The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For More Information:
Support group speaks out about cult-like 'temple'
Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 862 7688 home, 314 503 0003 cell)
We are very disturbed by these credible child sex abuse allegations against this cult-like church.
We are grateful for the courage and persistence of these caring victims. We appreciate their bravery in exposing their predators and their wisdom in taking legal action. Every time a sex abuse victim speaks up, it helps protect kids and heal others.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nation's oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We've been around for 17 years and have more than 8,000 members across the country. 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)
Women Claim Child Sexual Abuse Against Church
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A few former members of a church said they were sexually abused as children and the church did nothing to stop it.
"The man that raped and abused me was the brother of the minister of this church," said Crystal Mears.
"He sexually abused me," said Cheryl Mears Morrell. "He digitally raped me."
"I told my mother and I told my pastor and nobody did anything," said Jennifer Meier-Beita.
Mears said she was 8 when she was raped by her grandfather, a leader in the Christian Gospel Temple in Cross Plains.
"His words to me were God will condemn your soul if you ever speak a word of this to anyone," she said.
"I can tell my story and say look people this is a vicious cycle. Somebody's got to put their foot down. We can't keep doing this," she said.
Four women recently filed lawsuits in California alleging sexual abuse was rampant in the church. The suits call Christian Gospel Temple a cult and claim it failed to report abusers to authorities.
"The big things like pedophilia and abuse they are covered up and denied," Mears said.
Videos obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates show Cornelius Mears leading worship services. He originally led the congregation in Chino, Calif. But in 1993, Mears told the 400 members they needed to move to White House, Tenn.
"You just did what he told you to do," Meier-Beita said. "And every single person believed that God spoke to him and told him we needed to move to White House, Tenn."
"I can remember just wanting to move because I didn't want to be left behind," Morrell said.
Hundreds gave up their jobs and moved to Robertson County.
"I have proven to brother Mears that I will follow him wherever he goes," says a member of the congregation in an old church videotape obtained by NewsChannel 5.
"We believed God spoke to him," explained Meier-Beita.
According to the lawsuit the church remains a cult and has a remarkable degree of control over member's lives.
"We had to call and ask if we could wear a certain outfit," Meier-Beita said. "We had to call and ask if we could have a 13 year old birthday party. This wasn't calling your parents. This was calling the minister."
The lawsuits claim that Cornelius Mears knew about the sexual abuse of children that took place in California including abuse by his brother Paul Mears, but he did nothing.
"In the Bible there's a scripture that says not to take your brother to court so they use that scripture about not taking your brother to court to say well you can't report them," Meier-Beita said.
NewsChannel 5 reporter Ben Hall went Paul Mears' home, but he did not come to the door.
"They're alleging sexual abuse," Hall said.
"I know they are," replied a woman at the door.
"What do you say about that?" Hall asked.
"I think it's a load of baloney, that's what I think," the woman said.
In a statement, the current pastor Steve Farmer said, "We believe the allegations against the Christian Gospel Temple are not correct or true."
He also said,"It saddens me that the church would be associated with these accusations."
"In every generation it has happened. In every generation it has been hidden. It's got to stop period," Mears said.
But the women said they filed the lawsuits because they believe the culture that protects abusers persists. They also worry about other children.
"I don't feel like they've changed anything," Morrell said. "I feel like they handle everything the exact same way, maybe worse."
"If something else happens and I had done nothing then I am like they are and I'm not going to do that," Meier-Beita said.
Farmer called NewsChannel 5 once again and said, "We, at the Christian Gospel Temple, try to present ourselves in an open manner to everyone. Our freely accessible services are intended to help those who are looking for God. The doors of our church are open and our hearts are open. We provide a church website that we believe reflects our openness. All of our services are easily accessed through live streaming video. Jesus said freely you have received, freely given.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests