TN--Judge rules in Baptist child sex case
For immediate release: Thursday, June 25, 2015
Judge rules in Baptist child sex case
Group deplores secrecy by church officials
SNAP: Pastor “changed his tune” about abuse
Victims think he should be investigated & charged
Preacher “clearly filed false police report,” self-help organization says
A judge has ruled that parties in a civil clergy sex abuse and cover up case can’t discuss or disclose the evidence publicly and a support group that sought to intervene is criticizing church officials for “continuing their reckless secrecy” in the case.
“Kids are safer when those who commit or conceal child sex crimes can’t keep hiding their wrongdoing,” said David Clohessy, the director of a Chicago-based self-help group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “We’re especially worried because the convicted child molester and the accused complicit church officials are still in the area. Parents, police and the public should know as much about them as possible.”
Years after he reported suspected child sex crimes by a church volunteer to police, a Jackson minister went back to police again and tried to “water down” his formal report in an unusual move to apparently try to protect himself and his congregation from civil liability, SNAP says. A civil abuse and cover up case was filed against him and his church in May 2014.
The group has urged prosecutors to investigate the two very different accounts and possibly charge the minister for making a false police report.
( Read the police report here: http://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/snap/pages/3828/attachments/original/1401890049/IncidentReport-_Bemis_TN.pdf?1401890049 )
In 2006, Pastor Mark McSwain of First Church in Bemis reported to police that Chad Lutrell was inappropriately touching young girls and kissing one on the mouth. He also said that Lutrell was stalking and harassing adult women.
Three years later, however, in 2009, McSwain backtracked from his original statement. McSwain approached police again, this time telling an officer that Lutrell kissed a child on the cheek, not on the mouth. McSwain also denied that Lutrell had inappropriately touched children, and claimed that Lutrell only sent one adult woman an inappropriate email and follower her home.
“It is very suspicious that the pastor changed his tune so much, especially after three years, and in such self-serving ways” said Barbara Dorris, outreach director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “We hope prosecutors will consider filing charges against McSwain for making a false police report.”
“The pastor clearly is trying hard to protect his reputation and his church’s reputation from negative news coverage and civil lawsuits,” said David Clohessy, SNAP's director. “There's really no other possible explanation for his bizarre behavior.”
The new ruling in the case, which came as a result of a “protective order” sought by church officials, means that “church staff will likely keep putting out a very inaccurate and self-serving version of these awful events,” Clohessy said.
Last May, Lutrell was arrested for stalking women, after three victims came forward to police. And in 2009, Lutrell was convicted of sexually abusing a ten year old girl. He is a registered sex offender. http://www.wbbjtv.com/news/local/Sex-Offender-Now-Facing-Stalking-Charges-206462401.html
First Baptist church is now being sued for Lutrell’s crimes.
At the time of McSwain's first police report, an officer suggested that McSwain ask the victims if they’d like to file a complaint. But the pastor replied that he was “trying to follow biblical guidelines at this point and did not know what would be done.”
“That's dead wrong. There's nothing 'un-Biblical' about reporting known or suspected child sex crimes to police,” said Clohessy. “It is very 'Biblical' to protect innocent children from harm. McSwain should be investigated for potentially breaking state mandatory reporting laws.”
“Current and former employees and members of First Baptist who knew about or suspected Lutrell’s abuse should be harshly punished for refusing to promptly call police,” Dorris said. “This kind of punishment is the best way to deter such reckless and irresponsible misbehavior in the future.”
SNAP is urging every individual “who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes at First Baptist” to “speak up, protect kids, call police, get help, expose wrongdoers and start healing.”
(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 18,000 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.
The Attorneys General of forty states have inquired about the grand jury process in Pennsylvania. Let's get statewide investigations going in fifty states.
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.