A Bible teacher at a Christian school in Florida has been arrested for allegedly manipulating a girl between 12 and 16 years old to perform oral sex on him inside the church.
Robert Russell Browning, a 59-year-old man listed as a Bible teacher on the website for Cedar Creek Christian School, was charged with lewd battery, lewd and lascivious molestation, and transmission of material harmful to a minor. The girl’s father reported Browning after finding inappropriate photos and conversations on her phone.
“I found everything,” the father said.
According to the arrest report, the girl said she performed consensual oral sex on Browning at the church while he touched her inappropriately. Investigators found text messages between Browning and the girl about the incident.
The father said he is furious and feels betrayed by someone who was supposed to be a mentor to his child.
No kidding. I would feel betrayed, too. For far too long, “men of God” have been given unearned respect as “mentors” and “authority figures.” This mindset, combined with the positions of many churches that inadvertently promote silence and secrecy even when sexual crimes are committed, can give perverts a safe space in which to hurt kids.
While the victim may have described what happened as “consensual,” she was below the legal age of consent, which is 18 in Florida.
At least the church that runs this particular Christian school is taking the arrest seriously.
Pastor John Montgomery of Cedar Creek Baptist said the school took swift and immediate action, terminating Browning immediately.
Montgomery said Browning, like all employees, was fingerprinted and checked with the FBI when he was hired six years ago.
“Of all people, I would have never ever thought that something like that could have happened,” Montgomery said. “We live in a fallen world, and people do things that absolutely shock you.”
In addition to terminating Browning and trying to support the victim’s family, Montgomery said the church was also increasing security and adding more surveillance cameras “to make sure this can’t happen again.”
That’s a start, though security cameras at one facility won’t be enough to fix the root problem here. (The issue isn’t where it happened; it’s that it happened.) The question they need to ask themselves is whether their religious beliefs and subsequent policies contributed to this crime, and if so, how they can make sure that’s not going to happen again. We can play our part by remembering that religious authorities don’t automatically deserve trust. They have to earn it.