Church camp defends sexual abuse of minors as “horseplay”.

(This post contains descriptions of sexual assault.  You’ve been warned)

Well…this is awkward.  A counselor at a church camp in Tennessee has been accused of…well…read the excerpt (if you have a strong stomach and don’t mind the word “penis”):

The Chattanooga Times Freepress reported that Vineyard Community Church Camp Counselor, Zachary Anderle, was charged with simple battery, two counts of third-degree cruelty to children and sexual assault, following an incident in which he climbed, naked, on top of a 13-year-old boy. Anderle placed his penis on top of the boy’s crotch, while a group of other boys were watching. He also slapped the boy in the face. Vineyard Community Church is located in Chattanooga, TN. The incident between Anderle and the boy took place at the Church’s Camp site, which it was hosting in Temple, GA.

As if the actions of Anderle were not bad enough, the church committee which has been appointed to investigate the event has stated that it believes the incident was simply a matter of “horseplay gone wrong.”

That’s horseplay?  I swung by the camp’s website to see what they were all about and found this bit:

Not content to do just another week-long church camp for 6th-12th graders, we set out to combine camp craziness (like Giant Multi-Ball Soccer and Humans vs. Zombies) with uniquely Vineyard values.

From the outset, Camp Vineyard has had at its heart the idea that teenagers have the ability to get involved in ministry now, and not just some time in the undefined future.  We believe that the future of the Vineyard movement rests on these teenagers who will become our church planters, ministers, and volunteers.

I couldn’t find what those uniquely Vineyard values were…but I wonder if thinking marriage between two consenting gay adults is an abomination is among them.  If so, it may very well short-circuit a fair-minded person’s brain to consider how anybody could think of gay marriage as an abomination, but for a camp counselor to climb on top of a child naked, rubbing his crotch into the child’s, and to slap the child in the face as horseplay.

The statement of the attorney is just sickening.

Anderle’s attorney, Alan Trapp, explained that the act was just an attempt to discipline a 13-year-old boy at camp. According to the Chattanooga Freepress report, Trapp said:

“This boy was using a lot of unsavory, sexually charged language. Zach told him to stop repeatedly. When he wouldn’t, Zach told him, ‘If you do not stop, I will come down there and sleep with you naked,” Trapp also told reporters “and he actually jumped on him and all the other boys laughed and thought it was funny.”

The boy’s mother went to the police.  Good for her.  Let’s make her pope.

Once a person (or a group) becomes so enamored with “their side” that they will lie to defend it, or that they will turn a blind eye to suffering as if that group’s survival is more important than compassion, they have become an alien to a harmonious society.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Highlander

    Any camp that does not have a clearly defined disciplinary process is not a camp I want to have my child attend. As a camp counsellor, he should have followed that process, which should involve a series of escalating steps that include a disciplinary meeting with the camp director, a call to parents and finally police. In what worldview does threatening to sleep naked with an underaged boy seem like a good disciplinary policy? And then to follow up on the threat and enhance it with physical violence just adds to the stupidity.

    The proper sequence should be something like:
    Level 1: Counsellor issues verbal corrections and warnings as they see fit, may suspend privledges or assign chores.
    Level 2: Counsellor summons the head counsellor to take charge of the situation and remove child from the situation, they may suspend privledges or assign chores or bring child to camp director.
    Level 3: Camp director calls parents and asks them to remove the child from the camp, or in the case of violent or criminal behavior may opt to call law enforcement.

  • unbound55

    Reminds me of a scene from The Last Boy Scout:

    Mike Mathews: It just happened, Joe. It…

    Joe Hallenbeck: Sure, sure, I know… it just happened. Coulda happened to anybody. It was an accident, right? You tripped, slipped on the floor and accidentally stuck your dick in my wife. “Whoops! I’m so sorry, Mrs. H. I guess this just isn’t my week.”

    • Bear Millotts

      If he gets away with it, he’ll be dancing a jig.

  • Fred

    Here’s a good test. If I did it to your grandma would it be called horseplay or would you be calling the police.

    Or, would I need the police to save me from you?

  • Crispien Van Aelst

    This was common at the church summer camps I was forced to attend as a kid (Southern Baptist). I did not then not believe but I questioned and for that I was shamed and humiliated in many ways most of which were psuedosexual.

    • Karen Jones

      I am sorry you had that experience. That was not okay. In any way, shape, or form.

  • Dirty_Nerdy

    Wait…the boy was using “sexually charged language” so the camp counselor thought it would be a good idea to threaten him with a naked slumber party? Even *if* that’s true, and the counselor wasn’t meaning to sexually molest the boy, that counselor is still a terrible person for trying to provoke homophobia as a form of punishment. That is just fucked up on soooo many levels.

    • Dirty_Nerdy

      I just can’t get over the awful realization that they thought the defense of “we were just using sexual humiliation as a form of discipline, so it’s not really molestation” would fly with anybody.