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EDITORIAL: When law enforcement is more than a matter of faith

Last Sunday, former members of Calvary Temple returned to the church they once called home. Rather than driving their vehicles into the half-empty church lot off of Tripleseven Road in Sterling, they parked their vehicles on the side of the road, gathered across the street from the church and waved signs protesting tactics by church leaders that, they said, resulted in the sexual and physical abuse of minors, kidnapping, brainwashing, coercion, divorce and the break-up of families.

Given the nature of the allegations, it was a peaceful protest, more a collective sermon for justice than a disruptive rally for retribution. The “outcasts,” as some former members of the church call them themselves, wanted to be heard. For the first time in years, someone had listened.

In the days after the Times-Mirror recounted their stories in an investigation published last week, additional allegations emerged. More outcast congregants came forward to recount abuses, humiliations and lives torn apart. Reporters moved from person to person among those on the side of the road who came to provide testimony about trust betrayed. For years, few had listened and no cases were brought.

Hope seemed to arrive in a white SUV bearing the words “SHERIFF Loudoun County” on its doors. But the vehicle moved past the protesters and the church on Tripleseven Road.

Following the Times-Mirror story, the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office said it had launched an investigation into at least one woman’s claims of sexual abuse. Last week, detectives asked the public to come forward if they had any information about the case.

Like others at the scene on Sunday, we wondered why the Sheriff’s Office SUV didn’t stop on Trippleseven Road. All a deputy needed was a notebook, a pencil and a few good questions to arrive at evidence and leads. The investigator could have worked the group just the way reporters did. No one required an excuse to come forward; everyone at the protest was coming forward.

Some outcasts are suspicious about the Sheriff’s Office’s willingness to investigate. Once before, the Sheriff’s Office promised to investigate after an allegation of sexual assault was reported to a deputy who was a member of the church. The Sheriff’s Office won’t discuss the outcome of that investigation, even though it was conducted under a different administration. Nor will the office elaborate on cases dismissed because of “he said / she said” testimony that so frequently results in the dismissal of sexual and domestic abuse cases.

The outcasts had low expectations when two deputies on motorcycles rode past an hour after the Sheriff’s SUV. On their own, the outcasts have gone to court to try to get their families back: the spouses, children and parents taken from them. Many seek justice on the Internet with “expose Calvary Temple” blogs and on Facebook. For some, it's the only way to communicate with family members who remain under the influence of Calvary Temple’s leaders.

We need only to look at the headlines to know that fundamentalist religious doctrine can be dangerous. For the moment, we only have stories that suggest there is a clear and present danger to what we hold dear as a community of families, whether in our neighborhoods or in the places we worship.

If our community is to have faith in law enforcement, we need a more committed response to the Calvary Temple allegations than a drive-by at a protest rally or a call for the public to come forward with evidence that is already out there.







Comments


Not sure if a public protest is the right place to conduct investigations of sexual abuse.  I’m not a cop, but like many others watched the protests in Ferguson and NYC.  Can’t imagine getting any facts correct in a charged atmosphere like that.  A living room or the office are much more appropriate - and probably more admissible in court. 
Perfect location for the press, however, and I’m glad you’re adding your voice to a story where the police most likely legally can not.

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