A 15-year-old rape victim was forced to stand terrified before her entire Baptist congregation in New Hampshire to confess her “sin” of having become pregnant.
What Tina Anderson wasn’t allowed to tell the congregation was that she had become pregnant after she was raped by a church deacon, a man twice her age.
According to this report, she claimed that her pastor Chuck Phelps, of the Independent Fundamental Baptist Church, told her she was lucky not to have been born during Old Testament times when she would have been stoned to death.
After her confession, Anderson was sent thousands of miles away to Colorado to live with another Baptist family. There, she reportedly was homeschooled and barred from seeing others her age until she gave her child up for adoption.
But in February 2010, after keeping her secret for 13 years, Anderson – now a 28-year-old mother of three more children who lives in Arizona – was contacted by police and agreed to press charges against her alleged assailant, Ernest Willis, 51. Willis stands accused of raping Anderson twice – once at Anderson’s home where he showed up when her parents were away and a second time in the backseat of a car when he was teaching her to drive.
In a seven-page statement to police, Anderson said Willis offered to take her out of state where abortions for minors are legal, then asked if she wanted him to “punch me in the stomach as hard as he could” to trigger a miscarriage.
Willis has been charged with four felonies –- two counts of rape and two counts of having sex with a minor. He was released on $100,000 personal recognizance bail and will be arraigned June 16 in Concord District Court.
Police were alerted to the alleged crime after a group page went up on Facebook: “Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) Cult Survivors (And their Supporters).”
Matt Barnhart, 41, a former member of Anderson’s church, left a simple message: “Trinity, New Hampshire, church hid 15-year-old getting pregnant from deacon. You can contact me privately.”
The site supervisor, who runs an advocacy group for Baptists, Freedom from Abuse, alerted Concord police who culled information from a high school friend of Anderson’s to locate her.
Phelps, 51, now preaches at the Colonial Hills Baptist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Barnhart says he witnessed the confession just six months after he joined the church, and it bothered him for years.
Pastor Phelps was a statesman, an excellent speaker. I was always impressed by him and thought the world of him. But all that changed after that. I lost respect for him.
Willis lost the deaconship, but continued to be a member of the church “in good standing,” according to Barnhart, and girls continued to babysit for him. After some time, Willis left the church, he said.