On October 27, 2015, Christ Church held a church-wide heads-of-households meeting to address questions raised by the sex-abuse scandals that had recently come to light. For the uninitiated, a “heads-of-households meeting” is a meeting that is attended by heads of households (HOH) only. However, in this case the Kirk invited wives to attend, presumably to assuage their innate fears for their children after they learned Pastor Douglas Wilson of Christ Church, Moscow, unleashed two sexual predators against Kirk and community.
The meeting was split in half. The first half addressed serial pedophile Steven Sitler; the second half addressed Kirk predator Jamin Wight. Those familiar with Mr. Wilson’s hijinks will recognize some of the questions as obvious plants and those of us familiar with the facts of the Sitler case see a host of falsehoods, which we intend to correct. We inserted links (anchors) to each of the 19 questions before the transcript begins, to make navigation easier, after which follows a verbatim transcript of the first half of the October 27, 2015, HOH meeting.
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- Did Sitler commit any criminal activities after coming back into the congregation?
- Can you clarify “not guilty”?
- Did the elders debate about the upcoming marriage, or was that something that you decided?
- Is the status review still in process?
- What was the sentence that Steven received and how much of that did he end up serving? Was there anything the court had to say about his marriage?
- What are the state’s parameters for controlling Sitler’s life?
- When you chose to marry a serial pedophile to a graduate of New St. Andrews College, did you assume they would have children?
- Once a pedophile, always a pedophile?
- Is Sitler’s lifetime probation punishment for what he’s already done?
- So if probation includes not being able to be around children —
- How can a father teach Christ to his child when the court prohibits him from being with his child without a chaperone?
- How can we as a family help carry the Sitler’s burdens?
- Why this stigma about serial child molestations that have been forgiven?
- If it wasn’t for the public outcry, would we be here now?
- Who is Rose Huskey?
- Why did an elder from Christ Church introduce a graduate of New Saint Andrews College to a serial pedophile?
- A kirker tries to make sense of Doug Wilson presiding over the marriage of a graduate of New St. Andrews College to a serial pedophile.
- Can you talk about what you said to the judge — how you did work with Steven, his lawyer, the court?
- How would a biblical republic punish Sitler’s crimes?
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DOUGLAS WILSON: I think you all know why we’re gathered here. I want to explain a few things about how we wanted to do this and why. I have two timelines basically, I want to walk through some highlights of the timelines. The first one is a timeline on the Sitler case, and the second is on the Greenfield–Wight case. And then I’ve got notebooks on the table here. The far one is — I have here ten copies of the Sitler timeline and then I’ve got ten copies on the Greenfield–Wight timeline. Any of you are welcome to come up and look over the timeline. Timelines are color coded for different things you’re interested in. What we’re trying to do is prevent these timelines from showing up on the internet. We want members of our congregations to have access to them and to be able to ask questions about them but not to take one away and have somebody else publish every third word and misrepresent what’s happening, which has been a great deal of this controversy thus far.
So what I want to do is walk through the Sitler timeline. This timeline is constructed overwhelmingly from the elder minutes, from the heads-of-households minutes, and occasionally letters. So on this timeline I have three color codings: Yellow has to do with issues involving protection of the kids at Christ Church; the second, green, has to do with communications with the congregation . . . [inaudible] . . . and then black is where the families of the victims are redacted out. So we’re not talking about who the families of the victims were. But I do want to begin by saying, this is worth noting I say this at the top of the outline . . . that the families of the victims have behaved throughout this ordeal with remarkable Christian fortitude and grace, so nothing that’s said here is in any way critical of the families of the victims; in fact, contrary to that, we have many . . . [inaudible] . . . things to say in praise of them. Um, a lot of the time, if someone’s in the background, we wanted to protect them — and still do want to protect them — but after a while if people start speculating about what happened, then the [inaudible] might cease feeling like protection, and we just wanted to state outright that we have the highest respect for them. So I’ll walk through the Sitler timeline and you can verify — double-check — anything there afterwards, and then I’ll take questions on that, and then I’ll move to the other timeline. Alright.
“Doug Wilson reported that Steven Sitler was expelled from NSA last week for gross violation of the student code of conduct. Doug Wilson was informed of this situation last Thursday; on Friday Doug Wilson encouraged families of the victims to report this to the sheriff. While Steven is not a member of Christ Church he did attend the church. The Christ Church session is in agreement with the discipline imposed by the college, is cooperating with Steven’s home church, in any ecclesiastical discipline, and is in agreement with any civil penalties. In the event of a not guilty plea, the session recognizes this as a judicial category not a personal evasion of responsibility. Doug Wilson has been assured that Steven will accept full civil responsibility for his actions.”
So that’s how, ah, how that situation began, uh, there are a number of things that have been out on the internet that have been misleading. One of them is um, one of the arguments of the things that’s alleged is that we took many many months before we communicated with the heads of households about this but you have to remember that this was a small-town event — public, a very public event — nobody needed to be told what had happened, the basic facts of the case. After Steven was arrested, he was in Colville and he would make periodic trips down to Moscow. During these times I would see him — I spent a number of sessions with him — and during that time, Steven, at my urging, busted himself for other episodes where he was not, had not been caught. So we had every reason to believe that Steven was forthcoming about everything that had happened, because he was confessing the things we had no way of knowing had he not confessed. Um, so uh, Steven uh, so when we had the heads-of-households meeting where we informed everybody — where we had formal communication with the heads of households, that was where we were anticipating Steven coming — being released from jail and coming back into communion. But the lion’s share of our communication with the congregation had to do with preparing the congregation for Steven’s re-entry into Moscow, how we would handle that. As it happened, he was under a restriction by the State of Idaho and under a simultaneous restriction by the elders of Christ Church that he could not be anywhere where children were present, which excluded Sunday morning. So after Steven came back um . . . [inaudible] . . . but there were a number of years where Steven did not worship with us on Sunday morning. We had special services which Greyfriars ran for him — for him to fellowship — but he was not in the congregation with us. After the State of Idaho gave permission for him to worship on Sunday morning, the elders considered it, we had a heads-of-households meeting where we communicated that prospect, that possibility to the heads of households, got feedback from that, and decided to do that. So Steven has been attending Christ Church since then, but he is never there without a trained chaperone accompanying him the entire time. So that’s, um, that’s the basic lay of the land. The other thing that has — on the back page, in 2011, it says,
“Doug Wilson updated the elders on the upcoming Sitler–Travis wedding. Douglas will mention the wedding at the upcoming HOH meeting; Douglas will send Toby a copy of what he’s going to say at the HOH.”
So that’s the basic lay of the land. And the mile markers, the timeline markers are all here. Are there any questions? And let me just say the reason for this is to answer any questions you might have, so it’s not bad form for you to ask. [Laughter] And it’s not bad form for . . . [inaudible, laughter]
QUESTION: Did Sitler commit any criminal activities after coming back into the congregation?
DOUGLAS WILSON: No. So basically what we’re dealing with here is — when he was arrested he served six-month sentence in a treatment, in sex offender treatment, and there was also — and then he spent time in the Latah County Jail. After he was released he was given a life sentence, and that meant that after he was released he was on probation for life, and has periodic lie detector tests, etc. From the time he was released to the time of his wedding, he was free of any probation violations. And from the time of the wedding until the present, the same. What the most recent, ah, dustup was about was a violation, an alleged, ah, there was a status review. Because, uh, Steven was married and had a son — Rose Huskey, again, was agitating about that. And in the course of that, um, there was a lie detector test that Steven failed a question on. And then the examiners said — so you can’t use lie detectors in court, but polygraphers can use them as a conversation starter — “Uh, you failed a question, can you tell me what this might be?” Uh, they had that conversation, um, the polygrapher wrote up a report that went to the prosecutor’s desk. The prosecutor looked at that report and wanted to change the status, having to do with the Sitler son — infant — in household. It was not an allegation of a probation violation. It was a risk assessment going forward. That make sense?
QUESTIONER: Thank you.
QUESTION: Can you clarify whether . . . [inaudible] . . .
DOUGLAS WILSON: Yes, let me repeat the question. Can I clarify what I said? Um, I granted that, um, in the event of a “not guilty” plea the session recognizes this as a judicial category, not as an evasion of personal responsibility. What that means is that when you plead not guilty, you set in motion a certain series of — you have a requirement of due process — where certain things have to be established and shown to the court. And “not guilty” means that that’s what you’ve got to do. We were assured that if he pled “not guilty,” it would not mean that he was claiming not to have done any of this. So simultaneously with all of this he was confessing to additional instances of guilt. So we were not interested in helping Steven evade personal responsibility to own his crimes, but when you plead not guilty, you’re simply making the system work at a certain speed, documenting certain things. Now as it happens that’s not how it came out, but that’s what we were anticipating.
QUESTION: Did the elders debate about the upcoming marriage, or was that something that the minister decided — that you decided?
DOUGLAS WILSON: I don’t remember a debate. The minutes do record discussion of it beforehand, uh, before and after. And there was discussion of it at the heads of households. So, um, this is 2011, April of 2011,
“Douglas updated the elders on the upcoming Sitler–Travis wedding.”
So the elders talked about it.
“Douglas will mention the wedding at the upcoming HOH meeting.”
So everybody in the congregation was informed. And,
“Douglas will send Toby a copy of what he’s going to say at HOH.”
So we had full ventilation of the upcoming wedding at the time. Some of the other elders can help me. I don’t remember any debate, “Yes, we should, no we shouldn’t.” I don’t remember anything like that, but there was full disclosure — full ventilation of the situation.
QUESTION: Is the status review still in process?
DOUGLAS WILSON: Yes, the status review is in process, that’s my understanding, that the status review is in process, um, and I’m trying to say as little about that as possible, so to not throw . . . [inaudible] . . . but my understanding it’s not yet resolved.
QUESTION: What was the sentence that Steven received, and how much of that did he end up serving. Also was there anything the . . . [inaudible] . . . had to say about his relationship?
DOUGLAS WILSON: His sentence where he was found guilty. The offenses — there were offenses in Idaho and other states and, um, the prosecutor in Washington agreed to roll everything together into one in Idaho, so basically there was one trial, one conviction in Idaho, that was served as representative for these other cases, and Steven was sentenced to life, uh, a lifetime sentence, which means that when he is out on probation, if there were a probation violation for example, he could go back to prison for life. So that’s the sentence. Before Steven got married he, uh, it was not just a matter of the elders and the heads of households being on board with it, which we were. Judge Stegner also, uh, had to approve of it in order for the wedding to go forward. And Steven’s secular counselors thought that it was a good idea. So the secular counselors thought it was a good idea, Judge Stegner said it was a good idea for Steven and for society, and we agreed with that. Now, part of the debate on the internet has revealed, I believe a sane and reasonable person could disagree with what we did, and I think you could have a debate about that. But I think it’s really hard to argue that what we did there was scandalous. It was not a scandal. We did everything — due process, notified the elders, notified the heads of households, talked about it, the judge approved it, the secular counselors were on board. So that’s . . . [inaudible] . . . . One of the problematic things is, when Sitlers had their baby boy, that also was not a probation violation. So that wasn’t a violation of probation. But it did create this circumstance, right? So it started the debate. The recent debate about all of this was occasioned by that, and I believe, I don’t think, can’t quote it verbatim, but I believe the judge said something about having children, something like, “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” Or he wasn’t sure about that. He was in favor of the wedding, but I think it would be a stretch to say he was in favor of having children and I know that initially the plan was to not have children, and it was the birth of the child that led to this current . . . [inaudible] . . .
QUESTION: Well, I’m wondering what the state’s parameters are for even being able to say — is it a recommendation — or is it he must do this, he must not do this?
DOUGLAS WILSON: Well I think the state’s leverage on this is not so much “May I have a child?” But you can say, “You cannot be around this child,” that’s where the pinch is. So Steven has a number of trained chaperones, one of whom is his wife, um, and so you can say, “Well he’s in the house with a trained chaperone.” But the chaperone has to sleep sometime, and so the judge could say something like, “Well it’s not a probation violation for you to have a child, but I can prudentially say, ‘Well, let’s keep you away from the child.’” And that’s what all this was about. And by prudentially, I’m not saying anything one way or the other about that decision. I’m saying that that’s the thought process.
QUESTION: I have three maybe four questions if that’s okay: When you chose to marry Sitler and his wife, did you assume children, and do you have to assume children when you marry a couple?
DOUGLAS WILSON: No. [Repeats question] No, I was not assuming children, I was assuming not children for the time being. I’m trying to — some of this when we went back and reconstructed everything, a lot of it is well documented. Some of it I just have to rely on what was I thinking at the time. As I think back to that time, I was assuming not children. I know that they were preventing pregnancy for the first part of their marriage. I was assuming that. I think I was also assuming that that was a legal restriction. But I was not assuming that they would get married and start having kids. So I was assuming something contrary to that.
QUESTION: Okay, so —
DOUGLAS WILSON: No, we don’t believe that any of us are identified by our sins.
QUESTION: Okay, um, he is now a father to a child, and one of his biggest responsibilities is to represent Christ to that child, that now has to be around him with a chaperone, as do any more children. How does that work out, I guess I still keep coming back to, I keep bumping up against, you married them. Do you see where I’m going?
DOUGLAS WILSON: Yes. Yes, and just so — to be really clear about this — I conducted the wedding and would do so again next week. So this is not one of those things where I wish I hadn’t done that. It would have been much more convenient had this not happened, but I don’t think we were put here for convenience. I think we’re, this has been a big trouble but I would do it again. And the reason I would do it again goes back to the initial question, “Once a pedophile, always a pedophile.” Well, there are challenges to this kind of family, to a family under these conditions, there are challenges to having a child or children under these conditions, and if those conditions come to pass, then I believe that the people who are in that difficulty need the help of Christ’s body to help them do a difficult thing. Nobody wants children harmed, molested, neglected . . . [inaudible] . . . you know, we want this to be a God-glorifying marriage, family etc., and because of those circumstances it requires additional labor and work on the part of God’s people. So I don’t think it’s easy. I don’t think it’s, “Oh, all you have to do is because Jesus,” and so when I say, “No, not once a pedophile always a pedophile,” I don’t believe you can just snap your fingers and invoke the magic forgiveness card: “I’ve been forgiven, I prayed the prayer and it’s all gone.” I think it has to be a long journey, a lot of people walking with the Sitlers, helping them um, I baptized their son, and the vow we take is a weighty vow: you’ve gotta help these parents with the Christian nurture of their child, and we all said amen. So that’s what we’re up against. It’s a big deal. It’s a huge challenge. So when I conducted the wedding, when, ah, if the church were to prohibit the wedding, say, “No, you can’t get married,” what do we do if he goes to a justice of the peace? Do we say, “If you get married we’ll excommunicate you?” No, that would be ridiculous. Why would we say, “The one lawful sexual expression that’s available to you we’ll excommunicate you if you pursue that, and we’re going to leave you to your own devices, and we’re going to shut off this lawful avenue”? So if he went and got a civil ceremony and came back in the church, we wouldn’t excommunicate him; but we would have poked him in the eye, right? We will not conduct the wedding and we won’t kick you out, and you can just go to heaven with us, but on the back of the bus. [Laughter] What we wanted to do was say, “No, if this was lawful, if it was a lawful wedding, if there was nothing prohibiting the wedding, okay. So it’s a lawful wedding. It’s going to be tough and we want to help you as much as we can.” So that’s the reason.
QUESTION: So part of what we as a family . . . [inaudible] . . . considering is that we are also learning how to come alongside and carry the burdens of another family in our conversation and . . . literally what they cannot do on their own.
DOUGLAS WILSON: Right. So we believe that apart from the grace of God generally ordinarily mediated through God’s people, I think this is an impossible situation. And I also think this is a good point to say, given the very nature of the case, when you have a molestation or a problem like this and the offender is caught, the victim’s family’s problems have largely just ceased, or at least apparently ceased. We found out what the problem was. Now I know that’s not true, but in terms of the — the offender’s problems have just started. So, um, I’m — let’s just make up another imaginary situation not like this at all where someone offends some grievously, and then they get caught and it’s criminal, I’m going to be getting ten times more phone calls from the offender needing help, who’s in trouble, who knows he’s in trouble and wants pastoral help, and the people who just got delivered from this problem are going to say, “Well I need to forgive” — and that’s true, but for victims there’s oftentimes things that need to be processed, so I’m not saying no help is needed, but it’s not on fire the way it is with someone going to court and who might be facing penitentiary time. That’s the change. And so we have to be representatives of Christ to everyone in the situation — the victims’ families, the offenders’ families, um, and in this case, the Travis household. We have to be Jesus to everyone, and we don’t ever do it perfectly. So that’s what the task is.
QUESTION: May I make a statement or a comment? I’d like to thank Steven publicly for manning up. Most guys would be in Timbuktu and still running. And a question: Why this stigma about a sin that’s forgiven?
DOUGLAS WILSON: Right. The question is why the stigma for this sin. Partly it’s because it’s a question of how the parents here feel toward their own children, the protective feelings they have for their own children. This is it in a nutshell, yeah, there’s forgiveness for drunkenness, but you don’t make that guy a bartender. There’s forgiveness for embezzlement, but you don’t make that guy the church treasurer. There’s forgiveness for any number of sins, but forgiveness is one thing — trust and office-holding is another. Okay? So I believe that Steven knows, and we’ve certainly said it a number of times — uh, that he is welcome to the Lord’s Table together with us. I would do the wedding again, and I’ll serve him the Lord’s Supper next Sunday which is what I’m going to do and that’s just the way it is. The stigma that is attached to it is, we believe that Steven is as forgiven as it gets. We also believe that behaviors have consequences. We have situation — you can sin your way right out of a marriage, and be forgiven, but your wife is still married to somebody else. There are consequences, certain consequences that are going to be there. What we are dealing with are some of the practical logistical consequences, which present no barrier of fellowship between us and Steven.
QUESTION: If it wasn’t for the public outcry, would we be here now?
DOUGLAS WILSON: No, the public outcry is the answer to questions — this meeting is to answer questions that were generated in large part by the public outcry. Uh, a year ago, well, months ago, before this all started, we were in much the same position but we had no need to uh, address this because all the mechanisms were in place.
QUESTION: Who is Rose Huskey and how is she related to the victims?
DOUGLAS WILSON: Rose Huskey is — um [laughter] — thank you for asking that! [More laughter] Rose Huskey is a member of what I call the local intoleristas, part of the left liberal progressive element in Moscow that has been opposed to us for many years. So she was part of the slavery controversy — the history thing over a decade ago — so she has been sort of a gadfly attacking us whenever she gets a chance.
QUESTION: One of the accusations that I’ve heard was that some . . . [inaudible] . . . in the community kind of encouraged them and set them up as a couple; and that’s not an accusation against you obviously but against someone else, but it seems like there’s a difference in encouraging people, or setting them up, and being okay with them getting married if they choose to. What are your thoughts in like . . . [inaudible] . . .
DOUGLAS WILSON: Okay, this question summarized has to do with was there matchmaking involved in Steven and Katie getting together. There was an introduction — not by me — it was by Ed Iverson. Ed Iverson moved here from Fallon, Nevada, where Katie Travis was from. So this was not someone from — Ed was not functioning as a representative from the board of elders saying, “Hey, we want to marry you off.” It wasn’t anything like that. It was a family friend of the Travises, uh, Katie spent time with the Iversons. It was an introduction there made — a suggestion made — but it was not a church-orchestrated matchup.
QUESTION: It just seemed like it might — like you might — that it would be a different issue to do that sort of thing, not that, it’s a wisdom issue obviously but. . .
DOUGLAS WILSON: Right. Um, some other issues related to that that I might anticipate would be, “Did Katie know?” Yes, so everything was on the table. “Did her parents know?” Yes, everything was on the table. “Did she know what she was getting into?” And the answer to all that is yes. We were not strong-arming her or trying to — “Okay, here’s someone who would agree to marry Steven if we pressured her enough.” It wasn’t that way at all.
QUESTION: Doug, some of the accusations has been that you asked the court for leniency . . . [inaudible] . . . express something like that. Can you talk about what you did say, how you did work with Steven, his lawyer, the court?
DOUGLAS WILSON: Right. What I did say, the letter to — let’s see if I’ve got that here. I’ll just quote it from memory. What I — prior to Steven’s sentencing, I wrote to the judge and said — and I remember pondering this very carefully — “How do I say this?” — I believed that Steven was repentant in his conversations with me, largely because of him busting himself on a number of things, and he had every expectation that he would spend the rest of his life in prison, or could quite possibly spend the rest of his life in prison because of what he was telling me. So that was part of how I gauged the sincerity of his repentance. So I wrote the judge, and what I said to the judge was that I was grateful that Steven had been caught early in his life, I was grateful that he was receiving hard consequences in real time, and I urged the judge that when he was considering sentencing that his sentencing would be “measured and limited.” That’s what I said and I remember thinking, “How do I?” — I was on kind of a tightrope and I — so if you put those things together, what I was asking the judge to do is have “measured and limited” consequences that were hard. I was grateful for “hard consequences” in real time. And what did I mean by “measured and limited”? I didn’t want the judge to lose his temper. You know, I wanted the judge to make a solemn judicious decision in the light of these indicators, and I didn’t mind that decision being hard, I think basically what it boils down to is that there’s a lot of grief that has flowed out of this, not just for Steven, for Katie, but for a lot of people. A lot of grief has flowed out of this, and it all goes back to Steven’s crimes and sins. And the hard consequences of this sin have continued to the present, and I am content with God governing the world in that way. I don’t think an injustice has been done. So what I wanted the judge to do was not lose his temper, have measured deliberate sentencing, and I didn’t have months or years, I didn’t have a particular sentence in mind, I was more concerned about the quality of the judgment than the quantity of years.
DOUGLAS WILSON: Okay, if we lived in a biblical republic? Okay, um, there’s several things, let me answer that question twice, two ways. I’ll first answer — in First Corinthians, Corinth was a debauched city. Anybody who knows anything about the Greco–Roman Period knows that virtually everyone in the congregation would have been perpetrators or victims of some . . . [inaudible] . . . the Roman Empire was a sexual cesspool. And Paul writes in Corinthians and he says, “and such were some of you, but you were washed and you were cleansed.” . . . [inaudible] . . . he does not require offenders in the Corinthian church to go downtown and throw themselves off a bridge. He doesn’t require execution, um, he says we start from where we are. In a biblical society we want to rebuild from the inside up. I believe we are closer to that situation than to the other, but if you were to hypothesize, and agree on this biblical republic down the road, I believe sexual crimes against children could receive a just penalty of death under certain circumstances.
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