Independent Fundamental Baptist Pastor Charged with Sexual Assault of Teen

Independent Fundamental Baptist Pastor Charged with Sexual Assault of Teen August 11, 2019


A former pastor of a fundamentalist Baptist Church in Maryland is facing sexual assault charges related to a minor child. Baltimore police say that Giovanelli assaulted a former student for eight months in 2007.

According to a report by WJZ in Baltimore, police began investigating Giovanelli after the victim reported the assault to police on May 2018. The victim, Sarah Jackson, agreed to share her story with the media.

According to Sarah Jackson, Giovanelli began abusing her in January 2007. Initially, the pastor sent her text messages that were suggestive. Then the abuse progressed to unsolicited kissing and touching that occurred daily at school or in church offices.

Cameron Giovanelli worked as a pastor Calvary Baptist Church in Dundalk from 2003-2014. The church is part of the fundamental independent Baptist church which holds strict Biblical beliefs about sex, marriage, homosexuality, and gender roles.

Jackson told police that the abuse occurred between January – August 2007. She shared her story online through blogs, podcasts, and YouTube videos. After she reported the abuse to police, they opened an investigation into the allegations surrounding Giovanelli.

Not only did the police investigate the claims, but the church reached out to Jackson to talk with her. Church pastor Stacey Shiflett said that Jackson’s story was credible because of the detail she provided in her account of the abuse. Additionally, he and the staff were able to corroborate many of the statements made by Jackson

After Jackson publically accused Giovanelli of rape, the former pastor wrote a 2,400-word essay where he denied the allegations. Additionally, Giovanelli called Jackson a liar and said he would no longer tolerate her dragging his name through the mud.

Following a 15-month investigation, police issued an arrest warrant for Giovanelli last week. He is charged with sexual abuse of a minor, perverted practice, and fourth-degree sexual offense stemming from the illegal sexual contact he had with a student. Baltimore police believe Giovanelli likely assaulted other children from the church.

Sarah Jackson shared her happiness on Twitter when she learned of the pastor’s arrest. She wrote, “15 months. 455 days. I have cried, and I have prayed.” Jackson continued, “I have watched my character, integrity and my family be shredded for speaking up. Today, God’s timing was revealed. Today, Cameron Giovanelli was arrested for sexually abusing me in high school.”

After authorities issue the arrest warrant, Giovanelli turned himself into police last week. Police booked him, and at his bail hearing, the judge released him on his recognizance. The former pastor cannot have any contact with the victim as a condition of his release.

If convicted on all charges, Giovanelli faces up to 36-years in prison.

IFB is one of the most toxic cults in the United States. These churches promote an insular and secretive society that distrusts outsiders. Within the church, men have complete control over their families.

Additionally, women must submit and obey their husbands. With an imbalance of power in the church, the culture becomes ripe with abuse by the men toward women and children. Due to church members distrusting outsiders, members rarely report sexual assault or domestic violence to authorities.

Sarah Jackson refused to remain silent. Due to Jackson’s courage in reporting him to police, Giovanelli will face his day in court. No church or organization should hide the sexual abuse of children from authorities.

The IFB proves again that underneath their holier than tho appearance many of the pastors use their position of power to prey on their congregations.


*Katie Joy is a columnist and hosts Without A Crystal Ball on Patheos Non-Religious Channel. She writes articles related to trending topics and crime on her column.

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  • Michael Neville

    I’m impressed that Jackson told her story to the police and the media. All too often when molestation and rape victims accuse members of fundamentalist churches of sexual misconduct the victim is the one who’s vilified. It appears that Giovanelli tried to make Jackson the guilty party but it didn’t work.

  • Mike Panic

    Here wse go again.

  • persephone

    I hate the “God is fixing everything” talk. If God was so awesome, why’d he let it happen in the first place.