This is no surprise, given the climate of stone faced secrecy fostered by COGIC leadership and perpetuated by the administration of Bishop Charles Blake.
Yesterday, the New Jersy News reported on yet another shocking crime committed against a child, this time a seven year old girl in an after school program run by Supt Ahmed Screven, pastor of Bethesda COGIC.
The rapist, Glenn Harp, a volunteer at Screven’s program, had been according to The News, “indicted a decade earlier on charges of sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child, [and] had been convicted on the lesser charge and sentenced to three years’ probation. ” Prosecutors say that Harp raped the child repeatedly both at the school and his apartment in Newark
In short, Glenn Harp was a pedophile criminal with a record who never should have been allowed near a child–even unsupervised. Harp was a “volunteer” at the school, thus no background check was run on him.
As a commenter pointed out although volunteers are not required to be checked Screven could have easily went to datauniverse.com (a free site) which has a section to check criminal conviction records. He would have found Glenn Harp’s name there and his previous conviction with his sentence of probation.
After Harp (left) plead guilty last week and is facing 15 years in prison, the questions began to fly. People wanted to know how and why Harp was allowed to take a child out of the school and to his apartment without anyone knowing. The investigators, concerned parents and workers at the school should have checked here first so they could prepare themselves for the silence from Screven, a lawyer, member of the board of education.
Community leaders and at least one school board member said they are outraged by the assault and at the way the district has reacted to it. No one had discussed the assault publicly before The Star-Ledger started asking questions after receiving an anonymous tip. Other parents at the school said they were never told it had happened.
School board member Kenneth Waller said Screven should have conducted the background check and that failure to do so violated school policy as well as the trust between the school and the community.
“I am calling for his resignation,” Waller said.
Screven did not return repeated calls for comment.
But why didnt Pastor Screven report the crime to his fellow school board members, parents or community leaders? His inaction and silence understandably upset many people.
Also at issue, Waller said, is that parents were never notified of the assault.
“If something like this occurred, there should have been information put out to other parents of children in this program,” he said.
Waller, who said he is eager to be an “agent of change” in the district, was the only school board member to make a statement on the record.
Eloise McDaniel, president of the Irvington Block Association Coalition, has worked closely with parents in the community for 10 years. She, too, was upset no one was notified after Harp’s arrest.
“They have kept that very hush-hush,” she said, “How do you cover something like that up?”
Parents were understandably outraged that they were not told.
Several parents waiting to pick up their children at the school last week said they had not been told of the assault and expressed shock that they were not informed.
“I never knew about it and we should have known,” said Eric Johnson, 35, who was waiting to pick up his first-grader, “That’s putting people in danger.”
Quinn McClain, 49, has a grandchild in the school. He said parents should have been informed immediately after the school discovered the assault. “I’m here all the time,” McClain said. “I sit in the classroom. Why wasn’t I told?”
Dear, Mrs. McClain, sorry to have to tell you this but COGIC doesn’t comment on any criminal cases which could implicate them, possibly ruin their good image, risk their assets or besmirch their 100 year old name. According to their presiding bishop, that’s where priorities lie. Sorry, families of victims will have to either sue to get a statement.
According to Bishop Blake, (COGIC has removed this statement from its website)
We now live in a litigious society. People file lawsuits for every conceivable grievance, whether real or imagined. To protect the name, image, and assets of the Church of God in Christ, we must take positive steps to seriously investigate very case of alleged sexual abuse by the clergy. We must stand behind and support those who are falsely accused of sexual improprieties and found innocent by the courts. We must also insure that the Church act quickly to take firm and positive action against those who violate the sanctity of their positions and are found guilty of sexual abuse and other sexual improprieties.”
Interestingly enough, Screven claims Barak Obama’s election has “empowered” him. I guess that’s just ironic window dressing considering Obama has promised his administration will be marked by transparency.
The Newark Star-Telegram reported today that the family of the molested 7 year old girl has filed an intent to sue. The family is fingering the Irvington School Board, The “Civic Program” run by Pastor Ahmed Screven and the rapist Glenn Harp.
Pastor Screven has released a statement via email. Although parts of it conflict with what is known about the case so far, we credit Screven for expressing remorse for the rape of the child.