Youth Pastor and Chaplain Caught in Sex Sting
Matthew Brewer, a youth pastor at Fairfield Baptist Church in Centerville, Tenn. and a chaplain with the Tennessee National Guard, was one of 18 men arrested in a two-day sex sting that used online advertising offering sex with a 16-year-old.
“You don’t ever know what kind of person is going to respond to these ads,” Spring Hill Police Lt. Justin Whitwell told TV station WSMV. “Eighteen of them took the call and came to the location looking for a 16-year-old female.”
The arrest was part of a joint undercover operation by special agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations (TBI) Human Trafficking Unit, the Spring Hill Police Department, the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, and the local district attorney, according to TBI’s press release. A similar operation conducted last year caught 15 men.
The operation also had the support of End Slavery Tennessee, which works to provide services to survivors of human trafficking. Margie Quin, CEO of End Slavery Tennessee, and a former TBI special agent who organized sting operations, said she was not shocked a youth pastor was caught.
“I think when we first started running these operations, we were surprised,” she said. “I don’t think we’re surprised anymore. I think these individuals whose preference is children are going to put themselves in a position in life to have access to children.”
“The Tennessee Military Department is aware of the recent arrest of a Tennessee National Guardsman and are fully supporting and assisting civil law enforcement as they conduct their investigation. The charges made in this incident do not reflect or meet the standards of the Tennessee National Guard or the Army Values,” the department said in a release concerning Brewer’s arrest.
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Brewer’s name and photo have been removed from the website of Fairfield Baptist Church. It is one of 25 churches belonging to the Alpha Baptist Association, which exists to “cultivate more intimate fellowship among the churches; to promote cooperation in the cause of evangelism, missions, Christian education, Biblical doctrine and all else that advances the Kingdom through the work of the churches of this Association.”
People affiliated with Fairfield Baptist expressed their displeasure in Facebook posts. “No post about your Youth Pastor? You can scrub his name from your webpage but the truth is out,” said one poster, while another wrote, “Wait. Your youth pastor is arrested for Soliciting a minor for sex and your concern is people drinking alcohol. Wow.”
Because a new Tennessee law on human trafficking that went into effect July 1, Brewer and the other men will have to serve a full sentence without chance for early parole or release.
This is the second time within a few months that pastors have been arrested in sex stings. In April, law enforcement officials set up a sting operation to catch men attending WrestleMania 37. Among the 79 men arrested was Earnest Benjamin, 39, pastor at Breath of Life Worship Church in Tampa. Benjamin, who solicited sex with a prostitute while his two children were in his car, also served as an assistant girls’ basketball coach at Land O’ Lakes High School.
Rebecca Hopkins also contributed to this story.