Child and youth sexual abuse
Sexual abuse within fundamentalist
and other evangelical churches
- Rt. Rev. William Persell, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago: "We would be naïve and dishonest were we to say this is a Roman Catholic problem and has nothing to do with us because we have married and female priests in our church. Sin and abusive behavior know no ecclesial or other boundaries." From his sermon on Good Friday, 2002.
- Comment in a sermon by Bishop Long directed at gays and lesbians: "God says you deserve death!" (Bishop long has been accused by four males of sexual behavior with them before they reached the age of 18. 13
Placing abuse in perspective:
Since the year 2000, evidence has emerged -- mainly in North America and Europe -- of widespread
child sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church, and of subsequent
payoffs and cover-ups by the church. One of the sources of public outrage has been the common policy in many dioceses of simply transferring the abuser to another parish without warning them in advance.
There is also some evidence of sexual abuse within
fundamentalist, other evangelical churches, and other Protestant denominations.
What is missing is a measure of balance.
Sexual abuse is found throughout society. Approximately 1%
of girls are so abused by their fathers before puberty, and about 1% by
their step-fathers. Abuse of boys is at a lower level. There is also a widespread belief that one in four girls is sexually abused as a child. However, if one traces this belief back to the original survey, it relates to any unwanted sexual advance experienced by a female under the age of 18. Probably most such events are caused by miscommunication during a dating situation.
There is really no
reliable data which demonstrates whether religion plays a role in this
phenomenon. We have never located any trustworthy evidence that sexual abuse
of pre-pubertal children is higher or lower in fundamentalist/other evangelical churchees when compared to the Roman Catholic Church, other faith groups, or in society as a whole.
David MacDonald of Catholic Bridge.com reported:
"In 2001, I heard the evangelical radio show "Focus on the Family", hosted by psychologist and author Dr. James Dobson, discuss a crisis among Pastors of non-Catholic churches. They reported that 21% of evangelical/Protestant pastors had had inappropriate sexual contact with members of their congregations. Sixty percent (60%) of evangelical pastors, most of whom are married, have a problem with pornography. In a 1984 study, 76% of pastors knew of another evangelical pastor who had sexual intercourse with a parishioner. 1
The vast majority of these cases of improper sexual behavior would have involved an adult parishioner who consented to the activity. However,some were assaults were on children and youth.
Wikipedia list of evangelical scandals:
Wikipedia has a list of scandals mostly related to American Christian evangelicals. The vast majority involve fraud associated with miracle healings, financial wrongdoing, same-sex behavior, or seduction of adult parishioners -- often as a result of counseling sessions that turned sexual. However, they list some involved allegations of sexual abuse of children and youth: 2,3
- 2005: William Kamm - He was an Australian religious sect leader and self-styled Pope Peter II who was sentenced to prison in 2005-OCT for a string of sexual attacks on a 15-year-old girl. In August 2007 his sentence was increased after being found guilty for a series of sexual abuses against another teenage girl over a five year period.
- 2008: Joe Barron: Joe Barron, one of the 40 ministers at Prestonwood Baptist Church, one of the largest churches in the United States with 26,000 members, was arrested on 2008-MAY-15 for solicitation of a minor after driving from the Dallas area to Bryan, Texas, in order to allegedly engage in sexual relations with what he thought to be a 13 year-old girl he had met online. The "girl" turned out to be an undercover law enforcement official.
- 2008: Tony Alamo: On SEP-20, FBI agents raided Tony Alamo Christian Ministries headquarters as part of a child pornography investigation. This investigation involved allegations of physical abuse, sexual abuse and allegations of polygamy and underage marriage. According to Terry Purvis, mayor of Fouke, Arkansas, his office has received complaints from former ministry members about allegations of child abuse, sexual abuse and polygamy since the ministry established itself in the area. Purvis had turned over information about the allegations to the FBI. In late 2009-JUL, Alamo (who had a previous conviction for tax evasion in the 1990s) was convicted on ten counts of transporting minors across state lines for sexual purposes, sexual assault and other crimes. In 2009-NOV, he was sentenced to the maximum punishment of 175 years in prison.
- 2008: Wayne Bent (aka: Michael Travesser) was the founder of Lord Our Righteousness Church, sometimes called Strong City. He was convicted of one count of criminal sexual contact of a minor and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor in 2008. He was sentenced to 18 years with eight years suspended.
Other allegations and convictions:
- 2001: James Truxton was an elder of the First Evangelical Free Church in Fullerton CA. In 1992, some women came forward to accuse Truxton of molesting them when they were children. The church removed Truxton as an elder and revoked his membership. Unfortunately, the accusations came more than 6 years after the abuse events and thus could not be prosecuted under the state's statute of limitations. However, in the summer of 2001, a woman came forward to accuse Truxton of having molested her from 1978, when she was 7 years-of-age to 1981. The statute of limitations no longer applied to new cases, and the case was reopened. 7,8
- 2010: Daniel Vasquez is pastor of a Dominican Republic evangelical church is being investigated following allegation that he sexually abused 30 boys. Vasquez denies allegation, and says that the accusations were fabricated by members of his congregation who have been involved in a dispute with him. 3
- 2010-SEP: Eddie Long is pastor of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, near Atlanta, GA. It is the largest Baptist megachurch in the U.S. Three male adult members of the church -- Maurice Robinson, 20, Anthony Flagg, 21, and Jamal Parris, 23 -- have filed a lawsuit accusing him of coercing them into sexual relationships when they were youths aged 17 or 18 in his congregation. The age of consent in Georgia is 16. In a curious twist to the case, Robinson has been charged with criminal burglary in a June break-in at Long's office.
Spokesperson Art Franklin stated that Pastor Eddie Long:
"... categorically and adamantly denies these allegations. There's been a lot of chatter since yesterday, but these complaints that have been filed are definitely without merit." 5
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center:
"Long is one of the most virulently homophobic black leaders in the religiously based anti-gay movement." 6
According to the Associated Press:
"Long has called for a national ban on same-sex marriage. In 2004, he led a march with Bernice King to her father's Atlanta grave to support a national constitutional amendment to protect marriage 'between one man and one woman'."
"This isn't the first allegation against a religious leader who has crusaded against gay marriage. Ted Haggard left New Life Church of Colorado Springs, Colo., in 2006 after a male prostitute said Haggard paid him for sex. Haggard denied the allegations but later admitted to "sexual immorality" and launched a new church in June 2010." 9
On 2010-SEP-24, a fourth young member of one of Long's churches, Spencer LeGrande, accused Long of coercing him into a sexual relationship during a journey that they took to Kenya in 2005. His lawsuit claims that Long convinced him that "... engaging in a sexual relationship was a healthy component of his spiritual life." 10
CNN political analyst Roland Martin wrote on SEP-25:
"As we witness the salacious and troubling sex allegations leveled this week against Atlanta megachurch pastor Bishop Eddie L. Long, it is clear that many are confused to hear four young men come forward and allege that the man of the cloth, the husband and father, sexually coerced them and used the power of his prophetic position to engage in sex with them."
Bishop Long discussed these accusations in church on Sunday, SEP-26 at 11 AM. 11 He preached a short sermon on surviving painful times. He concluded:
"It is even more shocking considering Long has preached with conviction against homosexuality and gay marriage. ..."
"... there is no doubt in my mind that for the sake of the church, Long and his family, he needs to remove himself from the pulpit as the leader of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in order for the issue to be resolved to its conclusion."
"Please hear this: I have been accused. I'm under attack. I want you to know that I am not a perfect man, but this thing I'm gon' fight. I feel like David against Goliath, but I've got five rocks, and I haven't thrown one yet,"
The congregation applauded loudly. 12
According to the Washington Post:
"Long never directly said he is innocent, but he made clear that he would not leave New Birth, and church leaders vowed to stick by him. 'We stand behind our pastor. And there is a period behind that,' church elder Darius Wise said." 12
As of 2010-SEP-27, a Washington Post poll had collected the opinions of 4,552 of the visitors to its website. 79% felt that "... Bishop Eddie Long [should] step down from his position as senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church," 21% felt that he should continue his ministry. 13
On 2011-MAY-27, Bishop Eddie Long reached an out-of-court settlement with his four accusers.
On MAY-29 the New Life church posted the following message on its web site:
"After a series of discussions, all parties involved have decided to resolve the civil cases out of court. This decision was made to bring closure to this matter and to allow us to move forward with the plans God has for this ministry."
"As is usually the case when civil lawsuits resolve out of court, we cannot discuss any details regarding the resolution or the resolution process, as they are confidential."
"The resolution is the most reasonable road for everyone to travel."14
Oretha Winston writing for News One/Elev8 noted that Rev. Bernice King, the youngest daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr. resigned on MAY-30 as an elder of the New Birth church. Winston expects that other elders will follow. Donations to the church are down. Two full-time employees have been laid off. Those employees who survived the layoff have had their pay cut by 10%. She wrote that: "The money being given for the settlement is rumored to be in the millions of dollars. The 41 ministries that Long runs will no longer be solvent."15
Major Internet resources:
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today. Wikipedia text was copiedunder the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
- David MacDonald. "What about the sexual abuse cases in the priesthood?," Catholic Bridge, 2003-2010, at: http://www.davidmacd.com/
- "List of Christian evangelist scandals," Wikipedia, as at 2010-SEP-22, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
- "List of convicted religious leaders," Wikipedia, as at 2010-AUG-01, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
- "Dominican Republic investigates molestation allegations against evangelical pastor
," Associated Press, 2010-SEP-17, at: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/
- "Eddie Long, Atlanta Bishop, Accused Of Sexual Abuse By Male Parishioners," Church Warnings blog, 2010-SEP-21, at: http://churchwarnings.blogspot.com/
- Brentin Mock, "Bishop Eddie Long," Intelligence Report, Southern Poverty Law Center, 2007-SPRING, at: http://www.splcenter.org/
- Corrie Cutrer, "Sex abuse: 'A time of justice'," Christianity Today, 2002-MAY-21, at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/
- Anson Shupe, "Spoils of the Kingdom: Clergy misconduct and religious community," Page 24, 2007. Preview online at: http://books.google.com
- "Lawsuits: Megachurch pastor coerced 3 men into sex,"Associated Press, 2010-SEP-23, at: http://news.yahoo.com/
- Greg Bluestein, "Ga. pastor's academy had 'sex self-check card'," Associated Press, 2010-SEP-25, at: http://news.yahoo.com
- Roland S. Martin, "Bishop Eddie Long must step down." CNN, 2010-SEP-25, at: http://edition.cnn.com/
- Krissah Thompson and Nia-Malika Henderson, " 'I'm under attack,' Georgia bishop accused of sexual misconduct tells church"
- David Love, "The Eddie Long Scandal: Betraying the Memory of MLK," The Huffington Post, 2010-SEP-29, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
- Katherine T. Phan "Eddie Long Preaches to New Birth Congregation After Settling Lawsuits," The Christian Post, 2011-MAY-29, at: http://www.christianpost.com
- Oretha Winston, "Eddie Long’s Church Is Collapsing, Says Source,"
Elev8, 2011-MAY-31, at: http://elev8.com/
Copyright © 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written on: 2010-SEP-23
Last updated on: 2011-JUN-02
Author: B.A. Robinson