Many years ago, Dan Savage started posting a weekly Youth Pastor Watch on the blog of the Seattle Alt-weekly newspaper, The Stranger. As he explained at the time, he did it because religious bigots were arguing against gay rights and the legal recognition of civil unions (then later marriage equality) with wild claims about how children needed to be protected from gay people. So Dan proved, week after week, that a simple Google news alert would produce new cases pastors—usually youth pastors—being arrested or charged with sexually assaulting children and teens in their congregations. Sometimes other crimes, but sexual assault happened a lot.
And if you follow the news, you know that it still happens.
As Dan said himself a couple years ago, he didn’t stop doing the weekly posts because pastors stopped raping kids in churches, but because the bigots abandoned their “think of the children” arguments against marriage equality. However, the bigots have revived those arguments, but now targeting trans people. And, as Alvin McEwen notes frequently while posting news links on his blog, Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters, all of the lies that bigots used to make about gay and lesbian people to justify discriminating against us are being re-purposed toward transgender people.
I am not going to start doing a weekly post of sexual crimes of pastors. However, I noticed when I was compiling the last Friday Five that it was about the third week in a row where several stories about pastors committing sexual and other crimes had not quite made it into the list. I bookmark lots of news each week, but I try to limit the number of stories posted on Friday about how horrible people can be to less than half the links each week. So these have tended to be omitted. I’m going to just list them all here, then follow up with a bit more commentary after:
Pastor Who Backed Murder Charge For Abortion Arrested For Molesting Teenage Relativ and also: Pastor Stephen Bratton: following his confession, his church moved swiftly to excommunicate him from the congregation and scrub any trace of his name from their website.
A few comments:
Please note that I didn’t do a Google news alert. The above stories got bookmarked because they appeared on news sites I read regularly. When I do run a search on “pastor crime” in News, a lot of stories that don’t make it to my usual news sites always pop up.
Back when I was seeing Dan’s weekly posts, one of the things that irritated me was how often the headlines said “former youth pastor” and similar phrases (which you will note at least one of the above headlines employs). The reason that irritates me is that, whenever you read the stories, the crimes the pastor has been arrested or convicted of happened when they still were actively serving as a pastor. Often their victims were members of the church at the time. Yeah, after the sexual predator was arrested, suddenly the church decides to fire him and distance themselves from him, but at the time of the crimes, the pastor was still employed as a pastor, and more importantly, merely being fired is not the same as stripping the person of their credentials. In most cases, these criminals still possess their certification or registration or whatever the specific denomination refers to as its official recognition that the person has been ordained even after they are sent to prison.
As at least two of the stories above explicitly explain, churches in general are really bad at handling these cases. They often cover up the pastor’s crimes. And even when they don’t, they frequently roll out the forgiveness carpet from the perpetrator of these horrendous crimes, while shaming the victims and those who support the victims.
It isn’t transgender students who just want to use the regular bathroom at school who pose a threat to children. Far too often, it is youth pastors and other church leaders.