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People of Praise Acknowledges Failure to Address Sexual Abuse Complaints

The abuse of the 17-year-old member happened two decades ago, and was reported to leaders of People Of Praise, a close-knit charismatic Christian community. But the girl’s claims were largely ignored, and then forgotten—at least until a member of the community, Amy Coney Barrett, was suddenly appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court late last year.

Now, official apologies are being offered after one of two law firms People Of Praise hired to investigate complaints of abuse have concluded that Katie Logan’s 2001 complaints about abuse by a group member who taught and coached at one of the group’s schools were credible and should have been addressed immediately.

As The Washington Post reported Monday, one community leader personally apologized to Logan and her parents, who remain members, while a school leader acknowledged failures.

“Trinity School as an organization did not respond to and handle earlier reports…the way that we would handle such reports today or that we want such matters to be handled,” wrote Jon Balsbaugh, president of the board of trustees for Trinity School at River Ridge in Eagan, Minnesota, the school where Katie Logan’s abuser taught, and where Barrett served as a school board member from 2015 to 2017.

People Of Praise, which also operates Trinity schools in South Bend, Indiana, and Falls Church, Virginia, claims it now has “robust” procedures in place to address any future complaints, but other former members warn that its troubles are far from over. Additional abuse claims remain to be resolved.

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MinistryWatch reported in June that Robin Maynard, a former sex crimes prosecutor, is working for a second law firm hired by the group to conducting a broader investigation into other abuse reports.

Former members and others who have been harmed by the group say that a culture of strict “headship and submission” created a culture where abuse of various kinds could flourish.  

The PoP Survivors website offers “validation, hope, and support” to those who were physically, sexually, or psychologically abused by community members, as well as those who say they experienced spiritual, emotional, or psychological harm due to the group’s ideology and practices.

Those claiming harm include non-members who lived in “neighborhoods that were designated PoP mission fields,” as well as people who participated in People Of Praise programs on college campuses.

While some victims told England’s The Guardian that they were “triggered” to speak out about their abuse after Barrett’s nomination to the High Court, a 1980 article archived on the survivors website shows that people were expressing concerns about People Of Praise at least 40 years ago.

A 1980 article from National Catholic Reporter quoted more than a dozen ex-members who said the group’s leaders engaged in control and “brainwashing,” creating a “siege mentality” in the South Bend community. One man was forbidden from buying a car with the “luxury” of air conditioning after his old car died.

The article also said Kevin Ranaghan, the group’s co-founder, issued a prophecy claiming that an impending earthquake would destroy San Francisco, leading 75 California members of the group to sell their homes and relocate to South Bend, where disputes resulted in half of them permanently leaving the group.

At the time, People of Praise was encouraging members to stockpile six months of food and conducting “survival drills.”

Years later, Barrett would live with Ranaghan and his wife Dorothy in South Bend.

Robin Maynard says her investigation into claims of abuse within People of Praise has met resistance from members who have been taught not to speak ill of others, particularly leaders.

“They have a very strict code about gossip and about ever saying bad about somebody,” Maynard said, according to The Washington Post.

People of Praise, which emerged out of the charismatic movement of the ‘60s, was founded in South Bend in 1971 and currently claims 1,700 members in 22 locations in the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean.

Steve Rabey

Steve Rabey is a veteran author and journalist who has published more than 50 books and 2,000 articles about religion, spirituality, and culture. He was an instructor at Fuller and Denver seminaries and the U.S. Air Force Academy. He and his wife Lois live in Colorado.