Former minister fights molestation charge

A Mississippi judge will rule on whether too much time has passed for a former music minister to face felony charges of gratification of lust.

By Bob Allen

A former Southern Baptist music minister is asking a Mississippi judge to dismiss an eight-count indictment charging him with sex crimes in the 1980s, claiming the allegations are too old to be prosecuted.

Lawyers for John Langworthy, associate pastor of music and ministries at Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Clinton, Miss., before his September 2011 arrest, filed a motion recently contending the statute of limitations has expired that would allow authorities to file the charges.

John LangworthyLangworthy, 50, resigned from his church job before confessing to the congregation Aug. 7, 2011, to “sexual indiscretions with younger males” that he said occurred before he moved to Clinton 22 years ago. A month later he was arrested for alleged molestation of five boys, ages 10-13, that he contacted through volunteer work at two Baptist churches while a student at Baptist-affiliated Mississippi College between 1980 and 1984.

Morrison Heights Baptist Church was criticized for refusing to turn over results of its internal investigation into Langworthy’s past, claiming priest-penitent privilege. So was his previous church, Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas, where leaders reportedly fired Langworthy in 1989 for molesting boys in the church but did not report him to police as required by law.

According to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Langworthy’s motion claims the statute of limitations for the alleged crimes “expired Dec. 31, 1986, nearly three years before the state’s statute of limitations was amended in 1989 to extend for a period of seven years.”

“This man has publicly confessed to child sex crimes,” Amy Smith of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, told Jackson CBS affiliate WJTV. “He is using a technicality to escape justice.”

Smith, now of Houston, once regarded Langworthy a close friend and was on staff as a college intern at Prestonwood Baptist Church when he allegedly confessed to molesting boys there in 1989.

Years later, news reports about a counselor at a Christian camp in Missouri convicted of sexually abusing at least 13 boys reminded her of the incident, prompting her yearlong effort to bring the incident to light.

She blogged recently that her decision to become an advocate for survivors of child sexual abuse has carried a personal cost.

“My parents stated in writing that they are going on with their lives without me and want no more contact with me,” she wrote. Smith said they believe she is on a “witch hunt,” that Langworthy “didn't molest anybody" and that she owes an apology to pastors at Prestonwood.

“I will not apologize for the truth,” Smith said. “It is the light of truth and knowledge that is our greatest tool to protect kids.”

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