"...When He [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." Matt 9:36

"Do not rob the poor, because he is poor... for the Lord will take up their case and plunder those who plunder them." Proverbs 22:22-23

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Prosectuor Says Church Engaged in 10-Year Obstruction of Justice in Church Abuse Case - Judge Denies Bail to Accused

"The worry is an obstruction of justice. I don’t have to just guess at that," Villella said. "I know that from the last 10 years, which has been nothing but an obstruction of justice."

Those are the words of prosecutor Jessica Villella who successfully argued in front of Judge Adrian Soud Friday that the two men at the Greater Refuge Temple accused of molesting and raping teens at the church should not be released on bail. She says her investigation has shown that the victims were prevented from going to authorities by a rigid church culture. Read the report from the Times Union article:

"Assistant State Attorney Jessica Villella told Soud her investigation revealed the youths had been trying to come forward but were silenced by the church and even their own parents. One of the mothers testified on behalf of Groover during a previous hearing....[Prosector] Villella countered that the close-knit culture of the church stonewalled the investigation."

Who showed up at the hearing arguing for the accused - both relatives of their beloved pastor - to be released on bail? Why 20 church members, of course.

How sad that now we need prosecutors and judges to protect victims of sexual crimes from their own church! I thought the church was supposed to be the one institution above all that protects the innocent and broken and defenseless. Christa Brown has documented the same circumstances before where churches protect the accused minister or church member, and then blame the victim, and even work against authorities who investigate.

This church seems to have hit the abuse trifecta: they successfully kept the victims from going to the authorities as it took an anonymous church member to contact the police and open an investigation. Once the police were involved the prosecutor says the church worked to stonewall the investigation...and now they have argued for the men who may very well be a threat to the victims - to be released on bail.

And I'm sure they'll all be singing "Oh, How I Love Jesus" this Sunday and will drop their tithe in the offering plate.

Kudos to you, Judge Adrian Soud, for protecting our children in this city by keeping these men in jail, and thank you Assistant State Attorney Villella for speaking the truth and doing the hard work of battling religous zealots.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

No one who covered this up, for any amount, of time should be excused by the justice system. The church carries only part of the blame here, though fully guilty for the cover up. The parents carry the greater blame.

I agree with the premise of your post but it is time the voice against the parents who looked the other way is heard.

God gives children to parents and it is their priority to protect them when no one else will.

church - guilty
parents - super guilty

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

I assume the parents are church members, so that explains it. They ARE the church.

Anonymous said...

But they are more than the church to these children, they are the parents, the church is not.

No where is the church called to raise my kids or be responsible for them.

If my child breaks a church window I don't expect the church to just pay for it because we are members. it is my responsibility to have it fixed then find ways to make my child pay for it.

Johnny D. said...

I know we should (and can) forgive. I am totally down with that. But punishment within the law must still occur.

Perhaps the majority of folks at the hearing were just showing their willingness to forgive? I should have read up on this some more before commenting, but too late now. If they are there just to beg the judge to let these guys off, then that is pretty disgusting.

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

Hi Johnny D! Great to hear from you.

This post really isn't about forgive or not forgive. It is about how the prosecutor of this case believes the church culture served to obstruct justice for 10 years by putting pressure on the victims to NOT seek justice.

In the previous Times Union article in January when these guys were arrested, an anonymous church member finally spilled the beans, and they have at least one of the guys on tape trying to guilt the victim into not going to the police, that they would hurt the church, etc. etc. Same old spiritual abuse used over and over as Christa Brown's blog points out.

The prosecutor believes that if these men are released they may seek to do more harm on their victims. And I can only imagine how much more damage is inflicted on the victims to know that their own church members are seeking the release of the perpetrators on bail!

Think of the irony...the church kept pressure on the victims to NOT go to the authorities, and no one at the church would go to the authorities to report the crime...but now church members are scrambling to get in front of the judge to ask for leniency of the perpetrators!

Anonymous said...

Makes Watergate pale in comparison.

Anonymous said...

No wonder people who have some discernment are leaving the church. It has become more organizational than spiritual.

Only whats done for Christ will last. All the self righteousness is nothing more than sand. A lot of the big shots will be little shots when compared to the real heros in days gone by which are mostly ignored or forgotten as they were not seeking fame or fortune but simply bringing the message of hope and salvation to a dying and lost world. I'm thinking of Jonathan Edwards, Wesley brothers, Tyndale and many others including the disciples who suffered martrydom. Jesus must again become the Head of the church. His rightful place. And we must spread the gospel.

Anonymous said...

"No wonder people who have some discernment are leaving the church. It has become more organizational than spiritual."

Agreed. We who know truth and have been set free by it need to walk away from the established church. All that remain are those mindless men followers. Ain't nobody in the church these days who are spiritually discerning.

Johnny D. said...

"This post really isn't about forgive or not forgive."

Yeah, I got that. It's just that the forgiveness theme has been big with me lately - and you know how what's big personally often colors what we take away from our reading.

"Think of the irony...the church kept pressure on the victims to NOT go to the authorities, and no one at the church would go to the authorities to report the crime...but now church members are scrambling to get in front of the judge to ask for leniency of the perpetrators!"

Irony. Perhaps. The church in question certainly has some cult-like actions and reactions.

If any of the members read here, I would say to them, "Forgive these men, yes, but they need to be put away for a long, long time. Any of your members that covered up these sick, disgusting crimes need to be held accountable as well."

Interesting that the word verification below is "Judephy." This church needs to "Judephy" and stand up for the "faith once for all delivered to the saints."

Anonymous said...

"Yeah, I got that. It's just that the forgiveness theme has been big with me lately - and you know how what's big personally often colors what we take away from our reading. "

Forgiveness does not mean one does not face consequences of actions. It is taught that way in many churches, though to protect evil.

Thing is, when we twist the real meaning of forgiveness, we can send people to hell. They were more concerned with the image of the church and protecting evil than they were with real repentance and eternal life for those perverts. And they cared nothing for the victims.

They can forgive them behind bars where they belong for their crime.

I sometimes shudder what people can think passes for Christian. Can one molest a kid and claim to have the indwelling Holy Spirit at the same time?

Are we willing to let murderers go free because they claim to be believers? Where does this stop?

Anonymous said...

No one who covered this up, for any amount, of time should be excused by the justice system. The church carries only part of the blame here, though fully guilty for the cover up. The parents carry the greater blame.

I agree with the premise of your post but it is time the voice against the parents who looked the other way is heard.

God gives children to parents and it is their priority to protect them when no one else will.

church - guilty
parents - super guilty

February 5, 2011 8:05 AM

That is a nice thought in a perfect world...but in my church, for example...lots of kids from the neighborhood and even youth come without their parents. It should be a safe place because it will be the only place in their lives they will be loved unconditionally and told our their Savior.

Anonymous said...

"That is a nice thought in a perfect world...but in my church, for example...lots of kids from the neighborhood and even youth come without their parents. It should be a safe place because it will be the only place in their lives they will be loved unconditionally and told our their Savior."

My comments about parents was directly related to the post stating;

"were silenced by the church and even their own parents."

It had nothing to do with children who come without parents.

Lynn said...

The problem is the religion. The religion will protect ITSELF at all costs.

The priority for the church and for the parents who were members was NOT the children. The priority was protecting the religion. Much evil is tolerated to protect the religion.

Johnny D. said...

"Forgiveness does not mean one does not face consequences of actions."

No problem with that line of thinking. Had you read my entire post you would have found this;

"Forgive these men, yes, but they need to be put away for a long, long time. Any of your members that covered up these sick, disgusting crimes need to be held accountable as well."

Different words - same point.

dee said...

Thank you for this post. In my personal experience, many churches exists to protect themselves when confronted with pedophile behavior.I personally know of one situation in which a young teen boy was told he should have reported this implying that he was complicit in this behavior.

Scripture is clear-Anyone who causes one of these little ones harm should tie a millstone around his neck and jump into the abyss.

Slow to speak said...

This is a disgrace to Grace...disgusting!!!

The Greenhouse Effect said...

Anon February 5, 2011 11:02 AM

Well said.

This is a tragedy for all Christians. I pray for the children and their parents.
We must make sure that our Churches are ALL about shepparding the flock.

WishIhadknown said...

I really don’t know what to say. How could anyone support people like this? Ignorance can be fix with knowledge but you can’t fix stupid.

Provender said...

In many abusive churches the leadership seems to members to speak with the authority of God. Leaders repeatedly, and in very subtle ways sometimes, link their pronouncements, thoughts, words to those of God and to oppose them, in the minds of members, is to oppose God. It's a kind of mind control and it's very powerful. This is not to excuse the members. There can be no excuse. They do have consciences. But it helps to look at the mechanism of how this rigid church culture works because it is so pervasive. It can start out lightly in churches and get to this terrible degree of control. Horrifying result.

Anonymous said...

This is much like what happened at Trinity Baptist Church on the Westside and how they sought to protect the "church" rather than stand up for the victims. Or Jerry Vines protecting Gilyard when the evidence was otherwise. Rigid controlling systems DO have power over those subsystems within them.

Anonymous said...

I am confident that these "men" will get what they deserve and the victims will get justice! Jessica is an amazing attorney and Judge Soud is very fair in sentencing. They helped me more than they can ever imagine during my case and I know they'll be just as successful in this one! Just pray that the victims rise above these events and somehow pick up the pieces.