Woman alleges Chuck Phelps ignored sex-assault claims

2738 reads

There are 11 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Given the amount of attention Phelps has already gotten here--and likelihood of much deja vu, the discussion window on this one will probably be short.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Robert Byers's picture

Without making any judgment on the rest of the situation, Dr. Phelps seriously needs to change the way he uses the English language.

In the letter he posted, the report is that the abuse began "right after she turned 18." Dr. Phelps' first point says, "Cheryl was over 18." No one speaking plain English would use that formulation. The statement is technically true, but it creates a false impression. The message communicated is different than the fact being reported. I cannot judge his motives for choosing to use misleading phrasing, but I can observe that this is the second time he has done so in his defense to allegations of his failure to properly respond to the abuse of a child in his church and under his care. Since more thought presumably has gone into written words than would have been given to casual conversation, this appears to me to be both intentional and a pattern of behavior. It should stop.

Let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation. James 5:12

Don Johnson's picture

Bro. Byers, love believes all things, no?

Why attempt to read something into a very slight difference of wording? You do not serve anyone well in simply speculating about something about which you have no knowledge.

This kind of innuendo is exactly the reason why SI needs to back away from letting discussion go on about such subjects. The facts are of interest to fundamentalists for obvious reasons, but the ongoing speculation and character assassination do not serve the body of Christ well at all.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Robert Byers's picture

Don,

Please identify where I'm speculating. I quoted from the letter and the statement Dr. Phelps posted on his website. I would think you would regard those as factual. I state my conclusion that his statement is misleading based on the way it is worded. You may disagree, but that's not speculation on my part. I state (from the record on Dr. Phelp's site) that this is the second time he has done this. You may disagree, but that's not speculation on my part. I state my conclusion that there is a pattern and a purpose in his doing so. You may disagree, but to borrow a line from Rex Stout by way of Nero Wolfe, that conclusion is drawn from my intelligence guided by my experiece. That is how it appears to me, which is what I said. You don't know who I am, nor do you know what knowledge I possess or don't possess. Your statement is speculation, not mine.

JG's picture

Disclaimer: This post is not intended in any way to assess whether Pastor Phelps handled this situation well or not. It is not intended to pass judgment on whether the letter he has posted is legitimate, or whether things being said by or about him are true. It is only to address the questions of "speculation" and whether there is anything dubious about his use of the term "over 18".

Robert Byers wrote:
Please identify where I'm speculating.

Robert Byers wrote:
I cannot judge his motives for choosing to use misleading phrasing

It is speculation to assert that he "chose" to use "misleading phrasing". The use of the word "choosing" implies intent.
Robert Byers wrote:
this appears to me to be both intentional and a pattern of behavior.

This is not speculation, but a factual statement about your opinion. However, your opinion is based on speculation about intent. We do not know who you are or what knowledge you possess, as you said. However, you state that you cannot judge his motives, and to assert it was intentional is to assert something about his motive. Therefore, you are speculating about motive.

As to the substance of your concerns, it would be highly stupid of him to set out to deceive people as to her age while concurrently providing evidence that she was 18. Nor is there any real motivation for him to deceive people. The question at hand was whether or not she was under the legal age of consent, as has been alleged in the media. His statement and the letter he provides both refute the media allegations. There is no legal, moral, or pastoral difference between 18 and 19 years old, so there is no conceivable reason he would want to deceive people as to her age.

Finally, the term "over 18" or "over 21" as commonly used does not mean a person is literally 19 or older, or 22 or older. It just means that a person has passed an age which has legal importance. When I turned 18, I said, "I'm over 18, now I can vote." It's fairly common usage. "I'm over 21, now I can drink." "I'm over 16, now I can drive." etc.

Repeat disclaimer.

Robert Byers's picture

As far as I am aware, there is no question whether the girl was under the legal age of consent. The age of consent in New Hampshire is 16. The dispute is whether she was still a minor when the abuse began. She says (according to the paper quoting her) that she was 17. Dr. Phelps says (according to the excerpts from the letter he posted quoting her uncle, although the uncle disputes it) that she was 18. Age of consent is not an issue in this case, and is not in dispute. Whether this situation constitutes the abuse of a minor or not is.

For the record, I read the current statement in light of the previous one. I identified a pattern between the two that maximizes the ages of the girls involved in a way that makes the situations seem less serious in nature. I applied Occam's Razor and reached my conclusion. If Dr. Phelps twice in two different published statements accidentally or coincidentally used words that did that, then I'm wrong. (I'm still not speculating even then, just mistaken...but I don't think so.)

Don Johnson's picture

bro Byers, you are speculating about motive and insinuating some kind of sinful intent. That is what I am objecting to.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Jonathan Charles's picture

Am I missing something? It seems from the letter at Phelps' web site that by the time he was told, an officer in NH was already informed and was supposed to be investigating.

mounty's picture

Jonathan Charles wrote:
Am I missing something? It seems from the letter at Phelps' web site that by the time he was told, an officer in NH was already informed and was supposed to be investigating.

The way I read it (I am not a lawyer nor do I play one on TV) the assaults began when she was 17; it came to Phelps' attention when she was 18; Phelps had an obligation to report the sexual assault as being against a minor because she was a minor when the assaults began, not when she brought it to his attention; the Concord police are saying that Phelps made no report of an assault when she was 17 (which, if he didn't know about it, he wouldn't have) nor when she was 18 (which is when he found out about it). The problem is that there are statements in opposition:

Quote:
She said she was 17 and a junior at Trinity Baptist Church's high school when the assaults began.

Quote:
Phelps said the girl's family told him the victim was 18 at the time of the assaults began and that both the police and child protective services had been notified.

These statements can't both be right. And given that we've just seen an abusive family and a shifty preacher (I think I'll stop calling him a pastor) gang up against a child victim, it's not too hard to believe that maybe that kind of "gang up" behavior is a pattern, a pattern that fits the details revealed in the AP story.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

This thread went about as I feared it would. It's unlikely we'll have a Phelps news item with open discussion for a good while.

FWIW, I'll point out the obvious again: whether any "ganging up" took place or the pastor is "shifty" all depends on what really happened, some of which is obvious and much of which is not.
The arguments for and against various analyses have been heard over and over and over.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.