Friday, August 23, 2013

Statutes of limitation lifted in Illinois

The great State of Illinois has lifted the civil statute of limitations for lawsuits alleging child sex abuse!

This is a huge step forward and will help to protect countless thousands of kids into the future.

"Kids are safest when predators are jailed. But that can't always happen. So the next best option is to expose predators," said SNAP in its public statement. Civil lawsuits are a powerful tool toward that end.

Civil lawsuits are also a tool that can often bring to light the extensive cover-ups that we  see so frequently in religious institutions.

When allegations are made as part of a civil lawsuit filed at a public courthouse, the media can readily report on them. When the media reports on them, people learn about them. When people learn about them, other victims often come forward, other people may be prompted to tell what they know, and others who colluded in concealing the crimes can be exposed. Most importantly, with the exposure that civil lawsuits bring, people can at least have the opportunity to be warned about credibly-accused predators, and parents can then make their own decisions about who they're willing to trust their kids with.

A huge thank-you to the many individuals in the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, whose work helped to make this progress possible!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Evangelicals need to confront the reality of sexual abuse in their ranks

Boz Tchividjian
In yesterday’s Louisville Courier-Journal, award-winning religion writer Peter Smith wrote about the need for evangelical churches to confront sexual abuse and cover-ups within their own ranks. It’s a need that was recently given voice in a public statement written by former sex crimes prosecutor Boz Tchividjian and signed by more than 1,500 people worldwide.

The statement was prompted in part by a lawsuit brought by eleven plaintiffs alleging the cover-up of sexual abuse within churches affiliated with Sovereign Grace Ministries. Tchividjian said the lawsuit “underscored larger issues,” and his statement alluded, not only to the case, but also to religious leaders who have publicly defended Sovereign Grace and its president, including prominent Southern Baptist leaders.

The statement says that these developments show “the troubling reality that, far too often, the Church’s instincts are no different than those of many other institutions, responding to such allegations by moving to protect her structures rather than her children.”

Asked to comment about this public statement, I expressed my gratitude for the work of Boz Tchividjian, whom I have written about twice before. But I also expressed my view that something akin to a Truth and Reconciliation Commission is what’s really needed, and my remarks were extensively quoted in Smith’s article.

“For many faith groups, including most Baptist groups, what is actually needed is something akin to a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Those who have been victimized by clergy sex abuse are in desperate need of a safe place where they can tell their stories and be heard with respect and compassion. Those who have known about abusive clergy or who had reason to suspect, those who have been complicit in cover-ups, those who have engaged in intimidation tactics for the silencing of victims, and those who have followed the direction of senior pastors to keep things in the church family – all of these people – are in need of a safe place where they may now tell what they know, express their remorse, and do what is still possible for making kids safer in the future. Those parents who sit in the pews and wonder about how many of their leaders may have been complicit in covering up for clergy child molestations – those people also are in need. They need a credible outside resource to illuminate the truth for them – or at least as much of the truth as can possibly be ascertained. And finally, faith itself needs truth and reconciliation. When it comes to clergy sex abuse, faith needs no more of religious leaders’ do-nothing words of outrage; instead, what faith needs is human beings’ sacred commitment to shared truth.”

I’ll conclude by quoting the words of Desmond Tutu, anti-apartheid activist and former archbishop of Cape Town: “True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the hurt, the truth . . . . It is a risky undertaking but in the end it is worthwhile, because in the end only an honest confrontation with reality can bring real healing. Superficial reconciliation can bring only superficial healing.”

Article republished in Louisville Courier-Journal, 8/17/2013 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Pastor told investigators "he was aware"

A reader recently sent me an article with these comments:

“My childhood church had a young man who volunteered for years with AWANA and the youth group. I had also heard from adults that he was so wonderful to be a ‘father figure’ to several boys in the church whose parents were divorced. You can guess the result – he was eventually found out to be molesting these boys, and one case went to court.

Several of the boys he was close to seemed to develop some problems and disappeared from town.  I am pretty sure that there must have been many more victims. He was described in the paper as volunteering for ‘several years’ with youth and children, but I was in that church back in the mid-nineties and he didn't get prosecuted till 2005, so it was at least 10 years. He was basically a volunteer youth and children minister, extremely active in the ministries. He starred in the children's musical I was in . . . .  Knowing that there must have been more victims, I think it would be helpful to post this . . . . ”

I agree. So I’m posting this excerpt from a front-page article that was in the Daily News of Northwest Florida on November 5, 2005.

Church volunteer charged with molesting boy:
Investigators say Rocky Bayou Baptist Church has been aware of complaints for a few years

 “A Valparaiso man has been charged with molesting a boy for years whom he had met as a church youth volunteer, and investigators suspect more victims will surface.

Robert Thomas Jenkins-Hayes
“Robert “Robbie” Thomas Jenkins-Hayes, 42, is being held at Okaloosa County Jail on $350,000 bond for lewd and lascivious molestation, according to a Valparaiso Police Department arrest report. He’s been a volunteer with the AWANA program for youth at Rocky Bayou Baptist Church in Niceville for several years . . . .

“The Valparaiso Police launched an investigation after a 15-year-old boy came forward with allegations against Jenkins-Hayes, who was arrested Wednesday. But investigators say the church has been aware of complaints against Jenkins-Hayes for a few years.

“It has never been officially reported,” said Valparaiso Capt. Christy Goldsmith.

“Rocky Bayou’s senior pastor, Dale Julio, told investigators he was aware of instances when Jenkins-Hayes kissed boys on the lips and embraced them for too long, according to the report.”
Rocky Bayou Baptist Church in Niceville, Florida, is shown as being affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. Why should anyone be surprised by this keep-it-quiet pattern in the churches when high Southern Baptist officials have set the example with a stubborn and reckless entrenchment in denominational do-nothingness on clergy sex abuse?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Reckless disregard for kids

Quoted from a July 29, 2013, article by Kevin Koeninger in the Courthouse News Service in Clarksville, Tennessee:

“After a youth minister was charged with sex offenses, a Baptist church promised to protect its children, but all it did was offer an optional first aid course, and a second employee sexually abused another child, the family claims in court.

“Parents John and Jane Doe sued Spring Creek Baptist Church on behalf of their minor daughter Janie, in Montgomery County Court. . . .

"’In 2009, a youth minister at Spring Creek was criminally charged with having sexual contact with minors in Spring Creek's youth groups. The youth minister resigned voluntarily,’ the complaint states.

Pastor Paul Bunger
Spring Creek Baptist Church
"’Afterwards, at least one member of Spring Creek communicated to Senior Pastor Paul Bunger that Spring Creek should adopt policies for protecting children in its care.’

"’Spring Creek adopted no policies for protecting children other than offering a first aid course for Sunday School teachers on a voluntary basis.’"

“’That was inadequate,’ the Does say.
“The complaint continues: ‘Multiple members warned Senior Pastor Bunger and other church leaders that a man, Christopher Ryan Crossno ('Crossno'), was behaving inappropriately toward young children in Spring Creek's Sunday School programs.’

"‘One Spring Creek employee observed Crossno in a Sunday School classroom reaching to put his hand up a young girl's dress. The employee stopped Crossno before it went further.’

"’A concerned parent told Senior Pastor Bunger and other church leaders that Crossno was making a young girl in a Sunday School classroom uncomfortable by tickling her.’

"’One Spring Creek member communicated to Senior Pastor Bunger that Crossno's behavior was characteristic of a pedophile and that Spring Creek should take steps to keep him away from children.’

"’Spring Creek did not prevent Crossno from having access to the children in Spring Creek's Sunday School program.’

"’’Instead, for the Fall 2012 - Spring 2013 term, Spring Creek named Crossno as one of the teachers of its first grade Sunday School class.’

"’Janie Doe was a student in Spring Creek's first grade Sunday School class in fall 2012.’

"’During class on November 18, 2012, Crossno sexually abused Janie Doe in the Sunday School classroom.’"

“The family seeks punitive damages for negligence and recklessness.

"’Spring Creek's knowledge based on the prior charges against its youth minister regarding sex with minors, and the warnings Spring Creek had received regarding Crossno, Spring Creek's conduct constitutes recklessness,’ the complaint states.”

Spring Creek Baptist Church is shown as being affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. Is it any wonder that so many Southern Baptist churches display such reckless disregard when Southern Baptists’ highest leaders have set such a reckless example of denominational do-nothingness on clergy sex abuse?