Willow Creek Megachurch Paid $3.25M in Lawsuits Over Sex Abuse of Disabled Boys

The settlement showed that despite agreeing to the financial payouts, the church “has denied and continues to deny all material allegations of negligence and damages in this case.”

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Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois reportedly paid $3.5 million in lawsuits over the sex abuse of two developmentally disabled boys.

The evangelical megachurch, which recently saw its entire elders board resign over unrelated accusations that former lead pastor Bill Hybels sexually abused women, made the payments in the lawsuits over several years, court records obtained by The Chicago Tribune show.

One payment of $1.75 million was apparently made in February, while another one of $1.5 million was made last year.

Former Willow Creek volunteer Robert Sobczak Jr., now 24, pled guilty in 2014 of abusing an 8-year-old with special needs at the church, alongside an older boy not connected with the church. A year earlier, he admitted to sexually abusing another disabled boy at the church, believed to have been 9 years old.

Willow Creek said that the experience was “heartbreaking,” and insisted that it has made changes.

“We have worked with law enforcement and security experts to learn how this happened and how we can ensure it never happens again,” the church said, according to FOX 32.

Cook County prosecutors had described in the lawsuits that Sobczak separately took the two boys to an isolated area of the church, where he molested them.

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What is more, the document shows that another church worker had raised concerns in January 2013 that Sobczak was “emotionally unhealthy.” The volunteer was allowed to remain with the program, however, and went on to abuse the second victim.

The second victim reportedly suffered “great mental and emotional harm” due to the abuse he suffered, and underwent therapy.

The settlement showed that despite agreeing to the financial payouts, the church “has denied and continues to deny all material allegations of negligence and damages in this case.”

When the child sex abuse charges first came to light back in 2013, the megachurch said in a statement:

“Willow Creek engages in a rigorous screening and training process for all volunteers and staff in our Special Friends Ministry that includes a detailed child protection application process, checking of references, a national background check, cross checking the sex offender registry, and offering training in child protection. Mr. Sobczak had completed and passed this screening process before he began serving with the Special Friends Ministry.”

Heather Larson, who would go on to become Willow Creek’s executive pastor, before resigning this August over the Hybels scandal, insisted back then that church leadership is “very concerned for the child as well as the family.”

“We take rigorous steps to protect our children,” she stated at the time.

Larson, along with Willow Creek’s entire elder board, resigned earlier in August, admitting that they should have believed the multiple women who accused Hybels of sexual misconduct and abuse this year.

The church initially sided with Hybels, who has continued to maintain his innocence in the face of all claims. It later admitted that its founder had “fallen into sin.”

“While Bill Hybels was our founder and pastor, he was human, broken, and self-admittedly sinful. We believe that his sins were beyond what he previously admitted on stage, and certainly we believe that his actions with these women were sinful. We believe he did not receive feedback as well as he gave it, and he resisted the accountability structures we all need,” said in a statement about the issue Missy Rasmussen, one of Willow Creek’s elders.

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Pastor Ronnie Gorton Now Suicidal After Rape Allegations

“Anytime there’s an allegation of sexual misconduct it’s alarming. Again, especially when it’s someone in a position of authority, people that we trust.”

In statements to local news outlets, authorities revealed that Ronnie Gorton, lead pastor of The Awakening Church in Atoka, Tennessee, has been taken into custody for a psychiatric evaluation after allegedly becoming suicidal and threatening to take his life after recent allegation that he raped two underage boys.

Tipton County investigators told WMCActionNews5 that an anonymous 17-year-old boy made statements last week alleging that Gorton, 39, sexually assaulted, molested, and raped him on several occasions. The Atoka Police Department reported receiving a similar complaint from a 20-year-old man who alleged that Gorton sexually assaulted him when he was a minor.

Billy Daugherty, Tipton County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy, told The Leader that the latest instance of alleged assault by Gorton took place on Jan. 31 and that the case is a multijurisdictional investigation.

“There’s an allegation in the county and an allegation in Atoka,” Daugherty said, adding that there was “nothing to indicate” any of the incidents occurred within the church.

Daugherty further explained that no criminal charges have been filed against the pastor. He was, however, taken into custody after meeting with detectives last Wednesday when a friend of Gorton’s reported that he was armed with a handgun and had threatened to commit suicide.

Daugherty also noted the natural reaction of members of the church and community to be alarmed by the allegations: “Anytime there’s an allegation of sexual misconduct it’s alarming. Again, especially when it’s someone in a position of authority, people that we trust.”

  • Psalms 118:8- It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. 
  • Micah 7:5- Trust ye not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide; keep the doors of thy mouth from her that, lieth in they bosom. 
  • Jeremiah 17:5- Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. 
  • Galatians 6:3- For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. 

Church Worship Leader Jordan Baird Sentenced to ONLY 8 Months for Sexual Abuse of Minor

Prosecutors said Baird is a “deceiver, a manipulator and a sexual predator” who groomed the girl for abuse, sent her sexually-suggestive messages and groped her multiple times at the Life Church between January and September 2015.

Approximately one month after he was convicted and jurors recommended he spend five months in prison for five counts of taking indecent liberties with a minor, Jordan Baird, a Christian pop singer and the son of Senior Pastors David and Jo Ann Baird of The Life Church in Virginia, was sentenced to eight months in jail.

Jordan’s legal troubles started July 7, 2016, when detectives from the Special Victims Unit of the Prince William County Police Department in Virginia responded to investigate inappropriate contact, which was reported to have occurred at Life Church in Manassas in 2015. The youth leader was convicted of five felony sex crimes with a minor in connection with an inappropriate relationship with a 16-year-old member of the congregation. The jury failed to reach a verdict on the charge of using electronic means to commit a sex crime with a minor Baird was facing. It is not yet clear if prosecutors will re-try that charge.

 

 

Jurors recommended Baird serve one month in jail for each conviction — five months total. Baird was accused of having an inappropriate relationship with the teenage girl who looked up to him as a mentor and considered him family, according to court testimony.

Prosecutors said Baird is a “deceiver, a manipulator and a sexual predator” who groomed the girl for abuse, sent her sexually-suggestive messages and groped her multiple times at the Life Church between January and September 2015. The teen testified during the trial she refused Baird’s unwanted sexual advances and told him what he was doing was wrong on more than one occasion.

Baird’s defense attorney, Todd Sanders, said his client crossed an emotional line when he sent the girl inappropriate messages. But the attorney said no touching took place and maintained his client’s actions did not violate any laws.

Sanders questioned the girl’s recollection of the alleged abuse and why she waited nearly a year to tell anyone about it. The defense attorney said the teen’s early accounts of what happened left out certain details and suggested people around her may have influenced her recovered memories.

Sanders suggested the anxiety the girl felt was caused by her fear that a young man she had feelings for would find out about the messages Baird sent her.

“She had everything to lose and nothing to gain,” the attorney said. “This church was everything to her. Jordan was a leader to her. He was like a big brother.” 

When asked why she didn’t immediately report the alleged abuse, the girl said she was “torn” about what to do because she didn’t want to lose her friends, her church family and all the volunteer opportunities the Life Church provided her. She said she worried the church would take Baird’s side because he is the son of the head pastor and told the girl he would take the secret “to the grave.”

“I remember feeling so stuck and no matter what, no one would believe me,” the teen testified. “I thought once I came forward I would lose everything.”

 

When she did come forward, the girl said her friends defended the church and turned on her. Jeremiyah Mullens, a former Life Church congregant, said other members called the girl “slurs” and “took the position that she was wrong in the situation.”

In June 2016, the teen said she told her mother Baird sent inappropriate messages to her after feelings of guilt and anxiety became so severe she couldn’t get out of bed that day. But the girl said she didn’t tell her mother the full story at that time because she knew it would mean her life would be turned upside down. 

“For so long, I tried to suppress everything and forget everything that happened,” she said. “But it all started to come back to me.”

When police came to interview the teen a couple of weeks later, she told them Baird inappropriately touched her but did not fully disclose every detail at that point either.

Renae Smith, the teen’s counselor, testified she diagnosed the girl with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The counselor said it’s common for those with PTSD to “disassociate” during abuse as a coping mechanism, which can later lead to gaps in memory.

But when a person with PTSD does start to remember their trauma, Smith said, they have vivid flashbacks to that moment and what took place becomes very clear to them. Smith said PTSD can delay memories but does not alter them. The doctor testified she has no reason to believe the teen is lying about the abuse.

“What I witnessed was a deep, spontaneous emotion,” Smith said. “You can tell when someone is genuine.”

 When the girl’s mother was asked why she didn’t immediately report the allegations to police, she said she didn’t know the full extent of what happened and her main concern was taking care of her daughter, who suffered a severe panic attack.

“I think I was in shock,” the girl’s mother said. “I wasn’t sure what to do. I’ve never been in a situation like this before.”

The teen’s father testified his family wanted to bring the allegations to light within the church first because they “believed the church would do the right thing.”

The parents said they asked the church to bring in a third-party to investigate what took place. But the church selected Steve Dawson, a close friend of the Bairds’ who was once a co-pastor at the church, the parents said.

“That was not a third party, obviously,” the girl’s father said.

Dawson testified he does not have a background in law enforcement or conducting investigations. He said Baird admitted sending inappropriate messages to the girl, but nothing else. While Gross questioned Dawson on the witness stand, he suggested Dawson left out key details he learned during his internal investigation when he was interviewed by police and refused to hand his notes over to law-enforcement officials.

The teen’s father said he recorded a meeting with Dawson in which he told the pastor Baird touched his daughter. On the stand, Dawson said he didn’t “recall” the father saying this. 

Gross also suggested through his questioning that the Life Church’s law firm instructed and advised Dawson through his investigation. 

The prosecutor pointed out Baird disclosed more information to Dawson than he did to police.

Gross attempted to introduce the testimonies of three other women who say Baird used his power in the church and his notoriety as a Christian pop singer to manipulate them into having inappropriate relationships and performing sex acts in the church. One of the girls was underage at the time of the alleged misconduct, the prosecutor said. But the judge wouldn’t allow the women’s testimonies because he said the information would be highly prejudicial in the criminal trial, citing case law.

Pastor Faces 142 Charges in Child Sex Crimes

Collins pleaded with a judge for his release and explained to the judge that he was a pillar in the community …

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A former pastor is charged in the rapes of four children during the course of 13 years. Glenn Tyrone Collins turned himself into authorities Monday after police issued a warrant for his arrest.

Collins faces 142 charges.

  • 12 counts of 1st Degree Rape
  • 5 counts of 1st Degree Sexual Offense
  • 5 counts of 2nd Degree Rape
  • 3 counts of 2nd Degree Sexual Offense
  • 9 counts of Statutory Rape
  • 6 counts of Statutory Sexual Offense
  • 32 counts of Indecent Liberties with a Child
  • 25 counts of Child Sex – Sexual Activity
  • 39 counts of Sexual Activity by a Parent
  • 2 counts of Crimes Against Nature
  • 2 counts of Sexual Battery
  • 1 count of Attempted 2nd Degree Sexual Offense
  • 1 count of Attempted Crimes Against Nature

According to detectives, Collins raped four children, including one of his neighbors, repeatedly between 1996 and 2009.

Police finally began working the case after one of the victims came forward after what was described as years of emotional torture.

“This person was going through emotional trauma when they told the mother, so a lot of times none of us know that folks are being violated, particularly folks they hold in high esteem,” said Police Capt. Darry Whitaker. Collins made his first court appearance Tuesday afternoon where District Attorney Billy West requested that he remain in jail without bond.

“It’s very unfortunate and troubling these are some of the most difficult and disturbing cases,” West said. “Our children are vulnerable and they need to be protected and when allegations like this come forward it’s particularly troubling.”
In court, Collins pleaded with a judge for his release and explained to the judge that he was “a pillar in the community” and that he wasn’t “guilty of this stuff.”

But Fayetteville Police say they have plenty of evidence that proves otherwise.

“We’ll have 142 charges and we were able to collect enough data, and we feel confident about what we have,” said Capt. Whitaker.

Collins is being held at the Cumberland County Jail on a $3.75 million secured bond.

Anyone who has information related to these or other crimes involving this offender is asked to please contact Detective T. Huggins, who is the lead detective in this investigation at (910) 303-5470 or Sergeant P. Smith at (910) 433-1851.

“Youth Pastor” Charged With Inappropriately Touching A Child During Sleepover

Not only did McKinnon inappropriately touch this young girl repeatedly, Deputies said McKinnon also said he sent the girl inappropriate text messages as recently as December…

A Cumberland County youth pastor is accused of taking indecent liberties with a child during a sleepover he hosted at his Hope Mills home.

Nashimen McKinnon, 30, of Pleasantburg Drive is charged with three counts of indecent liberties with a child, according to arrest records. McKinnon told deputies he is a youth leader at Antioch Bible Fellowship.

McKinnon called the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office on Jan. 1 and told a deputy that he “touched a child five to six months ago,” according to a news release from the sheriff’s office. McKinnon said he laid beside a girl on the floor during a sleepover for church youth last July and inappropriately touched her over her clothes. An investigation following McKinnon’s admission found that he inappropriately touched the same girl on at least two other occasions at church-related events. Deputies said McKinnon also said he sent the girl inappropriate text messages as recently as December. McKinnon turned himself in to the Cumberland County Detention Center, where his bail was set at $45,000. His first court appearance was scheduled for Friday.

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Just listen to this “man of G-d”! Christians can be SO FOOLED by SUPERFICIAL APPEARANCES and seemingly innocent stories such as “The Ugly Duckling”. WAKE UP RELIGIOUS PEOPLE!!!! STOP putting your trust in people just because they say “I LOVE G-D”, ARE MARRIED, HAVE CHILDREN, ARE TALENTED, AND YOUNG {or even old}.  How many innocent children have to be molested and possibly scarred for life will it take for you “The Church” to WAKE UP!?  

Cardinal Bernard Law, who was the Archbishop of Boston when unpunished sexual misconduct within the Catholic Church surfaced, has died in Rome

the victims of sexual abuse were outraged because it gave Law a second career and a golden parachute that allowed him to stay close to the center of power in Rome and serve as a member or adviser in several influential Vatican departments.

Reported by Phillip Pullella~ Reuters

Cardinal Bernard Law, the former Archbishop of Boston, who died on Wednesday, resigned in disgrace after covering up years of sexual abuse of children by priests and whose name became a byword for scandal in the Catholic Church. 

The Vatican announced his death just before dawn on 20 December 2017.

via FTP

The telegram of condolences Pope Francis sent to the dean of the College of Cardinals was unusually short and bland compared to those for other cardinals before.

Francis said he was praying that the merciful God would “welcome him in eternal peace.” The pope did not mention that Law had been Archbishop of Boston and a brief Vatican biography made no mention of the circumstances of his resignation 15 years ago.

Law was Archbishop of Boston, one of the most prestigious and wealthy American archdioceses, for 18 years when Pope John Paul reluctantly accepted his resignation on Dec. 13, 2002, after a tumultuous year in church history.

Bernard Law

A succession of devastating news stories by Boston Globe reporters showed how priests who sexually abused children had been moved from parish to parish for years under Law’s tenure without parishioners or law authorities being informed.

“No words can convey the pain these survivors and their loved ones suffered,” SNAP, a victims’ group, said.

“Survivors of child sexual assault in Boston, who were first betrayed by Law’s cover-up of sex crimes and then doubly betrayed by his subsequent promotion to Rome, were those most hurt,” SNAP said in a statement.

Law’s resignation sent shockwaves through the American church and had a trickle down effect around the world as the cover-up techniques used in Boston were discovered to have been used in country after country.

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The story of how the Globe team brought the scandal to light in a city where few wanted to cross the politically powerful church was told in the 2015 film “Spotlight,” which won the Oscar for Best Picture.

The situation in Boston turned out to be the tip of an iceberg of abuse and its cover-up, where churchmen preferred protecting the reputation of the institution rather than the innocence of children.

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Thousands of cases came to light around the world as investigations encouraged long-silent victims to go public, shattering the church’s reputation in places such as Ireland, and forcing it to pay some $2 billion in compensation.

 

“As Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Law served at a time when the church failed seriously in its responsibilities to provide pastoral care for her people, and with tragic outcomes failed to care for the children of our parish communities. I deeply regret that reality and its consequences,” Law’s successor in Boston, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, said in a statement.

Six months after his resignation, the Massachusetts attorney general’s office announced that Law and others would not face criminal charges.

After a period in a monastery in the United States, Law moved to Rome.

 In 2004 Pope John Paul appointed him to be archpriest of the Rome Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, one of the four major basilica’s of Christendom, whose gold leaf ceiling is said to be made from the first batch of the precious metal Columbus brought back from the Americas. He is likely to be buried there.

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In relative terms it was an immense fall from grace. Such posts are symbolic and ceremonial. But the victims of sexual abuse were outraged because it gave Law a second career and a golden parachute that allowed him to stay close to the center of power in Rome and serve as a member or adviser in several influential Vatican departments.

He also maintained the rank of cardinal and participated in the conclave that elected Pope Benedict in 2005.  Before he became ill, Law was a regular on the diplomatic circuit, attending receptions, including many in the gardens of the US Embassy to the Vatican.

While Law was an awkward presence at US receptions for a few years after his resignation, at Italian events he was treated with the same effusive obsequiousness bestowed on all cardinals – something Law appeared to enjoy.

 He always declined to talk about events in Boston. “I’m retired from that,” he told a reporter at one reception.
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 Photo credit: The Boston Globe via Getty Images 

Cardinal O’Malley, Law’s successor, heads a Vatican commission advising Pope Francis on how to root out sexual abuse in the Church.

But the credibility of the commission, which was formed in 2014, has been hurt by the resignation of two high-level lay members who have accused the Vatican of dragging its feet.

 The terms of most members expired recently and it is not clear what Pope Francis will do with it.

Last September, Francis, addressing the commission, said the Catholic Church had moved too slowly to confront abuse.

“When consciousness arrives late, the means to resolve the problems also arrive late. I am aware of this difficulty but it is reality and I say it plainly: We arrived late. The old practice of moving people around and not confronting the problem made consciences fall asleep,” the pope said.

Law was born on Nov. 4, 1931, in Torreon, Mexico, the son of a US Army official and a musician. He graduated from Harvard University and was ordained a priest in 1961.

His first assignment was in Mississippi, where he received death threats for championing civil rights. As bishop of Springfield–Cape Girardeau in Missouri, he opened a home for battered women and a center to help Vietnamese boat people.

Radio Evangelist RG Stair Accused of Sexual Assault – Congregation Watched as He Inappropriately touched a 12 year old girl

“I’m here to talk about an incident with a man named R.G. Stair. For five months, I went to work at the community. The first month, he would find me in the dining hall and touch my butt a lot.

South Carolina police say they are now investigating video evidence that accuses controversial radio evangelist Pastor Ralph Gordon Stair, also known as Brother R.G. Stair and “the prophet,” of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl and touching the breast of a 12-year-old girl in his church while the congregation watched.

Stair, 84, who leads the Overcomer Ministry community in Walterboro, pleaded guilty in 2004 of fondling two former female residents. Members of the community live, work and raise their children there. New members can only move there after they accept Stair as the “last day prophet,” take a vow of poverty and donate all their property and financial assets to the ministry. 

In one of the controversial videos currently being investigated, Stair cups and pats the breast of a 12-year-old girl as members of his church watch.

“How old are you hon?” Stairs asks the girl in the video. When she tells him that she is just 12, he replies, “Twelve, getting right close to it now” to indicate that she is close to the age where she could start having sex. That age, according to a man narrating the video who says he is a former member of the church, is 13.

As the video continues, Stair tells the girl to come up to the front of the church after previously hugging her.

“Come here, I’ll show you, just look, look here,” he says.

He then makes the 12-year-old face the congregation then places his hand between her breasts.

“Growing up,” he says, before cupping and patting her right breast. He then sends her back to her seat and promises to stay on her case.

“I’m gonna touch those things till nobody else can touch ’em,” he says in the video about her breasts.

In another video, a 16-year-old girl named Natosha who claims she is being forced to attend his church, says she was sexually assaulted by Stair while working at his compound for five months.

“I’m here to talk about an incident with a man named R.G. Stair. For five months, I went to work at the community. The first month, he would find me in the dining hall and touch my butt a lot. The second month, he would come in and he would start lifting up my shirt and touching me sexually. And the third and fourth month, he would just repeat himself,” she explained.

It wasn’t until the fifth month she said, that Stair took his predatory behavior to another level.

“The fifth month, he asked me to go to the radio room and I didn’t want to go there. I did not,” she said.

“He wanted to give me something so I went. When we got inside he gave me what he wanted to give me and then he started fondling my breasts. And he kept asking me ‘Do you feel good, do you feel good.’ And I didn’t say anything because I didn’t know what to do. I just didn’t. And so I turned around to go out the door and he grabbed me from behind, wrapped his arms around me and he said, ‘I wish I could keep you in here longer.’ Then he started touching and rubbing my vagina inside my pants and after that, nothing really happened,” she said.

 

In another instance, Stair offers a rub down to an overweight young girl.

“She get fat see,” he says as the young girl walked up to him at the church. “You don’t get like your sister do you?” he asked her as she replies “no.”

“Why you big ol’ fat thing. Big mouth, smart aleck,” he responds. “Ahhh,” he continues with a sigh until he embraces her and pats her down with his hands extending down the small of her back.

“She getting’ fat. I know ’cause I feel it,” he tells the congregation as he continues patting her down.

“You gaining weight?” he soon asks. She shook her head and said “no.”

He laughs, cups her face with both hands and says: “We gon’ make it. We gon’ make it nice and slim. Slim and trim. I’ll give you a rub down.

“You shouldn’t mess with a woman’s breast. Why not? I love them,” he says while making sucking sounds and smacking his lips.

Lt. Tyger Benton of the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office told The Christian Post Friday that they were sent the videos about two weeks ago and are currently investigating. 

“We were shown the videos. The sheriff is aware of them. He looked at them, got in contact with our investigations department, had them start looking into it and at this point, SLED, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, has been notified which is gonna be working alongside us with that,” he said. “Right now, it’s just an investigation phase. No charges have been brought up, no warrants and so forth.”

When asked if the police had contacted Stairs, he said: “I don’t feel we need to contact him at this point as we’re just looking into it. I’m sure that once … if we find something that we need to go forward with then yes, he would probably be contacted at that point.”

He further noted that he was not able to say if any of the girls or parents of any of the girls have come forward to make a charge against Stair. 

Messages left for Stair at his ministry were not returned on Friday.  The former member narrating one of the videos, however, describes the church community as a “cult” that preys on young girls.

“Ralph Gordon Stairs’ MO is to prep young girls’ minds to accept what is eventually to become a sexual assault. He uses his influence, his position and spiritual power to control them. It’s only within the last six months that he’s beginning to do it publicly,” the former member said.

“It concerns me that while listening to his recent speeches, he has really began pushing that at the age of 13, a girl becomes a woman and can start being with boys and has to watch out for boys. He obviously has some young targets for him to be changing his narrative,” he continued.

“With the girls’ safety in mind, I believe the context of individual events are irrelevant. He has a history of assaulting young women, and has already pled guilty to similar crimes in the past. He’s a master manipulator and although he calls it a church, as a former member, let me assure you, it is a cult,” the ex-member ended.

written by  Leonardo Blair