Calvary Temple's contentious history

Former congregants of Calvary Temple, a Pentecostal church in Sterling, are accusing the church's leadership of sexual and physical abuse. Times-Mirror/Rick Wasser

Chassadi Thompson was 14 when she found herself standing outside a Loudoun County gas station one night with nothing but the clothes on her back.

Thompson was dumped there in 2003, she said, by members of Calvary Temple, a Sterling-based Pentecostal church off Tripleseven Road, after spending at least six hours being questioned by some of the church's leadership - including the man whom she had just accused of sexual assault.

Now 26, the Maryland woman, along with one other victim, have come forward, alleging rampant sexual assault within the church among members of its leadership, teachers and teacher's aides.

The women paint a disturbing picture of an atmosphere where physical and sexual abuse were not only tolerated and encouraged, but "taken care of" within the church should a victim come forward.

But Thompson and the other woman, whose name is being withheld by the Times-Mirror because she fears for her safety, say they can't stay silent anymore.

By breaking their silence, they're hoping to find closure.

Liz Mills, spokeswoman for the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office, said March 19 that detectives are investigating allegations against the church.

"We can confirm that one particular case was re-activated as additional information arose. Additional information is being looked into right now," Mills said.

Multiple calls to the church seeking comment about the accusations were not returned.

The Times-Mirror uncovered the following stories during a two-month investigation that included interviews with alleged victims.

Broken families

Calvary Temple, which formally was affiliated with the Assemblies of God, became independent in 1986.

According to Loudoun land records, Calvary was purchased in June 1984. Senior Pastor Starr R. Scott says on the church's website he's been ministering there since 1974. Land records say the church is now worth $6.2 million.

Under Scott's leadership, a school, television and radio ministries and a satellite ministry in Africa emerged over the years since he purchased the church.

In past decades members have left the church, and according to former congregants, dozens of families have been broken apart because of its teachings.

Ministers, they say, urge divorce and shun children who resist their teachings. They say Scott twists the Bible's teachings, and anyone who challenges those lessons are considered sinful and accused of hating God.

John Miuccio, a former congregant, left Calvary in 2008 after 27 years. He says he spent 10 years trying to find a way out after deciding what was being preached from the pulpit didn't line up with the teachings of the Bible, especially when it came to how to discipline children.

In December 2008, Miuccio said he approached Scott, saying he would like to leave the congregation with his wife and "still be friends." Two days later he was relayed a message from Scott via a deacon:

"The response was 'we can't make you stay, but if you leave, you forfeit spiritual authority over your wife and son," he said.

Miuccio and his wife were divorced in November 2011 after his wife refused to leave the church.

He now works to help former congregants who he says have been abused by the church. In his work, he met Thompson, along with many other women who say they were sexually assaulted while they attended Calvary.

There are at least a dozen websites started by former congregants, citing the church's polarizing effect on families.

Molly, who requested the Times-Mirror withhold her last name, runs dearcalvarytemple, a blog where she writes letters to her estranged four children and a forum where past congregants who are separated from their loved ones can post messages as well, "because all other methods have been cut off by the church."

In the blog, Molly said she began to question the pastor's message because it didn't line up with her interpretation of the Bible.

"I believe the destruction of marriages and families has been based on a few scriptures that have been taken out of context. I have written this to ask my brothers and sisters in Christ to study the scriptures to see if what they are being taught is what Jesus actually taught and walked out," she writes in one blog in October 2013.

She said her husband said he was told by Scott that his wife needed to be "broken" and put away in a hotel. Molly spent six weeks away from her family, bouncing from one hotel to two extended stay inns. It was during this time that Molly says she believes the church "brainwashed" her children to turn against her.

"It was literally just to break me. And that's what they did," she said.

Since then, she writes letters to her children, begging them to come home as she tells each of them how much she loves them.

"This is my way of reaching out to you, so you know I have not given up or forgotten you. My way of going to the unjust judge (pastor) and saying give me justice, give me my children, you have no right to keep them from me," she wrote Feb. 16 on her blog.

Molly said she believes the church works through its children to split families apart should anyone question its teachings.

"They get to the families through the children. They tell them things that are absolutely not true," she said.

Allegation of sexual and physical abuse

Chassadi Thompson was 4 when she and her brother were placed with a Calvary deacon and his wife to live while her biological mother worked to get back on her feet. Eventually, her mother gave custody of her children to the couple.

"She kind of looked at it like, they're married, they're in a church, they make more money, they're going to be able to provide a better life for these kids than I could," Thompson said.

The Times-Mirror is withholding the names of the alleged perpetrators because they haven't been criminally charged.

From the start, Thompson says the deacon's wife physically abused her through regular spankings, hard pinches, forcing her mouth open to make her brush her teeth and bouncing her head off walls.

"From a very young age [the wife] was smacking me around. I got spankings on a very regular basis. The slightest thing I got in trouble for " I can't remember a single week that I was not punished in some way," she said.

Thompson said while living with the family, she was forced to buy her own toiletries "because she used too much." Her bedroom door was taken off its hinges and she was never allowed to close the bathroom door while she dressed or showered.

"I do distinctively remember Starr Scott preaching from the pulpit that that's how he was in his house when his kids were growing up. That there was no need for children to have privacy because they have nothing to hide, or they should have nothing to hide," she said.

Thompson said the sexual abuse at the hand of the deacon began when she was 12 or 13 years old.

The deacon, she said, would come into her room while he believed she was asleep and force himself inside her mouth. On other occasions, he would put his hands down her pants and also touch her breasts. Thompson said she was not allowed to wear underwear to bed underneath her pajamas.

The deacon, Thomson said, would lay on top of her with her pajama bottoms on and attempt to force himself into her.

At age 14, Thompson came forward with her abuse after she said the deacon left a hickey on her breast. She was changing clothes for gym class when her best friend saw the mark and asked what happened.

"At that point I couldn't keep it in any longer and I told her," she said.

The friend told her father, who in turn contacted another deacon - who was the brother of the alleged perpetrator.

That night, Thompson was pulled from the home by a Calvary couple and put inside a car, where she was questioned for hours. The couple then contacted the church's pastors and eventually took her to the church where at least six members of the leadership, including the person she had accused of sexual assault, questioned her for at least six hours.

They asked her questions about how long each abusive incident took place, telling her she had no concept of time. They told her she was lying - wasn't it some boy she met in the woods that did this to her?

"It was probably the most traumatic thing I've ever gone through in my entire life," she said. "It was hours of being grilled and he's sitting there the entire time staring at me."

Members of the church's leadership told Thompson that because she came forward they would have to report the allegations to law enforcement. The incident, according to Thompson, was reported to a Loudoun County Sheriff's deputy, who also was a member of the church and related to the family of the alleged assailant.

The next day, Thompson was left at the gas station to fend for herself.

The Loudoun County Sheriff's Office launched an investigation into Thompson's allegations on May 4, 2003. Social services also investigated the incident, she said, but nothing ever happened.

Thompson said the case was closed by the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office on Oct. 21, 2004. However, she was given no explanation as to why detectives were no longer investigating the alleged assaults.

Last year, Thompson said she asked county detectives to re-open the case. She was told detectives were hoping to re-test bed sheets for any traces of DNA.

Despite the trauma Thompson says she experienced, she continues to fight for justice, although she says members of the church who see her from time-to-time criticize her for simply smiling. If she's smiling, they told her, then the assault must not have occurred.

"I spent so many years hiding what [the deacon] was doing " to what [his wife] was doing to me. I can put that mask on and keep going," she said. "... Years of being brainwashed at Calvary, you have that ability to slip that mask on and nobody know anything that's under the surface."

'Don't tell anyone or else'

Memories of sexual assaults began surfacing about a year ago for the 21-year-old Sterling woman. Happy times of her sisters tickling her or pictures of her on her 6th birthday brought flashbacks of rampant abuse that she believes took place from at least age 4 at the hands of several Calvary Temple leaders.

From there, her once happy life lent way to social anxieties, depression, cutting, thoughts of suicide and an eight-day stint in a psychiatric hospital. She dropped out of college, threw away most of her jewelry and makeup and refuses to ever pick up a basketball again - a sport she once found refuge in.

Today, she's in therapy and on medication for her depression and anxiety, but without closure.

On countless occasions, the woman said she was taken to bathrooms by a teacher's aide where the aide inappropriately touched her.

Two incidents distinctively stand out for the woman. On her 6th birthday, a day when her mother made cupcakes for her class to share, she said she was taken to a downstairs bathroom and sexually assaulted by the teacher's aide until a teacher interrupted the incident.

The woman abusing her said she was helping the girl with her underwear; the teacher who saw the incident simply brushed it off.

"[The teacher's aide] told me not to tell anyone or else. That's the one that I really remember," she said.

These assaults, she said, continued for years, including one incident where she said Scott's daughter Kimberly, the school's principal, told her that she couldn't tell anyone, including her parents. The incident, Scott's daughter told her, would be taken care of.

"That kind of thing happened " I mean every Sunday [the teacher's aide] would pull me out of praise and worship or she would pull me out of the classroom and tell me I had to go to the bathroom when I didn't have to," she said.

At age 6, she said a different teacher put his hands down her pants while the two were alone inside a classroom. Two years later, at a Fourth of July celebration, the woman said she was stopped by another teacher who told her one of the pastors wanted to speak with her. He led her to a classroom where the teacher's aide was waiting and left the two alone. The teacher's aide, she said, inappropriately touched her and then made her go to a bathroom where the assault continued.

A similar incident occurred while she was in sixth grade at the hands of an unknown man who put his hands down her shirt. The man, she said, was caught in the act by a teacher.

"She didn't say anything to him or me. She just watched him walk out and then she started talking to me like nothing had happened," she said.

At age 14, as she walked to retrieve a bag after a basketball game, she said she was grabbed from behind by an unknown man who forced her to a part of the church that's generally locked and raped her.

The woman said she spoke with Loudoun detectives about seven months ago who told her they couldn't do anything. But now, investigators are taking another look at the case.

It's likely Thompson and the Sterling woman are two of many who may have suffered physical or sexual assault at the hands of Calvary Temple leadership, according to Miuccio.

He said he's been in touch with at least eight woman with similar stories, but there's likely more.

"I haven't seen anyone that's had any closure yet because there's been no justice," he said.

'Have you done this to anyone else?'

Several past congregants allege that Scott not only was aware of the sexual assaults the children in his church were enduring, but he himself is not without sin.

In an April 9, 2008, email obtained by the Times-Mirror written by Star Scott II, the head pastor's son, he accuses his father of molesting family members on a daily basis for almost three years. At the time of the alleged assaults, Scott Sr. was a pastor at Greenfield Assembly of God in California. The assaults continued, according to the email, when the father was a youth pastor at Herndon Assembly of God.

"They were just innocent children and you abused your power and authority. Not only is this sin but it is a felony. There is no statue of limitations for incest, child molestation and these types of crimes. You could go to prison. Have you done this to anyone else?" the son says in the email.

Former congregants say the son has since reconciled with his father, but the email landed in the hands of other church members.

Miuccio said the same day the email was sent, a second-in-command pastor at the church sent out another email instructing everyone to not read the son's email.

"Never before have I seen Starr Scott [Sr.] so shaken. He did not deny the contents of the letter but said it was greatly exaggerated. He seemed to ramble with his words and at times appeared almost incoherent. And then came the statement I will never forget. 'It was adultery, it happened once, it was a long time ago, it was not in the church, it was dealt with'," Miuccio said.

"Star Scott can do these incredible crimes to two young girls in California and in Virginia, lie about it all these years and hide others crimes in the church and still be a pastor. But because I go to my wife and son and say 'look what he's done, he is lying to us, we need to talk,' I can no longer be a Christian?" he added.

In a conversation taped between Andrew Lawrence, a past member of Calvary, and Scott Sr., the head pastor says he "assumes full responsibility for my sin and what did happen," but says the email contained inaccuracies.

"A lot of it too, I've shared with people publicly, and a lot of the stuff, there were a lot of things that he wrote in there, and my public statement was that 'I'm the man and I won't justify anything.' " And I refuse and still do ... There's a lot in that that is not accurate," Scott Sr. says in the recording. "I assume full responsibility for my sin and what did happen. But I can't stand, I'm not going to stand and justify all the inaccuracies. There's nothing to gain."

In the recording Scott says he believes about one-third of his congregation read the email.

"Here's what I told the people. I said 'as bad as that email is, I'm worse than that. The sin that is in my members, I'm capable of murder, I'm capable of anything outside the grace of God and the power of the holy spirit in me. I know what happened."

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