|“How long you think I can fool these Negroes?”|
What does James H. Bell, Tyrone Forbes, Edwin House, Bruce Curtis Leon Dupree, Clarence Garrison and Willie L. Jefferson all have in common? They are pastors that have been arrested for sexual abuses against their parishioners. And in some of the cases, several have been convicted.
It is a fact that sexual abuse goes under-reported in communities of color. Now let’s take that fact and apply it when it comes to outing a pastor, deacon, bishop, or other clergymen and women who serve as high power figures in black communities. Not only is it complicated, but in some instances it can be dangerous.
The recent Eddie Long church scandal has magnified an oft-overlooked flaw in the black community. We exempt our “leaders”, and more readily, our religious leaders from moral or ethical scrutiny. And when this happens, we participate in our own oppression.
With the past 10 years of sexual abuse cover-ups, lawsuits and scandals becoming a mainstay in the Catholic church and among white clergymen, there is a notion among some black church members that their black pastors are absolved from this sin. It is as if their pastors’ erections are somehow different, more divine, thus are stuck in the right orifices.
And in some instances, the victim at the church becomes the predator or the enemy in the eyes of church members—resulting in a collective exile, or one that is self-imposed due to the rejection from people they thought loved them as children of Christ.
It is no wonder why George H. Bush sought out leaders of predominately black mega-churches during election time. Not only do they hold the purse-strings of parishoners, but they control the consciousness of a powerful voting bloc. And just like the teabaggers, these folks vote for someone who is totally against their interest, all in the name of not passing out condoms at schools.
Though some black church-goers refuse to acknowledge that rampant sexual abuse goes on in black churches, it is as alive-and-well as Sunday morning sermons. So much so, that an organization was formed in 2003 to report sexual abuse in the largest black church in the U.S., Church of God in Christ or COGIC.
Sexual abuse doesn’t start or stop at COGIC or at Eddie Long’s New Birth Missionary Baptist.
Other prominent churches have been hit in the past. In April 2009, Pastor Patrick Jerome Whitehead of the famous Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was arrested for forcing sexual actions such as sodomy on a teen he taught at a local high school.
The list does not stop there. Some of these cases may make those who doubt sexual abuse by black clergy become quiet as a church mouse.
In Jackson, Ms, Rev. Freddie Jackson was arrested in 2009 for impregnating a 14-year old parishioner who claims they had sex in the church building and at her home.
Harry Benson of United Methodist Church in Delaware was arrested for numerous counts of molesting a boy he had abused from ages 12 to 18.
In 2005, Pastor Leonard Ray Owens of Prayer House of Faith was arrested for raping a woman he said he was raping the “lesbian demon” out of her. WTF?
In Harlem in 2008, the Catholic Archdiocese suspended, Monsignor Wallace Harris for sexual abusing students in his high school in the 1980s; 10 men and 4 women came out to talk against him.
In 2007, Charles Dickerson out of Fresno, Ca. was arrested for molested two girls in his family, one of them were pregnant.
Since the reports of what is called “Black Collar Crimes” or sexual abuse by clergy members, there have been some clergy who have spoken out. Nevertheless, this is far and few between.
Some people may think that my mission is to destroy the black church; but as a great-grand-niece of a black clergyman from Mississippi who was killed due to his political agitation, I hope the recent expose pushes a needed restructuring of the black church from the top down.
Information regarding COGIC retrieved from: Report COGIC Abuse: http://www.reportcogicabuse.com/about.html ; thank all y’all for being in the struggle.