A support group for clergy sex abuse victims is asking a South Dakota church to reconsider licensing a convicted sex offender. Juan Carlos Sabalier is the music leader and youth leader at Huron Baptist Church (955 Lincoln Ave. SW, 605 352 5310, 605 354 0614) in Huron, SD.
In 2002, he was convicted of raping a teenage girl, when he was around 24 and she was around 15. He was sentenced to ten years behind bars but served only five.
Sabalier is also on a list of teachers who have been disciplined by the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, according to a 2009 article in the Rapid City Journal. (The story quotes Lisa Lomheim, a legal assistant with the state Department of Education.)
“This isn’t rocket science. A man convicted of a DUI doesn’t get to be a school bus driver, and a man convicted of assaulting a child shouldn’t get to be a minister,” said David Clohessy of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
In cases like this, SNAP says, church members sometimes claim that a criminal should be forgiven. But the group calls forgiveness “an often wise personal choice, but a careless collective action when kids’ safety is involved.”
“Forgiveness is admirable, recklessness is not,” said Clohessy. “And it’s just irresponsible to give a proven predator a title, role or position that gives him access to and authority over innocent, vulnerable children.”
The church is without a full time pastor but Sabalier is reportedly seeking that position. Being “licensed” by a Baptist congregation will enable Sabalier to seek paid ministry positions across the country.
Sabalier lives at 1211 Ohio Avenue W in Huron. He appears to be married. His photo is available at http://sor.sd.gov/MoreInfo.aspx?s=S0588870