Minister to Get Abuse Training
The Rev. Floyd Blackwell, a Newport News Pastor, Is Accused of Not Reporting Cases of Alleged Sexual Abuse
By Beverly N. Williams
September 7, 2006
Newport News - A local minister accused of failing to tell police about three girls being sexually abused was in Newport News juvenile court Wednesday to face charges of obstructing justice.
Instead of a trial, though, the case was postponed to Dec. 20 to give the Rev. Floyd Blackwell time to attend a course on what to do when people make allegations of sexual abuse to clergy members. Blackwell, pastor of Miracle Baptist Temple Church in Newport News, asked to attend the training along with other area pastors, said Stephanie Pass, a special prosecutor from Chesapeake.
The training would be similar to the kind that teachers receive each year at their schools, Pass said, but such programs also are offered at places besides schools. Which one might be able to accommodate Blackwell before December has yet to be determined, she said.
If Blackwell hasn't taken the training by the time that he returns to court, the 68-year-old minister could stand trial on three counts each of obstruction of justice and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
The Rev. Linwood T. Daye Jr., co-pastor of Zion Baptist Church in Newport News, said Wednesday that such training would be good for clergy members.
"I think it's a source of information because it would be good for us to know what to do to protect ourselves," Daye said. "It would give us insight on how to handle such things. So I'm in favor of a class, so we, as ministers, would be informed on what steps to take."
The Rev. Susie Cothran, pastor of Wythe Presbyterian Church in Hampton, agreed.
"A lot of times, the problem is ignorance," Cothran said. "A lot of times, people don't understand the extent of the damage abuse can cause."
Ethical dilemmas often arise for ministers when the person seeking help in confidence is the one committing the crime, she said. In Presbyterian churches, however, the national church has decided that protecting the victim takes priority, Cothran said.
In Virginia, clergy aren't mandated by law like schoolteachers, day care workers and others to report allegations of abuse to police or Child Protective Services.
But a 2006 General Assembly bill that narrowly passed the Senate would add ministers, priests, rabbis and imams to the list.
It would impose a fine of up to $200 if those required to report abuse fail to do so.
Blackwell, who's been leading his church for 30 years, was arrested in January because - police said - the pastor knew about the abuse but didn't report it. Instead, police said he discouraged the person who told him about it from going to the police and said he'd handle the matter within the church.
A 19-year-old man, eventually arrested and charged with abusing the three girls for three years, is a relative. He faces two abduction charges and eight counts each of sodomy and taking indecent liberties with children.
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