"> Former New Hampshire Pastor Still Living at Church While Facing Child Porn Charges – Ministry Watch

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Former New Hampshire Pastor Still Living at Church While Facing Child Porn Charges

The pastor of a New Hampshire church has been removed from his duties after being charged with possession of child pornography, but conditions of his bail require that he continue living at the church.

Stephen Bates, 46, was arrested March 15 at Bible Baptist Church in Nashua, which is also his residence, and was charged with possession of child sexual abuse images, a felony, NBC 10 Boston reported.

A statement on the church’s website says he is no longer the pastor of the church but continues to live there for the time being. 

Bates posted $3,000 bail and is scheduled to be arraigned in Hillsborough County Superior Court next week. 

The church said its deacons had attempted to require Bates to vacate the premises after his arrest, but the conditions of his bail require that he continue to live at his current address. The statement said the church is requesting the bail conditions be amended.

“We are working diligently to address this matter and all things related to it as quickly as possible and ask for patience and grace as we deal with this most unexpected situation,” the statement said.

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The investigation of Bates began when the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received a tip in 2016 that child sexual abuse images had been accessed by an electronic device at the church. Police investigating both that tip and similar ones in 2017 said they did not find enough evidence to support criminal charges.

However, an IP address associated with the church later surfaced as part of a 2019 Homeland Security investigation into the production and distribution of child sex abuse images in Denver. A year later, one appeared as part of a Tallahassee, Florida, child porn case, and in 2021, a Blaine, Washington, investigation of social media communications about sexual contact with children was tied to an IP address at the Bible Baptist address. 

Police executing a search warrant said Bates had two flash drives with numerous images of child sex abuse in his possession when he was arrested. Authorities said they had not identified any local victims.  

The church’s statement condemned Bates’ actions, calling them, “ungodly, unholy, unnatural, perverted, and reprehensible.”

“We have worked with and will continue to support our local law enforcement in this matter and our wish is that justice be served,” the statement said. “Our hearts break for all his victims, and we sorrow with them for the hurt, pain, and irreparable damage he has caused.”

Although Bates currently faces one felony charge of possession of child sexual abuse images, police told NBC 10 they expect more charges will be filed after the digital evidence is analyzed.

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Anne Stych

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