Preachers Accused of Sins, and Crimes

Sanctuaries are designed to make us feel safe. They provide us peace and a place to pray. Bells call the good to worship and warn the evil to stay away.

This is the kind of American church that a young Christa Brown was drawn to. As a teenager in the 1960s, Brown learned to love music and her God. She grew up in the church, sang in the choir and played the piano.

But as Brown would find out, churches don't always protect the innocent. Sometimes these sanctuaries shield the guilty and even lure predators to a place where young people gather.

The Catholic Church has been widely criticized for how it handled instances of priests sexually abusing young people. And a six-month investigation by "20/20" found Protestant ministers, supposed men of God from every denomination, sexually abusing the children who trusted them. The investigation uncovered "preacher predators" in every corner of the country.

'Nobody Saw It Coming'

The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant organization in the United States. And the organization is structured in a way that makes it difficult to police these preacher predators. The convention has 16.3 million members and 43,000 independent churches.

Shawn Davies was a youth minister at one of those Baptist churches in the suburbs of Kansas City, Mo. Davies was close to his teen followers, and the members of his church soon found out that he was a little too close. In January of this year, Davies began a 20-year sentence for multiple counts of sexual abuse in Missouri and Kentucky.

One member of the Missouri church, Lee Orth, said that "Nobody saw it coming. I think we felt betrayed, blindsided. You know, Shawn was a very charismatic person."

Davies seduced teenage boys by acting like one of the gang. He talked about girls and sex with the teenagers. He took them on trips, invited them into his office, and showed them pornography. And he took them downstairs or behind the sanctuary to sexually assault them.

Church deacon Greg Arbuckle said, "The viewing of pornography happened before Shawn would come out and lead the choir. Immediately after worship he would go do that, and that to me, taints the entire service."

Eight boys were sexually abused at the Missouri church by Davies. What bothers people most about what happened is that Davies could have been stopped before he reached their church.

A History of Abuse

A young man in Kentucky was one of Davies' victims years before he went to Missouri. For four years, the young man, who asked that we not use his name to protect his privacy, lived with his secret. He said that it nearly destroyed him. "It started with watching movies, and he would ask to masturbate," the man said. "He said it was normal for guys to do it. ... One day he just grabbed me while we were watching one of the movies and he just kinda did what he wanted."

After four years, the man finally told his father, who then went to the police. Kentucky authorities opened an investigation and alerted the victim's church. By then, Davies had moved on to other churches.

The family is now suing the Kentucky church for failing to supervise Davies. When "20/20" asked to talk to church leaders, their attorney declined our interview requests.

Davies ended up in Missouri in 2003; church leaders there wish the Kentucky church had tracked them down, especially after an indictment was filed.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...