Thursday, August 10, 2006

Hornbuckle Trial Watch

I am just amazed at the defense's strategy in the local Hornbuckle trial. A local pastor has been accused of sexual assault, accused of using his influence as a spiritual leader to have sex with women. After looking at the relevant part of the statute*, I think the defense strategy is interesting. Their theme is cash, consent and credibility. They say the women just want money from a civil suit that two of them have filed; they consented to sex with the pastor; and they lack credibility.

The defense says there's a difference between Bishop Terry Hornbuckle and Terry Lee Hornbuckle, the man. Apparently, their strategy is to get the jury to see two different men and excuse his behavior as spiritual sin with no legal consequences.

As a former long-time member of a church similar to Agape, I'm a witness that the leadership structure in such a church may cause the people to have unrealistic views concerning the pastor. He is seen as the ultimate authority, the voice of God for the lives of the congregants. Most of the time, the leadership is not really accountable to anyone, so if the pastor goes astray, there is no one with enough authority to get him to step down or go on a sabbitical. If a congregant points out harmful behavior by the pastor, the person is seen as rebellious and unable to submit to authority. I point all this out to show why someone like Hornbuckle would be able to continue in his destructive behavior, leaving too many hurt people in his wake.

Perhaps a better strategy would have been for the defense to negotiate with the prosecutors and cut some deal. The last case I followed, which was very similar to this one, ended with the pastor losing his national office, his church, his wife, his prestige, and his freedom.


*Texas Penal Code
(b) A sexual assault under Subsection (a)(1) is without the consent of the other person if:
(10) the actor is a clergyman who causes the other person to submit or participate by exploiting the other person's emotional dependency on the clergyman in the clergyman's professional character as spiritual adviser; or