Police in Tennessee have arrested an anti-gay pastor accused of molesting children in his congregation. The children were mostly boys.
Matthew Dennis Patterson, who led Nolensville Road Baptist Church in South Tennessee, resigned last year, but members of the congregation quickly raised complaints with the police over reports he was engaging in “strange activities” with children, according to the Tennessean.
Police discovered that he had been asking children to sit on his face and stomach, “sometimes in their underwear,” according to a statement, with accusations from throughout his twenty year tenure with the church.
Eight counts of aggravated assault have been brought against Patterson, with each charge related to a different child. However, the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department said that further charges tied to additional victims “are anticipated,” as a six-month investigation into Patterson’s activities has yet to conclude.
Speaking with the Tennessean, James Thomas, a member of the congregation acting as a spokesperson for Nolensville Church, said they would be fully cooperating with the police.
“Anything we could ever do to help them, we would try to do,” he said. “We wanted to see this all the way through because nobody should ever hurt a child.”
Thomas said church leaders had no knowledge of Patterson’s actions, and they only came to light after he suddenly resigned in September last year. “The next day we found out the truth,” he added.
Despite being accused of predominantly molesting boys, Patterson vocally opposed LGBTQ equality. In 2003 he campaigned against an anti-discrimination bill that would have protected jobs and housing for LGB people, telling the Tennessean, “We want to make sure we keep the pressure on, let them know that anytime they bring this up, we’ll be down here to oppose it.”
Nolensville Road Baptist, which is a conservative Independent Fundamental Baptist Church, also touts anti-LGBTQ attitudes on its website, particularly with regards families. “Our culture’s experiments with the family have left the American home in a mess,” the About page reads. “We still teach the biblical roles for the family as the best answer and our only hope for stable, unfulfilled homes.”
Patterson’s bond is set at $100,000, and police are urging anyone with information related to the investigation to contact the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department.
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