Friday, February 17, 2012

You've got to read and obey the bill: Philip Gunn and the Mississippi Child Protection Act


JACKSON -- The House wrangled for hours Thursday before passing the “Child Protection Act and Child Rape Protection Act,” which would enact stricter, mandatory reporting by people charged with overseeing children any abuse of a minor.
The bill is authored by Philip Gunn (R-Clinton), the new speaker of the 122 member Mississippi House of Representatives. While it is all well and good to stiffen mandatory reporting laws, unless these laws are enforced, kids will not be any safer. The politicians who write and pass legislation stiffening these laws must be held accountable when they personally do the very thing these laws make illegal, not reporting child sexual abuse to law enforcement.

Last year, a minister, John Langworthy, at Gunn's church, Morrison Heights Baptist in Clinton, confessed to pastor Greg Belser and the six elders, which includes Gunn, that he had sexually abused young boys in the early to late 1980s while serving at churches in Mississippi and Texas. This confession came after my attempts to warn Greg Belser in an email and after he had received a phone call from a past victim in February 2011. Belser and the elders then began their own investigation into this abuse, never reporting Langworthy's crimes to the police. Langworthy was also working at Clinton High School as a choir teacher. I also warned school superintendent Phil Burchfield who kept him on staff the entire school year after my phone call and after he heard Langworthy admit the past abuse. Burchfield also did not report Langworthy to the police.

Philip Gunn worked as legal counsel on behalf of Langworthy by attempting to speak with me to "discuss a resolution." I replied to him in an email saying, "No." He also called and spoke with my friend Sherry LeFils in Dallas in May 2011 while making attempts to speak with me. Sherry is familiar with the Langworthy case and worked in the Dallas County sex offender unit for 10 years as a probation officer. Gunn inquired of Sherry what it would take to satisfy her and me about the Langworthy situation. In earlier emails to pastor Greg Belser I kept urging him to report the abuse to the police, remove Langworthy from his position, and publicly warn the entire church and parents of kids in the church about this confessed child molester. Langworthy remained on staff until he resigned at the end of May 2011. He publicly confessed from the pulpit in August. Several victims came forward after that, and he was arrested and indicted in September on 8 counts of felony gratification of lust for 5 victims, boys between the ages of 8 and 12 years old.




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