California Sex Abuse Lawsuit Reveals Dark Side of Local Church

carpinteriaAs we know from hundreds of civil sexual abuse lawsuits filed against the Catholic Church, the Mormon Church, the Boy Scouts, and other institutions of public trust, the officials in these institutions often instinctively chose to protect the perpetrators rather than the abused children.

A recently filed sex abuse lawsuit in California demonstrates the point. As news reports state, “The Carpinteria Community Church routinely ignored and covered up reports of sexual abuse committed by one of its youth ministers, a lawsuit filed Tuesday claims. The lawsuit also alleges that the church’s corporate parents, including the Presbytery of Santa Barbara and Presbyterian Church USA, harbored another sexual predator who molested multiple victims over the course of 30 years as he was transferred to different parishes in Santa Barbara, Ventura, and around the country.”

According to the lawsuit, Louis Bristol joined the church as a teenager in 2000. Four years later, he began working for the church’s worship team and that is when he began sexually abusing a 16-year-old church member.
In 2013, his criminal behavior caught up with him and he was convicted of sexual crimes against minors. However, he received a light sentence of one year in a California county jail with five years’ probation. He also had to register as a sex offender.

Like other religious institutions, the Santa Barbara Presbyterian Church had gained the confidence and trust of its followers. When other sexual abuse incidents occurred, the parents of victims reported the crimes to church authorities instead of to local law enforcement. The Santa Barbara Presbyterian Church assured the parents that the situation would be handled while they quietly covered up for the misdeeds of one of its own ministers.

The lesson to be learned from these tragic cases is this – call the cops! Report crimes to law enforcement, not to a child molester’s employer. A church – or a school, a day care center, a Boy Scout sponsor, whatever – is not the proper authority for reporting criminal behavior. Crimes must be investigated and handled by those whose job it is to uphold the law.

Dumas Law Group has law offices in Portland, Oregon and serves clients in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and other states.

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