Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A comparison of responses to allegations of child sex abuse- Prestonwood Baptist Church and Morrison Heights Baptist vs. Believers Church: image over child protection

WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather

AUBURN, AL (WTVM)
A longtime associate pastor at Believers Church in Auburn has been arrested on child sex abuse charges.
His arrest in May got him kicked out of the church where he had been for 30 years.  Lee County Sheriff's detectives say the two adult victims came forward in April to report they were abused in the early 1990's.
Every Sunday, for nearly 30 years at Believers Church on Moore's Mill Road, 53-year-old John Sluder, an associate pastor, would play guitar during services.
"People have shed tears because of what he appeared to be, a gentle old man.  So yes, we were very shocked," said attorney Ben Hand.
Hand represents Believers Church where his father is the pastor. Hand says the church was stunned, then angry, when Sluder was arrested by Lee County, after two adult victims revealed Sluder had molested them on several occasions in the early 1990's when they were 8 and 9 years old.
"Every child, including my own daughter that has had contact with him has been questioned to make sure there are no other potential victims out there," said Hand.
Sheriff Jay Jones would not comment on if Sluder had confessed to the crime. He did say during the course of the investigation, evidence was obtained that supported the issuance of warrants charging Sluder with two counts of Sexual Abuse First Degree.
"We do have evidence that leads us to believe this type of crime did take place," said Sheriff Jones.
Hand said his church takes the allegations very seriously and decided to remove Sluder from Believers.
"He was told if he came on church property, he would be arrested from trespassing and was forbidden from every returning to Believers Church. His bond was lowered from $100,000 to $25,000 and that is a nominal bond, and we have recommended that nobody make that bond. He needs to be there," said Hand.    
Sheriff Jones stated church leaders have been more than helpful, working with investigators to identify every possible victim.
"It's just disappointing to consider the aspect that someone in a position of trust, would abuse that trusts especially involving children victims," said Sheriff Jones.   
Sheriff Jones said if you do know of any child who has had contact with John Sluder, you are encouraged to speak with them.
"The full extent of the law needs to be handed down. And we have to do everything we can to protect these kids and they need to know they are safe and that society will come to their defense," said Hand.
Sluder has not made bond since his May arrest. The case will go to a grand jury soon.
The church says it is doing everything it can to help the victims while cooperating with investigators. 
Tears for the victims. Anger at the perpetrator. This is a refreshing response from a church who gets it. It's not about them. It's about the kids harmed by one of their own. But they don't protect their own image and shun and silence these kids, now adults, who though it took a long time, bravely came forward to report the harm done to them. Kids will be safer now, and other possible victims of Sluder will know they are not alone and perhaps have the courage to come forward as well, begin to heal and protect others.

Prestonwood Baptist Church, where are the tears for the victims? Where is the anger at one of your own former ministers, John Langworthy, who confessed publicly to sexually abusing kids at your church? The only public anger we have seen from Prestonwood staff is at those who have dared to ask simple questions of the executive staff like why Langworthy wasn't reported to police in 1989?
“In their attempts to silence and intimidate those who dare ask questions seeking answers and accountability, Prestonwood continues to wound victims, enable predators like Langworthy and endanger more kids,” she said. “Secrecy and silence helps only the predators. It’s the light of truth and knowledge that protects kids.”
Morrison Heights Baptist Church, where are the tears for the victims? Where is the anger at one of your own, John Langworthy, who stood in your pulpit on Sunday morning, August 7, 2011 and confessed to child sex crimes for which he was ultimately convicted? The only sorrow and support we saw on the video from that morning at Morrison Heights was on behalf of Langworthy. Pastor Greg Belser has publicly supported Langworthy and even refused, along with the church elders, to cooperate with the prosecution of Langworthy.

We fear there are more victims that happened on Morrison Heights' and Clinton Public Schools' watch since 1989 after Langworthy was fired by Prestonwood but not reported to the police. We have received specific concerns that Langworthy's predatory behavior continued in Clinton, MS. We hope anyone else in TX or MS harmed by him will come forward to law enforcement, heal and protect other kids. Langworthy is a convicted child sex offender, but he is not in jail. Kids are safest when predators are in jail.

I am aware that Dallas police and Plano police have each received calls in the last year from victims of Langworthy from his time on staff at Prestonwood Baptist Church in the mid to late 1980s. Has there been an investigation? Has Prestonwood ever contacted the police to report all known and suspected child sex crimes?

Privately, I have experienced anger and threats from my parents that I am "going to pay a big price" for exposing the abuse by Langworthy that led to his arrest and conviction in Mississippi. My dad still maintains that Langworthy "didn't molest anybody." My parents have repeatedly stated that they never want to see me again. Late last fall my dad said in a voice mail at our home that he was "going on the offensive."

Mary DeMuth- The 2nd anonymous letter sent to my home: a rant
Away on vacation, I came home to a pile of mail, one of which had no return address, and my own name and address typed on a piece of paper that had been cut and pasted to the envelope. I opened it. My heart sunk.
The letter had to do with this sexual offender and one church’s handling of the situation. It was a letter “proving” that the church did everything right (although from my limited perspective…I don’t know a lot about this case…it seems like the fact that the abuser wasn’t reported is a problem.)
...
The whole thing makes me angry, and this is why: Only cowards send anonymous letters in the mail. If this person feels so strongly about the rightness of the situation, why not dialog here? Why not address me in a public setting? To send “evidence” to my home address is underhanded and bordering on harassment.
If you wrote it, my request is this: show yourself and share your views in public. And by all means, STOP sending me anonymous diatribes.
I have been informed that, in addition to Mary, someone else received this same letter at a home address.

Ever heard of the Streisand effect? If Langworthy and Prestonwood's handling of Langworthy is in the clear, why keep bringing it up, doing so in creepy, cowardly, harassing forms of communication?

You can read in detail below the child sex crimes of 5 boys ages 6-13 that Langworthy pleaded guilty to on January 22, 2013 in Jackson, Mississippi [warning-graphic]:


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1 comment:

SNAP Admin said...

A terrific post Amy. I'm left shaking my head in dismay every time I hear about threats to those who advocate for kids. But what can possibly be worse than threats from your own family? My heart aches. . .

David Clohessy
Executive Director, SNAP
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
314 566 9790, SNAPclohessy@aol.com