Bob Jones University regrets handling of 2005 sex assault allegations after ex-pastor’s arrest

The school found out about 2001 allegations two weeks ago, but the victim, Shielagh Clark, reported other assaults to the school in 2005. A BJU spokesman said "the university failed by not encouraging Clark to go to authorities at that time." Clark did file a report with the Hyde Park Police Department in 2005.... she was too afraid at the time to pursue charges, and no charges were filed." - Greenville News

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Jay's picture

When Shielagh Clark told Bob Jones University officials in 2005 that she had been sexually assaulted by her former pastor, they did not tell her to report it to the police.....

...According to arrest warrants, Weaver was with a group from his church for a visit to Bob Jones when he brought a girl on the trip into the university-owned apartment where he was staying.

The warrants describe two incidents where a woman said she was sexually assaulted by Weaver at the apartment during the trip.

One warrant said the woman was too afraid to report the allegations at the time because Weaver was her pastor. Both warrants say that she has letters and recordings of the man asking for her forgiveness. 

USA Today Network organizations do not typically identify people who report sexual assault, but Clark said she was willing to be named.

BJU "regrets" mishandling this?

Seriously?

Do better, BJU.  I don't know what that is or will look like, but "regrets" isn't going to fly with this..

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

G. N. Barkman's picture

Oh, wait. I forgot you said you have no idea what they should do differently.  That's not constructive criticism.  It's just criticism.  I would encourage you to give BJU credit for admitting they mishandled this, and would handle it differently if it happened today.  

G. N. Barkman

Mark_Smith's picture

what about the church! The man was the pastor of a church. Where is the cry to hear their response?

Jay's picture

One would think that calling the police to report a sexual assault would be kind of a common sense thing, right? Or are my expectations of Christians just way too high?  If I punched another visitor while on campus, would we all sit back and forget about it?

I specifically said I don't know what a better response would look like but I expect more and better from BJU.  "We regret" is what you say when you accidentally bump into someone on the sidewalk, not when a person is sexually assaulted.  This was barely 15 years ago, not the 1960's and 1970's.

As for the church...I am waiting on the church's response.  All of the churches in the area are shut down via Emergency Order by the County due to Coronavirus.

I'm just so sick and tired of "we regret that a sexual assault that happened on our grounds ___ years ago and that we was never reported it to the police" response from a multi-million dollar University.  They have their own police force for goodness' sake!

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Bert Perry's picture

Instead of "we regret this", what about starting with "we are sorry", and continuing to note the wrong that she suffered by being pushed to withdraw (de facto expulsion) from BJU because of being raped, instead of being helped out of that situation?  And then you note that in your student handbook, you've changed policies explicitly so that those counseling students are warned specifically against making the mistakes of the past.

(note; GRACE recommended far more changes to BJU's counseling and student handbook practices than were actually made--BJU looked at the report and decided that their counseling practices were "Biblical", and actually made no changes to that part that I'm aware of)

Come on, folks, this is pretty straightforward.  It's in the GRACE report, it's in police files, the way one moves forward is to "own" what happened and make specific apologies about their part, and then point to specific actions they've taken to avoid repeating the problem.  It's what any customer does with things like "8D" reports in the industrial sector.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dgszweda's picture

A few things.  1) they did not just say regret.  They expounded further.  We do not have their full response, so it is unclear what else was communicated, but we do see some of it further in the article.  2) before we attack the university on what they did or did not implement, we should do some homework.  3) it is great to crucify the University about the past, but to be totally honest this was a problem across most universities, Christian, Secular, Conservative, Liberal.... and across vast swathes of our society during this time period.  Much has changed across society on how to deal with this.  It is easy to paint the past in today's light, but the world was a different place.  I am not defending what was done, but trying to put it into context, that this was not some fundamentalist school issue solely on its own.

G. N. Barkman's picture

Your response manifests a realistic understanding of this unfortunate situation.  The article also indicates that the victimized young lady appreciated the current BJU response.

G. N. Barkman

Joeb's picture

Now that more incidents have come out BJU is no more guilty then the rest of them.  Some occurred after BJU and the BJU Grace Report and Presidents of two major Christian Universities partook personally in the cover ups.  
 

Some of the coverups are still cooking with lawsuits.  So what's their excuse they didn't know it was wrong.  Both Presidents of these Universities should resign or be fired.  One of these Presidents supposedly is on the hunt to fire Gay Friendly Profs.  Sounds familiar ie Like  The SBC.    
 

So I say bravo for BJU in how they have progressed.   I do agree with Bert that BJU needs to strengthen their counseling program for students by having state licensed counselors.  

Bert Perry's picture

David, to argue "more was said" is to commit the basic fallacy of argument from silence.  To argue "everybody had the problem" is the "tu quoque" (you too) fallacy.  Yes, a lot of schools have had this problem, but (like my alma mater, Michigan State) a clear answer is required to "what did we do wrong?", "what were the consequences?", and "what are we going to do to fix the problem."   Just because many others made a stench of themselves doesn't mean that BJU is off the hook here.

Reality here is that the quote is fairly lengthy, and no one has yet provided the longer quote, and that leads to the question "what is really important to BJU?" If it is important to make an apology, that will lead.  It's standard AP style.  If it's important to say what they did wrong, and what they're doing to fix it, that will lead.  Again, standard AP style. 

In other words, what's in the article is most likely what seemed important to the source at the time.  And given that this woman was deprived of justice by BJU's response, I think more than "we regret" ought to have been the lede.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dgszweda's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

David, to argue "more was said" is to commit the basic fallacy of argument from silence. 

Not really.  You just need to read the rest of the article.  It was not silent.  It said,

"university failed by not encouraging Clark to go to authorities at that time"

"In reviewing the actions taken by the University administration at the time they learned of these assaults, BJU failed to adequately assist the female student by encouraging her to notify law enforcement of the assaults committed against her in South Carolina"

"In the intervening years, we have learned much about how to assist women who experience trauma as a result of sexual abuse and/or assault. We would handle this situation much differently if it were to happen today"

"We applaud the courage and bravery of our former student in notifying law enforcement and pray that she and her family may find comfort and peace in the days ahead"

Also, they are helping the student complete her degree when the university took this opportunity away from her.

Bert Perry's picture

Again, David, if BJU wished to apologize, they need to say something to the effect of "we apologize", not the politician's "we regret".  It's that simple.

Moreover, they did not just "fail".  They allowed a rapist to continue in ministry for more years while preventing his victim from getting her college degree.  They need to say specifically WHAT they have changed to avoid having the problem again.

See the difference?  What you're doing, again, is the fallacy of argument from silence and "you too".  We need to do better than this.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Larry Nelson's picture

He was a Christian school classmate of mine.  We didn't graduate in the same class; he was there through either 9th or 10th grade.  His father was an IFB pastor at the time.

Jay's picture

"We regret..."

  • Doesn't acknowledge what happened
  • Doesn't accept responsibility for the rightful blame they shoulder

It's a legal way of acknowledging that something was wrong but doesn't really acceptance the school's guilt or wrongdoing for allowing a rapist to leave their property or for throwing out a rape victim because she didn't have the correct overnight pass. It even has a name - Miminization - and you'll almost always see it in any organization that has sheltered child predators or abusers.

When I was a child, my parents taught me to 1. Admit what I did and 2. Make it right.  BJU is trying to do the second without admitting fault in the first by using this type of language.  More to the point, this is a long standing pattern that GRACE noted in their 300 page report.

BJU needs to get their act together and not in a "We believe we've made some mistakes and want to do better" way.  There is a way to provide biblically based support and education in conjunction with legal requirements.  Saying "they've fixed it in 2020" simply isn't good enough after the investigation and report they went through a few years ago.  

I'm glad that they're helping the victim get her degree.  But BJU needs to own that what they did was wrong in both moral and civil (possibly criminal) spheres. 

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Joeb's picture

Jay I'm not saying BJU can't improve but for where they were and the actions they have taken to date in this area BJU is doing a lot better then the others.  The others have outright lied, attacked their accusers,  or minimized  what they did.  All this is subsequent to the Grace Report coming out.  What is their excuse Jay.     
 

  Their are two Presidents of Major Evangelical Christian Universities who if they were really repentant they would admitt their guilt and resign.  If these guys were Presidents of Secular Schools their arses would be fired.  However that is not the case.  BJU has no allegations against standing high up Leadership at this time.  The other ones do.
 

 In fact Masters University tapped BJU's  second  in charge to be their President. Masters is not one of the two I mentioned above.   I wonder why Masters did.  Does it have anything to do with Paige Patterson type allegations against the school. The one highlighted by the same Pastor who released information about CJ Mahaney's actions.  This person was supposedly one of CJ Mahaney's Assistant Pastors per his blog.  I don't know if any of the above is true but their are definitely outstanding allegations regarding Masters that came from the accreditation report.  The news reported that McArthur denied that any of the allegations were true.  
 

So back to square one I still concur with David and in the past I have been no friend of BJU on Sharper Iron.  BJU may need to tweek their response as Bert has pointed out but all in all they are one of the few Evangelical Christian Universities who have moved in the right direction.  

Bert Perry's picture

Joe, if you look back into BJU's response to the GRACE report, the thing that strikes me is that BJU refused to modify counseling materials and pull Jim Berg's books from BJU Press and distribution.  Those counseling materials form the backbone of their response to sexual abuse, and since they haven't changed, it's clear that the framework for doing the exact same thing again is at least partially in place.  I looked it up today on BJU Press's site.  Dozens of works by Berg.

Now take a look at that in light of this recent announcement of "regret" instead of "apology".  You "regret" something that didn't turn out well, you "apologize" for something you recognize you did wrong.  The very statement made in this case is testimony to the sad fact that at one level, those involved really don't think they did wrong.   The framework for hurting victims is still, at least in significant part, in place.

Yes, they aren't attacking the victim as so many others (e.g. my alma mater) have done, and that's a good thing--but that much can simply be done out of fear of the consequences.  If we truly are people of the Gospel, we ought to be able to do apologies as naturally as breathing.   "What I did wrong, what were the results for the victim, and what am I doing to prevent it from happening again"

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Mark_Smith's picture

I've read and studied several of his books. They are ok with me. I like them. Why get rid of them?

Bert Perry's picture

Mark, the GRACE report details the ways that Berg's ideas contributed to how BJU mishandled these cases.  Give it a read.  Again, the fact that the statement was a "regret" instead of an "apology" is a sign that there's something flawed in the ideas that gave birth to the system.  

Again, BJU knew she'd been raped and forced her to withdraw from school (de facto expulsion) for minor infractions of the student honor code.  Even in their recent statement, they only note that they should have "encouraged" her to go to authorities.  Now if we understand that a victim is generally terrified of those authorities--and survivors have any number of "reasons I didn't report" with news links to support--is that enough?  To me, that seems like "Be warm and well fed" from the book of James.

Instead, what about "I'll go with you to the police to encourage you as much as I can.", or "we've got a network of alumni who can provide a safe place for you to be while you work through this"?  What about "take the time you need, and we will be here for you when you're ready."

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Joeb's picture

I don't know if this victim was offered the above or free online learning if she did not want to return to campus.  That's the least they can do to make up for their wrongful actions.  Does anyone know.   
 

Also as far as Berg is concerned I concur with Bert.   Berg should have been shown the door with the statement don't let it hit you in the arse on the way out.   Good riddance.  

Bert Perry's picture

Mark, the GRACE report links, hundreds of times, excerpts from Berg and Mazak's thought, linking it as well to Berg's books.  It also explains why this mode of thought is objectionable, as it tends to blame the victim for the since committed against them while downplaying or outright ignoring the guilt of the perpetrator. 

And that's exactly what happened at BJU very recently.  The victim was blamed and punished, the perpetrator got off scot-free.  Who knows how many people have been raped or abused in the perpetrator's last 15 years of "ministry"?

Linked to Berg's books. Now you might not have seen this when you read them, but perhaps...listen to those who've worked with sexual assault victims and the like for a living on this topic?  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Mark_Smith's picture

none of them said anything about blaming women for sexual assault. End of story.

Mark_Smith's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

 

And that's exactly what happened at BJU very recently.  The victim was blamed and punished, the perpetrator got off scot-free.  Who knows how many people have been raped or abused in the perpetrator's last 15 years of "ministry"?

If the DA did not charge the perpetrator, how is that BJU's fault?

Jay's picture

If the DA did not charge the perpetrator, how is that BJU's fault?

Nobody is blaming the DA.  We're talking about why BJU isn't owning their responsibility for this mess, including admitting fault instead of acknowledging 'regret' for what happened.  They can't regret for the perp since they didn't rape the woman.  They do need to own that it happened on their property and that they threw her out as a direct result.

I don't think the problems are in Berg's books as much as how heavily he's been involved with teaching the counseling courses and his influence that way.  I know he taught my counseling classes; I still have the notes.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Mark_Smith's picture

I know some of you won't like me for this, but this is the truth. The girl, at the time, was on a trip from her home church to BJU with her pastor. The scumbag assaulted her. And that is BJU's fault? No, I don't get it. The problem was 1. Pastor 2. Her church. BJU is just the "deep pockets" and the headlines.

IMHO regret is the appropriate level of concern on BJU's part.

Mark_Smith's picture

Jay wrote:

 

Nobody is blaming the DA. 

I know! They are blaming BJU. Note no complaint about the scumbag. And no complaint about the DA not prosecuting. Just "BJU is an evil place..."

Bert Perry's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

I know some of you won't like me for this, but this is the truth. The girl, at the time, was on a trip from her home church to BJU with her pastor. The scumbag assaulted her. And that is BJU's fault? No, I don't get it. The problem was 1. Pastor 2. Her church. BJU is just the "deep pockets" and the headlines.

IMHO regret is the appropriate level of concern on BJU's part.

Mark, what part of "BJU actively took steps to prevent a criminal from receiving justice while the evidence was still warm" are you not getting?  What part of "BJU actively took steps to allow a rapist to continue in the pulpit for a decade and a half." do you not understand?  What part of "sexual assault victims generally develop mental illness, often resulting in substance abuse, relationship failures, and even suicide." do you not get?  If the Torah tells us to return the property of our neighbor (e.g. a donkey or other animal) when it is lost or wanders onto our property, how much more are we responsible to help bring criminals worthy of death to justice?  If James tells us that we have an affirmative obligation to our poor neighbors to help them if we can, how much more do we owe assistance to those who are the victims of what, in the Torah, is a capital crime?

"Regret" is enough for this in your mind?  Seriously?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Bert Perry's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

 

Jay wrote:

 

 

Nobody is blaming the DA. 

 

 

I know! They are blaming BJU. Note no complaint about the scumbag. And no complaint about the DA not prosecuting. Just "BJU is an evil place..."

The DA is prosecuting the cases he thinks he can win.  However, if his predecessor had learned about these crimes in 2005, five will get you ten he'd have been able to obtain evidence he's not able to find now from people whose memories have now faded, and he'd have been more likely to be able to prosecute him for rape.

And since  BJU did indeed prevent this process from occurring in 2005, yes, they do have very real evil of which to repent.  Seems to me that being able to do this has something to do with the "Gospel" BJU talks about from time to time.  Maybe they should give it a try. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Mark_Smith's picture

I'm still waiting for the post from you on how this is the pastor's fault, and then the church for having him as their pastor long before it is the fault of a school where the guy just happened to be visiting.

Has the DA's office apologized for not supporting her? What about the police? How did BJU "stop" anything? The girl and her family did what they did for the reasons they did.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Mark, what part of "BJU actively took steps to prevent a criminal from receiving justice while the evidence was still warm" are you not getting?  What part of "BJU actively took steps to allow a rapist to continue in the pulpit for a decade and a half." do you not understand?

Can you tell us where you got this from?

Bert Perry's picture

Larry, the source for BJU actively working to prevent cases (not just this one) is the GRACE report.  The article linked also hints at this as BJU admits that they "didn't give her the encouragement she needed" to go to law enforcement.  I believe the GRACE report says they actually did the opposite, and it was by no means the only example GRACE found.  (BJU's words here are a classic example of "minimization" as well) 

Mark, the reason I don't mention the guilt of the "pastor" is because no sane person disputes that.  If only that were true regarding the guilt of BJU in cases like this.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

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