It’s late March when Lauren Book and I head into the bowels of the Florida Civil Commitment Center (FCCC), armed with loose-leaf paper, pencils and the knowledge that we are about to sit face to face with three of the most dangerous sexually violent predators in the state. “This is the most manipulative crowd on the planet,” says Kristin Kanner, director of the Florida Department of Children and Families’ Sexually Violent Predator Program. And one of the men we’re seeing today has been sending Book and her father angry letters for the past few years. link
Scared Child, Crying: D. Sharon Pruitt from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, USA
Digression: Before I begin this post, I wanted to say that I have been stunned by the comments on this blog about being *done.* I plan to write a number of posts based on the comments. I will also collate them and send them to The DeChurched Project. Please continue to add to the discussion over the next few weeks. Also, if anyone would like to tell their story in an a more indepth form, please let us know. We are also quite interested in the stories from Acts 29 churches.
Amy Smith, from Watchkeep, is simply amazing. I have been privileged to get to know her over the past few years. Recently, the two of us have worked together on the Greg Kelly story and The Village Church/Matt Chandler story. When I came across the information in today's post, I let Amy know since she is very involved in SNAP and her blog, Watchkeep, particularly focuses on child sex abuse. In spite of being on vacation in Kauai, she immediately began to help me research the court documents, etc. She is far more adept than I am in this area and I am so grateful for her help. The evangelical world is blessed to have Amy Smith keeping an eye on child sex abuse and churches.
We are both writing on this story today. Amy has posted many of the court documents on her site along with a number of other links. Between the two of us, we will be giving both our readers and Elevation Church something to think about. Again, I thank Amy for helping me out in this story.
Mr Robot and Internet Child Sex Abuse
Even Hollywood gets the morally reprehensible act of watching children have sex over the internet. The new TV series, Mr Robot, revolves around Elliot, who is a brilliant cyber security engineer afflicted with a social anxiety disorder. From Wikipedia:
Elliot meets a mysterious anarchist known as "Mr. Robot" who recruits Elliot to join his team of hackers, "Fsociety". Elliot, who has a social anxiety disorder but connects to people by hacking them, is intrigued, but uncertain he wants to be part of the group. The show follows Mr. Robot's attempts to engage Elliot in his mission to destroy the corporation Elliot is paid to protect. Compelled by his personal beliefs, Elliot struggles to resist the chance to take down the multinational CEOs that are running (and ruining) the world.
By the end of the first 5 minutes of the pilot episode, I was cheering Elliot because he went after a guy involved in serving up child porn link.
The opening scene takes place in a urban coffee shop. Elliot, the lead character, is describing to the shop's owner why he ending up finding the 100 terabytes of child pornography the owner had that was serving 400,000 users. We don't see a single computer screen or keyboard during this, just Elliot and the owner.
It all started because he liked the fast wi-fi in the shop.
"It was so good it scratched that part of my mind that doesn't allow good to exist without conditions."
His actions, upon finding the porn, reveal part of his moral code. He isn't going to blackmail the owner. Money doesn't drive him. He's going to the police.
It was interesting to note that the owner of the shop was not repentant but, as soon as he realized the police cars were arriving, he starts shaking but it was too late. My husband laughed as I stood up, wildly clapping. (Dee gives the show 5 out of 5.) From the above link to Crooks and Liars, I found the next statement from the reviewer fascinating in light of the fact that some leaders and members of the evangelical church find child pornography just another one of those victimless crimes.
Serving up child porn is widely condemned as immoral and is illegal.
It is sometimes distressing to realize that television programs, such as Law and Order SVU, take child sex abuse more seriously than some churches.
Where is Elevation Church?
Elevation Church is located in Charlotte,NC and reportedly has about 15,000 members. It is led by the often controversial pastor, Steven Furtick. here are some posts written by TWW to give you some background link, link, link, and link. He is best known for building a 16, 000 square foot him and saying "It's not that great." (Read links.)
Who is Norman Vigue?
This is from Amy Smith's post: Steven Furtick and Elevation Church publicly support, celebrate, and elevate a convicted child sex offender before, during and after federal prison: registered sex offender Norman Vigue now leads Elevation Church Bible study –
Norman Wilfred Vigue- registered sex offender in North Carolina. Over two months after Norman's arrest on federal charges of possession of child pornography, Steven Furtick, lead pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, dedicated a blog post to Norm.
That blog post was called "Hero of the Day." This is a man who is going to federal prison after being arrested in a sting for accessing child pornography. This is a federal crime. Norman appeared at Elevation Church in 2004, purportedly dedicated his life to Christ and became an instant *mascot.* More on this later in the post.
It appears that merely claiming to come to Christ, and then accessing child pornography (yes, in that order) is enough to get you a table to sign autographs at Elevation Church.
December 29th, 2006
My hero of the day is in the office right now, working in the conference room.
His name is Norm Vigue.
In a bizarre twist, I can’t tell you right now why he’s my hero of the day just yet.
Because I’m going to bring him up on the stage and share a part of his story on Sunday morning, and you’ll all get to meet him for yourselves.
Then he will be signing autographs in the back, at the resource table, where he works every single week.
It appears that he received images that not only showed teens having sex but also images of children under twelve being subjected to sadomasochistic behavior. Link Make sure you understand this. This is violent behavior. Norm claimed that he only wanted to see teens over the age of 12 (as if that really makes things better.)
Child pornography Is internet based child sex abuse and is not a normal deviation.
Last night my husband turned to me and said "Tell me this again. Why did Norm say he turned to viewing teens having sex on the internet because of his divorce? Why did he want to view kids and not adults? That sounds a bit weird."
I told him that it is a dangerous deviation from the norm. Many people do not understand that it is against the law because children are unable to give consent. Here is a quote from a post that I wrote Karen Hinkley Did Not Have a Valid Marriage Covenant; Some Information About Pedophilia. Warning-Graphic!
What are offenders actually viewing on the Internet and what do they expect while viewing? (Very Graphic)
Here is a PDF developed by the Federal government following congressional testimonies.:
Sexual interest in children and corresponding sexual gratification are significant motivators for most child pornography offenders.24 Offenders often use the images to masturbate and to validate their sexual interest in children.25 Some offenders also use images to “groom” or lower the inhibitions of potential victims.26
Child pornography offenders also may develop or increase deviant sexual interests and distorted attitudes about children as appropriate sexual partners.32 Such symptoms may serve to further socially isolate the child pornography offender and escalate his use of child pornography.33
Child pornography offenders’ collections often contain a variety of images including legal but sexually suggestive child images,48 sexually explicit poses, explicit sex acts, and images depicting violence,humiliation, bondage, and bestiality.
Images depicted victims suffering a variety of sexual abuse. NCMEC reported that 84 percent of the victims had at least one image depicting oral penetration; 76 percent of the victims had at least one image depicting anal and/or vaginal penetration; 52 percent of the victims had at least one image depicting the use of foreign objects or sexual devices; 44 percent of the victims had at least one image depicting bondage or sadistic behavior; 20 percent of the victims had at least one image depicting urination or defecation; and four percent of the victims had at least one image depicting bestiality.102
Most child pornography offenders have some degree of sexual interest in children, but some offenders are partially or completely motivated by other sexual and non- sexual reasons
If priests could marry and Norm wasn't divorced, they wouldn't view this trash, right?
Wrong! It is vital to understand that viewing child sex abuse on the internet has nothing whatsoever to do with the lack of sex. It is deviant behavior that occurs because an individual has developed a sexual response to children. They enjoy and prefer being sexually aroused by children.
Viewing internet images of children being sexually abused is not a mistake.
Steven Furtick referred to Norm's activities as a *mistake.* Nothing could be further from the truth. Let me share an actual mistake I made on the Internet.
When my daughter was little, she wanted leopard sheets. I got online with her and on the 3rd click, we landed on a porn site. I threw my body across the screen and shut down the computer so she wouldn't see it. That was in the early days of home computers and my protective software was not effective. That mistake caused a mess on my computer since I kept getting X rated spam and needed to hire someone to undo the situation. That was a costly mistake. It was not a crime or a deliberate act.
Norm deliberately accessed those images. To say it was a mistake downplays both the crime and the sin that is involved with internet child sex abuse. I use that term because that is what is going on in these images. The law recognizes it as abuse.
A dangerous idea: becoming a Christian exempts you from committing crimes.
Furtick, in his book Sun Stand Still, in the chapter titled Mistake Into Miracle, expressed anger over Norman being convicted because he had become a Christian. Steven Furtick does not get that what Norman did makes him a criminal and that it will (and should) affect him for the rest of his life. In that chapter, Furtick again repeats that God can change your mistake into a miracle, too This was not a mistake-repeat x10.
This excerpt truly causes me to question Furtick's understanding of sin. People are automatically exempt from going to prison because they became a Christian? Now that is a dangerous thought.
It is this sort of naive belief that causes sexual offenders to target churches. In fact, this will be one of the few times that I will completely agree with Tim Challies He wrote a post 6 Reasons Why Sexual Predators Target Churches. Furtick and Elevation Church should read this post.
- CHRISTIANS ARE NAÏVE
- CHRISTIANS ARE IGNORANT OF THE PROBLEM
- CHURCHES OFFER ACCESS TO CHILDREN
- (MANY) CHRISTIANS ABUSE AUTHORITY
- CHURCHES CAN BE MANIPULATED
- CHURCHES OFFER CHEAP GRACE
This quote sums up the post nicely.
Pastors and churches are very forgiving. They are quick to apply the gospel—and very, very slow to apply the consequences that come from the law.” An offender will weep and admit that he was wrong and promise never to do anything like it again, and the church may respond by determining they will let it go this once. But when they do that, they simply allow the offender to go right back to his behavior, and allow the child to remain a victim.
Norman Vigue is on the NC sex offender registry.
Norm is on this registry because the officials deemed him as being possibly dangerous to children. I contacted Elevation Church this morning to ask if the congregation had been warned of his history. As of the publication of this post, I have note received a response.
Norman Vigue is held up as a role model at Elevation Church
Perhaps Norman is truly repentant. However, it is also possible that Norman, already convicted of his crimes, is a charming, manipulative offender. Many sex offenders are. As such, the church membership should be alerted as to his offenses so they can keep their collective eye on him. From Laurel House.
The second tactic is the ability to charm, to be likeable, to radiate sincerity and truthfulness.
A truly repentant sex offender and a truly thoughtful pastor would speak openly about the crimes.
Take a look at how Wade Burleson, Pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church (and E Church) handles child predators in his church.
Burleson: "We work with sex offenders in Celebrate Recovery, a program in our church, and we have those who worship, but when someone who's been convicted of a sexual crime is being ministered to in our church, we write a letter saying they are welcome to come, then we post their picture, we post their crime, and we distribute it to every person who is an employee or a servant in the church who's working with other people and say this is the person that's coming, this is what he did, you need to know his face, you need to know his name, you need to identify him, you need to love him, but he is never to be alone in any room with any person. And you know people have been upset with that. Why would you do that? And we tell the sex offender, that's the consequence of the choice you made when you abused a child. And so that's what we do."
A repentant child sex offender should be willing to have his crimes spelled out to the church and to go out of his way to make sure that there is not chance that any child could be harmed. That should be a consequence of his deliberate sin. Does Elevation Church have Norm's picture posted around the church? Does the church even know of his crimes? If not, why not? Does Vigue have full access to all areas of he church? Is he ever alone in the church?
Do we know the full truth of what happened?
- Norm did NOT initially plead guilty. On 10/26/06 he pled *Not Guilty.* (Furtick only states that he pled guilty.)
- He waited until January 3, 2007 to change his plea to guilty.
- On 10/27/06, (P.2 of 6) Norm is directed to have no direct or indirect contact with victim. (It appears there is more going on here than we know. Did he have contact with a victim?)
- Steven Furtick claims that Vigue did not commit these crimes after he met with Furtick and had become a Christian. That does not seem to be the case.
Note also that this document states that, "In 2004, Norman Vigue found his faith." Furtick claims that Vigue committed these crimes before he became a Christian.
(Furtick speaking) "A few months ago, Norm came into my office and asked me if we were going to kick him out of the church. It turns out that before he received Christ, Norm committed some crimes and he was facing at least a few years in jail."
The indictment record of Vigue states that, "Between January 14, 2005 and February 24, 2005, in the Western District of North Carolina and elsewhere, Norman Wilfred Vigue did knowingly receive, and did knowingly attempt to receive, child pornography…"
Has Furtick, Vigue and others ever expressed any public compassion for the children Vigue harmed by viewing the videos?
Imagine if you were sexually abused as a child and you viewed Steven Furtick's reception of Norman Vigue on his first day at church after returning from serving 4 years in a federal prison. Furtick was crying and holding up Norman as a role model for the church. Let's get that straight. Norman was the role model. Not one word was mentioned of the children who were harmed by illegally being sexually abused on video. Not. one. word.
This, to me, is one of the most egregious acts of this entire story. Imagine if you had been that little girl, crying for her mommy as she was being molested for some stranger's sexual gratification? What if you were a trafficked teen sold into slavery and forced to perform these acts on camera? What about a middle school boy who was beaten and raped by multiple men? And the guy who contributed money to keep this despicable industry alive is "the role model?"
Could he have fully repented? Possibly. However, both Furtick and Vigue did not mention concern for his victims or the nature of his crime. The lack of such openness leads me to question the depth of repentance. It also causes me to question Furtick's commitment and concern for children who are exploited. Why in the world has he never mentioned Norm's victims? Who is he protecting? It doesn't seem to me that protecting the Elevators is his first concern. That, along with his penchant for living large makes me wonder who this is all about?
Where does that leave us?
The full truth should be admitted to by Steven Furtick and Norman Vigue. The congregation has a right to know this. That is why Amy Smith and I are writing these posts. If Norman is truly repentant, he should not take offense. I have contacted the church and asked directly if the congregation was made fully aware of Vigue's crimes. I have not received an answer.
I would imagine that Steven Furtick may go off on one of his "Hey Haters" rants. I hope not. Maybe he will see the wisdom of being more open. So, for all of our readers who have not see this video-watch it. It gives some insights into the viewpoints of Furtick towards those who disagree with him.