SC- BJU should investigate charges re Rev. Gothard
For immediate release: Thursday, March 27, 2014
Statement by Cathy Winterfield of SNAP (704-207-1300 firstname.lastname@example.org)
We are child sex abuse victims who belong to an independent support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. We are here to help protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded and expose the truth.
We are urging Bob Jones University officials to
–launch an independent investigation into alleged cover-ups of child sex crimes and/or sexual harassment accusations that have surfaced recently against a nationally-known minister, and
–permanently post the names of proven, admitted and credibly accused sex offenders who are or have been at the university on the school's website.
Earlier this month, a prominent Illinois-based Protestant minister, Rev. Bill Gothard, was put on administrative leave after as many as 34 women said that he sexually harassed them. At least four women said that he molested them as youngsters. And Gothard also allegedly hid sexual harassment by his brother, along with Bob Jones officials, according to a recent Washington Post article.
According to bloggers at Recovering Grace, “In 1980, two BJU officials (only one is named, a Rev. Van Gelderen) were summoned by Gothard to help him downplay a scandal that was about to overwhelm his multi-million dollar ministry. The two BJU men were used by Gothard in his attempt to hush up accusations of sexual harassment against Gothard’s brother.”
We want BJU to hire an outside firm to investigate the charges that two university staffers may have hidden alleged sexual crimes, misdeeds or other wrongdoing by Rev. Gothard or his brother.
Rev. Gothard headed the Institute In Basic Life Principles (IBLP). In the 1970s, Rev. Gothard regularly filled auditoriums across the US with attendance figures as large as ten thousand and more, according to Wikipedia.
As best we can tell, there are no pending civil lawsuits or criminal investigations against Rev. Gothard. But SNAP notes that his own IBLP board asked him to step down in light of the dozens of allegations against him, some of which go back decades. Many of these reports surfaced first on Recovering Grace.
In an email to our leaders last month, BJU spokesman Randy Page (864-241-1634 |Rpage@bju.edu) ignored our request, claiming only that “All known perpetrators of child sexual abuse have been reported to law enforcement.”
Page also told us “We know of no current student, faculty or staff member who has been convicted of child sexual abuse or sexual assault.” That means that school officials know of former staff and students who ARE convicted offenders. “For the safety of others – both adults and kids,” we believe those names should be put on the BJU website. Religious institutions, “especially those who are accused of concealing crimes,” should be held to a higher disclosure standard than other organizations.
We can imagine some at BJU may be surprised at our requests. Some will question the propriety of our requests. Here are some likely questions and our responses:
Some might ask "These Gothard allegations date back to the 1980s and appear on a blog but largely nowhere else. So why should BJU officials take them seriously?"
Because it's a blog that many people find credible, including mainstream media sources. Because it's best to err on the side of protecting the vulnerable and wounded, not the accused and the powerful.
Some might ask "Why students? Why not just staff?"
Listing any perpetrator is better than listing none. But why make arbitrary distinctions? The more offenders they list, the more vulnerable people they protect?
Some might ask "Does the University have an obligation to list these offenders?”
Legally, no, but we believe that morally, yes. We believe there's every reason to do so and no reason to NOT do so. This action will safeguard those at risk. Why wouldn't BJU officials want to do this?
Some might ask "Could the University be sued for doing this, for listing these names?”
Anything's possible but we don't think so. The last thing a sex offender wants is more publicity. Roughly 30 US bishops have posted offender lists. None of them, as best we can tell, have been sued. http://www.bishop-accountability.org/AtAGlance/lists.htm
Some might ask "Aren't folks in US considered innocent until proven guilty?”
That's the standard we use when considering depriving a person of his or her physical liberty. We agree with this practice. But we also know that most sex offenders are never caught or convicted. People are safest when predators are jailed. But when that can't happen, the next best alternative is to alert the public about them. That's what we're asking BJU to do
Finally, we also want to stress that sexual crimes should be reported to law enforcement by anyone who sees, suspects or suffers them. To most victims this is a frightening prospect, but if innocent kids and vulnerable adults are to be protected, victims must somehow find the strength, courage and wisdom to call secular officials, not religious officials.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 25 years and have more than 15,000 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)