A local area Seventh-day Baptist Church official has been arrested on child sexual abuse charges.
Jon Wheat was arrested on November 24th at the gas station he works at in Damascus, OR. He faces criminal charges of sexual abuse in the first degree. According to local news blogs, Wheat is charged with sexually abusing a six-year-old child.
Media reports that Wheat has been a member of the Portland Area Seventh Day Baptist Church in Oregon City for decades. The church leadership – including Pastor Jerry Vaught– knew about Wheat’s previous convictions for child sexual abuse. Nevertheless, media is reporting that Wheat was allowed to work with kids as a teacher in the church youth program despite being a registered sex offender.
According to KPTV News, “Wheat’s pastor, Jerry Vaught, said he knew about Wheat’s prior conviction, but that he had attended church services on a weekly basis since the late 1990s without any problems, until now. Vaught said Wheat served as a teacher with the church, and worked regularly with young people.”
The pastor of the Portland Area Seventh Day Baptist Church in Oregon City reportedly told news media: “We like to consider the church as a hospital for sinners . . . And those of us that know about this are disappointed and saddened, disheartened that it did happen.”
This story bears a striking resemblance to the Les Bovee situation, where the Seventh-day Adventist Church allowed a convicted sex offender to lead the church’s youth program (called Pathfinders) for nearly a decade. However, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is a different entity from the Portland Area Seventh Day Baptist Church in Oregon City.
It is well known that sex offenders are notoriously recidivist offenders (i.e. they offend over and over again with many victims). It is unreasonable for a church to allow a registered sex offender into the congregation without warning parents and children about the potential risk that person poses. And it is unacceptable for any institution of trust to knowingly place a pedophile in a position of authority or trust with children.
Not surprisingly, police working on the Jon Wheat case have stated that they expect there are likely more victims. It is likely that other children at the Portland Area Seventh Day Baptist Church in Oregon City were abused as well.
We advocate for victims of child sexual abuse and work for change in the policies of institutions of trust. If you have information about sexual abuse or exploitation in the Portland Area Seventh Day Baptist Church in Oregon City, in a Seventh-day Adventist Church, or in any other institution of trust, please contact us at 503-306-0224 or email us at [email protected].