Monday, March 23, 2015

Child sexual abuse lawsuit filed against Arapaho Road Baptist Church in Garland, Texas

Press release by the law office of Tahira Kahn Merritt
The lawsuit alleges that Jordy Earls and Josh Earls ingratiated themselves with the parents of the Church’s youth group and began grooming minor girls, Doe 103 among them, who participated in Youth Group and Youth Choir. Doe 103 was only an 8th grader when she first met the Earls brothers. The first incident of sexual abuse and assault occurred after Sunday school in the youth building on the church premises. The sexual assaults, abuse and exploitation continued weekly, sometimes more than once a week, during the 10th and 11th grade. Her parents, serving as Sunday school teachers, were long-time members of the church.
 In 2013, both Josh Earls and Jordan Earls left Arapaho Road Baptist Church, telling the children they had been “called” to other assignments in South Carolina. However, in early 2013, the family of one of the other girls from the Youth Group at ARBC notified law enforcement that Josh Earls had sexually molested their minor daughter at a pool party in 2012. After a police investigation, Josh Earls was extradited back to Dallas and arrested on Federal charges of making pornographic images and videos involving multiple underage girls from ARBC.
 At the same time, local police were also investigating Jordy Earls. As part of their investigation, law enforcement contacted Doe 103 and her parents. Consequently, Jordy was also extradited from South Carolina and returned to Dallas where he soon faced similar Federal charges of child pornography and also state charges specifically for the sexual abuse of Doe 103 and of other girls as well. 
The lawsuit alleges negligence and gross negligence against the Church. Doe 103 claims the church knew should have known of the pedophilic propensities of both Earl brother. They had solicited several girls to send them nude pictures. Emboldened, they sent nude pictures of themselves to the girls in violation of state and federal laws.
 Both Josh and Jordy Earls subsequently pleaded guilty to federal charges of making child pornography In February 2014, Josh was sentenced to 12 years in Federal Prison and lifetime registration as a sexual offender. Like his brother, Jordy also pleaded guilty to child pornography. His sentencing is scheduled for February 18,2015 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. 
WFAA: Sex abuse lawsuit filed against Garland church
"All the young women who have come forward to confront the Earl brothers and to speak out are truly brave. It takes great courage to have gone through the criminal process, which has taken about two years. My hope is that Arapaho Road Baptist Church will disclose the truth about what they knew of the risks these perpetrators posed and their misconduct and when they knew. This victim deserves the truth," Merritt wrote in her release. 
Baptist News Global: Abuse victim sues Baptist Church
The lawsuit says parents reported inappropriate behavior to church leaders, who assured them their concerns would be addressed and that the brothers “would be talked to,” but the suit claims their access to girls in the youth group continued unfettered. When the girl’s mother complained about a lewd cartoon Josh Earls sent to children in 2012, she was told he had already resigned but was staying on until July 2013 to train his replacement.
The lawsuit claims church leaders made “numerous falsehoods,” including assurance that Jordy Earls was a “man of good moral character” who could be trusted with counseling, teaching and instruction of children.
Those and other representations, the lawsuit claims, were either “known to be false and misleading at the time they were made” or “were made with a reckless disregard as to whether they were true or false or of potential consequence to members of the congregation.”
Dallas Observer: Garland Church Should Have Known Youth Ministers Were Child Abusers, Suit Says
"Beginning in 2009, Doe 103's mother and father had complained to ARBC's leadership about what they viewed as Josh's inappropriate conduct, especially with young girls, including giving them rides (unaccompanied by another adult) and placing childish, profane and perverted messages in church bulletins and on social media," Doe says in the suit. "The leadership at ARBC told them they would 'talk' to Josh about their concerns, but there is no evidence they did."



On, February 18, 2015, Jordan (Jordy) Earls was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison in Texas for the production of child pornography. He joins his brother Josh who is already in federal prison in Texas.


THE COURT: Oh, okay. Oh, seems to be a family problem. 

SNAP wants Baptists to reach out to abuse victims
The suit charges that church staff “knew or should have known of the pedophilic propensities of both Earl brothers.” We strongly suspect that evidence will prove this charge is true. All too often, especially in Baptist churches, church officials refuse to act responsibly and decisively in cases of suspected child sex crimes, preferring instead to disbelieve victims or “handling” the cases quietly and internally.
In 2013, the Earl brothers moved to South Carolina. We hope that every single person who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes by these men – in Texas or South Carolina – will summon the courage to call police, expose wrongdoing, protect kids, deter cover ups and start healing.
And we urge Baptist officials in both states to use their vast resources and connections to seek out others who may have seen, suspected or suffered child sex crimes or cover ups. It’s possible that the Earl brothers - or others who may have obstructed justice, destroyed evidence, intimidated witnesses – might face more prosecution in the future.
Recently, a youth pastor at First Baptist Church in New Orleans, Louisiana was arrested on a charge of sexual battery of a 14-year-old girl. He faces up to 10 years in prison. A church where Jonathan Bailey was formerly employed had fired him about 10 years ago for what is described as an "inappropriate relationship" with a juvenile congregant. This is an example of "passing the trash" that is a pervasive problem among Baptist churches that protects and enable child sexual predators.
Police re-booked him March 4 on the more serious charge, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, after the alleged victim gave details in a second interview she hadn’t previously shared with her parents or police.
The new warrant indicates that since the first arrest a second church contacted police reporting it fired Bailey as youth minister about 10 years ago, because of similar allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a juvenile congregant. The warrant did not name the church or say where it is located.
Ex-youth minister re-arrested in First Baptist Case
 The warrant for Bailey's new arrest says the girl consented to a second interview on Feb. 24, in which she said she had not told her parents or police the full extent of her contact with Bailey.
"She reiterated the previous information," the new warrant said, "and added two instances of which she and Jonathan Bailey had engaged in oral sex acts." The warrant says one instance occurred in Biloxi, Mississippi. The other took place "in a room" inside the First Baptist New Orleans complex at 5290 Canal Blvd., the warrant said.
Which church called New Orleans police on March 2, 2015 to report firing Bailey but failed to report the abuse 10 years ago?
The warrant indicated this is not the first time Bailey has faced allegations of misconduct. On March 2, the warrant said, Detective Lymous received a telephone call from a previous employer of Bailey. That person said Bailey worked as a youth minister for their church a decade ago, but was fired after church officials discovered "an inappropriate relationship between him and a under aged (sic) member of the congregation."
The warrant doesn't say whether that relationship was reported to police. 

This is Bailey's bio that used to be on the FBC New Orleans website:

Jonathan Bailey

Youth Minister with Men's and Recreation Ministries
 It is a joy and honor to serve as youth minister in one of the greatest cities in the world.  I was born in Fort Worth, TX but moved to Long Beach, MS at a very young age.  My family moved to Louisiana in 1994, where I have basically lived since.  I graduated from Louisiana College in 2004 with a  Bachelor’s of Science in Criminal Justice.  Some say this degree comes in handy when working with teenagers! I met Tiffany Atkins at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in the fall of 2006.  We began dating a few months later and on January 5, 2008 she became my wife.  We both graduated from NOBTS.  I received a Masters of Arts in Christian Education with a focus in youth ministry and sports/recreation ministry.  After graduation we served at a Baptist church in Georgia for two years.  The Lord blessed us with a beautiful baby girl on August 11, 2011.  We have such a love and passion for the city of New Orleans that we named our daughter, Nola-Grace.  My family moved back to New Orleans in November 2012 and are overjoyed to be back home.  I truly feel blessed to serve at this church as I seek to share the love of Christ to these teenagers.

 The light of truth and knowledge is our greatest tool to protect kids.



THE COURT: Oh, okay.Ohseemto be family problem

Matthew Sandusky on Oprah



"To me it looked like what the true face of sexual abuse and grooming looks like."  - Oprah

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Dallas Observer cover story on Prestonwood Baptist Church and former minister and child sex offender John Langworthy

Photo by Dylan Hollingsworth for the Dallas Observer

Last week the Dallas Observer's cover story "Don't Ask Don't Tell" by reporter Amy Silverstein provided the most in-depth look to date at the issue of child sexual abuse and cover up of this abuse by former minister John Langworthy at my former church, Prestonwood Baptist Church. It's a long read, but I hope you'll take the time. We are very grateful to Amy Silverstein and the Dallas Observer for such a thorough piece giving a voice to these survivors and shining a light for others who feel they do not have a voice.

An Advocate for the Sexually Abused Demands Answers from Prestonwood Baptist Church

The letter was anonymous, just like other warnings that came before it. In late January, it arrived in the mailboxes of advocates who work on behalf of Christian sex-abuse victims. For 26 pages, it offered a rambling defense of a place that shouldn't need one — Prestonwood Baptist Church, a Plano mega-church with 37,000 members, three campuses, decades of mostly good publicity and a celebrity pastor named Jack Graham.
 But for the last several years, the church has come under scrutiny from a small, vocal group of Christian critics for its handling of child sexual abuse. None of the critics has been more effective than Amy Smith, the daughter of a former Prestonwood deacon. Five years ago, Smith alerted a church in Mississippi that a pastor on its staff had been quietly accused of child molestation at Prestonwood decades before.
John Langworthy, a former youth minister at Prestonwood, resigned from the Mississippi church not long after Smith spoke up and soon faced criminal charges in that state. He pleaded guilty to molesting five boys between the ages of 6 and 13 in the early '80s in Mississippi. He avoided prison time and is now registered as a child sex offender. Smith was widely credited for bringing Langworthy's crimes to light and causing him to admit to "sexual indiscretions" from the pulpit of his Mississippi church. The case disappeared from headlines soon after, but Smith has stayed on Prestonwood's case, holding rallies outside the church, seeking other victims and publicly pressuring Graham to open up about what he knew of Langworthy's crimes.
A Prestonwood/Langworthy survivor's mother speaks to the Dallas Observer:
He still doesn't want to reveal his name, but he recently gave his mother the OK to talk with the Observer. "He just doesn't want it to come back on him or me" she says. "I told him, 'Look, anything I can do to make Prestonwood's life miserable, I want to do.'"
When the family moved to Dallas and began attending Prestonwood in the late 1980s, her 15-year-old son was a quiet kid who never gave his parents trouble. "I don't know what I would have done if I had a child that didn't do the right things, but he was a model child," his mother says.
But she sensed something was off early on, when Langworthy paid a surprise visit to their home shortly after they arrived. "I just love your son," Langworthy told her as he put his arms around him.
The next warning the mother remembers are the letters. Langworthy had been mailing notes to her son. She doesn't remember what they said exactly. They weren't sexually graphic, but were suggestive enough to raise flags. Her mother-in-law looked at the letters too, she says, and was even more alarmed. "She was afraid that John was a pedophile," she says. So the family called Langworthy. He couldn't get there fast enough. They told him not to hurt their son.
The mother says she looked Langworthy in the eye. "Under no circumstances are you to write any more letters to my son," she says she told him. The parents explained to their son that the letters were wrong and destroyed them, but they continued to go to the church and let their son be part of the youth group, just like before.
The mother says she didn't think Langworthy would actually abuse her son, especially after being warned. "Even if [Langworthy] wanted to, he would not hurt my son now because we had confronted him with it," she rationalized.
Life briefly returned to normal, or so she thought until the day she got a phone call from a psychiatrist to confirm an appointment with her son. She knew nothing about it.
Later on the day of that surprise call, her son came home with a guest, Neal Jeffrey, who remains on the Prestonwood staff as an associate pastor. Together, she says, her son and the man broke the news that her son had been hurt. Jeffrey was there, the mother thinks, because her son "wanted somebody there to tell us, because he didn't want to do it by himself." Still unsure of the specifics, she only knows that Langworthy had sexually abused her son, somehow. They had a group hug, and she agreed to send her son to the psychiatrist, appointments that she believes were funded by the church. "We sure weren't going to pay for it," she says.
Within days, Langworthy left town, she says. The family had been at the church for a total of two years before Langworthy left, the mother says, making her son 17 by the time he came forward.
Already angry at the church for how it let her find out about the abuse and the psychiatric appointments, she was even more distraught several months later when she got wind that Langworthy had a job at an elementary school in Clinton, Mississippi. (None of his admitted molestations took place there.) She says her husband called the school's principal. "He said back to my husband, 'Well you have put this in my lap and now I've got to do something about it.'"
But the family never reported Langworthy to the police. A phone call they got from a deacon named Allen Jordan convinced them it wouldn't be a good idea. He wasn't yelling, but he was emphatic the family not say anything, the mother recalls. "You better be careful about what you write, that's all I've got to say," Jordan said when reached for comment. "That's a warning to you. You better be careful about what you write."
And those letters still had her worried. "We were concerned that, well, John wrote notes, but [her son] wrote notes back to him, and I don't know what those notes contained. I'm sure it was an innocent 15-year old boy," she says, but "we were afraid that if John would have kept those letters, the church would have found those letters and would have tried to do something" to make it look like "it was initiated from the other side, not from John. We did worry about that."
In 1989 in Mississippi, Langworthy found a doctor who called the mother and told her Langworthy had been cured. She agreed to meet Langworthy, but wasn't convinced. "I'm no doctor," she says, "but I know once a pedophile, you're always a pedophile." Still, her son stayed at Prestonwood, married and went on to become a minister himself. He remained close to Neal Jeffrey. Decades passed before what happened to her son came into the open. It started in 2010 with a Facebook message to her son from Allen Jordan's daughter, a woman named Amy.
"I admire Amy very much," the mother says. Her son last spoke to Jeffrey as the allegations were bubbling to the surface. Jeffrey didn't even remember he had been abused, her son told her. "I think [her son] always gave Neal the benefit of the doubt, but when that happened and Neal didn't remember he was one of the boys, he washed his hands of him," she says.
A survivor of child sex crimes by Langworthy in the Mississippi criminal case also spoke with the Dallas Observer for this story:
Smith says she has been in touch with at least three men who say Langworthy assaulted them at Prestonwood, though only the mother of the one agreed to speak to the Observer. Her son spoke to Hinds County prosecutors, but didn't have to testify.
Another Langworthy victim, abused in Mississippi and part of the criminal case, agreed to speak to the Observer on the condition he wasn't identified. He was 8 years old when it started, he said. He didn't understand what had happened to him until he was in his late teens. In the '80s, people didn't deal with sex abuse the head-on way they do now, he says, and people trusted their church. He remembers Langworthy was extremely charming. "He's the kind of person who uses people and just the kind of person people flock to, so much so, [that] here's somebody who abuses people, and he still has people come to their defense," the victim says.
He doesn't speak to Langworthy but is otherwise still part of the Baptist Church and quotes from the Bible in the interview. He believes other victims still haven't come forward and won't unless more church officials discuss Langworthy's abuse publicly and encourage victims to speak out."When it is owned up to and revealed it is the truth, and it is not denied ... and shoved away as something that was just 'inappropriate behavior,' or 'There were accusations made,' but actually own up to the truth..." he says, trailing off. "Nobody's ever said, 'Hey we messed up,' and I don't see what's wrong with that. Everybody makes mistakes." For many victims, he says, hearing a simple statement admitting those mistakes is the only way they'll heal.
 And yet, Prestonwood Baptist Church remains silent, even after Langworthy's conviction.

Boz TchividjianExecutive Director of GRACE (), law professor,  blogger, author & speaker, wrote about the Dallas Observer story on his blog.

"Righteous” reputations of churches that don’t care 
Earlier this week, the Dallas Observer published a cover story about a former minister who was recently convicted of sexually abusing children in Mississippi. According to the article, prior to this offender getting caught for these crimes, he served as a youth minister in a Dallas area megachurch. The story reports that while serving in that position, a minor who had been part of the youth group stepped forward and disclosed to another pastor on staff that this individual had sexually abused him. The article reported that instead of reporting the youth minister to the police, the megachurch allowed him to leave town where he eventually found employment at another church. Not only did the church fail to report the offense and warn others about this offender, but it made no effort to find out if there were others who may have also been victimized.
Why do so many churches fail to do the right thing when they learn that one of their own has been accused of sexual abuse? All too often it’s because the victimized are repeatedly overshadowed by the need to protect a “righteous” reputation.  I’m afraid it’s a rationale embraced by so many church leaders because it’s convenient and sounds so “godly”. Here is an example of this distorted thought process:
The reputation of the church will be damaged when the public learns that it employed an alleged child molester -> a church whose reputation is damaged will lose members -> a church that loses members is a church that loses income -> a church that loses income is a church that will be required to tighten it’s budget, including reducing salaries and laying off staff -> a dwindling church is a church that has less relevance in the community -> a church that has less relevance in the community is a church that is failing to impact the world for Jesus.
Tragically, this type of response to the evils of abuse destroys lives, emboldens offenders, and produces churches that are rotting at the core. There’s nothing “righteous” about it.












Jehovah's Witnesses' silencing techniques: as terrifying as child abuse: Candace Conti


It took me learning about Jonathan’s other victims for me to speak up. In 2009, I looked on California’s Megan’s Law website, the state’s official list of registered sex offenders. There, I found he had been convicted a few years before for sexually abusing another 8-year-old girl. I felt horribly guilty that I hadn’t spoken up about him earlier. Now, I need to stop predators from doing this again.
The only way to end this abuse is by lifting this veil of secrecy once and for all.
I received this email from a child sex abuse survivor in response to the Dallas Observer story. He gave me permission to post his email along with his name:

Hi Amy,

My name is Keith Brown.

I just read the Observer article about your work with SNAP and just wanted to drop you a note to say that you're a true hero to me, and to those like me.

It's a long story, we all have our life journey, and I am one whose life was adversely impacted at a young age by a pedophile.  Taking a glance at your blog I'll say, you are correct, the abused can carry the pain of those events within themselves for a lifetime.

I carried my pain in silence for almost four decades.  During time with a therapist in 2005 during marriage counseling, some good things happened for me, and I am now free from the lingering pain from those dark events which the pedophile perpetrated against me.

Just in case you're wondering, no, my abuse was not connected to Prestonwood, as I was abused long before that congregation existed.

I don't know what to say really.  I think what I feel is, since you continue to pay an emotional and familial price for your dedicated life work, that among the anonymous letters you receive, also amidst being estranged from your family, I wanted to be one voice that says thank you, just thank you so much for being you, for continuing to fight, you're doing God's bidding, while being a voice in behalf of those without a voice.

You're great Amy, just keep doing what you're doing!

Sincerely,


Keith A. Brown




Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Victims prod Ft. Worth Catholic officials about abuse


Wednesday, February 4, 2015
SNAP media event at St. Patrick Cathedral in Fort Worth, Texas with survivor Monica Baez
My statement today at the SNAP media event:
We are here today to prod Ft. Worth Catholic officials to do more to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded. Specifically, we urge Bishop Michael Olson to
1. make public the personnel files of Fr. Bede Mitchel, a recently-outed predator priest,
2. post at least three more names of credibly accused child molesting clerics on his website, and
3. send a letter rebuking an Arkansas church staffer who made harsh remarks that hurt a victim, and
4.  aggressively reach out to others who may have been hurt by Fr. Mitchel and other predator priests.   
Let’s take these one at a time.
First, last week a settlement was announced in a clergy sex abuse and cover up lawsuit involving Fr. Mitchel and two Catholic institutions: the Ft. Worth diocese and an Arkansas abbey. The victim is a Ft. Worth woman and the crimes took place in Cooke County at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Muenster. The alleged predator is a now-deceased priest, Fr. Bede Mitchel, who taught at Corpus Christi Academy and Laneri High School in Ft. Worth, worked at six local parishes and traveled extensively leading retreats and missions.
We urge Ft. Worth’s bishop to make public every piece of paper in his files about Fr. Mitchel. Since Fr. Mitchel’s colleague in Arkansas claims Fr. Mitchel is innocent, the Ft. Worth bishop should let parishioners, police, prosecutors, parents and the public see and judge for themselves about the allegations against Fr. Mitchel. (Besides, Ft. Worth’s bishop has repeatedly pledged to be “open” about clergy sex cases and the US bishops national abuse policy mandates such openness.)
Second, in 2013, the Ft. Worth diocese posted some names of predator priests on its website. About 30 US bishops have done this. We’re glad Ft. Worth’s bishop did. But his list is incomplete.
It makes no mention of three credibly accused child molesting clerics who spent time in the Ft. Worth diocese: Fr. Mitchel, Fr. Tony Pistone and Fr. Hugh John Sutton. It’s wrong and reckless to help these predator priests exploiting technicalities by keeping them off the diocesan website. For the safety of kids and the healing of victims,we urge Ft. Worth’s bishop to come clean now and add these three predator priests’ names – and any other child molesting clerics’ names – immediately.
(Last year, Fr. Sutton was accused of molesting at least one child at Notre Dame Catholic School in Wichita Falls, TX in the early 1990s. In 2005, Fr. Pistone left his post at a Catholic school in St. Louis MO, campus after accusations surfaced that he had groped a youth at Nolan Catholic High School in Ft. Worth TX in 1980s.)
Third, often in clergy sex abuse and cover up cases, we see church officials playing “good cop, bad cop.” One church figure postures as ‘pastoral’ while letting - or encouraging - another church figure to ‘talk tough’ and deter other victims, witnesses and whistleblowers from reporting possible crimes against innocent kids and vulnerable adults.
That’s what is happening here. In this case, the Ft. Worth bishop is playing good cop while letting his Arkansas Catholic colleague play bad cop.
Olson makes bland public comments about the Fr. Mitchel case while letting his Arkansas colleague make callous public remarks about the case and the victim. Last week, the Arkansas church official, Abbot Jerome Kodell of Subiaco Abbey, told the Ft. Worth Star Telegram that “If this had gone to trial, Fr. Mitchel would have been found innocent.”
Fr. Mitchel is deceased. So Kodell’s comments don’t help Fr. Mitchel. That begs the question: What possible good can come of these remarks? They depress and hurt victims and keeps them from reporting crimes and getting help. And they rub even more salt into the deep wounds of this brave family.
So we urge the Ft. Worth bishop to write – and make public – a letter censuring Kodell for this “insensitive” remarkwhich we believe was designed to discourage other victims from speaking up about Fr. Mitchel and other predator priests.
The Ft. Worth bishop would not sit idly by while an out-of-state Catholic figure told Ft. Worth Catholics to lobby for abortion or the death penalty or donate to Baptists, not to the diocese. Nor should the Ft. Worth bishop sit idly by while this Arkansas Catholic official makes the Ft. Worth diocese a more dangerous and secretive place. 
Why should the Ft. Worth bishop publicly chastise his colleague in Arkansas? Because that Arkansas Catholic official’s mean-spirited remark was published in a Ft. Worth newspaper. Because that Arkansas Catholic official is hurting the Ft. Worth bishop’s flock. Because that Arkansas Catholic official is deterring Ft. Worth Catholics from speaking up about known and suspected child sex crimes. And finally, because all that’s needed for evil to triumph, as Edmund Burke said, “is for good men to do nothing.”
It endangers Ft. Worth citizens and Catholics for Ft. Worth’s bishop to tell his flock “If you were hurt, come to us,” while letting a colleague essentially tell that same flock “If you speak up, we’ll attack your honesty and publicly defend your predator.”
Fourth, a caring shepherd would, without prompting, aggressively reach out to others who may have been hurt by Fr. Mitchel and other predator priests. But too often, church officials talk like caring shepherds but act like callous CEOs. We beg the Ft. Worth bishop to use parish bulletins, church websites, and pulpit announcements to seek out others who may have been assaulted by Fr. Mitchel and prod them to speak up, expose wrongdoing, and start healing.
Regardless of what Catholic officials, in Texas or Arkansas, do or don’t do, we in SNAP urge every single person who may have seen, suspected or suffered clergy crimes or cover ups – in the Fr. Mitchel case or any case – to call police, protect others, deter cover ups and join us on the tough but crucial path to recovery, justice and prevention. Staying trapped in silence, shame, confusion and self-blame endangers kids, prolongs suffering and helps only those who commit and conceal heinous crimes against children.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We were founded in 1988 and have more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Mega Manifesto: On Behalf of Prestonwood Baptist Church and Convicted Child Molester John Langworthy

Over the last two weeks 26 named individuals have received an anonymous package in the mail.  Inside was a 24 page essay.  I am the subject of this composition.

The anonymous writer spends dozens of pages attacking my truthfulness, motivations, and personal character.  He claims to be a proponent of Jack Graham and the rest of the leadership at Prestonwood Baptist Church.  The letters were addressed to a variety of people: Prestonwood leadership, SNAP leaders, TV and newspaper reporters, bloggers, and others.  He did not send me a copy, but several of my contacts sent me theirs.

This approach is curious, because if this anonymous writer had just sent me a copy, I could have posted it for the entire public to read much sooner.  Take a look.


Among his many ramblings, you’ll find an alarming quote on Page 19: “I am dead serious and committed to exposing Amy Smith’s many falsehoods and stopping her continued and relentless attacks upon Prestonwood and Jack Graham.”  The combination of threatening language (“dead serious”, “stopping her”) and creepy anonymity meant I had to report this to the local police.  They have taken my statement, copies of the letter and envelope, as well as other collateral materials, and they have begun their investigation.  It is a federal crime to threaten someone using the Post Office, and the authorities assured me they take this seriously.

The writer reveals nothing new, quotes no sources, contacted no one involved in the matter, and certainly does not reveal his identity.  I have received these kinds of threats before, and heard all of these same lies.  So why am I posting this particular mega-manifesto?

Because this man embodies several emotionally twisted viewpoints that are shared by the leaders at Prestonwood Baptist Church, as well as other religious institutions that marginalize the victims of child sexual abuse.  I will go through the entire document and address his claims, false facts, personal attacks, and ignorant views.  But the overarching problem with this man, and others like him in church leadership is this:

In twenty-four pages he uses so many negative adjectives to describe me that I chose to stop counting. “Bogus”, “fact-free”, “obsessed”, “scurrilous” just to name a few.  But he doesn’t write a single negative thing about confessed , convicted child rapist John Langworthy.  Quite the contrary, this writer describes him as “high-spirited, engaging, and charismatic”.  And when he finally mentions the subject of Langworthy’s five counts of child sexual abuse, he calls them “indiscretions.”

This is at the core of the problem of religious institutions’ failure to address these crimes: men like him obviously do not see them as despicable crimes perpetrated against the most innocent in society.  These church leaders and their spokespeople minimize the sickening behavior of these felons.  This is a theme that SNAP leaders, volunteers, and countless survivors immediately recognize, and it is shameful that churches still ignore it.  I have spent years taking my story public because the leaders at Prestonwood continue to guide men like this writer to attack people like me.

The writer claims that only one person was sexually abused by John Langworthy during his tenure at Prestonwood, and that the sexual contact began after this person’s 17th birthday.  The entire twenty-four page document rests on this single claim.  Unfortunately for the victims, the families, and this anonymous writer, this claim is entirely false.  I have communicated with three male survivors that John Langworthy molested at Prestonwood, and each of them were minors when the crimes were committed, and Langworthy was in a ministerial position of trust over them.  This has been confirmed by one of the victim’s families, as well as my own father, a deeply involved deacon, who emailed me that one of the victims was 15 years old.  One of the victims chose to speak to a Dallas reporter, and another Prestonwood victim who assisted the Mississippi prosecutor is listed in the court documents

One last item before I address this writer directly.  His almost endless rant is empty of facts or sources.  He never quotes anyone but me (and often incorrectly).  I can only conclude that the writer’s “extensive research” did not include any contact with victims, victim’s families, me, my family, or anyone else except for his friends in Prestonwood Baptist Church leadership.  And the cowardly act of remaining anonymous means that no legitimate news source could use the material, even if they wanted to.

Dear Coward,

[Apologies for guessing your name; you didn’t sign the letter.  As my husband often says, “anyone who makes anonymous attacks on someone else is just a coward”]

I was recently sent several copies of your 24 page letter regarding…well, me.  I gave up after several minutes of trying to count the number of times you wrote my name.  It was harder still to count the number of critical adjectives describing me, my views, or my friends.  And although you chose to not send me a copy, I feel compelled to share your troubling opinions with the world, and address your false claim, twisted viewpoint, and ignorant comments.

As a disclaimer, I will not spend my time picking apart each sentence, though it is tempting and probably necessary to do so.  Aside from a handful of random facts (eg, Prestonwood Baptist Church’s membership rolls), your entire letter is false.

Page 4

This is the first instance where you quote me as saying John Langworthy molested “dozens” of young boys while at Prestonwood and “hundreds” of young boys in Mississippi.  I would ask you to include a URL reference, audio file, or photocopy of me saying this, but you would not be able to.  I never made these specific comments.  It seems you are quoting others who have expressed similar concerns on the allegations of the cover-up of abuse at Prestonwood.

I did decide in 2010 to let people know the fact that John Langworthy sexually molested several members of the Prestonwood youth group in the late 1980s, a fact that turns the stomachs of most people I talk to.  Especially in light of the additional fact that for years he had been employed in teaching children in public schools as well as leading children’s choirs in a large church in Clinton, Mississippi.

In the years since contacting Morrison Heights Baptist Church, Prestonwood Baptist Church and the Clinton School District, I have personally communicated with three victims that were minors, underage, from John Langworthy’s Prestonwood employment, when he sexually abused them as he was in a ministerial position of trust over them.  As if the testimony of several victims was not enough, this has been confirmed by several other sources.  First, one of the victim’s families has told me very clearly that the abuse was when their son was underage.  Second, my father was a deacon at Prestonwood at the time, and he had intimate knowledge of Prestonwood’s response to this crime.  In fact, he emailed me stating that several boys came forward to incriminate Langworthy in 1989.  Also, he stated that he knew one of the victims where the abuse started when the victim was 15. 

The youth described by your letter has told me that he did not come forward until several weeks after John Langworthy was fired from Prestonwood Baptist Church and had already moved back to Mississippi.

Let me also point out that one of the victims chose to speak to Brett Shipp at WFAA, directly emailing Brett a statement to be read on camera.  Also, one of the Prestonwood victims who helped the Mississippi prosecutor is listed in the court documents as a “child” at the time he was molested.

Finally, Prestonwood has tacitly admitted to the fact that John Langworthy’s victims were underage, and that a crime was involved.  When asked by investigative reporter Brett Shipp why they did not report this to the police in 1989, their response was “it was handled.”  They could have answered the question by stating they had no knowledge at the time of any minors being involved.  But they did not.  Like most well-lawyered companies, they wrote a non-answer that was accurate without confessing wrongdoing.  And to this day, Jack Graham could easily preach, speak, tweet, blog, or publicly state that he was unaware of minors involved in the John Langworthy matter.  But he cannot make this statement.  Because it is not true.

“Even the youth’s own mother told Smith in 2013 that her son’s relationship with Langworthy had only been going on for a few months.”

This is not true at all.  She never told me that, and given the obvious fact that you did not contact the victim’s mother or me, I wonder how you came to write this lie.

“The parents did not contact the authorities either since they also knew that no crime had occurred.”

The very nature of this crime often leaves victims and their families with a false sense of shame, guilt and fear.  It is why our society considers these child predators to be monsters.  Not only do they physically and mentally abuse their victims at the time of the abuse, but they infect their victims with lies that they can suffer with for a lifetime.  Many wait decades before speaking about these crimes out loud, and some never do so.

Page 5

Your claim that announcements were made to the school-age departments.  I find your claim disturbing that the leadership felt it appropriate to walk into a room filled with Junior High students and tell them that a member of the staff had been fired for “sexual indiscretions” (your words, not mine).  As a parent, I am horrified by the possibility that “sexual indiscretions” by a minister would be discussed in front of kids.

Even if your description were true, it would have left out a crucial message: that if anyone else in the church was harmed by this staff member, to please report this crime to the police.  Studies show that child predators rarely have a single victim, but instead prey on several children, often at the same time.  If church officials knew of one, they should have suspected others, and done something about it, first and foremost by reporting it to the police for a full investigation.

Page 6

“In an attempt to further portray both Langworthy and Prestonwood in a negative way”

John Langworthy is a convicted and registered child sex offender, with five court-documented victims who ranged in age from 6 to 13.  How in the world could I “further” portray this monster in a negative way? 
As I mentioned earlier in my blog post, you’ve found hundreds of ways to insult my character.  And yet you describe a confessed, convicted child predator as: “very talented, high-spirited, engaging, and charismatic.”  I may never understand what drives you to write such words about this disgusting criminal.  Is it your ignorance of how child predators attract their prey?  Is it your extremely low intelligence?  Or is it that you can commiserate with John Langworthy’s attraction to underage boys?

You claim that my “fishing expedition” came up empty.  I did choose to reach out to several men who were in the youth group during John Langworthy’s child molesting days at Prestonwood.  Three of them told me that they had been molested by John while at Prestonwood, and that the sexual contact occurred when they were minors.

Pages 7-8

“her repeated claims that Jack Graham ‘let loose a monster to molest dozens if not hundreds of young boys’…”

This is not the first example of your inability to research and/or document.  I never said or wrote those words.  Because they are not mine, I can only speculate that these were comments made by others in response to my story.  I have shared the facts of this matter, and those facts put your friends at Prestonwood Baptist Church in a very negative light.

“Both the youth and the youth’s parents…had no issue with it.”

Either through ignorance, unintelligence, or deceit, you have the wrong view of the victims of child sexual abuse.  These victims, and often their families, suffer in silence for years and decades after the abuse.  This is the rule, not the exception.  Stories like Dale Hansen, R.A. Dickey, TeriHatcher and Tyler Perry are just higher profile stories that show how long it can take for a victim of child sexual abuse to go public with the crime committed against them.  You and your friends at Prestonwood Baptist confuse silence with consent.

Pages 9-10

“As it turns out, the Mississippi man knew Langworthy in the early 1980s when he was a young boy and Langworthy was a college student.  They were members of the same church in Jackson and Langworthy had baby-sat on several occasions for the family.”

It was at this point of reading your letter that I started to wonder if you were John Langworthy himself.  Once I dismissed that idea, I started to wonder if you were also a serial child molester.  You write these two sentences so casually; your sentences almost have a down-home feeling to them.  There’s one problem: that baby-sitting was how John Langworthy got access to this “young boy” so he could perform repeated, disgusting, and criminal acts upon him for four years.  You mention briefly that this man “alleged” that John Langworthy “inappropriately touched him.”  These are light words for a heinous felony committed by a man who confessed in court to these exact child sex crimes.

And for reasons I will never comprehend, you completely leave out the other four victims who came forward in Mississippi.  All of them suffered at John Langworthy’s criminal appetite.  Could it be that you left out these men because one of them was abused when he was six years old?  It might make your friend John Langworthy look bad if you pointed your readers to the court documents that detail the criminal sex acts he performed on a six year old boy.

“…and no jail time…”

Your in depth research was either misfiring on this day, or you are deliberately misleading your audience.  John Langworthy was sentenced to five years’ probation, but he was also given a 50 year suspended sentence, meaning he did not serve jail time.

Apparently, in your mind, his criminal violation of these five children is less of a crime because of the statute of limitations issues brought up by his defense attorney.  At no point did John Langworthy mount a defense of his actions.  He simply fought jail time using a technicality.

“There appears to be no basis for Smith’s repeated claims that Graham refused to meet with the youth or his parents…”

Except for the fact that they told me so.

And this fits with the description of Jack Graham and other mega-church pastors.  They like to tweet pictures of themselves with sports stars, politicians, and other celebrity speakers.  But when a member of their church that is not wealthy or influential in the community tries to visit with them, they are handled by middle management.

“it was up to them to do so, not Smith.”

If you knew that a person committed a crime, what would you do?  It appears that you would decide that only the victim has the responsibility to report the crime.  I will assume you make these comments out of low intelligence or pure ignorance, so let me explain why our society has public reporting laws.

The law requires you to report your knowledge of crimes to the police.  For many crimes, such as murder and kidnapping, the victim cannot speak for themselves.  Other crimes, such as rape, child molesting, or elder abuse, leave the victims and their families in such a state that often they choose not to go straight to the authorities.  But this does not mean that a crime was not committed, or that a criminal is not still on the loose.  And the rest of us in society want these criminals in jail because we do not want them to commit any more crimes.

And so, Mr. Coward, it is up to each of us in a free society to stand up for those who have been harmed, and to be concerned for those who are in harm’s way.

Pages 11-14

“Based on my findings, Tynes had most likely met Amy Smith a few weeks earlier when Smith was holding a SNAP protest rally on January 27 in front of Prestonwood.”

Your findings are foolish.  To my knowledge Tynes was not at that event, and I did not meet him there.  I have never met Chris Tynes face to face.

As for the rest of your comments on Chris Tynes, I will let him respond to your rambling comments.  I will state that I do not, nor have I ever, administered the PBCSilentNoMore Facebook page.  And all of the quotes you list in your letter were written by someone other than me.

Page 16

Your letter begins to address the leaders of Survivor’s Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP.  You claim that you support SNAP’s mission to help those victims of child sex abuse at the hands of religious leaders.  But there is another layer to SNAP’s mission that you vehemently oppose.  We seek to end the culture that exists in many churches to keep these crimes silent and/or handle them through self-investigation.

Recently we were looking to attend a church.  Before we visited, I found a link to their written child protection policy.  The policy concluded by telling members to bring any knowledge of child abuse to the attention of church leaders, where it would be thoroughly investigated, without any mention of going to the police.

This is simply against the law.  At that church, just like Prestonwood, child abuse should be immediately reported to the police.  It is up to law enforcement officials to investigate claims of child abuse, not a deacon body or pastoral staff.

Pages 17-18

I find it shocking that you claim to know my parents.  I also find it very telling that this would be part of your letter.  This has been the most heartbreaking and difficult part of telling the truth: that my own mother and father would choose their former church over me. 

We spent the better part of a year, long after the story broke, trying to meet with my parents face-to-face.  In a series of phone calls and emails we were either ignored or told no.  My father insists that I have to apologize to Jack Graham and Neal Jeffrey before he ever sees me again.

You write “I know that my parents would treat me the same way if I did what Amy has done no matter how much they love me or my children.”  You have really horrible parents.  Between your parents and the churches you’ve attended, you have failed to see what true love really is.

In one of the most bittersweet moments of this traumatic episode, I had to tell my children that their grandparents had emailed us that they never wanted to see us again.  But it forced me to tell them outright that I would never do that to them; I would always love them unconditionally.  There is nothing they can say or do that would ever make me reject them.  In fact, as I told them, even if they pushed me away, I would pursue them.  If God, in all his perfection, could love me in that way, it is the least I can do to love my children unconditionally.

You urge some of your readers to reach out to my parents to hear their side of the story; this is one of the few things we agree on.  Though they still refuse to speak to me, they are free to tell their story publicly.  Moreover, I wish you would do the same.  You spent a considerable amount of time writing your letter, but I am unaware of you ever engaging me directly.  My phone number, email, and website are certainly easy to find.  I invite you to post comments on my blog.

But be warned.  I will ask you to answer some specific questions, and insist that you give clear answers.  My husband’s favorite is, “do you think that adults who have sexual contact with sixteen year-olds should go to prison?”  I might ask you to explain your theory of how a serial child predator with at least eight victims by 1989 can move to Clinton and immediately start working at a school without being tempted to repeat his crimes?  I also might ask you if you think that the mandatory child abuse reporting laws should be changed, or if we should enforce them?

Finally, thank you for documenting the bizarre and twisted views that still permeate many churches.  Your letter was uninteresting, uninspiring, and stomach-turning.  “Sunlight is the best disinfectant," and “the light of truth and knowledge is our greatest tool to protect kids.”

Sincerely,

Amy Smith