I feel like I’m being asked to betray many of my core values. And the people wanting me to betray those values call themselves ‘child advocates’. There has been a petition going around to get Michael Pearl’s book, To Train Up A Child, removed from amazon.com.
There are no real bookstores anymore. Just Barnes and Noble and what you’re lucky to get in your town. Amazon’s pretty much the monopoly, but I can publish my books on amazon and so can you. And if a mob can get a book removed from the virtual shelf, they can do the same to your book. I’m not seeing any difference between a mob signing a petition to get a book removed from amazon and an actual book burning. Besides, what can compete with the comments at the amazon site for To Train Up A Child?
I wonder how many copies are being sold just so people read and criticize this book? If you really want to help, why not review other books that help build victims into survivors? Why give them some glowing reviews? If you need any suggestions, hint, hint, look to the right of your screen!
The mob mentality doesn’t stop there.
When I reviewed Bill Wininger’s book, A Church Falsely Accused, there were a few matters that did not catch my attention. The article posted in my review never mentioned a letter which was sent to church members regarding Wininger’s attempted suicide. This article from the Douglas County Sentinal contains a little more detail: Dr. Ray Conway, King’s Way Christian School administrator, wrote in the Oct. 18 letter. “Pastor Wininger will no longer be involved in the ministry of The King’s Way Baptist Church and King’s Way Christian School. As many of you already know, our pastor has inflicted life-threatening harm upon himself and we would prayerfully ask that you pray for his well-being.”
Child abuse allegations were not brought up by the church. All those revelations came out later, so, for me to write that Wininger resigned because of child molesting allegations was wrong. It did not make sense! If child abuse is the reason he resigned from the church, he should be in jail. Not just resign.
The church mailed two letters explaining their reason for releasing Wininger. You can read them by clicking:
These letters seem to be downplayed. In fact, author/blogger Jeri Massi claims in a reply that Wininger faked a suicide attempt to avoid a church investigation. First, how do we know it was faked? Second, in a culture where suicide threats are very real (especially in Facebook survivor groups) isn’t it a bit irresponsible to claim that someone faked a suicide attempt? How different is that from a fundamentalist preacher telling a teen who overdosed, “You’re just trying to get attention.”?
Justice for the Victims of Bill Wininger is actually fundamentalist friendly. One of its members is none other than Jack ‘Reclamation Ranch’ Patterson, who has also been accused of abuse at Reclamation Ranch.
Bethany Foeller Leonard, who formed the group, is married to Matt Leonard, the son of Tim Leonard (whose case is covered in Preying From the Pulpit). This is not hidden knowledge to those who post in her group. This was also mentioned in the Douglas County Sentinal article: Leonard, whose father and father-in-law were acquitted of molestation allegations at the same church decades ago, said she is trying to free herself from the trauma caused by her treatment by Wininger as a child and to hopefully give any other victims the courage to come forward.,
That is not a problem, per se. Family relations do happen and very few people are willing to stand against abuse within their own family. However, Matt Leonard went out of his way to write on the Justice for BW Victims Facebook group wall: “there are people on this page who lay blame to the IFB culture for this behavior to be perpetuated for so long. Others on this page point to BW and him alone as the only one who did anything wrong. I believe that BW is to blame for all of this, but a change needs to come to this IFB culture.”
I remember how I felt upon learning that the late Bob Gray, my former pastor at Trinity Baptist Church (Jacksonville, FL), molested a friend’s sister. It can’t be all fundamentalists! Just this guy! Yet, whenever I tried to discuss the matter, people would hush me up. Later, I learned there were other high ranking fundamentalists who conveniently ignored the accusations. When the news went public in 2006, and the wagons began circling to protect their hero, I realized the entire IFB culture is most certainly to blame and, whenever possible, should be held accountable.
Matt and Bethany are both young. This ‘it’s not the IFB, just this guy!’ reasoning is understandable. However, going after the perpetrator while ignoring his enablers is pretty much the same line of reasoning used to defeat SB 131, the law which would have extended statutes of limitations to victims in Southern California. SB 131 would have allowed victims of sexual abuse to recover damages due to the neglect of private universities in California. Those opposing SB 131 wanted all the emphasis to be placed on the perpetrator, but not the organizations that enabled the perpetrator.
There is another page encouraging people to sign a petition to get the Michigan police to investigate Bill Wininger. After reading most of the complaints, I cannot bring myself to sign that petition. First, if you read most of the complaints, you will find behavior repugnant to fundamentalist Christians. Whenever a testimony is about to disclose criminal abuse, it suddenly turns into a Nathanial Hawthorne/Jane Austin novel (i.e.”I dare not go into detail about the love which dares not name its name!”)
According to the Douglas Valley Sentinal:
“I can confirm that this office reviewed an investigation report at the request of the Michigan Department of State Police on a William Max Wininger,” Hiller wrote. “Following the review this office has denied criminal prosecution based on that investigation. I cannot release any further information about this matter at this time.”
Okay, I understand if victims don’t want to satisfy everybody’s morbid curiosity, but if I’m going to sign a petition asking for the authorities to investigate someone, I want to read about a crime committed and not a moral insult. There is even a testimony where Bill Wininger is allegedly caught in the act of adultery with. . .an actual adult. Again, immoral by fundamentalist standards but not illegal (unless you’re living in one of those states with archaic laws, like spitting on the sidewalk, still on the books). Another testimony explicitly tells us to ‘read between the lines’.
If we can get the police investigating a person simply because of an on-line campaign with testimonies that tell us to ‘read between the lines’, we should be very concerned about whether whether we are submitting to the rule of law or the rule of the mob.
It is my knowledge that at least two victims have, in fact, reported their abuse to the authorities. If the police got it wrong, then take to a higher level. Sue both the police and Wininger in Federal Court.
Let’s finish with some bullying:
What makes matters worse is the bullying! Not on behalf of those accused of abuse, but directed towards those who normally would be supporting their cause but occasionally depart from survivor orthodoxy. The bullying generally goes like this:
“We still need to concern ourself with due process.”
“YEAH? YOU KNOW WHO ELSE CARES ABOUT DUE PROCESS? PEDOPHILES!”
“Uh. . .yeah, but we need to make sure we arrest the predator. We don’t want to start a precedent that will result in a false arrest and the eventual loss of our constitutional rights.”
“YEAH? YOU KNOW WHO ELSE CARES ABOUT CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS? PEDOPHILES!”
“Okay, I’m tired of arguing. I’m gonna go grab a burger.”
“YEAH? YOU KNOW WHO ELSE IS TIRED OF ARGUING AND ABOUT TO GRAB A BURGER? PEDOPHILES!”
You see where I’m going with this? Although I recognize the irony of writing this after discussing how the defeat of SB 131 benefited enablers. It’s one thing to talk about legislation. It’s another to silence an argument with ad hominems and insults.
This behavior has been going on in various Facebook groups for over five years now. It shows no sign of stopping. You raise the subject of ethics and effective strategy, and you get your head bit off. Well, I’m not going to waste time talking about everybody’s lack of ethics. Instead, I’m going to try and develop my own.
Let’s start with this:
I plan on being very selective about abuse stories I highlight on this blog. And if you haven’t reported to the police, please don’t waste my time.