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Memphis News & Weather | Memphis, TN | WATN - localmemphis.com

Local I-Team: Victims Claim Church Covered Up Child Abuse

Victims claim Immanuel Baptist Church covered up their reports, and that cover-up caused as much if not more damage than the actual abuse. Victims rights advoca...
Local I-Team: Victims Claim Church Covered Up Child Abuse
Victims claim Immanuel Baptist Church covered up their reports, and that cover-up caused as much if not more damage than the actual abuse. Victims rights advocates agree. One well known group, SNAP, sent the Local I-Team a statement about the alleged abuse.
 
New information on an investigation the Local I-Team broke Monday night. Three men claim Memphis library worker Chris Carwile sexually abused them as teens nearly 20 years ago when he was an associate youth minister at Immanuel Baptist Church in Germantown.
 
Victims tell Local I-Team’s Maria Hallas they believe they suffered lasting spiritual and emotional damage  in the way the church responded to their claims. 
 
“The cover-up of the way the leadership of our church handled our situation created long-lasting pain,” says Kenny Stubblefield, one of the victims.
 
Boz Tchividjian, a former prosecutor, grandson of Reverend Billy Graham, and victims’ rights advocate, said the three men’s feelings are not unusual.
 
“Of the hundreds, if not thousands of sexual abuse survivors and I have met with in my lifetime, many were abused in association with some type of church or faith. And what they’ll tell me over and over again is that yes, the abuse was horrific and it will have lasting lifetime impacts. But what what was as bad or often many times worse to them was the response of that church and the response of the faith community,” said Tchividjian.
  
All three men, Kenny Stubblefield, Brooks Hansen, and Michael Hansen, remember what happened when they told then senior pastor Scott Payne about the abuse.
 
Kenny Stubblefield claims Payne said, “if you want to be faithful, you won’t say a word about this because you don’t want to hurt our church. You don’t want to hurt Chris’ life. You don’t want to destroy his life.”
 
Payne denies making that statement. He says Chris Carwile was fired after the teens came forward. But Payne says he did not realize he had a legal obligation to report the sexual abuse allegations to law enforcement.
 
“I understood the decision was by the parents that they didn’t want anything done except Chris out and away,” Payne said.
 
Tchividjian says Payne’s claim of his response was worse than a cop-out, because by asking the victims to forgive without following the law and calling law enforcement, was tantamount to re-victimizing the victims. 
 
“Now these individuals have to live their lives knowing that, the very place they thought they would feel the most safe and affirming, turned their backs, and because of that, these individuals will never ever be able to go back to the court system and seek the justice that they are entitled to.”
 
The men’s statutes of limitations to bring claims against Carwile have expired. The Local I-Team reached out to Carwile about the allegations with no response. He remains on administrative leave from the library with pay.
 
Tennessee Statutory Law mandates that any person with a reasonable belief that abuse may have occurred contact police. If you have any information about this or other stories please contact the author. mhallas@localmemphis.com or call 901-500-0531.

Unprompted by Local 24 SNAP, the well-known victims rights organization, SNAP, issued the following statement.:

Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

The Memphis Public library has suspended a former youth minister who is accused of molesting at least three kids. That’s not enough.

Police reports have been filed. An alleged child molester walks free. His reported victims are suffering. And other kids are at risk. So officials at the main public library downtown and the Church at Schilling Farms in Collierville (formerly Immanuel Baptist Church) must take aggressive steps to reach out to anyone else who may have seen, suspected or suffered crimes by Chris Carwile or cover ups by church officials.

Rev. Scott Payne admits he didn’t call police and now asks forgiveness. But forgiveness is premature. Payne must help police, prosecutors and Carwile’s victims first, by doing everything he can to help ensure that Carwile is successfully prosecuted. The same is true of current and former supervisors and colleagues of Carwile’s.

Church officials should make pulpit announcements, use church websites, post notices in church buildings and mail congregants (current and former) begging anyone with information or suspicions to come forward, get help, safeguard kids and call law enforcement.

Rev. Payne’s excuses for acting selfishly, recklessly and deceitfully ring hollow. And ignorance of the law is no excuse.

We hope law enforcement will investigate Rev. Payne, see if he’s done this in other cases and prosecute him if possible. We hope other church figures in Memphis will publicly denounce Rev. Payne and send a clear signal to their employees and congregants that ignoring or hiding suspicions of child sex crimes is immoral and won’t be tolerated.

Finally, we applaud Kenny Stubblefield, Brook Hansen and Michael Hansen who say Carwile assaulted them as boys in the 1990s. Without their courage and compassion, Carwile would still be “under the radar” with access to kids. A credibly accused sex offender has been exposed only because they found the strength to step forward and honor their civic and moral duty to protect others by reporting crimes.

No matter what library or church officials do or don’t do, we urge every single person who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes and cover ups in Catholic churches or institutions to protect kids by calling police, get help by calling therapists, expose wrongdoers by calling attorneys, and be comforted by calling support groups like ours. This is how kids will be safer, adults will recover, criminals will be prosecuted, cover ups will be deterred and the truth will surface.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergyabuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)