The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Abuse victims blast church over Oklahoma child sex case
Statement by Barbara Blaine of Chicago, national president of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (312-399-4747)
It's wrong for alleged spiritual leaders to resort to such hard-ball tactics against innocent young girls. These church officials can mount a perfectly legitimate legal defense without attacking and blaming children.
We call on each of the institutional defendants - the Bethany church, the university, the church's regional office and the church's national office - to withdraw this mean-spirited motion, apologize, and promise to never again use such un-Christ-like legal maneuvers.
(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 21 years and have more than 9,000 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)
Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, 314-645-5915 home), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Peter Isely (414-429-7259)
Group faults response by Nazarene church to sex abuse lawsuit
An advocacy group for child victims of sexual abuse by clergy on Monday criticized the Church of the Nazarene’s response to a lawsuit.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests points to the lawsuit in Oklahoma that accuses the church of complicity in the sexual abuse of five girls by an elementary church pastor in that state. Specifically, SNAP decries a church response that asserted, in part, that any injuries or damages suffered by the plaintiffs were caused or contributed to by their own conduct.
“This is just despicable,” SNAP spokeswoman Judy Jones said Monday in front of the former Nazarene headquarters at 6401 the Paseo. “This is just re-abuse of those victims.”
David Wilson, general secretary for the Church of the Nazarene, now headquartered in Lenexa, declined to comment Monday because the litigation is pending.
The lawsuit claims that church officials were aware that the pastor, Ryan Wonderly, was obsessed with child pornography and still placed him in positions of proximity to children. The church has denied those allegations. Wonderly was sentenced in 2005 to 35 years in prison for indecent and lewd acts with children and for rape by instrumentation.
| Matt Campbell, firstname.lastname@example.org - Posted on Mon, Nov. 23, 2009
MORE FACTS ABOUT THE CASE:
Last year, five girls (three from Oklahoma and one from Louisiana) filed a civil child sex abuse and cover up lawsuit seeking unspecified damage against men and institutions with the KC-based Church of the Nazarene. In response, church officials have filed court papers charging that, to some degree, the girls are to blame for their own victimization. SNAP calls the legal maneuver “outrageous and immoral.” The self help group believes that church officials will likely stop exploiting such harsh tactics if church members withhold donations in protest.
Starting around 2000, the girls were reportedly “sexually molested, abused, fondled and inappropriately touched” by their children's pastor, Ryan Wonderly in an Oklahoma City suburb. Wonderly attended Southern Nazarene University (SNU) and admitted to an SNU staffer named Lynn Sims that he had problems with child porn, according to the lawsuit. Instead of helping, suspending or expelling Wonderly, SNU officials permitted him to continue on as an intern children's pastor at Bethany First Church of the Nazarene across the street. Church members and employees there repeatedly reported suspicious and inappropriate behavior and touching by Wonderly to higher ups, but little was done. Police arrested Wonderly in 2004. He is now behind bars, having been sentenced to 35 years.
Wonderly also reportedly worked at a church camp where children from 22 counties from northwest Oklahoma attended each year.
Defendants include 4 church institutions (the Nazarene General Board, the church’s Northwest Oklahoma District, Southern Nazarene University, and Bethany First Church of the Nazarene) and 4 individuals (Doug Forsberg, Lewis McClain, Harold “Melvin” McCullough, Preston “Lynn” Sims).
The Nazarene head office is in Lenexa KS, a Kansas City suburb. The church’s district office is in Oklahoma City. The congregation (405-789-2050) and the university are in Bethany (405-789-6400). Three of the defendants live in Oklahoma (McClain in Bethany, Forsberg in Yukon, and Sims in Oklahoma City) and one (McCullough) lives in Missouri (in Johnson County, suburban Kansas City).
The lawsuit was filed in May 2008 in Oklahoma County, OK (Case No. CJ 2008 3689). The court clerk is Patricia Presley.
CONTACT David Clohessy 314 566 9790
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests