Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lastadian Sex Abuse Scandal

"A Pedophilia scandal with more than ten victims is now being rolled up in a revivalist movement within the state church in Pietarsaari in Finnish Ostrobothnia. Years of covering-up keeps the total number of victims unknown."

This headline made my stomach turn. As longtime readers of this blog may remember, several of us wrote to a Finnish elder about our concerns over sexual abuse in the OALC congregation. The parallels are chilling. Children are told to forgive the abuser, who repeatedly repents, and continues to abuse.

I can't read Finnish or Swedish, and the online translations are clumsy. Bilingual readers, please help.

How did this come to light? What sect is involved? What is the response from the sect? What is the response from their American counterparts?

Go here or here for the story.

UPDATE: I found an English version here.

33 comments:

  1. Here a few words.

    This happened in Pietarsaari/Finland. The preacher died some 30 years ago.

    The parents to the childes he abused caught him at an early stage.

    The preacher wanted to ask for forgiveness in the congregation. but his children (whose children he abused), forbid him, so he had to live with this sin all his life.

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  2. Laestadianinfo, I hope this is a language issue, but it sure seems like you feel the tragedy here is that a man was not "allowed" to confess to his congregation. (What, did his children cut out his tongue?).

    No, the tragedy here is that children were physically & psychologically ABUSED. The responsibility for the crime lies not only with the criminal but everyone in the community who put pride before love and common human decency.

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  3. Someone wanted to know what "sect" this is. Well, I don't know if it really matters because they are all the same in this regard, but that particular congregation belongs to the local ALC equivalent.

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  4. Luke 17:2 "It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones."

    What a harsh and horrific way to raise children. Awful. They and others like them will meet their maker some day and have to account for this.

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  5. > tragedy here is that a man was not
    > "allowed" to confess

    I believe it was an tradegy he wasn't allowed to confess his sin.

    If he had confessed in front of the congregation, some people (other than the parents), would have started to look after him.

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  6. According to my parents sexual, physical and emotional abuse of children goes way back within the ALC movement so the story was not surprising to me. This stuff is nothing new, only now people are finally having the courage to say what HAS BEEN GOING ON FOR YEARS. Most 'church efforts' have been on covering up the crime and then telling the children that they have to 'forgive' the abuser otherwise they are evil themselves. I think that many of those who would be considered 'guilt ridden' withiin Laestadian circles, or those who are generally considered to be fanatics by others are often those who were abuse victims as children themselves. There is a link between religious fanaticism and childhood molestation.

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  7. L Info, this is a black and white issue, there are no grey areas here. If the man was repentant and the victims chose to forgive him at some point in their lives, that is one thing. However, what he did is against the law and he should have paid the price. Besides, this crime is not like stealing a few dollars from the church coffers or cheating on your income taxes. This is a heinous crime committed by people who do NOT change. Children need to be protected from these kinds of people at all costs, and if parents won't step up and do their jobs, then they are not fit as parents. There can be no waffling here. It is wrong. The children are innocent. The perpetrator must be prosecuted and punished and kept away from society.

    Let's have courage and vow to speak up about abuse and not sweep it under the rug, especially when defenseless children are involved. Let it not happen any more. Speak up for the innocent ones, and don't protect abusers, no matter who they are.

    Anon, I have wondered about harsh discipline by parents and religious extremism. There just might be a link. God is portrayed as a fearful judge rather than a loving Father.. as in the article, the man said he wanted his children to know there is joy in life, not just fear. So sad.

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  8. ex falc says-

    Norah, In my husband's situation, I believe there was a link between harsh dicipline and religious extremism, but not sure what comes first because I think they go hand in hand. My husband's father was a religious fanatic who believed his children should not go to school because the only important thing in life was to know how to work, which means manual labor. Another reason he kept them away from school was because he wanted his kids to learn about god. I believe part of that mentality may have come from the fact that evolution is taught in many of the public schools. Because evolution was taught in the schools, my father-in-law rationalized that it was okay to keep his kids out of school. How someone can rationalize something like that, I don't know.

    Another thing he believed in was that his kids needed to live humble and it would do them good to live poor. Therefore, him and his siblings were extremely deprived. His mom had to beg for food to feed the kids, my husband only had 1 pair of shoes, and when the shoes wore out, he would have to use duct tape to keep them together. He only had 2 or 3 pairs of pants, and would wear them several days at a time because they did not have a washing machine. Keep in mind his dad had the financial means to provide better for his family, but chose not to. Now my husband hates his dad, I don't know if he will ever be able to forgive him. The type of abuse my husband endured, and other types of abuse, like sexual abuse, destroy people's lives. My husband will forgive when he is ready to forgive, not because his dad stands in front of a congregation and asks for forgiveness.

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  9. "However, what he did is against the law and he should have paid the price."

    I certainly agree, but the punishment for abusing children in Finland is 14 days to 4 years jail time, which in many cases mean you don't have to go to jail at all. Probably he would have got away with no jail at all, since he wasn't punished before. For harsh cases the punishment is 1 to 10 years in jail. The big problem was that the people that potentially would have protected the children wasn't aware, as I see it.

    Then another thing. I would like to ask the owner of this blog to put the following video in a posting:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYWlB64upSc

    I think the video describes some very bad untraditional theology, not only common in US, like the theologican says, but also in Europe.

    You can also see the video by clicking on my Nick!

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  10. Sadly, to those of us who have spent our formative years in the OALC this is all too common. Even more sadly it doesn't surprise us anymore. These pedophiles are well-respected individuals in their communities and NOTHING happens to them. Sad beyond words.

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  11. "However, what he did is against the law and he should have paid the price."

    I certainly agree, but I don't know what the punishment was for these crimes was at that time. Nowadays its a few weeks to 3 years prison. For harsh cases up to 10 years.

    In many cases these sentences are conditional even today, and he wasn't punished before, so he would probably not had to go to jail at all.

    Just by looking at the web (Helsingin Sanomat 8.5.2009 ), I can see that Jussi-Pekka Noukkala, born 1968 was sentenced to 4 years prison for abusing 34 children, and this was a very harsh case.

    People should simply have been made aware of his problem. Confessing in front of the congregation, leaving his role as preacher, and taking the juridical consecuences would have been the right thing.

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  12. Four years for abusing 34 children! You have got to be kidding!

    This animal needed to be put away for life. There is a lot of evidence that indicates these criminals will never be rehabilitated as so many of them become repeat offenders.

    To perpetuate a crime like this on innocent children robs them of much of their lives -- they suffer on, while the degenerates pay some small "price" and then happily carry on. The life that needs to be ruined is their own. Put them behind bars for life, give them adequate shelter, food, and clothing, and let them work with a nine pound hammer making large rocks into small rocks, while they reflect and "repent" for the remainder of their days.

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  13. No. You can read the article by yourself by clicking on my Nick.

    Generally I think the Finnish system where people are rarely put behind bars is good, since few people become better in jail, but in these cases I however think the court should be very restrictive.

    As you wrote, these people often repeat their crimes when they are released.

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  14. ex falc, I remember you writing about your husband's life as he was growing up.. surely neglectful of the children's needs, and abusive as well. Is his family still in this situation?

    yeah, 4 years for abusing 34 children - hardly any punishment at all. What about compassion and help for the victims? And how about stopping these people for good, so nobody else has to suffer? It seems the kids are forgotten in these cases, in favor of 'rehabilitating' and 'forgiving' the perps. There is no excuse. What kind of mindset justifies doing this to children.. it's just unimaginable.

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  15. I know of many people that have been abused in the church/churches. I would say it's safe to say the perpetrators are the ones who are protected. The victims are the ones who are not. There is alot more of this kind of abuse than people will ever know about because- "once it's forgiven, it's forgotten and drowned in the sea of grace." I was sexually abused by someone in the church. When it all came out, the subject was shoved under the rug, the man literally kicked out of town. All without anyone except a few people ever finding out. I still wish I would have pressed charges.

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  16. At LEAST he was literally kicked out of town--in many cases, NOTHING happens to the man who perpetuates this kind of abuse, not even the loss of his reputation. There was a man I know from my LLL-church who abused both his daughter and a niece. Both went on to have severe mental health issues with lives rife with addiction issues and general mental instability. I don't want to describe how because I don't want anyone reading this to figure out who they are--they've problems enough. One of them told me what had happened to her as a young girl with her "Uncle Billy" and how it affected her whole life and how there were many people who did not believe she was telling the truth. I believe. I asked her if she wanted to keep it secret. She said no--that it was time for people to know so they can keep young girls away from him. I ended up telling the story to my mother, who was positively indignant. Although he is not a close friend of the family, she refused to believe that "Billy" would ever do, citing the woman's mental instability and that of the other relative he molested.

    I was like, geez, Mom, how do you think these ladies got that way? There is clear and compelling evidence that sexual molestation of girls often leads to emotional and behavioral issues.

    Honestly, I can see how the rife sexism present in the LLL churches contributes to these problems. I think men can get away with murder. I know a guy who has lived a life of crime, breaking into church people's residences in at least three states, knowing full well there are no consequences. He's been caught, on camera, and he knows people from church will not have him convicted. He'll ask them for forgiveness, his well-off parents will open their pocketbooks and pay the victims back, perhaps he'll enter alcohol or drug rehab, and he's back at it in 6 months. Easy peasy. And--get this. No real social fallout. He still has plenty of good ol' boy buddies to hang with and stupid girls who will date him.

    As far as women goes--women in the LLL churches are on a short short leash. All you have to do is have an unpopular opinion and you'll get weird looks and be shunned.

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  17. I think its time for people from the churches to start speaking up...tell the truth and be free from anything that has happened...plus put the bastards in jail!!!

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  18. I had never heard of sex abuse in the church until about 5-6 years ago. Somehow, I had never knowingly come into contact with it except what I saw in the news. The only case I knew of was when I was in grade school, and there was a little girl who had a lot of problems and it was said that her father abused her. When this came up a few years ago, I couldn't really believe it..I thought maybe it happened sometimes but maybe was somewhat exaggerated. Repressed memories were mentioned, and I was suspicious of that. Anon, when your mom couldn't believe it, I understand that.. it is so terrible you just can't fit that into your mind, that a person you have known for a long time could be guilty of such a crime. But as this has been talked about, I've come to believe that it does happen, and it happens often. It happens in all kinds of families and groups, so why not within LLL circles.

    It should be addressed and prosecuted. If it was a stranger we'd probably all be in agreement, but when it's someone we know we deny it or drag our feet. The victim comes under suspicion instead, and the burden of proof is upon her. It shouldn't be that way.

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  19. Wow, I have grown up, and still am, a member of the Old Apostolic Lutheran Church, and I can think of only one instance where there was pedophilia. The man had severe mental health issues, and is in a hospital/jail. If you don't know the truth, don't blog about it! There is no "conspiracy," no misogynistic suppression of women in our sommunity, just a belief in ALL the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and his apostles.

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  20. ex-falc says,

    Anonymous 6:39:00

    All I can say to that is...
    Be thankful you weren't one of the victims. Your view on the world would be very different right now if you were. You would not be posting the comments you just did. I doesn't run in every family. I thankfully never heard or saw anything like this either growing up, but just because you, or I, never experienced it, doesn't mean you can't have compassion for those who have. There are sexual predators in every church, the OALC is no better or worse than any other church. All people are sinful. However, I believe people in closed communities like the OALC can get away with it much more easily than "someone from the world". Why?

    It's because people in these closed in churches don't want to talk about it because if it comes out, it shatters the perfect image of the church that these people spend their entire lives trying to protect, by wearing long dresses, having lots of kids, not wearing makeup, not drinking...etc.

    What do you mean by this comment? "If you don't know the truth, don't blog about it"? Can you give a statement you know is false? Well, what is your truth? Are you telling the truth? What is your neighbors truth? What is my truth? How do you know what is in someone's heart and how do you feel compelled to say someone is truthful and someone is not? What gives you that authority? Are you god? If there is one thing I can't handle about LLL followers, its the arrogance, the pride, and the judgement. 100% antichrist.

    Is the horror in Haiti also not real to you because you can't see it with your own eyes?

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  21. ex-falc says:

    I would like to encourage everyone on this blog to watch this documentary on youtube. It's called "Lifting the veil of polygamy"

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjDJs7wvGLg

    Even though its about polygamy, there are many parallels between the two faith structures. The mormon fundamentalists raise up Joseph Smith, which is no different than the LLL followers putting LLL on a pedestal. The control in both religious organizations is almost identical.

    Once you see the video, I hope you come to the conclusion I did: We can't change the past, but we can have hope for all current OALC, LLC, FALC, IALC, and ALC members who are hurting other people. HOPE that they can see how many lives they have hurt and HOPE that they won't raise those children in those churches to continue on the abuse.

    My husband and I have been through a lot, but every night I look at my children. They are so happy, joyful, loving. I think to myself...if they only knew how me and my husband were raised...

    But thankfully, they never will.

    Seeing all these people leave the grips of polygamy and religious control and seeing them open their eyes to who Jesus really is...

    An act of god.

    Some extoots posters have already seen the video. It was posted as a link on my facebook page.

    I would be curious to see what you all think of the video. Did you get the same message out of the video as I did?

    Also, a side note, I know one of the women who spoke in this video. She is from the group my husband came from. I sent her an email after I watched the video telling her how much it touched my heart. Thank god there are people in the world like her who use their struggles to help others.

    I think all of us extoots followers should make a video about LLL and how we all escaped his views!

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  22. anon 6:39, I don't want to imply that abuse is all that commonplace and accepted in LLL churches, although it might have sounded that way. As you and I have found in our experience, it has been rare to non-existent. I should also have said that the accused should have the opportunity to defend himself/herself. There are too many cases where people have been unjustly accused. Would-be victims can have their own agendas as well.

    (for the record, I do love my LLL church) :-)

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  23. I belong to the LLL church. I have lived my entire life knowing that this is not something that is talked about. I too was a victim and finally after 24 years found it in me to tell someone I knew would believe me and support me. The biggest fear I have and have had is being made to look like the "bad one" for opening up about these "good" christian men. I know there is alot more that goes on and it is not talked about. I have a hard time even thinking I could forgive them. They are not above the law NONE of us are.I don't care what church you belong to if you find it in you to attempt to ruin a childs life you SHOULD expect to serve your time for it. Some may ask how my faith matters are... I would answer to them I'm happy where I'm at and have God in my heart.

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  24. Anonymous, thanks for having the courage to come forward and speak the truth about this matter. If sexual abuse happens more in our congregations than in mainline churches, it is hard to say. I am grateful that I was never exposed to this kind of abuse in my childhood and was unaware that such things went on. However, as the previous poster stated, the sexual abuse is often hushed in order to protect the reputation of the entire church community.

    Think about it. There are seven LLL groups in the United States. It is my understanding that six of them, stated either overtly or implicitly, believe they are the only Christians who are saved. When you attend a church with such a doctrine and pedophilia rears its ugly head in your congregation, your basic instinct is likely to sweet the mess under the rug. Pedophiles are nothing if not sneaky. They know they will be protected. They can also seem to be able to convince themselves they didn't do anything wrong, or are the victim themselves.

    Most LLL'ers I know pretend not to care, but they actually do care about what the world, and especially what rival groups, think of them.

    To the OALC'er who said don't talk about things we don't know, let me tell you: I was an LLL'er for many decades, and I know what I am talking about. We are not people you can say "come and see" when asked what you are all about. We were people who were born and raised in your group. We left. I see very few people here who are actually bitter. We've been scarred by our experiences there, and in many cases, tried to stay in for the sake of our relatives and friends there. It is not easy to leave. Some people are happy in your churches. We are not trying to encourage anyone from leaving, just try to minister to the needs of people who are unhappy and seeking a way out.

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  25. I just want to add that I don't know how the pedophiles feel so free and easy about coming to church!! I sat in church one sunday, (I am a victim) and I listened as the minister talked about the evil of the world and the many temptations the youth are facing today, which yes it is true. He spoke of how sad it is to see the young people be tempted by drinking, mingling with the wrong ones, watching movies and the list goes on. I for one was feeling like the worst sinner because I have been tempted by all listed above. The point I'm trying to get across is... we always focus on I guess to me are the small things. If I decide to watch a movie it's not hurting anyone else. But I know what it's like to be a pedophiles victim. Nobody ever asks why you might be turning to drinking to give you temporary relief or happiness.

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  26. All churches have pedaphiles. It is not only in the apostolic faiths. We all need to talk and let our children know how wrong this is and that they have a right to protect themselves. They need to let people know what has happened. Children in repressive religions are often afraid to come forward, because they are treated like lepers after the abuse comes to light.

    I have seen first hand, that when children of repressive religions are victims of sexual abuse, they have a very difficult time because they are judged very harshly. For example,I know of some OALC youth who have been sexually abused and are going through hell on earth because their families think they should just "pull it together"-"stop being victims"-and judge them because they will not live the OALC way. The victims need our help. They need families to invite them over even if they are wearing make up or not following the rules. They need a couch to sleep on when they get kicked out of their homes. They need the adults to care and stop judging.

    The victims are not lepers. Being victims of sexual abuse is NOT the victims fault. They may not be resilient and act like it never happened. The adults often feel like they should just forget it and move on. The victim has to go through their own grief stages.

    They need our love.

    I am writing this because I was a victim and because I have worked with the victims.

    I hope the parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins of the victims read this and help the victims work through what has happened to them.

    God's Peace!

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  27. Anonymous,

    I am so sorry about what happened to you. I think you are so very brave to come here today, even anonymously, to send a message here. We all know that people from the OALC and other LLL churches are reading this. I have sat through hundreds and thousands of sermons in my life lamenting those who "who have walked away" or "drifted away" or "got angry and left the faith." It is always one-sided: that person wasn't forgiving, that person was interested in a worldly life, or something of the like. In many cases, that person was rejected and ostracised, sometimes for many years.

    Here is your sister in faith (or brother) who is writing in and telling you of his/her pain, and that of others in your church who have experienced similar abuse.

    She is telling you exactly what to do: love her, accept her, and befriend her. She does not want to leave, she wants to be treated like a precious child of God and to be believed. She is asking you not to criticise, but to understand. Instead of a lecture or an admonishment, how about a hug instead?

    It's not just abuse survivors here who need this encouragement: what about people who don't have a large network of relatives or friends, or those who don't quite fit the mold, even if they're trying?

    Do you want her to stay? Sometimes, I think you all don't. Sometimes, I think its more comfortable to see such people leave, as it justifies your continued rejection and mistreatment of them.

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  28. A few years ago a guy who is in the Brush Prairie OALC ran for the school board. It was reported that he had asked forgivness at church for "offending the little ones". Did he ever get arrested or have any trouble with the law?

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  29. I keep reading about screwed up or hypocritical Laestadian churches and members. I have no reason to doubt the veracity and sincerity of the posters here to be sure as I left many decades ago myself and I saw things first hand. However, I was wondering does anyone know of or could anyone name some real Christ centered Laestadian/Apostolic Lutheran churches in the US that are filled with love and Biblical preaching? I plan on doing some travelling later this year and I would like to stop by such a church if any exist. Please do not say who you are, just give your honest opinion.

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  30. What state will you be traveling to?

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  31. From NE US through Michigan then to California and return thru southern US.

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  32. Another couple of links to better English translations of Rolf Lampa's articles: here.

    I know of one case in a particular ALC congregation where the church board has placed restrictions on a known abuser. Recently, the abuser defiantly ignored those restrictions. I believe that church board has now completely banned him from entering the premises. His name is known to all the members of the congregation, as well as the accusation. Unfortunately, his family stands up for him.

    In that same congregation, there are other "former" abusers who have had the same restrictions placed on their activities with the congregation, and have faithfully followed the restrictions. Their names are not publicly known, but should they violate the restrictions I don't doubt the board will inform the congregation.

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  33. Somehow, the links got broken.

    http://rilnews.org/en/article/pedophile-scandal-pietarsaari-finnish-ostrobothnia

    http://rilnews.org/en/article/gruesome-god-impedes-healing-after-serious-abuse

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