Pastor Covers Up Rape, Makes Victim Apologize, Gets Invited to Join Christian School’s Board of Trustees

Pastor Chuck Phelps heads up Trinity Baptist Church in Concord, New Hampshire and he played a key role in covering up the rape of a 15-year-old girl in the church. Not only did he try to keep it hidden, he made the girl apologize to the congregation:

The victim said Phelps told her she would be put up for “church discipline,” where parishioners go before the congregation to apologize for their sins.

She asked why. “Pastor Phelps then said that (Willis) may have been 99 percent responsible, but I needed to confess my 1 percent guilt in the situation,” the victim told the police.

“He told me that I should be happy that I didn’t live in Old Testament times because I would have been stoned.”

It gets worse. He later “sent her away with her mother’s help to another… church in Colorado where she would have her baby and give it up for adoption away from friends and family, and allowed the rapist to remain in the church.”

This was nearly 15 years ago — Phelps still hasn’t apologized as far as I know — so you may be wondering what Phelps is up to now…

Turns out he was invited to join the (ultra-fundamentalist) Bob Jones University Cooperating Board of Trustees (PDF) and he accepted the position:

One website that follow Phelps couldn’t believe the news:

Phelps spent months lying to many people’s faces, he up a website to commit libel against a victim of rape, verbally slandered the victim all over the country, lied to the media, both lied to and about the police. Apparently this kind of behavior is ok for a Cooperating Board member of Bob Jones University. It’s apparently fine for a board member to do so, but a student would be expelled for much less.

A groups of BJU students is demanding that he step down. They’ve even started a petition and a Facebook group requesting his removal.

They also want students on campus to wear red on December 12th to show their support in defiance of the school’s misguided decision:

It’s not that often you see a group of Christian students standing up to the administration at a Christian school, and this is one instance in which I support what they’re doing. You don’t have to be a student there to believe that Phelps has no business in any sort of leadership capacity, even at a Christian school.

Even around pastors and Christian fundamentalists, he stands out as a despicable man who made poor decisions for awful reasons. There’s no reason to believe he’s a changed man. He’s done enough damage. Get him off that board before he finds a way to ruin even more people’s lives.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Anonymous

    What an inspired choice! I mean, it’s not like lately people are especially aware of men in positions of power at universities using their influence to enable and cover for child rapists, is it?

    *refuses to facepalm for fear of concussion”

    • http://profiles.google.com/smith.ken74 Ken Smith

      Actually Chuck Phelps did call police, 3 times in fact. He also reported this to social services. Also, her mother reported this to police. 

      Follow the money trail on this one. There are some people trying to raise money off a false part of this story.

  • Spencer

    Fred Phelps, Chuck Phelps… connection?

    • http://twitter.com/0xabad1dea Melissa E

      No actually, there is no connection, as hard as that is to believe. Source: my family is intimately involved in the day-to-day operations of Trinity Baptist. My cousin and their spouse are youth pastors there. 

      Screw this man, Trinity Baptist, and everything they stand for. All the horrible things you’ve heard about this rape case are true. The only good thing that can be said is that the current pastor of Trinity was not yet involved with the church when this happened afaik and I don’t get the impression that *he* would have let this happen if he was.

      Trinity Baptist is essentially a cult. Bob Jones essentially is, too, (source: half my family went to school there) and I’m pleasantly surprised there are students actually standing up and calling this out. 

      The last time I visited that side of the family, I casually mentioned the scandal and they became extremely angry. They didn’t have any denials, except to remind me that it’s not the current pastor’s fault (and it isn’t), but it’s pretty much the exact same congregation. They’ve given me ZERO impression they’ve changed as a group. Instead, they’re just angry that this spotlight is being shone down on their sin. Shine on!

      • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/DJRVGKGG36KNLNMZAVT4EXOF3M Ed-words

        You must be looking forward to  another family Christmas.

        • http://twitter.com/0xabad1dea Melissa E

          I’m penciled in for Thanksgiving with them, actually.

          Every time I see their small children being indoctrinated in young earth creationism and woman-know-your-placeism I just want to cry.

          • Rich Wilson

            You will be in my thoughts and prayers on Thanksgiving.  Well, my thoughts anyway.   Peace.

      • http://ksblogs4u.blogspot.com/ Nothing Personal

        “The only good thing that can be said is that the current pastor of Trinity was not yet involved with the church when this happened…”
        Wasn’t Brian Fuller the youth pastor during that time?

    • http://tikatu.livejournal.com/ Tikatu

      Actually, yes. Not familial, but both Fred and Chuck went to Bob Jones. (Different years, and I don’t think Fred graduated, though.)

  • http://bethbates.wordpress.com/ mama bb

    So proud to reside in Carmel, IN. 

    • http://twitter.com/enuma enuma

      The number of Indiana addresses on that list is just depressing.

      • http://bethbates.wordpress.com/ mama bb

        I still claim Colorado as “home,” though that state its share of pathology. *sigh*

  • Anonymous

    *Sigh*

    I’m not even surprised by this.

  • RevGal

    Sees like HE needs to stand for public confession before God and also seek forgiveness from the family he so terribly injured with his shaming and abuse of power.  That may make it easier for him to then seek forgiveness from the congregation which he no doubt injured through this whole incident … and then seek to right the relationship at BJU.  HE has no business in a position of institutional responsibility for now.  His best hope is a period of intentional reflection, reconciliation and rehabilitation.    

    • Anonymous

      what he ‘needs’ is to go to jail. he could even experience what the victim did, while there. it would perhaps help with his xtian sense of understanding and compassion. 

      • http://tikatu.livejournal.com/ Tikatu

        Unfortunately, the statute of limitations on obstructing justice in NH has run out. Or else, yes, I think both he and the victim’s mother would be charged with it.

        • http://ksblogs4u.blogspot.com/ Nothing Personal

          Chuck Phelps called police 3 times and also reported this to social services. Tina’s mother also reported the crime to police and Tina admitted under oath that she knew that.

          • sschriver

            It doesn’t matter. They sent her out of state so she couldn’t be found to testify. In other words, they did what was necessary to keep themselves clean with the police while at the same time acting to prevent justice actually being done. They are still guilty of a cover-up.

  • novenator

    What a nice guy.  It’s things like this that really get my blood boiling.

  • Anonymous

    Fundamentalist Christians are often sociopaths. It really can’t be put any other way

    • jiml

      When you paint an entire group over the actions of a few, you are just as guilty of exhibiting prejudice as you would accuse others of. While I am not a fundamentalist, and would be called very liberal or even not a real christian by many fundamentalists, they are not sociopaths. While this individual is guilty of covering up a crime, there are just as many non-believers, and everywhere in-between that are guilty of similar crimes. Were his actions reprehensible, YES! Is it reprehensible to use a verse of scripture to justify his actions and intimidate this young woman? YES, a thousand times YES! His actions are not supportable based on scripture and the majority of fundamentalist Christians that I know would have nothing to do with this type of action. 

      • Dan

        Jiml, you do understand the difference between ‘often’ and ‘always’, right? Stev84 said they were often sociopaths, not that all were. His statement is a bit hyperbolic, but I attended Bob Jones University for two semesters, and the administration has many, many people there I’d consider having strong sociopath tendencies. This is a school that banned interracial dating until 2000, and there were still faculty and students angry that the ban had been lifted when I attended a couple years later.

      • Scamp

        Let’s not forget the entire congregation – that sat there like BORG ZOMBIES – deeply smiling at this entire freak-show. Morning after coffee and gossip was never better was it? For years, not just this asswipe pastor, but his accomplished involved in shipping her out-of-state…and the entire congregation that has kept silent. Christianity teaches such vile BORG Collective silence. They are ALL complicit.

        • http://tikatu.livejournal.com/ Tikatu

          First of all, the pastor didn’t present the girl as having been raped – her sin was “allowing a compromising situation to occur” resulting in her pregnancy. The rapist was brought be fore the church as being “unfaithful to his wife”. So the two were never connected for the congregation. And, actually, quite a few members were very disturbed by what happened, and it was one of those (former) members who started the ball rolling that ended up with justice for the girl (now woman) and put the rapist in jail at last. Look up the 20/20 expose on “Tina Anderson” and check out the video from the trial.

          • http://ksblogs4u.blogspot.com/ Nothing Personal

            The victim also allowed her name to be used to solicit money over the internet…..Google Tina Anderson Foundation and questions they won’t answer. Also check Youtube. 

      • Atoswald

        Jiml,

        1. I would argue that there are NOT just as many non-believers guilty of similar crimes. Take a good look at the prison populations. The numbers of non-believers in prison are not representative of the non-believers in the overall population, the ratio is significantly lower.

        2. If you read the christian bible, his actions ARE supportable based on scripture.

  • Dan

    Doesn’t surprise me. I attended BJU for a year (about eight years ago) and that school is full of bigots, especially in the administration, but also the majority of the student body. Women had to wear long skirts so as not to lead men astray. They had a rule that foreign students weren’t allowed to speak any other language than English anywhere on campus, even in the dorms. I had a friend who got into huge trouble for owning a Newsboys Christian music CD, since they were too ‘Worldly’ (they actually illegally searched his car without his permission to find it) and every care package I got from home had been ‘accidentally’ opened and inspected in the mail (They even would go through my US News and World Report magazines and tear out any pages that were offensive before placing them in my mailbox.) We weren’t allowed to go the movie theater in Greenville period, and could be expelled for going to a theater when home on vacation if the movie was rated worse than “G.” It is one of the most chauvinistic and homophobic places I’ve ever been.

    BJU is a disgustingly legalistic, hateful, and backward place. They banned interracial dating until 2000! This doesn’t surprise me at all.

    • Kevin_Of_Bangor

      If all that is true… Then wow! just wow!

      • http://twitter.com/repatrick repatrick

        If? Dude, all that is true and more. It is pitiful and disgusting. 

        Alumni, class of 2006.

    • Charles Bartley

      BJU was the target of a song called “we don’t need no (color code)” by the Christian rocker Steve Taylor in the early 80s. He then went on to produce and write for the Newsboys.

  • Sue Blue

    I got especially steamed at this POS pastor’s comment to the effect that the girl should be grateful she had not been born in Old Testament times because she would have been stoned.  I can almost see that dick-brained sorry excuse for a man wishing with all his shriveled, prune-like heart that he could throw the first rock.   In my opinion he and the rapist should both be circumcised with a rusty sawblade and then be frogmarched in front of a crowd of drunken sailors to have their genital size ridiculed and the presence or absence of their testicles publicly debated….but hey, that’s way too Christian of me.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_H2Q2EYUU5L6HRZTXRO2YWTCK3Q SD40-2T

    This is why I cringe when somebody tells me that they are a “Christian !”

  • http://www.sacredmisfit.com Sarah

    That is AWFUL.  Thank you for reporting this story.  I don’t know which Jesus they are following, but it certainly is not the God of love and justice that I serve. I am sorry that you have to experience things like this when people hide their ugliness, pride and shame under the mantle of religion.  Disgusting and disheartening.  Thank you again for sharing…

  • BJU grad

    Please sign the open petition linked above. Anyone can sign.

  • Chuckles Travels

    These brave students are being threatened with expulsion for the Do Right BJU peaceful protest.  Administration forced the founder of the facebook page drop out or face expulsion.  Since he is a senior he felt he didn’t have a choice.  Other brave students have now picked it up but are also being threatened.  http://chucklestravels.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/do-right-bju-bju-threatens-students-with-expulsion/

    These students weren’t going to carry signs and picket they were just planning to wear red on this day.  I am a former BJU student, BJU Administration works on fear and intimidation. On thing we have noticed over and over is BJU will only make changes when shamed into it with bad press. An example of this was Bob Jones lifting their inter-racial dating ban during the 2000 election. We are working to alert the media.  Please help.  Many have written to CNN, MNBC, FOX, etc.  Please send a quick email to the national media about this. The only way this has a chance of being successful would be for the media to run this story. If not, every student who wears red 12/12/11 will face expulsion.  The local  Greenville County media is silent on this whole thing.  I lived in Greenville for most of my adult life,  BJU runs the town,  Nearly all the city council members are BJU graduates or even staff members.  For many years the Solicitor (District Attorney) was one of their men too.  You may be interested in knowing that BJU has said it will be shutting down facebook from its server to stop students from joining this protest.  Wouldn’t be surprised if their internet “accidently’ went down for a few day like Egypt did last year to attempt to squash protest.  

  • GC

    2 Words—- HERMAIN CAIN—- and he’s not even a Fundamentalist (that I know of).

  • http://ksblogs4u.blogspot.com/ Nothing Personal

    How could Phelps have covered up a rape when he called police 3 times and also called social services?

    Tina Anderson admitted under oath that after she was raped (during which she said she blanked out and can’t remember if she said no or not) that she continued to be in the company of the rapist.

    She admitted that she continued driving lessons with him after he raped her in the car during a lesson.

    She went out to eat with him on her birthday, at a local hotel. When he came to her house while her mother was at work she allowed him to come in even though she had been told not to have any company.

    She allowed the compromising situations to CONTINUE to occur even when she knew they were wrong.

    There wasn’t any cover up.

    • Rich Wilson

      Tina Anderson admitted under oath that after she was raped (during which she said she blanked out and can’t remember if she said no or not) that she continued to be in the company of the rapist.

      She admitted that she continued driving lessons with him after he raped her in the car during a lesson.

      She went out to eat with him on her birthday, at a local hotel. When he came to her house while her mother was at work she allowed him to come in even though she had been told not to have any company.

      She allowed the compromising situations to CONTINUE to occur even when she knew they were wrong.

      Unless anyone is claiming this was consensual, then none of this is relevant.  

      There wasn’t any cover up.

      If it took 15 years for charges to be laid (do correct me if I’m wrong, that was my memory/impression from what I read) then something is fishy.  If Phelps was so adamant about making sure justice was served, then what why did the DA not press charges earlier?

      • http://ksblogs4u.blogspot.com/ Nothing Personal

        Chuck Phelps called police 3 times and social services also. Tina’s mother called the police and was interviewed. The man who was later convicted was also interviewed at that time. 

        Since the police were involved so thoroughly at that point and never pursued any charges, why accuse the pastor of a cover up when he’d the one who originally called police?

         Tina’s continued actions in spending time with Willis after her first rape are the actions that Church Phelps was dealing with. It doesn’t change anything about the rapists guilt. But those are pertinent facts that Phelps was dealing with in regards to Tina’s actions.


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