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!


Keith A. Brown