The general public typically expects church leaders to adhere to a higher standard of morality than most. When a church official is accused of a sex crime, he or she may be judged even more harshly in the court of public opinion. Such an accusation has the power to seriously damage the accused's personal and professional life, even if there is no conviction. A Colorado youth pastor now faces this situation after being accused of sexually assaulting a church member from the time she was 15. Five leaders in the church have also been charged for not reporting the crime.
The 35-year-old youth pastor was arrested in September on charges of sexual assault, unlawful sexual contact and sexual exploitation. The 24-year-old woman who accused him said that the sexual abuse began when she was 15 and continued for seven years. She kept it a secret until March of this year, when she met with church officials to report what happened. In May, she made a report to police.
Police accuse the five church officials of refusing to cooperate when they were served with a court order in July to turn over the reports from their internal investigation. The church officials reportedly only complied when the District Attorney threatened to charge them with contempt. They defended their actions, stating that their attorney advised that they were not legally obligated to report the sexual misconduct because the alleged victim is now an adult. In addition, they claim that the victim wanted to keep the matter private.
The Colorado youth pastor accused of the sex crime now has a long road ahead of him regardless of whether or not he is convicted. He likely will always carry the stigma that comes along with this type of accusation, particularly since he reportedly confessed his misconduct both to church leadership and to the police. How his criminal defense is presented may make a big difference in the outcome of his case.
Source: ABC 7 News, 5 officials at Longmont church accused of failing to report alleged child abuse by youth pastor, Alan Gathright, Nov. 6, 2013