part of the profession itself, first of all because of the call of God on our lives, but also because we then have a chance to bring change from the inside out. It is a hard and slow road, but I do believe the cause is a just one.

Christa Brown said...

anonymous: I don't view anyone who has commented as being "anti-Bellevue". They're "NEW bbc", not anti-bbc, and it appears to me that what they seek is a "new" Bellevue Baptist Church in which leaders would practice what they preach and in which there would be genuine accountability and transparency. But of course, accountability and transparency seem to be in short supply throughout the SBC these days.

In any event, I myself have been called anti-Christian, anti-church, anti-Baptist, etc. etc. So, anonymous people who stick an "anti" label on those who seek to expose the truth don't exactly impress me.

Anonymous said...

I need to clarify something. When I said something about people being blind and out of touch, I meant SBC clergy and church members as a whole. I did not mean those people who have been abused but have chosen to stay in the church.

I might add though -- don't just stay because it is comfortable, because it is what you grew up with, it is what you know. I did that my whole life and only now have I started to realize the impact that had on everything I did.

I think your comment about bringing change from the inside out is a wonderful thought, but, speaking for myself, you can only be beat down so many times before you realize there will be no change -- not in my lifetime probably.

Christa, what you said about genuine accountability and transparency -- I do not think that is possible in a SBC church. Obviously, the Church as a whole does not hold people accountable. And transparency -- that's just not part of being a Southern Baptist. Transparency and honesty do not go with perfection and everything in our life is fine attitude.

Texas pastor, I truly respect your opinions and admire your stand, but I just do not agree with you at all.


Christa Brown said...

"And transparency -- that's just not part of being a Southern Baptist. Transparency and honesty do not go with perfection and everything in our life is fine attitude."

Phyllis: The message I hear from Southern Baptist leaders keeps getting louder and louder: Image matters more than truth. In everything they do and say, that is the message that keeps getting communicated. It's not just the perpetrators who send that message. It's dozens upon dozens upon dozens of others who turn a blind eye, minimize the problem, villify the victims, and do nothing.

I think it's tragic when so many religious leaders would have so little faith that they would resort to smoke & mirrors to try to maintain images rather than trusting that their faith community could withstand truth and transparency.

Anonymous said...

How can you possibly read the anti-BBC blog and not know how disgruntled, divisive, and destructive they are? Surely you don't have your head that far in the sand.

Anonymous said...

Dear anonymous!

What are you talking about? Leave it alone! I don't see it as anti-Bellevue. These people are just being honest about what they know to be true. Obviously, the truth offends you.

If you are so pro-Bellevue, why are you reading this blog anyway. Maybe you have unresolved church, abuse, control issues and somehow reading this blog triggers events in your own life.

Think on that for awhile!

Phyllis Gregory

Christa Brown said...

anonymous: I and many others who speak out about clergy abuse have been called "divisive" so often that it's now a word that makes me smile. I finally figured out that it's an SBC code-word for "truth-speaker."

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Interesting that you delete my post when I answer Phyllis Gregory's ludicrious comments.

You two women are just hyperventialating over everything you "think" you find and then ripping anyone who disagrees with you.

Sad, sad, sad.

Anonymous said...


You are beginning to amuse me. You think Christa and I are hyperventilating. I think you are the one who is doing this. We, and many others, disagree with you and I just do not think you can stand it.

You sound like (of course I really do not know because I do not even know your name!) a legalistic, narrow-minded, SBC preacher or deacon. I still say that you have your own unresolved issues or you would not be reading or spending time addressing anything anyone has to say on this blog.

I guess enough is enough though. You are entitled to your thoughts, feelings, and opinions just like anyone else. I do want to ask you a question though. Do you think Paul Williams is innocent? Do you think Steve Gaines is an innocent bystander? Do you think all the people who turn the other way when they are faced with sexual abuse in their congregations are innocent bystanders? Tell me. What are your thoughts and opinions of those people?

Phyllis Gregory

Anonymous said...

I think ultimatly the biggest problem here is that a man molested 2 young girls, and most of the support and sympathy seems to be for him, instead of the girls who suffered.

At least one of the letters seemed to blame girls in general for they way they dress, making what happened their fault, instead of sending the fault to the man who chose to violate them. If these poor helpless men can't see a woman dressed in whatever fashion without harming them, it is the fault of those men, not the women. It is they who have a sick problem, and a lack self security that any civilised member of society should posess.

For crying out loud: men are legally allowed to walk around without shirts on. You don't hear very many stories about women who couldn't control themselves at the sight of a shirtless man and simply had to rape him: he was asking for it. No, it's not about how the victim dresses.

It's about the molestors problems. They are often insecure, sick bullies who use sex as a way to humiliate and dominate and belittle their victims. They most often do it again, when they get the chance.

It is despicable, and INEXCUSABLE. NO ONE DESERVES SEXUAL MOLESTATION, no matter how they dress, no matter who they're with, no matter who did it to them.

The peple who sexually violate others should be punished, no matter who they are, no matter what their job is, no matter what their history is, THEY SHOULD BE PUNISHED.

Quite honestly I don't think prison does the trick. I think a man should have a ball cut off if he sexually violates someone, the other for a second offense, and his penis if he sexually violates anyone a third time. If men knew that was the consequence for their actions, sexual crimes would probably drop quite dramaticaly.

and for those who are about to flame saying that women rape too, well duh. yes, there are women who sexually violate people too. But let's face it: women don't rape nearly as often as men.

any statistic will tell you that more than 90% of violators are male. less than 5% of men admit having been violated in their lifetime. and less than 10% of rape reports are false, according to the FBI. So don't give me flames about women raping. it happens, but it's obvious that males do it more.

The sickest part? 35% of men report that they would violate someone if they knew they wouldn't get caught. that's frightening. that is way to big a percentage of men willing to violate someone sexually. This leads me to believe that men have some behavior, either inborn or learned, that is a sick, vile part of our society. It is a HUGE problem, one of the worst crimes one human can commit against another.

and yet people are giving sympathy and forgiveness to the violator, while blaming and ignoring the victims. this happens even when the violator isn't a pastor.

remember the victims. think about how they felt. think about what they had to deal with. the violator made his choice. the loss of his career and public image is his own fault, and fully deserved. as for forgiveness, the 2 girls who suffered are the ones who has the choice to forgive or not.