Fifteen-Year-Old Girl Raped By Leading Church Member — Then Forced To Apologize to Congregation and Shipped Out of State

An arrest in New Hampshire has revealed a shocking story of a 15-year-old girl who was raped and impregnated by a leading church member at the Trinity Baptist Church in 1997. She was allegedly forced by the church to stand before the congregation and apologize before being taken out of state — and out of the reach of police investigating the rape.

The pastor of the church, Chuck Phelps, reported the rape to state youth officials, but the police were never able to track down the victim. She has now come forward at age 28 and stated that she was taken to another church member’s home in Colorado, home schooled and not allowed to contact outsiders. After she went to police, Ernest Willis, 51, was arrested.

What is not clear is if police tried to interview church leaders and whether they failed to disclose information on her whereabouts. Moreover, it is not clear how the church treated Willis, a well-known member of the church, after the rape was revealed.

As a young girl, the victim often worked as a babysitter for Willis. She told the police she would often stay the night if he got home late. She says that she was repeatedly raped on different occasion by Willis. He allegedly not only brought her a pregnancy test but, when it proved positive, asked if she wanted him to arrange an abortion out of state. She also claims that Willis offered to punch her in the stomach to try to cause a miscarriage.

Willis has been charged with four felonies – two counts of rape and two counts of having sex with a minor.

For the full story, click here.

64 thoughts on “Fifteen-Year-Old Girl Raped By Leading Church Member — Then Forced To Apologize to Congregation and Shipped Out of State

  1. Buckeye,
    …. I realize that such sermons could be a real challenge for the ordained leader … especially one who has come to heavily rely on a sermon subscription service.

  2. Well, we sometimes get sermons about just that. I always thought it was to keep us on the straight and narrow, but maybe our bishops have put out the word on the QT.

    This will work for individual congregations, but to get it to the general public would require something more. I guess the National Council of Churches could start an advertising campaign and give their good seal of approval for member churches while making TV ads about the difference between a church and a cult.

    As a personal aside, years ago in Calif. my mom worked for 2 doctors house cleaning, etc. They had 4 sons. No religious training at home. One son began dating a fundamentalist girl and between she and her mother, they had the poor kid an emotional mess. He had to have extensive psychotherapy to recover.

    I always told my kids and family that I sent my kids to church to innoculate them against such a virus. They don’t go to church, now, but they’re not in a cult either!

    At one church, we had anti-cult speakers come and tell us about how to warn our kids about cults that were springing up on college campuses. This would be in the 80’s. The cults would target the brightest kids, because if/when converted they made the best spokespersons for future converts.

    The cults would be very welcoming, inviting the away-from-home-for-the-first-time college students to gatherings. Once they were dependent on them, the more aggressive cults would get them on special diets that would affect their brain functions and, along with sleep deprivation, make them easier to brainwash. It would take an interventionist to get them out.

    Here is an article from 1978 – prompted by the Jim Jones episode, and around the beginning of this surge of cults:

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,916533,00.html

    BTW this church in the article lists itself as “An Independent Fundamentalist Church”. I don’t find it listed in the membership of the Council of Churches even though it used the Baptist brand. How sneaky!

  3. Buckeye,

    Yes, I remember the push back against cults and the legitimate worries parents and other adults had for the children.

    I suspect that many “personality” users also took note and found that setting up churches was much more lucrative. The free speech guarantees were most helpful to them. When the political right moved in to take advantage of the situation, a beautiful partnership was born … lots of indoctrinated souls now spewing forth bible verses and political rhetoric. Joined together every Sunday and Wednesday, it was possible to motivate and turn them in any direction the politicals wanted.

    Then under the auspices of protection of freedom of religious choice and freedom of political speech, the cults gained an aura of respectability and the “personalities” gained even more personal power.

    Many of these fundies claim to be Christian and Republican when in fact they are neither. They are products of a “personality” based cult motivated by a hard right conservatism that has nothing in common with Christians or Republicans … they are pawns in a game played by individuals whose only goal is power.

    Mainline Christian denominations and true conservative Republicans are facing the same dilemma … how to take back their good name.

  4. For all of you church haters out there making your stupid comment like always, I have two things to say to you. 1) Only the girl is saying she was raped, and she waited until she was 28 to do anything about it. 2) When the girl was 15, she was given the opportunity to press rape charges against the guy she accused of raping her, she declined.

    Why on earth would someone who was supposedly forced to have sex against their will CHOOSE NOT TO PRESS CHARGES? I’m having a hard time believing this wasn’t consensual.

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