AL- Baptist preacher sexually exploits flock
For immediate release: Thursday, October 9, 2014
Statement by David Clohessy of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314-566-9790 cell, firstname.lastname@example.org)
An Alabama Baptist minister admits he misused church funds, took illicit drugs and seduced multiple female congregants while having AIDS. The real issue here, however, is clergy sexual misconduct. When a minister has any sexual contact with members of his flock, it’s wrong and hurtful and, in 17 states, illegal.
Rev. Juan Demetrius McFarland of the Shiloh Missionary Baptist in Montgomery has been ousted from his church. That’s of course a good first step. But Baptist officials – in Montgomery, in Alabama, and across the US – must do more to educate their congregations about how many ministers manipulate adult church members – male and female – and sexually exploit them.
These are not ‘affairs.’ This is not ‘adultery.’ It is a horrific abuse of power. It’s called clergy sexual misconduct. The victims are vulnerable adults who have fallen prey to a shrewd predator who masquerades as a “man of God.”
These women who have been victimized need not feel embarrassed. They were tricked and manipulated and exploited. They need and deserve our sympathy and our understanding. And they need to speak up and get help so that clergymen like Rev. McFarland are quickly stopped in the future.
We hope and believe these revelations will prod others who have been hurt by ministers, rabbis, priests, nuns, deacons, seminarians, elders and other church employees to get help, come forward, expose wrongdoers and protect others. We hope this tragic case will prompt more discussion, education and understanding of adult clergy sexual misconduct and will help to prevent it, too.
And we urge Alabama Baptist church officials and members to aggressively seek out others who may have seen, suspected or suffered clergy sexual misconduct or cover ups. We strongly suspect that others who were sexually violated are still suffering as adults and feel trapped in shame, silence and self blame. It’s important that they be given help and consolation. And it’s important that they – and anyone else who may have knowledge or suspicions about clergy sexual misconduct – contact law enforcement immediately.
(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)