Sunday, July 31, 2011

Notes from the Trial Part FIVE: Chuck Phelps testifies

***In this section of the trial notes, Bethany puts any of her own thoughts inside parentheses.

2:05pm: Chuck Phelps is on the stand. THE JURY IS NOT PRESENT.

(Micah Shaw is in the back. He went to Northland Baptist Bible College with Rachel Griffith. He currently attends Trinity Baptist Church. Several other members of Trinity Baptist Church are here, to support Chuck Phelps. There are still more supporters for Tina. About 30 some people here for Tina. Less than 10 people are here for Chuck Phelps).

Wayne Coull asks Chuck Phelps what he does as a pastor.

Phelps: I’ve done pretty comprehensive things. My charge was very straightforward. I baptize, give the sacraments, and preach God’s word. I live under congregational governance. Back in 1997, Trinity Baptist Church had about 600-700 members.

Wayne: Back in 1997, did you receive a call from Sue Cappucci?

Phelps: I received a call in October. I don’t recall what home I went to. My wife and I went there. Tina was 16.

Wayne: Did you know Tina was younger than 16 at the time of conception?

(Not sure what Phelps said.)

Phelps: I called Ernie and told him I had heard some news about him. I was investigating some things that certain church members had done. My wife and Ernie’s wife got together to meet. We set the meeting up. We, as in Ernie and I, I called the police to let them know that illegal activity had gone on. Ernie had broken his marriage vows.

Phelps: I set up to rebut as well as to protect my family. People have sent me hate mail and our church has been vandalized. The news media is telling a lot of inaccuracies.

(Chuck holds up a few letters to “prove” he has had hate mail sent to him.)

Wayne: You took notes in your journal back in 1997.

Phelps: Yes.

*Defense Attorney Donna Brown talks to Phelps, 2:18pm.

Phelps: (something about 5th amendment rights). Brian Fuller turned over my notebook to the police, and I did not give Fuller the permission to do so. I guarded my tongue with everything that Ernie Willis told me. Those notes were confidential. It was an ongoing, sexual relationship between Ernie and Tina.

(Chuck Phelps is arguing that he does not have to answer Wayne Coull if Wayne asks him a question about the notes in his notebook. Chuck is saying that as a pastor, he has counseling privileges, and that the notes he took were confidential, between him and Ernie).

*The judge is talking about voir dire, which is a preliminary examination of a witness by a judge or counsel. So that is why the jury was absent. The judge is choosing to put Chuck Phelps on the stand, with the jury present. The judge said that Chuck Phelps has no privilege, and he must answer all the questions that the attorney and DA ask him.

(Chuck was banking on that to help him. He was hoping to not have to read the notebook and he was hoping to not have to answer Wayne’s questions. He was also hoping to not have the jury present. Now Chuck has to tell the whole truth and nothing BUT the truth. Whatever is in that notebook, it is most likely going to refute anything Chuck has said so far).

*Jury enters, Chuck Phelps takes the stand.

Phelps: I had the privilege of pasturing at Trinity Baptist Church (Concord, NH) for 18 years. About 600 people were members in 1997. We had about 150-170 students enrolled in Trinity Christian School. Joel Montgomery was the youth pastor. Our church was ruled by congregational rule. Decisions get made by many people, not just me. I give guidance, not dictatorship. (Quotes a verse from Matthew 8). Someone has done something crassly violating scriptural command. Then when they don’t change, and they want to persist in that sin, we bring it before the church.

Wayne: Brought before the church to be judged and looked down on?

Phelps: No. That’s wrong. We are all sinners, including the senior pastor. (quotes a verse from Hebrews). Shunning is not the spirit of conduct at our church.

Wayne: Did your school have a handbook?

Phelps: The school had a handbook. Most schools have a handbook of sorts. Boys wore neckties, we had a dress code. Boys and girls were not allowed to date at school.

Wayne: Would you allow a girl who had gotten pregnant to come to your school?

Phelps: Our school was not equipped to deal with that kind of thing. There was a no physical contact rule at school. No kissing, no hugging, no holding hands.

(Phelps seems very comfortable. He is doing a good job articulating and expressing himself. A very polished speaker.)

Wayne: When did you first meet Tina?

Phelps: I remember the first time my wife and I went over to her house. Tina was six or seven years old and made tacos for us, they were very good.

Wayne: Were you aware that Dan Leaf had abused the children?

Phelps: I knew that Dan was incarcerated for crimes against minors. Tina never told me her dad sexually abused her. It was evident that Tina did not have a good relationship with her stepfather. She seemed to be very angry at him. Her lack of affection towards him was very apparent.

Wayne: You knew that Dan Leaf was a child molester, and that Tina did not like him. And you never stopped to ask if Tina had ever been abused by Dan?

(A brief recess right now. David Gibbs is talking with Chuck. They both just keep staring over here at Rachel. It’s really creepy. They just keep staring, not saying anything or nodding at her, just staring).

(I forgot to mention that earlier today, David Gibbs and his kid came in early and Gibbs had his son dress in a teal shirt, then made his kid who is maybe 11, sit right in the spot where Tina would be sitting. David Gibbs was sitting beside him. These are things that you would not know if you were not sitting in the courtroom. The cameras are not on, and the secretary only writes down what is said. Jocelyn Zichterman came in and went to sit in the place she had been sitting at with Tina Anderson earlier and stood toe to toe with David Gibbs and said he wasn’t going to sit there. Wayne Coull came over and had David Gibbs move. So Gibbs had his son flash the color teal, the color of abuse victims, in front of Tina and her supporters. I am not sure what the Christian lawyer was trying to prove by dressing his 11 year old kid up in teal and making him sit next to Tina’s spot. Though David Gibbs moved, his son did not. When Laurie Moody came up to the row with Tina Anderson, she indicated that Gibbs’ son needed to move away too.)

*3:08pm, Chuck is back on the stand after the break

Phelps: There was a lot of pain that day we talked to Tina. A lot of tears. Chris was there with several others. We prayed. (Chuck turns and faces the jury as he speaks). We told them, Ernie and Tina, that we’d love them and stand by them. I don’t remember who told us first that Tina was pregnant. Ernie Willis was wrong. He is roughly my age. I contacted Ernie the next day, as soon as I could. I thought that Ernie would be arrested. My first thought was for Ernie’s family. What would they do without their dad. A week ago, Mr. Sweat, a friend of ours, committed suicide. (Phelps starts crying). His little kids were left alone. I remember standing there next to his kids and his widow as they buried their father. My first thought was that Ernie would commit suicide.

Wayne: And you never thought Tina might have suicidal thoughts?

Phelps: That is unfair to say. Ernie was the first one I had thought for. I thought he would kill himself and leave his family.

(In rape cases, it is usually the VICTIM who has suicidal thoughts, NOT the perpetrator.)

Wayne tried to say something, and Chuck Phelps cut him off 3 times. He is upset at Wayne for asking him that question.

Phelps: As a pastor, every moment, every day, we have a responsibility to look out for one another. (His voice is raised, and he keeps interrupting Wayne).

Wayne: Mr. Phelps, I simply asked you a yes/no question. Please answer “yes” or “no.”

Phelps: In that context, yes.

Wayne: Were standards of good behavior violated? (Wayne asks Phelps to open up his notebook and refer to what Ernie told him the day after Tina told them she was pregnant. Wayne has asked Phelps s few times to open up to a certain page number, and read certain things).

Phelps: Ernie told me he was the aggressor. Ernie used the word “aggressor” himself. My notes say “Ernie was the aggressor, and Tina was the victim in this situation.” Ernie also told me it happened twice.

(BINGO!!! Case closed! Chuck Phelps just admitted that Ernie was the aggressor. Aggression means “forceful and overly assertive pursuit of one's aims and interests.” Chuck Phelps lied. This proves that. For everyone that says Chuck Phelps has been above board and not lying, I hope this proves to you that he blatantly lied! Chuck has claimed this whole time that it was a “consensual, dating relationship” and yet Chuck wrote in his journal that Ernie was the aggressor, and Tina was the victim. This is why Chuck did not want his notes read in court. Also, this whole time the defense attorney has been trying to say that Ernie only raped Tina once. This proves he did it twice, since he told Chuck it was twice).

Phelps: Many things here have been broadcasted inaccurately. It is tragic and sad! Before I had time to react, the Concord Monitor came out with an article that misconstrued my words and had false allegations. October 8 was when I called the police. Tina was scared. (Chuck Phelps is crying again). The biggest fear is the fear of defamation. For Ernie, it would be bad getting something wrong said about him.

Wayne: How many days did Tina stay at your house before she was sent to Colorado?

Phelps: 16 days.

Wayne: Is it true Tina was expelled from school after being raped?

Phelps: Expelled is a harsh word. We are not equipped to deal with pregnant teens at our Christian school. And Tina never used the word “rape.”

Wayne: Ok, let me give you a hypothetical. Let’s say that a 14-year-old girl who goes to your school gets kidnapped by a guy who rapes her then beats her up and leaves her out in the woods. She comes to you and tells she is pregnant. Would you expel her from your school?

Phelps: It would depend on the situation. I don’t know.

(After Phelps said this, the jury and many of the people in the courtroom shook their heads or stared at him in shock.)

(Several times, Wayne Coull has had to ask Phelps to stick to the question, because Phelps keeps going off topic, and talking instead of straight up answering the question. At one point, Wayne said, “Mr. Phelps, I am wondering, how long have you been rehearsing your answers for?” Wayne is not the only one getting frustrated with Phelps. The judge will put his hand over his face, and the jury will shake their head or stare at him with a dumb-founded look on their faces.)

Phelps: I took a risk sending Tina off to Colorado to be homeschooled. Let me take a little time to tell you about the Landrys, the family Tina stayed with. They are a great family! In fact, Mr. Landry has a rocket ship named after him.

(Umm…what does this have to do with the case at hand???? Why are we talking about space ships?)

Wayne: So you decided to send Tina off with complete strangers? Why not with her grandparents or other relatives that she knew?

Phelps: I didn’t know the Kingbury’s and I didn’t know Tina had grandparents in Texas. I didn’t go looking for their family tree. I trusted Chris to have the capacity to make good decisions. (Phelps’s face is red and he is visibly upset).

Wayne: Who paid for Tina’s plane ticket?

Phelps: Ernie Willis paid for Tina’s plane ticket to Colorado. I called the police and told them.

Wayne asks another question

Phelps: I save every calendar I have ever bought. In 30 years of ministry as pastor, I have NEVER forgotten any case of abuse that was brought to me. I have absolutely been thrown under the bus for this! The news media has attacked me at every point! I got a call 10 hours before this story was released in the local newspaper!

Wayne: Um, do you remember my question, Mr. Phelps?

Phelps: Yes.

Wayne: You never called the police after Tina was sent away? You don’t think the police might want to know that the only witness of a crime is going out of state?

Phelps: Did Tina ever apply to come back to school? Maybe that’s why she never returned to school. There was no need for her to return to school, anyways. I think she had already graduated from school.

(That is not true. Tina was not allowed to go back to school after being pregnant and she still had a year of high school to finish. One of the teachers at Trinity said the student rulebook was changed after Tina left school. The rule book made a rule that no students who became pregnant during the summer or school year would be allowed to return to school and finish their schooling).

Wayne: So why the public confession? Why did you make Tina “confess?”

Phelps: For help. So that the church family would know how to help and assist Tina during this difficult time.

Wayne: What was Tina’s reaction during the confession?

Phelps: well, my wife Linda actually said that Tina was smiling while she was up there reading the letter.

*4pm, Judge says we will stop for today and reconvene on Wednesday.

*May 25, Wednesday, 10:21am

Chuck Phelps walks in and smiles really big at Ernie Willis. Then he takes the stand again, and Wayne Coull resumes questioning him.

Wayne: Tell me about that service where Ernie and Tina were made to “confess.” What did you say specifically to the congregation?

Phelps: It was an unusual time; this happened outside of the church. The people involved were church goers, but this happened aside from TBC. We didn’t want the media to give false information. My notes say, “This is not easy; refer to verses, give public apology, forgiveness, love, prayer. Don’t judge. Forgive. 5-10 minutes long. Silence the accuser, their desire is forgiveness. This is not to shame them. This is restoration. Not judgment.”

Wayne: Did you lead the congregation to believe these were two separate instances?

Phelps: Yes. Well. They were presented separately, because Ernie was seeking forgiveness for breaking marital vows, and Tina was seeking forgiveness for allowing herself to be in a compromising relationship.

Wayne: Read page ? and tell us what Ernie said during that service.

Phelps: “Ernie Willis: I come with shame and sorrow in my heart. Psalms 32:5, “I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. I want to confess my sins……….I pray that the testimony of this church, Trinity Baptist Church, will be restored. I am thankful for the love and support Pastor Chuck Phelps has shown me. Psalms 51:2-3, ‘Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions.’ Thank you for your love and concern.

*Judge calls for a recess, it is 10:35am.

(The attorneys approach the bench, and are talking with the Judge. Debating some kind of legal rule. Something about a “mistrial” and wanting to reconvene with no jury).

*Break is over, court is back in session. 524 people are watching the live feed on the blog.

Judge Smukler says that now Chuck Phelps does not have to answer certain things and not have that seen as guilt.

Wayne: Read on page ? of your notes Tina Anderson’s letter that she read.

Phelps: She was not made to read it. I read it to the congregation for her. “Psalms 138:6, ‘Though the Lord be high, yet hath He respect for the lowly.’ With a heavy heart, I seek your forgiveness. I have acted dishonorably towards God. I pray I will have your forgiveness just as God has forgiven me for allowing myself to be put in these compromising situations.”

Wayne: “Situations?”

Phelps: Yes. Plural.

Wayne: Earlier, yesterday in your testimony, you said that Tina stayed with you for a few days, you said, 16 days. You told Detective DeAngelis that Tina was with you a few days. But in your notes you say she was only with you for a day.

Phelps: I forgot how many days it was. My daughter, Sharon, she has a mind like a steel trap! And she told me Tina stayed with us for one night.

Wayne: So you never thought it would be important to go back and correct that with Detective DeAngelis?

Phelps: There is…..

Wayne: Please just answer my question with a “yes” or “no.”

Phelps: Do you want me to read the notes?

Wayne: NO. I just want you to answer my question!

Phelps: My wife was under the impression that Tina stayed with us for some time.

Wayne: Ernie Willis maintained that is was two times of sex.

Phelps: Yes.

Wayne: Tina didn’t understand and know why she had to go before the congregation.

Phelps: Tina knew the purpose of this discipline service. She carefully crafted a letter with help from someone else.

Wayne: Is it true that you read a verse in the Old Testament to Tina, a verse that said she would be stoned for being raped?

Phelps: I read her a verse in Deuteronomy, and this verse can be taken in context or out of context.

Wayne: Read the verse.

Phelps: I don’t have a bible with me.

Wayne: (grabs a bible from his briefcase, and walks towards Phelps). I have a bible. Here. Find the verse and read it to us.

Phelps: (fumbles around to find the verse).

Wayne: I bookmarked the reference so you could find the verse it easier. Just flip open to the purple bookmark.

Phelps: Deuteronomy 22:23-24, “If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour's wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.”

Wayne: Did you tell Tina she is lucky that she did not live in those days because she would have been stoned?

Phelps: We are ALL lucky to not live in those days. But I did not tell Tina that. I told her from this verse, it says if the damsel cries out…I told Tina, ‘Tina, we are here to help you…you can scream. We will help you. But she did not call out.

(Hang on-Tina was being raped in an empty parking lot in the back of a car. Who would have heard her? And who could hear her scream when it was only her and Ernie at the house? At this point, Rachel left the courtroom, very upset, and crying. I left shortly afterwards, too. I needed to get some air and clear my head. This made me very, very angry. I cannot fathom that a “Christian pastor” who of all people should be the one a scared girl can expect to get help from, treating Tina this way. Tina and Aunt Laurie are downstairs, as are several other people who did not want to be in the court room. There are a lot of emotions right now).

Phelps: Ernie Willis had more to lose than Tina Anderson. That is why I naturally assumed Tina was lying to me. I did not understand why Tina would go out to eat with Ernie, if he had just raped her. She was being dishonest. When I told her that, Tina turned and looked at me with anything but love on her face. The Bedford Inn is not MacDonalds. They both went to the Bedford Inn for Tina’s birthday. Tina was very angry with me. So it was obvious this was consensual.

Wayne: Did your wife, Linda, ask Tina at one point if she “enjoyed it?”

Phelps: That is a lie! (starts crying). That is so outside the character of my loving wife! It was not a discipline service. I wanted to prepare the church for the news, and I knew the media would get ahold of this story, and I wanted to prepare our church family with how to deal with the false media reports. I wanted Trinity Baptist Church to know so they could embrace Tina and Ernie. If I am not a compassionate person, I am not fit for ministry.

I would never have someone involuntarily come before the church. Tina Anderson’s success as a person, her success in life, success as a mother, wife, teacher and citizen of America is all attributed to the loving church family she had here at Trinity Baptist Church. Some people have the inability to make good choices in life. This time of confession might have been interpreted as “painful” by Tina. The news media definitely made her story look painful. I can’t say this any stronger. I never said “forgive and forget.”

Wayne: Did you make Tina go and apologize to her stepfather while he was in jail? Did you make her ask forgiveness for his molesting her?

Phelps: If the social workers are telling Tina to work with her stepfather, and rebuild their relationship, then she should listen to them.

*Wayne steps down, Ernie’s attorney Donna Brown steps up to question Phelps

Donna Brown: You said Ernie told you force was used?

Phelps: This is illegal, obviously, because he was 39, and she was 15. But I doubt I told the police force was used, because Tina did not say “rape,” so I did not say “rape” either.

Donna Brown: Ernie told you he was the aggressor?

Phelps: Yes, Ernie said he was aggressive and it was consensual.

* Donna Brown steps down, and Wayne gets up for a few more questions

Wayne: You have no degree in counseling, and no training in this area. Yet you kept Tina at your house and questioned her for hours?

Phelps: I am a moral pastor, so I deal with moral issues, not legal issues.

Wayne: You have no legal training, no training in counseling, and you question a victim of crime?

Phelps: I am a minister of the gospel, not a social worker.

Wayne: Do you at least acknowledge that you would never do this again? That you would not have Tina stand before 500 people and “confess?”

Phelps: With great sorrow, I regret this, because the press and the newspapers have called me anything but an honorable man! That is the case here! The case is that they have blamed me. They have spun me as a rapist just because I asked a lying girl some questions! I regret that.

*It is about 12pm now. Chuck Phelps is done being on the stand.

Edited to clarify: Chuck Phelps' attorney is David C. Gibbs III

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Notes from the Trial Part FOUR

***In this section of the trial notes, Bethany puts any of her own thoughts inside parentheses.

3:20 p.m. Now Chris Leaf, Tina’s mother, is taking the stand. She is crying and Ruth Davis, a member of Trinity Baptist Church, Concord NH, is holding her arm as she walks to the stand.

Wayne Coull questions Chris Leaf.

Wayne: Who is Tina Anderson?

Chris: Tina is my baby

Wayne: Do you still keep in contact with Tina?

Chris: No. That’s her choice.

Wayne: Did you know your husband was a sexual abuser?

Chris: Yes. DSF took care of that.

Wayne: He went to jail 3 times. For abuse?

Chris: For spanking our children.

Wayne: Who is Daniel Leaf married to?

Chris: His wife.

(Several of the jury and the people in the courtroom stifled their laughter).

Wayne: Your husband took a plea bargain. So at some point, your husband was an abuser. Despite the fact that Dan abused your kids, you continued to let him back in the house.

Chris: Yes. I thought he was a good father. He did the best that he could do.

Wayne: Are you in communication with Chuck Phelps?

Chris: I support Pastor Chuck Phelps. I support the truth. Not lies.

Wayne: So you support truth? The same truth that sent your husband to jail?

Chris. Yes. I support Pastor Phelps. My husband, sometimes.

Wayne: You did not hire your own attorney, did you?

Chris: (long silence. No reply. She refuses to answer as to who is funding her attorney).

Wayne asks some more questions…

Chris: I view Pastor Phelps as a leader. Some may call him Chuck. I don’t. It was my idea to move Tina to Colorado. I have my own brain. I don’t just follow everything Pastor Phelps says!

Wayne: Tina was a good kid, right?

Chris: (long pause). Tina gave me a hard time. She was stubborn.

Wayne: and she was not interested in boys? Had no boyfriends?

Chris: I don’t know. That was 14 years ago. And I do not know what Tina did when I was not home.

Wayne: But she was a good kid?

Chris: She was a good babysitter.

Wayne: Was Tina scared and crying when she told you she was pregnant?

Chris: If Tina said she was crying, then I guess she was.

(Tina is crying. Her shoulders are shaking. Jocelyn and others are putting their arms around Tina for support. My heart really goes out to Tina right now. I honestly cannot believe the way Tina’s mom is treating her. When Tina was on the stand, she did not cut her mom down when she had every right to, and she actually said her mom was doing her best to raise her well. Chris seems to not care at all about Tina’s feelings. You can tell the jury and the courtroom feels for Tina. The reporters keep shaking their heads. Many people in the courtroom are weeping quietly.)

Chris: I liked Tina hanging out with the Willis family. I wanted Tina to see what a normal family looked like.

(So hanging out with a rapist is a good family example???)

Wayne: Tina did not want to go to Colorado.

Chris: (raising her voice) I am the adult! I wanted the best for my daughter!

(Wait…so you are the adult, you make the best choices for Tina…so you let a rapist back into your house 3 times…was that the “best” choice you made for your daughter?)

Chris: Tina loved Colorado! She did not want to come back home after she had the baby.

Wayne: Is it not true that Tina did not want to go back home because Dan Leaf had just been released from prison and was back at your house? Not to mention, Ernie Willis, the man who raped Tina, was still in church?

Chris: I sent Tina away! I sent her away! And she went to college, and graduated, and then got her master’s degree, and has 3 beautiful children, and a great husband. It is all because I sent her away!

(Wow. So now her mom is taking credit for all the good things that happened to Tina despite the fact that she was molested for 3 years by her stepfather, and raped by Ernie Willis. For Tina to be able to move on and finally have a normal life is all because of God’s grace working in Tina’s life, in spite of Dan, Chris and Ernie.)

(The jury is shaking their heads in disbelief. Chris is not helping Ernie at all. She is really actually helping Tina, because none of Chris’s story is making sense. The decisions and actions she took are not what normal, thinking people would do; and I do not mean that in a mean way. A normal, thinking person who cares for their family would not continually allow a rapist to be near their children. Chris kept bringing Dan back home).

Chris: I sent Tina away because she was mean to me. She hurt me. I needed help. The Kingsburys didn’t care about Tina.

Wayne: But you sent both Tina and Tom to the Kingsbury’s house many times.

It is 4pm, so the court is adjourned for the day. Tomorrow we will reconvene, and Chris Leaf will finish being on the stand.

*May 24, Tuesday, 10:42am, 2011

Wayne Coull, Tina’s attorney, is continuing to question Chris Leaf on the stand. 243 people are watching the case on the live feed blog.

Wayne: So DSF didn’t ever tell you and your children to keep away from Dan?

Chris: (no answer)

Chris: (in response to another question) Tina was not close to the Kingsbury’s. Tom knew where his sister was, when she left to go to Colorado. Ernie apologized. The Phelps’s were there. Linda and Chuck. Willis apologized for having sex with Tina. I have no recollection of when that was.

Tina was mean to me! She called me a “ditz.” She would physically restrain me because she thought it was funny. She yelled at me when I filed a report with the police.

Wayne: So you sent Tina away from her home, her friends, her family and her church, to live with complete strangers?

Chris: For a better life. I tend to move on with my life. The police never arrested Ernie Willis. I moved on. I was not upset. I also want to add that I turned my husband in to the police when we were in AZ.

Wayne: Here is a letter from, attributed to you.

Chris: Tina has asked for money! I gave her money for a house down payment. My daughter only wants revenge against me! She told me that she won’t be crossed, or else she’ll get even. This is about Ernie Willis, not me. Why is this all about me? Why are you questioning me? Why are you questioning me, my husband Dan, and Trinity Baptist Church? Why is this not about Ernie Willis?

Chris: I filed a report with the police. I figured that we were at the bottom of the totem pole. We are poor, Ernie is well-off. Why should the police arrest a good man like Ernie Willis?

*11am Donna Brown, Willis’ defense attorney is now questioning Chris Leaf.

Chris: I did not want my daughter in that kind of atmosphere. “Good Christians forgive and forget” is not what I believe. Because I went to school and have a B.S. in Criminal Justice, I knew what to do, so I called the police. I called the police when Tina told me that Dan had touched her. Tina did not press charges. Pastor Phelps was not involved in this every area of my life. I have my own mind! Phelps did not run my life. Phelps told me that Ernie, excuse me, Mr. Willis was going to report to the police. I want to live a quiet, peaceable life. I believe in telling the truth, not lies.

(Wayne Coull and Donna Brown are conferring with the judge).

Wayne Coull is back to questioning Chris Leaf.

Wayne: So you did not take Tina to the police before she left for Colorado?

Chris: I can’t force Tina to do anything.

Wayne: Except for forcing her to leave her friends and family to live with total strangers.

(Way to go, Wayne! Great comeback).

*Chris Leaf is done being on the stand. Tina was here yesterday when Chris was on the stand, but she waited downstairs this morning. Now Tina is back in the courtroom to hear her aunt, Mrs. Kingsbury, take the stand.

11:27am Mrs. Kingsbury takes the stand. Tina is her niece.

Mrs. Kingsbury: Years ago Chris had seen some bruises on the children, and her husband Dan was going to jail. She needed to get the children out of the house in AZ.

Mrs. Kingsbury: In 1997, we were told a deacon had gotten Tina pregnant. All I knew was that the man who had done it had several kids. I kept asking Chris to give me Tina’s address in Colorado, but she refused to give it to me. No one was supposed to know where Tina was at, not even her family.

(Two objections overruled.)

Now Donna Brown questions Mrs. Kingsbury.

Brown: So your family was estranged from Dan and Chris Leaf?

Mrs. Kingsbury: We weren’t estranged, we just didn’t agree with Chris for staying with Dan after all he had done to the kids.

*Matt Barnhart takes the stand

Matt: Tina babysat our kids, and we worked with kids in Awanas. Tina would look after my son Levi. (Matt explains what the church Awanas program is).

Wayne: What did the church people think of Mr. Willis?

(Objection, objection sustained).

Matt: In the service where Tina stood up, they called it “discipline” and used verses to back it up. I remember Tina reading a letter. It looked like she had gotten in trouble with her boyfriend, and gotten pregnant. We were led to believe that these were two separate instances. Willis was unfaithful to his wife, Tina had gotten pregnant with her boyfriend.

Wayne: About a year ago, did you happen upon a certain blog (IFB cult survivors)?

Matt: Yes, I found the blog, and posted on it… (objection).

(There were lots of objections by the Donna Brown during Matt’s testimony).

*Christine Barnhart, Matt’s wife, is on the stand.

Wayne: How did you know Tina Anderson?

Christine: Well, Tina was a social butterfly, so I just met her at church. She helped me in the nursery, watching the kids. I trusted her, and she would help me take care of my son.

Wayne: What was your reaction when Tina was made to stand up and confess?

Christine: I was mortified. There were about 500 people in the church auditorium. She was a scared little girl. After that night, I did not see Tina for another good 10 months.

*Dawn Fisher takes the stand

Dawn: Tina and I are the same age. We grew up together and went to school at Trinity Baptist Christian School.

Wayne: Were you taught at school and church that premarital sex is wrong?

Dawn: Yes, we were taught that. It was not pounded over our heads, but it was understood.

*Fran Earle is now on the stand.

(Just a side note, David Gibbs, the attorney for Chuck Phelps, I think, is sitting on the front row. He is sitting next to Fran’s husband, Jack. He told Jack that his wife is pretty. David Gibbs has been here since Monday. He also has his son here with him in the courtroom. His son looks like he’s 11 or 12 years old).

Fran: We were told it wasn’t our business to hear about Ernie Willis. Then Chuck said, “It is very unusual that we have two situations in one church night.” Tina stood alone, and read the letter. She stood up there all by herself. I did not know how this could even happen. Tina did not have a boyfriend. I was devastated. I felt so bad for her. We had no idea that these two situations were related. Ernie’s case and Tina’s case were mentioned separately. After the service, I called Linda Phelps and confronted her. I was blunt with her.

( Defense attorney objection. The judge looks over at Donna Brown and says, “Why are you objecting? This is a question being answered.” Brown sits down).

Fran: They used the word “discipline” to describe this service.

*Fran is done, and it is 1:30pm, we are taking a lunch break. After Lunch, Chuck Phelps will be on the stand.

Edited to clarify: Chuck Phelps' attorney is David C. Gibbs III

Notes from the Trial Part THREE

***In this section of the trial notes, Bethany puts any of her own thoughts inside parentheses.

Cross Examination of Tina Anderson by defense attorney, Donna Brown

Brown: Your mom filed a report with the police after you claimed to be assaulted.

Tina: I am aware of that. But I believe she lied on the report, and misled the police.

Brown is writing on a board about the timeline of events. That Tina told Sarah Harrison the same night Chris took Tina to the doctor.

(Tina is doing a really good job. It is obvious she is upset, but she is keeping it under control, and answering Brown very well.)

Brown keeps questioning Tina as to when her last menstrual cycle was back in 1997, before Tina realized she was pregnant. Brown just keeps asking her the same thing, trying to pinpoint a date.

(Brown is trying to say that since Tina can’t remember her last period, then she can’t remember anything else.)

Tina: My birthday is August 22. I am not sure when my last period was. I don’t think most women keep track of their periods for 14 years straight!

Brown: So did you say days or weeks?

Tina: Well, what does the transcript say? Would you remember when your last period was 14 years ago? Give me a break! I am frustrated with you. You keep badgering me! I am saying maybe it was a few weeks, but I can’t remember! I was scared. I know what you are doing. I know what you are trying to do by asking me the same thing.

Brown: I just want to know the truth.

(If you are interested, this segment of the trial was shown on TV. You can see it at with reporter Amy Coveno.)

The judge called for a break time.

2:30pm, break is over, now the cross examination continues

Brown: So, when you had sex…

Tina: you mean when I was raped, yes?

(Some more things were said, now the cross examination is over. During the cross examination, Ernie Willis’s lawyer Donna Brown referred to Tina twice as “Tina Willis.)

Now District Attorney, Wayne Coull, is questioning Tina.

Wayne: I know this is an odd question, but have you ever been married to Ernie Willis?

Tina: No.

Tina Anderson is done being on the stand, no further questions. Tina takes a seat next to Jocelyn Zichterman on the front row. It is 2:37pm.

Sarah Harrison is asked to the stand. Sarah is the sister of Sue Cappucci, one of Tina’s teachers at Trinity Baptist Christian School.

Sarah: I was a member of TBC. Tina used to babysit my kids. She told me that she had gotten pregnant by one of the men in our church. I called my sister Susan Cappucci. I think she called Chuck Phelps. Phelps came over to my house, but did not come in. He took Tina and Chris and left. I don’t remember Phelps saying anything, no thanks, nothing. Two objections made, and both are overruled by the judge.

Donna Brown questions Sarah, and when she can’t remember, Brown says “well that’s understandable since it has been almost 14 years.”

(So how come she lets Sarah’s memory lapse go, but grill Tina on hers?)

Sarah Harrison leaves the stand, Sue Cappucci takes the stand, and Wayne Coull begins questioning Sue.

Sue: I taught Tina back in high school. Now I work at the YMCA. I remember Tina was called to confess in front of the whole church for “unfaithfulness.” Tina looked scared.

Objection made and sustained, Coull, Brown and Willis’ other lawyer are talking to the judge now.

(I am sitting on the second bench, and right next to me is a reporter for the local news here in Concord, NH. Her name is Amy Coveno and she seems pretty cool. She is taking copious notes and posting them live on a news blog. A camera man is standing next to her. A couple of us noticed that the reporter is wearing a turquoise/teal blouse. When Melanie leaned over and said “nice shirt,” Amy replied, “I heard it’s the popular color to wear around here” and smiled. A teal, bluish-green color is the color for abuse victims. Purple is also a color for abuse. So most of the supporters here are wearing turquoise ribbons, bracelets and shirts.)

3:15pm, Sue Cappucci is done on the stand.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Notes from the Trial Part TWO

One of the attendees at the trial took many pages of handwritten notes. As she types them up, I will be posting them to the blog.


Transcribed as hand-written during the trial by Bethany.

NOTE: Here is most of Tina Anderson's testimony on the stand. The words in parenthesis are my own thoughts that I wrote down during the case. I did not record Wayne Coull's questions word for word, so I did not write down his questions. The words Tina said are word for word, and if I was not sure she said something, I left it out because I want to stay as close to what was actually said in the court room.

*Tina Anderson takes the stand

-Tina walks in to the stand, and Wayne, her lawyer, is asking her questions. (I did not write the questions, just Tina’s answers).

Tina: I got my undergrad degree in music from Maranatha Baptist Bible College. Got a Master’s in Education from University of Arizona.

Tina: I wasn’t expecting to get a call from Detective DeAngelis. It came out of the blue. He talked to me for 1 and ½ hours. Immediately after the call with Detective DeAngelis, I contacted the family that adopted my child to let them know that the police were reopening this case. I wanted them to know so they could be prepared.

Tina’s teen years: I have a brother named Tom Dooley. He is a year older than me. My mother is Christine Leaf. My step-father is Dan Leaf. (Dan Leaf was imprisoned for more than a year for 2nd degree assault, for using a belt to beat Tom and Tina).

I had a really good education. It was very strict at Trinity Christian School (school associated with Trinity Baptist Church, Concord NH). I had about 15 other classmates. I loved babysitting, love kids. My mom worked full-time and went to school. I babysat for the Harrisons and for the Willis family. (Wayne Coull asked Tina to identify Ernie Willis, and Tina pointed to Ernie in the courtroom).

Wayne is questioning Tina about the time Ernie took her on a driving lesson
Tina: I remember my mom did not want to teach me to drive, she did not feel comfortable. So Ernie Willis said he would teach me. We went driving once, and nothing happened. The second time we went out, we drove to a parking lot somewhere. Ernie told me to pull over so we could switch places, so he could drive. When I got out, Ernie pushed me into the back seat, and raped me.

Wayne asks some more questions:

Tina: I believe I said “no” but I can’t really remember. I was shocked. I got home and took a hot shower. I felt so dirty.

Wayne asks some more questions:

Tina: Yes, Dan Leaf molested me when I was young, ages 9-12. I told Chuck Phelps about Dan. It was very tough.

Wayne questions Tina about the second time she was raped.
Wayne apologizes to Tina for being graphic, but asks her to specifically explain what she means by the word “rape” and Tina said “his penis entered my vagina.” (This was explicitly stated several times during the trial to make no mistake as to what actually happened. Ernie was arguing that he only “touched” Tina the first time in the car).

Tina: it was evening time when Ernie came to my house. I opened the door and let him in. I believe he locked the door behind him. I can’t remember if he pushed me on to the couch or if he just kept inching closer til he pressed me down on the couch. I said “no,” I said “stop” and then I just blanked out. When he was done, he just left. Didn’t say anything, just left. I did not use any sex protection.

Wayne Coull asks Tina to explain what her dress was like and what standards her church and school enforced.

Tina: I did not have to buy maternity clothes, because my clothes were very baggy. We had to wear shirts no lower than 2 fingers below the collarbone. Very baggy clothing.

Wayne Coull questions Tina about the pregnancy:

Tina: I don’t know why, but I called Ernie when I found out about being pregnant. I had no boyfriend, I was not interested in boys. I had good grades, played the flute, loved music. At my school and church, we were taught that physical intimacy with the opposite sex was not good. We did not hold hands with boys or touch at all. I finally told Sarah Harrison that I was pregnant. I got a small sense of relief because Sarah was very calm. Sarah called my mom, Chris, and Chris called Chuck Phelps.

Wayne questions Tina about when Chuck Phelps came over:

Tina: I was scared to tell Chris because she was still with Dan, and he had sexually abused me, too. I felt attacked by the Phelps. They interrogated me for hours. Linda Phelps kept grilling me, badgering me and asking me tons of questions. At one point, she asked me if I “enjoyed it.” I was utterly shocked that she would ask me that. It was torture. The meeting went on for hours. Finally, Chuck told me I would have to apologize for the 1% of wrong that I had contributed to being raped. Chuck said that I opened the door to let Ernie into my house. He said when I opened the door, I became guilty for part of the rape. I felt terrible. Tina said she had to get an AIDS test and give the results to Tammie Willis.

Wayne Coull questions more about what things Chuck Phelps told Tina:

Tina: Chuck Phelps read a passage in Deuteronomy that said if a young girl did not cry out for help when a man lies with her, that the people will take the girl outside the city gates and stone her. (Deuteronomy 22:23-24). I was devastated when he read that verse to me.

Wayne Coull asks her what happens after her pregnancy is made known:

Tina: I was only allowed to leave my house with people from Trinity Baptist Church. I was expelled from school. I was not allowed to talk to my grandparents, my brother, or my aunts. Patty Martinez, a second grade teacher at Trinity Baptist Church wrote a statement with me that I was made to read in front of the whole church.

Wayne asks about the service that Tina was made to confess her “sins.”

Tina: We had the usual evening church service. Then Chuck Phelps had all the kids leave the auditorium. Phelps told the congregation that there were two separate situations that needed to be brought before the church for “church discipline.” Ernie got up and apologized for being unfaithful to his wife. Then I was made to get up and read a letter about sinning by having sex and getting pregnant. I was devastated. I felt like my life was over. There were hundreds of people in the church building. I wasn’t allowed to tell my grandparents where I was going when I was sent away to Colorado. I wasn’t allowed to tell them they had a grandchild.

I was sent away to live with complete strangers. The family was the Landrys.I did not know them. They were very quiet, stern. I was very lonely. Diane Landry homeschooled her kids. I wasn’t allowed to talk to any kids my own age at church or anywhere else. Chuck Phelps made a survey for me and sent it out to several different families so that I could choose a family to send my baby away with. I felt very helpless and sad. I did not want to be pregnant. But I also did not want to give my baby away, I wanted to care for my child. I was forced by the pastor in CO, Matt Olsen, to apologize to Tammie Willis, Ernie Willis’s wife. I sent her a written apology.

My baby was born at Lutheran Medical Center.

Wayne shows the jury pictures of Tina with Matt and Diane Olsen and Tina’s baby. There’s also a picture of Tina, the baby, and Diane Landry.

Break for Lunch at 12:30pm.

Return to court at 1:30pm, and Tina again takes the stand, and picks up where she left off at the hospital.

Tina: I was not allowed to have friends in high school. When I returned home, I was not allowed to return to the school at Trinity. I was home schooled. After high school, I enrolled in Maranatha Baptist Bible College (MBBC). While I was there, one day I told one of my friends about being raped. I got called to the Dean of Women’s office. They had called Chuck Phelps and he told them to tell me to keep quiet. It was over. Forgive and forget.

Wayne asks Tina what happened a year ago, when the story broke.

Tina says that she turned down interviews with CNN, Good Morning, America, and Oprah. She says “I have no relationship with my mother. I lost my job at the Independent Fundamental Baptist college I was teaching at.” (Tina taught music at IBC, International Bible College in Arizona). Tina also said, “my mom was doing what she was told was the right thing to do.”

1:55pm: Cross-examination from defense attorney is next

Notes from the Trial Part ONE

One of the attendees at the trial took many pages of handwritten notes. As she types them up, I will be posting them to the blog.


Transcribed as hand-written during the trial by Bethany.

May 23, Monday, 2011 Tina Anderson Rape Case, Concord Court House Courtroom #1

Wayne Coull is the prosecuting attorney/district attorney. The Defense Attorney for Ernie Willis is Donna Brown. The judge is Judge Larry Smukler.

There are 25-30 supporters of Tina here. 3 people in the back are from Trinity, according to someone supporting Tina (Aunt Laurie maybe or someone else). A guy in the back looks professional—Lon Siel. He is from Trinity—wearing a suit and tie, using a notebook, pen, and printed out papers.

Right now we are sitting in the courtroom, and it is 10:00am. Sitting next to Rachel Griffith. We are on the second row, reporters on the end, and Tina, Laurie and Joc are sitting on the front row. Ernie Willis just walked in. Rachel punched my leg. Ernie and his lawyers are talking. Then they walked out of the room again.

All rise for the Jury, and for the Judge. Jury takes oath. Lady reads the charges. Aggravated sexual assault. June-July 1997. Not consensual sex. The clerk is reading this off to us, the jury, the judge. The speech and conduct of the victim (Tina) show that she did not consent. Felonious Sexual Assault. The car and the house. Victim is within 13-16 years of age at the time.

Judge addresses Jury. The Jury is composed of 8 men, and 4 women. All white, Caucasian. Mostly in their late 40’s early 50’s. One young man, maybe in his 20’s. One guy is in his 60’s.

5 indictments, one of them Ernie Willis has plead guilty for. Several of the indictments:
1). Aggravated sexual assault.
2). Felonious sexual assault.
~three parts/elements of the crime:
I. Occurring in different locations
II. Sexual penetration
III. Act occurred by the forcing of the will with the victim signifying no consent by speech or conduct
IV. The actor was aware of sexual penetration and lack of consent by the victim.

~3 elements of felonious sexual assault.
I. sexual penetration
II. Defendant used force
III. Defendant acted knowingly

~Four elements of felonious sexual assault:
1). Sexual penetration
2). Between 13-16 years old
3). Not the defendant’s wife
4). Actor did so knowingly.

Wayne Coull Opening Remarks: a 15 year old girl was raped. The defendent, Ernie Willis, signed his name as the father of the baby. We will focus on force and frequency. We will also mention 3 things:

Tina’s mother and step father were members of Trinity Baptist Church (Concord, NH). Let’s look at what happened to that little girl Tina back in 1997. She was enrolled in Trinity Baptist Church’s Christian school. Her family and her faith played big in her life. Church, family, and school.

Sex outside of marriage was taught by TBC as wrong, a sin. Tina learned of her pregnancy and called Willis. Willis bought her a pregnancy test. in September of 1997, Tina tried to tell Sarah Harrison that she was pregnant. Sarah called Susan Cappucci, an older sister. Chris Leaf and Chuck Phelps were called. Trinity Baptist Christian School expelled her for becoming pregnant. Chuck Phelps’ wife Linda asked her if she “enjoyed it.” Tina was made to ask Tammie Willis for forgiveness. Faith, fear, family.

Tina was sent off to a stranger’s house, another IFB family in Colorado. She wasn’t allowed to go stay with her grandparents in Texas. There was a public hearing at Trinity Baptist Church, to perform “disciplinary actions.” Ernie Willis apologized for cheating on his wife. A little girl, in front of hundreds of people, and had to ask them for forgiveness for putting herself in a “compromising situation.”

Dawn Fisher, a friend of Tina’s from TBC high school told her parents (defense attorney: objection! Overridden by judge). Dawn told her parents something was wrong, that this public discipline was wrong. Chuck Phelps made a “bare minimum” call to the police, saying Tina did not want to cooperate with the police and did not want to press charges. A detective talked to Chris Leaf, Tina’s mom. The detective looked for Tina, but could not find her. When Chuck Phelps presented this to the congregation, he presented it as two separate incidents, and not connected. (I leaned over and asked Rachel if they are going to mention the fact that Tina was sexually abused by Dan Leaf from ages 9-12?).

A woman named Jocelyn Zichterman (Objection by defense! Overridden by judge) Jocelyn had a blog talking about this story. Matt Barnhart wrote about Tina’s story on Jocelyn’s blog. Shortly after Jocelyn confirmed the story with Matt, she called Detective (Chris DeAngelis). Chris started looking into the case. Detective Deangelas asks Tina about what happened in 1997.

Tina was told that a good Christian forgives and forgets.
Phelps told Tina a different law from the Old Testament. The OT says if a virgin goes into the city and lies with a man, and does not cry out, then both man and woman will be taken outside of the city and be stoned to death. Thank goodness that is not the law today. (objection by defense, overridden by judge). Age of legal, consensual sex in this state is 16. Tina was 15 years old, and Ernie was 39.

When Tina came forward to tell the true story, it is not because she was seeking money or fame. She was called out of the blue by the police. She did not go seeking this attention. She was contacted by Oprah, The Today Show, and many others, but she turned them all down, and instead, aired her story on 20/20. Tina will take the stand in the next following days. She will swear to tell the WHOLE truth, and nothing but the truth. Ask yourself, jury: do you believe Tina Anderson? If so, then Ernie Willis is guilty.

Opening remarks by defense attorney:
There is no doubt that the father of Tina’s baby is Ernie Willis. Tina said she had sex once, and that is true, it was only once, not twice. Secondly, there was no force involved. Ernie and Tina had consensual sex one time, when Tina was 15. While Ernie is guilty of felonious sexual assault, he is not guilty of aggravated sexual assault.

What has happened is that Tina’s memory is blurry. Her story is constantly changing (the DA sets up a paper chart on a board to explain the sexual charges against Ernie). 2 allegations of sexual intercourse, 5 indictments by the state of NH. Tina did consent, as the evidence will show. The big word here is “consent.” Tina was 15. Legally, she can’t consent, but when I use the word consent I mean that Tina consented to having sex in 1997. Even though Tina could not legally consent, she chose to have sex (Tina periodically shakes her head, but makes no noise and does not raise her head to look up).

Tina turned 16 in August of 1997. Sarah Harrison will tell you that Tina didn’t say “no” or use the word “force.” Tina only told Sarah that she was pregnant and scared to tell her mom, Chris Leaf. Tina told her parents and Chuck Phelps that it happened only once. The word rape was never used by Tina or anyone else. (Rebecca Hunter was the nurse that examined Tina). Mrs. Hunter wrote a medical note using the word “intercourse,” not rape or force.

Now that 13 years have passed, and all the emotions are rising for Tina, she is substituting her emotions now for what happened back in 1997. Those feelings she feels now are making her believe that she said no to Ernie when in fact, she never said no. Jury, this is not about emotions or feeling. This is about the truth.

Supporters That Attended the Trial

About two dozen supporters attended the trial to show support for Tina Anderson at the trial, many of them traveling from all over the United States.

Many of the supporters are survivors of abuse themselves, and all are former members of Independent Fundamental Baptist churches. Each in their own way contributed to the support Tina experienced that week: hugs, prayers, sitting waiting quietly together, talking--telling their own stories and crying with Tina each day. The trip was a life-changing experience for all of us that went to the trial.

We each processed our experience differently, but all agree that we are very glad we made the commitment to attend.

As I get them over the course of the next few weeks, I will be posting the notes from one of the attendees that took in excess of 20 pages of hand-written notes. Others that attended the trial may elect to send in thoughts for the blog too and I will post them as I get them.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


written by Tina's Marine

Many, many years ago, something very tragic happened in my family. It wasn’t something that you could hide. It wasn’t something that you could forget. It wasn’t something that you could just walk away from and pretend it didn’t happen. It was something that rocked not only our family, but our church. It is tempting to tell you what happened so that you understand the seriousness of this sin but that’s one of my secrets that I don’t tell very many people. Some day my kids will be told but not right now. The sin was dealt with, justice served, and punishment given.
Now what? Forgive and forget? Not possible. Forgive? Possible. Forget? Not an option. We grow up with the "forgive and forget” mindset. I don’t remember being told specifically, while growing up, to “forgive and forget” but it is the mindset of many people. We are taught to forgive. It’s biblical. We can go to Scripture and find guidelines of how many times we should forgive, when we should forgive, and who should go first when seeking reconciliation. We see many examples through Scripture of forgiveness starting in the first couple chapters of Genesis and all the way through to the end of Revelations. We have Jesus showing us the ultimate example of forgiveness while He hung on the Cross for our sin.
Does forgiveness equal or result in the forgetting of the infraction? When someone has sinned against us, what do we do? Forgive. The Bible is clear on that and I’ll let others debate on if you can or should forgive or offer forgiveness to someone who has not asked for it or genuinely repentant in the wrong that they have done.
It’s not always easy to forgive because we have some faulty thinking. We might think that if we can’t forget what they did to us, then we have not forgiven them. We might think that if we insist they suffer the consequences of what they did, then we have not forgiven them. We might think that if we don’t allow them to have the same privileges or liberties that they had before they did anything, then we have not forgiven them. I think that we have all thought these things at one time or another. I know I have.
I believe this is why we equate forgetting with forgiveness. We think, if I can just move on like nothing ever happened, then I know and I can show others that I have forgiven them. If I can’t do that than I’m not “turning the other cheek” or “forgiving 70 times 7” or some other Scripture that is used regarding forgiveness.
What we seem to forget is that the Bible is also very clear that forgiveness does not remove or lessen the consequences. It does not automatically restore a relationship to its previous position or condition. It does allow for a relationship to start the healing process. Depending on the infraction would make a difference on how long the healing takes. Remember the abscess? The sin (abscess) can be acknowledged, dealt with, and treated but it still takes time to heal.
About fifteen years ago, a couple of years after my family went through our horrible ordeal, I was dealing with this issue of “forgive and forget.” I was concerned that my attitude, actions, and reactions were not in line with Scripture. I went to be a counselor at a Christian camp and during the training week we had a lesson on forgiveness. The first thing the young counselors started to say was that you “forgive and forget.” I brought up the point that some things you just can’t forget. I was able to get some Godly council from our camp director and we became friends. When I decided to go back to college, he’s the reason I chose the one I did and ended up meeting my wife, so, “thank you, Dr. J.”
My biggest concern was that even though the person who hurt our family seemed to be changed or at least trying to change, I just didn’t trust this person. How could I be sure that this person's new-found belief in God was real or just another calculated move to gain our trust again, to make us love this person again? I never stopped loving but could I trust this person again? Is this person really different? Over the years, I’ve done my best to maintain a good relationship with this person and I believe that there has been a change in this person's life but in the back of my mind there is still a small nagging doubt.
When Tina and I got married, Chris, Tina’s mom, came by herself to the wedding. We had our first child ten months after the wedding. We went to go see Chris in NH. Daniel, her husband, had been released a couple years earlier. While there, Daniel asked to meet us because he wanted to talk with us. We met at a donut shop and he apologized for “things I may have done to you but I can’t be specific because my lawyer told me not to.” We knew he was talking about the physical and sexual abuse he had done to Tina. We accepted his apology. Was he truly repentant if he would not say what he had done and willing to accept the punishment for his sin? I’ll let others debate that but I’ve been wondering about that recently myself. I also understand that it is human nature to avoid consequences, even when you know you deserve them.
Over the years, Chris has wanted to come visit her grandchildren (she did once right after our youngest was born) but she wanted to bring Daniel. We told her that if he came he was not allowed in our home. We said it was fine if he came but they’d have to stay in a hotel. She could come over and we’d be willing to meet in public places but we were not going to put Tina and our children in a position where they could be abused in any way. This made Chris upset because Daniel had asked forgiveness and we weren’t showing that we had forgiven him if we didn’t trust and believe him that he had changed. We’ve been accused of being unforgiving and unloving because we’ve put boundaries up to protect ourselves and our loved ones. Has he changed? I don’t know but I do know that I’m not going to put my family in a position to find out that he has not changed. He has not earned that privilege. Is he forgiven? Yes. We forgive him. Should he still pay for his crimes? Yes, that’s Biblical. Can or should we put him back in a position of trust where he might abuse again? I won’t. With some things, maybe trust can be restored. In this case, I’m not going to take that chance.
Let me tell you a story that I was told about a family that I have known since I was child to give you an example of the problem of believing in “forgive and forget.” As a child, I knew a couple that were friends with my parents. The woman used to watch me and my sisters. This couple has two children who are now grown and married. What I found out recently was that the man had been abused by a relative and then this same relative later abused his daughters. I can’t tell you how much that still hurts and bothers me on so many different levels. The biggest one is why didn’t the father keep his children away from the person who abused him when he was a child. They’re Christians. Did they do the “forgive and forget” and hoped it wouldn’t happen to their children? Did this relative tell them he’d changed and my friends didn’t want to seem unforgiving and unbelieving and so trusted a man who ended up betraying their trust? I’m not sure but I don’t want to be the father who didn’t take the precautions to protect his children even if others think he’s being unforgiving.
Another example happened between my dad and I. When I joined the Marines and went to boot camp, I gave my dad my checking account. I was gone for about three months and you don’t have access to anything and your paycheck is deposited into your account. When I got home there was nothing in my account. My dad had used it. Now, he did pay it back within a week but he used it without permission. I guess he thought it was ok since he was my dad and I would have said “yes” if he had asked but it was just strange. A couple years later when I got deployed to Saudi Arabia for a few months, I needed a power of attorney for my finances and instead of giving it to my dad, I gave it to my mom. I had doubts about my dad and so I asked my mom instead. It’s not as serious but a trust had been abused and I didn’t want to put myself in that situation again.
Each situation will be different and the seriousness of the abscess will determine the severity in which it must be dealt with and how long the healing may take place. I’ll forgive but you’ll have to earn my trust again.
I remember growing up asking the question, “How does God forget?” We are told that God puts our sins as far as from the East is from the West, which means they never meet. We are taught that this means that God does not remember our sins. Is this true? How is God forgetting something possible? I submit that it is not possible. What is possible is that if we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, our sin is covered by His blood. God does not see it but what made that possible? The penalty for our sin nature was paid for on the Cross. Our spirit is made alive by Him because Jesus paid the cost because we are sinners. Forgiveness came through the payment of sin. In the physical realm, would this mean that forgiveness can only come through paying for your sin? Can you be forgiven if you can walk away from your sin without any consequences?
Spiritually, a Christian has their sin forgiven but physically, there are still consequences for sin and the things we do while here on earth. We can’t just do what we want and say that because God’s blood covers our sin and He does not see it spiritually and so you should not look at it here physically. In other words, you can’t say “forgive and forget.”
Does forgiveness equal forgetting? I would answer “no.”

Saturday, July 9, 2011


Have you ever had anything that happened in your family that you don’t tell anyone? Your co-workers, whom you’ve worked with for years, don’t know the dirty little secrets of your family. They don’t know about your relatives because you’re embarrassed. You’d rather have them assume that you come from a “normal” family, whatever that is. Maybe it’s your parents, or a sibling, or grandparents, or whomever. They’d probably not think any less of you and you might be surprised to find out what they’re not telling you. But it’s a secret and you keep it to yourself because who wants to air out their dirty laundry.

What if something happened to you? What if the horrible secret in your life is how you were abused as a child, or even an adult? What if what happened to Tina, had happened to you? Unfortunately, it has happened to too many children but that’s not the point right now. What normally happens? Even if you tell someone, you tell as few people as necessary. There are so many reasons but for whatever the reason, we keep those secrets to ourselves.

For years I’ve wondered how I would tell my children. How do we tell our children what happened to their mother? How do we tell them that their mommy gave birth to another child before we met? How do we tell them how that happened? They don’t even know about sex. How are we going to explain about rape?

Do we show them the 20/20 show? We did show them the very end so they could see themselves on TV. They were pretty excited about that. Recently, when I was on the phone, I told him that I couldn’t wait to see him. He told me that I could just watch 20/20 and I’d see him. That made me laugh.

Do we show them all the news articles, blogs, and posts that will tell them what happened to their mommy? Do we have someone else tell them?

These are rhetorical questions but I wonder how we’ll tell them. I wonder when we’ll tell them. I’m not going to try and answer these questions right now. I know we’ll figure it out as time goes but for now we keep them blissfully unaware. They don’t need to know right now.

At the end of 20/20, it ended with Tina saying, “Mommy went through a time when bad people did some tough things but we made it through and God is still good.” For right now, that’s what we’ll tell our children. When it’s all said and done, the most important thing that we want to teach our children is that “God is still good."

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Pastor's Heart - Shepherding When Tragedy Strikes

Please take time to read this excellent article by W. Duncan Rankin: "A Pastor's Heart - Shepherding When Tragedy Strikes."

Depending on where pastors received their academic and/or seminary training, they may not be sure what to do or where to turn when child abuse of any sort happens within their own congregation. Sadly, some pastors are urged to deal with matter entirely within their own church walls instead of working with local law enforcement.

The federal Child Welfare Information Gateway has a well developed section of information devoted just to state laws on child abuse reporting. Pastors need to understand the laws in their own states on mandatory reporting and their own responsibility to protect children in their congregation from child abuse of any kind.

I'd like to highlight a few sections in Rankin's article:

     "After a decade or two of high profile charges, cases, and settlements, the church is now only beginning to come to grips with the tragedy of child sexual abuse. Crimes perpetrated by clergy have rightly received special attention, since a bond of presumed trust when violated is particularly heinous.
     Scandal is also created, however, when church leaders do not respond properly to allegations of child abuse or even to the sheer fact of its existence in our modern culture. Yes, the subject is not a comfortable one, and its implications are explosive for individual lives and ecclesiastical organizations. But does not the Christian faith call church leaders to vigilance in this matter?
     When faced with harsh and uncaring attitudes towards little children, Jesus rebuked His own disciples, telling them: “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14). Praying for and blessing the little children with the laying on of hands, Jesus modeled the proper posture and attitude that His followers were to have towards these little ones."

The article also provides some very practical tips for considerations a pastor must address when dealing with abuse within his own congregation:

     "Finally, church pastors and other leaders must be shepherds who mend the flock of God. Pastoral care should always be offered to both victims and perpetrators, as well as their families. But the table is not level in this regard. Victims must be given priority rather than short shrift.
     All too often, the Christian doctrine of forgiveness and reconciliation is misused and applied clumsily to the area of child sexual abuse. When dealing pastorally with a victim and her family, the first matter is to make the church safe for her to attend. Misguided ministers and counselors who foolishly force victims and their families to be constantly re-exposed to and, thereby, emotionally re-victimized by their perpetrators commit a grave sin. Victims deserve priority: the church must be made safe for them to attend.
     Therefore, it is the Christian duty of perpetrators to remove themselves to another local fellowship, after making full disclosure of their situation, so that they no longer are a source of spiritual confusion and harm to victims and their families. It is also the duty of church leaders to see to it that this protection is provided."

A friend that leads children's ministries at her church gives a strong recommendation to this book: "When Child Abuse Comes to Church" by Bill Anderson.
"In 1988, Bill became the senior pastor of a church where he has learned how a shepherd protects the flock, where he fails and where he succeeds, when his church was shaken by a highly publicized child abuse case. Anderson recounts his story and gives practical advise to other pastors..."
Disclaimer: I am not an affiliate with, nor do I have any relationship with the author of the book. I am simply recommending the book as a resource that was recommended to me.

For other resources for churches, check out the other articles available from G.R.A.C.E.

Can there be hope for healing?

It was in the weeks leading up to the trial of Ernie Willis that Tina Anderson introduced me to this song by Laura Story, titled "Blessings." In the days leading up to my departure date for New Hampshire, any time I heard this song, I wept uncontrollably with gut wrenching, heart-breaking sobs.

I cried for Tina's lost youth, for the callous disregard for her heart while making an extra effort to protect the rapist's family, for the lies told about her character when she wasn't allowed to go back to the Christian school to join her friends.

I cried for my own childhood memories and for those of dear loved ones that were molested by church leaders. I cried for the times I sat and allowed myself to be emotionally and spiritually abused as an adult. So many, many lost years. So many years that passed without the experience of unconditional love--without understanding God's grace.

My grief at times overwhelmed me. And after over forty years of stuffing all the hurt, I found that even though I wanted to talk about it, I still couldn't. The only comfort I found was in prayer and offering support for those still trying to escape abuse or still hurting from the abuse they left behind.

I cried more in the year between when Tina's story came out and the trial than I have cried in my whole life. My husband was an amazing friend and support, as were others.

I have often said when looking back on my life that the disciple I can most identify with is Peter (because he often acted or blurted things out without stopping to think first), but the Bible character that I find the most inspiring given my own history is Joseph. Thanks to a friend, I read a story not too long ago in Christianity Today that crystallized why I feel that way.

Wess Stafford, president and CEO of Compassion International, was born to a missionary family required by its mission board to send children away to boarding school by the age of six. As an adult, Wess joined many other former students of the Mamou Alliance Academy in Guinea, Africa to speak out about the abuse suffered by the children at the hands of the missionary teachers and house parents. Crediting the experience for his own passion as an advocate for children, Stafford said, “Thankfully, for me, my story—a story that Satan intended for evil but that God redeemed for good—has a different ending.”
"There was no one to protect us. We had no advocates, no arms to run to. The very people who should have been our defenders were in fact our attackers."

I grew up in a church environment like that. The attached "Christian" school, a place my parents thought would nurture us in God's Word, was instead, a place of no protection against those that seemed to get a sick satisfaction for how they could hurt us without leaving signs or scars. Though sometimes they did leave bruises and welts.

Though Wes Stafford's experiences were different from my own, there was much about his story that resonated with me. I don't know how much of my own experiences I will ever share publicly, but I do know this: healing is possible. For me it began with understanding God's grace. It was only then that I could comprehend His unfailing, miraculous, unconditional love. Not surprisingly, He then began showing me how I could love my children as He loves me. I was free to leave behind the man-centered traditional parenting advice associated with my fundamentalist upbringing and free to embrace GRACE.

If you are reading this blog and wondering if there is healing for you, I want to assure you that there is! There are many resources and places of support you can pursue.

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network): this website can direct you to an abuse advocate in your location

SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests): support group for women and men abused by religious authority figures

Freedom from Abuse Network: a place offering support specifically for those coming out of Independent Fundamentalist Baptist churches

I want to close this post with a couple of quotes from the Christianity Today Article:

"All these years later, I am still never more than 10 seconds away from tears. But not all my tears are from sorrow. Just as easily, I can be moved to tears of great joy at what I get to do. I see victories in children's lives as evil is defeated, just as it was defeated in my own life."
"In finally telling my whole story, I have discovered the other side of my life's tapestry. Where I once saw only knots and tangles, I now see a beautiful picture of God's grace—his deliberate orchestration in a life lovingly entrusted to me. Sure enough, he had heard every scream, felt every blow, and wiped every tear as, through the pain, he crafted me into a tool he could use, redeemed for his glory."