Former Hyde Park pastor arrested in 2001 incident, accused of 2005 sexual assault
By Ariel Gilreath
March 14, 2020
|Jonathan Alan Weaver|
A former Hyde Park pastor is being accused of the sexual assault of a 17-year-old in 2005.
And, a South Carolina university is apologizing for not doing more to assist the teen 15 years ago, in the wake of the pastor’s arrest.
Shielagh Clark said she was sexually assaulted by her former pastor at Hyde Park Baptist Church, Jonathan Alan Weaver, but said she was too afraid at the time to pursue police charges.
Late last month, Weaver, 56, was arrested by the Greenville Police Department in South Carolina, and charged with two counts of first-degree assault and battery. Those charges are tied to an incident that allegedly occurred in 2001 when Clark was still in high school and on a trip with Weaver and other teenage students to Bob Jones University, according to warrants. Greenville police charged Weaver with assault and battery because that's what the evidence supported, Lt. Alia Paramore said.
Clark did file a report with the Hyde Park Police Department in 2005 that alleges abuse that she said began when she was 15, according to a copy of that report provided to The Greenville News by Clark. But Clark told The News that she was too afraid at the time to pursue charges, and no charges were filed.
When contacted by The News, a man with Hyde Park Baptist Church read aloud the following statement: "Mr. Weaver was immediately relieved of his duties at the moment the accusations became public in 2005, and he immediately moved to the state of Pennsylvania."
Randy Page, a spokesperson for Bob Jones University, said the school found out about the 2001 allegations two weeks ago, but he said Clark reported other assaults to the school in 2005.
In a statement to The News, Page said the university failed by not encouraging Clark to go to authorities at that time.
"In reviewing the actions taken by the University administration at the time they learned of these assaults, BJU failed to adequately assist the female student by encouraging her to notify law enforcement of the assaults committed against her in South Carolina,” Page said in the statement. “In the intervening years, we have learned much about how to assist women who experience trauma as a result of sexual abuse and/or assault. We would handle this situation much differently if it were to happen today.
“We applaud the courage and bravery of our former student in notifying law enforcement and pray that she and her family may find comfort and peace in the days ahead."
Clark emailed a statement about Bob Jones University's recent response but declined further comment.
“I am encouraged by the University’s statement. I cannot express how it feels to read those words after 15 years," Clark's email said. “At the time of my disclosure, I was further traumatized by the people who should have embraced me and led me toward healing. I faced my darkness alone. I hope my decision to speak out helps to change the way institutions, especially churches, prevent and respond to sexual abuse.”
Page said the former pastor, Weaver, is a 1986 Bob Jones graduate.
A call to a phone number associated with Weaver in online records was not returned. Other phone numbers associated with Weaver have been disconnected. His attorney, Lucas Marchant, declined to comment.
Clark said she reported to Greenville police in November that Weaver assaulted her 19 years ago, when he was 37 and she was 16 years old, while he was her pastor at Hyde Park Baptist Church.
According to arrest warrants, Weaver was with a group from his church for a visit to Bob Jones when he brought a girl on the trip into the university-owned apartment where he was staying.
The warrants describe two incidents where a woman said she was sexually assaulted by Weaver at the apartment during the trip.
One warrant said the woman was too afraid to report the allegations at the time because Weaver was her pastor. Both warrants say that she has letters and recordings of the man asking for her forgiveness.
USA Today Network organizations do not typically identify people who report sexual assault, but Clark said she was willing to be named.
Clark, who attended Bob Jones from 2004 to 2005, said she was included but not identified in a report the university commissioned to investigate its handling of sexual abuse allegations. The report was released in 2014 by the organization Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment, or GRACE.
According to the GRACE report, a student told staff with Bob Jones University in 2005 that she had been abused by her pastor since she was 15 years old and that she was pregnant with his child, which is consistent with the report Clark filed with the Hyde Park police. The student was asked to withdraw from the university for lying about where she was when she used overnight passes, the report said.
The report was critical of the expulsion, saying a counselor "without conflicting interests" would have instead found the underlying problem was "this pastor's manipulative and devastating actions."
Clark identified herself as that former student.
"She was the victim of a large scale campaign of abuse by a shepherd who preyed on his sheep," the report said. "She needed compassion and grace but received neither."