(Photo: Victory Christian Center / File)
As Victory Christian Center megachurch in Tulsa, Okla., continues fighting allegations against sexual abuse, a national support group of people abused by priests has accused its ministers of trying to cover-up the abuse and save the church's reputation rather than provide full support for the victims.
"Again, here we go with these ministers putting their reputations ahead of the safety of the kids," said Barbara Dorris, the outreach director for the Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
Jarrod Kopp, Senior Account Executive of Schnake Turnbo Frank, a Public Relations Consultant hired to represent the church, shared with The Christian Post an email statement from his firm regarding the accusations: "We disagree with SNAP's characterization of this incident at Victory Christian Center. We have previously released a detailed timeline of the events during that time to fully disclose our response."
Kopp refers to the account available on the Tulsa World website of the steps taken by church employees in the two-week period from the time of an alleged rape incident to the time of the report to the police, which the church has referred to as its official explanation of the situation.
"Victory Christian Center has a written policy that requires any allegation of abuse to be reported by employees to the Department of Human Services, and internally within one hour to their department head and the director of human resources. It appears that this policy was not followed by the employees initially involved, and the allegations were not reported as directed within the required time. Victory's policy is more stringent than the reporting laws of the State of Oklahoma," Kopp shared.
Back in July, 20-year-old Chris Denman, a former employee of the church, was arrested for allegedly raping a 13-year old girl in a stairwell on the ministry's main campus. He is also being accused of molesting another 15-year-old girl and for using a computer to make a lewd proposal to a child and committing a sex crime involving a 12-year-old girl. Israel Castillo, another former employee of the church, was also arrested for similar accusations of making a lewd proposal to a 15-year-old girl and using a computer to commit a sex crime.
Five current members of the 17,000-member Tulsa church, however, are facing charges for taking up to two weeks to report the stairwell rape. Among them include Charica Dene Daugherty and John Samuel Daugherty, the son and daughter-in-law of the church's senior pastor Sharon Daugherty and who also serve as youth pastors.
"There was a couple of weeks in which they were either unsure of what to do or didn't do it, or who knows what," Police Det. Cpl. Greg Smith said when the allegations came to light. "There was a couple weeks where we probably lost some evidence.
The accused have denied reports that they concealed their information on the attack because they did not want to cause a scandal for the church and are saying that they spoke with the Human Resource department, who were the ones who took two weeks to make a report to the police.
The Tulsa employees are pleading not guilty to a misdemeanor count of failing to report child abuse, and are due in court on Oct. 31. Victory Christian Center has stood by them, and has said that they will be returning to ministry by the end of the month – but will have different roles and will be assigned a supervisor.
"The five employees involved violated our internal policies and have been disciplined, but we do not believe they violated the law," Kopp confirmed to CP. "Victory Christian Center has fully cooperated with the police and their investigation, and we will continue to do so in the future."
Senior Pastor Sharon Daugherty of the Victory Christian Center told her congregants during a service: "I want to personally say, that if anybody here is aware of any child being neglected or abused, physically or sexually, that you should please inform the authorities immediately," adding: "Our children are precious, and we owe them our full protection."
SNAP is arguing, however, that the church should be investigating why Denman was allowed access to the building in the first place, since he was no longer employed when he committed the alleged rape, and not focus on trying to absolve themselves of legal liability.
"It boggles the mind; you can't understand the reasoning why they decide the institution is more valuable than the child," Dorris added. "You cannot fathom a reason why you would not call the police immediately."