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Youth Pastor and Sexual Assault (Haven’t we heard this one way too many times?)

5 June, 2008

This is from the Times Leader of Wilkes-Barre, PA.

A former youth pastor at the Christ Community Church in Kingston, PA, Brian Andrew Neiswender, is in big trouble..  He assaulted two teenage girls while playing hide and seek in the church (when he found the girls, he ‘inappropriately touch[ed] them’).  He also touched them during piano and guitar lessons, and forced one of the teens to sit on his lap.  After questions were raised about the inappropriately contact, the church decided that he had to have another person present during lessons.  After that got ignored, he decided he would go further, and fondled one of the girls under her shirt. 

Apparently, the church was happy when he left.  So happy that they didn’t tell his new employer:  Heritage Baptist Church in Lakeland, Florida.  The new church did the proper thing.  They did the background check, and he came back clean.  Oh, his new job at the Florida church?  Neiswender is ‘listed on the Heritage Baptist Church Web site as pastor of youth ministries.’

I have many problems with this.  First, the adult taking advantage of teenage girls.  Second, why, after a report was made to the Pennsylvania church that Neiswender had been accused of fondling girls under his ministry, the old church didn’t bother telling the new one in Florida?  Third, don’t Christians claim (repeatedly) that they are the moral ones and non-believers are the amoral ones?  Then why do so many ministers, youth ministers, pastors, priests, etc, wind up in the news for sexual crimes against children.  And if you think I am painting this with too broad of a brush, check out Deep Thoughts.  And keep scrolling down.  It gets repetitive.  And it gets nauseating.

All information for this post is from The Times Leader of Thursday, June 5, 2008.  Any mistakes (other than spelling and grammar) are not mine.

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35 comments

  1. Ever notice that criminals all have three names? I know it has to do with the fact that when they are booked, they take all three names for identifications, but I like the symmetry anyway.

    Just thought I’d point that out. 😉


  2. So what’s the Spanish Inquisitor’s middle name? Spanish Rice Inquisitor? After all, I gave you my middle name: ‘the.’


  3. SI, you sound like Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory.

    “Ever wonder why all of the famous assassins had three names? John Wilkes Booth. Lee Harvey Oswald. Mark David Chapman… Sirhan Sirhan… I’ve haven’t figured that one out yet. Maybe it was Sirhan Sirhan Sirhan.”


  4. Since I only have two names, I’m obviously not a criminal. 😉


  5. It’s Spanish Fucking Inquisitor. Or maybe Fucking Spanish Inquisitor. Just call me F. Spanish, for short.


  6. I am a current member of Brian’s youth group in Florida and as someone who has worked with him extra hours on the worship team and gotten to know him very well, and as a female, I know that he would never EVER do anything of this sort. He is a Godly man with a heart for Christ whose primary concern is teaching teens about God and His love. He has inspired me and many others at our church so much and I feel out youth ministry has grown and prospered because of his commitment to doing God’s will. Funny how Satan has to find some way to slip in when a person of God is furthering the kingdom at such a rapid pace. I can only pray that those who are pointing fingers will examine their own lives and find that only God can give true satisfaction and love.


  7. Florida Youth Member,

    Me and my sister grew up together. As a teenager, she had “boy problems” and my mom frequently got upset with her about them. Later on, she met a guy at her work and they fell in love. Eventually, they got married. A few years down the road, they got a divorce. Apparently, she’s a lesbian and has been one since childhood. I would swear up and down that she was straight — heck, she even got married. Apparently, what I know of who she was (she is my sister!) is irrelevant.

    Always keep that in mind.


  8. FYM: So he didn’t do it and Satan made him do it?

    Nathan: And this furthers the conversation how? Homosexuality has nothing to do with this. It is a matter of an adult in an position of authority abusing those placed under him. I personally think it has less to do with religion or Christianity and more to do with authoritarianism.


  9. I think Nathan’s point was that one person’s experience of another, even someone close to them, is not necessarily a useful guide to that person.

    Only he put it more clearly than that, so I’m not sure how I’m helping, here…


  10. Yunshui: You did help. Reading Nathan’s comment after reading yours does make sense.

    Nathan: Welcom to my blog and sorry about that — I misread your comment. That is a very good warning to a young woman: you can know someone for years and still have no idea who they really are.


  11. No offense FYM, but maybe you’re not his type.

    Yeah, funny how that Satan manages to slip in and slide a good man’s hand up a girl’s shirt completely against his will. Ever wonder maybe if Satan could do that, then he could perhaps blind you while he makes Brian do the hand slide trick again, or worse? I’m just saying, as long as you’re going to use the Satan idea, follow it to it’s logically possible ends.

    My initials spell DAM. I thought if I ever married a woman with a last name that started with N, I’d be tempted to pull the hyphen thing to get DAMN. I do have three names though, so clearly I must be a criminal.


  12. Philly: Satan must be awfully bored, too. He’s got millions, even billions, of bad girls in hell, but he needs to send a youth pastor’s hand up a girl’s shirt.

    In real life, I have four names (one of them is Junior). I try not to use my initials: BC or WC or WDC (all of which have different meanings).


  13. I think that it is strange that after two years these girls are now coming out. I think that they had brains back then also and knew that what he was doing was wrong and that maybe at the time they liked it for attention. I am just saying you all need to get two sides of the story. I also think that it is funny that when things like this happens to Christians everyone forgets that they are just people like everyone else we still have the same thoughts and feelings but it is when we mess up even if it is just once that everyone else makes a BIG deal about it.


  14. JAC: Welcome to my blog.

    First, the girls did report the abuse to someone contemporaneous with the abuse, else why would the church have introduced a policy that the youth pastor not be alone with teenage girls?

    Second: You are right, they may have (I have no idea) enjoyed the contact. After all, our bodies have evolved to enjoy certain types of contact (if a person dislikes sexual contact, it is doubtful their genes will be passed on to the next generation). Also, to a teenager, the attention of an adult authority figure can, in some instances, validate an immature ego.

    Third: We will get both sides when it comes out in court. I will, assuming the local paper covers it (and I spot it), continue to post on this local alledged crime.

    Fourth: I do not forget that Christians are ‘just people like everyon else.’ We are all human beings. However, Christians also claim that morality is impossible without God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I am an atheist. I do not claim that my way of living is the only right way.

    Fifth: The abuse of a child’s trust is always something to make a ‘BIG deal about’ whether the abuser is a Christian, Muslim, atheist, Buddhist, animist, or any other religious or non-religious person.


  15. Wow, don’t you just love the Christian response if a Christian does something wrong, “We’re all just human. Everyone deserves forgiveness. Its Satan, etc, blah blah”. I wonder how the tables would turn if this was a Muslim youth pastor (do they have those?) molesting Muslim children. They’d probably be all, “see, thats what happens when you worship a false religion. A good Christian wouldn’t do that. This country needs more Christians, we need prayer in schools. All the wrongs of this country are because we’re going away from God, etc”. Only Christians can be good, but if they do wrong, they’re usually just not True Christians ™.


  16. Sabrina,

    You bring up a good point. Too many Christians think that if you go through all the motions openly, you are perfect and can not fall. We tend to forget that there are hypocrites in every religion.

    Billy,

    I’m glad to visit! I apologize for perhaps not elaborating on the point a tad more for a little more clarity. Also, regarding your third point in response to Just Another Christian, I believe at least one or two of the several girls effected by Neiswender had crushes on him at the time, so it is possible that at least one or two of them might have had conflicting emotions about speaking out.


  17. To the spanish inquisiter: Ever wonder why almost every person on earth has three names? Ever wonder why all you computer geeks have time to make up ridiculous nonsenscical comments about people you don’t know. Oh, by the way do you have three names? You must like driving by playgrounds sporting your fresh mustache offering to let little kids pet your cute puppies.


  18. Sabrina: Check out PhillyChief’s post: Theist Trick: Scotsman’s Fallacy (
    http://youmademesayit.blogspot.com/2008/05/theist-trick-scotsman-fallacy.html ) where he does an excellent analysis of this whole, if they are good they are Christian, if they are bad, they are not a true Christian.

    Nathan: I agree.

    BTOWN: I’m not going to bother defending one of my mentors (SFI: did you know I consider you an inspiration and mentor (among many others?)). But if you really insist on going after him, by all means, be my guest. It should make for a fun comment section.

    And not everyone on earth has three names. Navajos (keep in mind I lived in Arizona in elementary school, and this is based on those memories) have their common name (first and last name, plus, for some, a middle name), their clan name, and then their ceremonial name (that’ how a Navajo kid in my class described it). Don’t assume that American culture is the only culture on earth.


  19. Billy,

    Notice the qualified word “almost”. By the way I’m not so wrapped up in American culture that I don’t understand how things operate in other cultures. Actually I am married to a woman who was born and raised in a very different country and culture. (SHE HAS 3 NAMES) Oh my roommate was from Kenya and his name happened to be ” —– Wabootie Odanga” that would be three names. I realize that not all cultures operate the way we do I’m pretty sure SFI was talking about hearing news from the US about Child molesters unless he likes following child molestation news around the world. Even if you say the word “almost” is not an accurate representation. It an accurate representation of his comments. Although I can appreciate your concern for your boyfriend I remained unmoved. I do appreciate your response b/c actually has some resemblance of sense but next time, take a gander at my actual words before make a response (the word almost)


  20. Btown,

    I’m trying to follow your points and what your intent for them are but I”m having trouble. What is it about SI’s comments you have trouble with?

    I think what SI was commenting on was not having 3 names but using 3 names. SI pointed out that it has to do with booking more than likely, so then I guess you could say the media has us conditioned to, when hearing someone with three names, think criminal since criminals (well, we should say suspects) when named in the news are named with their full name, which ALMOST always contains 3 names, as you said.

    Now the “all you computer geeks have time to make up ridiculous nonsenscical comments about people you don’t know” thing I don’t get. What’s that about? Are you identifying yourself as a computer geek since you’re making up comments about people you don’t know like that bit about mustaches and puppies? How do you even know this is indicative of computer geeks? Is there something you can cite to support this claim of computer geek behavior, or are you actually making ridiculous nonsenscical comments about a group and then compounding that by making more ridiculous nonsenscical comments about an individual?

    Japanese also don’t have 3 names, btw. Imo, the Dutch generally don’t either. I don’t count the “van” as a name. Those are the only peeps I have actual knowledge of so that’s all I’ll bring up since I don’t want to be guilty of making up ridiculous nonsenscical comments about people I don’t know. 😉


  21. PhillyChief-
    “All you computer geeks have time to make up ridiculous nonsensical comments about people you don’t know”- stated by me.
    TRUE
    Still true by the way.
    What’s not to get. My comments to you and your comments to me are based on previous interaction -therefore based on my knowledge of you. Bottom-line is that it was a foolish comment and to elaborate on it any more just gives credence to the original argument which in fact was-
    “ Ever notice that criminals all have three names?…” SI
    ( Don’t we mean “alleged” criminal in this case).
    Not only that but don’t we mean to say “Ever notice how criminals are referenced with three names- not just” have” them?
    Doesn’t have “HAVE” mean procession of something or ownership?
    In fact it does. Look it up. Oh I did. Here’s the first definition that pops up.
    1 to possess; own; hold for use; contain:

    Sound familiar?
    I “have” three names.
    I “have” a valid point.
    “HAVE” IS WHAT MAKES THE STATEMENT NONSENSICAL.


  22. Bottom-line is that it was a foolish comment and to elaborate on it any more just gives credence to the original argument which in fact was-
    “ Ever notice that criminals all have three names?…”

    If that’s the argument, then it’s you who gave it credibility with “Ever wonder why almost every person on earth has three names?”. If almost everyone on Earth has three names, then certainly criminals are far more likely to have three names.

    Is it the apparent obviousness of the thing which he’s asking is ever noticed being what’s bothering you? If so, how did all that about mustaches, puppies and playgrounds help to voice that? Likewise, how did the computer geek bit serve that end? That all seems quite tangential and superfluous if all you were trying to do was voice such an objection to that original argument of SI’s. I believe what you HAVE is quite a case of excess verbosity and what everyone here may HAVE is some wasted time thanks to you.


  23. Didn’t quite understand your first response but all is good. I stop wasting your time.


  24. So, I don’t know much about this situation, but in Brian’s defense, those girls that he was teaching could possibly be the “needy” type of girls. “Needy” girls are always looking for any possible way to get attention…I’ve had to deal with too many of them in my lifetime (and i’m only 18!). First off it was a mistake to be alone with them…that is something that should never happen, however while playing a game in the dark, he could have accidentally touched them without looking, in an inappropriate area, but complete mistake…(it can happen easily), and those girls could have blown it up into “he stuck his had down my shirt”.

    I’m not saying this is the case, but similar situations have happened like this to people I know, and people have said unbelievable lies like these in my own youth group. It’s incredible when a girl wants attention badly…hell can break loose.

    I’m just saying it’s sad really cause any girl can lie about something like this in this day and time…and it doesn’t take much for an innocent man to be locked up.

    Needy girls can be terrible to have to put up with. I now that it’s a problem they have to go through, but they just deal with it in wrong ways.


  25. So where do these “needy girls” usually hang out?

    What kind of game do you suggest I say we’re playing in the dark, sport, to make one of these “accidental” things happen?


  26. Just thinkin:

    Nice. Really nice. So you’re going with the old-school “blame the victim” route, then. Would you like to perhaps explain this “needy girl” psychological model you have so eloquently constructed?

    Or, just possibly, you might want to look again at the incredible sexist nature of your remarks, and perhaps retract them. I’m just saying…


  27. Just Thinkin: Once is an accident, twice a coincidence, multiple times is planned molestation.

    And even if the girls wanted attention, he is the adult and (presumably) knows where the limits are.

    As far as seeking attention, gee, do you really think a teenage girl is going to think: “If I accuse this youth pastor of molesting me, I’ll finally be in with the cool crowd?”

    Blaming the victim has helped keep this kind of behaviour around for thousands of years.

    Just Thinkin’ — hmmmm. You should try it. Don’t know if it will work, but give it a try. What do you have to lose? Narrow-minded mysogyny comes to mind.


  28. To all who replied to my comment:
    Um…if you read my whole you you’ll see that i state: “This may not be the case”…. And i’m not blaming the victim. I said it was a dumb mistake that an adult man put himself into a situation where bad things could occur. It was a very bad choice. But like I said, just from my personal experiences…this could be a possibility.

    I wasn’t going to share this example, but I will now to further explain what I mean…I know a girl who went around for a whole year and had the people in my town convinced that a boy she went to school with raped her. A boy that was COMPLETELY INNOCENT. It finally came out that she was lying and she admitted to it. But that whole terrible situation never had to happen. She is completely the girl that i am describing to you. I know at least five more girls that I have been around that are just like that. They think that if they get pity from people, they will feel better about themselves.

    Once again, I AM NOT SAYING THAT THIS IS THE CASE. However, with the very little details they have shown in this case…we have to remember that this is a very depraved world with depraved people. People make mistakes and there’s consequences. But it’s always funny that the first person to screw up big always get the largest stones thrown at them. And no, I’m not saying that we should let child molesters roam around either. I’m just saying that I know this guy and i have respect for him. Being in a position that he is in at a church is one of the hardest positions because pastors are always being watched for any little mistake they make. It’s not an easy job to say the least.


  29. JT: Either she was lying to get attention, or, through pressure by family, friends, etc., she recanted. Either way, the young lady needs help.

    I did read your initial post. If you did not mean to imply that it was the victim’s fault, you should have chosen different words and different phraseology.


  30. Okay… I feel like I’m going back and fourth here…but I don’t like to “blame the victim” I was asking…Is she a victim? If she is, there is nothing to blame here. But if she is not then she indeed is guilty and he is the victim.

    This is what I was trying to convey and I should have made it more clear.


  31. Very interesting dialog, but apparently some of you haven’t been a victim of the press. If you remember the lacrosse players from Duke who were accused of rape. They lost their lives: school, sports, reputation, etc. mainly due to the press taking one piece of information and then writing a creative story. In the end, the girl stated she made it up and she goes on with her life with little self-respect and no integrity but by her own choosing. However, the 3 guys she accused lost their careers, college education, self-respect, integrity, and the list goes on…however, not by their choosing. Put yourself in his shoes and imagine what would be at stake for you if a woman made accusations about you and the press printed incorrect information or only one side of the story. Do you really know if the church was told…because they refuse to comment. So, did it really happen at all. Do you know the situation with the past church? No. You don’t even know the people involved, yet you pass judgement. No worries though, when He prevails then I would expect comments to show up, saying WOW, guess he was innocent! FYI: Christians are not exempt from consequences for their behavior and they should be held responsible for their behavior…when guilty. Christians are also forgiven, not because we deserve it but because Christ died for our sins, past..present..and future. This doesn’t mean a Christian should attempt to sin because they know they are forgiven…this is not the believers way of thinking.


  32. BRF: I was under the impression that the Duke lacrosse players were victims of an over-zealous, hyper-righteous, and extremely political prosecuting attorney. And we still do not know what actually happened in that fraternity house.

    Do you really know if the church was told? I am safe in inferring that the church was told. If they were not, then why did they institute a policy stating that the youth pastor was not to be alone with teenage girls?

    Do you know the situation with the past church? Did you even read my post, or the original article in the Times Leader? There are, to my knowledge, no accusations coming from anyone at his new church in Florida. The accusations stem from ongoing alleged events at a church in Kingston, PA. The only way the church in Florida is involved is that they hired him, and the Kingston church appears not to have warned the Florida church that there were strong enough concerns to warrant limits on his contact with certain parishioners.

    You don’t even know the people involved, yet you pass judgement. Read my post. I did not pass judgement. Nowhere do I say he is guilty. That judgement will be made by a jury of his peers, a judge, or Mr. Neiswender working with his lawyer. And as for not knowing the people involved and passing judgement? Have you read some of the garbage coming from, say, Dobson’s Focus on the Family? He makes blanket judgements about millions whom he does not know.

    No worries though, when He prevails then I would expect comments to show up, saying WOW, guess he was innocent! Assuming I am not at a wildland fire when it happens, I will continue to post about this case of alleged molestation, and will continue to comment, whatever the outcome of the case. I notice you capitalize ‘He’ in your comment. Does this mean that Jesus or God has a personal interest in where this person placed his hands and whether he abused his trust?

    And as for the FYI part: I’m quite aware of the doctrine regarding forgiveness — personal behavious does not matter as long as you believe the right thing about the right things. But, if you read my post above (please read it), you will notice I do not imply that he is, or should be, exempt from the consequences of his actions (which you, of course, say did not happen). I said:

    Third, don’t Christians claim (repeatedly) that they are the moral ones and non-believers are the amoral ones?

    Then I made a broad, though substantiated, statement regarding the number of church authority figures involved in sexual crimes and peccadillos.

    I will happily argue about what I have written (and to an extent, what others write in the comments), but I really don’t want to spend this amount of time defending tripe like this. Please read what I wrote. If you have new information, great. If you are putting words in my mouth . . . .


  33. I did read your post several times and the reason I wrote at all is because I felt it to be very one sided. So I am not putting words in your mouth as it appears you wrote them. “I have many problems with this. First, the adult taking advantage of teenage girls.” So you already believe he took advantage of teenage girls by that statement. Doesn’t that say guilty.

    Wouldn’t you think that maybe there was nothing substantial at the “old” church to tell the new church. And if they were so happy to get rid of him then why are they not making comments now. Why did the church split up? There is no indication there was a “policy” at the old church. One should verify information from reliable sources before posting anything.

    “Does this mean that Jesus or God has a personal interest in where this person placed his hands and whether he abused his trust?” Another statement that basically states he is guilty in your eyes. Yes, God has a personal interest in each and every person and everything they say and do, including you.

    “Third, don’t Christians claim (repeatedly) that they are the moral ones and non-believers are the amoral ones?” No, this is not the claim of Christians, but appears to be the thinking of people who don’t believe. All of us are sinners and not exempt from any moral code. Christians again are forgiven, if they ask for it! Yes, there are too many people of clergy(of all denominations) who have decided to sin against another person. This, however, doesn’t make every person in this position a sex offender. There are too many teachers who have broken the trust of students by their inappropriate sexual behavior. However, I can’t then assume that every teacher is going to behave that way.

    There was no need to get so defensive, you chose to respond to my comments. However, do you really want new information concerning this case because it will then go against what would make a great story. Again, I was only responding to what you chose to write. If you don’t want comments to be written unless they agree with you 100% then I find that to be disappointing….your way of thinking is the only right way of thinking. Isn’t this about opinions?

    If you had these allegations or something similiar charged against you and you were innocent, I think you would have a problem with how the press has decided the verdict before the trial has been set.


  34. BRF: My information was from a newspaper article. The only reason I wrote about it is that it was of local (to me) interest. I am aware that a small number of accusations of this type are baseless.

    As for my comment policy, this is a free-speech zone. I have many on here who do not agree with me. Some are quite respectful of differences of opinion. I have never said that my philosophy of life is the ‘only right way of thinking.’ That line of thinking tends to come through authoritarian thought patterns and ideas: say, most Christian churches?

    May reason find you and open your mind to the wonderful reality in which we live.


  35. Yes, I’m not seeing like the conflict here. You do something wrong and punishment will follow. Your protect the youth. Weird. . .



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