Illinois Presbyterian Minister Settles Sex Abuse Case for $150,000

Associated Press/November 17, 2008

A Presbyterian minister accused of having sex with a woman when she was a teenager kept working as a pastor and college administrator after the church's insurance company paid the accuser $150,000.

Rev. Ronald Campbell resigned from Trinity International University, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Trinity Graduate School in Deerfield, Ill. this month, shortly after a church commission ruled that he sexually abused the woman in the 1980s.

Campbell has not been charged criminally. The Presbytery of Chicago said the state's statute of limitations had run out when the woman came forward two years ago to say she'd been sexually abused in the 1980s.

The three-page decision was released to the media on Nov. 13 by Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), in part to highlight the fact that Campbell remained at Elmwood Park Presbyterian Church long after Julie Hokanson received the settlement.

"Even though they did pay that, Rev. Campbell was still in a position of authority, still in a position where he could abuse more children,'' Barbara Blaine, SNAP's president, said at a news conference in which Hokanson spoke publicly.

The Associated Press does not normally name victims of sexual abuse, but Hokanson said she wanted to go public in the hope of encouraging others who have been abused by the clergy to come forward.

Executive Presbyter Rev. Robert Reynolds explained the church could not remove Campbell until after it conducted its own investigation, and that after the investigation was completed in March, Campbell was removed the next month.

But Blaine said it was only after activists, including Hokanson, went to the church on a Sunday and handed out leaflets did the church remove Campbell from his post.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Trinity International acknowledged that Campbell was allowed to keep working as a director of admissions and a director of financial aid for more than a year after he notified the school about the allegations. And he was allowed to keep working even after the school learned of the settlement, Gary Cantwell said.

"They were just allegations and they were all from the 80s and he had an exceptionally good record in his career since then,'' he said.

Nevertheless, he said, "After the allegations came to light we asked him to only meet openly with students and their families and not privately with individual students.''

Campbell's Nov. 3 resignation for what Cantwell said were "personal reasons'' came a few weeks after The Permanent Judicial Commission of The Presbytery of Chicago of the Presbyterian Church issued a decision that found Campbell guilty of sexual abuse.

During the three-day hearing, Hokanson told the church panel about how Campbell instigated a sexual relationship with her beginning when he was an associate pastor at a church in River Forest, Ill., a suburb west of Chicago.

She told the panel about how the relationship lasted for about four years, extending into her freshman year in college.

She also testified about how Campbell showed her a tattoo on his buttocks that included her initials inside a heart.

The commission found Campbell guilty of the allegations of sexual abuse, as well as using "force, threat, coercion, intimidation, or misuse of office or position'' against the girl.

"He showed me a gun,'' said Hokanson, who said she interpreted that as a threat. "I definitely felt like I wanted to stay in his good graces.''

The commission also found that he had lied about the relationship, and the tattoo before ultimately admitting he had the tattoo.

Hokanson said she thinks her knowledge of the tattoo that helped persuade the panel of Campbell's guilt.

"There would be only one reason I would know that the tattoo was there,'' said Hokanson, a 37-year-old mother of three now living in Minnesota.

"I wanted to use my name so people would know that I am not ashamed to have been abused by an adult while I was a child,'' she said. "The shame is not to be mine, it is to be the abuser's.''

With the verdict, the commission removed Campbell from ordained ministry for at least four years, after which he can apply for reinstatement if he takes steps including a public confession to the woman, according to a presbytery news release.

James Betke, Campbell's attorney, said that while his client admits to having the tattoo, he "steadfastly denies'' allegations of sexual abuse. He said he did not know what Campbell planned to do now.

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