Burn Him At The Stake

Deb at TWW reports on the case of Steve Jesmer, pastor of what was The Dialogue Church, who raped a 13-year-old girl in his church office.

One more reason you ought to be skeptical of anyone who has charisma.

To their credit, church leaders who became aware of the incident were prompt in getting to authorities. And by all accounts, the church was cooperative in the investigation.

Kentucky Senate Might Get Shakeup

If this story has traction–and since there is an audiotape of the exchange, it appears to have legs–there could be a major shakeup of the Kentucky political apparatus.

Julian Carroll (D), a former Governor, has enjoyed a very secure position in the Kentucky Senate. His level of influence in the Democratic Party in Kentucky is not far-removed from that of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for Kentucky Republicans.

If this were simply about Carroll’s offenses, that would be bad enough.

But the larger issue here is the political apparatus that has swept offenses like these under the rug.

Very Good Article from TWW (Why Predators Choose Churches)

Everyone needs to read this.

If you are in a church where people have a “this would never happen here” attitude, then that means one of two things:

(1) It is GOING TO happen to you;

(2) It ALREADY HAS happened to you, and, when the facts get out in the open, the defecation is going to slam into the circulation at a very high velocity.

Predators will target churches for the same reason that armed robbers target banks.

The bank robber will hit the bank because “that’s where the money is.”

The child molester will target the church because “that’s where the children are.”

If you are a regular reader here, you will shake your head because, if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: the predator often DOES NOT “LOOK” EVIL!

The predator is usually NOT the creepy, Peewee Herman knockoff and is in fact very likely (a) very respected, (b) very friendly and seemingly trustworthy, and (c) SOMEONE THE KIDS WILL OTHERWISE LOVE! He is often married and has children of his own, and his wife is often well-liked. He may be a seminary graduate, he may be a professional, he may be very gifted. He will likely be very popular.

Churches are generally drawn to people who (a) have charisma and (b) are good performers at what they do. If they are preachers, they can preach the lights out. If they are music ministers, they can sing and play instruments like no one’s business. If they are children’s ministers, they are EXCELLENT at object lessons. If they are youth ministers, they are VERY POPULAR with the teens.

You say your church does background checks? Excellent! EVERY CHURCH NEEDS TO DO THEM ON EVERYONE WHO SERVES WITH CHILDREN OR TEENS.

But remember this: the predator will pass the background check. This is because the background check will only tell you if he has any prior scrapes with the law. And Murphy’s Law says he has a “clean record”.

You say your church has a “two person rule”; i.e., no adult is allowed to be with children or teens alone. EXCELLENT! Every church needs to have that policy!

But are you sure that these workers are not having any kids or teens at their houses without other adult chaperones? Do you have adequate chaperones at camping and other outside-the-walls events? (And make no mistake: that is your responsibility!)

And given the recent debacle at Seven Rivers Presbyterian Church in Florida, you might need to ensure that the Internet connectivity in your church has reasonable porn-blocking technology.

Even then, you can do everything right and the predator can still make it past your defenses.

What can you do about that?

(1) Foster a culture of transparency in your church. President Reagan once told his staff, “Never be afraid to see what you see.” That is great advice here: if it looks suspicious, then don’t be afraid to sound off.

(2) As for “sounding off”…that means ensuring that people understand that they should call authorities immediately and report suspicious activity or accusations thereof. Can those accusations be bogus? Of course. But let the authorities sort that out. Are they perfect? No, but their batting average on these matters will be better than yours.

When an accusation surfaces, you aren’t going to want to believe it, because it will involve someone that you will swear is sterling.

Be that as it may, DO NOT “DO YOUR OWN INVESTIGATION”. I am going to give you some reasons why this is a very bad idea:

(1) Unless you are trained in this sort of thing, you aren’t qualified to do any such investigation.

(2) Even if you ARE trained in this sort of thing, you have conflicts of interest that could cloud your judgment as you investigate.

(3) By interrogating witnesses, you may unwittingly intimidate them into recanting, and this could squelch any chance of rooting out other abuses and exposing other victims. And trust me: if you get an accusation and it proves to have merit, Murphy’s Law says you’re seeing the tip of the iceberg.

I personally know two people who are doing 20-year sentences for child rape. One (RW) assaulted his own granddaughters–this was not church-related–and the other (CE) was a children’s worker for many years at various churches.

RW’s case, even though it was not church-related–is important for this reason: I was at RW’s house many times, and worked with his granddaughters in Awana (they were assistants to folks like myself), and saw them at the house many times. There were no obvious indications of abuse.

One of them wrote about the abuses in her diary, and one of her parents read it, and went to authorities. RW was convicted in a jury trial.

Had that parent dismissed this by saying, “I know RW, I can swear that he’s a good guy…he would NEVER do anything like that. There’s no way this is true!”, this would have never gone to trial. Thankfully, he (or she) saw what they saw and acted on it.

CE’s case was a classic disaster. He had been to multiple churches, and had been accused of improprieties with children everywhere he went.

What I was told after the fact: in the early cases, which occured in the early 1990s before myself or the pastor (RC) were at the church: CE’s prior churches didn’t report him but rather made him leave. When I was one of those churches from early 1994 through early 1997, CE had a “clean record”. From early 1994 to 1995, he was at a large church in Louisville. It was a liberal Baptist church. Apparently, he was pushed out of that church due to accusations from others. I wouldn’t find that out, however, until 1997, after I was gone.

None of his accusers at any of his prior churches reported him to authorities, and–rather than report him–the leaders at those churches had quietly told him to move on. (NEVER, EVER DO THAT! This enables predators to continue their dirty work.)

My first dealings with him were in 1996: CE taught in the children’s area. I taught one of the adult Sunday School classes and an occasional evening class. CE would teach the children’s object lesson on Sunday mornings. During this time, I was unaware of any accusations against him. I didn’t like him, but couldn’t put my finger on why. I did not, however, know of his past.

After I left in 1997, two accusers went to authorities, accusing CE of trying to touch them in certain places. CE was arrested and charged.

But other parties–people who knew those kids–interrogated them, and they subsequently recanted. With evidence lacking for convictions, CE was pled down to a misdemeanor which was subsequently expunged from his record.

In 2000, I returned to that church as the Minister of Education. When I got there, CE was a children’s worker and was even on the Personnel Committee. (In other words, he was actually on a committee that had the power to fire me!)

Oh, and CE had a “clean record”. That is because (a) his prior charges were dropped, and (b) the misdemeanor was expunged from his record. That means CE would pass any background check.

Neither the pastor (RC) nor myself liked him, but the powerful folks on the key committees swore by him.

RC and I did the best we could: we kept a close eye on him, and we were dogmatic about the “two person rule”, which pissed off some of the children’s workers.

During my year there, no one accused him of anything. And I did not witness any suspicious activity. (And I was looking for it.)

Not long after I left in 2001, CE also went to another church.

But there was a family–the mom was a childhood friend of CE’s–that continued to have CE babysit their kids.

One of those kids started having some medical issues. Upon examination, a doc became suspicious. Subsequent professionals determined that CE had raped the child.

CE was arrested and charged.

This time around, other accusers came out of the woodwork, most of those pre-dating my time at that church, and some of them involving other churches at which he had served.

According to RC, none of the documented abuses occurred during our terms there. To this day, I have no idea why that was the case. I wish I could say that RC and I scared the Hell out of CE, but I doubt that was the case. Maybe he knew he was being watched. Who knows?

Ultimately, he pled guilty and is serving a 20-year sentence.

Notice that, had those 2 kids–in 1997–not been interrogated by people who knew them, CE would likely have been stopped in his tracks.

That underscores the danger of “doing your own investigation”.

The folks who did that in 1997? They thought they were rooting out liars. They thought they were saving the church from being tainted by false accusation.

In reality, they enabled a predator.

Time For a Mass Burning At the Stake

Hat tip to Dee at TWW. This is nothing short of reprehensible.

Make no mistake:

(1) Heads need to roll, and at every level.

(2) Seminaries need to be completely upended.

(3) Every ordained minister and parachurch leader needs to be put under investigation.

Those found guilty need to be imprisoned for life.

Oh, and don’t think for one second that this isn’t almost as rampant in the Baptist/congregational world.

The Tom Chantry Case: It’s Not Simply About a Pastor

Fair Disclosure: Tom Chantry has not been found guilty in a court of law; he is entitled to Due Process, which includes (a) the right to counsel on his behalf, (b) the right to contest evidence against him, (c) the right to cross-examine witnesses who testify against him, (d) the right to introduce evidence on his behalf, (e) the right to compel witnesses to testify on his behalf, (f) the right not to testify against himself, and (g) to have that case examined and decided by a jury of his peers, with a unanimous verdict required for a conviction.

The case of Tom Chantry, a Reformed Baptist leader who has been indicted on multiple criminal charges, including child molestation and aggravated assault, is not simply about Tom Chantry.

If the evidence supports the charges against Chantry–which are damning–then Chantry is far from the only culpable party here.

That is because, if Chantry is guilty, then his abuses were enabled by a culture that, in spite of ostensible proclamation of Scripture regarding sexual matters, knowingly coddled leaders who were sexually licentious and who abused children.

And if that is true, then every one of those leaders would be better off taking a long swim with a millstone around his neck.

He Led Her Down The Path To…

Well, not really.

In all seriousness, the only innocent parties in this one are her daughter and their son, Miguel Barahona, who was murdered.

Personally, I think he was a victim of sorts at one time. I agree with the premise that she “groomed” him and aggressively initiated that relationship. She was a predator who preyed on his raging hormones.

But when he chose to flip the switch and commit murder–particularly his own son–he swept all of that off the table.

She was a sexual predator. He is now a murderer.

Unfortunately, her daughter and their son paid the price for the depravity of their parents.

Passing Thoughts on the Greg Kelley Child Rape Case

I haven’t been following the Greg Kelley child rape case, but a number of people whom I follow on Twitter–including Boz Tchividjian–have been opining about it.

In this instance, you have a popular high school football player, living in a house that functioned as an in-home day care, accused of sexually-assaulting two 4-year-old boys. One of the boys waffled, there was no forensic evidence, Kelley had a fair number of character witnesses–including a football coach–and few enemies, not to mention a clean record. So many people made it their Christian duty to proclaim the glories of his innocence.

Among the arguments:

  • The children weren’t being truthful; one of them even recanted.
  • He had such a clean record.
  • He was never seen doing anything improper with children.
  • All they had was one child’s word against his.
  • He had the guts to testify on his own behalf.
  • So many Christian people were ready to sear by his character.

In the interest of fair disclosure, I don’t know Kelley, so I can’t say if he’s innocent or guilty. I do know this much, however: a jury of his peers heard the case–including even his own testimony–and found him guilty of two counts of super aggravated sexual assault, which meant he faced 25 years to life in prison.

In a plea deal reached in the penalty phase, Kelley admitted guilt, waived his right to appeal, and in return received 25 years. He’ll be in his 40s when he leaves prison, and will have to register as a sex offender.

As for the arguments that others have made, they sound very familiar.

Do children lie about being molested? Yes–those of us who are old enough can recall the McMartin preschool case, and I know of some firsthand accounts of false accusations within the foster case system–but it’s not as common as one thinks.

A child sex offender often has a very clean record–older ones usually pass background checks–and the first indication of any problem is the arrest.

A child sex offender rarely fits the mold of the reclusive, creepy pervert. In fact, many are affable, popular, and good with kids.

A child sex offender will pick his spots well, and usually does a spectacular job avoiding being noticed abusing children. Some of them are so sly that they will abuse children in front of other adults without being noticed.

A child sex offender will often have a mother lode of character witnesses–often old ladies–who will swear that “he’s such a kind soul; he would never hurt a fly.” They become unwitting enablers.

Sometimes, victims will recant, and the reasons can be complex. Is it always because the story was made up? Uh…no. In fact, I know of cases were accusations were likely recanted because someone coerced the victim into recanting.

The only thing I see in Kelley’s defense here: he’s not old enough to be slick and manipulative. (Then again, that might be why the law caught him.)

I tend to be in the camp of letting the justice process work. Do people get wrongly convicted of heinous crimes? Absolutely. If Kelley is one of those so convicted, I hope he receives his vindication.

OTOH, I tend to be in the camp of letting the process work. We have jury trials for a reason, and Kelley used all of his options, including taking the stand. He lost.

I realize that many will swear to his innocence, but the jury saw otherwise.

I cast my lot with the jury.

Heartbreaking

Moira Greyland, writing to the The Guardian (emphasis added):

Greyland, writing to the Guardian via email, said that she had not spoken out before “because I thought that my mother’s fans would be angry with me for saying anything against someone who had championed women’s rights and made so many of them feel differently about themselves and their lives. I didn’t want to hurt anyone she had helped, so I just kept my mouth shut”.

Greyland, a harpist, singer and opera director, said it was now clear to her that “one reason I never said anything is that I regarded her life as being more important than mine: her fame more important, and assuredly the comfort of her fans as more important. Those who knew me, knew the truth about her, but beyond that, it did not matter what she had done to me, as long as her work and her reputation continued.”

I can absolutely see where Moira would have arrived at that conclusion, and in fact many in the SF/F community probably think exactly that: that MZB’s life is more important than Moira’s. I can see where that would have kept her from speaking out for so long. Not knowing anything else, I’d hazard an educated guess that Moira probably figured it was her duty to be the sacrificial lamb on account of how well everyone else seemed to regard her mother. Besides, it’s entirely possible that, for many years, she figured that “deserved” the abuses she received.

Sadly, MZB got away with a myriad of atrocities against many children, including her own, during her time on this earth. She married a man she knew was a pederast; she covered for his abuses; she engaged in abuses of her own against children. She was a despicable, sordid excuse for a human being. Ditto for her husband.

Against that backdrop, Damien Walter raises the following issue:

It’s a truism that the writer you read on the page is not the writer you meet in the flesh. It’s for exactly this reason that meeting our cultural heroes is so often a profound disappointment. The transcendent singer on the stage is a bawdy lech in the bar. The poet who expresses beauty in words is a drunken misanthrope in person. So we commonly separate the artist from the human being, the icon from the reality. But when the actions of our cultural heroes go beyond bad behaviour, into to moral outrage, illegality and immorality, that separation becomes far harder. And in some cases, impossible.

I agree with the entirety of that statement. Truth be told, most writers–even the best Christian ones–were hardly sterling pure.

C.S. Lewis drank a bit much, smoked, and had sexual appetites that were bizarre at best and twisted at worst. And yet, he was probably the best Christian writer and apologist in the last 500 years.

I accept that great thinkers and writers are often “out there”, and are sometimes wired a bit differently than the average bear. At times, their devotion to excellence often leads to imbalances in other areas of their lives, and, given that one’s sexuality is a huge part of one’s life, that is a facet that can easily become disjointed.

Still, there is a threshold beyond which one can no longer separate the artist from the art. Lewis, whatever his sexual issues, kept his activities among otherwise consenting adults. As far as we know, he was faithful to his wife, and–after she died–he grieved like few men grieve.

Marion Zimmer Bradley, on the other hand, exceeds that threshold. I cannot separate the artist from the art in her case.

One reader of this blog–Savvy–remarked that, in the Mists of Avalon series, MZB “wrote about incest with great ease in a manner that turned my stomach.” Now we know how she was able to write about it with said ease.

Because of the damage that she inflicted on her children–Moira and Mark Greyland–as well as others, and because she covered for her husbands abuses against other children, the proper place for her works is the incinerator or gun range. I generally oppose the practice, but–if I owned any of her books–they would be targets for my next trip to Knob Creek.

If you want to support art from that family, then buy Moira Greyland’s music, or Mark Greyland’s art.