Evangelical child molester sentenced to 40 years

Nathaniel Morales was convicted in May of five counts of sex crimes committed in the 1980s and early 1990s at a prominent Washington-area evangelical church.

By Bob Allen

A former youth worker convicted of sexually abusing boys in the 1980s at a Sovereign Grace Ministries church in Maryland was sentenced Aug. 14 to 40 years in prison.

Nate MoralesNathaniel Morales, 56, was found guilty in May of abusing three boys from 1983 to 1991 while working in youth ministries and leading Bible studies at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Md.

Morales, who now lives in Las Vegas, Nev., is also named in a class-action lawsuit of numerous acts to conceal child sexual abuse by leaders at the church and SGM, a Calvinist church-planting network now based in Louisville, Ky. That case has been thrown out under a statute of limitations but is under appeal.

The case, described in media as the largest evangelical abuse scandal to date, drew attention in Southern Baptist circles because of close ties between C.J. Mahaney, founder and former head of Sovereign Grace Ministries, and denominational leaders including Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and prominent Washington pastor Mark Dever.

Leaders of Covenant Life initially said they had no knowledge of any abuse until many years after it occurred when an adult who had been victimized as a child came forward. During the Morales trial, however, Grant Layman, Mahaney’s brother-in-law and a former pastor at the church, testified that he knew of allegations against Morales 20 years ago but did not call police.

Previous stories:

Jury returns guilty verdict in abuse case

Trial shines light on alleged abuse cover-up