N. Miss. church issues statement about investigation of alleged sex abuse
(WMC) - A church leader agreed to speak with WMC Action News 5 after getting calls from media across the nation, as a sensational story gains traction.
Clutching the piece of paper from which he read, youth director Josh Carlisle relayed the only comment Bethel Baptist Church, located in Walls, Miss., wanted to share concerning sex abuse allegations:
"We are aware currently that there is a police investigation of misconduct that allegedly occurred back in the late 1990's. We are currently now and intend to fully cooperate with police during the investigation into this matter."
The matter concerns claims by former Bethel student Jeff White, whose story is getting national attention.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights #BornPerfect campaign aimed at ending so-called "conversion therapy" reportedly inspired White to come forward. The group is now speaking on his behalf.
"A teacher, through a church sponsored school, attempted to change his sexual orientation, which was gay, to straight by sexually assaulting him weekly, for three years," said Samantha Ames.
White and his Jackson, Miss. based attorneys are considering a civil lawsuit against Bethel Baptist, while the DeSoto County Sheriff's Department conducts a separate criminal investigation, which it confirms is underway.
Ames added, "Conversion therapy in any form is deeply traumatic. It can take people years, even decades, before they can talk about it at all, much less come forward."
WMC decided not to name the alleged abuser, who is still with the church, since no charges have been filed at this time.
Meanwhile, White, who was 14 years old at the time the alleged abuse started, now runs a LGBT center on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
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