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Male Pastors From Texas Are 8 Times (At Least) More Likely To Sexually Assault Minors Than Drag Queens

In far-right conservative Christian circles, it’s standard to accuse LGBT people of sexually grooming minors simply by existing in the same space. Drag queens and trans people are particularly targeted. There is zero evidence that LGBT people are sexual predators beyond the rate of the general population.

 One group that does contain a higher percentage of sexual predators than the general population? Church leaders. The Catholic Church’s problems with sexual abuse of minors is overwhelmingly documented, but Protestant churches are also rife with abuse. A 2018 study published in Religions that gathered over 300 cases of child sexual abuse related to congregations found that “the overwhelming majority of offenses were contact offenses that occurred on church premises or at the offender’s home, and that most offenders were white male pastors or youth ministers who were approximately 40 years in age.”

By contrast, there has been only a single verified instance of a drag queen assaulting a minor in Texas. A cursory study of headlines regarding child sexual assault cases in Texas since 2021 show that male pastors in the state are at least eight times more likely than drag queens to offend. 

The reasons are clear. Church leaders are often imbued with high levels of trust by their communities, and that trust can be abused easily if there is no sufficient oversight. While drag queens and trans people are subject to a high level of scrutiny that makes assaulting children less likely, cis male church leaders enjoy freedom and access to child victims by parents who trust them.  

This week, Pastor Aaron Ivey of the Austin Stone Church was dismissed from his post after sexual texts between him and other men were discovered. One of the people Ivey was texting was an underage boy. A statement from the church’s elders said that Ivey had been predatory via text since 2011. 

In October 2023, Houston pastor Robert L. Carter was arrested for sexually assaulting a child hundreds of times, starting at age 11. He would sometimes take her to churches where he worked to perform the acts, the charges claim. When his alleged victim was 16, she had a baby fathered by Carter, who then left the child at a fire station. 

That same month, a youth pastor at Redeemer Midland was arrested for possession of child pornography. Corey White was caught as part of an investigation into a New York distributor of child pornography, who White had messaged with specific requests.

 Another pastor, Chad Michael Rider, of Anna, Texas, was sentenced for producing child pornography in 2023. According to prosecutors, Rider used his position at his church to film young girls bathing, planning on distributing the material later.

 In 2022, former College Station pastor Lawrence “Clay” Hopkins was arrested for sexually soliciting a minor. Hopkins was caught thanks to a sting operation. He was an associate pastor at Rollingbrook Fellowship Church in Baytown at the time of his arrest.

 A youth pastor at Denton Bible Church was convicted of child sexual assault in 2021. Robert Shiflet abused two 14-year-olds and was sentenced to 25 months. He was released in January 2023 on good behavior.

Also in 2021, Former Vernon Assembly of God Pastor Brian Pounds was convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl. He was caught in a motel parking lot, where he claimed he was being summoned for a child in need. The child in question had been given methamphetamine. Pounds had been abusing his victim for a number of weeks, including at his church.

This list could go on, but it’s clear that church leaders are too often free to abuse minors thanks to the faith their communities have in them. 

The sexual grooming of children is rife in religious communities in a way that it isn’t in most other institutions. The data suggests that a child is far safer at a drag queen story hour than they are being left with a youth pastor.

Jef Rouner
Jef Rouner
Jef Rouner is an award-winning freelance journalist, the author of The Rook Circle, and a member of The Black Math Experiment. He lives in Houston where he spends most of his time investigating corruption and strange happenings. Jef has written for Houston Press, Free Press Houston, and Houston Chronicle.

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