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,

    Oh sure … smart aleck … hold me accountable for my words 🙂

    Okay … here goes.

    If I were to hold anyone accountable for the failure of mainline Christian denominations to define the fundies, it would be the ordained leaders of those denominations.

    It is the ordained who have been trained in the theology of their faith and they are the ones most able to intellectually describe the manner in which the divinity of Jesus has been spun to suit the personality cult that is at the basis of so many of the fundie organizations.

    It is also their job to educate and lead their congregations. A well educated congregation is able to recognize and give definition to a fundie when they come across one and is thus given a semblance of protection from the perversion.

    The manner in which an ordained leader decides to educate his congregation is based on his/her communication skills and the general personality of his/her congregation. One or two sermons a year should suffice.

    Fundamentalism does not even have to be mentioned in the sermon … one can describe the personality cult without ever even having to name it. What one has to do is describe the Word, as put forward in that denomination’s creed and move forward from there to how often the Word is misunderstood and misused and why it is often done purposefully.

    A properly ordained leader can educate without inflaming his flock thus giving them confidence in recognizing a perversion of their faith when they see or hear it.

    Ordained leaders give sermons every week in hopes of helping their membership deal with the challenges life sets before them. This is just another one of those challenges.

  2. Blouise

    Beyond calling a cult a cult rather than a church, what would you suggest a mainline church might do? Without getting sued by either the cult or the government.

  3. Colbert rules … especially when he’s talking to “Sweetness”.

  4. The Word is a very funny segment on the Colbert Report.

    Or is it “up”?


    I get so confused.

  5. Buckeye,

    I wasn’t referring to the correctness of “The Word”‘s interpretation … who does or does not have it right … in all mainline Christian denominations The Word is addressed in their Creed and is substantially similar. For instance the Methodist Creed (Book of Discipline) addresses the matter thusly:

    “Article II.-Of the Word, or Son of God, Who Was Made Very Man

    The Son, who is the Word of the Father, the very and eternal God, of one substance with the Father, took man’s nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin; so that two whole and perfect natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one person, never to be divided; whereof is one Christ, very God and very Man, who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for actual sins of men.”

    Mainline Christian denominations will disagree about original sin and other theological points but “The Word” is constant.

    When a fundie sect takes “The Word” and spins it into a personality cult for their founding leader then mainline Christian doctrine must take note. It is a perversion of the divinity of Jesus which is the basis upon which Christianity is constructed.

    As I said earlier, theology (the science of religion) is a subject that fascinates me. I earned an M. Div much later in life simply to better understand the subject.

    I have no ax to grind with any particular denomination within Christianity as I don’t subscribe to the divinity of Jesus. (I evolved out of Congregationalism into a form of Unitarianism.)But I do find it rather puzzling that so many mainline Christians have no idea what the belief system of their denominations really are and thus do not grasp the perversion of many (not all) fundies.

    That an organization built on a personality cult strives to gain political presence is not at all surprising … personality cults seek power and politics provide avenues to power. Religion is a convenient cloak in which to wrap the cult …

    You certainly don’t have to defend your faith or attack the faith of another but you mentioned the remarks of Jericho and stated that you did not wish to be “lumped in” with the fundies … (I’m paraphrasing your words, I know) …but the mainline denominations have allowed the fundies to misrepresent Christianity for several decades now … isn’t getting lumped in to be expected? Unfair? … yes.

  6. Blouise

    I just reread your last paragraph and can only say that, as with mespo, I am not in the business of telling others what they can or can’t believe as long as they don’t proselytize. When they do, I speak up. When they get into politics, I vote for what I think is right.

    If my church (and other churches) insisted that only we had the correct take on “the word”, we’d be like the fundamentalists – wouldn’t we?

    Just as I am an American, and a Democrat, I don’t agree with all the things Ameria and the Democrats stand for, but I don’t insist anyone who is not an American or a Democrat is a scourge.

    Like I say, I’m no philosopher, I just muddle along as best I can. I’ve always maintained that ridicule is better than defamation, all things being equal.

  7. Blouise

    No, I’m a Methodist but our founders John and Charles Wesley were Anglican students at Oxford. This denomination has changed and split and joined over the years, and is now described as both mainline and evangelical.

    I guess the following description is as close to my beliefs as any, but I am more with the activists for more change than not:

    You can scroll up and see the Christian_right definition.

  8. Buckeye,

    Would that make you part of the Episcopal (Anglican) Church?

    If so, may I say I always loved performing in the Episcopalian environment. I also have a very real attachment to the Book of Common Prayer.

    Mainline churches failed to grasp, back in the 80’s, the “personality cult” coming into play in the founding of so many of these fundie churches. (The church mentioned in the article upon which we all began this commentary was one such “personality cult” church.) When the ministerial staff has been well trained in an accredited seminary and the church itself has centuries of experiences in protecting itself from wayward clergy, it is difficult to grasp the “wild-west” nature of the fundie cultists.

    Yet, as Christians, charged with protecting “The Word”, such situations must be acknowledged and dealt with. Thus my reference to “perversions” from within. In making that criticism I must also acknowledge the difficulty of so many different denominations coming together to decry the fundie scourge … Muslims are experiencing similar difficulties.

  9. Blouise

    Not sure what perversions you mean, but – yes the larger any institution grows, the harder it is to keep it on the straight and narrow. As you can see, I have no problem with distinguishing myself from fundamentalism. Of course no one is going to kill us if we chastise fundamentalists – yet – which makes it a lot easier.

    And here in the bible belt, it’s a lot more work. That’s what I meant by hoping there isn’t a schism in our denomination because of the turmoil over gays being able to be ministers and to marry. We’ll work it out, in time. Can’t do it by quitting, though.

    Many congregations, like the one I belong to, are using the innovations you mention, along with finding new ways to serve their communities. Of course the first brings in more members, sometimes only temporarily, but the second is more important even though there is little to none in increase of membership. That priority is probably one reason why mainline churches are fading – we emphasize serving not fearing.

  10. Bukeye,

    (Sorry, I had to break off to go pick up a teenage grandchild)

    I remember, back in the 80’s, many mainline denominations expressing worry about the growing congregations within the fundamentalist movement. Older, well established churches sought ways to compete in order to add to their memberships. Ideas such as more relevant (modern) music, welcomers at the doors, the hand of friendship during the service, more adult programs, more activities for children, younger “youth” ministers to help attract teenagers … good ideas and good for the congregations but not resulting in any great increase in membership across the board … at least when compared to the ever increasing numbers enjoyed by the fundamentalists.

    I think it is as difficult today for mainline Christian denominations to differentiate themselves from their fundamentalist brethren as it is for those dealing with a similar problem within Islam. The perversions are within and that is always more difficult to fight than attacks from outside.

  11. Buckeye,

    I recognize your desire not to be lumped in with the fundies and applaud it.

  12. Buckeye:

    I am indeed referencing fundamentalism,and I certainly don’t paint with so broad a brush as to include everyone who wears the tee shirt. My problem is I see no move from mainline churches to divorce themselves from the fundamentalists hence my ire. What gives the fundies power is their unrebutted claim that they speak for the true religion. Moderates, who support separation of church and state, need to come forward to show just how minimalist this fundie faction truly is.

  13. Mespo

    You seem to be describing fundamentalism rather than mainline Christianity. I can’t and won’t answer for them since I agree with all you say about them. Just don’t lump me in with them.

  14. Blouise

    Amen! Explaining, of course, is not the same as proselytizing. Explain away. But either explaining or proselytizing through derision (or guilt by association, my original gripe), is not really helpful. At least so I believe.

  15. buckeye:

    “Your beliefs or non-beliefs may not gain my respect or credibility, but as long as they don’t affect me, or society in general negatively, you’re welcome to them – as long as you don’t proselytize.”


    That Christianity is precisely founded as a proselytizing religion is exactly my point and the reason for my ire. (Mark 16:15) If Christians want to accept your guiding rule, they’d get no quarrel from me. They don’t. Rather, they take the Gospel of Mark literally and decide to inject themselves and their hypocritical morality into all manner of secular activities, not the least of which is the governing of us all. Then when the ideology of faith collides headlong with reality and just when they are finally cornered into some irrational, illogical position, like say condemning stem cell research they pull that supposed trump card out: “I don’t condemn your belief system and would hope you would show the same tolerance for mine.” R-E-S-P-E-C-T, as Aretha might say, is earned not granted. People are entitled to respect, but their beliefs, well they are entitled to none without proof or a rational basis. You get respect for your beliefs when you show a good reason for believing them.

    My simple position is that when you affect me and mine with a First Century belief system that is, at the same time, archaic, misogynistic, irrational, and replete with negative impacts for society, you’d better be able to support it with more than a pitiful, “Respect me, Respect me, because I believe it to be true with all my heart.” Sorry, just not good enough.

  16. Buckeye,

    I’m not certain now that I understand … I removed the double negative because I thought you were saying that he could hold his beliefs even if they had a negative impact as long as he didn’t proselytize.

    If I reword the sentence as you stated to “I take from that statement that if mespo’s views, in your opinion, DON’T have a negative effect upon you or society in general, he can have them as long as he doesn’t try to convert anybody to his way of thinking.”

    So his beliefs, even those that DON’T have a negative impact, can not be proselytized? When I reread your original sentence I realize that is exactly what you said.

    My beliefs DON’T have a negative impact on anyone but I will abide by your personal dictates and not proselytize you by attempting to explain them to you.

    Ah, Christianity.

  17. Blouise

    “I take from that statement that if mespo’s views, in your opinion, DON’T have a negative effect upon you or society in general, he can have them as long as he doesn’t try to convert anybody to his way of thinking. (proselytize)”

    You left out one pretty important word. I’ve included it in caps above.

    I would consider physical or mental harm a negative effect. Of course, I would include a person’s family in the “society in general” phrase.

    Certainly these men were not practicing any mainline religion and I’d say they were doing both physical and mental harm. I’ve never heard of a Baptist church (or any other mainline church) condoning these practices. They actually sound more like a cult than a religion.

    I don’t practice all the tenets of my particular mainline religion, either, (I’m a little bit more liberal), but in general I’m comfortable with my beliefs.

  18. Just because it’s such a great point, I’d like to repeat Mespo:

    “The difference between the “sins” of lawyers and that of Christianity is simply this: lawyers police their own and condemn the wrongdoer.”

  19. Since we have rights to believe or not believe in any religion Buckeye’s post is moot.

    Frankly I find that teaching fear mongering deplorable and in many religions that’s what they seem to spew. Not all but many of them.

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