He Did *WHAT* at Church Camp?! This Calls for a Very Harsh Punishment…

I know we’re talking about different churches here, but the juxtaposition is just appalling.

Yesterday, we posted about a Chattanooga church that kicked three people out of the congregation for supporting a family member’s civil rights as a gay woman.

Well, another Chattanooga church is *not* kicking out the pastor’s son… and wait till you hear what he did:

Zachary Anderle

A 21-year-old pastor’s son won’t be allowed to work with children or hold a leadership position at the Vineyard Community Church in Chattanooga after being charged with simple battery, two counts of third-degree cruelty to children and sexual assault in connection with an incident at a church camp.

Affidavits in Carroll County, Ga., allege that [Zachary Anderle] climbed on top of a 13-year-old camper and placed his penis on top of the boy’s crotch while other boys were watching. Anderle also slapped the child’s face, the report states.

“Zachary will not be allowed back at any future camp events, as a counselor or otherwise. Also, the church has removed Zachary from the church’s band rotation,” said Bud Winderweedle, a member of the investigative committee the church organized to look into the incident.

It was all just horseplay, they’re saying. Horseplay that led to being charged with sexual assault. That guy will be allowed to stay in his church. He just can’t play in the band or go to church camp.

Meanwhile, the family members who supported a gay woman in their own family can’t go back to theirs.

Remember that the next time a Christian tells you you can’t be ethical if you don’t believe in God.

(Thanks to Jeremy for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Bitter Lizard

    Remember when Christianity was more about being against rape than certain kinds of consensual sex?

    Me neither.

  • Alvis

    Me neither.

  • BobaFuct

    Key distinction…the kid probably apologized but the cop’s family would not. Because christians are so focused on salvation, they don’t give a shit what you do, as long as you ask forgiveness, acknowledge you were “wrong”, and promise not to do it again. It’s a combination of naivete and misguided belief that god “fixes” people if they just say the magic words.

    Molest a kid, but say you’re sorry? No harm done! Wanna babysit for us?

    Cheat on your wife but repent to the pastor? It was just a temporary lapse in judgment!

    Take a principled stance against discrimination and refuse to back down? There’s the door.

  • Goape

    Christianity is proof that god hates our kids.

  • fett101

    “Anderle also slapped the child’s face, the report states.”

    With his hand I hope.

  • Tainda

    He won’t be allowed in the band? Oh my! That’s a horrible punishment! Oh wait, no it’s not.

  • Lori F

    The report is there, it’s criminal, and he’s not under arrest and in jail?
    I have Never understood the idea that you can do what you want so long as you are given absolution on your death bed, then others can say you were Christian.
    That’s just messed up.

  • http://nomadwarriormonk.blogspot.com/ Cyrus Palmer

    Wow. The hypocrisy of churches still astounds me. I know it shouldn’t, but it does.

  • Gus

    Yup, one of the most odious parts of Christian theology.

  • Gus

    Too far. Tooo far.

  • Gus

    OK, that headline – it read so snarky to me that I actually though it was going to be about some minor offense that did get an excessively harsh punishment. It put me absolutely off my guard and I was not prepared for what I ended up reading.

  • Michaela Samuels

    What riles me up are the parents who don’t remove their kids from this environment when the church refuses to take necessary steps. What the hell? HOW is this ok?!

  • DesertSun59

    What’s particularly depraved is sending children to church camp in the first place.

  • Renshia

    I think you all are being a little harsh, Really, what’s wrong with a little penis slapping, meant in fun.
    On the bright side, he may not be in a leadership roll anymore, but there still gonna tortured the bastard by making him attend church.

  • Renshia

    it’s called forgiveness, jesus demands it. It means you have to be a victim and defer to the all wise leader. That probably has a bit of a shady past himself.

  • cary_w

    1. Shouldn’t he be going to jail for this? And won’t that prevent him from being involved in any church activities for a while?

    2. I actually support he church in not kicking him out. I mean they are in the business of saving souls and forgiveness and all that, so I have no problem with them keeping him in the flock, as long as everyone knows, he is kept away from children, and they see to it he gets help (real help! Not just praying!). Kicking someone out basically say, “you are evil and there is no hope for you, you cannot be forgiven even if you repent and start doing the right thing”, that seems very un-Jesus like and it ought to tip you off that your church is not following Jesus.

  • Joey Reid

    I just can’t believe David Duchovny would do such a thing!

  • cary_w

    So true, I was forced to attend a group baptism last week. It was horrifying! I was only a little uncomfortable hearing the adult get up and confess how deluded they are, but the little kids, saying how they are evil sinners, that’s just child abuse! It was all I could do to stay in my seat and keep my mouth shut, I just wanted to run up there and give them a big hug and tell them they’re not evil, they are wonderful, beautiful children, and their parents and friends love them, even if they don’t know how to express it sometimes.

  • viaten

    I’m guessing there might be young people in the band and it’s a wise precaution. If it’s a “punishment”, it’s pretty silly.

  • http://arancaytar.ermarian.net/ Arancaytar

    > Also, the church has removed Zachary from the church’s band rotation

    Oh mercy! They can’t possibly impose such a cruel penalty. It’s not like he had *consensual* sexual contact with an *adult* or anything horrible like that.

  • Beet LeRace

    Yeah, I’ll admit – I wondered the same thing.

  • Robin

    If he does this now he will do this as an adult. He should be in JAIL!!!

  • allein

    Ugh. It was bad enough listening to that stuff at my friend’s daughter’s baptism a couple months ago. At least she was only 10 months old and had no idea what was going on. Also, they’re Lutheran and my friend was only doing it for her mother, so she doesn’t take it too seriously. But just hearing the minister talk about how a baby is a sinner is just really uncomfortable. But, y’know, they sprinkled some water on her head so she’s all good now.

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

    What would even make someone think to do something like that? I’m not surprised the church wants to just pretend like it didn’t happen. That’s what they do. It’s not about promoting anything or excusing anything as much as a pattern in fundamentalist (and other) organizations of being in denial about what’s happening around them, especially inside their own organization. Anyone who leaves their child in the same building as this guy should be reported to child protective services, but plenty will (and they won’t be reported).

  • http://www.dirtydiaperchic.com/ laura g

    My youth minister’s wife nearly ran over me and my friend INTENTIONALLY with the church van. All she was asked to do was apologize.

    After all the crazy stuff my youth group subjected me to, it was reckless endangerment (followed by a disingenuous apology) that finally persuaded my parents to leave the church. unfortunately they left for another baptist church. but it was the first time I’d seen my parents acknowledge that the church was sometimes totally out of line and ridiculous. so it was a start.

    But holy crap, at least no sexual organs were involved.I am so sick to death of watching Christians act so disgusted by loving, consenting, ADULT relationships only to excuse, allow, and enable child abuse? what the actual f*ck!?

  • viaten

    Maybe it was just horseplay (I’m sort of hoping), though quite bizarre and inappropriate, maybe it was a step leading to something worse or growing aberrant behavior. He at least needs professional evaluation an kept from being alone with children for some time. He’s quite young. I’d like to see him first get help if that’s what he needs.

  • georgina

    They don’t say “SUFFER the little children to come unto me” for nothing.

  • JET

    His church may be forgiving, but the police… not so much. According to this story, he’s being held without bail for criminal assault and sexual assault against a minor and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

  • Dave

    Umm, this is homosexuality. The pastor is condoning homosexuality. Why isn’t the congregation rising up to throw out these sinful bastards?

  • Artor

    It’s not clear if this is homosexuality, but it is certainly sexual assault and abuse. In a just world, this church would lose most of it’s congregation over this kind of blatant hypocrisy. But of course they won’t.

  • Jeff

    Apparently it’s “suffer the little children to COME unto me.”

    Yeah, I’ll show myself out.

  • Loic


  • newavocation

    What? And mess up your chances of going to heaven where you can be abused for eternity.

  • Ibis3

    I can’t read these reports anymore and think atheist groups would act any better. By that I mean they don’t. Very sad.

  • Guest

    Why aren’t we calling the police?

  • Whirlwitch

    He is an adult. He’s 21.

  • MisterTwo

    That’s among my greatest regrets in life, mostly because it’s a recruiting device for a Christian college.

  • Agnostic

    Christianity Isn’t Just

  • cary_w

    He’s 21, yes, of course he belongs in jail, but everyone deserves the chance to be rehabilitated, and I wouldn’t fault a church in supporting him as he goes through that process, as long as they are supporting the whole process and not just praying for him. And by that I mean once he’s out on probation keeping him away from kids, warning the congregation, making sure he takes his meds and goes to his therapy and all that.

  • Agnostic

    yeah… people shouldn’t be kicked out for something like sexual assault…
    thinking for themselves, yes.. but sexual assault..? nah.. that’s normal for us sinners..

  • cary_w

    Yeah, if your going to baptize them it should definitely be done while they’re to young to understand what’s going on!

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Well, another Chattanooga church is *not* kicking out the pastor’s son…

    I think the words “pastor’s son” might be a teeny tiny clue for why this church’s reaction is so mild.

    Funny how you never see Joe Klein stepping in to stop pastors’ sons from forcible penis “horseplay” with teenage boys.

  • Gus

    Because he was already arrested and is awaiting a grand jury hearing on the charges.

  • Gus

    If you follow the link to the story, you will find that he is under arrest and is awaiting a grand jury hearing.

  • Gus

    Well, he should be in jail unless he was able to meet his bail requirements, in which case he should be awaiting trial, which he is.

  • AtlantaAtheist

    I actually know that guy.

  • cary_w

    So if your son did something like this you would disown him and throw him out on the streets? I would, of course, be shocked and horrified, but I would see it as a sign that he needs serious help and maybe has a mental illness, and then I try to make sure he gets the help he needs. I wouldn’t fault this young man’s church and family (who are one in the same in his case) for doing the same. If his church and family are just giving him a slap on the wrist and forgiving him, then they are in the wrong, they are not helping him and they are putting others in danger. That is clearly unacceptable and maybe criminal too.

  • Jim Jones

    Because unlike Christians, atheists are all about slut shaming women who engage in consensual adult sex.

    Oh, wait.

  • Jim Jones

    > Maybe it was just horseplay

    No, that’s what Mike Huckabee’s son David was accused of when he tortured and killed a dog. The Mike Huckabee who blamed the school shooting in Connecticut on the absence of religion in school curricula. Not just any religion of course, only the ‘right’ one. The one that didn’t stop his kid.

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

    I think Agnostic was being sarcastic.

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

    Oh, wait, indeed, because the Atheist community is currently fighting this exact problem!

  • JohnnieCanuck

    For those wondering about his current status, your linked article explains that Georgia has a law that explicitly denies bail to adults involved in a sexual assault against a minor.

    He’s in jail and his lawyer is trying to find a way around the no bail ruling.

  • Gavitron

    When has Christianity ever been against rape?

  • Anonymous

    Well you have to take into account that this article was comparing this man’s story to another person who’s only crime, if you can even call it that, was being homosexual. I think the point is that they kicked their son out for being homosexual but not for molesting a kid.

  • Jim Jones

    One allegation? Oh yeah, that overcomes centuries of religious perversity. NOT!


    Wikipedia had a great (and long) list of these but the Christians got to it and deleted it because, you know, reality isn’t what they deal with.

  • Atheistiana

    Wow wow wow… Again, I can’t believe I’m surprised, but I just am. Just horseplay. Um, sure.
    On the topic of camp, I have to mention that my son attended Camp Quest Northwest last week. He came home and said he was the first time since grade school he’s been truly happy. Though there were a few kids who were kinda jerks (saying inappropriate things about others, etc.), it didn’t take away from learning about evolution without religious interruptions, the skulls were excellent… and the atheist discussions in the cabin at night truly and finally made him feel that he’s not alone in this world.
    Anyway, camps can be iffy… some truly suck. But the people make the difference.

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

    Dude, their whole religion is based on divine rape. Mary never gave consent…

  • UWIR

    “leadership roll”: that’s an unfortunate misspelling.

  • http://bearlyatheist.wordpress.com/ Bear Millotts

    Too bad he wasn’t a Catholic priest. He’d have been moved to a different church and the records would have been buried.

  • ShoeUnited

    That crossed my mind.

  • onamission5

    There is no form of horseplay which involves an adult placing their genitals on a child. None. What he did isn’t called inappropriate horseplay, it is sexual assault of a minor under the age of 14, and it is a crime.

  • onamission5

    Sexual assault of children has nothing to do with the sexual orientation of a person in a consenting adult relationship.

  • viaten

    I’d agree it isn’t really horseplay when viewed objectively and it’s probably not even the right term (the committee’s term) in this case now that I think about it. My point is that he may have thought in his mind it wasn’t all that wrong, and he didn’t think of it as having sexual intent and thought it was a form of joke “punishment” playing on the idea of a sexual assault on kids, quite inappropriate nonetheless. Perhaps I should have made that clearer. The form the assault took certainly qualifies as a sexual assault and he should have been aware of that, particularly with minors, whether done jokingly or not. I don’t know what made him actually carry out what he did. It may have thought it would actually work as a form as punishment, or maybe he thought it was just funny, or maybe those were a pretense for what he wanted to do.

  • Guest

    That’s not actually true. If you read the story, she says ‘behold the handmaiden of the Lord’, which clearly indicates she’s prepared to do what God is asking. The bible’s attitude to rape is bad enougfh by itself; there’s no need to make things up.

  • guest

    It sounds like submission to authority is what they value most. Freaking authoritarians.

  • Guest

    Which atheist group has failed to punish someone involved in sexual assualt on a minor?

  • Guest

    Very few criminals think in their minds that what they’re doing is wrong. Otherwise they wouldn’t do it. They usually think it can be justified somehow. Pedophile will often tell themselves that the child they molest is secretly enjoying it too, for example. There’s no reason the rest of us should go along with their bullshit excuses.

  • viaten

    Not to minimize or excuse his wrong doing, but I don’t know if he counts as a pedophile, or at least what I would think to be a typical pedophile. He didn’t seem to go about it secretively and seemed to consider it a punishment. I don’t know if there was a sexual attraction behind it. He supposedly attempted to apologize to the mother suggesting he knew what he did was wrong, at least afterwards. I’m hoping he gets professionally evaluated.

  • Ibis3

    Right, because only sexual assaults on minors count. How convenient.

  • Ibis3

    No. Just slut shaming women who have been victims of non-consensual sex (i.e. rape). And victim blaming. And rape threats against people speaking out against perpetrators. And harassment of people who speak in support of putting reporting measures in place. And institutional cover ups of sexual assaults and harassment.

    I’d once blithely assumed that atheo-skeptico-secular orgs would be a little more proactive and unequivocally intolerant of sexual predators than the religious institutions steeped in thousands of years of misogynist patriarchy. Not so. It’s disappointing.

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

    Submitting to an order is NOT the same as giving consent.