The reports about Andrew Brunson’s release are just another example of how little the media know about evangelical churches.
Telecinco links the church leader to a police macro-operation against child pornography. Evangelical representatives ask the national tv broadcaster to rectify publicly.
The Spanish National Police arrested 24 people and charged eight more in 14 Spanish cities last weekend. They are accused of sharing child pornography files through Facebook and Skype.
The investigations began after social media users alerted about the exchange of these type of files.
After identifying the suspects, the police kept them under surveillance. Home searches were made, and thousands of files, videos and photographs were found relating to minors victims of sexual abuse.
ALLEGED PASTOR AMONG THE DETAINEES
Among the three detainees in the province of Alicante, there was a man described in a short police statement as an “evangelical pastor”. No information about the church or denomination of this alleged evangelical pastor was given.
The alleged pastor claimed he had owned such files to better understand the phenomenon of pedophilia. He told the police he wanted to help anyone who had such inclinations.
“Neither has this Federation, nor the Fraternity of pastors of Alicante received information about this case. That is why we are not in a position to report on the membership or not of that pastor to our Federation”, the Federation of Evangelical Religious Entities of Spain (FEREDE) said in a statement after the arrests were made public.
“This Evangelical Federation defends and maintains a policy of 'zero tolerance' towards cases of sexual abuse and pederasty”, FEREDE added.
SPANISH TELEVISION ACCUSED PASTOR WITHOUT VERIFYING
However, when the Spanish television network Telecinco reported about the case, it showed images of the façade of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Benidorm, identifying its pastor as the detainee, without verification.
This generated a wave of negative responses and opinions among some neighbors in the area. In the Telecinco news report, some passersby expressed dismay over the informations.
FEREDE AND UEBE ASK FOR RECTIFICATION
Both FEREDE and the Evangelical Baptist Union of Spain (UEBE) denied this information, clarifying that there were no links between the police operation and the Baptist congregation of Benidorm.
According to the news website Actualidad Evangelica, one editor of the news piece on Telecinco acknowledged the error to the pastor of the congregation and apologised to him.
But the counselor of Legal Affairs of FEREDE, Pablo Simarro, sent a burofax to the television network on Tuesday demanding a public rectification of the information.
In the burofax, Telecinco is asked to broadcast a report with the following narration:
“Having verified tha it is not true, as this television network said, that an evangelical pastor of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Benidorm was among the detainees for alleged crimes related to child pornography [...] we specifically apologize to Pastor Ismael Carrió and the Evangelical Baptist Church of Benidorm”.
“This text must be published in its entirety", the FEREDE demanded, and the duration “may not be less than 43 seconds of the already published report”, the burofax says.
FEREDE does not rule out legal actions if the television rejects its request.
The Federation not only denounced a journalistic malpractice, but also pointed out that the police's weak information about one of the detainees being a evangelical pastor in the province of Alicante, raised suspicion on all churches and pastors in the area.
The Evangelical Baptist Union of Spain has also issued a statement in the last hours. They request the rectification of the information.
“The editor of the news has explicitly acknowledged her mistake, but we are waiting for the television network to admit te mistake and rectify in the same television and public sphere where the false news were broadcasted”, the UEBE stated.
“Faced with this serious mistake that affects both the reputation and honor of the aforementioned pastor and the good name and testimony of the congregation of Benidorm, and while that rectification arrives, we want to transmit all the spiritual support and fraternal warmth of the churches and the board of Directors of the UEBE to pastor Carrió”, they added.
According to UEBE, “these cases show us how quickly we can squander many years of excellent pastoral and social work, recognized by the city through the NGO of the Church”.
“The warnings of the Apostle James about the danger of the language are still more than valid. Let us pray for our brother, his family and the church in Benidorm, that the truth shines and we trust that the Lord is the one who vindicates us”, the statement concludes.
FEREDE also called on the churches and entities of the Federation to “be alert to any suspicion or complaint related to these issues and to act quickly, placing these painful cases in hands of the competent authorities”.
In addition, FEREDE recalled that, in June 2016, the Religious Freedom Advisory Commission of the Ministry of Justice approved a document in which all religious ministers were encouraged to have a certificate that proves they have not committed sexual offences in the past, “even though this is not mandatory by law”.
THE MOTIVATION DOES NOT EXCUSE THE CRIME
The fact that the detained ‘pastor’ justified the possession of child pornography to understand the phenomenon of pedophilia prompted Spanish news website Protestante Digital to ask an expert.
“There are many healthy ways to investigate pedophilia, and this is not the way. I cannot judge personal motivations, but it is a crime to have child pornography, and any justification does not excuse this”, Silvia Villares, a psychologist specializing in these type of cases told Protestante Digital.