Jimmy Hinton is sick and tired of so-called "inappropriate relationships" between youth pastors and teenagers.
In such a case, Hinton declares, it's not a "relationship," it's a "rape."
He's absolutely right. More on the latest case drawing his ire in a moment. But before we get to that, a little background.
I first shared Hinton's story, headlined "A child molester's son shines a light," in The Christian Chronicle in January 2015:
SOMERSET, Pa. — Jimmy Hinton grew up at the feet of the wolf.
For 27 years, his father, John Wayne Hinton, proclaimed the Gospel to the sheep of the Somerset Church of Christ — a century-old congregation in this southwestern Pennsylvania coal-mining community.
“I went into ministry because of him,” said Jimmy Hinton, 35, the middle child of 11 brothers and sisters.
But three years ago, the son — who became Somerset’s preacher in 2009 — learned a horrible secret: John Hinton was a longtime child molester who had sexually abused young girls and escaped discovery for decades.
Jimmy Hinton uncovered the truth after an adult molested as a child confided in him. The Holy Spirit, he believes, drove his response.
“I believe you,” he told the victim.
He reported his father to police and prompted an investigation that resulted in the pedophile preacher, now 65, pleading guilty to sexually assaulting and taking nude photographs of four young girls, ages 4 to 7.
While his father — inmate No. KP7163 — serves a 30- to 60-year sentence in Rockview State Prison, Jimmy Hinton works to help heal his home congregation and create awareness far beyond Somerset, a town of 6,300 about 75 miles east of Pittsburgh.
I updated Hinton's work with a follow-up interview last year:
Back to this week: On Hinton's Church Protect Facebook page, I noticed a link to a story from The Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown, Pa.
Former Bedford County youth pastor, accused of relationship with teen, faces 85 felony charges
And the lede:
The former youth pastor of a Bedford County church faces more than 100 charges, including 85 felony charges, related to his alleged inappropriate relationship with a 15-year-old girl.
Wesley Ryan Blackburn, 35, of New Paris, who until last week served as a youth pastor and Sunday School teacher at Faith Brethren Bible Church in New Paris, is charged with 84 felony counts of statutory sexual assault, 84 misdemeanor counts of indecent assault and one felony count of corruption of minors.
Blackburn's wife told church pastor James Espenshade last Thursday morning that Blackburn had developed a relationship with a 15-year-old member of his youth group and that the girl was pregnant, according to an affidavit of probable cause.
Here's what Hinton had to say in response to that story:
When you are a 35 year old married youth pastor who gets a 15 year old girl in your youth group pregnant, that's not a "relationship." It's called rape. The media AND the church needs to stop sanitizing our language when talking about these losers who are raping our children. We've lost count of churches we consult with who talk about their elders, pastors, etc. having "inappropriate relationships" with extremely young kids. Forgive us, but there is a little bit of an inside smile that forms when we correct them and say, "You mean your pastor raped the child."
Amen. In the above scenario, the pastor is a predator. The teen is a victim. There is no "relationship."
To be clear, I'm not arguing that the newspaper story ought to take sides in a case still in the court system. A person charged with a crime is innocent until proven guilty. But a newspaper would do well, when writing such a story, to consider it from the perspective of the unnamed victim and her family (or in the case of a teenage boy victim, his family) who don't have a voice in the piece.
From a journalistic perspective, the goal is to report the facts in an unbiased manner. Write, for example, that the authorities or church officials said the youth pastor began spending time alone with the teen, but please don't call it a "relationship."