Oregon Youth Minister Charged with Sex Abuse Had Criminal History

By Michael Klazema on 7/18/2016

A leading member of a Christian ministry based in Silverton, Oregon was recently indicted for second-degree sexual abuse. The indictment, which was filed in the Marion County Circuit Court, alleges that the ministry leader engaged in a sexual relationship with a female teenager. Silverton, the town where the suspect resides, is located about an hour south of Portland.

According to a report from the Statesman Journal, the man was heavily involved with Silverton's ACTS Ministry. He and his wife had started a youth group and were part owners of a local coffee shop that often hosted Bible study sessions and other youth ministry events. Local parents also say that the suspect took frequent trips to Portland with their teenagers as part of the ministry. The man had frequent and repeated contact with teens.

It is unclear from reports whether or not the victim in this case was a member of the suspect's youth group or ministry. The suspect was arrested after the victim came forth and reported her relationship with the man to police. According to allegations, the suspect had multiple sexual encounters with the teenage girl, including five instances of intercourse and five instances of other sexually-related contact. These incidents allegedly took place over a three-year period starting in 2013 when the victim was 16 and ceasing earlier this year.

The Statesman Journal article did not state outright whether or not ACTS Ministry had run a background check on the suspect before allowing him to volunteer with teenagers, but the article did investigate a possible link between the suspect and Young Life, a popular Christian ministry with nationwide reach. A representative for Young Life said that the suspect was not a leader within the organization and that he would have gone through a background check if he had been involved.

If ACTS had run a background check, the check likely would have turned up the suspect's brief but relevant criminal history. In 2013, the man was convicted of public indecency in Clackamas County, which is about 50 miles to the northeast of Silverton. That conviction resulted in a sentence of 15 days in jail and three years of probation—a period of probation that would have come to an end this year. Under his probation, the suspect was not supposed to have any contact with minors or be present in areas "frequented by children." Taking on a role within a youth group or church ministry would violate those terms. A background check would have disqualified the suspect from working with the church.


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