Part 2: The Abuse of Church Discipline at The Village Church

“Your body is a temple, not a daily dumping ground for another person’s pain, anger, betrayal, judgment, hypocrisy, denial, games, jealousy or blame. When you are being psychologically, spiritually or emotionally abused by a person, and they don’t care how it hurts you, then it is time to leave what is polluting your relationship with God.” ― Shannon L. Alder link

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Questions

This has been a hard series since it has involved sifting through a lot of information. Today, I hope to finish the narrative but will be writing lots more on the subject in the next week or so. I wasn't sure where to start and then it hit me. Let's talk about the annulment and then finish the narrative. Since Jordan has confessed to using internet child sex abuse depictions, I will drop the word alleged when referring to it.

Fraud is cause for an annulment.

A number of folks have commented on Karen's decision to get an annulment of her marriage. In fact, TVC said they put her under *discipline* because she sought the annulment without going through steps of reconciliation. As I have pondered this for the last 4 hours, unable to write a word, it hit me between the eyes. TVC was demanding that Karen continue a marriage which was invalid in the eyes of the law.

Here is a link to the basics of annulment law in Texas. In The Basics of Annulment in Texas we learn that annulment is allowed when a marriages is entered into without full disclosure. Here is one of those items which is what happened with Karen.

Fraud – one spouse lied about or hid something essential to the marriage.

An annulment means that you were never married.

Read this next statement carefully. Unlike a divorce, which recognizes the marriage, an annulment means your marriage was not valid. In that same document:

When your marriage is declared void, it is like you never had a marriage to begin with. Legally, you can say you were never married to your former spouse.

Jordan Root is most likely in violation of federal laws.

Jordan Root hid his usage of internet based child sex abuse depictions. His use of this is breaking Federal laws as seen at this link. Here is  a relevant section.

Notably, the legal definition of sexually explicit conduct does not require that an image depict a child engaging in sexual activity.  A picture of a naked child may constitute illegal child pornography if it is sufficiently sexually suggestive.  Additionally, the age of consent for sexual activity in a given state is irrelevant; any depiction of a minor under 18 years of age engaging in sexually explicit conduct is illegal. 

Federal law prohibits the production, distribution, reception, and possession of an image of child pornography using or affecting any means or facility of interstate or foreign commerce (See 18 U.S.C. § 2251; 18 U.S.C. § 2252; 18 U.S.C. § 2252A).  Specifically, Section 2251 makes it illegal to persuade, induce, entice, or coerce a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct for purposes of producing visual depictions of that conduct.  Any individual who attempts or conspires to commit a child pornography offense is also subject to prosecution under federal law. 

 Federal jurisdiction is implicated if the child pornography offense occurred in interstate or foreign commerce.  This includes, for example, using the U.S. Mails or common carriers to transport child pornography across state or international borders.  Additionally, federal jurisdiction almost always applies when the Internet is used to commit a child pornography violation.

Jordan deliberately lied about his illegal activity and entered the marriage without telling Karen about his behavior.

Since Jordan did not disclose his graphic habit, he was in violation of federal laws. Therefore, his marriage to Karen was declared invalid. Is TVC actually suggesting that Karen ignore the law stating that Jordan should not have married her without advising her that he was involved in potentially felonious activity?

Annulment nullifies husband /wife confidentiality which divorce does not.

There is also another interesting fact to consider and that has to do with husband-wife confidential marriage privileges. Intimate confidential communication is usually not admissible in court in many civil or criminal cases.

Whether a case is civil or criminal, either spouse holds a privilege to refuse disclosure of a confidential communication made between the spouses while they remained husband and wife. Both spouses hold the privilege, and it does not matter which one is party to a case. Either spouse may refuse to allow the other to testify as to a confidential communication, or refuse to personally disclose the contents of the confidential communication between the spouses during the marriage. The law aims to promote communication and trust between husbands and wives. 

Both spouses hold the privilege. Either spouse has the right to refuse disclosure of the confidential marital communications, or to prevent another person from disclosing the communications. However, this privilege only protects against the disclosure of marital confidences in testimony, not against cooperation with law enforcement officials by one spouse against the other or against one spouse turning over evidence against the other spouse. See United States v. Giavasis, 805 F.2d 1037 (6th Cir. 1986).

Now read the next section carefully. If Karen had remained married and then divorced, those communications would not be admissible in many situations. However, they ARE admissible if an annulment is sought. if Jordan were to be eventually arrested and tried for federal crimes, Karen would not be allowed to disclose their intimate communications. Think about it. Is this one of the reasons that his attorney pushed for reconciliation? The attorney that is a member of TVC?

For the privilege to attach, the communication must have been made during a valid marriage. Unlike the spousal immunity rule, divorce does not terminate the privilege retroactively – even if a husband and wife divorce, their confidential communications made during the course of the marriage will still enjoy protection from disclosure. Divorce, however, will terminate the privilege when it comes to future communications between the former husband and wife.

Attempts at reconciliation could nullify the ability to annul the marriage.

Attempts at reconciliation after discovery of the fraud may negate the individual's request for an annulment. Again from the Texas document,

A Texas court won’t grant annulment for fraud, duress or force if the spouses continued to live together after the fraud was discovered .

When Karen learned of the fraud in December of 2014, plans were made  for Jordan to return to Texas ASAP. From that point forward, Karen was obligated to continue with the annulment since any sort of reconciliation could have put a damper on the annulment.

TVC does not respect Texas law when it comes to annulment.

So, it appears that TVC does not recognize or respect the law which allows annulment for fraud. Yet, the law says that Karen did not have a valid marriage. In other words, there was nothing to divorce or reconcile. It did not exist except in the eyes of some controlling church leaders.

Jesus allowed for divorce in the case of adultery.

What the heck is pedophilia/internet child sex abuse if not a heinous form of adultery? This comment came from Mirele- a reader at TWW. If she is thinking this, I can be sure that many others are thinking the same thing.

I’m sorry but when a party has confessed to viewing child pornography, the marriage is over. It is a kind of adultery. Karen Hinkley did the right thing by leaving Jordan Root and asking for an annulment.
I said it above, and I’ll say it again: In the state of Texas, once you find out about the fraud, you must no longer cohabitate with the other spouse to get your annulment. This is what Hinkley apparently did. (I want to give an ATTABOY to whoever gave Karen this advice.)

In my opinion, in my very personal and private opinion, I have the sneaking suspicion that the leadership of TVC wanted to put Karen and Jordan back together so that Karen would be in an impossible position: either forced to stay in the marriage or tainted with the stain of divorce. Because if she had gone back to Jordan and cohabitated with him, she would have lost her right to an annulment. And the reason why I think this? I honestly believe the leaders of TVC are so deluded that they believe Jordan Root has repented and is cured. WRONG.

Now, back to the rest of the story…

Karen arrived back in the US and looked to her church and church friends for support.

Take a walk in her shoes. Her marriage was a fraud and her mission assignment, which she thought to be lifelong, had ended. She needed to assess her options and future calling in a fairly short period of time. She began to research the possibility of an annulment because Jordan clearly married her under false pretenses. 

In fact, I wonder if Jordan married her to give himself greater cover to continue with his evil habits. I asked Karen about this and she said that she truly does not know. (I hasten to add that this is my personal thought.)

A chronology of events surrounding her dealing with TVC upon her return

The following chronology and statements are taken from the  documentation on Amy Smith's blog unless otherwise noted.

December 20, 2014: TVC appeared to be protecting Jordan Root, presuming him innocent.

Before returning to the States, Karen received an email from TVC Dallas. There are some disturbing comments in the email which raise some red flags about how the church was perceiving the seriousness of the situation. In this note, they want to protect Jordan's reputation and ask that Karen not send any notes to her supporters until TVC can figure out a unified way of communicating the information. TVC did not want to mention any possibility of molestation.

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December 20: TVC alerted TVC members to a sin issue with Jordan and said the Roots were returning home.

TVC communicates with members that there is a problem with the Roots but do not mention what it involves. They mention sin but also spiritual warfare. They promise that the Roots would receive counseling and asked the members to "love on them."

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December 28: Email to the Roots long time home group attempting to control conversation.

TVC sends a message to the Roots home group,  advising them how to talk with Jordan. Apparently TVC members cannot be trusted to be appropriate in these situations.

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January 18: Karen meets with an elder and pastor at TVC

At the meeting were Pastor and Mrs. Richard Brindley and Elder Matt Younger. She was told she could separate her finances from Jordan's finances and that they would help them do this. Younger said that Karen's unique role would be to walk beside Jordan through this. He made the comment that all sin.

He also said that he had observed in these situations that in 100 out of 100 times, when a couple both agreed that one of them was 100% to blame for a problem, there is more to the story. Karen felt he was insinuating that perhaps she had something to do with Jordan's perversions. She pushed back and he appeared to walk back what he had just said.

It was becoming evident to Karen that the church was not going to allow her to leave the fraudulent marriage.

January 20: Karen initiates a phone conversation with Pastor Brindley.

Richard Brindley said that they had decided that she not separate her finances since it was a step towards divorce. She is told that when there is a marriage under the *care* of the church, every aspect of the marriage is now subject to the elders input, including finances.

January 21: Another phone conversation in which Karen is told that TVC is her final authority.

Karen told Elder Matt Younger that she had counseled with trusted Christian friends and counselors and was thinking through her decisions with  careful thought and prayer. He told her that she could not  trust herself or any other counsel except that of TVC which was her spiritual authority. He said that they were the only voice at the table. He claimed that they were there to hold her hand and tell her what to do.

February 9: SIM Child Safety Team concluded that Jordan was a risk to children.

SIM Child Safety Team releases a report which corroborated that Jordan had viewed nude child images on the Internet and that they believed this  was not only a moral and spiritual breach but that the conduct posed a serious risk to children. He was removed from his position at SIM.

February 11: Karen resigned from TVC. She was not under any discipline at this time.

 Read this excellent letter that she wrote. Note that she asks for no further communication from the church.

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February 11: Karen inadvertently received a concerning email.

Karen is inadvertently copied on an internal memo. These guys use concerning language. Note the phrase "pushing her under our care."Also, they stated the they were trying to find out where she lived. This could be construed to be threatening language.

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February 11: Karen was not allowed to attend her long time home group to say good-bye and answer questions.

Karen was told that she couldn't come to her long time home group to say good-bye. Instead, Pastor Brindley attended the group and talked to them for a long time.From that point on, Karen did not hear from many of her former friends and supporters. 

February 20: Karen is put under retroactive discipline for the annulment and she was told she couldn't resign from the church.

This date is important. Here is an except from the letter sent to her by Pastor Matt Younger. He stated that it was her decision to get an annulment which caused them to put her under discipline. She was not allowed to resign from the church either. Note: she was NOT under discipline when she wrote her resignation.

We have been perplexed by your decision to file for an annulment of your marriage without first abiding by your covenant obligations to submit to the care and direction of your elders. As I mentioned in my first letter, this decision violates your covenant with us – and places you under discipline. Per section 10.5 of The Village Church bylaws, you are prohibited from voluntarily resigning membership while subject to the formal disciplinary process. We cannot, therefore, accept your resignation.

…We know this is a step of faith and that many questions have yet to be answered. We will seek to answer each question in time. Until then, your elders are pleading with you to patiently submit to our leadership. Should you choose not to return to The Village Church, we will move forward to the next step in the process of disciplining you as a member. Please hear our appeal. The last thing we want is to lose the privilege of caring for you in this difficult season. 

February 22: Karen told Matt Younger to stop harassing her.

Karen responds to Matt Younger  that she was not under discipline when she resigned. She asks them to stop harassing her.

February 25: SIM notified the supporters of the Roots.

SIM sent a letter to the supporters of Jordan and Karen Root. They stated that they had applied disciplinary policy and terminate Jordan from SIM. Karen was continued on active status.Here is an excerpt which is important.

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March 11: Pastor Steve Hardin called a church meeting to answer questions about Karen Root.

Pastor Steve Hardin sends a note to members of TVC and Karen's supporters that he would hold a meeting on March 14 in the church cafeteria to address concerns. This is 2 weeks after Karen told them to stop harassing her.

March 13: Pastor Steve Hardin declared Jordan Root to be walking in repentance.

Pastor Steve Hardin sends out his "our hearts are heavy" communique to all of the members. He communicates the results of the SIM Child Safety Report of 2/9. He reports that Jordan has been removed from ministry and had not been placed under discipline. They claim that Jordan's actions were reported to unnamed authorities in January. But they do not say who made the report.

He claims that they *grieve* for Karen. They restrict Jordan's access to the children's ministry and say he must be accompanied to all services by a *covenant* member. They make a typical church CYA stating that Jordan never served in any formal capacity with children at TVC.

Jordan is declared to be walking in repentance so he doesn't need church discipline even though he signed the annulment.

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April/May: Karen continues to receive texts from Pastor Hardin despite asking them to leave her alone.

2 months after Karen asked the church to leave her alone, Pastor Steve Hardin began texting her on her phone
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May 24: TVC's claimed to tell their side of the story

An 8 page missive was sent to 6000 TVC members this weekend. Karen has evidence to prove that many of their statements were wrong. She is planning a full response tomorrow on Amy Smith's blog, Watchkeep. She will be supplying documentation to back up her concerns.

Questions for astute people to ponder:

  • Where is Jordan's computer from the mission field?
  • Since Jordan is a pathological liar, how does the church *know* he is walking in repentance after a few short months?
  • Better yet, how does the church know that they have his full story since it seem to get worse as time goes on?
  • How does the church know that Jordan has not purchased a new computer?
  • Do they think they have full access to his spending reports?
  • How do they know he is not accessing the internet outside of his assigned living quarters?
  • Why does the church claim that they haven't helped Jordan when he is living with a well known lawyer who is a member of TVC?
  • Why did Matt Chandler tweet that he loved Karen when he didn't respond to her email and never spoke with her? 
  • Does he consider Karen just another one of those zeroes?
  • Did TVC actually contact the police and FBI or did SIM?
  • Why did Jordan not receive any church discipline? 
  • Better yet, why did Karen, who is trying to get the word out about Jordan's interest in children,  get disciplined?
  • Is TVC abusive for disciplining Karen who is been through an enormous stress?
  • Were the folks in Karen's home group told she was dangerous and that they should shun her?
  • Why doesn't TVC understand that a man who has surrounded himself with children is highly likely not telling the full story?
  • Does TVC believe that their little counseling group is equipped to handle a manipulative and charming liar?
  • Why did TVC attempt to control the narrative by telling Karen to coordinate with them before sending out emails?
  • Was TVC concerned that Karen may have said more about what happened than they would?
  • Does TVC realize how unloving they appear to outsiders? 
  • Why didn't Matt Chandler reach out to Karen? Was he too busy traveling?
  • Was Jordan disciplined for signing off on the annulment?
  • Why did the church keep contacting her when she asked that they stop?
  • What do they mean about "pushing her under their care?"
  • How can you retroactively discipline someone? 
  • For those Covenant members reading this…Don't you feel, deep down inside, that something is wrong with this entire situation?

Once again, join me in praying for Karen Hinkley who is one brave woman. Carry on, my friend!

Comments

Part 2: The Abuse of Church Discipline at The Village Church — 418 Comments

  1. Gram3 wrote:

    The table must be set, first, by preaching on how they need to do things better at the church now that they are “serious.”

    Didn’t Screwtape write to Wormwood that the best path to “Our Father Below” is the slow and gradual one, with NO markers on the path to give away its destination, just One More Little Tiny Thing after another?

  2. Daisy wrote:

    Because when church girls or women are molested or attacked, the churches will sometimes blame them (the ladies) for it, claim they (the ladies) played a role in their own abuse, because of how they were dressed, or whatever.
    Is that the response these churches give if the victim is a male?

    Or does that wave the Bright Red Murder Flag of HOMOSEXUALITY!!!!!!(TM)?

  3. Lydia wrote:

    The reason mega’s are careful about it is because they need bottoms in the seats to create a environment. Peopleactually give more based upon a full house. So, it is very important to have lots of people coming.

    Butts in seats.
    Just like all those Angles and gimmicks cataloged at Wrestlecrap.com.

  4. Ben Denison wrote:

    This makes the question to TVC even more pointed: Why did you think discipline was appropriate for Karen for filing for annulment without asking you first, and not Jordan who with your knowledge (and likely with your counsel) became a party to the annulment by signing it?

    Because Jordan was MALE (“Penetrate! Colonize! Conquer! Plant!”) and Karen was FEMALE (and didn’t Lie Back and Accept).

  5. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    Gram3 wrote:

    The are selling a product, gospel, and they want you to buy their product which will cure your guilt and your dandruff.

    Don’t forget Erectile Dysfunction(TM) and Natural Male Enhancement(TM).

    Not to forget ingrown toenails, the common cold and disagreement from leadership.

  6. Well I made a post to FB.
    I was surprised by the responses of some but…sigh.
    I was asked to help develop a plan for reporting in the event our church is confronted with this.
    I guess I may be more familiar with the channels to report as a mandated reporter than they are.

  7. And also protections to put in place.
    Haven’t gotten around to talking the covenants and over steps of power in real depth but that’s on the docket as well.

  8. Lydia wrote:

    Just a few things to consider. In order for them to receive Acts 29 money they have to sign off they are Reformed and will teach Reformed doctrine. This is a requirement by Acts 29 most don’t hear about.

    Yes, this is a pretty important aspect of Acts 29. Doctrinally, there is virtually no wiggle room. My “alarms” started to really go off in earnest when our pastor started preaching a sermon series on “What Christians Believe” and really it was just Reformed doctrine. Several people began to complain, and the response was, basically, our church is Reformed. Acts 29 is Reformed. We’re sorry if that makes you uncomfortable, we won’t change it.

    There was even some awkward talk about whether one had to be Reformed to be a member. Our family left before that was resolved so I don’t know how that situation ended.

    People are “uncomfortable” but they “cannot put their finger on why”…
    There is a period of consolidating power and winning hearts and minds before the control issues start. Maybe your guys are nicer and won’t last in the Acts 29 mold.

    Agreed. I served in an Acts 29 church plant for 3 years. It took about 1.5 years before we began to feel “uncomfortable” about certain things, and that progressed slowly until at the 3 year mark all heck broke loose and convinced us to abandon ship.

    In my view, it’s all about the pastor in Acts 29. Meaning, whether or a not a church becomes a disaster is completely dependent on whether or not the pastor/elders are mature or immature. There is no real accountability, and there are no checks and balances. If you get a mature, healthy pastor, good for you – really. But woe to the people who get an immature, dysfunctional pastor.

    I think one of the reasons why Acts 29 has such a reputation for trouble is that its whole culture (Driscoll, Mars Hill) was predicated on attracting young, immature, arrogant guys and putting them in leadership positions with little-to-no formal training.

  9. @ Mr.H:
    @ lydia:

    Well, like I said he is a fairly young guy. But, more open to the questions I’ve had than anywheremelsemi had been.
    Well, I had an older pastor I could have asked, but he retired prior to my existential crisis/faith crisis so the one I was left with….well I’ll leave that one alone.
    So he was really helpful in that.

    He didn’t go directly into this, either. He got a standard 4-year degree at a private university, assistant led the on campus intervarsity with our now worship leader.
    Heneventuallymtook an internship/youth pastorate with a church forms few years.
    Then he felt called to be a missionary (turned church planter) in our city. The area is not what I would call inner city, but a mix of many races, nationalities, and socioeconomic backgrounds. A somewhat de-churched area.
    Anyway, following this, he took an internship/residency at a traditional Baptist church, non-acts 29 affiliated for a number of years.
    In this time they raised money for the church, and a core team was trained.
    Sometime in there, not sure if it was a church member or staff member as I can’t remember, wanted him to go to seminary, or get a degree in religion/leadership, and paid for him to do so.
    So he got a masters in Christian leadership to serve as a missionary in this city.
    They were sent out, and planted. We met in another church’s annex for 2-3 years, and as we grew, and needed a larger space, we ended up being able to rent an old church that had been vacant for a while.
    So that’s our current place, where we have been for about three, I guess almost four years. We are in the process of purchasing the building now.
    Previously, all staff salary was from raising money as a missionary would, and they worked like at Walmart of some such.
    NOW he is employed as a missionary/church planter by NAMB, and has gone to a lot of trainings, etc, and we are still affiliated with the church he had his internship with.

    So he has been through a long process of training, communicates regularly with this sending church, other pastors, including his father in law…so he has several pastors he is close to that are varying degrees of older and experienced.

    So I haven’t got the sense that he is arrogant or a know it all.

    The things that have been problematic in the past, that I have seen, more seem to be, he asks for input/advice with the intention of doing something, and it sometimes just doesn’t get done. Like the aforementioned thing with response to racial tensions and social justice.
    He said he felt really lost with no idea what to do (so not a whole lot was done), so he joined the network, but he and the other pastors seem to really be trying to figure it out, however slowly.

    I am not sure…you’re all more objective than I am in this situation, do you feel that’s enough experience to begin leading a church?

  10. Mr.H wrote:

    think one of the reasons why Acts 29 has such a reputation for trouble is that its whole culture (Driscoll, Mars Hill) was predicated on attracting young, immature, arrogant guys and putting them in leadership positions with little-to-no formal training.

    Yes.

  11. @ Mandy:

    Mandy, I have no idea. I am sure he knew that in order to take the Acts 29 resources and NAMB money, they had to sign off on being Reformed. It could depend on how much of the Acts 29 gurus and resources he is imbibing. They become like who they are listening to and reading.

    A great youth pastor I know who graduated from SBTS, left about 4 years ago to plant an Acts 29 church in a city in Ga that has a church on every corner. He came back in town about a year ago and he looks like he has aged 20 years. I honestly think he was too nice of a guy for that movement and it looks like it is killing him. I hope he connects the dots.

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  13. lydia wrote:

    There is a playbook that is so ingrained most of the YRR have no idea they were being taught out of it. Quiet Revolution by Ernest Reisinger.

    Yes, that is the Founders playbook. Dever and Mohler and Nettles are big on the Founders ideology. They are very quiet about what they are doing, but this is definitely the strategy for colonizing and “replanting” an existing church. Step by step. They are very patient that way.

  14. Mandy wrote:
    I am not sure…you’re all more objective than I am in this situation, do you feel that’s enough experience to begin leading a church?

    It’s hard to say. It certainly seems like he has experience, which can be a positive thing. Especially when it is fairly broad experience, and not just limited to Acts 29. At the same time, Matt Chandler has experience, and so did CJ Mahaney.

    You mention that he got a Master’s, which is a good step as well. Certainly more than many Acts 29 pastors get. Depending on the seminary – and the quality of mentoring and scholarship there – it could certainly help.

    Bottom line, though, is it’s about character, and none of those things mentioned above prove anything about character. They seem like good signs, for sure, but they’re not a sure defense against dysfunction.

    For example: at my old Acts 29 church, the lead pastor was young, uneducated, and inexperienced. However, two of his elders, while young, were very educated. Another elder, also young, had graduated a very well-known seminary. All of these elders fully supported and even participated in the dysfunction at our church.

    If I were to give you any advice, I’d simply say this: if you have concerns, simply go to your pastor and ask him about them. You’ll find out a number of things:

    (a) The way he responds will tell you a lot about who he is as a pastor: is he defensive? Angry? Or kind and understanding? Is he direct and open, or evasive and vague?

    (b) Ask him specifically about the situation in question and ask what he thinks about it. Ask him if he thinks that could happen at your current church, and why or why not.

  15. What if they are trying to hush this up and cover their backsides in case he molested any children in their church or associated with their church? Are their other child molesters in leadership or their church? What does this lawyer (where he is staying) specialize in? Seems to me their was another minister a year or two ago that kept his lawyer busy keeping his sins hush hush

  16. Hi All. Just found this post. Very frightening stuff. I was raised Anglican (Episcopal in the States, I think) and never heard of covenants. My wife was raised Pentecostal and the covenant idea is foreign to her as well. I no longer attend church but the last one I did initiated a covenant. It sounded too legal so we didn’t sign. Maybe it’s in another post but I notice the word “police” is never mentioned. Has nobody reported this man’s confessed actions to the authorities. In many jurisdictions, where children are concerned, alleged abuse must be reported by law. I believe those laws (at least where I live) extend to crimes committed overseas as well. Thanks for sharing this story.

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