Day One of the Thomas Chantry Trial

By | July 25, 2018

After a full first day in the courthouse pictured above, I am now at an undisclosed location where I have established the nerve center of the “Thou Art The Man” blog. It is here where I will be laboring late into the night, pounding out a daily update of the day’s court proceedings in the Thomas J. Chantry sexual and physical abuse case.

Chantry, a former Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America (ARBCA) pastor, is facing eight criminal counts involving five victims. The criminal charges include five counts of sexual abuse of a minor and three counts of physical abuse of a minor. There are five victims. What follows is a brief recap of the day.

Today was spent culling the jury pool, with the exception of the last hour, from 1600-1700. The potential jurists that had not been excused were sent home at 1600 and the State’s Attorney (Susan Eazer) and the Defense Attorney (John Sears) were arguing over Motions/information that they had spent much time arguing over in the Evidentiary Hearing last Thursday. But I am getting ahead of myself, more on that later.

There were 133 potential jurists in the pool. They were divided into two groups, 65 in the morning session and 67 in the afternoon session.  Of this 133, at the end of the day, only 56 jurists were still in the pool of potential jurists.

The way the Honorable Judge Astrowsky worked this process was by first conducting a brief Civics 101 course, explaining the importance of citizens serving on a jury is to our Constitutional form of government. Then he asked if there was anyone in the jury pool who was not a citizen of the USA and a resident of Yavapai County. He then discussed the schedule for the trial and asked that anyone who had scheduling conflicts to raise their jury card. (He addressed each potential juror by their number.) Judge Astrowsky then went row by row and each potential jurist that had a possible conflict would state their case. Judge Astrowsky may or may not question them further.  Individuals who had vacations planned and had purchased airline tickets, etc, were not questioned further and at the end of this process were excused from serving.

In the next step, Judge Astrowsky asked anyone who had read, seen or heard anything about the case to identify themselves. Many had read a recent report in the Prescott Daily Courier newspaper. Judge Astrowsky would then ask them if this had in any way biased them or would prevent them from deciding the case based solely and exclusively on the evidence presented in the trial.

Next, Judge Astrowsky briefly described the case to the potential jurists and asked if the nature of the case would prevent anyone from serving as an impartial jurist. Again he would interview everyone who raised their card. Some jurists requested to speak separately with the Judge, which he told them beforehand was perfectly fine to do. (I thought this would be in the Judge’s chambers, but I, along with some of the potential jurists was surprised to find out it was simply without the other jurists in the courtroom. A few of the jurists stated that they thought this would be in private, but Judge Astrowsky apologized and explained this was a public trial and this was as private as it would get.) I felt bad about this because, inevitably, those who wanted to speak with Judge Astrowsky privately had been sexually abused themselves. Of course, they were excused, but it clearly pained them to have to speak in front of those of us remaining in the courtroom. There were also individuals who broke down and wept and could not even say a word. Judge Astrowsky kindly expressed his sorrow to these individuals and immediately excused them.  I would say there were 10-12 individuals in the jury pool who had been sexually abused. One woman had been abused as a child, she appeared to now be about 60 years old, and she stated she was still traumatized by the abuse and was undergoing counseling. It just breaks my heart to hear these stories of a lifetime of pain caused by the perpetrators of these horrible crimes.

While on the subject, I should mention the individuals in the court, other than those in the jury pool. There was Judge Astrowsky, the stenographer, an aide who handles evidence, etc., some unseen clerk in a room behind the courtroom, the Bailiff, Susan Eazer (the Prosecuting Attorney), John Sears (the Defense Attorney), Richard Robertson (an aide/investigator for John Sears), and Thomas Chantry (the Defendant). Those are all the “players.” Behind the half-wall were 7 observers. One woman was a reporter for the Verde Independent Newspaper. She was only there for about an hour. Six of us were there for the whole session. Tom Chantry’s wife and her father sat together in the front row. (Her father is Al Huber, an assistant pastor in an ARBCA church in Rockford, IL) In row three was Chantry’s sister and her husband. Finally, there was me and a good friend, Dave, in the back row. He and I had both been air traffic controllers at Phoenix Approach Control and Dave had been kind enough to volunteer to cover the trial for me while I was working in Dubai. (That turned out not to be necessary as the trial had been delayed three times!)

I had mentioned in my recap of the Evidentiary Hearing held last Thursday that Tom Chantry should find somebody to make alterations on his suit because it was very ill-fitting.  Perhaps he or his team are reading my blog because the suit he was wearing today fit him nicely. (Thursday his pants were double folded over his shoes and dragging on the ground!)

The final item of the court day was a lengthy discussion of the two reports of the three-man ARBCA Investigative Committee. It was basically an exact repeat of what had been discussed on Thursday. Each party deems it important to their case.  The Defense would have liked to use it to their advantage by saying the report concluded the Chantry spankings were merely a disciplinary action. The Prosecution said, not so fast, the “sealed” report stated the punishment by Chantry was strongly suspected to be purely for Chantry’s pleasure. (In other words, his sick sexual pleasure.) Judge Astrowsky again stated he would be very restrictive on what he allowed to be said in front of a jury from those reports because, based on Arizona Statute 403, the evidence was hearsay.

I will conclude today’s blog with a few memorable quotes. First, a potential jurist asked to be dismissed because he was the sole caregiver for his elderly wife. Judge Astrowsky asked him who was providing care for her today. He said she had been waiting out in his car all day! It was around 1430 at this time. Judge Astrowsky immediately excused him.

The second quote came from a middle-aged potential jurist who had raised his card in response to not being able to remain unbiased due to the nature of the case. Judge Astrowsky queried him about whether he had the ability to set aside his biases and decide the case solely and exclusively on the basis of the evidence provided in the trial. He responded in the negative, stating that he believed “there was a special place in hell”  for men such as Tom Chantry. Needless to say, he was excused.

That’s all for today. Check back tomorrow for another update.

31 thoughts on “Day One of the Thomas Chantry Trial

  1. JLC

    Hi Everyone,

    Thanks for your prayers and support. Just an FYI that Todd will be in court today, and I have several professional commitments. Therefore, comment moderation may be slower. We may need up to a 24-hour window to approve everything, although the time-frame will likely be shorter.

    I apologize for this. Please also note that you can sign up to receive comments even if you don’t want to comment yourself. Just select that option from the drop-down menu.

    Also, I deeply regret getting grouchy with people, one day, who were trying to make this blog’s coverage as accurate as possible.

    Please let us know about any problems including spelling errors. If you’re a grammar teacher, perhaps consider cutting us some slack unless the error is so bad that a sentence’s meaning is unclear. 😉

    Also, you can e-mail either Todd or myself from the contact page. We can’t guarantee that e-mail correspondence will remain confidential, yet try to keep it private.

    Thanks. Janna L. Chan (blog team member)

    Reply
  2. Mr. Jesperson

    Thanks for doing this again Todd. I never got a chance to see the trial of Tom White, as he killed himself so quickly after being exposed for what he was. Recently I have run into his victim who is now 16/17 a couple of times. Always sad when you realize the victims are real people and not some actor in a show created by writers of fiction. The victims are real and life has to go on for them, even when the perp murders himself.

    Reply
  3. MW

    Fact check: no need for speculation. The “mother of Chantry’s wife” is married to father of Chantry’s wife and is not presently in Arizona.

    Reply
    1. 2samuel127 Post author

      OK, thanks. I believe you, but now wonder who this woman is. I heard Chantry’s wife call her “mom” at day one of the trial.

      The man she sits with carries his Bible with him and they were driving a vehicle with CT plates. Must be very close friends of the family, perhaps another ARBCA pastor?

      Reply
    2. JLC

      Fact check: no need for speculation.

      Really, I see no “fact check.” I think that your statement is nothing but speculation unless you can produce a source to back it up. Todd was in the court room. I assume that you were not.

      Thanks. Janna L. Chan (blog team member)

      Reply
      1. EAB

        That’s a little harsh. I think MW was trying to be helpful. It lessens Todd’s credibility if he makes factual errors. And the mother of Chantry’s wife really is not presently in Arizona and really is still married to Mr. Huber. So whoever this person is, it’s not her, which may explain why she drove off in a separate car from Mr. Huber and is not sitting next to him in court.

        Reply
        1. JLC

          Hi, thanks for your feedback. Todd did not make a factual error. He made very clear that he was analyzing a confusing situation as best he could.

          I’m trying to get people to differentiate between facts and suppositions.

          Your comments are also suppositions, made anonymously, which undermine your credibility, in my view. Sorry if that sounds harsh. I don’t think that your comment was especially friendly or helpful. 😄

          How do you know that the person in question is not in Arizona? Do you have a source for this information?

          It’s fine to provide feedback that can’t be verified. However, please don’t refer to such information, provided anonymously, as facts.

          The comment policy on this blog asks that people make comments that are backed up by credible sources or intelligent reasoning.

          Please keep that in mind.

          Thanks. Janna L. Chan (blog team member)

          Reply
        2. JLC

          You’re right. I did sound harsh. My apologies.

          Janna L.Chan (blog team member)

          Reply
  4. Rae

    Ok, thanks for the clarification. Most of all, thank you for being there and keeping us all in the loop!

    Reply
  5. Jason Ladner

    Thank you for covering this trial. I was a member of Miller Valley when this took place and knew the children and families well. But I do appreciate your involvement in this and will be reading with interest.

    Reply
    1. 2samuel127 Post author

      Thanks Jason. I understand your interest. I will do my best to keep blogging about the trial.

      Reply
  6. KJ

    Thanks for this reporting. I’m glad this has *finally* gone to trial. I was a member of the church when Tom was pastor. I knew those kids and their families well.

    Reply
    1. 2samuel127 Post author

      You’re welcome KJ. Yes, it certainly took a long time to get to trial. It is quite unfortunate that Tom Chantry was ever a pastor. Sorry you had to experience that.

      Reply
  7. John

    Those people are potential “jurors”, not “jurists”. The judge and attorneys are jurists.

    Reply
    1. 2samuel127 Post author

      Thanks John. Someone else advised me on Twitter of my error. I will attempt to get it right, sorry. I am a legal neophyte!

      Reply
    1. JLC

      Thanks, Dee. I’m sorry about the harassment that you have endured at the hands of anonymous weirdos. People can get strange. On a matter completely unrelated to anything discussed on this blog, I had a non-anonymous (I knew her name and where she lived) person threaten to tell people that I was the “madame” of a “massage parlor” if I didn’t remove a comment I posted in an Amazon review pertaining to a book she wrote.

      This person also accused me of slandering her in many places on the internet, even though I had never written about her stuff at all anywhere else. I think she had clinical problems regarding paranoid fantasies, and was a miserable and unhappy person generally.

      I told this person that she was welcome to make up stories about me on the internet and then face the legal consequences of doing so, as I knew who she was. I said that I was also not concerned that any of my contacts would take seriously the idea that I was the madame of a cat house. Nor would I be bullied into removing material I had the right to post. This woman just moved on to harassing others. I later learned that her community couldn’t stand this gal, and that someone had even filed a restraining order, and civil suit alleging harassment, against her.

      In other words, her treatment of me was nothing personal. Sucuri, the security system on this blog, does make it easy to block most people using anonymous proxies. If people get around that, I just repeatedly block their URLs (edit, meant to say IP addresses) forcing them to at least use a different proxy system every time they want to let us know that we’re “grievance whores” or something lovely of that nature.

      Plus, even anonymous proxies seldom completely mask people’s identities. If pedophiles, and the pastors who love them, really start harassing Todd, they’ll probably get more than they bargained for from me. I’ll do anything legal and ethical in my power to come after them.

      Thanks for calling attention to Todd’s live blogging of the Chantry trial. Janna L. Chan (blog team member)

      Reply
    2. 2samuel127 Post author

      Thanks Dee. Check your direct message on Twitter.

      Reply
  8. JLC

    Hi Everyone,

    I’m Janna, Todd’s tech support person. We had a glitch regarding approving comments earlier this morning. I believe that all the comments that have been submitted are now up on the site. If that’s not the case, please contact me or Todd, and I’ll fix any problems.

    Thanks for the many insightful comments on the Chantry posts from everyone.

    Janna L. Chan (blog team member)

    Reply
  9. Carol

    Can I assume from your remarks that Chantry’s parents were not in attendance? If not, do we know why?

    Reply
    1. 2samuel127 Post author

      Carol, you are correct in your assumption. I have not seen them yet, but will let everyone know if I do. The trial is lengthy and I am told that many skip the jury selection. Perhaps they will show up later.

      Reply
  10. Rae

    Hi Todd, I gather from what you wrote concerning the report of the three member panel, that those men who investigated Chantry many years ago are NOT going to be called to testify. I wonder if you might have any information as to why the prosecution seemingly will not be calling them to testify? I sure wish they would be called to appear in person and be questioned! It seems that the judge indicating that he would limit what could be said about the report goes to the Constitutional right of an accused person in the U.S. to face their accuser. That’s why putting children on the stand to testify in a case is so problematic, as no one wants to re-traumatize a child by requiring them to get up in front of a whole courtroom and have to testify, and why the courts make exceptions in those cases and allow the children to be questioned via video monitoring or prerecorded interview versus in person.

    Reply
    1. 2samuel127 Post author

      Thanks for the comment, Rae.

      Yes, you are correct. No one from the three-man investigative committee will be called to testify. For those unaware of what we are speaking about, the ARBCA sent a committee of three men to Miller Valley Baptist Church in Prescott, AZ in the year 2000 to investigate alleged abuse by Tom Chantry who was, at that time, the pastor of the church.

      The members of the investigative committee were:

      Pastor Tedd Tripp – he was the pastor of the Grace Fellowship Church in Hazelton, PA. Tripp has authored several books and is a frequent speaker at seminars on the subject of raising godly children.

      Pastor Richard Jensen – the pastor of Hope Reformed Baptist Church in Long Island, NY. Prior to serving as a pastor, Jensen was a homicide detective.

      Mike McKnight – he was an elder at Grace Baptist Church of Carlisle, PA. The pastor of Grace Baptist was Walter Chantry,(since retired) and father of Tom Chantry. Walter Chantry was reportedly very upset with McKnight because of the report of the investigative committee.

      It is my understanding that at least some of the panel members wanted their full report disbursed to all ARBCA churches but this was squashed by those who held the reins of power in the ARBCA.

      Why none of the three men will be called to testify is a mystery to me. I think one of their conclusions is very damning to Tom Chantry. (Their conclusion that Chantry was punishing the victims for his personal pleasure.) I can only venture a guess as to why they were not included among the witnesses, and my guess is that it may have been due to the money it would have cost to bring them to court in Arizona. The result is that their report, based on the rules of evidence, is classified as hearsay evidence and will not be admitted in court.

      As to your comment of putting the victims on the witness stand, I realize it is always difficult for a victim to have to do this, no matter their age, but I did want to note that these alleged crimes were committed between 1995-2000 so at this point, the victims should all be in their twenties.

      Reply
      1. Rae

        Hi Todd, I gather from what you wrote concerning the report of the three member panel, that those men who investigated Chantry many years ago are NOT going to be called to testify. I wonder if you might have any information as to why the prosecution seemingly will not be calling them to testify? I sure wish they would be called to appear in person and be questioned! It seems that the judge indicating that he would limit what could be said about the report goes to the Constitutional right of an accused person in the U.S. to face their accuser. That’s why putting children on the stand to testify in a case is so problematic, as no one wants to re-traumatize a child by requiring them to get up in front of a whole courtroom and have to testify, and why the courts make exceptions in those cases and allow the children to be questioned via video monitoring or prerecorded interview versus in person.

        Whatever the reason for not bringing the men on the investigative committee to testify, I think the prosecution is missing a prime opportunity, as the contents of the report would seem to be crucial to making their case against Chantry. I worked in the court system for a number of years, and at least in the state and county where I live, I don’t think money would have been a preventative factor in not bringing them in to testify in person. However, the prosecution may believe that the three may not provide enough compelling testimony to make it worth doing so. It’s a shame. Hopefully, the state of Arizona can make their case against Chantry without them. Also, do you have access to the full motion that was filed by his attorney to drop some counts and if so, are you able to post it? Thank you!

        Reply
        1. 2samuel127 Post author

          Hi again Rae. I do have the entire motion, but not sure if I will get it posted. A couple of things on the two reports from the 3 man ARBCA investigative committee. As I understood the legal ramblings, to be permitted as evidence at the trial at least one of three men would have had to been deposed. Without that it is just hearsay. That’s probably an oversimplification, but you can read the Arizona statutes, specifically 403 and 404 to get more details. I don’t have the time to link to it right now. Another point the judge made several times is that the ARBCA report is a matter for a civil suit. The purpose of this court proceeding is to determine guilt or innocence of Tom Chantry in regards to 8 criminal complaints. Hope this helps. I also think the use of those reports could have been very helpful to the State. But I trust they are confident of what they have.

          Reply
          1. Rae

            Ok, thanks for the clarification. Most of all, thank you for being there and keeping us all in the loop!

      2. JLC

        Hi Rae:

        I’m not an attorney and am a little behind on reading the primary source documents pertaining to this case. However, I do want to articulate my opinion, as an ordinary American citizen, who has researched this subject, about what “hearsay” means in a legal sense, in U.S. criminal trials.

        The legal definition of “hearsay” appears to be similar to the commonly understood interpretation of “hearsay.” Namely, “hearsay” is something you heard from someone else. For example, if Tom Chantry told me, “I punched a kid in the face,” that would not be “hearsay”, because the statement was made to and heard by me directly. By contrast, if Walt Chantry said, “Janna, my son told me (me being Walt Chantry) that he punched a kid in the face,” that would be “hearsay”, because it’s a statement I hard from a 3rd-party.

        I hope that makes sense. My guess is that the “hearsay” issue in this case pertains to whether or not these so-called ARBCA investigators talked to Tom Chantry, the accused in this case, directly. If Tom Chantry told them directly that he molested kids, they could be called to testify. If they only heard allegations from others about his crimes, then that may be considered “hearsay.” My understanding is that “hearsay” cannot generally be admitted as evidence in U.S. criminal trials.

        The degree to which the prosecutor and Chantry’s defense lawyer are arguing about the definition of “hearsay,” makes me think that the situation regarding the ARBCA leaders who helped cover up allegations of abuse against Chantry is complex. As a non-lawyer, I would have little insight into the complexity of that issue, at this time.

        I hope that helps, Rae. I’m trying to explain my what I think I know about U.S. legal terms, because this blog has many non-American readers. As always, I urge everyone to research legal issues on their own. Thanks.

        Janna L. Chan (blog team member)

        Reply
      3. Amy M

        Hi Todd,
        Thank you so much for covering this case so thoroughly. The following is supposition about the exclusion of the report, but it is supposition based on experience.

        The cost to subpoena non-expert witnesses is not that material and is almost never considered a limiting factor when pursuing a criminal case, especially when the case involves sex crimes against minors, called “dangerous crimes against children” in the state of AZ.

        The county may pay for material witnesses’ travel and lodging using moderate county approved vendors, or pay them a mileage fee plus a daily food and lodging stipend. It is not the cost keeping these three pastors from being subpoenaed and appearing in court. The costs for prosecuting crimes is covered by legislative mandate, meaning the County Board of Supervisors cannot refuse to pay the costs for criminal prosecutions. It’s complicated, but funding prosecutions is not as discretionary as other county functions. They pinch pennies where they can, but never on something that could win or lose a case, especially when it involves dangerous crimes against children.

        I would also like to believe that the three pastors would be willing to foot their own traveling bill, if some sort of county budgetary restriction was the only limiting factor. The safety of children is at stake here. They really should not be pastors if they aren’t willing to help the most innocent of God’s lambs.

        The rationale behind the decision to exclude all and/or limit most of the report is based on other factors. TTBOMK, none of the three investigators were licensed peace officers at the time of the investigation and none of them directly witnessed any of the crimes. Their investigation was likely based on speaking to other first-hand sources such as the victims, Tom and any staff who had personally witnessed the crimes, plus any other parties who had anything relevant to say. They may have also reviewed other source documents or data, but any such relevant evidence like this would already have been discovered by the county investigators and included in their investigative report.

        In this case, the prosecutor will likely be calling the victims plus any other parties with direct, first-hand knowledge of the events and relying heavily on the testimony of their own investigators, who likely did a far more thorough job of reviewing the incidents. The ADA will be able to question the first-hand witnesses/victims directly and these same parties will be subject to cross-examination. Such evidence would always supersede any second hand data, such as this report anyway.

        The exclusionary rule prohibits the use of anything regarded as hearsay or second-hand information, which is basically what the report is. The report was prepared by three pastors who were retained to issue subjective opinions about their findings. It is always best to go directly to the source, plus subjective opinions are generally excluded.

        One of the largest concerns for every judge, is not having their rulings overturned on appeal. That is professionally embarrassing and results in unnecessary expenses for the taxpayers. Adhering strictly to the exclusionary rules helps to avoid such appeals, so it’s not likely that Judge Astrowsky will bend on this.

        There could be an exception to the above. It is extremely unlikely that Tom Chantry will be taking the stand on his own behalf. That is standard procedure as it protects the defendant from self-incrimination or any damaging statements or outbursts upon cross-examination. So the one exception would be if one of the actual three pastors investigating had a first hand conversation with Tom, where he confessed or made any material self-incriminating statements directly to them. Then you would expect to see the pastor who heard any incriminating evidence directly from Chantry brought in as a witness for the prosecution, since Chantry cannot be compelled to testify against himself.

        The sticky wicket there, is that all three are pastors. Which is another good reason for churches and para-church orgs to use a firm like GRACE ( netgrace.org ) to complete such investigations. It’s possible that Tom’s attorneys could make the claim that any confessions he made during the course of the original investigation constituted privileged information protected by clergy confidentiality rules.

        Since the three pastors are not Tom’s actual pastors and were not there acting as his pastor, then the prosecution should be able to get around that. But again, the only reason to hear from one of the three pastors is if they received direct, first-hand information regarding the crimes that the prosecution and defense would not have access to any other way.

        If Tom had made any self-incriminating statements during the course of the investigation, it is probable that the State would be compelling their testimony. Since you are not finding their names on a witness list, we can assume there were no late night rounds of Truth or Dare occurring during said investigation.

        I hope this makes sense. I really can’t think of any other evidence that the panel would uncover during the investigation that the State and defense couldn’t access directly for themselves via law enforcement’s interviews of witnesses and victims directly. Plus, any other related physical evidence would already have been surrendered to and catalogued by the law enforcement investigators.

        BTW, the part about Tom being aroused by the spankings would likely be excluded even if the report were allowed or the pastors were subpoenaed, if that conclusion was based solely on the personal opinion of one of the pastors. There would likely have to be other corroborative proof of him having a spanking fetish, such as a first-hand confession from Tom, or someone observing aroused behavior during the spankings or other statements or behavior before, during or after the incidents, or perhaps evidence of spank-fetish porn or searches for such, on one of his electronic devices.

        A spanking fetish is a form of paraphilia, so that testimony would also be more credible coming from a mental health care professional, not a pastor. Again, one more reason to let the professionals at a firm like GRACE handle these investigations.

        In the end, the report was prepared by three pastors, all of whom were not fully independent due to family ties and/or church org ties. Only one of the three had any professional experience as an investigator. There is no indication that any of them have expertise in child sexual abuse or psychology. Such reports like this, performed by people with no professional expertise and without full independence, amount to little more than providing damage control PR spin and padding files with paper in case lawsuits later ensue.

        Although I haven’t read the report, knowing how much of it would likely be excluded due to the hearsay rules and parts being based on subjective, non-professional, personal opinions, I don’t think that excluding it will hurt the prosecution’s case that much.

        However, if Tom Chantry is found guilty of these charges, then that should serve as a very strong indictment against the outrageous process that we keep seeing time and time again at these abusive churches. The church makes a fuss saying they are doing an “independent investigation” to get to the truth, when in reality they are simply paying people who lack appropriate levels of technical expertise and/or independence to do an internal review for the benefit of the corporation and without deference to the potential damage this may cause to victims.

        That could be one of the larger collateral benefits to come out of this trial – that these reviews, even when prepared by big name pastors or lawyers, are completely unreliable in detecting real crimes, real damage and real consequences. It’s just more of the good ole boy’s club protecting each other at the expense of life long trauma for children.

        Reply
        1. JLC

          Thanks for the analysis, Amy. Per a primary source document Todd referenced in a different post, it does appear that these individuals were required to report suspected child sexual or physical abuse irrespective of whether or not they were considered clergy.

          In my experience doing informal advocacy work against child sexual abuse in churches in general, most states very narrowly define the circumstances under which clergy are not required to report major crimes, including child sexual abuse. And, of course, even if pastors are not required to report crimes that could result in bodily injury to others, they may still be ethically and required to do so.

          With respect to GRACE and the good advocacy work it does, I strongly recommend that people use secular organizations, lawyers, and court systems to investigate a major crime against society such as sexual abuse. The United States strictly separates church and state by disallowing theocratic justice systems, formal or informal, to have temporal power. Therefore, a non-profit religious mediation organization, such as GRACE, is not empowered to subpoena witnesses, guarantee confidentiality, or perform other tasks necessary for seeking justice in the United States, in my opinion.

          Yes, I know that the head of GRACE is Billy Graham’s grandson, and that some people consider it wrong to say anything remotely critical about a member of the Graham family. I’m not one of them, folks. 😉

          Thanks. Janna L. Chan (blog team member)

          Reply
          1. Amy M

            Thanks Janna,
            To clarify, I by no means meant to imply that ANY child clergy sexual abuse should not be immediately reported to secular legal authorities. I’m still not sure how that may have been implied? GRACE and any other advocacy groups are never, ever a substitute for law enforcement – ever. GRACE is not useful for seeking justice or punishing offenders, nor is any such firm hired by a church to perform an internal investigation. Their value comes from trying to prevent future victimization by independently evaluating what allowed for a predator to violate a kid in the first place so that those weaknesses may be addressed and fixed, to try to prevent any further incidents. Churches owe that to their flocks.

            If it was my comment about the three pastors potentially protecting any confession based on claims of clerical protected communication, I was simply stating (in reference to why the Judge is excluding the report at this point) that a direct confession by Chantry to one of the three investigators would likely be the only thing that the State could not replicate in their own investigation. That’s why it is better for the state to use first hand information, not second hand.

            As to any potential confession (which if there were one, that investigator’s name should have appeared on the witness list) I was pointing out that it is possible that Sears could “try” to block that testimony based on clergy confidentiality. I sincerely hope that all of your readers understand that the failure to report was very wrong and is illegal in most states when victims are minors. I also immediately stated that such an objection would not work anyway, since none of the three men on the panel were acting as Chantry’s personal pastor. I was addressing the nature of the exclusionary rules, which are fairly complex, so that folks could better understand why certain evidence (this report) is being excluded or allowed. That issue is completely independent from the original bad act of failing to report to the authorities.

            To re-iterate, ALL Child Sexual crimes should be immediately reported to the legal authority that has jurisdiction where the crime was committed.

            I only brought up GRACE, because once a church is committed to performing an internal investigation, regardless of what their reason is for doing so, they should be using a qualified consulting group who has expertise working with sex crime victims. The potential for causing more harm to victims is great if the right firm is not used. These churches who use amateurs, however well meaning the individuals may be, can cause more damage. And when the church hires private attorneys to do this, their primary goal is to protect their client, the church, so the potential harm done to victims and their families can end up being of diabolical proportions.

            We have seen from the recent examples of the Andy Savage/Chris Conlee – Highpoint Memphis and Bill Hybels – Willow Creek cases where these “internal investigations” by attorneys or so-called investigators working for the church, as their client, only leads to more victim pain, more coverups and incomplete, if not wholly inaccurate information, being published. That is also what happened here on the Chantry case. That’s extremely hurtful for victims, their families and the witnesses to endure.

            I am also not a fan of Billy Graham, but I am not as diplomatic as you are on that point. You do yourself great credit with your restraint. I think the way he enriched himself and his family off of his charities and preaching is absolutely obscene. He was allowing his son Franklin to receive over a million dollars a year in compensation from his two charities and also allowed Franklin to have those charities reclassified as “religious orgs” (church) so Franklin could secretly bump his compensation up even higher and support his political activities and ambitions, since churches have no requirement to file any paperwork, not even an informational Form 990. It’s basically a license to engage in secretive personal enrichment at obscene levels. I do not think any pastors should be living the life of multi-millionaires solely from profiting off the name of Jesus Christ and using donations intended for the most destitute in our world to fund such ambitions.

            Many of the other Grahams aren’t much better with their multiple divorces and especially Tullian with all of his lies and juggling 7 women at one time. I like Boz in spite of his family name, not because of it. Boz dedicated his life to prosecuting sex offenders, which as you know from doing advocacy work, is a low paying, high stress, depressing job. It is one of the most difficult jobs in the entire criminal justice system and I might even argue one of the most difficult jobs, emotionally, in the world. I personally believe, based on the sex crime prosecutors I have known, that most see it as a calling, not a job.

            Boz only transitioned out of prosecuting to setting up a private firm to investigate and consult with churches on sex crime issues, when he realized he could do far more to help children by implementing major changes, than he could do by prosecuting one offender at a time in a very limited jurisdiction.

            If you know of a better independent agency (that churches would actually be willing to use) to investigate flaws in the system, address/fix weaknesses that could potentially lead to more sex crimes and educate leaders on all aspects of these heinous crimes (as a process above and beyond submitting to legal authorities) I pray that you will publish the name of this organization and links to their past cases and their work.

            I have no ties to GRACE, but I have seen the effects of the bad groups purporting to provide such services. I only chose GRACE because of the few consulting practices that do assist churches and para-churches with sex crime issues, GRACE is the only one I know of who insists on complete unimpeded access to victims and records and complete independence from oversight by the group paying their fees.

            The reality is that churches will not use some secular outside agency or law firm that doesn’t believe in God or understand their industry. Right or wrong, that is the reality.

            Most churches won’t even use GRACE because they realize they cannot retain control over the investigation or the findings. Tragically, that means that consultants like David Middlebrook’s The Church Law Group, Lawrence Swicegood’s multiple Crisis Management PR firms, DeMoss PR, the very unethical selling of a safety program called the “The Child Protection Plan” by Kamp Kanakuk (they proudly advertise that their expertise stems from their many cases of sodomy) that lame hipster, Hollywood celebrity wannabe Johnnie Moore and his firm KAIROS and Ministry Safe, will be the ones used.

            I am quite familiar with all of them and I assure you they work FOR the churches, not the flocks and certainly not for the victims. With the exception of Ministry Safe, they are mainly hired for damage control. They help churches to conceal their dirty deeds, spin what they cannot conceal and primarily sell services to limit the church’s liability – all of which is very bad for victims. These firms often end up doing more damage to the victims, not helping them.

            IMO, that’s what you are also going to get if you hire a secular law firm, like Highpoint did with Scott Fredricks. So, I have to respectfully disagree with you that secular law firms can do this better than GRACE, unless you can point to one that has a proven track record in this area that megachurches would be willing to use. It’s of no use to have such firms if churches will not use them.

            FTR, Ministry Safe represents an entirely different bag of worms. While they are competent at helping churches to set up basic polices and procedures, the reality is that they are still lawyers hired by the churches primarily to limit the liability of the churches paying their fees. That is the primary service they sell – sign with us and if you are later sued you can point to a jury that you followed the leading program in the USA. “What more could you have done?” However, it is this Kabuki Compliance Theater that represents an added threat in itself. They provide a false sense of security with their background checks and two deep policies, etc while doing nothing to address the more dangerous behavior that fuels and feeds the sexual abuse in churches. Specifically, due to the church using the “Ministry Safe” system, parents are willing to drop their guards which makes the children even more vulnerable to clever predators with no criminal record.

            The one thing that I do like about GRACE, which I hope you will consider Janna, is that TTBOMK, every staff person is a passionate victim advocate. One of their consultants even worked tirelessly to have their own pastor father put behind bars. While the Graham name may help GRACE to get into the doors of churches and parachurches, it’s the passion and commitment of the individuals working within that org that matters most. I could easily see dedicated people like yourself and Todd working on their team. They seek the truth and the safety of kids.

            I have worked with a lot of sex crime prosecutors and prosecution based victim advocates and they are a breed unto themselves. They have to be. Most of them are women and they define the term Mama Grizzly. They understand the system and they have seen it all so NO predators or predator enablers are going to manipulate them or fool them with their God-speak. You can’t get anything past them. I think that’s what Boz and his staff do. I could be wrong. I’ve never worked directly with them, but advocates who have, have had nothing but good things to say about them.

            Again, please advise if there is a better purveyor of such services. I hope you do have some in mind, because the church world needs more of these services helmed by leaders with integrity and independence. I’m not trying to advertise for GRACE. At this point they are simply the best choice that I am aware of, that churches, who won’t pay a wholly secular entity to come in and examine their procedures and flaws, will be willing to use.
            Cheers.

          2. JLC

            Hi Amy, I hope you’re still reading comments. I just saw this one. I would have replied earlier. I certainly didn’t mean to ignore you. Thanks. Janna L. Chan (blog team member)

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