Christian School Confidential, a webseries dedicated to being a watchdog on the IFB Christian School industry, begins with the question, “Should Chris Peterman have given up DORIGHTBJU after Chuck Phelps resigned?”
It is also a call to protest and an invitation for survivors to send videos of testimonies, protests, and memorial services for possible webcasts on the activist site, HEAL-Online.org.
If you are not familiar with the Chris Peterman story, please watch ‘A Salute to Chris Peterman’:
Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State football coach now under arrest on charges of 40 counts of sexually abusing young boys during a 15 year period, was also active in a children’s charity called ‘The Second Mile’, which was praised by George H.W. Bush as one of the ‘shining points of light’.
This is just one of three similarities from my book, Christian School Confidential, that have been blowing my mind for the last two days. Christian School Confidential, a fictionalized account of a church community in the midst of a sexual abuse trial, was inspired by the arrest and eventual non-trial of Bob Gray, the founder of my Christian school, Trinity Christian Academy, and former pastor of TCA’s sponsoring church, Trinity Baptist in Jacksonville, Florida.
Gray was arrested on May 19, 2006. Over 20 women, and a man, came forward with accounts of Gray molesting them as children. The defense succeeded in delaying the case for nearly an entire year before Gray died of a fall in his home. This happened a week or so before his trial was set to begin. His death was reported on November 12, 2007.
I started the blog ‘Christian School Confidential’ shortly after his arrest. I wanted to expound on certain details the local media seemed hesitant to deal with. Because I was really the only one visible on the internet exclusively discussing the Gray case (as opposed to the entire IFB movement), Adam Horowitz, lawyer for the victims, sent me .pdf’s of the various civil suits before the Florida Times Union even caught on that civil suits had been filed!
There was criticism directed at me that I was broad brushing the ‘IFB’ movement (a name journalists and critics bestowed upon them, not the actual practitioners) by only discussing abuse that happened within fundamentalism. I agreed this was a problem and not very conducive to addressing matters of abuse. I began posting stories of abuse that happened in nearly every facet of society, from the military to iced cream men to themed parks.
Every organizations has their unique defenses against those who accuse their members of molestation. Rock stars and movie producers have money and can boycott certain performers. Fundamentalists have the bible and money. The police can intimidate and throw victims in jail. Whatever happened to those 5000 people who worked in the Pentagon who allegedly downloaded child pornography? The military and the Pentagon are probably the scariest people to deal with since anything in the top branches of the government can result in the loss of your rights under the guise of ‘protecting national security’. Every one of these demographics have been accused of using their influence to cover up child abuse.
My concern was that by dealing exclusively with the small minded world of the IFB, we would short change victims who were not abused by IFB ministers but might have been abused by other institutions such as the police, the military, and even good ole’ Penn State.
It was also difficult working with advocacy groups. Remember, this is before Facebook made advocacy a democratic pursuit not beholden to any one person or group. Before Facebook (2006, BF), those who concentrated on abuse within the family did not want to speak against the church. Those who addressed problems within certain denominations did not want to venture outside of their denominations. Most never answered emails. So, if you were abused at a commune or theme park or some other place where an institution or organization covered up abuse, you were out of luck if you weren’t Catholic or Southern Baptist!
And now we see from the Sandusky case, the coach worked with at risk children through the Second Mile organization, which he founded. Some are now accusing him of using the Second Mile to groom children for their abuse.
The same thing happens in my book, Christian School Confidential! The wife of a church pastor is a known advocate who was not only abused by my main character but helps cover up the abuse of her daughter. Her ‘advocacy’ is just another stepping stone in her career to be the ‘Christian’ Ann Coulter.
This is a sensitive area, I know. There have been incidents of predators infiltrating advocacy groups or other organizations that help children. It gives them an alibi as well as a place for recruiting and grooming victims. If you talk about it, you might be accused of being a mole or a toxic personality. If you don’t talk about, you’ve become no different than the enablers you criticize and the predator gets away with it. Hence, I found fiction a better place to deal with that issue.
Judge Leslie Dutchcot who granted Jerry Sandusky’s bail was a volunteer in Second Mile. The prosecutor in my book went to Freedom University, a fundamentalist college, run by a good friend of the accused pastor.
Joe Paterno, the Penn State coach who was fired for covering up the abuse, sold his house to his wife for $1. Bob Gray’s former church, Trinity, was authorized to sell the parsonage on 10/24/2006 and on 10/26/07, just weeks before Bob Gray died, property was sold to his wife for $10. The pastor in Christian School Confidential does the same thing except she gets the Paterno deal: a $199,999.95 parsonage for $1.
This road has been traveled before. Now that the Catholic Church has stepped in to help Penn State, the best most of us can do is sit down with a bowl of popcorn and play armchair quarterback.
Look for delays. Lots and lots of delays. If the victims are meeting on the internet, look for ‘advocates’ to come out and encourage them to talk while, at the same time, not going to the press! Lawyers will investigate some of those internet postings for inconsistencies in stories.
To talk the press or not? That is the question! Going to the press might hurt your court case. If you continue with the trial, you will be quiet while the case is going on but what happens when it’s over? Some are too exhausted to talk while others, even if they never settled, might have the entire case SEALED! That means, you can never talk about it. Ever! Those who do settle can’t talk because of confidentiality agreements. These are nice legal ways to cover up without resorting to threats.
Institutions have been covering up abuse for years. They have it down to a science. They exploit the individual quirks of their doctrines, mission statements, bylaws and political contacts to cover up abuse. The time has come to stop marginalizing abuse and to start adopting sweeping regulations that would penalize any institution or business (churches, college, theme parks, youth camps, teen behavioral modification centers, iced cream men, etc) that covers up instances of child abuse.