“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. Desmond Tutu
It is results like this that are discouraging for those of us who genuinely care about the sexual abuse of underage children in the church. Therefore, I have written three posts on Robert Shifflet, Denton Bible Church, and Tommy Nelson.
- The first was Former Denton Bible Church Youth Pastor, Robert Shiflet, Indicted for Bringing Students Over State Lines in Order to Molest Them. The Church Needs to Have an Independent Investigation.
A child molester/trafficker, Robert Shiflet, who had been a youth pastor at DBC, has been arrested and federally charged.
I was contacted by some members/former members of Denton Bible Church who alleged that the church may have covered up Shiflet’s activities. They requested that I post about the arrest. Here is the statement released by the Department of Justice-Arkansas branch. The following was posted on 6/24/20. Former Youth Pastor Charged With Multiple Sex Crimes: Indictment Alleges Illegal Transportation and Coercion of Minors.
the indictment, which charges Shiflet with three counts of transporting a minor across state lines to engage in illegal sexual activity and one count of coercing a minor to cross a state line to engage in illegal sexual activity.
The indictment alleges that in or about May 1997, Shiflet transported a minor from Texas to Arkansas for the purpose of engaging in illegal sexual activity. The indictment alleges he did so again in March 2001 with a different minor, and from June through September of 2002 with a third minor. The indictment also charges Shiflet with enticing the third minor to cross a state line for the purpose of engaging in illegal sexual activity from June through September of 2002. During this time period, Shiflet worked as a youth pastor in Little Rock and later moved to Denton, Texas, where he had previously worked as a youth pastor
NBC/ DFW posted Former Denton Bible Church Youth Pastor Accused of Child Sex-Trafficking which claims that Shfliet had worked at DBC from 1995-2001.
Shiflet’s alleged offenses overlap with his time working at Denton Bible Church, where Shiflet, 50, worked in the church’s youth ministry programs from 1995 to 2001, church officials said in a statement Tuesday..
DBC released a statement to NNBC/DFW claiming they are grieving for the victims…
We are aware that Mr. Shiflet has been charged in Arkansas with offenses that overlap his tenure at DBC,” the Denton Bible Church said in a statement. “Church leadership grieve with and are in prayer for the victims of this tragic situation.”
So, what happened, and did the church know? They loved their youth pastor despite the reports.
It seems like the answer is a resounding “Yes.” The Christian Post reported Texas megachurch repents for not involving women in decision-making after the abuse of 14 girls by an ex-pastor.
On at least one known occasion two youth workers confronted Shiflet about his being alone with girls, which he dismissed. They also raised concern with church leadership, including Pastor Nelson, about Shiflet’s being one-on-one with girls. Shiflet’s supervisor was told by Pastor Nelson that Shiflet should not be meeting alone with girls,” reads the letter.
However, “there was no evidence that any other corrective or disciplinary action was taken.”
…In 1999, a college intern also reported Shiflet’s inappropriate behavior, and church leadership told him to write the intern a letter of apology, which was reportedly never delivered. No further disciplinary action was reportedly taken against him.
The church didn’t promote him.
because of his pattern of being alone with girls and not focusing enough on ministering to the boys in his youth group.”
He was allowed to continue to be with the students. Read that line again; he was allowed to continue with the student. He finally left to go to another church and immediately got into trouble there.
Shiflet left Denton Bible Church to become the youth pastor at Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. He quickly got himself in trouble.
“On at least three occasions in Arkansas, Shiflet was seen alone with girls, reportedly touched one girl’s thigh, and kissed another. When the last incident was reported to the church in 2003, Shiflet was fired,” the elders wrote. “However, it was in Little Rock that the second crime for which Shiflet pled guilty occurred. Specifically, Shiflet admitted that he sexually assaulted, by sexual touch and intercourse, a 16-year-old girl in his youth group on multiple occasions over several years, including during a church trip to Florida.”
In 2005, Nelson and friends discovered the presence of sexual abuse in the church and were…stunned…
Finally, by 2005, the church began to believe the reports they were receiving.
…Who cared about the victims? No one.
The church offered little care to the victims.
In 2015, another of Shiflet’s former middle school students at Denton Bible reported to the church and police that he sexually abused her. The church responded by confronting Shiflet but offered no care to the victim.
It wasn’t until the parents of the first victim who came forward in 2005 approached Denton Bible leadership in 2019 and asked for help caring for their daughter, who was then in her 30s, that the church decided to reach out to the police.
“Recognizing the change in the law and finding no record that a report to authorities had been made, church leaders reported what they knew to authorities and hired the independent investigators. However, Denton Bible did not consistently follow-up with the family or offer care to the victim. As a result the family left Denton Bible,” the elder report states.
A third-party investigation found problems with Denton Bible Church
The church finally commissioned a third-party, attorney-led investigation. In May 2022 the report was released, and it didn’t look good for Nelson and the church leaders. Church Leaders wrote about it in We Never Got Trained on It in Seminary’—Texas Pastor Responds to Church’s Failure To Report Sexually Abusive Youth Minister.
The letter chronicles that Shiflet was employed by Denton Bible Church “to work with middle school students from 1996 to 2001. During this time, and despite his own policies to the contrary, Shiflet was observed regularly spending time alone with girls in his ministry, including before and after school, in his office, in his vehicle, in his home, and in a hotel room.”
Shifflet got a 33-month plea deal.
Why a plea deal (33 months)?
This case went back over 20 years, and there was not enough hard evidence. Shiflet pled guilty to two counts of molestation. The judge was frustrated with the 33 months sentence, but there wasn’t much he could do following the plea deal. He expressed his frustration in the following.
I have to worry about general deterrence.nAt least in mymind, this is amongthe very worst crimes one can commit.
In terms of just the conduct that Mr. shiflet pled guilty to, it’s among the worst crimes that one can commit.
And it’s among thecrimes that probably have the longest term psychological effect on its victims,
of any I know, perhaps save murder. And certainly as to the related offense conduct that’s in the
presentence report, it gets even worse than the specific crimeso which Mr. Shiflet pled quilty to.
Part of what I need to do is make sure that other people don’t do this.How in the world is 33 months
telling people who might commit a crime like this, who are in a position of authority
over their victims like Mr. Shiflet was, telling them that they might get 33 months how in the world does that
deter them from doing something as heinous as this?
He’s out after 25 months. It was unexpected…
This thing is a mess. First, the Christian Post wrote Ex-Denton Bible Church pastor who abused 14 girls released after 25 months for good behavior.
The Texas Public Sex Offender Website shows that Shiflet now lives in Weatherford after he was released from prison on Jan. 11, Fox 4 reported. His victims, however, were not informed of his release for more than six weeks!!
An email from the U.S. Department of Justice to the victims cited by Fox 4 said advanced notice of the disgraced megachurch pastor’s release wasn’t possible because it was “immediate, and/or unexpected.”
A miscalculation let him get out early.
He was sentenced to 33 months in prison under a plea deal in June 2021 for child sex trafficking charges, which was less than the suggested 41 to 51 months and below the statutory maximum of 10 years on the first count and 15 on the second due to a miscalculation.
…Unfortunately, we were wrong but that was the agreement we reached based upon our understanding at that time,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristin Bryant said in a statement.
It appears the plea deal was based on some wrong numbers. This was a disturbing blunder on the part of the prosecutors.
“You are a terrible person and should be in jail for decades.”
According to The Christian Post, in Former youth pastor accused of sexually abusing 14 girls to be released from prison after 33 months
Shiflet, 51, whose pending release was highlighted by Fox 4, was sentenced in June 2021, on charges of sexually abusing 14 young girls placed under his pastoral care 20 years earlier. The sentence was made after Shiflet made a plea deal which U.S. District Judge Lee Rudofsky lamented.
“You are a terrible person,” Rudofsky told the former youth pastor at the time, according to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. “I don’t believe that you are sorry in the slightest. I don’t believe you have rehabilitated yourself. I believe you haven’t been caught again but I don’t believe you have rehabilitated yourself.”
Rudofsky explained that if he had his way Shiflet would be in prison for decades after a trial.
- Shame on Tommy Nelson and Denton Bible Church.
- Shame on those who miscalculated his plea deal. This was a profoundly troubling miscarriage of justice, in my opinion.
- Robert Shifflet may still be a danger. His perversions were not cured in jail.
- I am so sorry for all of the victims of Robert Shifflet. Unfortunately, the system let them down. I pray they will get the help they need to deal with this miscarriage of justice.
Now, I’m going to cry and rage about the system. But there is so much work to do, and we must, somehow, carry on.