Dozens of parents said they are left scrambling to find a school for their children after leaders at New Birth Christian Academy said the campus will not reopen next week.
School officials told Channel 2 Action News that money and not enough students are the main issues, but some parents said they believe it’s more than that.
How much more than that?
The academy is housed inside the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. A spokesperson made it clear that the school closure has nothing to do with the sex abuse allegations against Bishop Eddie Long.
“I don’t believe that. I believe that this last straw with the divorce, the sealed settlement, it just does not look good,” said the parent.
Parents received the letter on Dec. 22. School reopens there on Jan. 4. The DeKalb County, Ga., school system has said it will help place the refugee students.
In what is probably the Catholic Church’s third largest sex abuse settlement, the Northwest Jesuits “agreed Friday to pay $166.1 million” to some 500 Native Americans and Alaska Natives who were abused at the order’s schools in the Pacific Northwest in the 1940s to the 1990s.
There have been two larger settlements. The Los Angeles Diocese, agreed to pay $660 million to 508 victims in 2007, and the San Diego Diocese agreed a $198 million settlement to 144 victims, also in 2007.
As Janet I. Tu of the Seattle Times explains the Northwest Jesuits’ payments are part of a bankruptcy settlement:
The order has also agreed to no longer call the victims “alleged victims,” to write apologies to them and to enforce new practices designed to prevent abuse, according to plaintiffs’ attorneys.
“It’s a day of reckoning and justice,” said Clarita Vargas, 51, of Tacoma, who was abused while a student at St. Mary’s Mission and School, a former Jesuit-run Indian boarding school on the Colville Indian Reservation near Omak.
Of the 500 victims, about 470 suffered sexual abuse. About two dozen others were physically abused.
Insurance companies will pay $118 million of the settlement, with the Jesuits paying $48.1 million.
Including this week’s settlement, the Northwest Jesuits, formally called the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province, and their insurers have agreed to pay about $250 million total to some 700 victims. Victims’ lawyers say they’ve identified about 57 Jesuit priests or brothers who have abused.
According to Evi Pulkkinen of the Seattle Seattle Post Intelligencer:
It was, attorney for the plaintiffs said, “spiritual incest” on a staggering scale.
. . .
“Instead of teaching these Native American children about the love of God, these pedeophile priests were molesting these children,” said Blaine Tamaki, a Yakima attorney whose firm represented about a third of the non-Alaskan plaintiffs in a suit filed in 2009.
“It was a culture of abuse of Native American children,” Tamaki continued. “Today is the day where they are acknowledging guilt.
“The $166.1 million is the largest settlement by a religious order in the history of the world,” lawyer Blaine Tamaki said. “Over 450 Native American children – infants, toddlers to teenagers – were sexually abused repeatedly, from rape to sodomy, for decades throughout the Northwest. Instead of teaching these children how to read and write, Jesuit priests were teaching them distrust and shame.
“No amount of money can bring back a lost childhood, a destroyed culture or a shattered faith,” said Tamaki, who represented about 90 of the victims.
A sense of the horror of the underlying events is captured by a 2009 feature written by Brendan Kiley for theStranger. In a passage about Father James Poole. Kiley writes:
In a 2005 deposition, Rachel testified that she had been molested by Father Poole in 1975, while in Nome for her second suicide attempt, an attempted overdose of alcohol and pills. He’d come sit by her bed, put his hand under the hospital blanket, and fondle her, she said.
She traveled between Stebbins and Nome several times in the late 1970s, spending time in hospitals and receiving homes. By 1977, Rachel testified, Poole had given her gonorrhea, and by 1978 she was pregnant with his child. In an interview with The Stranger, she said Poole encouraged her to get an abortion and tell the doctors she had been raped by her father. She followed his advice. “He brainwashed me,” she said. “He messed up my head, man.”
This settlement does not cover all grievances or conclude the legal actions, as the Catholic Sentinel points out:
The settlement does not dismiss 37 lawsuits filed last month against entities, including Jesuit High School and Gonzaga University, on behalf of abuse victims. Those lawsuits were seeking about $3.1 million that the province had paid out prior to declaring bankruptcy two years ago.
In addition, the settlement does not include five to seven claims the lawyers are pursuing against two other insurers for the Jesuits — Travelers Insurance and Atlantic Mutual.
I remember that girl — the girl whose whole sense of self disintegrated after she was molested, sexually abused and raped by a Southern Baptist minister when she was a 16-year-old church kid. I’m grateful that Trish remembers her, too.
In truth, I have no memory of sitting on the floor in Bruce Hall and telling Trish about “my affair.” But I expect Trish’s memory is more accurate than mine. I was probably totally sloshed.
What I do remember is that, several years after college, Trish had the misfortune of calling me on the phone one night when I had the pills on the counter and was already half-drunk and was trying to get up my gumption to down them. Trish figured out what was going on and she stayed on the phone with me for hours. No telling how things would have turned out if she hadn’t.
In responses to the four lawsuits filed against him and New Birth Baptist Church, Bishop Eddie Long denied coercing the young men into sexual relationships, but admitted other key aspects of their accounts. The responses were filed in DeKalb County (Georgia) State Court on Monday.
In September, four young men — Maurice Robinson, Anthony Flagg, Jamal Parris and Spencer LeGrande — filed suits against Long and New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. The young men claimed Long coerced them into having sex with him in exchange for lavish gifts, trips and jobs. In the filings, Long said it has been a practice of his to occasionally share a room with members of his congregation. However, he said “the plaintiff’s claims of sexual misconduct are not true.
He admitted that he took the men on trips, but he denied the complaints of sexual contact. He did admit to hugging some of the men.
Long also admitted to giving the plaintiffs gifts, including cars, and helping them financially, but he denied that it was in exchange for sex. He said he has “provided sporadic financial assistance,” and he routinely pays for rent and other expenses for New Birth members, according to the filings.
Almost 75 people led by Bishop “Prophet” H. Walker of True Light Pentecost Church in Spartanburg, S.C., called for Long’s resignation in a ralliy “on the steps of the Georgia state Capitol” Sunday,
From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, key passages are:
There have been allegations and attacks made on me. I have never in my life portrayed myself as a perfect man. But I am not the man that’s being portrayed on the television. That’s not me. That is not me
By the counsel of my lawyers, they have advised me not to try this case in the media. I am not gon’ try this case in the media. It will be tried in the court of justice and dealt with in the court of justice and please understand because that’s the only place I think I’ll get justice, but being in the hands of God.
Please hear this. Please hear this: I’ve been accused. I’m under attack. I want you to know, as I said earlier, I am not a perfect man. But this thing I’m gon’ fight.
And I want you to to know one other thing. I feel like David against Goliath, but I’ve got five rocks and I haven’t thrown one yet.
Read the entire transcript here.
Craig Schneider of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote Friday:
Spencer LeGrande filed suit against Long Friday, marking the fourth such action filed this week. He said in the suit that he met Long when he was 15 at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., where he and his mother were among the founding families. He said he accompanied Long on several trips abroad and later moved to Atlanta.
New Birth Charlotte is a satellite church of Long’s New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga.
Three other young men have filed similar suits against Long. All four claim Long, described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “one of the most virulently homophobic black leaders in the religiously based anti-gay movement,” repeatedly coerced them into sex when they were younger.
His father, 55-year-old Greensboro, N.C., furniture store worker Eddie LeGrande said:
He never told me. He never gave me a clue,
But looking back, he said, “There were red flags.” The trips, the gifts, the attention, he said.
“I’m very upset about it,” he said. “I’m very hurt about it. I’m very hurt for my son.”
If the accusations are true, he said, “I think he should be banned from his church. I think he should do jail time, and he should pay the victims for the hurt. He should be used as an example.”
Long has thus far denied but nonetheless responded only briefly to the allegations.
Long made a telephone conference call to pastors and supports Friday:
We will arise through this situation, and go forward, and we are moving forward,” Long said, according to CNN affiliate WGCL-TV, which monitored the call.
“I have never dealt with anything like this before. I have been under attack before, but everything else has been different levels and different challenges,” Long said. He took no questions.
Keith Whitney of Atlanta’s 11Alive.com wrote on Friday:
Bishop Long is expected, however, to tell his side on Sunday in the ultimate venue. The pulpit.
Wikipedia’s list of mostly American Christian evangelist scandals includes Long’s mentor, Earl Paulk, whose career concluded amid scandal.
On his twitter account Thursday, Long tweeted:
Thanks for all your prayers and support! Love you all.
There has been vigorous twitter traffic in discussion of and speculation about the story since it broke. Speculation that Long plans to resign Sunday has been frequent since the fourth suit became public knowledge.
Mara Gay of AOL News writes:
“Nobody’s guilty until the court says he’s guilty,” Haggard, the former head of a 14,000-member congregation in Colorado, told AOL News in a phone interview Wednesday.
Three young men from Long’s 25,000-member New Birth Missionary Baptist Church filed lawsuits this week claiming he exploited his position and used cash, cars and expensive trips to pressure them into sexual relationships.
Of the pictures, one author suggested:
On Thursday, pictures hit the Internet like a whirlwind and no one knows how the photos surfaced which show the Bishop wearing spandex and workout clothes which is stated to have been sent to an accuser in November of 2008. According to attorney B.J. Bernstei who is representing the three men suing Eddie Long, they received dozens of emails from Long, but “they are not overly sexual.”
Veronica P. Roberts wrote today that a third man has filed suit:
A 3rd person has filed suit against Bishop Eddie Long, at the Dekalb County court, accusing him of using his power as pastor and mentor, to seduce him into having sexual relations with him, states CNN.
23-year-old Jamal Parish, from the same church, has alleged that Long has been having sexual encounters with him since he was 17 years old and lasted until he was 22, which was last year.
CNN reports that a spokesperson has informed the media that Bishop Long will hold a press conference on Thursday morning to answer these allegations.
Refuse to testify and fail to warn your church’s members about a sexual predator in their midst.
That was newly elected Southern Baptist North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell’s reaction when in 2004 as pastor of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, he learned that a volunteer at his church who had also taught at a school operated by his church [see addendum] was accused of sex crimes. And Ezell was himself subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury.
Christa Brown at Stop Baptist Predators writes:
When prosecutors subpoenaed pastor Ezell to testify before the grand jury, Ezell invoked the clergy-penitent privilege. In other words, Ezell claimed that he couldn’t be required to testify under oath (i.e., under penalty of perjury) because he claimed that, as pastor, he was entitled to keep secret whatever Bill Maggard had told him.
Furthermore, as reported in the Courier-Journal, “Ezell said he did not expect the church would announce Maggard’s arrest to the congregation.”
In many states, Ezell would not have had recourse to clergy-penitent privilege and could have had difficulties himself if found to have failed to report “known or suspected instances of child abuse or neglect.” The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Child Welfare Information Gateway explains:
In approximately 18 States and Puerto Rico, any person who suspects child abuse or neglect is required to report.3 This inclusive language appears to include clergy but may be interpreted otherwise.
As a doctrine of some faiths, clergy must maintain the confidentiality of pastoral communications. Mandatory reporting statutes in some States specify the circumstances under which a communication is “privileged” or allowed to remain confidential. Privileged communications may be exempt from the requirement to report suspected abuse or neglect. The privilege of maintaining this confidentiality under State law must be provided by statute. Most States do provide the privilege, typically in rules of evidence or civil procedure.4 If the issue of privilege is not addressed in the reporting laws, it does not mean that privilege is not granted; it may be granted in other parts of State statutes.
This privilege, however, is not absolute. While clergy-penitent privilege is frequently recognized within the reporting laws, it is typically interpreted narrowly in the context of child abuse or neglect. The circumstances under which it is allowed vary from State to State, and in some States it is denied altogether. For example, among the States that list clergy as mandated reporters, New Hampshire and West Virginia deny the clergy-penitent privilege in cases of child abuse or neglect. Four of the States that enumerate “any person” as a mandated reporter (North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Texas) also deny clergy-penitent privilege in child abuse cases.
States which require reporting without regard to clergy-penitent privilege simply place the welfare of vulnerable children first.
Ezell could have put the children first and, judging from available accounts, simply did not do that.
On March 19, 2004, the Associated Press reported:
Maggard, 56, was indicted in December on two counts of first-degree sexual abuse. He is accused of molesting seven boys between 1973 and 1975, when he was a fifth-grade teacher at Schaffner Elementary School.
The new indictment says Maggard molested the boys either at school or at his home.
Maggard was initially indicted Dec. 17. He pleaded not guilty at his Dec. 22 arraignment and later posted a $5,000 bond.
Maggard taught 13 years in Jefferson County Public Schools and later worked at a school operated by Highview Baptist Church, where he also volunteered in Sunday school and choir programs until recently.
The 6,000-member church is one of the state’s largest Southern Baptist congregations.
On August 3, 2004, WLKY.com reported:
A former teacher pleaded guilty to sexually abusing seven boys in the 1970s and early 1980s.
The deal calls for Bill Maggard Jr., 57, to spend up to 10 years in prison, WLKY NewsChannel 32 reported Tuesday.
. . .
Maggard taught for 13 years in Jefferson County Public Schools, and later worked at a school operated by Highview Baptist Church.
The church has said it has no claims of abuse
At sentencing time, Maggard made the kind of plea for clemency that is eerily predictable for church-going predators. On October 01, 2004, Jason Riley of the Louisville Courier-Journal wrote:
“I’m sorry for my actions many years ago,” he said during his sentencing hearing in Jefferson Circuit Court, adding that he sought treatment in the early 1980s and would be willing to do so again. “I faced my sin, sought forgiveness, sought help and God kept His promise.”
What of his victims? The burden of warning them appears to have fallen to the press and an alert member of Ezell’s congregation. As Christa explains:
And thank God for a member of Ezell’s congregation who saw what was happening in her church and worried about the safety of the kids. As reported in the Courier-Journal, a member of Highview knew about prior allegations of abuse by Maggard, and she was concerned about his being in contact with children in the church. So, she contacted the victims and encouraged them to go to police.
Did Maggard seek out his victims and provide treatment to them?
Were those seeking clemency for Maggard at least similarly concerned about finding and helping all of his victims? You know: The suffering children.
Christa Brown calls our attention to a story of a Southern Baptist church’s negligence in dealing with a preacher’s sexual abuse of his adopted children. She quotes from the Anchorage Daily News:
Church officials knew the oldest daughter, Renee, was being abused long before Diana did. One of them, according to Renee’s sworn testimony, told her to forgive her father and not tell anyone what he had done. It was three years before Renee got the courage to speak up again. By then, her father had started in on her two little sisters.
You see in that horror why sexual predators regard churches as attractive environments.
For example, one predator told a researcher [.pdf]:
I considered church people easy to fool…they have a trust that comes from being Christians…They tend to be better folks all around. And they seem to want to believe in the good that exists in all people … I think they want to believe in people. And because of that, you can easily convince, with or without convincing words.
Thus forgiveness becomes cover-up, with hellish results for victims.