Jesurgislac’s Journal

May 29, 2011

Pastor Chuck Phelps is passionate and practical

Colonial Hills Baptist Church has a biography of their senior pastor that is significant for what it omits:

Dr. Charles Phelps is our senior pastor. Prior to coming to Colonial, Dr. Phelps served as a youth pastor in Minnesota and Colorado, as a senior pastor in New Hampshire, and as a college president in Wisconsin. He has traveled to numerous mission fields, colleges, seminaries, and churches to teach and preach the Bible. Pastor Phelps is a passionate, practical Bible teacher and preacher. He ministers faithfully to our church family along with his wife, Linda. They have five children and one grandson.

In 1997 Pastor Phelps was the senior pastor at the Trinity Baptist Church in Concord, New Hampshire, when he discovered that a church member, Ernest Willis, had raped (on at least two occasions) a 15-year-old girl, the daughter of a church member, and the girl was pregnant. Under New Hampshire law, Willis had committed a felony – a Class B Felonious Sexual Assault – a crime for which he has since been found guilty (verdict Friday, he hasn’t yet been sentenced but it could be up to 54 years). This was the case even if, as Willis persistently claimed, the girl had consented to sex: she was under 16. (Exceptions can be made for two kids more-or-less the same age fooling around with each other, but Willis was then in his late thirties and married: the girl was his kids’ babysitter.)

There were multiple people affected by Willis’s rape of the girl. There was Willis’s wife (they are now divorced), their children, the girl herself, the girl’s mother. (I don’t know if the girl’s father was a church member.) Supposing that, 14 years ago, Willis had been arrested for rape and Phelps had stood by the girl and given his testimony in support of her. One can assume that even an anti-rape Pastor Phelps would have been against abortion, so I’m not going to fantasise that the girl would have been able to make her own decision about that: but suppose she had a supportive mother who hadn’t made her give the baby up for adoption, or if the adoption had been with local parents and as open as possible, so that the girl was not (as actually happened) permanently separated from the baby she’d been forced to have? (I can’t say what decision the girl might have made about abortion if she’d been genuinely free to choose, with a supportive mother to back whatever decision she made, but I can be pretty sure that Pastor Phelps would never have supported abortion nor envisaged a “solution” that included abortion, so let’s assume not.)

Phelps would have been faced with a congregation aware that one of their number was being charged with rape of a babysitter; the man’s wife would have had to deal, there and then, with knowing that her husband was a rapist who molested teenage girls: and the girl herself, pregnant with the rapist’s child. The situation would necessarily have continued for months, maybe for years – really, for as long as any of the people involved remained members. (Adoptive parents might have been members of the same congregation, or known to members of the congregation, too.)

Whereas, I can see the temptation to Phelps: if he got the pregnant girl out of the way, got the girl and Willis to apologise to the congregation thus making it partly the girl’s fault and therefore allowing Mrs Willis to tell herself it wasn’t altogether her husband’s fault, and got the baby adopted out of state and to parents not known to anyone in the congregation, then – he could tell himself – everything would be over and done with in weeks. The girl would be out of the way in Colorado having her baby, when she came back she wouldn’t talk about it, and there wouldn’t be any messy lingering upset. Perfect solution, so long as the girl kept her mouth shut and Phelps wasn’t concerned about justice, or kindness to a raped girl, or protecting other vulnerable teenagers from Ernest Willis – or even with being honest with Mrs Willis, that her husband was a rapist of teenage girls and there could be no excuse for him.

Pastor Phelps’s defense in court was that he did report this to the police, though he also says he told the police that the girl didn’t want to come forward. The two phone calls, he claims, were made on Oct. 8, 1997 when he found out that the girl was raped and pregnant, and on Oct. 9, the following day, when he told the police the girl didn’t want to come forward.

Pastor Phelps says he told the girl “I read to Tina from Deuteronomy 22. The passage is about a maiden in a field and she is accosted by a man, the maiden screamed and no one was there to help her. Then the passage refers to a maiden in a city who is accosted by a man, she didn’t scream. There is the appearance of complicity.”

Chuck Phelps (his new Colonial Hills church says he “especially enjoys teaching pastoral ethics, church management, church growth, and discipleship”) got the girl to read an apology for her misbehaviour to the congregation. Then he had her sent away to another state to have the baby, have the baby adopted, and then return to the New Hampshire Church, where she’d continue to worship alongside the man who’d raped her, Ernest Willis. This kind of abuse, revealed by one brave woman who opted to come forward, doesn’t seem to concern Phelps’ new church.

A lot of people responded to my previous post on this subject. I thank you all now for commenting: I’m sorry I didn’t reply to your comments. Several spoke of how this matched their own experience of Christian charity – caring for rapists more than for their victims.

Chuck Phelps set up his own website to excuse his behaviour: www.drchuckphelps.com. He claims that neither he nor the girl’s mother told her not to press charges. But clearly, even according to his own testimony, he made no effort whatsoever to support the girl against the rapist. Ernest Willis was also a member of Phelps’ congregation. Phelps had a responsibility to him: a responsibility which Phelps seems to have thought he fulfilled by protecting the rapist from the legal consequences of committing a felony. It does not seem to have occurred to Phelps, ever, that he had a moral responsibility towards Willis or towards his other victims, to ensure that Willis was arrested by the police and charged with the crime Phelps knew he had committed: the burden of his defense is that the 15-year-old girl, whom he admits he’d told was “complicit” in her own rape, was solely responsible for ensuring that charges were brought against Ernest Willis, and it’s entirely her fault, not his, that the rapist was left to go free for 14 years.

What’s missing from the website now (I first looked at it a few months ago, soon after the 20/20 broadcast) is a defense by Chuck Phelps that the whole horrible situation was worthwhile because the girl had a baby and the baby was adopted: she didn’t have an abortion, and the couple who got a baby were made happy by this. I don’t know why Phelps took this down – perhaps because someone with more self-awareness realized that it made Doctor Phelps look very, very complicit in the sexual abuse of an underage girl. Perhaps Phelps was still hoping, at the time he first set up the site, that Willis would be found not guilty and he could dismiss the girl whose rape he’d condoned, all those years ago, as just another silly slut. (His website still cites a letter from the girl’s mother which claims her daughter is only doing this for the money: I don’t think he quite sees that abuse from an abusive parent is not exactly helping his case.) But it did strike me as a classic pro-life justification for rape and sexual abuse.

Colonial Hills Baptist Church says it is “a family of caring Christians, a place where people feel like they are coming home. Through fervent prayer, the passionate and practical declaration of God’s Word, carefully presented and God-focused music, and a sincere love for the individual, Colonial Hills Baptist Church desires to help you and your family grow in Christ.” They even have a Facebook page. But their senior pastor condoned the rape of a fifteen year old girl, and continues to excuse his behaviour then. His church appears to think the problem can be resolved by giving him a separate website, hoping perhaps that people won’t keep associating their pastor with the rapist in New Hampshire.

Apparently their sermon for today, May 29, is “designed to strengthen saints and convict sinners. This morning’s message is entitled, ‘God is Able to Keep You Eternally Secure.'” Phelps doesn’t seem to have regarded justice, or kindness, or protecting the vulnerable, or honesty, as anything a pastor ought to be concerned with. But security, yes: he does seem to have cared about that.

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June 8, 2010

Pastor Chuck Phelps has sincere love for rapists

In 1997, a 15-year-old girl in Concord, New Hampshire, became pregnant after being raped repeatedly by Ernest Willis, an older man she knew from the Trinity Baptist Church in Concord her family and the Willis family both attended. The girl told her mother after she was made pregnant: the mother told their pastor, Chuck Phelps.

The Trinity Baptist Church website has this careful message on its front page:

In reviewing the events of October 1997, the present leadership is seeking answers for the victim, our congregation, as well as our entire Concord community. The prayers of our entire church are for justice to be served to the alleged perpetrator, and that mercy and care will be extended to the victim.

Pastor Chuck Phelps had the rape victim go up for “church discipline” because, he told her, Willis may have been 99 percent responsible, but she needed to confess her 1 percent guilt in the situation, and that she should be happy that she didn’t live in Old Testament times because she would have been stoned.

A witness from 1997 remembers “I can still see the little girl standing up there with this smile on her face trying to get through this.” The next day the witness, Fran Earle, called Mrs Phelps, who said the victim had decided not to press charges for statutory rape. Earle, who left the church in 2001, said it was “regular” to see young girls who were pregnant called to the front of the congregation to be humiliated in this way.

Statutory rape has a statute of limitations of 22 years from when the victim turns 18 in New Hampshire, so the police are now investigating Ernest Willis. Chuck Phelps, now senior pastor at another Baptist church in Indianapolis (with no message on its website for the victims of its Pastor), says that he did not “participate in a cover-up”. He simply had the rape victim kept in a “prophet’s chamber” (a guest room over the garage used to host travelling ministers) at the Phelpses’ Concord home until she could be “relocated”. “I just know that they made me stay at their house, and I wasn’t allowed to see any of my friends or talk to anybody. I had to stay there until they shipped me away.” After she moved to Colorado, a minister there asked her to write a letter to Ernest Willis’s wife, apologising to her for “abusing her trust” by having sex with her husband. Church members there monitored her phone calls and didn’t allow her to be with people her own age. When she gave birth in March 1998, Chuck Phelps urged her to put her baby girl up for adoption. After about a year she returned to Concord for about six months, living with her mother, attending Trinity Church, and seeing Ernest Willis in church regularly: he was still a church member.

Chuck Phelps’ current church is Colonial Hills Baptist Church , 8140 Union Chapel Rd, Indianapolis, IN 46240. Phone: 317-253-5597. Fax: 317-254-2847. There’s a comments form.

They say “We’re interested in your comments and questions.” They also say: “Colonial Hills Baptist Church is a family of caring Christians, a place where people feel like they are coming home. Through fervent prayer, the passionate and practical declaration of God’s Word, carefully presented and God-focused music, and a sincere love for the individual, Colonial Hills Baptist Church desires to help you and your family grow in Christ.”

Presumably, Ernest Willis and his family were “helped to grow in Christ” by Pastor Chuck Phelps. Wonder how many other rapists he’s “helping” at his new church?

Update, Sunday 10th April 2011
If you live inside the United States, you may be able to watch a 20/20 documentary on the ABC website (20/20 4/8: Victim’s Forced Confession)

Chuck Phelp’s new church, Colonial Hills Baptist, now has a message up on its website:

ABC’s 20/20 has featured a documentary having to do with independent fundamental Baptists. What occured in Concord, NH while Pastor Phelps was pastor was a part of their focus. Pastor Phelps now has a website available to provide accurate information. Please go to www.drchuckphelps.com for more information.

This 20/20 program is what ABC describe in a news release as a “yearlong investigation” into “a religious subculture many Americans have never heard of, yet has thousands of churches across the country . . . churches that critics claim can foster physical and sexual abuse.” Anchor Elizabeth Vargas said yesterday the 1997 incident at Trinity is “a big part of our hour” but other churches are also examined. (Concord Monitor) It would certainly be interesting to do a follow-up with the church in Indiana, to find out how many rapists have received the benefit of Pastor Phelps’ spiritual support there.

May 24, 2010

ConDem: More privacy for rapists

Three years ago David Cameron, now Prime Minister, called for tougher sentences for rapists, saying too many men “think they can get away with it”. (BBC)

Now he’s Prime Minister, he seems to have decided that the important thing is to preserve the privacy of rapists.

It’s generally agreed by crime statistics compilers that the percentage of false accusations in rape is no greater than the percentage of false accusations of any other crime (around 4%) – and the police are pretty good (some would say overly good) at weeding out the false accusations before the case is given to the criminal justice system and they decide whether or not to prosecute.

It’s also confirmed that most rapes – more than half – go unreported, because the victim either can’t believe herself (or himself – men are even less likely to report rape than women) that she was raped, or is sure she won’t be believed.

Once a case of rape gets to court, slightly over half the cases win a conviction.

Anyone accused of a crime has the right in a court of law to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

But we don’t generally have a problem with the idea that even though Fred Bloggs was found innocent in court of stealing the lead from the local church, still everyone local is pretty damn sure Bloggs did it, given the locally known circumstancial evidence of missing lead from the roof, Bloggs seen around the church at the right time, and Bloggs suddenly acquiring some inexplicable money from somewhere unknown. And it’s perfectly okay to report all of this in the local paper, once the trial’s done and Bloggs has been acquitted.

Fred Bloggs also has a habit of picking up young women, taking them out to dinner, going on a second date in which he gets her drunk, offers to “drive her home”, drives her instead to an out-of-the-way place to rape her, an then drives her home, pointing out to her on the way that if she talks, he’ll just say it was consensual, and there’ll be no evidence. Eventually one of them reports to the police, who arrest Bloggs, who maintains the young woman was “gagging for it”, and as she was drunk and admits herself that she went out on a date with Bloggs before he raped her, the jury decides “insufficient evidence” and acquits. And to protect Bloggs’ good name, the local paper is not allowed to report that Fred Bloggs does this – or any identifying details which might help anyone realise that the man acquitted is good old Fred Bloggs, last seen at the Slug and Lettuce courteously helping his drunken date into his car for a drive home.

Why all the concern for the men accused and acquitted – most of whom did actually commit rape, even if they couldn’t be convicted – while no concern whatsoever for the victims, whose rape can’t “unhappen” just because the rapist walked free?

September 12, 2008

Pro-lifers support rapists

Hilzoy on Obsidian Wings:

One Vice Presidential nominee turned her back on past and future rape victims. Another was looking out for them. Read the rest

It’s one of the examples of how feminism has worked its way into general acceptance since the revolutionary movement began: it’s now accepted in most modern jurisdictions that rape is a crime committed by the rapist, for which the rapist is prosecuted by the state: it is not a crime that the rape victim claims is done to her for which she personally must seek redress. (I use gendered language in the last part of that sentence because the legal acceptance that men too are raped is another by-product of feminism.)

Old-fashioned legal language used the term “prosecutrix” to describe the rape victim if charges were brought against the rapist in court, blandly presenting the idea that the rapist’s victim was pressing the charges, rather than being the key witness. It is a source of the blame-the-victim attitude – “being raped” was something that happened to the victim, not something that someone else did.

For example, explicitly for “pro-life” reasons, the Catholic Church recently withdrew all support for Amnesty International, because AI had decided that they would support the right of a raped woman to have an abortion and to get medical treatment for problems caused by an illegal abortion – a decision caused by AI’s work with women gang-raped by soldiers in the Congo. At the other end of the scale, Catholic hospitals routinely deny emergency contraception to rape victims – a procedure which in a civilised country leads to more abortions than would otherwise occur.

Although Hilzoy doesn’t mention it, this belief usually runs in parallel with the belief that a woman made pregnant by rape ought to be forced through pregnancy and childbirth – no matter the age of the victim, her being raped has removed her status as “innocent”: the fetus she may carry has that status, but a raped child does not. (The recent example of an 11-year-old girl in Romania, who had been raped – allegedly by her uncle, who fled when his niece’s pregnancy was discovered – but who was denied an abortion by the pro-lifer authorities in her country, “to protect the innocent child”. The girl, you see, was no longer an innocent child – she had been raped.)

Sarah Palin famously said, in response to a question about whether she supported abortion, not even if her own daughter was raped.

(That she reneged on that decision, and has since declared herself to be pro-choice, makes her a better human being, but her principles at the time she was Mayor of Wasilla were apparently, explicitly, for forced pregnancy.)

It doesn’t surprise me that, just as Palin regards a raped woman as an incubator for the rapist’s seed, Palin also regards evidence for prosecuting the rapist for his crime as a matter for the rape victim to pay for.

April 24, 2008

Goodbye, Ferret Face!

Suddenly it’s all over the net: The Ferrett, who blogs at livejournal, has written a couple of skeevy posts about how he regards women’s bodies as “open source” and wants other fans to regard women’s bodies that way too. (Links roundup here.)

The guy’s name is familiar, and his face is more than familiar: this is the guy who came up with the rapist’s credo three years ago. He wrote a couple of repellent posts on how when a man pestered a woman into sex, he blamed the woman for her behavior: The Correlary, Which I Cannot Spell Without A Spell-Checker, which was a follow-up to Do-Be-Do-Me-Do.

In this thread specifically, he defends this:

The Ferrett: * – Unfortunately, I can’t decry the process of “asking repeatedly,” mainly because it’s the only stimuli a lot of women respond to.”

Responder: “I can. If they say no, why not take it at face value? This, in turn, trains THEM not to say no if they mean “try harder”. And it’s taking some responsibility for yourself rather than putting the burden on someone else.”

The Ferrett: If it gets them what they want, then I can’t blame them for using an efficient system.

This was discussed at some length on my journal then: a commenter who identified herself as his wife showed up to defend him.

So when he talks about standing round at conventions groping women’s breasts being all empowering and healing, but claims

Second: When I say, “Like any good project, you need access control, because there are loutish men and women who just Don’t Get It,” I am not referring to the women who don’t want to be involved, who are perfectly cool, but rather the guys/gals who see a green button and assume that it means that the woman has to let herself be touched because she’s got the green on. [As I said, the answer “no” is something that can be given and should be respected – it’s not like a button should force you to give up your right to a body.] Or decide to spend a good five minutes in a mouth-breathing grope. Those kinds of idiots are the folks who we’re worried about, and if I could change any one sentence it would be that one, because I never meant to imply there was anything wrong with someone who didn’t want to be involved. There isn’t.

…bear in mind this is the same man who, three years earlier, argued that he couldn’t “decry” a man pestering a woman until she gave in, because this was an “efficient system”: (link) It’s sort of like the way some people consider it rude to call to find out if the company got your resume and to ask if you’ll get an interview. It may well be rude, but sometimes it gets you a job.

April 15, 2008

Who has “betrayed their mission”?

Inspired by Melissa McEwan’s post here on the film about rape in the Congo. The post and the film are good, bu there’s a big silence around the Congolese government’s stance on women’s reproductive rights. Abortion is illegal in the Congo, and health care following illegal abortion is frequently denied.

Amnesty’s international council voted in August 2006 to end the organisation’s former policy of “neutrality” on abortion in favor of supporting access to the procedure for women who have been raped, or whose health will be damaged if they are not allowed to terminate: and to decriminalize abortion so that a woman who has an abortion won’t be prosecuted for it: and to support access to post-abortion healthcare for women who get abortions in countries where they’re illegal. The change was address issues including the widespread use of rape in war zones like the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Since then, eight schools in Northern Ireland have closed or suspended their Amnesty groups and more than two thousand Catholic schools in England and Wales were also – in autumn 2007 – advised to sever their links with Amnesty, following instructions from their bishops. November 2007

Amnesty groups in UK schools write to prisoners of conscience in countries round the world. The adult responsible for the group will usually choose a country or a specific prisoner for the group to write to. These bishops evidently feel that Matthew 25:40-45 is one of those awkward bits of the Bible that Jesus didn’t really mean.

What Jesus really wanted, these bishops think, was for Christians to listen to these stories and wash their hands:

F: That day we were coming from Bukavu. When we reached N., some soldiers stopped the vehicle and made us get out. When soldiers stop vehicles like that, it’s to rob the passengers, but they often take the opportunity to rape the women too. I was with five other women, and we were all raped, there at the side of the road. Then they gathered us together again and told us that they were taking us to their commander. So, like that, we were led off to their camp in the forest. Since there were six of us, when we were presented to the commander, he made the first choice of which woman he would take. Then the other officers made their choice: each officer took a woman. When it’s the commander who chose you, the others can’t touch you. But when he’s had enough of you, he hands you on to others to rape you.

E: One day I went to the fields to gather some manioc leaves. I saw a man dressed in camouflage, the uniform that soldiers wear. That man chased after us. We ran away, but I fell and he raped me. … There were two other girls with me. … I fell over. I cried out and my friends ran off. No-one came to help me. … He hurt me. It was bad. … After he’d raped me he left me there. I got up and went back home. … I’ve only got my mum. My father isn’t with us anymore. … During the war my father fled. He hasn’t come back. …
My mother asked me, “Why didn’t you bring back the vegetables?” I burst out crying and I told her what had happened. Afterwards she said, “Come on, we’re going to see the doctor”. … The doctor said that since this man had raped me, I was no longer normal like the other girls.

Aid worker:

We listen to the women, try to help them psychologically, help them to get medical care, and we try to give them a small amount of money, because typically the soldiers who rape the women will also take everything they own, even down to their clothes and cooking pots. And many women have been rejected by their husbands and are left on their own to look after the children, to find shelter and food for them. Many of the children are badly undernourished. So we try to give them something, when we have it, so they can start up again on their own: a small amount so they can buy and sell food at the markets and make a little profit, or some seed or a hoe.

But there are many problems. Even though they say the war is over, I can tell you it is still here. There are many villages where the women are not assisted, are abandoned to themselves. And the women are scared. Our own workers receive threats too. Two weeks ago, as I was on my way to K., I was threatened by three soldiers who said that we exaggerate the rapes and tried to take the documents I was carrying. They are worried that we are divulging all their secrets. We are regularly called in for questioning. We don’t keep our files here. We send them to G., for security.

From Catholic News:

Kate Gilmore, exec of AI: “Amnesty International’s position is not for abortion as a right but for women’s human rights to be free of fear, threat and coercion as they manage all consequences of rape and other grave human rights violations.”

Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace:

To selectively justify abortion, even in the cases of rape, is to define the innocent child within the womb as an enemy, a ‘thing’ that must be destroyed. How can we say that killing a child in some cases is good and in other cases it is evil?

I believe that, if in fact Amnesty International persists in this course of action, individuals and Catholic organizations must withdraw their support because, in deciding to promote abortion rights, AI has betrayed its mission.

Who has betrayed their mission?

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

Who?

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