“Of all bad men religious bad men are the worst.”
—C. S. Lewis
No one does more harm in the Church than he who has the title or rank of holiness and acts perversely.
—Gregory the Great
Former ELCA Pastor Nate Luong was arrested on December 9, 2022. He is charged with three felonies for having criminal sexual contact with a 17 year-old-girl who had gone to “Pastor Nate” seeking spiritual guidance.
I have been attempting to follow this case since I first heard of it in mid-December 2022. I have been searching for documentation every few weeks but up until last week I kept coming up empty. Last week I was able to access all the court documents in the case.
Luong has a pre-trial court hearing on August 28, 2023. My guess is that his trial will take place in September or October but I should know more after the hearing.
Below is the Statement of Probable Cause. You will notice that Pastor Nate “confided” in Witness 2. In my opinion, it appears Pastor Nate had, for reasons unknown to me, an overriding desire to share his “sexual exploits” with Witness 2. For example, Pastor Nate told Witness 2 not to sit on the couch in the youth room. When Witness 2 asked why, Pastor Nate told her because that’s where he and the Victim had sex. As I read the document I thought one doesn’t need to be a psychiatrist to realize Pastor Nate is a sick man.
Also, take note of the reference to basketball. I will come back to that.
You will see that Pastor Nate’s story is confusing because of the several churches he was employed at in a relatively short time period. Adding to the confusion is the fact that Pastor Nate worked for two “Trinity Lutheran” Churches. I constructed a timeline in an attempt to help the reader better understand the sequence of events. I can’t guarantee the dates are exact, but they are pieced together as best I could based on the information I have.
Note that Pastor Nate was a “B squad Girls’ Basketball Coach/Varsity Assistant Coach” for ten-plus years. (This information was taken from Nate Luong’s LinkedIn account.)
In the article below note that Nate is credited with 11 years of coaching Girls’ Basketball at a public High School in St. Paul, MN. Based on the Statement of Probable Cause where Pastor Nate reportedly said that the “scuffs on the Victim’s knees were not from basketball,” it is my opinion that the 17-year-old girl that Pastor Nate was allegedly having criminal sexual contact was also a basketball player. I think it would be wise for Law Enforcement to look into this matter. As a minimum, I believe North High School should contact every girl that was coached by Pastor Nate, advising them of his arrest and urging them to speak up if Pastor Nate ever attempted anything similar with them.
“Luong also has diverse community interests, having coached ten years of girls basketball at North High in North St. Paul. He enjoys working with youth, but also loves the intergenerational nature of the church community.
“I love people. My great hope in the world is just to build bridges. I love building relationships,” Luong said.”
St. Peter Herald, “New Trinity Lutheran Church minister enjoys St. Peter Call,” 9/24/2014.
Below is the description of the alleged felonies Nate Luong has been charged with.
I do feel sorry for Nate Luong’s wife, Andrea. It appears that Nate must have told her that he is an innocent man and these charges are false charges made up by the victim. Andrea Luong would of course believe her husband, at least until the charges were irrefutable. She and Nate have three children and she is now faced with the real possibility that she will be raising them by herself. I pray for her and the victim.
Below is the last post Andrea Luong has written on Facebook. At the time she wrote this the DNA evidence had not been analyzed, so I totally understand her point of view.
I wonder what her thoughts are now, based on the announcement by the Bishops of the Southwestern and Southeastern Minnesota Synod that “Nate Luong had resigned from the Roster of the ELCA because he admitted to an inappropriate relationship.” This announcement was made on June 15, 2022. I do find it a bit hard to believe that one day earlier Andrea stated that “everyone in our household has a clear conscience.”
Below are a few comments penned in response to Andrea Luong’s FB post. I have redacted the names of the commenters. My only point in featuring some of these comments is to show how the deck is stacked against the victim of abuse in a church. There seems to be blind, unquestioning loyalty to the pastor. This is not unique to Nate Luong’s situation. If you read the Wartburg Watch regularly you will have seen plenty of examples of abusive pastors receiving standing ovations while victims are kicked to the curb.
Finally, I wanted to share a short bio of the Judge in this case. I wonder if Judge Docherty will be able to retain an impartial view on this case? I believe he will because he must, but it is an interesting talking point – whether a Deacon in another ELCA church should recuse himself.