Youth Pastor Watch was a regular feature on Slog for years.
I started doing weekly YPW posts during the long-but-way-shorter-than-we-thought-it-would-be fight for marriage equality. Religious bigots were running all over the country claiming we had to protect the children from married same-sex couples because married gay couples would want to have kids and won't someone please think of the children! These same religious bigots didn't seem interested in protecting kids from the sexual predators in their own churches. They didn't want to have a conversation about who was actually preying on vulnerable kids. They didn't want anyone thinking about that. Et voilà, Youth Pastor Watch!
I didn't stop doing Youth Pastor Watch because youth pastors weren't raping kids anymore—and regular pastors too—but because religious bigots stopped emphasizing the "protect the children" argument. There were just too many gay parents already out there—some parenting the friends of President Obama's daughters—and there was just too much evidence showing gay parents were as good as straight parents. So the bigots de-emphasized "protect the children!" and switched to the argument they would take all the way to the Supreme Court: straight people suck. That argument didn't go over well. (As I predicted it wouldn't.)
But "protect the children" is back.
The same types of people—sometimes the very same people—who attacked same-sex couples with calls to "protect the children" are now using that line to attack trans men and women.
As Senator Ted Cruz of Texas seeks every possible edge to stop Donald J. Trump, he has seized on a once-obscure issue with a proven power to inflame conservatives: letting transgender women use women’s bathrooms. Mr. Cruz mentions it constantly in Indiana, a state with many social conservatives that is all but a last stand for him in his fight to deprive Mr. Trump of the Republican presidential nomination.... “Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton both agree that grown men should be allowed to use the little girls’ restroom,” Mr. Cruz said on Tuesday night as a crowd in Knightstown, Ind., booed heartily. He made the remarks after coming before the crowd with his two daughters, 7 and 5, who wore matching pink dresses.... In leveraging the issue, Mr. Cruz has raised the specter of sexual predators in women’s restrooms, which conservatives around the country have effectively invoked to defeat anti-discrimination laws—and which gay rights advocates denounce as a myth.
Trans women preying on children in bathrooms is more than a myth and worse than a lie. (And it is a lie.) It's a blood libel directed against the trans community, one that makes what is an already unsafe world for trans men and women that much more dangerous.
So, hey, I'm bringing back Youth Pastor Watch!
Because trans men and women are already using restrooms all over the country and there isn't a single case anti-trans bigots can cite to justify their anti-trans hate campaign—not a single case of trans women exploiting civil rights protections to prey on children in public restrooms—but the news is still full of stories about kids being raped in the churches they're dragged to by their parents. Because children are actually safer in restrooms being used by trans men and women than they are in church basements, on church retreats, or during church youth groups. Because it's something we need to bear in mind while pious shitstains like Ted Cruz—and the pious shitstains pushing an anti-trans ballot initiative here in Washington state—insist they're just trying to protect the children.
A few final thoughts before we get to this week's youth pastors: If kids got raped at Denny's as often as they got raped at church, it would be illegal to take your kid to Denny's. Trans urinators aren't a danger to kids. Youth pastors are. And why focus just on youth pastors? Because when I included pastors, priests, Sunday school teachers, and church staff... these posts were way, way too long. I had to find a way to narrow the scope. So: youth pastors.
VIRGINIA: "The man who once led a church youth group has pleaded guilty to committing sex crimes against children he met through the organization. Jeffrey Clark, 46, entered a guilty plea on three counts of Aggravated Sexual Battery and two counts of Indecent Acts with Child by Custodian, Monday morning in a packed Colonial Heights courtroom. A judge sentenced Clark to 60 years in prison. Forty-seven years of that prison sentence was suspended. A 21-year-old college student, who said Clark abused him as a child, looked Clark in the eye when he told Clark the former youth group leader ruined his life.... Clark was arrested last summer when police said he inappropriately touched another boy at his Chester home."
ARIZONA: "The pastor of a church in Tolleson is condemning a youth leader who's accused of having sex and doing drugs with a teen parishioner. Pastor Tony, as he's known, has admitted to all of it and the girl's father has the 'sexts' to back up the sickening stories. Robert Anthony Jerez is behind bars facing nine counts of sexual conduct with a minor and one count of sexual abuse.... The 35-year-old Jerez is accused in court documents of having sex with the girl 10 times from October of last year until this past January, using drugs and drinking with the girl at her house and sexting with her.... The documents show Jerez admits to having sex with an underage girl at least three times. Court documents reveal he knew the victim was underage."
TEXAS: "A Texas youth pastor who has been accused of sexually assaulting at least three kids was beaten up by good Samaritans as he molested a child last week. Willie Bell, 29, was caught in the act attacking a 6-year-old kindergarten student behind an apartment building in Dallas on March 31... Bell did not live at the apartment complex and did not know the child or the mother. 'When I heard he is a student pastor, I'm like really?' the mom told the station. 'Who can you trust? Who can you believe?' The youth pastor has also been accused of molesting two young boys in Cedar Hill in February while wearing 'church shoes,' according to the station."
ARKANSAS: "A Craighead County circuit judge has sentenced a former Jonesboro youth minister to two life sentences for rape, Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington of Jonesboro said. Anthony Waller, 39, of Marion was charged in November on two counts of rape after authorities found a 'very large amount of child pornography' on his computer, Ellington said. An arrest affidavit filed in Craighead County Circuit Court in November indicated that police found thousands of images.... Waller was the youth minister of Jonesboro First Assembly of God from 1999 to 2015. He was fired two days after the voyeurism charges were filed."
Religious conservatives want you to think trans men and women exploit civil rights protections to prey on children in public restrooms. They don't want you to think about the people who are really preying on children.