TULSA (AP) – A national clergy abuse watchdog group blasted a Tulsa megachurch Thursday for doing “damage control” to protect the ministry’s image instead of showing concern for a 13-year-old girl who was allegedly raped on its property.
Five employees of Victory Christian Center, a worldwide ministry with 17,000 members located in south Tulsa, face misdemeanor charges for waiting two weeks after the alleged Aug. 13 rape to report it to authorities.
The employees, including the son and daughter-in-law of ministry co-founder and head pastor Sharon Daugherty, are charged with failing to report the alleged assault.
“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.
A spokesman for the church declined to comment Thursday on the accusations made by the agency.
John Daugherty, Charica Daugherty, Paul Willemstein, Anna George and Harold “Frank” Sullivan each face one misdemeanor count of failing to report child abuse. They’ve pleaded not guilty and are due in court on Oct. 31.
The church recently announced that the five employees would be returning to the ministry by the end of the month – only with different responsibilities and a direct supervisor assigned above them.
Last week, an attorney representing John and Charica Daugherty, filed a motion in district court arguing that the charges be thrown out because no one in the case has been, nor can be, charged with child abuse under Oklahoma law.
The court document, filed by attorney Jason Robertson, argues that state law defines child abuse as an act committed “by a person responsible for the child’s health safety or welfare.” It says that 20-year-old Chris Denman, who is charged with first-degree rape of the girl and other sex crimes, was not a church employee at the time of the assault, and was not responsible for the girl – and cannot under state law be charged with child abuse.
But SNAP officials dismissed the motion on Thursday, saying instead of trying to figure out why Denman was allowed access to the building and able to victimize the young girl, the ministry was looking “to absolve themselves of liability using legal technicalities.”
“It boggles the mind; you can’t understand the reasoning why they decide the institution is more valuable than the child,” Dorris said. “You cannot fathom a reason why you would not call the police immediately.”
But Robertson said that there was no technicality involved in “exercising one’s legal rights.”
“Any organization should support the fact that everyone is innocent until proven guilty,” he said. “The true facts of this case and the lack of involvement by John and Charica Daugherty will be proven in a court of law.”