MO--Accusations of cover up at North Co. Church; SNAP responds
For immediate release: Wednesday, May 6
A North County mega-church pastor is suing church members who say he did little or nothing to act on suspicions of child sex abuse by a now-imprisoned sex offender who worked at the church. Shame on the pastor and his top aides for lashing out at, and trying to intimidate, caring whistleblowers.
( See new Riverfront Times story:
We hope law enforcement is investigating the possibility that Rev. Steven Wingfield of First Christian Church in Florissant may have broken the law in the case of now-admitted child molester Brandon Milburn.
Even though he hasn’t been criminally charged, Wingfield has hired a lawyer. And he’s instructed that lawyer to sue compassionate adults whose only “crime” is trying to find and help Milburn’s victims and shed light on a disturbing truth – that some at First Christian could and should have done more and acted sooner to call prevent child sex abuse.
As horrific as this case is, there are some heroes here. They are the brave men, women and teenagers who have exposed and are exposing an allegedly complicit church hierarchy. They are Dawn and Roger Varvil, Titus and Kari Benton, Jacob and Carrie Anderson, Doug and Tammy Lay, Sarah Thiele, Nathan Rayner, Scott Seppelt, Adam Krause and Lisa Womble. (Some of these are pseudonyms.)
We applaud them for their strength, courage and caring. We are saddened by their suffering.
And we also are grateful to and impressed by the very brave teenagers and young men who helped police and prosecutors put Milburn away where he can’t hurt anyone else. It’s very hard for abuse victims to speak up. It’s harder when the perpetrator is a trusted religious figure. And it’s very hard to step forward at a young age and cooperate with the justice system. But these teenagers and young men have done this, at considerable risk, and ours is a safer community because of their courage.
We urge anyone who may have seen, suspected or suffered crimes by Milburn or cover ups at First Christian to summon the strength to call police and prosecutors. Though Milburn is behind bars, it’s possible that some who ignored or concealed suspicions of his crimes may face justice too.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
50 State AG Call for Grand Jury
Any investigation must be:
- independent of and separate from the church
- must have subpoena powers and ability to compel testimony under oath
Anything short of these criteria is a sham and whitewash.
In addition, write letters to the editor, make phone calls to politicians as they can apply pressure to keep them responsive to our demand. We need to make efforts to ensure that they follow up on what the state is doing to investigate these crimes.
Note to Letter Writers
Use your own words and style of writing. Cut and paste from the templates as you wish. Include your experiences, whether as a survivor or as a member of the community. And relate your letter to the state you were abused in or state now living in.