The Never-Trump’er Case Against Impeachment

Trump's Impeachment is an assault against the Constitution and Justice

This post was 75% written December 18th. I didn’t have the pre-Christmas time or energy to polish it to the desired level before publication. I finished it today, including a few relevant updates.

Introduction

Donald Trump by Gage Skidmore

It’s a Christmas Miracle: The Democrats have made President Donald J. Trump look more rational, articulate, law-abiding, institution-protecting, and constitution-protecting than them. I am in shock and awe.

You will understand this shock better if you understand the esteem in which I hold our Dear Leader. I have been deeply critical of Trump’s character, emotionalism, dishonesty, poor logic, immoral behavior, ignorance, disdain for the law, and rude conduct ever since he was polling at a few percent in the GOP primary.

Never Trump & Lesser of Two Evils

Hillary Clinton
by Gage Skidmore

I did not vote for Trump or Hillary. I stated that I could not vote for the lesser of two evils as doing so is still evil. I stated that this is Satan and professional politicians’ way of moving The Overton window in forcing us to vote for greater and greater evil as each side leapfrogs each other each election. (Even in light of that prediction, I have been sincerely shocked at how aggressively the Dems have leapfrogged.) I maintain my stance in not voting for the lesser of two evils in 2020, despite Democrats’ determined efforts to change my stance.

Summary of Case Against Impeachment

There are four primary reasons this impeachment is an assault upon our Constitution and justice:

  1. Democrats have been desperately searching for a pretext upon which to impeach Trump since his inauguration, making it clear the current “facts” about Ukraine are not the real reason he’s being impeached. Totalitarian regimes, especially the Soviets, have historically decided to silence opposition politicians with whom they disagree and only try to find a pretext crime afterward. Democratic disdain for justice and rule of law in this case is striking and transparent.
  2. The factual record as established does not prove the narrative underlying the “Abuse of Power” article of impeachment.
  3. If the factual record did establish the Democrats’ narrative claims, the supposed “Abuse of Power” is no different than the many politicized Congressional investigations into every Presidential Administration by both parties stretching back (in my memory) to at least the Clinton Administration. (Not to mention every Congressional spending bill in recent memory.)
  4. Democrats’ “Obstruction of Congress” article is a rejection of the Constitutional norm of the Judicial branch interpreting the law and Constitution, especially when the Executive and Legislative branches disagree on the interpretation and application of Executive Privilege, is shocking, norm-destroying, and a direct assault on separation of powers. This stance opposes unanimous, bipartisan Supreme Court precedent in United States vs. Nixon.

Impeachment Primer

In case you didn’t know, according to the Constitution, this is the way impeachment works:

  • U.S. House of Representatives may vote on a simple majority to impeach “The President, the Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States” for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors”. Typically the House gathers the evidence, impeaches the president (or judge), and sends the evidence to the U.S. Senate.
  • The Senate, with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presiding, holds a trial to judge the guilt or innocence of the impeached as to the articles of impeachment. If the Senate convicts the impeached with a 2/3rd vote, they are removed from office.
  • If they are convicted and removed from office, they are then subject to regular criminal prosecution for their crimes by prosecutors.

Fairness of Process

This process of impeachment has been unfair in many ways which I don’t have time to explore in depth, but which primarily involves secrecy and a lack of due process in allowing both sides to call witnesses and make their cases. These defects were so transparent and egregious, several House Democrats crossed party lines to vote with 100% of Republicans against impeachment. Judiciary Chairman Nadler who presided over Trump’s impeachment hearings correctly diagnosed the defects of Clinton’s impeachment in 1998 and his words are clearly self-indicting. Finally, the most radical House Democrats have made it clear from Trump’s election day (long before the supposed offenses) that they hate him so much that they will work hard until they find a pretext to impeach him. They’ve not even been subtle about their dishonesty in this regard because their left-wing base in their safe House Districts feel the same way.

Impeachment Vote: A Few Honest Dems

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

On December 18, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to impeach President Trump. They did this along a mostly party-line vote of 230-197 and 229-198. The only Reps to cross party lines were the two Democrats who voted against both articles of impeachment and the one Democrat to vote against the more egregious Article Two. Finally a fourth Democrat, Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), voted “Present” because she can’t “in good conscience vote either yes or no” because she thinks Trump did wrong, but also thinks the way the Democratic House handled impeachment was a “partisan process” that undermined the “integrity of this solemn undertaking”. (Gabbard is running for the Democratic nomination for President in 2020 and is not seeking re-election to the House.)

(It is interesting to note that Clinton’s 1998 House impeachment vote was largely party line as well, but with five Democrats and five Republicans defecting on the first perjury article, for example.)

Chairman Nadler’s 1998 Hypocrisy

Rep. Jerry Nadler

It is instructive to note the 1998 words of Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) in regards to the impeachment of Democratic President Clinton. Rep. Nadler is now the Chairman of the House Judiciary committee who chaired some of the impeachment hearings:

There must never be a narrowly voted impeachment or an impeachment substantially supported by one of our major political parties and largely opposed by the other. Such an impeachment would lack legitimacy, would produce divisiveness and bitterness in our politics for years to come and will call into question the very legitimacy of our political institutions.

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/trump-impeachment-inquiry/flashback-what-nadler-said-about-impeaching-president-1998-n1095141

Foreordained Goal/Outcome, Disregarding Facts

Multiple quotes from various Democratic members of the House make it abundantly clear that Democrats have been looking for an excuse—a pretext—to impeach Trump from the day after Election Day 2016. This was long, long before any of the supposed crimes occurred. This impeachment has very little to do with any actual facts of actual crimes Trump has committed and has everything to do with a hatred of Trump and a desire to remove him from office.

Rep. Maxine Waters

So Republicans are united against impeachment and a few Democrats of conscience and/or political expediency have made opposition to impeachment a bipartisan affair. Furthermore, the past words of a key figure pushing for impeachment now also argue strongly against the legitimacy of the proceedings. Finally, the Democrats’ brazen and transparent admissions that their goal has always been impeachment and by extension that these “facts” are just a pretext.

Article One – Abuse of Power

Narrative Not Proven by Evidence

DJT called the Ukrainian President (with a whole bunch of the USA’s national security team listening) and asked for Ukraine’s cooperation with the U.S. Department of Justice in investigating Crowdstrike and the DNC servers that were hacked. He also asked Ukraine to cooperate with the the US DOJ in an investigation of Joe Biden & Hunter Biden. (See Appendix A for more info on Biden Corruption.)

Behind the scenes and unbeknownst to Ukraine at the time, the Trump Administration was also holding up military aid to Ukraine (to help fight the Russian invasion). There is conflicting testimony on why the aid was held up, but the Ukrainian President has said repeatedly that he never understood any linkage between the aid holdup (which he eventually found out about) and Ukraine’s assistance in the investigations of Crowdstrike or the Bidens. The Democrats claim that the holdup in aid was extortion in exchange for the political favor of investigating the Bidens and Crowdstrike. I do not think Democrats have come close to proving this case.

Renowned liberal GWU Professor of Constitutional Law Jonathan Turley agrees, concluding:

Jonathan Turley by Slowking4, GFDL 1.2

[T]his record is comparably thin compared to past impeachments and contains conflicts, contradictions, and gaps including various witnesses not subpoenaed. I suggested that Democrats drop the arbitrary schedule of a vote by the end of December and complete their case and this record before voting on any articles of impeachment. In my view, they have not proven abuse of power in this incomplete record. […] I do not believe a crime has been proven over the Ukraine controversy, though I said such crimes might be proven with a more thorough investigation.

https://thehill.com/opinion/judiciary/473171-turley-democrats-offering-passion-over-proof-in-trump-impeachment

It appears probable (and Turley concurs) based on their debates and discussions at the writing of the Constitution that the framers of the Constitution intended “high crimes and misdemeanors” to include such arbitrary, nebulous, and undefined crimes as “Abuse of Power” but only in the case of overwhelming, bipartisan consensus on proof of “conduct that seriously harms the public”. As we saw in the previous section (and this section), we are laughably far from that.

Gordon Sondland,
U.S. Dept. of State

As I remember it, U.S. Ambassador (to the EU) Gordon Sondland was the only witness who clearly tied the aid/investigation together as being contingent on each other (and was in a position to actually know semi-firsthand). He has modified his testimony multiple times to avoid the charge of perjury and is regarded by both sides as a dishonest and/or unreliable witness. When asked by Rep. Turner (R-OH), “No one on this planet told you that President Trump was tying aid to investigations. Yes or no?” Sondland replied, “Yes.” Turner continued, “So you really have no testimony today that ties President Trump to a scheme to withhold aid from Ukraine in exchange for these investigations.” Sondland replied, “Other than my own presumption.”

Like Sondland, I am presuming ulterior political motives on Trump’s part because it’s my opinion he is corrupt, just like Congress is corrupt, but even more so. However, based on the legal standard of actual available evidence, House Republicans have done a great and thorough job of showing how legally baseless these proceedings have been in proving what Democrats, myself, and a contradictory witness presume to be true.

Trump’s “Abuse of Power” is Regular Congressional Habit

Summary

If we were to assume for the sake of argument that Trump did have ulterior motives and if we were to pretend that Democrats had done their legal due diligence in compelling testimony in the courts (see impeachment Article Two below) that proved that assumption correct, we would still be left with an utter non-crime that if universally and consistently applied would result in the removal of 90%+ of Congress. Now that would hardly be a bad thing and I would applaud that, but until it is consistently applied, it’s quite Soviet-esque and totalitarian as noted in the opening summary.

Let’s compare President Trump’s supposed “Abuse of Power” with Congress’ regular habits:

  1. President, Ukraine: Legit policy goal of corruption investigations with ulterior political motive of revealing (or fabricating appearance of) political opponent’s corruption
  2. Congress, spending: Legit policy goal of government spending with ulterior political motive of buying votes in their district with earmarks
  3. Congress, investigations: Legit policy goal of investigating bad behavior (and ensuring accountability for public officials) with the ulterior political motive of damaging their political opponents

The great irony is that with both of Congress’ examples, the “ulterior” political motive can barely be called that because of how publicly and transparently they put politics ahead of country in their exercise of governmental power.

Deep Dive

Let’s break down Trump’s supposed offense in more detail. He allegedly used the power of the US government to compel a foreign government to conduct an anti-corruption investigation whose result he thought would benefit him politically. The first part is completely legitimate. Vice President Biden is on camera bragging that he withheld aid to Ukraine in order to compel anti-corruption measures and of course Democrats have no outrage about that. The brag also makes it clear that Biden was expecting that action to burnish his political resume as he positioned himself in 2018 to run for president. One could cynically argue that there is some distinction between Biden’s “good” positive, non-specific political gain (general anti-corruption credentials) vs. Trump’s “bad” negative, specific political gain (specific anti-corruption against political opponents), but the silliness of that distinction requires only one quick memory to dismiss: the years of countless, politically-motivated investigations in Congress (from both parties against Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Trump) that never showed any actual crimes and which set our country back in many different ways. If we were to say that using the power of government to compel a publicly-known investigation of your political opponent was an impeachable offense, every single Congressperson could be removed from office. It is a testament to either the effectiveness of Democratic propaganda or the guilty self-awareness of the self-indicting nature of such an observation for GOP Congresspeople that has kept this rather obvious conclusion from being shouted from the rooftops. The Emperor really has no clothes, people. If we say that what Trump did was an abuse of power and have an ounce of awareness of regular political events, we quickly understand that what he did is daily habit for Congress.

The sad thing is that the Democrats took a shady, dubious, politician-like call with Ukraine which was a negative for DJT because it showed him using the power of office for personal political gain (a routine occurrence for Congress, but which is distasteful and off-putting when clearly done in public view for either Congress or the President) and tried to concoct a crime around it to satiate their long-held dream of impeaching the President. In the process, they’ve yet again immeasurably strengthened DJT’s chance for re-election. This frustrates me to no end.

President Bill Clinton, by Bob McNeely,
The White House

(It’s again interesting to compare notes with Clinton’s impeachment. He was impeached on two of four articles. The two articles that passed were for actual federal crimes with a legal definition while both of Trump’s impeachment articles are made-up “crimes” without any legal definition. It’s especially telling that the nebulous Clinton “Abuse of Power” article failed by a massive 148-285 margin in the Republican-led House in 1998.)

Article Two – Obstruction of Congress

It’s the second impeachment article of “Obstruction of Congress” where the Dems really assault the Constitution, our democratic republic’s norms of balance of power, and Supreme Court precedent. The deep irony is that the Dems are doing the very thing that they insisted Trump was sure to do: assault the rule of law, defy norms, and engage in an imperial, extra-judicial use of power.

Wikipedia in “Executive Privilege” does a good job of explaining this essential, underlying legal concept:

President Richard Nixon

Executive privilege is the right of the president of the United States and other members of the executive branch to maintain confidential communications under certain circumstances within the executive branch and to resist some subpoenas and other oversight by the legislative and judicial branches of government […] The right comes into effect when revealing information would impair governmental functions. Neither executive privilege nor the oversight power of Congress is explicitly mentioned in the United States Constitution. However, the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that executive privilege and congressional oversight each are a consequence of the doctrine of the separation of powers, derived from the supremacy of each branch in its own area of Constitutional activity.

The Supreme Court confirmed the legitimacy of this doctrine in United States v. Nixon in the context of a subpoena emanating from the judiciary, instead of emanating from Congress. The Court held that there is a qualified privilege, which once invoked, creates a presumption of privilege [emphasis added], and the party seeking the documents must then make a “sufficient showing” that the “presidential material” is “essential to the justice of the case”. […] Regarding requests from Congress (instead of from the courts) for executive branch information, as of a 2014 study by the Congressional Research Service, only two federal court cases had addressed the merits of executive privilege in such a context, and neither of those cases reached the Supreme Court.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Executive_privilege

Democrats in the House subpoenaed Trump Administration officials to testify under oath in their impeachment hearings. In turn, the Trump Administration has invoked Executive Privilege and refused to comply. Past precedent is that the prosecutor or Congress petitions the courts showing why Executive Privilege is inappropriate in this case, the court agrees, and compels testimony and document production pursuant to the subpoenas. The Trump Administration has proactively said they will comply with court decisions. Some Administration officials have proactively petitioned courts to rule on the issue because they feel caught between the competing legal theories of the Executive and Legislative branches of government, a conflict which has always been resolved by the Judicial branch. I believe Congressional Dems are correct in saying they have the power to compel Senior Administration officials to testify under oath on this issue. That should be an obvious outworking of their constitutional impeachment powers. How could they ever impeach the President if he has Executive Privilege to hide all the relevant documents and witnesses from them? Makes zero sense to me and I don’t think it would make any sense to the Supreme Court either.

In fact, two separate judicial precedents support my view. First, in United States v. Nixon in regard to the Watergate special prosecutor, the Supreme Court explicitly ruled that the SC was the reluctant but necessary arbiter of where Executive Privilege was legitimate shielding of candid decision-making, policy-making deliberations by the Executive Branch and where it was an illegitimate shield against legitimate criminal/prosecutorial oversight.

Second, “President is Denied Executive Privilege” in the Washington Post on May 6, 1998 writes,

President Bill Clinton & Monica Lewinsky
in the Oval Office, February 1997.

A federal judge has ruled that President Clinton cannot use the power of his office to block prosecutors from questioning his senior aides, rejecting Clinton’s assertion of executive privilege in the Monica S. Lewinsky investigation […]

In a ruling issued under court seal Monday, Chief U.S. District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson concluded that independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr’s need to collect evidence in his obstruction of justice probe outweighs Clinton’s interest in preserving the confidentiality of White House discussions, the lawyers said.

The decision made Clinton the first president to take a claim of executive privilege to court and lose since the dramatic Watergate showdown in 1974, when the Supreme Court unanimously ordered Richard M. Nixon to turn over the secret Oval Office tapes that ultimately led to his resignation.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/special/clinton/stories/starr050698.htm

The Democrats are saying with their “Obstruction of Congress” article of impeachment that the courts don’t need to decide whether the assertion of Executive Privilege is applicable or not, because Congress has already decided EP is not applicable. This is a dangerous approach. They are trying to bypass the courts’ Constitutional role as the interpreter of the Constitution and substitute their own imperial edict in its place by using their discretion to custom-create “high crimes and misdemeanors” even if directly contradicted by unanimous, bipartisan Supreme Court precedent. The gravity of the Democrats’ assault on the Constitution and the Judicial Branch was summed up by the testimony of liberal GWU Professor of Constitutional Law, Jonathan Turley:

I can’t emphasize this enough and I’ll say it just one more time: If you impeach a president, if you make a high crime and misdemeanor out of going to the courts; it is an abuse of power. It’s your abuse of power. You’re doing precisely what you’re criticizing the president for doing. We have a third branch that deals with conflicts at the other two branches, and what comes out of there, what you do with it, is the very definition of legitimacy.

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/turley-lawmakers-impeach-trump-abuse-of-power

Conclusion

Prof. Turley had an excellent opening statement at the impeachment hearing. This quoted portion is especially outstanding and reignites in me a deep desire for an honest, principled opposition party to Trump. I disagree with so much of what Trump does, but there is no principled opposition. The opposition is as dishonest as him, freely mixing truth and lies. That empowers Trump to legitimately point to their lies and their #FakeNews. Their own behavior discredits their legitimate critiques.

Turley, on the other hand, is a breath of fresh air and gives a stirring challenge, which is promptly ignored by Democrats:

I would like to start, perhaps incongruously, with a statement of three irrelevant
facts. First, I am not a supporter of President Trump. I voted against him in 2016 and I
have previously voted for Presidents Clinton and Obama. Second, I have been highly
critical of President Trump, his policies, and his rhetoric, in dozens of columns. Third, I
have repeatedly criticized his raising of the investigation of the Hunter Biden matter with
the Ukrainian president.

These points are not meant to curry favor or approval. Rather they are meant to drive home a simple point: one can oppose President Trump’s policies or actions but still conclude that the current legal case for impeachment is not just woefully inadequate, but in some respects, dangerous, as the basis for the impeachment of an American president. To put it simply, I hold no brief for President Trump. My personal and political views of President Trump, however, are irrelevant to my impeachment testimony, as they should be to your impeachment vote.

Today, my only concern is the integrity and coherence of the constitutional standard and process of impeachment. President Trump will not be our last president and what we leave in the wake of this scandal will shape our democracy for generations to come. I am concerned about lowering impeachment standards to fit a paucity of evidence and an abundance of anger. If the House proceeds solely on the Ukrainian allegations, this impeachment would stand out among modern impeachments as the shortest proceeding, with the thinnest evidentiary record, and the narrowest grounds ever used to impeach a president. That does not bode well for future presidents who are working in a country often sharply and, at times, bitterly divided.

https://d3i6fh83elv35t.cloudfront.net/static/2019/12/Turley-Testimony.pdf

I’m thankful for a few honest House Democrats and a few legal scholars with the basic foresight to see what a disaster that this impeachment is for Constitutional checks and balances and the future of our country. I’m thankful that they’re willing to lay aside their personal animus and disagreement with Trump to make an objective legal judgment.

Hopefully you will join me in filtering out the partisan blather on MSNBC and Fox News and do a little independent research of the actual facts rather than the partisan spin repeated ad nauseam. And hopefully you realize the truth and refuse to join in amplifying either side’s propaganda.

The truth is, Trump’s little Ukraine move stinks. Just like it stinks when a congressperson favors a government contractor in his own district over one in another district. Or when congress bloviates endlessly about the sins of their political foes which are gravely and seriously being investigated by the impartial congressional committee of themselves. But if we’re going to make those stinky moves an impeachable high crime and misdemeanor, we need to make it a crime for all our government officials, which means most of them would be removed from office. I’m all in favor of that, but it needs to be consistent. Otherwise it’s hypocritical and Soviet-esque.

We know human nature. We know that if we desperately want to do something, we will find a pretext to justify it, no matter how ridiculous. The heart leads the mind. Fortunately Democrats have been utterly transparent from the very beginning that they desperately wanted to impeach Trump. And it appears they finally found an excuse to do so. The revelation of their heart was very instructive.

Finally, the “Obstruction of Congress” second article of impeachment’s shameful assault on the Constitution’s separation of powers and Supreme Court precedent is norm-destroying and crassly politically motivated. It’s so counterproductive and bad, I still have trouble wrapping my mind around it. I’m left nearly speechless and will simply end by repeating Obama-voting Professor Turley’s summary:

I can’t emphasize this enough and I’ll say it just one more time: If you impeach a president, if you make a high crime and misdemeanor out of going to the courts; it is an abuse of power. It’s your abuse of power. You’re doing precisely what you’re criticizing the president for doing. We have a third branch that deals with conflicts at the other two branches, and what comes out of there, what you do with it, is the very definition of legitimacy.

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/turley-lawmakers-impeach-trump-abuse-of-power

Appendix A: Biden Corruption

Vice President Joe Biden

The best I can determine it appears that basically Hunter Biden was paid $50k/month to sit on the board of a corrupt Ukrainian company Burisma because he was the Vice President Joe Biden’s son. He had no expertise in energy or Ukraine. At the same time, the Ukrainian chief prosecutor Viktor Shokin was “investigating” Burisma, Joe Biden withheld $1b in US aid (at the advice of the US Embassy in Ukraine) until he was fired. Joe is on video bragging about this successful threat resulting in his firing. Joe (and a bunch of international and Ukrainian anti-corruption orgs which were calling for Shokin’s firing as well) said it was because he took bribes to not investigate corrupt companies like Burisma. Shokin’s subordinate, Vitaly Kasko, who resigned because of Shokin’s obstruction of corruption investigations says that the Burisma investigation under Shokin was dormant and many assume he was taking bribes from Burisma to keep it that way. So my conclusion is that Hunter was corrupt for sitting on the board, Joe was corrupt for letting it happen, but there’s no evidence Joe used his position of power to help Burisma/Hunter.

Appendix B: House Subpoenas of Bolton & Others

John Bolton

The “Obstruction of Congress” section provided essential legal and constitutional education on the gravity of Dems’ behavior in taking upon themselves the role of the courts in determining the applicability of Executive Privilege. What I did not address was the exact chain of events and public rationale/propaganda the Dems employed both in the House hearings and the Senate trial. This is relevant for the purposes of the recent propaganda blitz in the media to try to make Senate Republicans appear unreasonable for not doing the House Dems’ jobs and subpoenaing former National Security Adviser John Bolton.

The Dems knew it was their job in the House to call John Bolton to testify because they subpoenaed him to do just that. However, when the Trump administration asserted Executive Privilege, instead of continuing their court challenge against the EP claim, they dropped it with the lie (echoed broadly by the press) that it would take too long to legally resolve in the courts, Trump would try to “run out the clock”, and be past the election in November 2020. The truth was, impeachment had started to poll horribly for them and they realized that they just needed to get it done and over with as soon as possible to get it out of the headlines.

The reason this was likely a lie rests upon two data-points and a left-wing analysis point:

  1. Clinton asserted Executive Privilege March 21, 1998. Courts denied the EP claim May 6, 1998. That’s 46 days from assertion to denial.
  2. Trump asserted Executive Privilege on April 22, 2019 when White House counsel Don McGahn was subpoenaed by the House Judiciary Committee. The House did not petition the courts until August 7th, 2019 (after negotiations failed) and District Court denied the EP claim November 26, 2019, 111 days later. A mere 6 days later (which included Thanksgiving and a weekend) on Dec. 2, the same judge denied a stay of the ruling ordering McGahn’s testimony. The Court of Appeals then heard oral arguments January 3, 2020. This court is the last stop before the Supreme Court.
  3. A NYT piece which was, of course, very anti-Trump and was explaining why the House Dems couldn’t afford to wait, said that, “But if the Supreme Court does take the appeals, justices may issue no final judgment until the court’s term ends in seven months [June-July 2020].”

The House launched the Ukraine impeachment probe Sep. 24, 2019. Math:

  • 9/24/19 + 46 days (Clinton) = 11/9/19
  • 9/24/19 + 111 days (Trump/McGahn) = 1/13/20
  • 9/24/19 + 222 days (appeals guesstimate double 111 days) = 5/3/20
  • June-July 2020 (per NYT)

This idea that waiting on the courts (and doing things legally by the book) was “too late” and after the election or too close to the election is shown to be complete balderdash by even the most pessimistic and biased projections. In case you didn’t know, the elections are Nov. 2020. And if indeed the witness testimony and documents which Trump is “hiding” is so damning as Democrats claim, they should want it as close to an October surprise as possible. Democrats’ actions contradict their words: they’ve realized that both the polling and their own analysis of the evidence show that it is everything other than damning. It’s yet another Democrat conspiracy theory and failed attempt to concoct an excuse to impeach Trump.

Their actions demonstrate that they prefer the innuendo they can imply via anonymous leaked sources in the press where they can carefully spin the information rather than in cross-examined witness testimony under oath shortly before the election.

Rep. Adam Schiff

Since then, House Democrats have tried to spin their failures to follow through on subpoenas for John Bolton, Mick Mulvaney, and others as a failure by Senate Republicans (who chose not to call those witnesses given the House refused to do so). The problem is, every argument they wield against Senate Republicans in this regard is self-indicting. Every attempt to make it obvious the Senate should have heard from Bolton, et. al. is a further revelation of the House’ failure to properly investigate before rushing through impeachment on the basis of an “incomplete record” (Turley). And every argument the House wielded to say they couldn’t afford to wait for the Constitutional and legal resolution of the subpoenas in the courts applies even more so at this much later date after an attempted extortionary 3 week delay in Pelosi transmitting the articles of impeachment to the Senate. (Starting the clock in February 2020 instead of September 2019 would actually get us to Sep. 2020 with 222 days, actually finally getting close to the election.)

The Senate is right to consider only the evidence that the lead House impeachment manager Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) claimed was “overwhelming and damning” in whether to convict Trump or not. When you actually understand how fundamentally flawed this impeachment is from top to bottom, you quickly understand that quickly putting it out of its misery and not prolonging it is the only just and humane act. It’s so bad, it’s a genuine embarrassment to the nation.


I know I remember seeing a quote by a top House Democrat admitting that the decision to not pursue subpoenas in the courts was due to political timing considerations. In writing this post, I was unable to find that direct quote. If anyone could point me to it in the comments, I’d be grateful. The best I could find was this Bloomberg article:

Democrats now must decide whether to ask a judge to enforce subpoenas seeking information about the president’s push for Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Any court battle would probably drag the inquiry into the 2020 election year, and even if Democrats were to win, a ruling could come too late to make impeachment politically viable.

“Every member I’ve spoken to wants to see it wrapped up in 2019 in the House of Representatives,” said Maryland Representative Jamie Raskin, a Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. 

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-10-14/pelosi-need-for-speed-on-impeachment-makes-court-help-unlikely

Haiti Abuse & Christian Aid Ministries

This originally appeared in the Sword & Trumpet September 2019 edition in my monthly Newslines column. I fixed a few typos without comment and added a few thoughts here and there in square brackets. Thank you to everyone for the overwhelming level of positive feedback to this column. I have never received so much feedback on a column (and I can’t remember a single negative remark). I appreciate so much the many of you that have proactively taken steps for positive change in your churches, mission orgs, and have worked to hold CAM accountable. Much has transpired since the writing of this column in July and its publishing in September. I am preparing another column. Please join me in praying that CAM does the right thing in regards to transparency and victim care. The needs are acute.


It is with a heavy heart that I write this. I know among conservative Anabaptists (CAs) there are incidents of sexual abuse that are covered up in ways that are inappropriate, but I had hoped I’d never run across a story of where the coverup would lead to enablement of further abuse. However, I was concerned enough to write a column dedicated to the issue. In the Newslines column in the September 2017 issue, I gave two cautionary tales of the devastation wrought in conservative Christian ministries when abuse and inappropriate behavior were covered up instead of dealt with transparently and in submission to the governmental authorities.

In the case of the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism (ABWE), they covered up the adultery of one of their missionaries rather than sending him home according to their policies. This allowed him to rape or molest at least 23 missionary girls in Bangladesh (and an unknown number of Bangladeshis). When one of the victims came forward, they finally removed him from the mission field. However, they failed to let her parents, his US church, or the US authorities know about the abuse. This allowed him to resume his doctor’s practice in the US and to abuse other American kids through his access as a doctor. My warning from that story was thus:

More and more stories are emerging of this pattern of abuse and cover-up and further abuse among conservative evangelicals… As we know, we’ve faced similar problems in our conservative Anabaptist churches.

The absolutely essential lesson of both of these stories is that we must take to heart the Bible’s teaching that sin flourishes in darkness, in secrecy. By keeping this sin of abuse hidden (even if it was ‘confessed’ after being caught), it allowed the perpetrators to continue abusing people. We do not want to gossip about sin or engage in public shaming for its own sake, but sins of abuse need to be publicly acknowledged to provide accountability and to open the door for other victims to step forward. Far too often victims feel like they’re the only ones and are scared to come forward. However, in both these cases [ABWE and IBLP], as soon as something was said publicly, the floodgates were opened with hundreds of people coming forward to tell their stories. This is something that doesn’t happen if leadership keeps these matters private.

It is also important that church and ministry leaders work with government authorities to report abuse. We are called to obey governmental authorities as they seek to punish the bad and protect the good. And the government has many commonsense protections in place to keep sex offenders from re-offending and damaging more victims, which is for the protection of the offender’s soul, even if he or she has repented. Furthermore, while we forgive and seek to restore someone who has sinned, it is not our place to make the choice whether the law will show them justice or mercy.

https://think.hansmast.com/sexual-abuse-in-conservative-christian-ministries-abwe-iblp/

Sadly that warning came too late for Christian Aid Ministries. The same ABWE-scenario had already played out in 2011 and the fruits were revealed in 2019.

Christian Aid Ministries logo

Jeriah Mast was a missionary worker for CAM and other CA missions in Haiti. He was caught sexually abusing little boys around 2010-2011 (and perhaps even before that). After “repentance” and with the knowledge of the highest levels of CAM executive leadership, was allowed to continue working for CAM, including being put in charge of the CAM schools in Haiti, having unsupervised access to little boys. And he continued raping them.

Some have cast the CAM leadership’s actions in 2011 as one of forgiveness gone awry. This is not a case of too much mercy. The most loving thing for Jeriah would have been to remove him from situations of temptation. The Bible calls us to literally flee temptation, but CAM failed to help him do that. It was unloving toward Jeriah that he was put back into the incredibly tempting situation of being surrounded by potential victims. These Haitian victims were far more vulnerable than even his victims from his US community, due to cultural barriers, Jeriah’s position of authority, his charisma, and due to their poverty, revealed by the way he used CAM funds to bribe them into silence.

Forgiveness never requires resistance against governmental authorities by failing to report. It also never requires restoration without a plan to provide accountability to make re-offense far more difficult for the offender. Sadly in this case, both of these things were done.

Apparently, the board did not know, but the top leadership of CAM knew.

News of this did not start with a statement from CAM. Instead, it was leaked because some Haitian victims finally had the courage to report him to Haitian police. As a result, Jeriah knew in time to flee Haiti via the Dominican Republic, returning to his home in Ohio.

Former-CA sexual abuse survivor, counselor, and victims’ advocate Trudy Metzger flew to Haiti and interviewed CA missions leaders and victims. She posted the news on her blog Splash4Ripples.com—where it spread like wildfire through the CA community—and forwarded a more indepth account to the FBI.

After all this was in the open, Jeriah finally confessed to local Ohio police his US-based crimes. It appears Jeriah was not planning to confess his Haiti crimes until police (with the FBI present) asked him about them. Under the PROTECT Act of 2003, it is a federal crime to abuse minors in other countries.

At first CAM stonewalled the revelations of the abuse. They issued a “lawyered up” statement that admitted nothing and deflected. After a huge outcry from the CA community, the board stepped in and issued a much more transparent statement saying that they had not known about the abuse and that two of the top leaders who knew have been placed on administrative leave pending the results of an internal investigation.

On July 3rd, Jeriah was indicted in Ohio court for his domestic crimes and pled not guilty.

There are six comments I would like to make in response to all of this.

First, some have criticized Trudy Metzger for her part in publicizing this scandal after it became public in the Haiti courts. This is misplaced criticism. CAM refused to be transparent, even after Metzger informed the CA public. CAM was not doing the right thing before the CA community’s pressure, not to mention covering it up 2011-2019. While I might disagree with a few of the ways she is doing things, they are specks of sawdust compared to the giant redwood in the eyes of the CA community. We dare not let reasonable disagreement on a few minor points distract us from appreciation of her much-needed actions overall. I have been blessed by her balanced compassion for victims and perpetrator. She does not come across as some have tried to portray her. Everything that I have seen of her writing on this particular incident has been very balanced, compassionate, and meticulously sourced. It does not reflect well on us as a CA community to be defensive, attacking the messenger in an instance of our clear wrongdoing. If we will not take care of our own problems the way Christ has commanded, God will ensure that others take care of it. Thus we’ve lost the right to complain if the messenger did not do things exactly as we would have preferred.

Secondly, I urge CAM to hire an organization like GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in a Christian Environment) or a similar independent organization to conduct a full investigation of all allegations of abuse. There are allegations that go beyond Jeriah and it is important that CAM donors have their confidence restored by external accountability. We must be assured that donated funds are not being used to further cover up abuse.

Third, I urge CAM and all CA organizations to study the policies of ABWE and other similar organizations to ensure that this never happens again. This is a two part process of writing the policies and then making sure they’re well understood by all staff and actually implemented. The History section of ABWE’s website exemplifies a humble, repentant attitude toward their tragic history. By all appearances, ABWE learned their lesson, repented, and is now stronger than ever in building the Kingdom.

Fourth, let’s consider the downsides of this scandal. Some believe we must choose either transparency for CAM or effectiveness for CAM in all the good they’re doing around the world. This is a false dichotomy. Like Israel at Ai, CAM cannot be effective with hidden sin. While we mourn the devastation of this, we also recognize that God is redeeming this for his purposes. I know of at least one CA mission organization that is already working on a sexual abuse policy. This is the first step in making sure our sometimes shameful past of hiding these things does not continue. As a bridge organization integral to all parts of the CA world, CAM is uniquely positioned to tell a powerful story of the necessity of a change in this sinful aspect of our culture. We need courageous men and women of God to stand up and say, “Enough! This tendency of our culture in the past is often motivated by pride and fear, not by Jesus. We will do differently.” (Partially inspired by “Why the Blow-up Over CAM’s Failure to Report Sex Crimes Needed to Happen” by Lucinda J. Miller)

Fifth, I urge parents to follow my mother’s example of speaking to children about abuse. This can be done in age-appropriate ways. I recall clearly being taught from the age of 2-4 years old that if anyone ever touched my “private parts” (as my parents referred to them) that I should quickly tell them because that wasn’t allowed. Building a culture of awareness ensures that predators get caught as quickly as possible before they can do further damage. This culture also serves as a deterrent to abuse in the first place, if potential offenders know they are likely to be quickly caught. If shame prevents us from talking and teaching about this, we will create space ripe for abuse, sexual sins, and unbiblical thinking about sex.

[My sixth and final point is below.]

Sources: Splash4Ripples.com by Trudy Metzger, Wooster Daily Record, Christian Aid Ministries, Travel.State.Gov


Finally, I ask you to consider the following [open] letter from Dan Ziegler and take it to heart. Dan is a former CA missionary with Blue Ridge in Haiti and the former president of Rosedale Bible College. (For what it’s worth, he is more conservative than Rosedale is currently.) [He is a long-time acquaintance of mine with whom I have shared many great discussions about life & theology and I respect him highly. I have often gone to him for advice in the past on various matters. When I saw he had written about this, I was very glad. Doubly so after I read what he wrote.] His compassionate and wise insight on this issue is valuable.

A Way Forward

by Dan Ziegler

My scope of understanding is quite limited, but these three core facts appear to be true:

  • Jeriah Mast systematically sexually abused perhaps dozens of boys over a 20-year period in both the United States (as a member of a conservative Anabaptist church community) and Haiti (while a missionary for CAM & Life Literature). Many victims have come forth, and Jeriah has allegedly confessed to these things.
  • While the bulk of the activity came out in May 2019, in an [interrogation by a] pastor in Haiti, some of Jeriah’s previous pedophilic actions were known to those in leadership for years— including American and Haitian pastors, CAM & Life Literature leaders, and presumably leaders in his church community and some family members.
  • Despite multiple episodes of “repentance” over the years (up until recently), Jeriah showed no ability to overcome his darkest impulses, and his action showed no meaningful understanding of the damage he was inflicting on the lives of his victims, their families, and the cause of Christ.

These tragic and far-reaching facts have rocked the Conservative Anabaptist and Mission worlds—including mine—we are part of this community and have served in Haiti in a conservative Anabaptist mission a total of five years, in part during the time while Jeriah was actively victimizing Haitian boys. We personally know many of those involved in this tragedy— both Haitians and Missionaries alike. Our hearts are broken and, with so many others, we are both angered and grieved! So, the question is, in the face of such a great wrong, “What should happen now? How do we, as a community of faith, move forward from here?” We know that evil must not triumph where the cause of Christ is concerned.

As Christians we look to the values of Justice and Grace for our answers and—while these values are sometimes found in tension with each other—we recognize that God is a God of both, and we must be a people of both. Where Justice and Grace find harmony is in the example of Christ, who calls us to a higher plane of justice. Instead of retributive justice (an eye for an eye) we are to strive for restorative justice (grace-filled justice that brings new life). In fact, we rely on it for our salvation—”for while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” So, what does restorative justice demand in this situation?

First, and most importantly, for the victims and their families, justice demands that Jeriah face the international legal consequences for his crimes against children. Restoration demands that these boys and their families be cared for spiritually, psychologically, and materially by the community that Jeriah was a part of—family, churches and institutions must sacrificially join forces in this effort—in the hopes of restoring their dignity and helping them heal as dearly loved children of God.

Second, “to whom much is given, much is required.” Justice demands that those in church and mission leadership who previously (before May) knew of Jeriah’s wrongs, especially those who could have hindered his access to the children of Haiti, admit their failure to adequately protect the “least of these,” apologize for their negligence, and publicly recognize the severe harm to individuals and their institutions that their lapse in judgement has brought about. Trust has been broken, and those who could have stopped Jeriah’s reappointment to Haiti (including board members) need to step aside in order to help their missions regain trust and rebuild the work for Christ they have been called to do. I don’t say this lightly—many of these brothers have honorably given their lives to mission work, and many are my friends. Restoration requires that we in the Conservative Anabaptist Mission and Church community repent of the prideful and self-preserving culture that has allowed this evil to go unchecked in our midst in this situation and elsewhere, and together build a system of transparency, accountability, and procedural integrity to prevent this kind of thing from ever happening again! Restoration also demands that those leaders (and their families) who have been shamed and broken by this calamity find forgiveness, healing, and care in family of God, and also that those institutions that have been tainted be given the opportunity to meet their legal and moral obligations, and with whatever solvency remains, re-earn their constituents trust and with the community’s oversight and God’s help fully give themselves once again to the work of Jesus.

Third, justice requires that Jeriah, once broken and repentant, pay the price for his crimes of violence, vulgarity, and selfish power against these innocents, and never be given unsupervised access to children again as long as he lives (even his own children). This price will doubtless include confession, specific and personal apologies, a lengthy prison sentence, and restitution to victims. Restoration requires that Jeriah’s life be spared, and ultimately that he too find forgiveness, treatment, and the opportunity for restoration into the community of faith as a redeemed child of God. Restoration also requires that his family, who are also his victims, be cared for and nurtured by the community. (I am not convinced that his life, as a pedophilemissionary who preyed on Haitian children, will be spared in the bedlam of a Haitian prison. Might he serve his Haitian time in an American prison?)

As shock has turned to anger in our community, I hear strong words of condemnation, with some folks calling for harsh and far-reaching punishment, and/or for withholding of funds from CAM or even for its dissolution. Bitterness and cynicism are on the rise within our ranks. I have children of my own, and I have served much of my life in ministry and mission leadership—I understand this anger. Others are silent, defensive, or advocate for “circling the wagons” to limit the damage. I understand this preservation instinct as well.

However, there comes a point, hopefully sooner rather than later, when with God’s help this cascade of events turns from destructive to constructive. I don’t believe we are there yet—and some important things have to be set in motion before this occurs. But we need to pray fervently together, that out of the ruins of the brokenness of this tragedy might emerge something true and God-breathed.

[This open letter was originally posted to the MennoNet forums. It has been reprinted in this column with permission.]


Additional Reading

Here is some additional reading I would recommend [for conservative Anabaptists] on the topic:

  • The Stranger Within” by Lucinda J. Miller on The Dock (a blog for teachers by FBEP’s Resource Group) – contains a great summary of how to create a healthy environment that responds correctly to sexual abuse and has a helpful list of resources for further learning
  • ChildLine” by Shari Zook on The Dock – talks about mandatory reporters and gives stories of dealing with governmental child protective services
  • Stop talking about ‘moral failure’” by Rosina Schmucker
  • Guidelines for Teacher/Student Conduct” on The Dock – template policy for Christian schools

If you wish to print this with readable links, you can print a slightly older version nicely formatted for print by AnabaptistAwareness.org which provided it to their supporters as a statement on the CAM/Jeriah issue.

Orwellian Amish Heritage Foundation Misunderstands History, Promotes Atheism

The following Newslines column originally appeared in the February 2019 edition of The Sword & Trumpet.


An article in the Mennonite World Review entitled “Dark side to Amish religious freedom?” was not a bad article, but it did uncritically relay the beliefs of the Amish Heritage Foundation” (AHF). I was very glad to be introduced to this brand-new organization as it has an incredibly Orwellian name, it is peddling a rather insidious mis-accounting and misunderstanding of history, and it utilizes atheists who have left other ultra-conservative religions to “teach” the Amish how to escape. It is a dishonest and direct attack on conservative Anabaptism (and all of orthodox Christianity) and it behooves us to understand what they’re attempting.

Orwellian Name

George Orwell wrote the book 1984 which was a fictional account of a dystopian government who manipulated language in order to manipulate and control the people. Orwell wrote, “The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation. These contradictions are not accidental, nor do they result from ordinary hypocrisy: they are deliberate exercises in doublethink.”

The Amish Heritage Foundation is named the same way. Its purpose is the opposite of preserving the Amish Heritage. Its purpose is to destroy the Amish Heritage. The founders spin it as “reclaim[ing] our Amish narrative”.

There is a very revealing quote by the founder of AHF in the Mennonite World Review article. This quote gives lie to the Orwellian name “Amish Heritage Foundation” and bypasses theological and historical arguments and cuts straight to an admission of intent. MWR writes, “[As a child,] executive director Torah Bontrager…heard the story of Harriet Tubman assisting escaped African-American slaves along the underground railroad. ‘I told myself if I escaped and I made it, I would create an Amish underground railroad for those who wanted to transition to the outside world,’ she said. ‘That’s what the Amish Heritage Foundation is.’”

This clearly lays bare the Orwellian “war is peace” deception contained in the name. The AHF was created to help Amish escape the Amish life like slaves escaped slavery. That would be like the Underground Railroad calling itself the “Slavery Heritage Foundation” to make it feel more palatable. The purpose of the Underground Railroad was to destroy slavery by helping people escape it and the purpose of the Amish Heritage Foundation is to destroy the Amish by helping people escape it. Neither was to preserve the heritage of the Amish or the “heritage” of slavery.

I fully support the rights of all Amish people to self-determination and making an informed, adult decision on whether to remain Amish or to pursue other churches or none at all, but even though I’ve not chosen to be Amish like my grandparents were, it really makes me unhappy to see such a dishonest approach.

AHF is parallel to liberal “Christianity” that keeps the name Christian but which strips it of most historical beliefs and holds religion as a useful fiction while believing and practicing functional atheism with a bit of “Lord, Lord.” In fact, most leaders of this organization claim to be Amish, even though they are not. They call themselves “noncompliant Amish”.

Promotion of Atheism

The founder of the AHF, Torah Bontrager, graduated from Columbia University with a BA in Philosophy in 2007 where “she focused on Tibetan Buddhism” (according to her website bio).

AHF’s flagship and inaugural conference (“Disrupting History: Reclaiming Our Amish Story”) had as its speakers a parade of atheists and non-Christians with clear résumés of dedicating their lives to anti-religion causes. Many of the speakers are people who left their religions and were at the conference to teach the Amish how to leave Christianity as well. In their conference schedule, AHF expresses their unhappiness that many Amish that leave the Amish go to “Mennonite” or “born-again” churches. Here are a few speaker bio excerpts.

Sarah Haider is an ex-Muslim and co-founder of Ex-Muslims of Northern America. AHF’s conference program writes, “Sarah will share the work that she is doing on behalf of her culture of origin and how their challenges and solutions might apply to the mission of AHF.”

Joel Engelman is an ex-Orthodox Jew whose AHF bio says, “Through his research on individuals who have left Orthodox Jewish communities, Joel will explore the commonalities between the Orthodox Jewish and Amish experiences of leaving religious communities… the common challenges of those who choose to leave insular religious communities will be discussed.”

Marci Hamilton is a former Supreme Court law clerk and is an advocate for reducing religious liberties and an advocate for the government prosecuting fringe religions.

Galen Guengerich is an ex-Mennonite who is now a Unitarian Universalist “minister”.

Historical Inaccuracy and Secular Education

There are so many historical inaccuracies espoused by Torah Bontrager and her AHF that it deserves a scholarly paper refuting it all. It ranges from the petty (referring to the Pennsylvania Dutch language as “Amish”) to* serious résumé inflation (first and only Amish person to graduate from an Ivy League college; she’s neither) to a distortion of history which is foundational to their leftist, atheist agenda (Wisconsin v. Yoder). Since they focus so heavily on that last point and because it is so important to their agenda, I will focus on that here.

Their distortion of the history of Wisconsin v. Yoder (a 1972 Supreme Court decision) seems entirely driven by their agenda. (In fact, the AHF efforts are a quintessential case study in how the left attacks religion via the conduit of secular education.) The AHF (and Elam Zook in particular) says Wisconsin v. Yoder (WvY) “directly created an embrace of ignorance” and rejection of education. The truth is rather the reverse. WvY did not cause Amish suspicion of formal education, rather Amish suspicion of formal education caused WvY.

During the time period preceding the WvY decision, public education was rejecting God. The Amish only rejected public education because public education was rejecting God. WvY did not cause the Amish to reject public education and be suspicious of book-learning education, but rather it was the atheist drift of the educational establishment that accomplished this. WvY only codified in court precedent the 1st Amendment’s constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of conscience in regard to education. This was a freedom the Amish were already exercising and willing to go to jail for pre-WvY. Some had been fined and sent to jail already. WvY was not a catalyst and cause of Amish rejection of education; rather WvY was the State realizing that the Amish were correct in claiming that religious freedom, a religious freedom whose exercise came out of a heritage predisposed to practical, hands-on education rather than book-learning.

During the time period surrounding WvY, all Christians from the Amish to the Protestants to the Catholics recognized the attack of leftist/atheist public academia on religion. The Catholics already had their own parochial schools, the Protestants and Anabaptists did not. The Protestants, because of their heritage, developed high-quality institutions of Christian book-learning education in response. The Amish, because of their heritage, created schools that went only through eighth grade and focused their post-school educational efforts on hands-on craftsman and farming skills taught through apprenticeship and on-the-job training.

The AHF has an extremely derogatory and condescending view of the Amish, writing, “[The Amish] are a perilously disadvantaged minority group in the USA and Canada with no scientific and technological skills, no emotional and social intelligence, and no higher education.”

Anyone who has interacted with the Amish knows that this absurd polemic is at best an overgeneralization of the worst of a small minority of Amish upon the entire Amish populace. My Amish and ex-Amish friends are the some of the most intelligent, funny, creative, friendly, curious, skilled, and engaging people I know. For just one example, the ingenious eco-friendly, budget-friendly alternative-energy solutions devised by a number of ex-Amish and Amish friends and acquaintances could fill a book. I know Amish who were computer programmers while still Old Order Amish and who scored top 5 percentile in standardized national High School tests.

In contrast to AHF’s negative view, much of both the secular and religious world recognize that the modern world has fallen into the theoretical book-learning ditch and have underemphasized the trades, practical skills, craftsmanship, and apprenticing. There is a crisis of student debt where students have gotten useless, expensive degrees that they’ll be paying for their whole lives, degrees that brought them little real-world value. Most of the world recognizes the world-class apprenticeship and craftsmanship of the Amish (not to mention their strong, relationship-focused communities) and seek to recapture a healthy balance for our lonely tech- and artificially-focused world. (An example is found in the book Success Made Simple: An Inside Look at Why Amish Businesses Thrive by Erik Wesner.)

As someone with a deep love of book learning, thinking logically & consistently, and being well informed, I am of the opinion that the Amish are generally unbalanced on the practical side without enough book learning. I love that my Amish and Amish-Mennonite communities here in Kansas love book-learning and I seek to spread that vision among conservative Anabaptists of all stripes. However, I also recognize my own weaknesses and the weaknesses of the modern world and realize that we have a lot to learn from the Amish craftsman/apprenticeship model.

An insightful conservative Anabaptist leader who wishes to remain anonymous wrote, “AHF’s main contention is that the government and civil society must reassert control over Amish education as the only realistic tool for enforcing assimilation of modern values in the church. Amish and Mennonite churches are artificially able to resist societal and moral assimilation because their children are not under the public school system. If they can remove the ‘prop’ of avoiding the secular education system, then the church will eventually be changed… They have accurately identified a key: If you can assert control over what children are taught and [are patient], you force change in the church.”

AHF’s attack on WvY follows the successful playbook of the left in adding the right of gay marriage to judicial canon: change academia’s opinion, thus changing a newly indoctrinated generation of young people’s opinion, thus changing the Supreme Court’s opinion.

It is an enjoyable bit of irony that they decry Amish schools as tools of indoctrination in Amish beliefs. They know all about that because that’s their game. The choice is not between Amish indoctrination and free will as they would like you to believe, but it’s rather a choice of whose worldview will be imparted in education: that of the secular, atheist left or that of the church. Both are equally eager to impart their worldview through education. The Constitution guarantees the rights of parents to make the choice between those two (and myriad other options), but the AHF wants to take away that choice by reversing Wisconsin v. Yoder.

Conclusion

The saddest thing about the Amish Heritage Foundation is not their dishonest name, their distortions of history, or their attacks on religious freedom to try to destroy the Amish. The saddest thing is what motivated a number of the founders and leaders of the AHF: sexual abuse. If you are a regular reader of this column, you know I have frequently highlighted sexual abuse in conservative Anabaptist and conservative Christian circles. I’ve espoused exposing that sin and trying to build a culture that is naturally resistant to such abuse happening. The experience of sexual abuse is endemic to those involved in AHF and it breaks my heart. Of course, if that abuse was one’s experience when growing up Amish, dedicating one’s life to destroying the Amish is the natural response. It also explains the very derogatory view that the AHF has toward the Amish. It is the darkest corners of the most conservative Amish world that sweep such sin under the rug, allowing it to flourish and grow. And it’s those same communities that do actually embrace insularity and ignorance rather than thoughtfully rejecting certain kinds of secular book-learning as not helpful. So AHF’s extremely negative perception of the Amish on those points makes a lot more sense when one is familiar with the various kinds of Amish and where the AHF folks came from.

Obviously, I also have a limited perspective based on the Amish I know, who are not necessarily representative of all Amish people. Amish are congregational, not conference-based. There is no top-down hierarchy, but rather local churches make their own decisions and evolve in drastically different ways both practically and spiritually.

I do appreciate the scholarship of the non-Amish Prof. Donald Kraybill who has undertaken systematic study of the Amish (and is the world’s foremost academic authority on the topic). He has highlighted a number of the positive things I have also noticed. (Because this does not fit the AHF’s narrative and goals, one of their first tasks was to write a scholarly article attacking Kraybill’s credibility and methodology.)

While this has been quite long and probably gives AHF more attention than they deserve, I believe it is an important case study for us as conservative Anabaptists (and more broadly as conservative Christians) to understand. It is absolutely textbook on how the political left and liberal religion seek to use the power of the state to try to undermine the true church. Let us be alert to the admonitions of 1 Peter 4:12-16 which instruct us to ensure that persecution from the government is not due to sinful behavior like sexual abuse. Let us also pay heed to the many Scriptures (Hosea 4:6; Eph. 4:18; Pro. 1:7; 4:13; 18:15; 19:2; 22:3; James 1:5; 1 Tim. 6:20-21; 2 Tim. 2:15; Luke 2:52; Col 2:8; John 8:32; 14:6) that call us to have a love of truth, knowledge, and wisdom and let us make sure “embrace of ignorance” is not a legitimate criticism of our lives.


Sources: Mennonite World Review, Des Moines Register, AmishHeritage.org, “The Functionalist Problem in Kraybill’s Riddle of Amish Culture” by Michael S. Billig and Elam Zook, TorahBontrager.com, “Escaping the Amish” on Tim Ferriss’ blog, Wikipedia


* “Pennsylvania Dutch” was my first language before English. When I was about five years old, I still didn’t fully understand the difference between the two languages and had a limited vocabulary in both languages. I was on a plane around that age and when the flight attendant came by I asked her, “Ma’am? Ma’am? Could I have a kissy?” She looked at me with shock and asked, “What do you want? You want me to kiss you?” My parents were at my side laughing uproariously at my predicament and quickly explained that “kissy” was the Datch word for “pillow” and that I was asking for a pillow, not a kiss. The flight attendant laughed and huffed in faux relief, “Good! I thought he was getting fresh with me!” All that to say, PA Dutch was my native language. We always called it “Datch” or “Deitsch” (depending on your accent) and when I got older, I learned the formal name was “Pennyslvania Dutch” which was an Englishified mistransliteration of “Pennsylvania Deutsch” which is the German word for German. Never, ever have I heard this language referred to as Amish. However, after reading this article, an ex-Amish friend of mine messaged me and said that when he grew up in the Pennsylvania Amish church, he and his friends would jokingly refer to Pennsylvania Dutch as “Amish”. So Torah’s use of that colloquialism is not as out of place as I thought. This illustrates, again, the hazards of making generalizations about the Amish because they are so congregational and regional.

Cautionary Stories of Sexual Abuse in Conservative Christian Ministries: ABWE & IBLP

I wrote the following column in the summer of 2017 for the Sep. 2017 issue of Sword & Trumpet, a small conservative Anabaptist monthly magazine for which I am the monthly Newslines columnist. I am publishing it online now because recent events among conservative Anabaptists make it even more urgently relevant. (The only modification made was to invert the two sections to put ABWE first and IBLP second and to make some square bracket explanatory edits.)


I do not have the room to recount the whole incredible story of decades of adultery, rape, and pedophiliac sexual abuse by Donn Ketcham, a missionary doctor in Bangladesh with ABWE (Association of Baptists for World Evangelism). If you are a pastor, Christian leader, or board member (or have influence over any), I strongly suggest you read the whole story: “The Silence of the Lambs” by Kathryn Joyce in The New Republic and “Missionary Donn Ketcham Abused 18 Children. Here’s Why He Wasn’t Stopped.” by Sarah Zylstra in Christianity Today. (For that matter, I highly recommend perusing RecoveringGrace.org in-depth, reading their stories [about IBLP].)

However, in brief, his adultery was well known to ABWE for many years (since 1967) and the mission responded by having him repent and then sending the women missionaries back to the US. It got to the point that veteran missionaries would warn new lady missionaries who arrived to be wary of him and to stay away. However, given fundamentalist culture of not talking about sexual issues with children, no one warned the children. It turns out, the board’s inaction in regards to his adultery gave him the platform to rape and sexually abuse at least 23 young missionary girls in Bangladesh.

When a 14 year old girl came forward to tell about being raped in 1989, ABWE’s response was a strange mix of action and cover-up. They believed the girl, which was good. And they finally removed him from the field, which was good. However, they blamed the victim in some very disgusting ways. They lied by omission to the victim’s parents, who did not find out until decades later the extent of the abuse. They did not investigate further to see if others had been abused. They sent a vaguely worded letter to his sponsoring churches that he had engaged in “immoral conduct” (which is conservative Christian code for adultery, not sexual abuse). They also never told his new pastor back in the US what had happened. But worst of all, as New Republic writes, “Because no one from ABWE alerted police or the state medical board that Ketcham had confessed to sexually abusing a child 45 years his junior, he was able to return to practicing medicine and teaching Sunday school. He would go on to see patients for another 23 years.”

The only way his behavior finally came to public light was his victims began trading stories at a Bangladesh MK (missionary kids) reunion. When they realized they weren’t alone, they confronted ABWE, who did nothing. A few years later, they got together again and disgusted by ABWE’s inaction, launched a blog in 2011 telling their stories. Just as with IBLP, this absolutely opened the floodgates as many more victims came forward with their stories.

Finally ABWE acted, hiring GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in a Christian Environment) to investigate, but then firing them shortly before they produced their report. ABWE then hired Professional Investigators International (PII) to run the investigation. They were allowed to complete their investigation (after they had ABWE’s in-house lawyer removed who was obstructing the investigation by lying and hiding documents) and issued a 280-page report. All the crimes they detailed occurred outside of U.S. jurisdiction, but some measure of earthly justice may finally be served on Donn Ketcham as a mother of one of his patients in the U.S. (he returned to practicing medicine in the U.S. because ABWE never reported him!) ran across the blog, connected the dots, and Dr. Ketcham is now on trial for molesting her six year old daughter in 1999. [Edited to add: He will not get earthly justice because in July 2018 he has been ruled ineligible to stand trial due to dementia preventing him mounting any defense.] This molestation in the U.S. happened an incredible 32 years after ABWE first knew of his serial adultery (which according to ABWE policies should have removed him from the field for a single instance, much less a recurring pattern) and 10 years after ABWE first knew about his pedophilia. PII’s report identified 23 missionary girls and women he molested or raped (this did not include his consensual affairs with adults). Furthermore, PII encountered evidence that he molested Bangladeshi natives who were his patients, but did not pursue ascertaining details because it was outside of their investigative purview.

More and more stories are emerging of this pattern of abuse and cover-up and further abuse among conservative evangelicals. There have been recent investigations and arrests of missionaries from New Tribes Mission, Bob Jones University, a Christian & Missionary Alliance boarding school in Africa, among others. As we know, we’ve faced similar problems in our conservative Anabaptist churches.

The absolutely essential lesson of both of these stories is that we must take to heart the Bible’s teaching that sin flourishes in darkness, in secrecy. By keeping this sin of abuse hidden (even if it was “confessed” after being caught), it allowed the perpetrators to continue abusing people. We do not want to gossip about sin or engage in public shaming for its own sake, but sins of abuse need to be publicly acknowledged to provide accountability and to open the door for other victims to step forward. Far too often victims feel like they’re the only ones and are scared to come forward. However, in both these cases, as soon as something was said publicly, the floodgates were opened with hundreds of people coming forward to tell their stories. This is something that doesn’t happen if leadership keeps these matters private.

It is also important that church and ministry leaders work with government authorities to report abuse. We are called to obey governmental authorities as they seek to punish the bad and protect the good. And the government has many commonsense protections in place to keep sex offenders from re-offending and damaging more victims, which is for the protection of the offender’s soul, even if he or she has repented. Furthermore, while we forgive and seek to restore someone who has sinned, it is not our place to make the choice whether the law will show them justice or mercy.

Sources: The New Republic, Christianity Today, “ABWE and Donn Ketcham Investigations – Final Report, March 11, 2016” by PII, WoodTV.com, BangladeshMKsSpeak.WordPress.com


When I began writing the [ABWE] piece [prior] to this, I thought I had already written about the Bill Gothard sexual harassment cases, but a number of searches through the Newslines archives reveal I had not. I apologize for the oversight. Many of us are familiar with the Advanced Training Institute (ATI) curriculum and the Institute for Basic Life Principles (IBLP) headed by Bill Gothard. They were popular for many years among conservative Anabaptists. In my early grades in school, I was taught using some of their curriculum for a few years. However, over the past decade, I began to be concerned over some of the misplaced emphases in his teaching. And then the sexual harassment emerged. The website RecoveringGrace.org has been at the forefront of documenting it. They offer a summary of their own journey:

When we launched our website in July of 2011, we did so with the express mission of helping people whose lives have been impacted by the teachings of Bill Gothard through the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) seminars and the Advanced Training Institute (ATI) homeschool program. We have attempted to fulfill that mission through regularly posted articles primarily written by former students of ATI—articles that have covered a wide variety of issues such as theological discussions of IBLP teachings, personal stories of discovering grace, and bringing to light some of the darker aspects of working at an IBLP Training Center. What we truthfully did not realize at the time of our launch was the strong undercurrent of depravity displayed for decades at the highest levels of IBLP leadership. Our thought at the time was that the most viscerally damaging effects of Gothardism were spiritual, and that Bill Gothard’s worst flaws were theological and hermeneutical. As such, most of our attention for the first year of our website was focused on these areas.

In early 2012, this all changed for us when a young lady shared with us her experiences working for Bill Gothard at Headquarters. While it has long been widely known by anyone who worked there that Bill had his favorites, this young lady opened our eyes to what being a ‘favorite’ meant: unwanted and unwarranted emotional and physical attention from a man in a position of authority to young women who could not refuse it. In other words, it was textbook sexual harassment.

So, on April 20, 2012, we published Lizzie’s story. And as soon as we did, we discovered that we had opened Pandora’s box. The emails and comments poured in like a flood, and we knew that we had stumbled across something bigger than we could have ever anticipated. A few weeks later, we published Annette’s story; a year later, Grace’s. Over the past two weeks, Meg has shared with us her very painful personal journey. And, later this week, we will share yet another account.

Since the time that Lizzie’s story was published, we have identified by name at least 34 different women who have experienced the same harassment, and we have sufficient evidence to believe that there are dozens more. We have had men and women who served in IBLP leadership confirm that the allegations are true, although they felt (and often were) powerless to do anything at the time. In fact, we have learned that the IBLP Board of Directors has on more than one occasion addressed this behavior with Bill Gothard, but to no lasting avail.

http://www.recoveringgrace.org/2014/02/the-gothard-files-a-case-for-disqualification-x2/

RecoveringGrace.org goes on to detail how they wrote an article in June of 2013 calling on Gothard to repent. How he refused. How further emails from former senior IBLP staff revealed that this had been a problem as early as 1980 with him being forced to resign because of it, only to forcefully return, force most of the senior staff and board out of IBLP, and bring in a new, more pliant group of people. They go on to write:

As our database of troubling information has grown, our team has struggled over what to do with what we know. We have always tried to demonstrate a grace-based approach to our work and ministry, even towards the one man we believe to be the originator of the greatest damage. However, we also know that God desires both justice and mercy, and that grace does not preclude justice or truth. Every time we hear of another young person struggling with their faith in God, or dealing with chronic health issues because of physical mistreatment and exhaustion while working at a training center, or fighting depression and confusion because they were sexually harassed by Bill Gothard, an inescapable question confronts us: What can we do with this information to ensure that the abuse does not continue to happen?

We based our decision on a passage of Scripture familiar to most ex-ATIers: Matthew 18—wherein Christ teaches us how to deal with a sinning brother. We know that Bill Gothard has been confronted one-on-one many times about his sin, as well as in groups of two and three, so our team believes that it is time for us to engage in the final phase of this process which is found in Matthew 18:17: ‘If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.’

http://www.recoveringgrace.org/2014/02/the-gothard-files-a-case-for-disqualification-x2/

As a result of the full release of all the stories and information RecoveringGrace had gathered, the IBLP board finally took action in March of 2014, accepting Gothard’s resignation and barring him from serving in any capacity with IBLP.

Sources: RecoveringGrace.org, IBLP.org


Edited to add: It has been brought to my attention that one of the authors of RecoveringGrace is an extremely anti-Christian person. This does not necessarily cast doubt upon the stories of the many victims of sexual harassment at the hands of Bill Gothard (in fact, I’ve received second-hand friend-of-a-friend testimony that the harassment was quite real), but it does remind us to never swallow whole anyone’s writings or opinions as they are inevitably colored by our beliefs. And not everyone is as honest as we try to be. I welcome any further, well-sourced comments on the veracity of the IBLP narrative.