Rev. Michael Jay Brown Martinez GA Charged with Child Molestation

My thanks to the Augusta Chronicle for this story.

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By Jeremy Craig

An assistant pastor at an area church has been charged with covertly videotaping underneath the skirts of teenage girls at Augusta Mall, officials said Friday.

The Rev. Michael Jay Brown, 41, of Candlewood Drive in Martinez, was charged with child molestation, clandestine surveillance and being a peeping Tom, Richmond County jail records state.

The Rev. Brown is listed as an assistant pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Martinez on the jail record and on the church’s Web site.

Richmond County sheriff’s Maj. Ken Autry said the Rev. Brown was jailed Thursday night.

Investigators found that the Rev. Brown had placed a video camera in a shopping bag, and while at Augusta Mall, pointed the camera upward and filmed up the skirts of two girls, Maj. Autry said.

Neither girl had any idea initially that they were being filmed, the major said.

According to the initial incident report filed with the sheriff’s office, the incident happened Tuesday afternoon.

The victims are not from Augusta, the report states, but have listed addresses in Emanuel and Candler counties, more than 70 miles south of Augusta.

Maj. Autry said investigators are checking the reverend’s work computer to see if there are other images of a similar nature.

Messages to the church and to its denomination, the Lawrenceville-based Presbyterian Church in America, were not returned as of early Friday evening.

The Rev. Brown also was a volunteer with the Court-Appointed Special Advocate program.

Program volunteers speak up for abused and neglected children in the foster care system.

Dan Hillman, the executive director of Child Enrichment Inc., which administers the program, said officials were speaking with the office of Juvenile Court Judge Herbert E. Kernaghan Jr. to have the pastor removed from the single case he was appointed to at the time of his arrest.

He said the Rev. Brown will be terminated as a program volunteer.

“It’s pretty devastating,” Mr. Hillman said.

“(The Rev.) Brown had clear local and state background checks,” he said.

All volunteers must submit to extensive criminal background checks for the program.

Youth Pastor Scott Hoppe Sentenced for Sexual Abuse

My thanks to the Journal Times for this story.

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RACINE — The former Burlington pastor who had an ongoing romantic and sexual relationship with one of his youth group members is “a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” a prosecutor said Monday.

Judge Gerald Ptacek sentenced Scott Hoppe to four years in prison and six on extended supervision, a sentence which adds one year of incarceration and three of supervision to Hoppe’s initial sentence.

Hoppe, 33, groomed his victim and her family over the course of several years to gain their trust and weaken boundaries, Deputy District Attorney Richard Chiapete said. By the time the girl was 16, their relationship had progressed. Eventually, he was leaving his home and sneaking into her bedroom nearly every night.

The defense asked the judge to follow a Department of Corrections recommendation, sentencing him to three years of prison and three on extended supervision, to run at the same time as an identical sentence in Walworth County for related crime.

Chiapete said Hoppe is “everyone’s worst nightmare.” He presented one face to the world, and kept another hidden inside.

“This is a man who has couched himself as a man of God,” Chiapete said. “Inside, the real Scott Hoppe is very different. He’s evil, manipulative and egocentric.”

The victim’s father said it is easy for parents to teach their children about some dangers from adults: “We teach our children to avoid strangers, to stay away from guys in trench coats that look like monsters,” he said. “We don’t teach them to stay away from their pastors.”

The victim’s mother questioned Hoppe’s remorse: “I hope he feels remorse, but how would you know with someone who has so skillfully lied?”

The victim said Hoppe took away her faith: “I’ve been unable to step in church or rely on faith because of how he used that as part of the abuse.”

Hoppe’s wife, Jennifer Hoppe, said that while she knows the girl her husband abused is a victim, there are seven other victims in this case as well: herself, and the six Hoppe children. She said her husband has shown remorse and growth since the relationship came to light 18 months ago.

“I do not believe he is evil or putting on an elaborate show,” she said. “I believe in a God of grace and miracles.

“I’m proud of the repentant and changing man (he is now). I’m begging for mercy. So are our children.”

Hoppe said he has realized the relationship was wrong, and called it “an addiction.”

“I’ve come to understand my authority was so great that we could never have had an equal relationship,” he said. “Rather than confess and stop the behavior, I continued to deceive and do what I knew was wrong.”

He said it has been difficult to have his actions aired publicly, but that has also given him freedom.

“I have no more secrets,” he said. “The ugliest parts of my life are known.”

Ptacek said Hoppe used his position to hurt his victim.

“It is clear he took advantage of his position of pastor and took advantage of a child who was learning her sexuality at the time,” Ptacek said. “This is always tragic. People do things to young people. It just takes something from them and violates their sense of trust.

“When you do this, you obviously wreak havoc on the life of the victim.”

She and her family asked the court to give him the longest sentence possible. Hoppe entered pleas to two charges, child enticement and sex with a child between the ages of 16 and 18. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, nine months in jail and 15 years on extended supervision.

Darrell Gilyard Back Behind an SBC Pulpit In Spite of Sex Abuse Charges

This excerpt is from stopbaptistpredators.blogspot.com. I’ve only pulled part of it, so check out the link to see the whole piece.

According to comments on the Tiffany Croft blog, Darrell Gilyard preached from the pulpit of First Timothy Baptist Church in Jacksonville last Tuesday. I’ve also gotten a couple emails about this.

First Timothy is a church affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

As many of you probably recall, Gilyard is the pastor who was previously mentored by two former Southern Baptist presidents, Paige Patterson and Jerry Vines. News reports reflect that dozens of sexual abuse and sexual assault allegations were made against Gilyard at 4 churches in Texas and Oklahoma, but he was always able to simply move on to another church. He finally moved on to Florida, and is now facing charges of lewd conduct and child molestation…

This just blows my mind. When will there be accountability and when will leaders be found culpable for such gross negligence? Even assuming no child was endangered during a guest speaking engagement, this known sex abuser, currently under investigation for and charged with child molestation, is being honored and held up as a positive example to people who would not be in the same building with the man if they were given the choice to decide for themselves.

If we were to assume a stance of “innocent until proven guilty” (in spite of the fact that some of his previous alleged sexual misconduct has been verified by SBC leaders such as Paige Patterson), the man has no business preaching in a church! NONE. During a period of investigation he should suspend all ministerial leadership duties until the truth is determined. That would be a scriptural thing to do, since a pastor is to be blameless.

This frustrates me beyond words. Gilyard is an irresponsible and reprehensible excuse for a pastor. I say that, not out of an assumption of his guilt on the sexual molestation charges, but based on the fact that he is a supposed spiritual leader who would dare to take a guest speaking engagement while under active legal investigation. This is blatantly against Scripture and reveals his power-grasping motives.

And yes, I do hold the SBC leadership who know better and will not raise a finger to protect SBC churches against this man, whom they know to be guilty, fully responsible.

A Few First Thoughts about FLDS Raid in Eldorado TX

I have to write about the situation with the FLDS group that was raided in Eldorado, TX. I’ve been watching the situation with great interest and trying to think how to even start writing about it. It is overwhelming; there is so much I want to say.

First, in a nutshell, even though it is fairly certain the phone calls that spurred the raid were hoaxes, the raid is fully justified, in my opinion. I think the only reason it hasn’t been done before is because the authorities don’t quite know how to tackle such a big problem and, even more importantly, it has been attempted before and failed. In fact, the previously unsuccessful raid may have back-fired into greater abuse of the women.

While many may cry “freedom of religion” there are several specific practices that make this an issue of child abuse and child sexual abuse, and therefore, directly under the authority of civil government.

One is the alleged practice of baby “breaking” which use abusive practices to train babies not to cry. I understand that the women who do this to their babies are acting in blind faith in what they have been taught. But that does not negate the damage this does to the child. There is a very similar mindset prevalent in fundamentalist Christian groups, and Gary Ezzo (author of Growing Kids God’s Way) who insists on spanking infants and abandoning them in their cribs to teach them not to cry.

But God made babies to cry when they have a need. Babies do not yet have a personal will to “sin” (children discover their personal will during what we like to call “the terrible two’s”) so why are they being punished for doing what God made them to do when they have a need? When a child learns from infancy that his needs will go unmet and his cries for help will not only be ignored but actively punished, that child will either accept it ; he will learn to stop asking — leading to an innate understanding that he has no voice and no value; or he will reject it — eventually rebelling when he realizes he is not bad or valueless. This is child abuse.

Second is the practice of marrying young girls to adult men. This would be just as wrong if they were marrying 13 year old girls to 25 year old men; it’s just more gross when these girls are being married off to polygamist older men. The authorities will be able to prove this practice scientifically through the use of the DNA testing that is being done.

Fourth is the practice that has been hinted at in a few news stories, that some of these men feel it is their responsibility to “prepare” their girls for marriage by having incestuous relationships with their own daughters beginning when they are very young, well before the onset of puberty; then later insisting on unmedicated abortions when this practice sometimes results in pregnancy. If the authorities can prove this so much the better. But this one will be difficult because some of these girls will have to tell someone it has happened – girls who are still young enough not to have been married off. I’ll bet this one will remain a “vicious rumor.”

Then there is the violation of truancy laws, child labor laws, and the abuse of the government welfare system which is being used by these multiple wives (who are single moms in the eyes of the state) to collect huge amounts of money that goes into the collective coffers of the sect. That’s without even touching the issue of polygamy, which is illegal for the rest of us in this country.

I know this is a horrible thing for the children, and even for many of the mothers who do love their children and are trying to do the best for them. But we need to keep our eyes on the ball. I think the fact that we’re seeing these mothers interviewed on the news, when they are never allowed that freedom usually, is a reflection of the fact that their husbands are deliberately using them to tug the heartstrings of average America. Have you noticed that they refuse to talk about whether polygamy is being practiced or whether young girls are being married to older men? I absolutely believe the women we see have been carefully selected by the sect leaders as being “trustworthy” to speak only exactly what they’ve been told to say. They are keeping the eyes of America focused on heartbroken moms torn from their babies.

As hard as that is, even though those mothers genuinely love their children, those mothers will keep their children in abuse because they have been so completely indoctrinated in it, they do not see it as abusive. Will the children be better off in state care? Well, it may seem harsh to say it, but most of those children WILL be better off in state care. Yes, it is likely some of those children will be worse off in state care. But at the end of the day, this situation that has occurred as a direct result of the law-breaking practices of their parents; it is specific consequences for actions. Adults have the choice how they choose to live; children do not. I would love to “rescue” those women, too, but they are now adults. They have to make their own choices.

That said, I would not be one to say these women have “made their own bed” and too bad for them. Many people may not realize that according to FLDS theology, if a woman leaves her husband and the sect, her husband may be expected to kill her. Blood atonement is no joke. It may be a very real hazard faced by any of these women who should dare to consider leaving.

It is a sad, sad situation and I hope good will come out of it. It’s going to be a long road.

Rev. Ronald Campbell Elmwood Park IL Pastor Investigated for Sex Abuse

My thanks to Pioneer Press for this article. I have abbreviated it some in order to make comments, so you may want to follow the link for the full story.

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By JOLIE LEE

The Presbytery of Chicago will convene an ecclesiastical court to rule on allegations the church made against an Elmwood Park pastor who has been accused of sexual abuse by a former congregant.

The Rev. Robert Reynolds, Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery, confirmed charges were filed against the Rev. Ronald Campbell, but declined to provide further details of the charges.

The charges were filed against Campbell on March 19, according to an e-mail sent by the Presbytery’s lawyer, David Strom, to the former congregant’s lawyer, Thomas McCauley. A copy of the e-mail was obtained by Pioneer Press.

The Presbytery is the governing body for 117 congregations in Cook, Lake and DuPage counties. Its court is not a legal proceeding, but will determine whether Campbell violated the Presbytery’s Child Protection Policy, which outlines definitions of abuse, reporting and screening procedures and training of staff and volunteers.

The policy also states, “Violation of this policy shall be considered grounds for disciplinary action, pastoral counsel, and/or possible legal action.”

Reynolds would not comment if Campbell would be forced to step down as pastor if found guilty.

Two years ago, Julie Lemley Hokanson, now 37, told the Presbytery she had been repeatedly molested and raped by Campbell from 1984 to 1988 when Campbell was the youth pastor at First Presbyterian Church of River Forest. Lemley Hokanson was 14 when the alleged abuse started…

It’s unclear if Campbell remains an active pastor at Elmwood Park Presbyterian Church now that the Presbytery has filed charges…

As of April 14, Campbell’s name still appeared on the church sign outside of Elmwood Park Presbyterian Church.

Campbell did not return messages left at Elmwood Park Presbyterian Church and Trinity International University, where he works as director of financial aid and director of admission for the divinity and graduate school. In an e-mail through Trinity spokesman Gary Cantwell, Campbell declined to comment on the charges.

The church charges have not affected Campbell’s position at the school, Cantwell said.

“We respect the Presbytery’s process,” Cantwell remarked. The school will wait until the end of the proceedings to make any decision about Campbell’s position at the school, he said.

Last month marked two years since Lemley Hokanson told the Presbytery of the alleged abuse. After Lemley Hokanson came forward, the Presbytery investigated the allegations and, in August 2007, gave Lemley Hokanson $100,000, without Campbell admitting wrongdoing…

At first look, it seems like a governing body such as this is what other denominations need to adopt. However, I do wonder why it has taken 2 years to still not reach a conclusion, and why, after some investigation, the Presbytery gave Hokanson $100,000 if there was no evidence of Campbell’s guilt. Something is questionable about that picture. Either they don’t know yet if Campbell is guilty, in which case they would have no reason to pay Hokanson money; or they do know Campbell is guilty, in which case they are delaying taking definitive action and leaving potential victims in danger while Campbell continues to pastor and hold positions of authority in a denominational clerical school.

5 Sex Abuse Victims Sue Bethany, OK Nazarene Church

My thanks to Tulsa World for this story.

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By Associated Press
4/24/2008

BETHANY — Five girls who were sexually abused by a former youth minister at Nazarene Church in Bethany are now suing the church.

The lawsuit names Bethany First Church of the Nazarene, the Nazarene Church, its northwest Oklahoma district, Southern Nazarene University, former and current pastors and a university counselor.

Former youth minister Ryan Wonderly is serving a 35 year prison sentence for molesting girls at the church.

Among the allegations is that Wonderly’s roommates at Southern Nazarene found he was looking at child pornography. The lawsuit says the university then recommended him for an internship as an elementary pastor at the church in Bethany as a way to help him.

Church officials declined comment.

Long Absence

It’s been a wild month! It’s the last part of the semester so I’ve had final projects and papers coming out my eyes. I’m down to the last two weeks – four finals to go, but I’m feeling well-prepared so I’m starting to breathe a little easier. Then I get about 3 weeks off before diving into the abbreviated summer term.