Ex-Con Pastor Immunizes Underage Church Members Against Pregnancy and STDs… by Sexually Assaulting Them

50% Jack Schaap, 50% P.T. Barnum, 100% monster:

Larry Durant, 58, is charged with the sexual assault of three female church members. The minister at Word International Ministries in South Carolina has a criminal record, and many now wonder how Durant was allowed to hold a position of power.

Durant allegedly used his position to get close to his victims, two of whom are between the ages of 11 and 14. He told the victims that the sexual acts were part of the “healing process” and “private prayer,” detectives told WLTX News. Court documents added that Durant said he was preventing them from “contracting sexual diseases or becoming pregnant early.”

The pastor’s rap sheet lists convictions for crimes like burglary and grand larceny.

In South Carolina, churches are not required to perform background checks on candidates for clergy positions. And actually, that’s pretty common elsewhere in the U.S. too.

Take Mark Allen Green (below, left), who was invited to minister at Cowboy Church of Marshall County, Texas, despite the fact that he had served several prison sentences for theft and burglary. He’s back in jail now for repeatedly raping a 13-year-old girl under his pastoral care.

But that’s small potatoes compared to the Reverend John D. White (above, right). White was hired a few years ago at the Christ Community Fellowship Church in Deerfield Township, Michigan, even though he’d served almost 12 years for the manslaughter of a young woman in the same state (and prior to that had been sentenced to probation for choking and stabbing a 17-year-old girl). After securing his minister job, the ex-con took a shine to his fiancée’s 24-year-old daughter, and ended up brutally killing her in order to satisfy his fantasies of necrophilia. He then hid the body, and left it to rot while he professed to have no idea of the young woman’s whereabouts — even urging his flock to pray for her safe return. He’s now doing 56 years for the crime.

Nothing is impossible thanks to God’s forgiveness — up to and including child rape, murder, and having sex with corpses.

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder and Main Mischief Maker of Moral Compass, a site that pokes fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards.

  • Donna

    Reminds me of Joseph Smith.

  • Chris B

    I can’t help but notice the “No law requiring minister background checks” blurb in the first photo. There is no law requiring background checks for clowns either. Or farmers. Or probably most other jobs. The problem in these cases is not that we are lacking a law requiring a background check for ministers, but that people inexplicably presume ministers to trustworthy. How many times do we have to see clergy behaving badly before we realize they are fallible mortals like the rest of us. It amazes me how people can completely miss the point.

    On the other hand, perhaps the ubiquity of such ignorance is sufficient cause to enact such a law. Good luck convincing any politician that holding churches to the same standards as other private organizations will be beneficial to them though.

  • Greg

    The difference is that in a pastoral role, one will undoubtedly be dealing with vulnerable sectors of the public.
    You should perform background checks for pastoral jobs for this reason just like you would for a nurse or daycare worker.
    Not remotely like the job of a farmer.

  • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

    And the “Atypical Arguments” will commence in 3,2,1…

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    It varies from state to state, but most states have laws requiring background checks for people who will be working with or in close proximity to children. In my state, teachers, counselors, librarians, doctors, child day care workers, even volunteer older adults who will read to children in a public library are required to be fingerprinted and have criminal background checks.

    It’s astonishing how naive people can be with someone who is called a minister. I hope that this atrocity spurs the South Carolina legislature to pass a law requiring minister background checks, but it’s South Carolina, so I’m afraid that I’m the one being naive to expect that.

  • Stev84

    Cue cries of “persecution” and “religious freedom”

  • Chris B

    Perhaps not like the job of a farmer, but my point is that no matter what your job is, it is possible to abuse it. Only a small subset of jobs require a license, so it is no surprise to me that minister is not among them.

    I also think this problem is better solved outside of law. In the first case, there was, presumably, an adult responsible for these children who willfully handed care of a child over to this man. This adult should not have assumed that the title of minister automatically confers trustworthiness upon a person. I seriously question the effectiveness of such a law because I doubt anyone foolish enough to make such an error would have the resources to validate a minister’s license. They are already accepting on faith that the minister is trustworthy; if they questioned his trustworthiness enough to validate the license, they would question it enough not to leave their children with him. The license would be irrelevant. Besides, even if you were to add the charge of “ministering without a license” in any of the aforementioned cases, the penalties for that crime would likely pale in comparison to the crimes they are already being tried for and be irrelevant during prosecution.

  • Chris B

    I wonder how effective such a law would be. States would have to define what it means to be a minister, and what privileges are afforded to them. This would likely come in the form of licensure, and the public would need a means to validate those licenses, much like we do for contractors. You can currently be ordained as a minister just by filling out a form at a website like http://www.themonastery.org/ordination. This would make licensing quite difficult. I am definitely not a lawyer, but the idea of states validating ordinations seems ripe with First Amendment complications*. You would also have to educate the general public about how to validate a license, and I doubt this information would be well understood/utilized by those who are most likely to suffer this type of abuse.

    *Ohio appears to be an exception (there may be others) where the state does require an actual licensure, but it also looks like the only privilege is “solemnizing marriages”. I don’t know if unlicensed persons are permitted to use the title of minister. http://www.sos.state.oh.us/recordsIndexes/MinisterLicense.aspx

  • sk3ptik0n

    “probation for choking and stabbing a 17-year-old girl”
    How does that happen? How do you choke and stab someone and get “probation”?

  • Frank Key

    While the major denominations do set high standards for those who wish to enter their ministries, smaller denominations and independent churches often do not. Chalk up a lot of these bad hiring decisions to lack of good judgement on the hiring committees due to their almost total reliance on prayer and intuition for making a decision. As a result, any old person with a charismatic personality; a faked resume with letters of endorsement and a persuasive bunch of lies in their verbal presentation can dupe their way into a leadership position fairly quickly.

  • Tobias2772

    The article suggests that any number of states do not check on their ministers’ backround. I hate that you felt it necessary to single out SC. Despite the religious zealotry of many of our citizens, we care just as much as anyone else in any other state about the safety of our children.

  • TCC

    Um, Larry Durant was in SC, and Terry immediately said it was common elsewhere in the US. No aspersions were cast on South Carolina in particular, contrary to your claim.

  • Godlesspanther

    I wondered that too. It seems to me that attempted murder ought to carry a stiff sentence.

  • Hat Stealer

    many now wonder how Durant was allowed to hold a position of power.

    Simple. He called himself “pastor.”

  • Hat Stealer

    He was stabbing the demons out of her.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    It was only domestic violence. Sheesh. Stop saying it was attempted murder- I’m sure the bitch totally deserved it for not being submissive enough. It’s not like trying to kill your girlfriend is a real crime or anything, amiright?

    [/sarcasm, snark, and bitter anger tags here]

  • edwin

    WHY do es any organization need a law to do background checks?Why not just do them to get an idea of what type of person your employing?

  • Tobias2772

    TCC, sorry but Richard particularly experessed doubt that SC could pass a law requiring backround checks of ministers. It was he to whom I was replying.

  • Erp

    I very much doubt that the state requiring background checks of ministers would fly constitutionally (separation of church and state) (though they could require it for ministers who act as agents of the state in marriages but that could lead to extra hurdles for people who just want an universal life ordination to marry a couple of friends). Most of the major hierarchical denominations do do background checks before ordaining (the problem there is accusations after ordination not being reported to the legal authorities and ministerial shuffle). It was one of the issues at the last Southern Baptist Convention. The state possibly could require background checks of employees including church employees who deal primarily with children (e.g., school teachers, summer camp counsellors, etc).

  • Beth

    i work in the criminal justice system. I once had a man with a lengthy criminal record demand that I allow him entrance into a locked building because he was a minister. ‘I am the rev Such and such of Whatever Church of Whocares. You will answer for this.’ That shit might fly with some people, not with me.I reported him to his officer, and he spent a weekend in jail.

  • Baby_Raptor

    A fundie would think sex prevents pregnancy.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Good on you.

  • allein

    Well if he traumatizes them enough they might never want to have sex again… :(

  • Mick

    Who needs background checks when you can just pray for guidance.

    I’ll make a bet with you. I’ll bet the congregation hires another minister with a shady past. They’ll do so in the hope than the new guy turns out OK, and they can absolve themselves of responsibility for their earlier choice: “See, our selection procedure works properly – we were just unlucky that’s all.”

    And the children? What children? Oh them……

  • DougI

    What better job for a con man than being a member of the clergy? It may be hard to find a job as an ex-con, but if you put up a church shingle people will just assume you’re morally superior (unlike the godless who are morally inferior to people like Durant because the Bible says so). So they’ll flock in, admire you as the voice of god, and willfully throw their money and daughters to him. Heck, it’s what Lot would have done.

  • wombat

    In New Zealand, a police check is a standard part of almost every job preliminaries, from checkout workers to CEOs and everything in between. That probably wouldn’t fly in America though, something about liberty and so on.

  • TCC

    Fair enough, but I don’t think it casts any aspersions on South Carolina in general to suggest that it would be naive to expect a bill like that to make it through. Hell, I live in Illinois, a thoroughly blue (but still fairly religious) state, and I don’t know that I would expect it to pass here. I still think that the only reason it was mentioned was because of Durant being from SC and thus being a specific catalyst for the SC legislature to do something.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Hi Tobias, I first mentioned South Carolina because that is the state where this particular crime took place, and so that is the state that might take legislative action in response to this particular crime.

    However my expressing my doubt that the SC legislature would be willing to try to pass such legislation comes from my ignorance from my not being a SC native, and the impression that I describe below. You as a native are likely to know better than me, and so I defer to your opinion, and I apologize for my negative assumption about your state.

    I have been disturbed by the recent spate of bizarre religious legislation coming from both of the Carolinas, including the aborted attempt to establish Christianity as the “official religion” in NC, and the absurd anti-Sharia legislation in SC.

    These give me the impression that public officials at every level there are extremely suspicious, hostile, and vigilant about anything related to non-Christian views, but anything having to do with Christianity gets waved on through the gates without even a cursory glance. I very much hope that my impression is wrong. I am open to your educating me about these issues.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Funny how you never see Joe Klein doing any background checks on ex-con ministers. ;)

  • smrnda

    It actually does, with many jobs requiring you do disclose criminal convictions when you apply and when they’ll reject anyone with any kind of record no matter what. As long as the for profit private sector is doing it, it *is* considered ‘freedom and liberty’ in the States. This means that a lot of non-violent drug offenders can’t get jobs.

    Regulating anything regarding religion though would cause a massive freak-out.

  • smrnda

    It depends on your priorities. Christians love testimonies of people who lived hard lives who see the light and find Jesus, so telling a church you’d done time would probably make you a more desirable candidate.

    Churches aren’t rational organizations like say, an ordinary money-grubbing business, which has a financial incentive not to hire people likely to cause trouble.

  • The Other Weirdo

    So these are all Protestant ministers. Now, what’s the difference again between Catholics and Protestants?

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    What a dumbass. He should have become a priest. Instead of being charged he’d have had the whole thing covered up and be in a new parish where he could do the whole thing again.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Says the person using a device built by a money-grubbing business.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Really? That’s the line you’re taking? That it’s major vs minor that’s the problem here? I suppose then in your view the RCC isn’t a major denomination. It’s credulous fools who are in desperate need of some Electric Monks who are responsible for this.

  • Spuddie

    Resources, level of organization, and costuming.

  • Spuddie

    I ran a background check but Joe Klein wasn’t there to see it.

  • Spuddie

    The big difference between major and minor denomination is the level of resources used to cover up and sweep these kinds of incidents under the rug.

    The major ones have the ability to relocate the offending clergy and confound criminal investigations/prosecutions. The minor ones are left using their funds (largely donated by their “flocks” who were victimized) to hire local Johnny Cochranes.

  • Stev84

    The Southern Baptist MO is a bit different. Their local churches are all technically independent and there isn’t a strict hierarchy. So the head honchos can just say “It was their decision. We had nothing to do with that.”

  • Spuddie

    You are right.

    There are some major 1st Amendment complications with licensing clergy. It amounts to either government endorsement of religion or an attack on free exercise. Depends on which side of social sanction/majority the given faith would be. It could be abused to prevent a given faith from having officially ordained clergy or it can lead to an excessive level of entanglement between religion and government.

    Solemnizing marriage is essentially a function of the state, so licensing is required. One can come up with a rational, secular, and non-discriminatory method and reason for doing so. But criminal background checks may not necessarily be rationally justified here.

    Where the background checks could be used is if the church has a “Sunday School”, youth counseling or youth organizations. These type of organizations are usually required to carry some form of liability insurance. On that basis alone criminal background checks become not only mandatory but enforced through private non-government actors.

    The main problem being that clergy do not necessarily have official
    functions in such areas. So they may evade standard inquiries here.

    Its tricky. There is no easy answer here.

  • Spuddie

    Think about it for a minute. Picture your typical Tea Party official with a licensing application for a Muslim imam or Wiccan high priest on his desk.

  • Spuddie

    But self-employed or very small businesses probably don’t require such things. A pastor of a micro-church is the religious equivalent of being self-employed.

  • Stev84

    If it’s traumatic enough the female body has a way to shut that down

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    Easy. I know of a guy who, along with his buddies, broke into a house and kidnapped four people, holding them hostage overnight over drugs. This guy severely beat at least one of them with a pistol. The DA allowed him to plead out to only Assault With A Deadly Weapon Inflicting Serious Injury, because it was more certain than trying to prove what happened with two groups telling different stories. Then he asked for leniency because he had a newborn daughter, and didn’t spend a day in jail after his conviction. He got caught driving without a license and carrying a hunting knife in his car* before his probation was up, and got leniency again because he was supporting his child**. So his probation violation cost him nothing but a day in court. Ta da!

    On top of that, there are fucking photos online of the guy holding pitchers and bottles of beer and playing with someone else’s guns at the same time, both probation violations. But the Parole Office has almost no power and the courts are overworked, so it got “overlooked” when shown to them.

    *For self-defense during drug deals. The year before, while on probation, he almost died from wounds he got during a deal gone wrong.

    **He didn’t bother to mention that he had separated from his wife long before and wasn’t paying child support. The mother didn’t know he was going to court, so of course she couldn’t say anything to the contrary.

  • grindstone

    My body is torn between laughing at this comment and smacking you upside the head. Well played.

  • Tobias2772

    You are consistently a voice of reason and compassion on this site. I always enjoy reading your comments and often I am impressed with some sensitive aspect of your perspective. I have nothing but respect for you. I’m just a little sensitive about the rep that my state gets. There are lots of good human beings here – thoughtful, compassionate, giving – even many of our christians. You and TCC are quite correct. Our leaders in SC are not above a little cheap pandering for votes and nothing is easier than pandering to the oblivious christians here. As TCC points out , that is probably true in way more states than we would like to admit. I’m just a little defensive about my own. Thanks for your time.

  • Tobias2772

    You’re right, of course. Richard is not trying to dig at just my state and there are many others that fit in the same boat in this regard. We just get bashed alot, and there are plenty of great things and people in SC. Y’all come on down and visit.

  • allein

    Though we’ve seen posts here before about how religious daycares are often exempt from certain health and safety laws; does that include laws requiring background checks?

  • allein

    Mine too. I’m sitting at my desk alternately giggling and looking around furtively…

  • GeorgeLocke

    Larry Durant has been convicted of no crime afaict – I see no indication that he was even indicted prior to the current charges. The crimes listed next to his picture are things he was arrested for according to the Christian Post article

    Terry Firma lists him as an ex-con. Serisously? As a trained journalist, I assume you have some done some research you’re not sharing with us. Where does that picture come from?

  • TCC

    In fairness, if I were a secular person living in SC (or an SC native), I’d probably be defensive, too.

  • Matt D

    Is that the function of those “cooties”, I hear girls have?

  • Spuddie

    Frankly I can’t imagine why religious daycares should get a pass from health and safety laws in the first place. I can’t think of any reason why they would get one for background checks.

    They need some kind of liability insurance policy for the facility. I am pretty sure every state requires one for those in the child care business. Background checks would usually be a requirement for such things. So the law would demand it in an indirect fashion at the very least. One needs insurance to operate, one needs background checks for the insurance.

  • allein

    Yeah, I don’t get it either. :-/

  • Frank Key

    Uh, yeah, that’s the line I’m taking since the article did not mention the RCC, only small time Protestant churches.

  • frankbellamy

    I agree with other commenters that it would be a huge church/state problem for the state to require background checks for ministers. From a legal standpoint, a minister should be no different from any random person off the street.

    Even if churches had done background checks, would that have dealt with these cases? In two of the three cases above, the prior crimes were all property crimes or drug crimes, not sexual or violent crimes. And in the case of Larry Durant, those crimes were decades in the past. Would it really have been reasonable to infer based on that that these people posed a danger of becoming violent?

  • Stev84

    You will have to ask Todd Akin. He is the expert.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Wasn’t there an article recently somewhere about how the freest country is New Zealand and how it’s far ahead of the U.S.?

  • wombat

    Yeah, we topped some survey of freedom. And I would agree with it, we have a pretty decent level of freedom. There are incidents of stupidity, but in general we do fairly well.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty


  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    So… pretty much the same reason my abuser only got a stern talking-to from the cops.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    Yeah. That. Until everyone understands that beating someone up is a crime, and that it’s worse when it’s a dependent or an intimate partner, people will keep pretending that DV is somehow not a big problem.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    It’s even worse when said intimate partner is disabled, and said disability is used against her.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    Yes, it is.

  • Shanasmiles

    I have a black sheep uncle who is a jailbird and routinely ‘finds Jesus’ when it’s time for the parole board. Surprisingly, it has worked five times. He has only had to serve two full sentences for drug possession/intent to distribute, larceny, disorderly conduct, assault, etc. he should be in jail for life IMO… He’s a career criminal with no desire to change. Jesus is a popular fella in the big house.

  • The Vicar

    The point would seem to be: even the RCC hires a bunch of sickos, despite having a whole slew of required hoops for priests to jump through, therefore your idea that “minor” churches are the only ones with this problem is wrong.

  • Robster

    To become a religious cleric, is the last vocation for people of no hope. It requires no real training or intelligence, the ability to lie convincingly, sell absurd nonsense as truth, the ability to play the organ and do public speaking will be viewed favorably. It’s no wonder those fresh out of the Big house would be attracted, no real work required, no tax and in some cases a pile of ill gotten money and respect! It’s a worry.