Former music and youth minister at First United Methodist Church of Sheffield, Alabama, Oliver Brazelle, has been arrested and charged with sexual abuse and sodomy, although it is thought that his history of abuse goes back to the 1970s. While the charges that actually got him arrested stem from allegations that Brazelle molested a boy at the church in the mid-90s, there have been claims against him for decades previous.
Charges from the 1970s forced the church to, at least for a time, suspend Brazelle and forbid him from acting with church choirs, but apparently that was eventually rescinded because he held the position of music minister at the time of his dismissal in 2012. Police were approached by several people in mid-2012, alleging abuse in their childhood, but once the investigation was started, these people pulled back and refused to take part in the official charges. It wasn’t until the end of 2012 when someone finally came forward and the investigation could begin in earnest.
“Officially, we never had a victim,” Sheffield Police Chief Greg Ray said about the July investigation. “We talked to several people, but no one (came) forward.”
Why am I not surprised that abuse victims were not willing to step forward and accuse a “man of God” of sexual abuse? It’s something we see quite often, where a congregation will stand behind their pastors and will shun those who make accusations of wrongdoing. While I have no idea if that’s the case here, it wouldn’t surprise me to find that those who stepped forward were criticized by other members of the church and shamed into retracting their statements. I suppose we just won’t know for sure.
What is it about religion that makes pastors, priests and other clergy so untouchable in the eyes of their parishioners? What grants these people such power that they can get away with horrific things and be supported because they’ve got a supposed conduit to God? I wouldn’t say if we didn’t see it constantly but the number of cases where people refuse to testify, refuse to aid the authorities and refuse to convict a clergyman, just because they wear the collar or the robes, is rampant. I guess they’re afraid that someone like Brazelle can sic God on them if they make them mad.
Is it any wonder we find religion absurd and dangerous? That makes day two on Horror Show Monday. What might be coming next?