"> Advocacy Group Says Church ‘Bullied’ Parents in Connection with Former Employee’s Child Porn Case – Ministry Watch

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Advocacy Group Says Church ‘Bullied’ Parents in Connection with Former Employee’s Child Porn Case

A national child abuse prevention organization has accused a Greensboro, North Carolina, church of “bullying and threatening” families and withholding information connected to an incident that led to the late 2020 conviction of a former employee on child pornography charges.

Alyson Brooke Saunders, 25, an assistant teacher at Fellowship Presbyterian Church’s Fellowship Day School, was convicted of using five children at the daycare facility to create sexually explicit images and videos and sending them to a co-conspirator, knowing he would post them online, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.  The church is a part of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Saunders was sentenced last month to 50 years in prison followed by 20 years of supervised release.

“The defendant in this case exploited her position as a caregiver to produce sexually explicit images of vulnerable young children with the purpose of providing the images to a co-conspirator,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Thanks to a proactive investigation by our law enforcement partners and the department’s continued commitment to combating child sexual exploitation, the defendant was apprehended and received a significant penalty for her heinous crimes.”

In a March 25 letter on the school’s website, Rev. Dr. Kathryn G. N. Campbell, pastor of Fellowship Presbyterian, said the school would not open for the 2021-2022 school year because it had lost its insurance provider as a result of the incident.

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Although another company has agreed to insure the school, she said, the church does not consider the coverage sufficient for reopening. She said the school intends to pursue resuming operations during the 2022-2023 school year “to the extent that this is reasonably possible.”

Campbell said both the director and assistant director of the school have resigned in light of the decision.

The letter says families “were shocked and saddened by what apparently happened, but the community rallied around the staff and fellow families to grow stronger together.”

But the California-based Coalition for Institutional Child Abuse Prevention said during a press conference last week the church had made little effort to share information about the case with parents whose children had attended the school during Saunders’ tenure, and that the church had “reacted with hostility” when they sought answers, the Greensboro News & Record reported.

Coalition Executive Director Loxie Gant said at the press conference that “multiple” families said they had been “bullied” and “isolated” by the church, per the News & Record.

In a written statement, Campbell and other church officials denied acting in a defensive manner, and said parents were given all available information except the identities of the victims.

Gant expressed concerns the investigation into Saunders wasn’t thorough enough because not all the children attending the school at the time were screened for possible signs of abuse.

“We have still yet to see any justice transpire for this community and the families affected,” she said.

The church said it had an “open-door and open-book approach” when it came to the case, saying that while Gant’s concern was well-intentioned, her information was “inaccurate and incorrect.”

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Anne Stych

Freelance writer, copy editor, proofreader and content manager. Science, technology, retail, etc. writer, ACBJ BizWomen.

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