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 ‘They Aren’t Who You Think They Are’
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 ‘They Aren’t Who You Think They Are’

The inside story of how Kanakuk—one of America’s largest Christian camps—enabled horrific abuse.

The first thing you need to know about Pete Newman is that people loved him. He has olive skin, dark hair, and thick eyebrows that generated good-natured “unibrow” teasing. Girls wanted to date him, guys wanted to be him, and children wanted to follow him.

He was a camp director at Kanakuk Kamps, one of the largest Christian camps in the world. Kanakuk is an immense operation. Since its founding in 1926, it claims to have served more than 450,000 campers. Its main campus is located outside of Branson, Missouri, but it has international reach. Every summer approximately 20,000 kids pass through its gates, and the institution is particularly prominent with the Evangelical elite. 

Newman was the camp’s rock star. A person who went to Auburn University with Newman said, memorably, “If Jesus and Pete walked into a room, I’m not sure who the kids would have worshiped.” “Pete Newman is the most thorough relationship builder with kids in Kanakuk history,” Kanakuk chief executive officer Joe White once said. “This guy has a raging love for God and it spills over constantly to the kids at kamp.”

White himself has long been a popular, charismatic figure in American Evangelicalism. (We reached out to White, and he declined to comment.) He has inspired intense devotion from campers, employees, and parents. Outside of camp, he’s known for a particular and vivid public presentation where he builds and carries a cross on stage to illustrate the crucifixion of Christ. The example below comes from a 2015 convocation at Liberty University:

Kanakuk and White promoted Newman relentlessly, both within the organization and to the public at large. Newman rose through the ranks from camp counselor to camp director. It sent him on the road to recruit campers and to raise money. According to former members of the camp community, parents would sometimes compete for a coveted honor—hosting Newman in their home. 

He was also a superpredator. He groomed and abused boys in their own homes. He groomed and abused boys at camp. In fact, he abused boys across the world. On June 9, 2010, he pleaded guilty to seven counts of sexually abusing boys. He received a sentence of two life terms, plus 30 years. His guilty plea was but the tip of a terrible iceberg. A civil complaint alleges that there were at least 57 victims, but the prosecutor in his case estimates that the real number could be in the “hundreds.”

The true dimensions of the worst Christian sex abuse scandal you’ve never heard of have long been largely unknown. Newman’s initial arrest and sentencing received little media attention. Few reporters knew about the camp’s size or importance. They were unfamiliar with Joe White. Moreover, the limited scope of the guilty plea concealed the sheer scale of the abuse. The resulting civil lawsuits received little attention, and nondisclosure agreements silenced victims and kept evidence under seal. 

Following Newman’s conviction, the narrative from the camp was relatively simple. They had been shocked to find a bad apple in their midst. They had fired him immediately, promptly reported his wrongdoing to the authorities, and then implemented new “industry-leading” protective measures to protect the children who attend the camp. The camp’s worst moment became a catalyst for positive change, and now, its leaders maintain, it leads the way in caring for kids.

The truth is far more complex.

The scant media attention—combined with NDAs—means that we still don’t know the true number of legal actions against the camp or the true extent of Newman’s abuse. An unknown number of victims have filed an unknown number of lawsuits filled with unknown evidence that have resulted in unknown numbers of settlements for an unknown amount of money. We do, however, have a far more complete account of what happened at Kanakuk, and we’re sharing that account today.

Our own involvement began when former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson reached out to Nancy (who has her own experience with sexual abuse in church) after discovering from a victim’s sister the extent of the NDAs connected to the scandal. Nancy then began her own months-long effort to comb through court documents, interview witnesses, and to retrieve the documents and testimony that would tell the tale.

During this investigation, we discovered that one courageous young man and his family had resisted the pressure to promise silence. He and his family refused to sign a nondisclosure agreement. They wanted the freedom to tell their story and to share their evidence. They still want their identities to remain private (we’re maintaining the anonymity of victims and their families), but they want the evidence to become public. We’re sharing that evidence today.

But first, a warning. The content that follows is deeply disturbing.

  1. What Did Pete Newman Do?

Newman’s Kanakuk life began in 1995. He was first hired as a camp counselor, one of many, a low-level employee in an enormous camp. But Newman didn’t remain obscure for long.

On the day Newman arrived at camp, according to a personal letter written from Newman to Joe White, White told Newman he would be his “Missouri Daddy.” Newman quickly became the camp’s most popular counselor.

In our interviews with parents and campers, they consistently noted that Newman was unusually charismatic. A number of people we talked to during the course of this investigation referred to his captivating personality, and one aptly called him the “Pied Piper.” Just as the literary figure lured children away from their parents to their demise, so did Newman. Instead of using a flute, he used his charm. 

“As a kid, it wouldn’t have been odd for Pete to scoop you up, give you an enormous hug, pick you up by your legs so you’d walk around with your hands,” former camper Wilson Sims said in a telephone interview. “We loved the attention, the wrestling, the playing.” Sims saw this firsthand when he was 10 years old. One summer night in 1999, he was tucked into his cabin when Pete showed up to take him out alone after curfew. The camper was honored by the attention. 

“I thought he was the coolest,” he said. “That night, we went swimming in the camp pool together and he let me drive a golf-cart type thing. I felt like I had the whole camp to myself.”

Sims said he later came to realize that this had been not casual attention but “grooming”—the befriending of children to gain their trust to cultivate a potential sexual relationship. 

Well before Newman’s arrest, Kanakuk had multiple rules in place prohibiting abuse. Its employee/camper “playbook” prohibited any homosexual behavior, any sexual contact between staff and camper, physical contact with campers, “short dropping,” and broadly prohibited nudity. Violating these policies would result in immediate consequences. “Any infraction of the above policy involving even the slightest form of sexual connotation will result in immediate dismissal for the staff with no chance of rehire.” 

Newman, however, obliterated boundaries for over a decade. In an email interview, a former camper told me Newman would hold conversations with him while they were nude in the showers. Other times, Newman would show off “his scars around his groin to the entire cabin.”

Victim accounts establish a common pattern. Once Newman conditioned the children to accept his nudity, he encouraged campers to disrobe with him during other activities, including basketball, swimming, running, and four-wheeling. Having established these intimate relationships, Newman then spoke to the kids about sexual topics like purity, masturbation, and porn.

Newman presented himself as an abstinence expert, offering to have awkward conversations with children to help keep them pure before marriage. Sometimes with parental consent, he talked to campers about sexual sin. Unknown to parents, instead of teaching the children not to masturbate, he gave them lessons on how to do it. According to victims and Newman’s own account, he masturbated them and taught them how to masturbate him. 

This sexual activity, he explained, wasn’t biblically wrong, as long as the campers avoided lusting for women or looking at porn while he molested them. In a deposition, Doug Goodwin (now the president and chief operating officer of Kanakuk Ministries and executive director of Kanakuk’s Family Kamp) explained Newman’s tactics as an approach “to avoid the lustful side of this, one theory is to just do it as fast as you can, sometimes racing, to avoid these thoughts.”

In a statement, one victim described his experience with Newman: “One night, during my freshman year [of high school], a group of boys were in the hot tub at Pete’s house. We were talking and asking questions about masturbation and if it was right or wrong. Pete told us that it was wrong and that it is lusting, which is sin, and that that is what makes it wrong and not good to do. He suggested that we ‘jet,’ which was to put our penis on the jet of the hot tub. He said it would feel good but would not be lusting,” he stated. “Pete did it along with us. We turned our backs to each other and faced the jets for 2 or 3 minutes then sat back down and just talked about stuff. One time, after we jetted, Pete gave us a scripture about lusting in I John.”

“One night after everybody had left and it was just Pete and I in the hot tub, he suggested we masturbate by hand. He said it wouldn’t be lusting because we were with someone else. So I did masturbate by hand and he did too, under the water. After a few minutes we got out of the hot tub, and he took me home. This happened four or five times. Pete would say, ‘Everyone’s gone so let’s hit the jets.’ We would hit the jets and then he would say, ‘I’m just going to finish it by hand.’”

The abuse was not limited to what Pete described as “hot tub Bible studies.” It happened on  Kanakuk grounds in camp cabins, in the gym, in the pool, in the showers, and on father-son retreats. As Kanakuk’s ambassador to promote the camp’s programs in the off season, he stayed in the homes of camp families and left a trail of victims across the nation. He also abused boys on a mission trip to China.

“I loved Pete from the moment I met him,” another former camper told us. “I slept right next to him, [masturbated] next to him on night one … I was a Christian, homeschooled child.” 

Nor did the abuse stop at masturbation. He performed and received oral sex. One victim claims that when he called his mother to ask her to pick him up early from camp, Newman took the phone from the camper, and convinced the mother to let him stay. Later, the victim alleged, Newman brutally sodomized him in a shower. Newman abused campers in a “foam pit” and encouraged them to climb the rock wall in the nude. He allegedly encouraged a young boy to strip naked in a cave during a “father-son weekend.” 

Wilson Sims was one of the lucky ones. He didn’t see any of the abuse, and his family’s move to a different area of the country eliminated further contact with Newman as a camper. But the memory lingers. “Pete just made me feel really special.”

Sims escaped, but many did not. Kanakuk provided Newman with a pipeline of victims. 

  1. What did the camp know?

Newman’s occupational trajectory at Kanakuk was swift. 

Over the next 14 years, Newman became the face of Kanakuk. In 1999, he became a full time staffer. Then, he became the head of “father-son retreats,” assistant director, and director of K-Kountry. He used his visits to family homes not only to recruit campers but also to raise money for the camp.

In a videotaped deposition we obtained, Joe White claimed Newman’s predation wasn’t “even on our radar.” In reality, however, Kanakuk was aware of nude activities with boys and allegations of improper contact with boys beginning a decade before his arrest.

In 1999, a parent called White after Newman and a child allegedly jumped in the lake naked and rode a four-wheeler naked. In his deposition White said that Newman’s supervisor Kris Cooper characterized this event as a “skinny dipping thing.” According to a civil complaint filed by a victim identified only as “John Doe IX” (one of the most comprehensive and detailed complaints we’ve discovered), the camp also ignored another parent’s reported concern after their son returned home from being with Newman and threw his jeans away. 

John Doe IX also alleged that Cooper and Newman’s direct supervisor Will Cunningham were made aware in the winter of 2000 that Newman rode a four wheeler nude across the K-Kountry fields totally unclothed with a young male after a Bible study. 

According to a federal lawsuit filed in 2014, Cunningham noted in his evaluations that Newman had a habit of having “one-on-one sleepovers with boys.”  

Newman kept waving red flags. According to John Doe IX, in 2003 Newman was reported to Joe White for naked basketball and naked running on camp property with campers and other boys he’d hosted in Bible studies. 

John Doe IX also alleged that Kanakuk took steps to shield itself from mandatory reporting requirements. According to the lawsuit, Kanakuk originally asked Smalley Relationship Center clinical psychologist Dr. Brett K. Sparks to evaluate Newman. After his evaluation, Dr. Sparks “questioned his obligation to report the abuse.” 

At that point, the complaint says, the camp “put a hold on [Newman’s] evaluation with Smalley Relationship Center.” Instead, the camp referred Newman to a lawyer. The complaint explains the legal consequences of this decision quite well:

The decision to send Newman to a lawyer instead of a psychiatrist shielded Newman’s statements and Kanakuk Kamp’s responses to them through … the attorney-client privilege, and avoided the requirement for mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse under the Missouri law.

We attempted to interview Dr. Sparks about his relationship with Newman, but he declined to comment.

Each of the incidents of nudity violated Kanakuk policies. In fact, Goodwin, the camp’s current executive director, told us in a phone interview that the camp reported at least some of these incidents to a local prosecutor for his evaluation. Taney County Prosecutor Jeff Merrell, the person who ultimately prosecuted Newman, corroborated the camp’s account. His predecessor allegedly said Newman exercised “poor judgment” but did not violate the law. 

In 2003, four years after the first parental complaint about Newman’s nudity, White and Cooper wrote a corrective action memorandum that outlined a series of limits on Newman’s activities, including requiring him to end ministry activities by 10 p.m., prohibiting unannounced home visits, prohibiting private contact with kids absent parent permission, prohibiting sexual humor, prohibiting sleepovers with kids, and prohibiting a wide range of nude and sexual conduct. The plan also required Newman to spend considerable time with one of his supervisors, Will Cunningham.

Oddly enough, these prohibitions were enacted only until Newman got married. At that point, the camp said it would “re-evaluate” the restrictions. Years later, White characterized Newman’s wife as the “initial layer of accountability” against abuse.

In spite of the disciplinary actions, Newman’s star continued to rise. The next year, White purchased real estate valued at $47,818.50. According to multiple interviews, White commonly bought property for directors and assisted directors in their financial needs. The house Newman built on that land included elements particularly attractive to children, including a hot tub and a fireman’s pole. 

The red flags kept waving. According to John Doe IX, in 2006, an alarmed father contacted the camp, claiming Newman kept making late-night calls and texts to his son. 

In deposition testimony and in a memorandum from counsel, a Kanakuk mother told the story of an additional disturbing incident. Her daughter, a young Kanakuk camper, told her mother that she saw Newman intimately touching a young male camper. She told her mother, “Pete is gay, he likes boys my age.” She added, “They aren’t who you think they are.” The mother called the camp and reported her daughter’s story. 

The mother testified she got a call from a camp representative who said the camp had completed its investigation, had talked to Newman, and invited her to talk to Newman as well. Then the conversation took a strange turn. The camp representative also allegedly expressed concern over whether the daughter who reported Newman’s conduct “had a heart for Christ” and said, “she’s just not athletic enough for our program.”

We’ve obtained phone message notes dated October 6, 2008, where White indicates he heard Newman give a speech where he referenced ministering to kids in hot tubs. White initially laughed about the statement, and his reaction is worth reproducing in full.  In a message from White to his secretary, White wrote the following:

Note that White’s corrective action isn’t to prohibit the hot tub encounters, but rather to encourage Newman to reassess the amount of time he’s spending with his family. 

In spite of these repeated warnings, confessions of nude activities, and reports of misconduct, Newman was continuously featured on the Kanakuk Kamp website, sent on recruitment trips, featured prominently in Kanakuk Kamp written materials, featured in camp videos shown at recruitment events, and featured prominently at father-son retreats. 

In 2009, Newman’s Kanakuk story came to an end. For reasons that remain unclear, Newman finally confessed to his crimes to White, Goodwin, and Cooper. Though they were required by Missouri law to report Newman’s abuse to the Missouri Child Abuse Hotline, they allegedly delayed. 

Instead, Cooper allegedly began calling victims’ families to alert them of the abuse, while White traveled to inform others in person. In a telephone interview, Goodwin told us that “we reached out in a way that we thought was the right way. Joe was a part of reaching out to a lot of them. We offered them counseling. We offered to pay for it.” He argued that the camp went above and beyond to help victims. “In the world, that’s not something you do.” 

One victim’s father told us White met with him and characterized the abuse as “no big deal. Childhood experimentation. I was naïve enough to believe that this was all that was involved.” The truth of their son’s brutal abuse only came out over the years. White also stressed the importance of forgiveness. He didn’t want “one bad apple” to ruin all of the good that occurred at Kanakuk. Later, White offered that family a payment of  $100,000.

According to multiple families’ accounts, the camp sent victims’ families a copious amount of Kanakuk gear, PlayStations, iPads, iPhones, and snack baskets. They also directly reached out to victims, offering hunting trips and weekends away at White’s house. The camp offered free camp tuition to various victims—a policy still in place to this day—in an effort, as one person described, “to rediscover lost childhood.” Goodwin, in our phone interview, explained that policy. “We wanted [the victims] to find healing via a counselor or the camp experience.”

Not all victim families welcomed this contact. In at least one instance, White persisted in contacting a victim in spite of formal requests, through counsel, that White stop. The victim filed a motion for a restraining order in federal court alleging that White’s actions left the victim “betrayed, angry, unable to sleep, and on a variety of medications.” The contacts included packages, emails, letters, and phone calls. 

Even after Newman’s confession and police intervention, camp officials still spoke highly of Newman. Ronnie Roberts, an officer in the Taney County Sheriff’s Department, noted in his incident report that Cooper praised Newman. “Kris mainly talked about the accomplishments and good work that Pete Newman did for Kamp.”

In fact, even after the scale of Newman’s abuse began to emerge (it’s still not fully known), camp officials continued to minimize the early evidence of misconduct and wax eloquent about his contributions to the camp. In a videotaped deposition, Joe White said this:

People took him on vacations with their kids. I mean, and then there was a … in my mind a 30 minute incident, albeit improper, immature, but in this giant ovation of accolades, appreciation, applause by people who knew him and spent more time with him than I did. It was just like this incident. And I refer to a minute ago, the second incident in 2003, it was like a cascade, a waterfall of appreciation, applause, accolades, way to go. ‘Thank you for changing my kid’s life. Thank you for turning around my kid. Thank you. He comes back home after being with you. He’s the boy we never had before.’ We just heard that over and over and over again. And there were two drops of water that we did not think were poisoned at that time. We thought they were inappropriate.

As the news of Newman’s misconduct became public, emails from camp families started to roll in. Their message was clear: We told you about Pete Newman. For example, here’s an email from an anguished mother:

And another:

And here’s a former camper:

Yet even as news of the abuse filtered into the Kanakuk community, not all victims were notified.

“They never reached out to us. I reached out to them, because my son started asking a bunch of questions,” said the father of a camper. “My son found out about Pete’s arrest at school and was extremely anxious. I gotta get hold of Pete. I gotta get hold of Pete. We called the camp to find out what the heck was going on and found out Pete had written a letter confessing his abuse.” 

“Joe White told us Pete sent a list of names of people he touched and people he didn’t touch. ‘I’m happy to report that your son’s name is on the list of people he did not touch,’ he told me. But later my son revealed he’d been a victim,” he said. “Only at that point in time were they willing to talk to us. When we finally saw the document, there were not two categories of those Pete touched and those he didn’t. It was just a list of the kids he’d abused. My son’s name was on that list.” (At that point, the list allegedly numbered 20 to 25 children, according to the victim’s father.)

In a deposition, Goodwin explained their communication response after his arrest. “We communicated with every parent [of campers] who had been there in the past 10 years, the length of time that Pete was here,” he said. “We sent out massive communication to every person who had a child here.”

However, Newman had been employed by Kanakuk for 14 years, not 10. Also, many people never knew, and don’t know to this day, of Pete’s arrest and conviction. Local media coverage was minimal outside of blog posts, and the national media paid scant attention to a scandal far from the centers of power at a camp they did not know.

In the absence of true transparency from the camp, many victims scoured the internet looking for any information about Newman’s case. Like Hansel and Gretel, victims left clues to their location. They left modern breadcrumbs: a decade’s worth of comments under blog posts, YouTube videos, and local newspaper articles

Some people left angry laments, others told their stories in devastating detail. Some were anonymous, while others boldly left their names and email addresses, hoping their voices would finally be heard. When we finally tracked down one of the victims, he responded, “Thank you for reaching out. I was thinking it might work like that one day.”

After Newman’s crimes were exposed, Kanakuk revised its policies and procedures. It now claims to have “industry leading” child protection policies. A 2013 St. Louis Post-Dispatch article touted the company line, treating the Newman scandal as the “catalyst for change.” 

The story, however, contains two troubling details. First, the new policy was developed by Rick Braschler, “Kanakuk’s risk management coordinator since 2003.” Braschler, whose former responsibilities included insurance acquisition, claims management, and staff benefits, is not a subject matter expert. 

Second, sadly, even though it was designed to create an “outer perimeter” to keep predators away, the new policy let one in:

In the summer of 2011, two years after Newman was arrested, another counselor, Lee Bradbury [sic], abused three boy campers ages 9, 10 and 12 in a span of four weeks. Bradbury [sic], 23, was later found guilty of second-degree statutory sodomy, sexual misconduct and two counts of child molestation.

To the extent the new Kanakuk policies helped, Merrell—the man who prosecuted Newman and Bradberry—told us they weren’t “preventative,” but rather mitigated the damage Bradberry caused. 

During legal proceedings following Newman’s termination, families were shocked to discover White’s accommodation of another pedophile.  In 2000, Robert John Morgan, a pilot who flew White to various engagements, admitted to sodomizing his own daughter beginning at age 5.  White gave him housing at Kanakuk during the off-season while awaiting trial.  In front of Morgan’s daughter—a Kanakuk camper—White asked the judge not to imprison him, saying he had confidence “rehabilitation on this side of prison walls is much more healthy for him than rehabilitation behind prison walls.”

White also stated he would “trust [Morgan] around my daughters,” before the judge sentenced Morgan to 10 years for statutory sodomy.

Experts are not convinced the camp has come clean. “Kanakuk Kamp and Joe White have much to answer for,” said Dawn Hawkins, Senior Vice President and Executive Director of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. 

“When entire organizations foster, allow, and even encourage exploitation to occur, we cannot step back and say enough has been done when a lone perpetrator is caught and apprehended,” Hawkins said. “As we know, there wasn’t just one bad actor at Kanakuk. Institutional abuse happens because multiple levels of leadership and the very structure of the organization itself becomes a haven for predators—they are given access to their intended prey, and they are given positions of trust and leadership. The time is up for institutional abuse and exploitation to continue to be swept under the proverbial rug. Until the organizations, corporations, and institutions are held accountable for their hand in the sexual exploitation and trauma of countless men, women, and children, full justice will not be served.”

  1. Conclusion

As we worked on this story, we faced a common question. Why? Why shine the light on a scandal that’s now 10 years old? There are some who told us this attention is “unfair,” that it’s ungracious or unforgiving of people who’ve done so much good. Many thousands of kids, after all, count their days at Kanakuk as among the best days of their lives.

The response is simple. There is no statute of limitations on truth. While there are limitations on legal processes, there are not statutes of limitation for individual and institutional accountability. A false narrative has circulated about Kanakuk for a decade, and parents have sent children to the camp without knowledge of its history or access to material facts. 

Nobody resigned as a result of the failure to stop a decade of abuse. There was no disciplinary action against any of Newman’s supervisors, and Joe White is still the head of the camp today.

When we approached Newman’s supervisor, Kris Cooper, for an interview, his attorney responded with a telling statement. “The best forum for these cases,” he wrote “is a court of law—not the church or mainstream media. The key point in all sexual abuse cases is the quality and extent of the evidence or lack thereof. As such, the courts … have a well-established body of law that filters through what is a legitimate sexual abuse claim and what is not. Neither the church nor the media have the proper framework in place to do that. The courts do.”

There is no question that the courts play a vital role. Indeed, most of the evidence in this story was presented in court or obtained through legal proceedings. But civil proceedings also allow defendants to pay money, obtain NDAs, and move on—with the facts often hidden, sealed away from the parents and families who have a vested interest in the safety of their children. And the church always has a role in holding its own members accountable for their actions. 

“Minors are one of the most vulnerable populations in society, and too often, not only do individuals around children fail to protect them, but the very institutions and systems designed to foster safety and community choose profit, preservation, and reputation over protection,” said Hawkins. “The price to this prioritization is not just dollar signs—it’s the innocence and dignity of countless children.” 

As far as Kanakuk is concerned, the scandal is over. But it’s not truly over for many of the victims or their families. In the course of our investigation, we came across a 2019 obituary in the Dallas Morning News of a young Kanakuk victim who took his own life shortly after settling his case with Kanakuk.  (Those close to him said Kanakuk took his life from him.)  The family included a telling detail in the death notice, saying their son was a “Kanakuk Kamps abuse survivor” who “for years fought valiantly against the trauma he suffered. He had a heart for others who were victims there as well, and he was a generous friend to those he could help.”  

Today and every day, nondisclosure agreements silence Newman’s victims, just as they silence victims of other scandals and other institutions across the length and breadth of the United States. It’s understandable why victims agree to NDAs. In the short term it’s seen as the quickest path to justice and to closure. Agree, and there’s compensation for your unspeakable anguish. Disagree, and the path to justice can look painful indeed.

No institution—especially no Christian institution—should bind its victims to codes of silence. Once it has paid money, it should leave decisions about privacy in the hands of the victims, guarding their identities and the details of their abuse unless and until the victim chooses to speak.

Gretchen Carlson (who is working to end workplace NDAs in sex abuse cases) told us, “Non-disclosure agreements force survivors into perpetual silence, unable to share their own pain with those closest to them and unable to warn others of danger. They must be eradicated so that we, as a society, can have an honest discussion about the toxicity they were designed to hide.”

This is the second significant abuse story this newsletter has covered this year. The first chronicled how Ravi Zacharias’s ministry enabled his abuse in part by suppressing internal questions and internal dissent. In both Ravi’s case and in Newman’s, ministry leaders ignored obvious red flags in part because these powerful and charismatic alleged men of God were doing so much good. How could they be so bad? Their ministries were effective. Souls were being saved.

When I wrote about Zacharias, I observed that “no degree of greatness can overcome lawlessness.” Yet Kanakuk tried to keep Newman’s talent while managing his sin. And when it tried to manage his sin, even after report after report and complaint after complaint, it enabled terrible crimes. To put it in words that Joe White will understand: “Drops” of water do in fact poison the “waterfall of appreciation” when those drops are evidence of abuse. 

David French is a columnist for the New York Times. He’s a former senior editor of The Dispatch. He’s the author most recently of Divided We Fall: America's Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation.