The Fixer

“Her face was ghostly white… There was nothing left to her.”

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

“Her face was ghostly white… There was nothing left to her.”[i]

When Jeannie Marie picked up her daughter Roxy from New Beginnings Girls Academy, her daughter was a shadow of her former self. Three months at the academy destroyed her. She endured food deprivation, medical neglect, and severe emotional and physical abuse. Despite urinary tract infections and menstrual complications from a recent gang rape, she was routinely denied toilet paper and sanitary pads, locked in isolation cells, and forced to say she was “the daughter of the devil.”[ii] In desperation, the 17-year old attempted suicide.[iii]

Roxy is not a unique case. Many girls at New Beginnings attempted suicide, hoping that a trip to the hospital would allow them to escape the horrors of the academy.[iv]

New Beginnings Girls Academy is a part of a massive, complicated network of homes for “troubled children.” The homes date back to the 1970’s, when an Independent Fundamental Baptist preacher by the name of Lester Roloff had the idea to create homes to reform children considered sinful or wayward by their parents. Roloff described such children as “parent-hating, Satan-worshiping, dope-taking immoral boys and girls.”[v] Often times the children sent were, like Roxy, “troubled” simply because they were victims of child abuse.[vi]

Abuse allegations have plagued the homes since their beginnings. A plethora of lawsuits were successfully brought against them. Yet the homes keep popping up: closed in one state then re-opened in a less regulated state. The regulatory terrain of this network is, for the most part, just like that of homeschooling: intentionally unregulated.

That unregulated network owes its continuing existence to one man in particular: David C. Gibbs III.

David C. Gibbs III’s career for the Christian Law Association began in 1993.

Since 2014, Gibbs III has appeared to many in the Christian homeschooling movement as a champion for abuse survivors. He became the attorney for Lourdes Torres in her sexual assault lawsuit against Vision Forum’s disgraced founder Doug Phillips.[vii] When five brave women decided to sue IBLP and ATI’s founder Bill Gothard for sexual assault as well, Gibbs III was there, filing the lawsuit.[viii] The lawsuit against IBLP and Gothard has now grown to include eighteen plaintiffs.[ix]

Through his National Center for Life and Liberty (NCLL), Gibbs III has positioned himself as an advocate for the abused as well as an individual sensitive and empathetic to those injured by Christian fundamentalism. As Gibbs III told HA’s Ryan Stollar in January of this year, “I vehemently oppose child abuse and those that cover it up with a passion, and I believe that organizations that emotionally, psychologically, physically, or sexually abuse children should be prosecuted and shut down.” Now that he has become one of the primary business partners of the Great Homeschool Conventions, the largest for-profit homeschool convention company in the United States, Gibbs III’s platform and reach is spreading.[x]

Yet some have questioned this positive image of Gibbs III. Despite his current advocacy for survivors, he spent decades doing the exact opposite: serving as a fixer for abusers and defending leaders who spread Christian fundamentalism. Through his work and leadership with his father David C. Gibbs Jr.’s organization, the Christian Law Association (CLA), Gibbs III built a career out of defending accused child abusers. And as recently as last year, Gibbs presented sermons at churches arguing that not only parents, but schools, churches, and even complete strangers have a “fundamental right” to child corporal punishment—which he referred to as “child-beating.”[xi]

This discrepancy has raised concerns. Gibbs III’s current NCLL website makes no mention of his involvement with the CLA, including the fact that he was their general counsel. In his interview with HA blog partner Julie Anne Smith on May 26, 2014, he completely separated his father and the CLA’s work from his own work, making it seem that he was not involved with the former.[xii] However, when pressed on this matter, Gibbs III told HA, “I worked with my father and did legal work for CLA from 1993-2012.”

The discrepancies do not end there. Gibbs III indicated to Smith that he was happily married. However, public records show that his wife filed divorce papers against him later that year. The divorce was finalized in July 2015. Furthermore, Gibbs III indicated to Smith that he was never involved in any domestic disputes. However, public records show a dispute in 2013 between him and Texas Child Protective Services.

The Roloff Homes

To better understand Gibbs III’s story, we need to go back to 1956, when fiery fundamentalist Lester Roloff founded his first home for troubled individuals, the City of Refuge Home for Men, in Lee County, Texas.[xiii] Over the next two decades, Roloff founded a slew of other homes, including the Lighthouse Home for Young Men in 1958[xiv], the Rebekah Home for Girls[xv] and the Anchor Home for Boys in 1967[xvi], and the Bethesda Home for Girls in 1968.[xvii] He also founded the People’s Baptist Church in 1969[xviii], to which he passed ownership of the homes in order to make them “church-based”—and thus garnering of religious legal protections. Beginning in 1972, the CLA represented the Roloff homes, with Gibbs Jr. at the helm.[xix]

The founder of many “troubled children” homes, Lester Roloff operated under the principle, “Better a pink bottom than a black soul!”

The CLA began defending the homes at a convenient time, as it was only a year later when the homes were first charged with abuse. Parents visiting the Rebekah Home for Girls in 1973 were horrified when they witnessed staff members whipping a young girl. Local authorities in Texas launched an investigation. This culminated in the Texas legislature hearing testimonies from sixteen girls who alleged they were whipped with leather straps, beaten with paddles, handcuffed to drainpipes, and locked in isolation cells.[xx] Roloff openly admitted these actions, infamously declaring during the court hearing, “Better a pink bottom than a black soul!”[xxi] The revelations led the Texas State Legislature to pass the Child Care Licensing Act, which required the state to license all child-care facilities.[xxii]

Throughout the 1970’s and 80’s, child abuse and corruption continued to plague the Rebekah Home and other homes created or inspired by Roloff. Homes repeatedly shut down and popped up in other states to avoid licensing or prosecution. The most significant lawsuit came in 1982, when Morris Dees, the famous civil rights lawyer and founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, helped multiple women bring a lawsuit against the Bethesda Home for Girls (and another home created by Bethesda directors Bob and Betty Wills, Reclamation Ranch) for physical abuse, torture, and food deprivation.[xxiii] The lawsuit demanded that Bob Wills and other staffers stop spanking pregnant girls.[xxiv] Gibbs Jr. defended the Bethesda Home and Reclamation Ranch.[xxv] The last year of Roloff’s involvement was 1982, as he died in a plane crash in November. His longtime associate Wiley Cameron took over the network.

In 1993, only a few years after the Rebekah and Anchor Homes were closed for a second time due to abuse, Gibbs III joined his father as an attorney for the Christian Law Association.[xxvi] Meanwhile, a string of more grievous incidents occurred: A seventeen-year-old girl, Carrie Louise Nutt, was emotionally and physically abused and forced by staffers to strip at Mountain Park Baptist Academy, run by Bob and Betty Wills.[xxvii] A murder also took place.[xxviii]

Through his work and leadership with his father David C. Gibbs Jr.’s organization, the Christian Law Association (CLA), Gibbs III built a career out of defending accused child abusers.

In the midst of this, with the hope that deregulating faith-based programs would increase their efficacy, then-Texas governor George W. Bush pushed for a legislative package that would allow church-run child-care institutions to opt out of state licensing.[xxix] This was an exemption to the requirement established in 1975 by the Child Care Licensing Act because of child abuse at the Roloff homes. The primary witness to speak in favor of the bill before the House Human Services Committee was Gibbs III, who was employed by the CLA at the time.[xxx]

According to the American Bar Association Journal, Gibbs III intentionally misled the committee to give the impression he was not connected to the Roloff Homes through the CLA.[xxxi] However, he denounced this depiction to HA, saying that his appearance during the hearing was not on behalf of the Roloff Homes. He said, “I appeared in Texas as general counsel to a number of churches for the Gibbs Law Firm,” adding that his statements during the trial were “focused on the faith-based community helping meet community needs under an alternative accreditation model that met and exceeded state minimum standards.”

In 1982, Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center helped multiple women bring a lawsuit against the Bethseda Home for Girls and Reclamation Ranch.

According to the American Bar Association Journal, Gibbs III intentionally misled the committee to give the impression he was not connected to the Roloff Homes through the CLA.[xxxi] However, he denounced this depiction to HA, saying that his appearance during the hearing was not on behalf of the Roloff Homes. He said, “I appeared in Texas as general counsel to a number of churches for the Gibbs Law Firm,” adding that his statements during the trial were “focused on the faith-based community helping meet community needs under an alternative accreditation model that met and exceeded state minimum standards.”

Regardless of whom he represented, Gibbs III’s efforts on behalf of the legislation paid off. The legislation passed, allowing the troubled children’s network to return to Texas, once again without state supervision or licensing. When asked during this time about the three-decades-long history of abuses in the industry, Gibbs III described it as “a glitch alleged with one ministry.”[xxxii] When HA asked Gibbs if he still stands by that description today, he spoke affirmatively, saying, “I do not believe if you have one bad actor that you throw everyone in jail.”

The abuse continued. In 1997, a sixteen-year-old homeschooled boy named Aaron Anderson was physically abused and beaten at the Anchor Home, resulting in broken ribs.[xxxiii] In 1998, sixteen-year-old DeAnne Dawsey was forced into solitary confinement at the Rebekah Home, where she had a nervous breakdown. Faye Cameron (Wiley Cameron’s wife) and three male guards pinned DeAnne to the ground, bound her with duct tape, and kicked her in the ribs. They then neglected to provide her with medical attention.[xxxiv] Child Protection Services investigated and banned Faye Cameron from ever again working with children in the State of Texas.[xxxv]

Once again it was Gibbs III who defended the child abusers. He served as Faye Cameron’s attorney and diminished the seriousness of the charges. He praised her, saying she “served faithfully in that ministry in excess of thirty years.”[xxxvi] When first asked by HA about his representation of Cameron, Gibbs III denied any memory of the account, saying, “I do not recall representing Mrs. Cameron.” After HA provided him with evidence showing his involvement, he stated, “The details escape me.” However, when asked if he stands today by his comments back then regarding Cameron, Gibbs III said, “She did faithfully work there for 30 years.” HA reached out to the Texas Child Protective Services for comment, but they did not respond.

When asked by the ABA Journal in 2001 about the 3-decades-long history of abuses at the Roloff Homes, David C. Gibbs III described the history as “a glitch alleged with one ministry.”

Once again it was Gibbs III who defended the child abusers. He served as Faye Cameron’s attorney and diminished the seriousness of the charges. He praised her, saying she “served faithfully in that ministry in excess of thirty years.”[xxxvi] When first asked by HA about his representation of Cameron, Gibbs III denied any memory of the account, saying, “I do not recall representing Mrs. Cameron.” After HA provided him with evidence showing his involvement, he stated, “The details escape me.” However, when asked if he stands today by his comments back then regarding Cameron, Gibbs III said, “She did faithfully work there for 30 years.” HA reached out to the Texas Child Protective Services for comment, but they did not respond.

The abuse continued. In 2000, two teenagers, eighteen-year-old Justin Simons and seventeen-year-old Aaron James Cavallin, were physically abused[xxxvii] and urinated on by Lighthouse supervisors.[xxxviii] As a result, four Roloff staffers were arrested[xxxix] and Allen Smith, one of the Lighthouse supervisors, was convicted for unlawful restraint and prohibited from ever again working with youth.[xl] Wiley Cameron was arrested for failing to turn over records to the sheriff.[xli]

Yet again, Gibbs III defended the child abusers. As attorney for the CLA, he said People’s Baptist Church was conducting an internal investigation. He determined the abuse allegations were “highly exaggerated” and consequently defended Lighthouse and their discipline practices, saying they were not “overly harsh.”[xlii] When HA first asked about this investigation, Gibbs III denied knowledge of it, saying, “I have no recollection of any internal investigation at People’s Baptist Church.” After HA provided him with evidence showing his comments at the time, Gibbs III changed course and said he still believes the investigation discerned the allegations were exaggerated.

As recently as 2012, on his own organization NCLL’s website, David C. Gibbs III proudly declared his “twenty years of faithful service with the Christian Law Association.”

The next year found Gibbs III as the general counsel for the CLA.[xliii] As general counsel, he was directly involved in advocacy to roll back state oversight and licensing of youth homes through Religious Freedom Restoration Acts.[xliv] Through his involvement, homes established privacy policies requiring parents to relinquish parental rights and agree to not let child welfare workers interview their children.[xlv]

Gibbs III’s career as an advocate for child abusers is not limited to the troubled children industry.

The abuse continued. From 2001 to 2005, fifteen-year-old Brittany Campbell was psychologically and physically abused at the Rebekah Home (which was renamed New Beginnings Girls Academy in 2001).[xlvi] Michael Quinn, who attended the Anchor Home for Boys from 2002 to 2004, alleged verbal and physical abuse.[xlvii] In 2002, more than two-dozen former residents of Mountain Park Baptist Boarding Academy alleged experiences of abuse.[xlviii] Seventeen-year-old Jordan Blair filed a lawsuit against Mountain Park, accusing the school of abuse and imprisonment.[xlix] He eventually lost his imprisonment complaint because the judge determined that “his parents had a right to keep him there against his will.”[l]

Once again, Gibbs III provided a defense. After Mountain Park Baptist Boarding Academy was accused of abuse, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch interviewed him. He defended the homes, saying, “The media tend to fixate on a few unfortunate incidents.”[li] Furthermore, he specifically defended the right of parents to send children (like Jordan Blair) against their will to youth homes.[lii] When asked by HA if he still believes parents have the right to make such decisions, Gibbs III evaded, saying, “Parents cannot legally send children to a place that is abusive” (emphasis added).

Top: In the CLA’s 2011 990 form filed with the IRS, the Florida branch of David C. Gibbs III’s personal law firm, Gibbs Law Firm, is listed as an independent contractor for the CLA and the recipient of nearly $2.5 million from the CLA.
Bottom: In the CLA’s 2012 990 form filed with the IRS, the Texas branch of David C. Gibbs III’s personal law firm, Gibbs Law Firm, is listed as an independent contractor for the CLA and the recipient of over $1.5 million from the CLA.

The abuse continued. In 2003, at New Beginnings, sixteen-year-old Jamie Lee Schmude was beaten until bruised and forced to urinate on herself.[liii] Two other children at New Beginnings testified they were forced to hold Schmude down while she was beaten.[liv] In 2004, a supervisor at the Anchor Home for Boys (now renamed Anchor Academy), Justin Peterson, sexually assaulted a fifteen-year-old boy.[lv]

In 2005, the Mountain Park Baptist Boarding Academy faced a twenty-count complaint for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act, assault, battery, false imprisonment, negligence, negligence in providing medical treatment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, conversion, and fraud.[lvi] With Gibbs III as general counsel, the Christian Law Association defended the academy.[lvii]

Tragically, the child abuse continues, even to this day. Roxy’s story, with which this story began, occurred only a few years ago in 2011. Many of these homes continue to exist, renamed or moved to other states where they are exempt from state licensing or oversight.

Trinity Baptist Church

Gibbs III’s career as an advocate for child abusers is not limited to the troubled children industry. Gibbs III told HA that, on behalf of the CLA, he served as an attorney for Chuck Phelps. Phelps is a pastor who repeatedly aided and abetted child abusers at the church he pastored, Trinity Baptist Church. According to several sources, Gibbs III also provided legal assistance to Christine Leaf, a mother who abandoned her daughter after her daughter was raped by a member of Trinity Baptist. However, Gibbs III declined to provide HA with details of his involvement with Leaf, saying, “Whether or not I legally spoke with Mrs. Leaf is confidential under attorney-client privilege.”

In 1997, 15-year-old Tina Anderson was raped and impregnated by a member of Chuck Phelps’ Trinity Baptist Church. Image: Tina Anderson.

The stories from Trinity Baptist date back to 1994, when seventeen-year-old Cheryl’s stepfather began sexually assaulting her.[lviii] Cheryl’s family attended Trinity Baptist Church, pastored by Chuck Phelps. Cheryl told her mother but her mother did nothing. Cheryl then told her pastor, Phelps, who called the family into his office and told the stepfather he needed “to stop it.” [lix] The stepfather did not stop. He continued to molest Cheryl until she moved to California to live with her uncle two years later. Cheryl was told to “forgive and forget.”[lx] Phelps did not report the abuse.[lxi]

In 1996, Cheryl’s uncle, Robert Sheffield, became aware of Cheryl’s abuse. Sheffield called Chuck Phelps to talk about it. Sheffield was told by Phelps that Cheryl, again, “just needed to forgive and forget.”[lxii]

In a parallel event, beginning in 1996, fourteen-year-old Tina Anderson began babysitting for Ernest Willis, also a member of Phelps’ Trinity Baptist Church.[lxiii] The following year, Willis raped Anderson twice. Months later, Anderson was pregnant. Willis offered to either take her to an abortion clinic or punch her in the stomach to cause a miscarriage.[lxiv]

After telling her mother about the pregnancy, and her mother alerting Phelps, Tina was forced by her pastor to undergo “church discipline.” This involved Tina standing in front of the congregation and apologizing for her “sins.” Tina was told she should be happy she did not live in ancient Israel or she would be stoned. [lxv]

Tina was convinced not to press charges. At the urging of Tina’s mom Christine Leaf (but against Tina’s wishes), Phelps coordinated to have Tina moved across state lines.[lxvi] Phelps had Tina put the child up for adoption.[lxvii] To hide her, Tina was homeschooled and forced to have no contact with children her own age.[lxviii] While Phelps reported the rape to police,[lxix] his and Leaf’s action of moving Tina out of state prevented an investigation.[lxx]

Willis continued to be a member of Trinity Baptist Church “in good standing.” He also continued to have young girls babysit for him.[lxxi]

More than a decade passed. In February 2010, after hearing about similar abuse cases, Tina came forward with her story.[lxxii] Three months later, police arrested Ernest Willis and charged him with four felonies: two counts of rape and two counts of having sex with a minor.[lxxiii]

On May 20, 2016, Judge Kenneth L. Popejoy disqualified Gibbs III from the Bill Gothard sex abuse case, Gretchen Wilkinson v. IBLP.

Top: On behalf of the Christian Law Association, David C. Gibbs III (left) awards Dr. Earl Jessup (front, right) the Jack Hyles Memorial Award at First Baptist Church Hammond in 2010.
Bottom: David C. Gibbs III and David C. Gibbs Jr. look on as Jack Hyles’ son-in-law Jack Schaap congratulates Dr. Jessup for the Christian Law Association award. Two years later Schaap pleads guilty for trafficking a girl across state lines and raping her. Despite personal relationships with church leadership, the Christian Law Association is hired by the church to conduct an internal investigation. Image: YouTube.

The next year, Chuck Phelps issued a statement claiming that Willis’s rape of Anderson was consensual and “an ongoing sexual relationship.”[lxxiv] Phelps defended his allowing Willis to continue to be in the church, saying he “didn’t know that he had impregnated a fifteen-year-old girl” because “it was an accusation made, an accusation is not a conviction.”[lxxv]

It was Gibbs III who served as an attorney to both Chuck Phelps and Christine Leaf (Tina Anderson’s mom) during the trial of Willis.[lxxvi] Gibbs III told HA that, “I attended part of the trial and helped coordinate with government officials so Pastor Phelps could voluntarily come in from out-of-state to testify at trial on behalf of the prosecution.” However, several court witnesses—one of whom spoke directly to HA—contest Gibbs III’s account. According to them, he engaged in strange, manipulative courtroom behavior around Anderson[lxxvii] and tried to argue “pastoral privilege”/”clergy-congregant privilege” to keep Phelps from having to testify against Willis. Judge Larry Shumkler ruled against Gibbs III’s motion.[lxxviii] Willis was convicted of raping and impregnating Tina Anderson.[lxxix]

Inspired by Tina’s bravery, Cheryl—now 34 years old—went public in 2011 with her report of being sexually abused by her stepfather.[lxxx] Phelps attempted to portray her rape as a consensual act. Nonetheless, Gibbs III defended Phelps. He justified Phelps’ actions by saying Cheryl’s family told Phelps that CPS was already involved and the abuse was already reported.[lxxxi]

When HA asked Gibbs III about the Anderson trial, he said, “I am deeply saddened that Tina Anderson was abused by many trusted people in her life.  I admire her and her courage to speak out for victims.”

The Old Schoolhouse

Gibbs III’s advocacy for child abusers continued into 2014. In the spring of 2007, Geoff and Jenefer Igarashi discovered that the then-teenage son of Paul and Gena Suarez, owners of the popular homeschool magazine The Old Schoolhouse, “repeatedly molested” their six-year-old son.[lxxxii] Gena and Jenefer are sisters. Gena and Jenefer’s younger sister, “Megan,” accused the Suarezes of physically abusing their own children as well as physically abusing and sexually harassing her.[lxxxiii]

Roxy (right), whose 3 months at New Beginnings Girls Academy reduced her to a ghost of her former self, continues to struggle to this day. Image: ABC News.

In 2014, Gibbs III approached the Igarashis when they threatened to go public with this history of abuse.  At the time, The Old Schoolhouse was, like Gibbs III, a primary business partner for the Great Homeschool Conventions, and Gibbs III was a columnist for the magazine.[lxxxiv] According to a written report given to HA about the situation, “Gibbs eventually pushed Jenefer and Geoff to sign a mediation agreement he drafted. The agreement declared that the Suarezes agreed to stop ‘shunning’ the Igarashis but on the condition that Jenefer was to cease talking about all the potentially damning information they had. It was also insinuated that they could be sued if they chose to speak up.”[lxxxv] This closely resembled how New Beginnings explicitly prohibited “bringing civil lawsuits against other Christians or the church to resolve personal disputes.”[lxxxvi]

Gothard/IBLP Lawsuit

On May 20, 2016, Judge Kenneth L. Popejoy disqualified Gibbs III from the Bill Gothard sex abuse case, Gretchen Wilkinson v. IBLP. Gothard and IBLP had filed motions the previous February claiming that Gibbs was “playing both sides of the street” in the case. One of the motions contained an affidavit from Roger Blair, who was present when Gibbs first approached Gothard to talk about the abuse allegations. Blair alleged that Gibbs III offered to help Gothard derail the allegations against him. Blair testified that, “Mr. Gibbs spoke as if he were connected to the individuals behind Recovering Grace and had inside knowledge that would be valuable to Bill. I recall Mr. Gibbs saying, ‘I know how to handle it.’ He stated that Bill ‘was wronged’ and that it was unfair that ‘people are trying to destroy your ministry as well as other ministries.’ Mr. Gibbs stated that he read allegations on the Recovering Grace website and he knew that they were false. He said that he knew how to adequately respond to ‘get rid of it.’”[lxxxvii]

Gibbs III vociferously denied the allegations of misconduct, saying they were “a desperate attempt to attack the law firm that is publicly and legally holding [Gothard] accountable for years of child abuse.”[lxxxviii] But Judge Popejoy ruled against him. The judge declared that, “There is clearly a clouded, convoluted and inappropriate set of interactions that attorney Gibbs had among the entire set of circumstances and parties pertaining to the litigation.” As a result, the judge ruled, “It is completely and utterly inappropriate for attorney Gibbs to continue as legal counsel for the plaintiffs.”[lxxxix]


For years, David C. Gibbs III and his organizations pulled in millions of dollars[xc] while advocating on behalf of child abusers. When HA asked Gibbs if he stands today by his advocacy on behalf of the troubled children industry, he deflected, saying, “I am not perfect by any stretch but I do try to be principled.” While he added that he “do[es] not support the culture of the 1970’s that lacked transparency, abused, and covered up abuse,” he had no comment on his own decades-long role in creating that culture.

That culture directly enabled the troubled children industry to advance and thrive, shattering countless of children’s lives in its wake. The individuals whose childhoods were destroyed can never get them back. Their adulthoods are often similarly devastated. Roxy, whose three months at New Beginnings reduced her to a ghost of her former self, continues to struggle. She suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Despite counseling, Roxy is “doing terrible,” her mom says. “She has no self-worth.”[xci]

Her mom also worries for all the other young girls subjected to New Beginnings: “Many of these little girls will be terribly challenged to remember who God is after this experience.”[xcii]


[i] Susan Donaldson James, “Biblical Reform School Discipline: Tough Love or Abuse?,” ABC News, April 12, 2011, link, accessed on December 10, 2015.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Kathryn Joyce, “Horror Stories From Tough-Love Teen Homes,” Mother Jones, July/August 2011, link, accessed on December 10, 2015.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Pamela Colloff, “Remember the Christian Alamo,” Texas Monthly, December 2001, link, accessed on December 10, 2015.

[vi] James.

[vii] Chelsea Schilling, “Christian Giant Sued For ‘Using Nanny as Sex Object,’” WorldNetDaily, April 15, 2014, link, accessed on December 17, 2015.

[viii] William McCleery, “IBLP sued for its handling of alleged abuse and harassment,” WORLD Magazine, October 27, 2015, link, accessed on December 17, 2015.

[ix] Ryan Stollar, “’Desperate Attempt’: David C. Gibbs III Fires Back Against Bill Gothard, IBLP,” Homeschoolers Anonymous, link, accessed on May 5, 2016.

[x] Great Homeschool Conventions, “Sponsor: National Center for Life and Liberty,” link, accessed on December 17, 2015.

[xi] See, for example, David C. Gibbs III’s sermon on August 23, 2015 at Metropolitan Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, “Acts 4:29,” link, accessed on May 5, 2016.

[xii] Julie Anne Smith, “Which ‘Attorney David Gibbs’ Leads the Lawsuit of Lourdes Torres-Manteufel vs Douglas Phillips – the Father, or the Son?,” Spiritual Sounding Board, May 26, 2014, link, accessed on December 17, 2015.

[xiii] John Gibeaut, “Welcome to Hell,” ABA Journal, August 2001, p. 47.

[xiv] Roloff Evangelistic Enterprises, Inc., “About Our Ministry,” link, accessed on December 10, 2015.

[xv] Colloff.

[xvi] Maurice Chammah, “Tough Love or Abuse? Inside the Anchor Home for Boys,” Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, June 30, 2014, link, accessed on December 10, 2015.

[xvii] Mike Pare, “Authorities Ponder Course of Action; Status Unknown on Religious Colony,” Rome News-Tribune, October 3, 1980.

[xviii] Mike Pare, “Roloff would ‘delight’ in testing church issue,” Rome News-Tribune, October 31, 1980.

[xix] Colloff.

[xx] Ibid.

[xxi] Joyce.

[xxii] Colloff.

[xxiii] Reginald Stuart, “Home’s Ex-Inmates Tell of Beatings,” New York Times, March 5, 1982, link, accessed on December 9, 2015.

[xxiv] Kim Bell, “Insiders Tell of Boarding School Past and Present; Slaying in Missouri Follows Some Troubles in Mississippi,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 31, 1996, link, accessed on December 10, 2015.

[xxv] Ibid.

[xxvi] Great Homeschool Conventions, “Attorney David Gibbs,” link, accessed on May 6, 2016.

[xxvii] [xxvii] John Chadwick, “An abusive ordeal at boarding school fuels a haunting play,” Rutgers Focus, May 27, 2009, link, accessed on December 10, 2015.

[xxviii] Matthew Franck, “Reform schools find a haven here,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 17, 2002, link, accessed on December 10, 2015.

[xxix] Colloff.

[xxx] Ibid.

[xxxi] Gibeaut, p. 47-48.

[xxxii] Ibid.

[xxxiii] Chammah.

[xxxiv] Colloff.

[xxxv] Ibid.

[xxxvi] Dan Parker, “State forever bans Roloff home leader’s wife from working at facility; Faye Cameron, who was girls’ dorm mother, drops appeal of allegations,” Corpus Christi Caller Times, April 28, 2000, link, accessed on December 10, 2015.

[xxxvii] Hanna Rosin, “Two Arrested in Texas Child Abuse Case,” Washington Post, April 11, 2000, link, accessed on December 10, 2015.

[xxxviii] Dan Parker, “Youths find structure at church homes; Lawyer calls some allegations of abuse ‘highly exaggerated’,” Corpus Christi Caller Times, April 16, 2000, link, accessed on December 10, 2015.

[xxxix] Gibeaut, p. 45.

[xl] Guy H. Lawrence, “Former Roloff supervisor gets probation; Unlawful restraint conviction also carries fine, public service,” Corpus Christi Caller Times, June 11, 2014, link, accessed on December 10, 2015.

[xli] Rosin.

[xlii] Parker, “Youths find.”

[xliii] Pam Belluck, “Many States Ceding Regulations to Church Groups,” New York Times, July 27, 2001, link, accessed on December 10, 2015.

[xliv] Belluck.

[xlv] Gibeaut, p. 48.

[xlvi] James.

[xlvii] Chammah.

[xlviii] Franck, “Reform schools.”

[xlix] Matthew Franck, “Suit Says Mountain Park Religious School Uses Barbaric Discipline; Founder Calls Ex-Student’s Allegations Ridiculous,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 9, 2002, link, accessed on December 10, 2015.

[l] Associated Press, “Federal Judge rules for Baptist boarding school in Missouri,” Nevada Daily Mail, April 9, 2004.

[li] Franck, “Schools hail.”

[lii] Franck, “Reform schools.”

[liii] Alexandra Zayas, “Religious exemption at some Florida children’s homes shields prying eyes,” Tampa Bay Times, October 26, 2012, link, accessed on December 10, 2015.

[liv] Zayas.

[lv] Associated Press, “School worker accused of assault,” Billings Gazette, July 9, 2004, link, accessed on December 10, 2015.

[lvi] Jamie Kaufmann WOODS, et al., Plaintiffs, v. Bob WILLS, et al., Defendants, United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division, November 18, 2005.

[lvii] Woods vs. Wills.

[lviii] Maddie Hanna, “New sex case tied to church congregation: Woman says she was molested,” Concord Monitor, June 10, 2011, link, accessed on December 9, 2015.

[lix] Ibid.

[lx] Ibid.

[lxi] Associated Press, “2nd woman says pastor ignored assault,” Boston Globe, June 10, 2011, link, accessed on December 9, 2015.

[lxii] Hanna, June 10.

[lxiii] Trent Spiner, “Police: girl raped, then relocated,” Concord Monitor, May 25, 2010, link, accessed on December 9, 2015.

[lxiv] Spiner.

[lxv] Ibid.

[lxvi] Ibid.

[lxvii] Lynne Tuohy, Associated Press, “Ernest Willis, Convicted Of Raping 15-Year-Old Church Member, Won’t Get New Trial,” Huffington Post, August 21, 2013, link, accessed on December 9, 2015.

[lxviii] Spiner.

[lxix] Ibid.

[lxx] Maddie Hanna, “Pastor fires back in new abuse case; Ex-Trinity leader says police knew,” Concord Monitor, June 11, 2011, link, accessed on December 9, 2015.

[lxxi] Alan B. Goldberg, Gail Deutsch, Susan James, Sean Dooley, “Compassion or Cover-Up? Teen Victim Claims Rape; Forced Confession in Church,” ABC News, April 8, 2011, link, accessed on December 9, 2015.

[lxxii] Spiner.

[lxxiii] Ibid.

[lxxiv] Goldberg, Deutsch, James, Dooley.

[lxxv] Ibid.

[lxxvi] Chuckles Travels, “Under the Wheels of the Chuck Phelps Bus,” May 25, 2011, link, accessed on December 9, 2015.

[lxxvii] Amy Coveno, “Trial of Ernest Willis Continues,” WMUR 9 ABC, May 24, 2011, link, accessed on December 9, 2015.

[lxxviii] Ibid. Also, Chuckles Travels, “Ernie Willis Sentenced~Chuck Phelps Lies Again,” September 13, 2011, link, accessed on December 9, 2015.

[lxxix] Tuohy.

[lxxx] Hanna, June 10.

[lxxxi] Ibid.

[lxxxii] Hännah Ettinger and R.L. Stollar, “When Homeschool Leaders Looked Away: The Old Schoolhouse Cover-Up,” Homeschoolers Anonymous, October 8, 2014, link, accessed on December 10, 2015.

[lxxxiii] Ibid.

[lxxxiv] Ibid.

[lxxxv] Ibid.

[lxxxvi] James.

[lxxxvii] Ryan Stollar, Homeschoolers Anonymous, “Bill Gothard and IBLP File Motions to Disqualify David C. Gibbs III,” February 20, 2016, link, accessed on May 23, 2016.

[lxxxviii] Ryan Stollar, Homeschoolers Anonymous, “’Desperate Attempt’: David C. Gibbs III Fires Back Against Bill Gothard, IBLP,” February 20, 2016, link, accessed on May 23, 2016.

[lxxxix] Ryan Stollar, Homeschoolers Anonymous, “Lead Attorney for Plaintiffs Disqualified from Bill Gothard Sex Abuse Case,” May 23, 2016, link, accessed on May 23, 2016.

[xc] In 2002, the CLA drew nearly $3 million in donations. See David Karp, “Schindlers’ attorney is used to tough cases,” St. Petersburg Times, March 31, 2005, link, accessed on December 10, 2015. The most recent numbers for the CLA show that it received more than $3 million in 2013. See Guidestar, “Christian Law Association,” link, accessed on December 18, 2015. Similarly, the National Center for Life and Liberty received more than $1.2 million in 2013. See GuideStar, “National Center for Life and Liberty,” link, accessed on December 18, 2015.

[xci] Ibid.

[xcii] Ibid.

No Longer Afraid: A. Drake’s Story

Content Warning: Descriptions of child abuse, sexual abuse, animal abuse, and transphobia

It was 5am. I woke before dawn and got ready for work in the dark. I went outside into the cold fall air, my breath visible. I went around the side of my car and my heart stopped. My father was kneeling in the frost and gravel next to my driver’s door. He didn’t say a word. I quickly ran back into my house, bolted the door, and woke my boyfriend. “My father is outside,” I said, my voice shaking. “I think he’s here to scare me or kill me; I’m not sure which one.” He jumped up and went outside, but my father was gone.

In the aftermath of that day, I broke family scripts: I called the police.

His behavior alone was creepy and stalking. But the more disturbing thing was that he shouldn’t have known where I lived. Unbeknownst to me, my younger brother had disregarded my concerns about my safety and told my father where I lived. The day before, my older sibling had mentioned to my parents that I was working early the next day. And my father was waiting for me that morning.

It’s been 5 years since that day. For the first 2 years, I left my house every morning for work, prepared to do battle with a spook, a stalker that may or may not be there. And every day he wasn’t there in body, he was there in spirit. I lived my life with the knowledge he might be around the next corner. I wouldn’t know if he was empty-handed or if he had a weapon. Or even worse, I might never see him coming.

Growing up, I worried a lot about the day when my father would snap and murder all of us.

One day, us three older siblings sat my youngest brother down and said “Nathan, what do you think would happen if mom tried to leave dad?” He thought about it for a second. And then without missing a beat he said “I think he would try to kill all of us.” We looked at each other and said “Even he sees it, even he knows.” He was 11. We lived with that reality from birth.

I worried. I worried so much. I worried that if my mother spent too much money on groceries, my father would get angry. I worried that if I didn’t read the Bible long enough each morning before breakfast, my father would get angry. I worried that if I wasn’t contrite enough in spirit, my father would get angry. I worried that when my father got angry, he would hurt us.

Like the Sunday morning my brother went to church with my father’s hand-prints bruised around his neck because he had the audacity to try and walk out of a room when my father was angry. The youth pastor teased him about the bruises being hickies from his girlfriend.

Like the night at the kitchen table when my father became angry. He reached under the kitchen table and pulled out the 60-pound dog lying there. He picked the dog up by the throat with one hand, and threw him down the basement stairs, closing the door in a calm, controlled manner.

See, some people think anger is an explosion. Sometimes, it is. And sometimes, it is the coldest thing you will ever experience.

And sometimes, the anger wasn’t the scariest thing. Sometimes, it was the sound of my bedroom door softly sliding across the carpet at 2 a.m. It was the sound of my breathing as I tried to regulate it so he wouldn’t know I was awake. It was the feeling of his rigid cock pressed into my lower back as I hoped he would leave without raping me.

Sometimes it was the existential agony of knowing that my abuse was either sanctioned by god and I deserved it or god didn’t care enough to intervene.

It was the soul rending pain in my heart, knowing my father was right – I was worthless, useless, and unlovable. It was the bone-searing rage that wanted to tear apart all the people who saw the signs of abuse and turned away. It was the trapped animal in my brain, trying to cut me free from this torturous captivity through the surface of my skin.

And my father was the good Christian who sang hymns at church, chatted with the teens and deacons, and made small talk with everyone. So at the end of the day, if I said something negative about him, I was told I was a bad child, a rebellious teenager. That I must stop speaking ill of my parents, that I must stop lying.

I was raised in a conservative, fundamentalist Christian household. I was homeschooled kindergarten through 12th grade. And somehow I escaped.

I wasn’t supposed to.

My life was not built to prepare me to fly; it was built to contain me in a cage with my wings clipped, never thinking for myself, never dreaming any bigger than the bars that held me.

My narrative is similar to many others who went before me and will come after me, though it is complicated in some ways by the fact that I am both queer and transgender. Neither of those things blatantly came to the surface growing up. I had far more pressing things to worry about, like survival of my physical body and preservation of my mind and spirit, and so I buried my gender and sexuality as best I could. But I couldn’t bury them deep enough. Even if people didn’t often target me directly, they spoke with derision and scorn about queer and trans people in general. My parents and the church I grew up in were homophobic and transphobic. I knew from a young age that who I was, deep inside, was an abomination, anathema, and abhorrent. Those attitudes heavily impacted my internal self-concept; I still struggle with feeling broken and shameful regarding my queerness and transness.

My younger brother did not escape; he left but his wounds were infected with my parents’ poison. He was my best friend for years but he became increasingly racist, homophobic, transphobic, controlling, and abusive as time passed. A few years after I helped him leave my parents’ house, he cut me out as I set boundaries around his increasingly abusive behavior. He made it clear he reviled my gender and sexuality. My youngest brother is still at home with my parents. He has not escaped either. The minimal contact I had with him through text stopped completed after I came out to him as trans.

My older sibling has escaped; they live an hour away from me. They are queer, just like me. We support one another. We have an adult relationship now; we have worked past the experience of our parents pitting us against each other. We are able to affirm for each other what childhood was like.

With time, I found myself wondering if I imagined things or if I made them out to be worse than they truly were.

After being a victim of [gaslighting] for so many years, it’s hard to believe your own brain. But having a comrade to tell you “oh no, I remember that. Do you remember this?” is validating and bonding. It is family. I have begun to build my chosen family of partners and friends, people who love and respect me.

I am 28 years old. I left my parents’ house when I was 19. I have not returned. They still live in the 4 bedroom colonial where I was raised. They still send me mail to a PO box I set up when I moved. I didn’t want them to know where I lived because I was afraid of being stalked and killed. I did not register to vote at my new address for 3 years because I was afraid: voting information is public record.

But there came the day when I had a dream. Until that point, my dreams had always involved my father trying to hurt me or someone I loved. In the dream, I would be too slow, like was I stuck in molasses, or I would hit him and it would do nothing. I would be a helpless observer to abuse, as I had been throughout my childhood. But there came the day when I had a dream. And I beat the shit out of my father. I knew then I had really and truly escaped.

I am no longer afraid of my parents. I have not just survived; I am thriving. I know myself and what I can endure. I am no longer afraid what would happen if my father showed up. Because I have grown and know now that I am stronger than he is.

Child Abuse Prevention in the Church is Not Big Government

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Eleanor Skelton’s blog The Girl Who Once Lived in a Box.  It was originally published on January 3, 2016.

Back in high school I used to love Andrée Seu Peterson’s column. I read her pieces first when our copy of World magazine arrived in the mail every week. She always made me think because she was less conservative than my homeschool textbooks, and I admired her writing style.

I haven’t read World magazine since I moved out–the subscription is expensive and I’ve had too much reading for college. Last year, though, I read about her problematic column on bisexuality in posts from Libby Anne and Samantha Field.

But in her article “Houses Taken Over” in the Nov. 14, 2015 issue, Peterson argues government oversight like food safety guidelines and background checks for child care are intrusive. She even suggests following such protocol is equivalent to Nazi Germany’s laws against Jewish people. Here we go again with Godwin’s law.

It was not long ago that the state cracked down on church homemade desserts here in Pennsylvania. The year was 2009, and as an elderly parishioner of St. Cecilia’s began unwrapping wares baked by fellow church members, a state inspector on the premises noticed that they were not store-bought and forbade their sale. It was the end of Mary Pratte’s coconut cream pie, Louise Humbert’s raisin pie, and Marge Murtha’s “farm apple” pie, as well as a tradition as old as church socials.

We Christians are a good lot, by and large. We know Romans 13 and desire to be model citizens. Would we have been sad but obedient when the 1933 “Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service” barred people of Jewish descent from employment in government? Would we have had searchings of heart but complied with the 1935 “Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor” that interdicted marriage between Jew and German? Would we have sighed but acquiesced in 1938, when government contracts could no longer be awarded to Jewish businesses, and in October of that year when Jews were required to have a “J” stamped on their passports?

If the local church cannot be trusted to know its people well enough to decide who is fit for nursery duty, there is nothing much to say, except that we had better get back to a New Testament model where pastors knew their flock. If bakers of coconut cream pies are notoriously dangerous people, then we have brought these statist regulations on ourselves, and more’s the pity. 

The woman sitting to my right at the ESL meeting said (not disapprovingly) that from now on if a junior high event takes place at someone’s house, a person must be present who has state clearance. I hazarded at that point that it looked like government intrusion, and no one said a word, as if I had passed gas and everyone pretended I had not. As if I were the kind of person who did not care about the children.

Peterson’s article fails to differentiate between Hitler’s laws, which discriminated against Jews based off propaganda, and laws to prevent child abuse, which only restrict people convicted of a heinous crime. She also sounds defensive, as if she finds regulations burdensome and cannot understand why no one else at her church agrees with her.

American Christianity protests the removal of religious symbols from public parks, but pleads for separation of church and state when any government regulation affects church functioning. This is hypocritical. This attitude also ignores the very real problem of child abuse in both Catholic and Protestant circles.

When I know that a church is following state and national guidelines, I feel safer being with that group of people. The church I recently joined requires a background check and a child protection training course for any volunteers, and I did not protest. I actually told the nursery workers, “I’m really glad you do this.”childprotectiontraining1

The 12 page booklet provides extensive definitions and examples of sex offender patterns and contrasts it with cultural stereotypes, as well as defining what is and is not appropriate protocol when working with children. childprotectiontraining3

Peterson says in her column that background checks would mean less available childcare at her church.

The far-seeing ESL director realized the implications and judged that it would be prudent to scrap the baby-sitting: Fewer people would be willing to take the extra step of filling out the necessary forms. The resulting smaller pool of workers would mean that our ESL cadre would be in competition with the Women’s Bible Study ministry and the Sunday nursery ministry for manpower.

But the quiz at the end of my church’s child protection course is clear that the intent is not to prevent people from volunteering. Protecting children is the first priority.

Christians believe that Jesus said “If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6) If the church wants to follow this teaching, we need to be preventing child abuse through the best methods currently known.

Homeschool parents often argue that government involvement is a bad thing, and HSLDA actively encourages this. Slate magazine, the New York Times, and the Daily Beast have all reported on the lack of regulation. No accountability enables child abuse and educational neglect. This past Thanksgiving, KGOU’s article about homeschool regulation in Oklahoma was met with so much backlash from the homeschool lobby that an entire interview was withdrawn.

Societies have rules, at least in theory, so that their people can live in peace and be treated justly. Every community needs to protect the children and disadvantaged.

Michael Pearl’s Advice is Child Abuse (According to His Own Definition)

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Hypocrisy occurs when someone claims to have moral standards or beliefs to which their own behavior does not conform. If I tell you that treating your child with respect is important, and then instruct you to disrespect your child, I am a hypocrite.

Michael Pearl is a hypocrite.

This matters a whole lot because ever since high-profile cases of child murder like Sean Paddock, Lydia Schatz, and Hana Williams were linked to Pearl’s teachings, he has repeatedly claimed that those children’s parents did not follow his teachings correctly — that what those children’s parents did “is diametrically opposed to the philosophy of No Greater Joy Ministries.” They misinterpreted. They took it to the extreme. They were abusive, whereas he makes clear you should not abuse.

But Michael Pearl says one thing and then instructs parents to do another. Let me give you an example. This is from Pearl’s September 2001 article “In Defense of Biblical Chastisement, Part 2,” under the section, “When is it abuse?”:

If your child is broken in spirit, cowed and subdued, you have a problem.

This seems pretty straightforward — and in line with Pearl’s claim that there is a line between legitimate child training and child abuse. The standards are simple: if your child training results in your child being cowed and subdued, you have a problem. The problem? You are abusing your child. Hence this section being titled, “When is it abuse?” No Greater Joy Ministries itself lifts up this article as proof that the Pearls condemn child abuse.

Here is the catch: Michael Pearl gives the very opposite instructions elsewhere. This is from Pearl’s July 1998 article “Angry Child,” an article that addresses how to spank a so-called “angry child”:

I could break his anger in two days. He would be too scared to get angry. On the third day he would draw into a quiet shell and obey.

This also seems pretty straightforward. Michael Pearl proclaims his own self-mastery of godly child training: in two days, he can take the angriest of children and render them (1) “scared” and (2) “drawn into a quiet shell.”

Let us go back to Pearl’s definition of child abuse:

If your child is broken in spirit, cowed and subdued, you have a problem.

What does “cowed” mean? It means “scared.”

What does “subdued” mean? It means “drawn into a quiet shell.”

The very things that Pearl says are indicators of abuse are the very things Pearl says are the signs that one has mastered his techniques.

Let me give you another example. In the aforementioned “Biblical Chastisement” article, Pearl says:

You are abusing the child when it starts doing harm to the child.

Again, this is straightforward. Child training crosses the line into child abuse when you are causing damage to your child.

Now look at Pearl’s advice in the “Angry Child” article:

A proper spanking leaves children without breath to complain. If he should tell you that the spanking makes him madder, spank him again. If he is still mad…. He desperately needs an unswayable authority, a cold rock of justice.

Yet again, this is straightforward. Godly child training, or “a proper spanking” as Pearl says, “leaves children without breath.”

I do not mean to get super scientific, but (1) there are no lungs in the human buttocks and (2) breathing comes naturally to a healthy child. Pain inflicted on the human buttocks will therefore only disrupt a child’s intake of oxygen by spiking the child’s stress hormones to a literally traumatic level. That is to say: to spank your child to the point that they cannot take in oxygen, you have to cause nervous system dysregulation. You must overwhelm the child’s brain with pain to the point that the brain’s ability to perform normal human functions — like breathing — become disintegrated. This is why trauma is accompanied by breathing difficulties.

If you are spanking a child to the point that they cannot breathe, you are literally harming their brain. Furthermore, you are potentially disrupting many other aspect of the child’s development. While humans in general have a need for oxygen, children are particularly in need of it. The World Health Organization notes this:

Children have a dynamic physiology that is not only turned up to “high” because of growth demands, but also vulnerable to damage during differentiation and maturation of organs and systems. Their needs for energy, water and oxygen are higher, because they go through an intense anabolic process… Children breathe more air per kilogram of body weight than adults at rest… An infant has three times the minute ventilation of an adult and a 6-year-old has double.

Let us assume, simply for the sake of argument, that spanking your child with a “cold rock of justice” is not child abuse in itself. Let us assume, simply for the sake of argument, that spanking your child repeatedly — never stopping until your child submits because Michael Pearl says in To Train Up a Child that “If you stop before he is voluntarily submissive, you have confirmed to him the value and effectiveness of a screaming protest” (p. 80) — does not cause rhambdolysis (Lydia Schatz’s cause of death). Even assuming those two points, we are still left with the fact that spanking your child until they cannot breathe does physical harm to your child.

When does Pearl say child training turns to child abuse? “When it starts doing harm to the child.”

What does Pearl say child training must do? “Leaves children without breath.”

The very things that Pearl says are indicators of abuse are the very things Pearl says are the signs that one has mastered his techniques.

Michael Pearl’s advice is child abuse according to his own definition.

Jonathan and Alison Schumm Abuse Case Raises Questions

Alison and Jonathan Schumm.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog, Love, Joy, Feminism. It was originally published on November 25, 2015.

Given my interest in homeschool reform, I am familiar with many if not most of the entries at the Coalition for Responsible Home Education’s Homeschooling’s Invisible Children database. This database was started by homeschool alumni concerned about the role homeschooling can play in intensifying and hiding abuse by allowing abusive parents to isolate their children. (I suppose this is where I add the caveat that I am not anti-homeschooling, just pro-accountability.)

Anyway, I found the most recent entry interesting for several reasons. Let’s take a look:

Five children between the ages of 5 and 16 were physically abused by Jonathan Robert Schumm and Allison Nicole Schumm. Jonathan Schumm was a Topeka Councilman, Allison Schumm blogged extensively about their lives, and the Schumms had received an Angels in Adoption award in 2013. They had 4 biological children and 10 adopted children (two sibling groups of 5, adopted in 2008 and 2013), and were fostering 2 additional children when they were arrested. The Schumms’ biological children were homeschooled, and the adopted children were removed from public schools to be homeschooled as soon as their adoptions were finalized.

According to court documents, a 12-year-old child was tortured or beaten by the Schumms, and 4 others were also physically abused, in October 2015. The family had been previously investigated by child protective services in 2013 during their second adoption proceedings after a child’s foster family reported bruising on him and abuse of the other children. In her blog, Allison Schumm describes placing her other children with a relative during the CPS investigation so that they could not be questioned. The reports were ruled unfounded. Schumm also describes forcing some of the adopted children (younger than 10 years) to carry heavy burdens across the yard as punishment.

Jonathan Schumm was charged with one count of aggravated battery or child abuse for the 12-year-old and four counts of child endangerment for the other children. Allison Schumm was charged with the same crimes, though as an accomplice. The children were removed from their home by child protective services.

I was surprised that the family received an Angels in Adoption award with (apparently) so little vetting. I read through the linked posts in which Allison tells her family’s adoption story (part 1part 2, and part 3) and found additional details. It seems the Angels in Adoption award was not the only one the family received. Shortly before adopting the second sibling group of five, the Schumms received the “Project Belong 2013 Adoptive Family of the year” award. I also learned that the Schumms were initially told they would not be permitted to adopt this second sibling group, because they already had eight children (three biological and five adopted).

A few short days later we were told that because of our family size and the needs of the children we would not be able to adopt them. Our whole family spent the day we found out terribly depressed, but God used worship music to encourage us. We sat in the van with 5 empty seats waiting to eat lunch at the park with the Hoffman’s and God used these words to remind us that he was in control of everything. “I know who goes before me, I know who stands behind, the God of angel armies is always by my side.” God knew this would happen and it was well within His hands, we just needed to trust and obey. The very next song we hear the chorus “Don’t give up, help is surely on its way, don’t give up, the dark is breaking in today, just keep on moving through these storms and soon enough you’ll find the door, just don’t give up, oh, and don’t give up” We later found out that before we even knew we were turned down God’s hand was moving. Many people had already been working behind the scenes to get DCF to change their mind about the adoption. Our friends and family wrote countless letters explaining our hearts and support system. Those who didn’t write lifted us up in prayer.

Ultimately, in the face of this support for the Schumms, DCF changed their mind.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-adoption. I have, however, read more than a few stories where couples have adopted oversized families, sometimes over concerns from DCF or other agencies, and have later been found guilty of abuse or neglect. I’ve also read more than a few stories where these oversized families are praised by politicians or given awards, and then turn out to be abusive. We’ve seen this before here on the blog, such as when I wrote my 2013 post, HSLDA: Man Who Kept Children in Cages a “Hero”.

In that post, I wrote about Michael and Sharon Gravelle, who adopted eleven special needs children and were found to be keeping those children in cages, beating them, and holding their heads under water in the toilet. According to the Akron Beacon Journal, as quoted in my post:

Scott Somerville, an attorney with the Home School Legal Defense Association in Virginia, said he talked with Michael Gravelle before the story broke in the media, and he believes this is a family trying to help special children.

When a social worker visited the house last week, there was no resistance to an inspection, said Somerville, whose organization represents home-schooling families on legal matters.

“They had nothing to hide,” Somerville said. “He told me why they adopted these children and told me the problems they were trying to solve.

“I think he is a hero.”

There seems to be an automatic assumption that any family that would adopt ten or eleven children—and especially special needs children—must by definition be worthy of praise and honor. Here’s another example from Homeschooling’s Invisible Children, this one from 2005:

Wilson and Brenda Sullivan’s 17 year old mentally handicapped adopted son was found caged in a crib by investigators responding to an anonymous tip. He was severely malnourished and weighed only 49 pounds, less than what he weighed when the couple had adopted him at age 7 ten years prior. Two other adopted children, aged 10, were kept in similar cages. The family homeschooled. The couple had been praised for their willingness to adopt special needs children by the governor himself in 1995. Wilson died before the trial was completed, and Brenda was found guilty and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

There is a serious problem with the assumption that everyone who adopts does so with good intentions and aware of their limitations—it’s simply not true. Another website database, Pound Pup Legacy, tracks cases of abuse among adopted children in an effort to call for reform of the adoption process. A quick perusal of their website should disabuse any reader of the idea that adoptive parents are always motivated by altruism.

Regular readers of my blog are familiar with the concept of childbearing as a form of child collecting. Within the quiverfull movement, large families are praised and the more children a woman bears the more highly the family is regarded. I grew up in a family influenced by this movement and I well remember the feelings of superiority that came along with being part of an oversized family. But children are a lot of work, and every additional child divides the amount of time a parent can spend on any individual child. There’s a reason the youngest Duggar children would run to their older sisters, and not their mother, if they were hurt or upset.

In some cases, adoption can function similarly, providing couples with a means to expanding their families far beyond what most people would feel capable of handling. Jonathan and Allison Schumm adopted five children and had three of their own and another on the way. With eight children and one on the way, most parents would focus their energy on the children they had, but the Schumms felt compelled to adopt more children. And given the awards they were receiving, I think it’s safe to say that their oversized family brought them attention and praise, and some degree of status within the adoptive community. And Allison herself wrote that she was not “done.”

It’s perhaps worth noting that the Allison used quiverfull language on her blog. Some segments of the quiverfull movement deify adoption and praise it as yet one more way to expand one’s family. I grew up reading Above Rubies magazine, with its stories of adoption and family expansion. It was only years later that I learned that many of these adoptions failed, given that they were initiated for the wrong reasons and carried out by parents with extremely concerning approaches to parenting and childrearing. You can read more in Kathryn Joyce’s seminal article, Orphan Fever.

In the end, I am left wondering about the process for receiving an Angels in Adoption award. It turns out that the Schumms are not the first family to receive this award and later be found to be abusive. According to Pound Pup Legacy:

Jerry Sandusky received an award out of the hands of Rick Santorum, a decision that needed to be reverted back in 2011, when it became clear Sandusky had molested several boys, including his own adopted son.

Senator Chuck Grassley, awarded Damien and Allonna Stovall with an Angel in Adoption, in 2012. Six months later, the couple was charged with beating their adopted children with belts and wooden spoons, although those charges were later dropped.

In 2007, Representative Patrick Murphy determined an award should be given to Steven G. Dubin, whom at the time was under investigation for fraudulent adoption practices . . .

In 2005, convicted criminal, Representative William Jefferson, nominated one of his cronies Renee Gill Pratt, and a year later, Senator Johnny Isakson awarded Faith Allen, the former “savior” of Masha Allen, who abandoned her adopted daughter in Washington DC, the day after the Angel in Adoption gala.

Does the process involve speaking with the adopted children? All I could find on the Angels in Adoption website was that you can nominate a family for the award. I was unable to learn anything further about the process, and that leaves me with questions. Is this award about the children, or about the parents? How about adoption? Is it about the children, or about the parents?

Those two entities—and their interests—are not identical.

Doug Wilson Continues to Twist the Truth About Child Molester Jamin C. Wight

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Natalie Rose Greenfield’s blog My Naptime Journal. It was originally published on October 1, 2015.

For background information about Doug Wilson, Jamin C. Wight, and Natalie Rose Greenfield, see The Jamin C. Wight Story: The Other Child Molester in Doug Wilson’s Closet.

Once again the spotlight is being taken from the only place it has ever belonged.

Once again accusations against my parents for allowing a ‘secret courtship’ to occur between my 14 year-old self and my abuser have been plastered all over the Internet. Comments about my physical appearance as a young teen are being used to redefine the nature of the criminal activity. A severe and dangerous contorting of my story by people who were not there is taking place and while this means a very uncomfortable re-shaming for myself and my family, the deeper concern is what it means for future victims. The marginalization of a serious and devastating crime does not bode well at all for others who will suffer abuse in the future.

The church’s lack of acknowledgment of mishandling the situation and causing further devastation to myself and my family and to the individuals my abuser would go on to hurt is disheartening and deplorable. It is tarnishing not only Pastor Wilson’s reputation but the reputation of every pastor in the CREC denomination and every last member of those churches, for that matter. Another such pastor reached out to me earlier this morning, one removed from this particular situation, and he expressed his severe disappointment in how I and my family were treated and are continuing to be treated. He wanted me to know not everyone in the CREC feels this way and that there is serious questioning happening from within.

I have heard from myriads of others, some within the denomination and some not, who are appalled at the way sexual abuse within the church is handled. Personally, I have experienced a wide range of emotions concerning all of this but the overwhelming emotion recently has been sadness – sadness that a pastor’s gross misunderstanding of abuse, consent, and criminal behavior has resulted in such harm and shaming and will inevitably result in harm to others who are abused. I am sad that he cannot humbly admit wrongdoing and begin to rebuild a system which is broken, a system which perpetuates abuse and marginalizes victims, which in turn creates a ripple effect of devastation and pain.

Doug was not in my home when my parents discussed allowing Jamin to court me.

Doug was not in the room when they spoke about whether or not we should be allowed to hold hands. I imagine he may have something in writing from them, perhaps asking advice or seeking guidance on the situation and this may shed light on the foolishness and naivety of some of my parent’s choices. The fact that my parents trusted a dangerous and conniving criminal to respect the boundaries they had set is no secret and yes, it’s embarrassing. They have sought my forgiveness heartily over the years and I have unconditionally given it. But I would like to also point at that neither was Doug in the room when my father said, No. I am not comfortable with this. There will be no courtship. There will be no hand-holding. Do not touch my daughter and do not foster a relationship with her. Doug was not with my father as time dragged on and he began to become suspicious of Jamin. He was not in the hallway with my father where he sat on a chair in the middle of the night watching my bedroom door to make sure I was safe and protected. If only he had known my father’s heart, and yet he is quick to place blame on two parents who were deceived and manipulated by a calculated criminal.

The fact that my parents were deceived does not change the nature of Jamin’s crime.

The fact that my parents had moments of naivety does not merit letters from a pastor requesting leniency for a man who the prosecuting attorney called ‘a textbook pedophile’ and place a massive amount of blame on a father already broken by the news of his daughter’s abuse. The fact that I was beautiful and stood taller than my abuser does not lessen or change the sickening nature of what he did to me. The fact that I was infatuated with him and lived to please him does not mean that I was asking for it. Nobody asked for it.

In a response published on the widely viewed Christian publication, The American Conservative, earlier today, Doug calls what happened ‘sexual behavior’. A conveniently softened term for the abuse that took place.

Doug says about he and the elders, “we wanted him (Jamin) to pay the penalty for that criminal behavior, which was a species of statutory rape.” What Jamin did was severe far beyond statutory rape, though it did include that. Jamin targeted, groomed, and molested me for several years while manipulating and deceiving every other person around him in order to cover his crime. Jamin is a sexual predator in every sense of the word.

Doug writes “The reason we did not want it (the crime) treated as pedophilia is that her parents had bizarrely brought Jamin into the house as a boarder so that he could conduct a secret courtship with Natalie. So Jamin was in a romantic relationship with a young girl, her parents knew of the relationship and encouraged it, her parents permitted a certain measure of physical affection to exist between them (e.g. hand-holding), Natalie was a beautiful and striking young woman, and at the time was about eight inches taller than Jamin was. Her parents believed that she was mature enough to be in that relationship, and the standards they set for the relationship would have been reasonable if she had in fact been of age and if the two had not been living under the same roof.”

This paragraph is so full of untruths it makes my head spin.

I’m not sure if Doug is deliberately twisting the truth or if he is basing his version of events on incomplete information (my sincere hope is that it’s the latter), but these allegations are simply false. As I said before, he was not there for any of this. There were discussions of this nature but the truth is that Jamin and I did not develop and maintain a romantic relationship under the encouragement of my parents. It is false, and from where I stand it is dangerously close to slander. Additionally and most importantly, why the hell does it matter? These grandiose and desperate attempts to take the attention away from what matters and place it where it does not belong is truly frightening and it’s hurting real people.

Doug is spending an awful lot of time and energy saying things like this “But please note well: Things like her height, apparent maturity, and parental knowledge of the fact of a relationship are simply irrelevant to the morality of Jamin’s behavior. They are irrelevant to the criminality of his behavior. They are irrelevant to whether Jamin was selfishly manipulating a young girl, preying on her for his own selfish ends. They are irrelevant to whether it was statutory rape or not. But such things were not irrelevant to whether it was pedophilia.” when he should be spending time and energy saying “We messed up. We defended a really bad guy. I wrote to a judge and an officer on his behalf and it directly effected the outcome of the sentencing. We failed the victim, we didn’t extend to her the love of Christ and offer her the resources she so desperately needed. We blamed her parents disproportionately, we talked about her physical appearance and said it changed the nature of Jamin’s crimes. We are deeply sorry and we want to learn how we can educate ourselves and how we can do things differently in the future so that more innocent people are not hurt and shamed and subsequently driven away. We want to learn from this mishandled situation.”

Will that ever happen? I hope so very much that it will. I hope we can stop talking about the things that don’t matter and start talking about things that do, like how we can spot potentially abusive situations before they escalate and destroy lives, how we can educate our youth to have strong voices about their own bodies and sexuality, how we can create a system in which criminals are not readily trusted and given opportunities to re-offend, how we can foster an environment in which victims feel as though they are unconditionally supported and cared for, free of suffocating judgement and blame…This what truly matters.

Doug sums up the way he feels about his role in my situation “…it is also a snarl where it is possible to look back with a clean conscience.”

He has no regrets and clearly no intention of apologizing. He has twisted the truth. He has shone a light in a place where there is nothing of relevance to see, and in so doing has pushed into the shadows a hideous truth that promises to grow and swallow Lord knows how many more innocent victims.

That is the story we need to listen to. That is what we should be talking about.

Doug Wilson: “I Do Not Believe That This Situation In Any Way Paints Jamin as a Sexual Predator”

Natalie Rose Greenfield, image by author.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Natalie Rose Greenfield’s blog My Naptime Journal. It was originally published on September 20, 2015.

For background information about Doug Wilson, Jamin C. Wight, and Natalie Rose Greenfield, see The Jamin C. Wight Story: The Other Child Molester in Doug Wilson’s Closet.

Content warning: detailed description of child sexual abuse.

I’ve debated whether or not to share the following letter publicly. It was given to me last week and out of respect for certain members of my family that don’t wish to have any further publicity over all of this, I’ve kept it to myself and a few close friends. But at some point every day for the last week I’ve been struck by the nagging reminder that this is no longer about me. It’s not about my family or the painful past experiences that tore us apart at the seams.  I’ve said it before, I don’t share all of this for my own personal gratification or because I’m stuck on being a victim. This is not me unwilling to heal and licking my wounds for the world to see. I share for the others. For my children, for your children, for other women or men who lost their voices when they were young and never quite found them again. By the grace of Divine Love I found my voice, and I wouldn’t sleep at night if I knew I had the power to help others and chose not to because it’s uncomfortable to talk about around the dinner table. Nobody likes talking about sexual abuse or children being hurt, and certainly no one wants to admit they could have done better or made wiser choices and thus prevented more innocent individuals from being hurt. I’m choosing not be in the latter category, so I’ll continue speaking.

Pictured below is a letter Doug Wilson wrote to the officer on my case on August 22nd, 2005. In it he tells of a ‘secret relationship’ which my parents knowingly allowed Jamin and I to enter into. He says this relationship was hidden from the broader community and though my parents didn’t realize there was ‘sexual behavior occurring’ between Jamin and I, they were aware that we were interested in each other and invited Jamin to live in our home. Doug goes on to say that it is important to note what kind of criminal this information makes Jamin. He says “I do not believe that this in any way paints Jamin as a sexual predator.”

Oh boy. I’m not entirely sure where to begin with this one.

Jamin expressed an interest in me to my parents when I was 14 years old, months after he’d begun grooming me and had already instigated a physical relationship with me. To say I had a crush on him would be an understatement – I was completely infatuated with him, as is common for abuse victims,  and had been since shortly after I met him at a church event when I was 13 years old. (No one knew the depth of my affection for him, of course, I think told my parents I thought he was pretty cool.) My parents told Jamin he could wait for me if he wanted to and they’d  reassess the situation when I was 18 years old. It was made exceedingly clear that in the meantime there was to be no ‘relationship’ whatsoever. As far as my parents knew there was no relationship, and from what I can tell any “confession” they made to Doug was taken out of context and/or deliberately twisted. There’s not much more to be said about this, honestly. My parents were naive and foolish, yes. They trusted him to respect the house rules regarding their daughter, partly because he’d been vetted by their own pastor as a seminary student. He didn’t follow the rules. I’ve written about this before, here. It doesn’t change the game.

What confuses me is how this information has any relevance to Jamin’s long term physical, sexual, mental and emotional abuse of me (before, during and after the time he lived in our home) or how it constitutes Doug writing to the magistrate judge and requesting leniency for him, or how it justifies Doug blaming and shaming my father (and mother) the way he did. Doug painted a picture in which the blame is dangerously shifted to my parents and away from a criminal. Ultimately, he was rather successful at his part in this, as Jamin’s charge and sentence were greatly reduced and he went on to criminally abuse more innocent victims after a very brief stint in jail.

I feel the need to rehash this particular line that Doug typed: “I do not believe that this in any way paints Jamin as a sexual predator.” Not a sexual predator? Forgive me if I’m beating a dead horse or being too loud about an uncomfortable topic, but Jamin is most certainly a sexual predator. Let me describe a scene to you, one scene of many, many more just like it. It’s late afternoon in an old house on B Street in Moscow. A 14 year old girl goes bounces down the stairs of her family’s 8-bedroom mansion to get her favorite pair of jeans from the laundry hamper. A 24 year old man follows her down the stairs and enters the laundry room behind her. He sneaks up behind her and grabs her by the shoulders, she shrieks, then giggles. “Shhhhh! C’mere!” He says. He pulls her by the hand into the dungeon-like bathroom adjacent to the laundry room. “Jamin, stop! My mom will hear us!” the girl protests. “Then be quiet” he says, pushing down firmly on the top of her head until she buckles to her knees. She knows what he wants, it’s what he always wants and she hates it. She begins giving it to him and a minute later they hear footsteps coming down the long basement stairs. The man shoves the girl away from him, she falls backward into the laundry room and he closes the bathroom door to finish the job himself. The girl jumps to her feet, wipes her mouth and runs up the basement stairs, shaking nervously as she passes her mother on way. A close call.

But according to the pastor of Christ Church, Jamin is not a sexual predator. What is he, then? An opportunist? If only my parents had kicked him out when he expressed interest in me, than he wouldn’t have been given the opportunity to hurt me? Anyone can see this is preposterous. Jamin’s crimes were premeditated and he would still have had access to me at church and in various other settings (he did, in fact, manage to ‘still get to me’ after he’d moved out). I could tell a hundred more stories about what he did to me but they’re all sickening so I’ll leave it at one.

So what now? Why am I blogging about this again? Because we need change and it’s not happening yet. The church needs to change the way it handles sexual abuse, and until the leaders are willing to come forward and say we were gravely wrong and we want to learn how to do better we will continue to face this problem again and again and we will hear from more victims and more lives will be destroyed as this is repeatedly swept under the rug. This is not just about Doug Wilson and the other leaders of Christ Church and Trinity Reformed Church that stood behind a dangerous sexual predator and welcomed him back into the fold, believing his cries of repentance. This happens in churches everywhere. It’s an epidemic of the worst kind and it is destroying countless lives. Churches everywhere claim they know how to handle abuse within their congregation, and the church certainly can play an important role in the healing of victims, but so much more is needed. Resources, education, trained professionals, and the willingness to step back and say “we need help”. Needing help is not a weakness, and that lie only adds insult to injury for those harmed by abuse.

So what can YOU do?

Stand with me. Demand change. Share your own story of abuse within the church and if you don’t have one or if you aren’t ready to share yours, then by all means share mine. Demand that the leaders of churches stop pridefully deflecting blame and ignorantly shaming victims while they stand behind predators. Urge them to show the love of Christ to the victims.

We can’t afford to let this one slip away into the night. It will only grow.

Here’s the letter Doug wrote to the officer (click images to enlarge):

God Made All of Me: Review and GIVEAWAY

Our parent non-profit organization Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out is giving away 2 free copies of Lindsey and Justin Holcomb’s new book, God Made All of Me! It is a simple and colorful way for Christian parents to teach their children about safety, speaking up about abuse, body positivity, and the importance of consent in everyday life.

To read our review of the book and enter the giveaway, click here!

Toby J. Sumpter’s Denial of the Body of Christ Puts Abuse Survivors at Risk

Image by author.

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Update: Peter Leithart offered a sincere, compassionate statement today regarding his involvement in the Jamin Wight situation, which you can read here: . I appreciate Leithart’s statement and hope it will encourage Sumpter, Wilson, and others to reconsider their current tactics and stances. I have accordingly changed several parts of this post that referred to Leithart.

Toby J. Sumpter is the Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church in Moscow, Idaho. Trinity is the “sister church” to Doug Wilson’s Christ Church and is a member of the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches (which Wilson started and presides over). More relevantly, Trinity is the church that homeschool alumnus and convicted child molester Jamin C. Wight attended while he preyed on a 13-year-old homeschooled girl.

In the wake of the recent dialogues and diatribes about Jamin C. Wight and how Doug Wilson and Peter Leithart mishandled the revelations of abuse (Leithart was Trinity’s Pastor at the time of the abuse revelations), Sumpter wrote a sort of apologia of his and his cohorts’ actions. He begins,

One of the accusations leveled against our community has been our lack of care for the victims of abuse. And wound into that accusation is the assumption that instead of caring for children and victims, our refusal to cow to the accusatory catcalls is necessarily just an act of self defense, defending leaders and pastors instead of the vulnerable little ones.

Sumpter’s apologia thus aims to prove otherwise: to prove that he, Wilson, and Leithart are the true defenders of abuse survivors and that the people with actual academic and professional training and experience of abuse prosecution and survivor advocacy are the ones harming survivors. He argues that pastors are not just pastors; they are spiritual “physicians”:

I’d like to begin with the nature of pastoring and spiritual healing. Like Jesus, the Great Physician, pastors are physicians who care for the souls of their people.

He then launches into an analogy about emergency situations, using the tragic terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 as the analogy’s foundation. He talks about footage of the tragedy that he recently watched:

Yesterday was the fourteenth anniversary of 9/11, and I caught a few minutes of footage and interviews from survivors last night on the news. The footage of the trade towers collapsing and the men and women running (one pushing a stroller) is pretty haunting to watch as the smoke and dust billows out and down the streets of New York City. Then there are the wounded walking with blood on their faces. I watched a reporter run up to one man and put a mic in his face and ask what happened. But as the rescue crews dig in looking for survivors and medical professionals come on the scene to give aid, one of the first things they do is start putting up the yellow tape. In order for the emergency crews to do their work they’ve got to create a safe and secure space for that care to take place.

“In order for the emergency crews to do their work they’ve got to create a safe and secure space for that care to take place.” I actually think that is an important and helpful principle. But Sumpter takes it in an odd direction:

Pastors and elders are the emergency crews that frequently arrive on the scene moments after explosions. And when reporters show up and start accusing the rescue workers of harming people, it’s not helpful in the slightest. Maybe they even point to the wounded coming out of the rubble, they catch snippets of conversations on the radios, and then they set to their blogs reporting half truths and raising suspicions that the rescue crews are actually protecting the terrorists. Why are you protecting terrorists? Don’t you care about the victims?!

Imagine you’re a fireman, a nurse, a police officer in that situation. Yes, of course it is important for there to be true accountability. Yes of course firemen and law enforcement and medical teams could use their positions to do harm. But you don’t actually provide any true accountability by stirring up an angry mob outside the yellow tape, and rarely do you even get a complete picture by shoving a microphone in the face of one bewildered survivor. And please don’t read into this metaphorical scene as though I’m assigning certain people certain parts. I’m not. I’m just painting a scene that generally corresponds to the kind of work pastors have to do.

Sumpter makes clear with his last few sentences that he doesn’t want us to “read into” this scene he is painting. He’s not “assigning certain people certain parts.” “I’m not,” he insists. Except he is. He began his scene by saying that, “Pastors and elders are the emergency crews that frequently arrive on the scene moments after explosions.” Who are those emergency crews? They are “a fireman, a nurse, a police officer.” In “emergency situations,” then, pastors fill multiple roles: putting out fires, healing physical wounds, and punishing criminals.

In contrast to these good, helpful people (the pastors), Sumpter describes the evil, unhelpful people: “reporters.” And he obviously has in mind all the people calling Doug Wilson and Peter Leithart out because, when describing “reporters,” he slips ups and says, “then they set to their blogs reporting half truths and raising suspicions.” Well, reporters report on news sites. Bloggers blog. So the evil, unhelpful people Sumpter has in mind must be the people writing online about Doug Wilson and Peter Leithart. They are accusing Wilson and Leithart of mishandling abuse cases by inappropriately protecting child molesters, or as Sumpter puts it, “raising suspicions that the rescue crews are actually protecting the terrorists.”

Sumpter is being entirely disingenuous, then, in pretending that he is “just painting a scene that generally corresponds to the kind of work pastors have to do.” He is clearly describing how he feels about the current controversies over Doug Wilson and Peter Leithart’s mishandling of Steven Sitler and Jamin C. Wight‘s crimes. In his mind, he and Wilson are just trying to care for the victims of a terrorist attack. As CREC pastors, they’re the only ones — in Sumpter’s scenario — who have the ability to put out fires, heal wounds, and punish criminals. Anyone else — including actual news reporters like Katie Botkin, actual survivors of those child molesters’ crimes like Natalie Rose Greenfield, the actual parents of those survivors like Gary Greenfield, people with actual child abuse prosecution experience like Boz Tchividjian, other pastors who provide actual training in child protection like Mike Sloan and Beth Hart, or survivor advocates like myself who create child abuse prevention curriculums for homeschooling families — are apparently just running around for no purpose other than to make false accusations. And we clearly have no idea what we’re doing because, no, only the CREC pastors know how to be firefighters, nurses, and police officers.

The problem with Sumpter’s metaphor — and more importantly, the problem with Sumpter’s theological claim that pastors are not just pastors but prophets, priests, and kings in emergency scenarios — is that it denies the Christian doctrine of the body of Christ. We find this doctrine articulated in 1 Corinthians 12:

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ… The body is not made up of one part but of many.

The Christian doctrine of the body of Christ teaches that God gave different gifts to different people. God did not make everyone a teacher — and that’s probably good. As the Apostle James writes, “Not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.” (Incidentally, this is a lesson that Sumpter and Wilson would do well to revisit. Instead of acting like they are being unfairly persecuted because their actions entered public light, they should remember that they chose to become teachers and thus “will be judged more strictly” — and that is how it should be.)

God gave different gifts to different people. Not everyone is a foot in the body of Christ. Not everyone is a hand. It would lead to great confusion and pain in a body if a foot told a hand it had no purpose being a hand and that it, the foot, would take over hand duties. And then also took over ear duties. And eye duties. And mouth duties.

In the same way, pastors have the role of teaching and mentoring individuals and families within their faith communities. Unless otherwise trained, pastors are not to usurp the duties and roles of other parts in the body of Christ. Pastors are not to usurp the duties and roles of a child abuse prosecutor. They are not to pretend they know how to be a counselor to an abuse survivor with PTSD. They are not to act as if they need not listen to the advice of a survivor advocate. Each of these individuals has a duty and role within the body of Christ and those duties and roles are distinct from the pastor’s role.

Or as Victor Vieth, Executive Director Emeritus of Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center, puts it: “Stay within your field of expertise.”

In Sumpter’s analogy above, pastors should not play emergency crew. Pastors should play pastors. And they should step aside and let the emergency crew members do their jobs. And when they are later pastoring their churches, if questions about how to be a better pastor to those impacted by the emergency arise, they should give the floor and pass the microphone to those who actually know: the firefighter, the nurse, and the police; the child abuse prosecutor, the child abuse prevention teacher, and the professional survivor advocate.

Stay within your field of expertise.

Of course, Sumpter will have none of that. He refuses to acknowledge that as a pastor, he might be ignorant about things that are not under his jurisdiction and sphere of knowledge. He proclaims that,

Faithful shepherds imitate the Good Shepherd who lays His life down for the sheep. And they often lay their lives down by standing up to the paparazzi, to the reporters, and to the internet mobs that want to rip open the wounds that have healed, that are willing to risk further complications and secondary infections to satisfy their lust for knowledge and power, that want to diagnose your problems and offer you their home brew solutions from three thousand miles away.

And by “home brew solutions” Sumpter means the professional and informed advice of child abuse prosecutors like Boz Tchividjian and the professional and informed advice of pastors actually trained in child abuse prevention like Mike Hart and Beth Sloan. In all honesty, it is Sumpter (and Wilson and company) that prefer the “home brews.” They prefer to stay within their echo chamber and not let the other parts in the body of Christ do what God inspired them to do. They refuse to let the hand say to the foot, “You are doing a really bad job at hand-ing. Please let me help you.”

Stay within your field of expertise.

I’d like to conclude with one final observation. In his final thoughts, Sumpter says the following:

One astute observer replied to my last post pointing out that according to Tolkien, orcs were originally abused and tortured elves. And I have no doubt that some of our loudest, shrillest opponents truly are victims of great hurt and pain. And so I say to you, my friends, if you can hear me through the fray: Jesus our Savior bore our griefs and carried our sorrows.

I know who Sumpter is referring to because it’s me. This is the context:

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 3.03.25 PM

This is the context: Sumpter was calling those who disagreed with him “orcs.” Or to be more specific, Sumpter’s actual words were, “orcs, hags, and trolls,” “a mob of angry orcs,” and “orcs…screaming for blood.” In other words, Sumpter chose to focus on the handful of bottom-of-the-barrel internet commenters that every blog has instead of the sincere, thoughtful critics like Tchividjian, Sloan, Hart, and Julie Anne Smith — even Michael Reagan and Jefferson Bethke. (You can even go look at my previous posts on the subject; I have not used a single personal insult and I have not name-called once.) And then he chose to smear the sincere, thoughtful critics by pretending there was little difference between the groups. And to this I responded with the aforementioned comment:

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 3.09.31 PM

Considering this context, I’d like to point out the audacity of Sumpter to pretend this tweet somehow made his case. Sumpter said,

I have no doubt that some of our loudest, shrillest opponents truly are victims of great hurt and pain. And so I say to you, my friends, if you can hear me through the fray: Jesus our Savior bore our griefs and carried our sorrows.

Hear him through what fray? Well, probably the fray of Sumpter calling them hags and orcs and trolls. So yes, I hope you can hear the true message of Jesus through Sumpter’s personal insults. I hope you can know the message of Jesus is actually one of love instead of the message of derision and ridicule that Sumpter models. And I hope that Sumpter one day realizes that if he really thinks his critics are “victims of great hurt and pain,” he should stop gleefully rubbing salt into their wounds.

As a child, I absolutely loved Madeleine L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time series. One the moments that has always stuck with me throughout my life was the “Naming” passage of the second novel, A Wind in the Door. In that passage, Echthroi — evil personifications of nihilism — try to “X,” or erase,” the protagonist Meg Murray. The Echthroi are overcome by the process of “Naming,” which L’Engle describes as re-integrating a character with its true, best self.

I would suggest that this is a better (and more Christlike) tactic for engaging people whom Sumpter finds “orcish.” If indeed they act out of great hurt and pain, then it would be more loving to speak to them as if they are not monsters, but human beings. Hurting human beings, yes, but human beings. People who are desperately trying to keep other people from being hurt like they were.

If Jesus encountered such people, I believe he would Name them, not X them.

I sincerely hope Sumpter, Wilson, and their communities can learn to do the same. And I think Peter Leithart today modeled how this can be done.

Here’s the Perfect Example of Doug Wilson Minimizing Steven Sitler’s Abuse

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Content warning: descriptions of child sexual abuse and abuse minimization.

In one of his many, many self-defensive blog posts, Doug Wilson provides us the perfect example of how he has minimized (and continues to minimize) the child sexual abuse perpetrated by Steven Sitler, the homeschool alumnus who attended Wilson’s New Saint Andrews College. The blog post is titled, “The Only Kind of Gospel There Is”, and was published Thursday, September 10, 2015. Wilson writes,

The twittermob has been circulating numerous untruths, among them that Steven Sitler is a child rapist. He was actually convicted of one count of Lewd Conduct with a Minor under 16 years of age (Idaho Code 18-1508).

Yes, of all the actually important and relevant aspects of the current dialogue about child molesters Steven Sitler and Jamin C. Wight, Wilson chooses to focus on this. The fact that Steven Sitler was not convicted of “Child Rape” but rather “Lewd Conduct With a Minor,” the implication of which is, of course, that “Lewd Conduct” is somehow less egregious. Thus these evil twittermobs are the real abusers, falsely accusing poor Sitler of something he never did.

Well, yes, Steven Sitler was never convicted of Child Rape. Yes, Sitler was convicted of Lewd Conduct With a Minor. And yes, in Idaho, those two charges are distinct (though advocacy groups and other states like Washington State consider them the same). But let’s look at the Idaho statute Wilson cites to determine what Lewd Conduct with a Minor actually is. This is from Idaho Code 18-1508:

LEWD CONDUCT WITH MINOR CHILD UNDER SIXTEEN. Any person who shall commit any lewd or lascivious act or acts upon or with the body or any part or member thereof of a minor child under the age of sixteen (16) years, including but not limited to, genital-genital contact, oral-genital contact, anal-genital contact, oral-anal contact, manual-anal contact, or manual-genital contact, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex, or who shall involve such minor child in any act of bestiality or sado-masochism as defined in section 18-1507, Idaho Code, when any of such acts are done with the intent of arousing, appealing to, or gratifying the lust or passions or sexual desires of such person, such minor child, or third party, shall be guilty of a felony and shall be imprisoned in the state prison for a term of not more than life.

Wilson wants us to believe, in other words, that Steven Sitler isn’t as bad as a rapist. No, all Sitler did was force a young child to engage in all sorts of other sex acts that are… “better”? “Less bad”?

And we do not have to guess as to what Sitler actually did. Because the father of one of Sitler’s abuse victims did tell the Idaho court what Sitler did to his child. This is a September 7, 2005 letter written by a victim’s family to Idaho Judge Stegner. ** Content warning for explicit description of child sexual abuse. ** Click the image to enlarge:


In other words, Steven Sitler lured a 2 year old child into an isolated area and forced that toddler to perform oral sex on him.

And somehow this is important to Wilson to clarify… why? Why is it only important to Wilson that he wins these little semantic games with people bringing sincere and heartfelt concerns to him regarding his and his church’s actions? So he wins on this technicality. So what? What does Doug Wilson want? Does he want us to give him a round of applause for having the courage to say what no one else did: that poor Steven Sitler is falsely accused? That Sitler never raped a child? That Sitler instead only forced a 2 year old to perform oral sex on him? That somehow that’s a relief? That somehow that makes Wilson a courageous champion of truth?

If Wilson actually cares about the God he claims to love, he should set aside his pride and his desire to play games of technicality. Because at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter to anyone except the Idaho court system whether Sitler “raped” a child or “forced oral sex” on a child. You know why? Because both are egregious cases of child abuse, for God’s sake!

I’d like to conclude with an excerpt from Mike Sloan and Beth Hart’s important article, “Doug Wilson’s Failure to Safeguard Children,” which I highly recommend you read here. Sloan and Hart write,

Where are the voices of the leaders of Reformed churches and Reformed networks who can gain a hearing from Doug Wilson and influence thousands of other pastors in their denominations and circles of influence? Where are the voices from The Gospel Coalition? Crossway, why are you giving a voice to a man who will not use his voice for voiceless? Who is asking Wilson, “Where is your grieving heart for this baby and the other victims? What child protection training are you putting in place or experts are you consulting so this does not happen again?”

Where indeed.


UPDATE, September 12, 2015, 2 pm PT:

Doug Wilson has issued a clarification on his post. An image and the text of the clarification follow:

Screen Shot 2015-09-12 at 2.00.15 PM

Text is,

Important clarification: When I say above that Steven was convicted of one count, I was not meaning that this was his only offense, and neither was I seeking to minimize the egregiousness of his behavior in those other instances. That is why I argued, just below this, that the father in Texas who killed the molester he walked in on was fully justified. I should have made my meaning more clear than I did, which I could have done by putting the Texas paragraph first, and linking it expressly to Steven’s offenses. My apologies to any friends who missed my meaning here, and who thought I was trying to trim and be cute on Steven’s behalf. Such a misreading would be my responsibility. I believe there was at least one scenario where Steven could have been killed on the spot, and no injustice done.