In a story about the arraignment of Jeremiah Gunner Scott who is accused of statutory sex crimes in Oregon against a 15-year girl who was a student at the Oregon Christian school where he taught and who may face similar charges in Washington state, a pastor contradicts himself.
In addition to teaching at North Coast Christian School, Scott was a lay youth leader at the First Baptist Church of Warrenton.
"Our church recognizes the critical nature of the whole thing," said Ed Bussert, the church's pastor. "We're praying for Jeremiah - we want him to get his life straightened out."
Bussert emphasized that none of Scott's actions took place at the First Baptist Church. He also said the school is not associated with the church at all.
He said he normally wouldn't contact the press, "but in the interest of people knowing that we have taken proper steps in removing him from the position," Bussert said. "I don't think the kid is a pedophile. I just think he made a mistake."
If you call what this man is accused of a "mistake" you do not in fact recognize the critical nature of these allegations. You certainly don't recognize the serious harm Scott's actions inflicted on the 15-year-old victim.
That the alleged crimes are described as consensual causes too many people to assume baselessly that the criminal actions were freely mutual and harmless and that the accused -- even if guilty -- is in no way a predator. This man may be guilty of non-statutory sex crimes as well, but because there were multiple illegal actions that guilt may get obscured since Scott is likely to claim all contact was consensual.
The "kid" in this case is a 26-year-old man. To call Scott a kid falsely places him at the same level as the victim. When an adult teacher sexually exploits a minor student that is a choice. When that sexual exploitation happens multiple times, that is a criminal pattern.
A man can be a serial sex criminal with minors as his victim of choice without being a pedophile.
With the focus on church prayers for Scott, I wonder if Bussert and his congregation are praying for the known victim in this case and all unknown victims with the full acknowledgement that they are genuine victims and not minors involved in an illicit affair with a teacher or youth pastor.
If their only prayers are for this alleged criminal that sends the message to this man's victim(s), "we choose for you to be invisible and unimportant." And it sends that message to all those who were victims of similar crimes committed by others.
This assurance by Bussert that Scott has been removed from his position at the church does not make me feel that minors in his church are any safer from sexual exploitation by adults today than they were before Scott was removed from the position of youth leader.
Bussert doesn't talk about making any changes in policy to better protect children in his church from respected sex criminals. If the only change is a criminal background check that is at best a starting point and at worst it is an excuse to ignore danger signs because a sex criminal has not yet been convicted.
It is a critical failure that Bussert did not take the opportunity to ask that if anyone was exploited by Scott during his duties as youth leader to contact law enforcement and to contact him with the assurance that all victims will be treated as genuine crime victims and will be given his and the church's full support.