KS--Big Baptist church tries to forcibly "out" abused kids
For immediate release: Thursday, June 16, 2016
In a new court filing, a Kansas City church is trying to force two girls who were abused by a now-imprisoned child molester to publicly reveal their names. We are appalled.
This mean-spirited move will deter others who see, suspect or suffer child sex crimes into staying silent, enabling more predators to hurt more kids. It will also rub more salt into the already deep and still fresh wounds of this suffering family. It is a shameful move by officials who profess to be “Christians.”
Last week, in public, Westside Family Church officials played “good cop.” This week, in court, Westside is playing “bad cop.” This week is what counts, because now, they’re not just talking, they’re acting. And they’re acting like cold-hearted CEOs, not caring shepherds.
If Westside pastor Dan Chaverin gets his way, two little girls who belonged to his church and sexually abused and exploited by a twice-convicted, admitted predator, may have to publicly reveal their identities. How stunningly callous is that?
Honestly, we’re a little embarrassed. For a few days, we foolishly got our hopes up. “Church officials are at least talking publicly about this case,” we said. “They’re admitting they ‘let their guard down’ around this predator. They’re pledging reforms. Maybe this particular church will do a little better than others,” we told ourselves.
We were obviously and seriously wrong.
Westside is part of the Southern Baptist Convention, which is meeting now in St. Louis. We call on SBC officials, especially newly-elected president Steve Gaines of Memphis, to denounce this inexcusable, hurtful legal maneuver.
The case is in Johnson County Kansas before Judge Kevin Moriarty. The victims are represented by Kansas City area attorneys Antwaun Lewis Smith (816 561 5500, 816 398 8861) and Rebecca Randles (816 510 2704, [email protected]). Lichtnegger’s defense lawyer is Heath Stuart. Bradley S. Russell represents the church (913-234-6110, [email protected]).
No matter what lawmakers or church officials do or don’t do, we urge every single person who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes and cover ups in Baptist churches to protect kids by calling police, get help by calling therapists, expose wrongdoers by calling law enforcement, get justice by calling attorneys, and be comforted by calling support groups like ours. This is how kids will be safer, adults will recover, criminals will be prosecuted, cover ups will be deterred and the truth will surface.
The church is at 8500 Woodsonia Drive (off of W. 83rd) in Lenexa, KS.
Last October, Kessler P. Lichtnegger was sentenced to 17 years in prison for sexually abusing two girls as a volunteer leader at Vacation Bible School at Westside Family Church (913 422 8257), a large, non-denominational ‘mega-church’ in Lenexa, Kansas.
A new lawsuit, brought by those two children and their families, charges that church officials knew Lichtnegger had committed similar crimes years before but still gave him access to kids. Church staff claim they told Lichtenegger that he could be in the building only with his father. But they still let him be a leader in his small group and volunteer in Vacation Bible School.
In April 2012, church officials knew that Lichtenegger pleaded guilty to two counts of lewd and lascivious behavior and one count of battery against an adopted child who found just before dark by police at Windsor Park in Johnson County “catatonic,” with cuts, torn clothes and a fat lip.” At the time of the crimes, Lichtenegger was a freshman at Shawnee Mission East High School.
In the new lawsuit, two youngsters say that Lichtenegger engaged in lewd, lascivious and sexual behavior with them at church after having gotten their contact information in his role as a Vacation Bible School leader and volunteer. The suit charges that one of the girls was raped on church property. Lichtenegger forced her to perform sex acts on him under threat of going after her younger sister if she did not comply.
http://shawneemissionpost.com/2015/10/28/former-sm- east-student- kessler-lichtenegger-sentenced-to- 17-years- in-prison- on-attempted- rape-charge- 44094
http://www.kshb.com/news/crime/court-documents- student-accused- of-rape- admitted-exchanging-pics- with-2- underage-sisters- to-pastor
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 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)