That “innocent until proven guilty” question: a response to Ryan Fullerton

When I post something about criminal abusers and their criminal enablers in our Christian institutions, I’m often reminded by many voices that our society works on a principle of “innocent until proven guilty.” The argument goes that until a person has been found guilty in court, the rest of us should believe he’s innocent.

(I’ll bypass the rabbit trail here of expounding on the fact that in our Christian circles it seems this argument is made only when it’s about someone the Christians approve of for some reason, like he’s an inspiring preacher or a wealthy religious philanthropist or a similarly-aligned politician, and how there tends to be an inconsistent lack of interest in upholding the judicial system when it comes to others. Nope, not going there.)

But it isn’t really “innocent until proven guilty”

Unlike perhaps many of the Christians who so easily bandy about this phrase, I’ve sat through a case or two in criminal court. I’m no expert on the legal system, not by a long shot, but I’ve gotten a peek into how it works.

First off, the term “innocent until proven guilty” is a legal phrase that also contains some other words that most people leave off. The accused is presumed innocent in a court of law until proven guilty (and rather than declare the exonerated accused “innocent,” they declare him or her simply “not guilty”).

That’s why the jury has to be so carefully selected to be those who know nothing about the case until they’re presented arguments and evidence in court. This orderly system prevents the lynch mobs of the old days.

Not everyone needs to “presume innocence until guilt is proven”

Of course, any thinking person—and I trust that there are many thinking Christians, though sometimes I feel a bit of bewilderment and discouragement about that—would realize that if the accused is actually guilty, then the one who was victimized by the crime does not have to presume his innocence.

Furthermore, any witnesses to the crime do not have to presume his innocence.

And I’ll take that one step further. Anyone who has sat with the victimized for hours on end—listening to details, helping him or her with flashbacks and body memories that are as crystal clear as the present, speaking with dissociated parts, helping process nightmares—anyone, counselor, pastor, friend, family member, anyone in this position does not have to presume the innocence of the one who has been charged.

That’s the job for the jury alone, and obviously if I’m one of those who is convinced the accused is guilty, I wouldn’t sit on the jury.

That’s the way the system works, and when the judge and jury are men and women of integrity, it’s as close to a just system as any government has been able to find so far.

How difficult the justice system really is

But sometimes the jury gets it wrong. Sometimes the entire system fails those it should be protecting.

Unless you’ve gone through the brutal proceedings of our legal system or walked with someone who has, you may be unaware of how very difficult it is for those who have been sexually victimized to see any level of justice. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN—link), out of every thousand rapes, only six rapists will serve any jail time at all.

It is walloping hard to prove certain crimes in court, crimes that really actually happened, and sexual abuse crimes are right up there, as this article discusses. We could talk about the statute of limitations. Or how many evil abusers get off on plea deals for lesser crimes even when there are multiple witnesses.

Or we could talk about how in police departments across the country tens of thousands of rape kits sit untested (link), with no standards regarding how these cases will be investigated.

Or the prejudice of citizens (even supposedly impartial jury members) against those who have been sexually assaulted and in favor of those who present well. Or attorneys who confuse the traumatized witnesses.

Sometimes, because of lack of evidence or refusal of the court to admit evidence; or a lying, silver-tongued, intimidating attorney; or a criminal who is able to come across as very sincere while his victim comes across as crazy; or, heaven forbid, secret criminals sitting on the jury; or any of several other reasons, sometimes men and women guilty of heinous crimes go free or get only a slap on the wrist.

When this happens, our entire society suffers.

If Christians are telling us all to declare “innocent until proven guilty” in cases of abuse, then they are setting up a system in which hundreds of thousands of those who were victimized by sexual criminals will be unseen, unheard, unknown, and uncared for.

The sermon by Ryan Fullerton

All of this has been rolling around in my head for quite some time.

Then I heard a sermon from pastor Ryan Fullerton of Immanuel Baptist Church of Louisville, KY, “How Jesus Changes Everything for Women” (link).

By the time I finished listening to this sermon, I thought, “Now is the time to address this issue.”

The first half hour of Ryan’s sermon was a straightforward and relatively unremarkable presentation of the story of the woman at the well in John chapter 4. If he had stopped with that, there would have been no controversy.

For the last twenty minutes, though, Ryan turned to the many stories of abuse accusations that have recently made the news.

First, something encouraging, around minutes 30-34:

We are to say things that speak for righteousness. We speak against those things that are wicked. What an amazing thing it would be, what a Christmas gift it would be for those who are subject to harassment and assault if others were standing up for them. It’s a circle of silence that allows these things to go on, and that circle of silence is broken when men and women speak up. . . . . We should expose the sin of sexual harassment and sexual assault.  

That’s really good. It bothered me just a bit that it seemed to apply only to people in the workplace speaking up about dirty jokes around the water cooler and such, rather than to those who listen to someone who was victimized speaking about their perpetrator, but still I thought it was good.

Then, in the next section, “if you have been abused, if you have been assaulted, if you have been raped, you need a gospel that . . .” what?

Gives you the power to forgive. And that is all.

I winced at this, because there is so much more to how the gospel applies to those who have been abused, but forgiveness was all Ryan mentioned.

But after those two parts came the section that I want to focus on, the part about innocent until proven guilty. Since it’s only two minutes long—which again you can listen to (because here’s the link again), minutes 36-38—I can give the full transcription here. Then I’ll give commentary below.

The two minutes of “innocent until proven guilty”

We should not participate in the lynch mob mentality of our culture.  

We live in a culture where all it takes to condemn someone is that you accuse them. You just have to say they’re guilty, and they’re guilty. And if a bunch of people say they’re guilty, then they must be guilty. Because where there’s smoke there’s fire.  

That is not the Christian approach to guilt and innocence. And it might seem like the right thing to do, so you’ll hear people say things like, “Well, if a woman came forward, that took so much strength that she must be telling the truth.” But beloved, that’s not the case. Women are just as capable of lying as men. And it’s not a right thing to protect people against abuse by throwing everyone under the bus who’s accused of abuse.  

The Bible regularly establishes for us that we are not to receive accusations unless they come from two or three witnesses. And two or three witnesses is not two or three accusers.  

Now there aren’t always situations where there’s witnesses, but still we have to look for a process of due diligence in our courts and in our churches where accusations against an abuser are established and proven, because a mob mentality is exciting and creates exciting lynchings when the people you don’t like are getting lynched, but when it turns on you, it’s not exciting at all, and it’s never Biblical, just because a lot of people are being proven guilty, to say that everyone who is accused is guilty.

An analysis of the two minutes

Even if you don’t already know anything about Ryan Fullerton (whom I’ll talk more about in a minute), I wonder if you found any part of that section of his sermon troubling.

I’m going to take this section just on the face of it, before exploring some behind-the-scenes goings-on that could prompt such a troubling statement.

So let’s look at it.

We should not participate in the lynch mob mentality of our culture.  

This is extreme incendiary straw-man language (which is often helpful in getting people on your side). No one that I know of is talking about lynching any of the accused. What they’re saying, rather, is that the crimes men and women have been accused of should be taken seriously and should go through due process. Many of the voices are saying that if men and women have been accused of crimes, they should not be running for political office or speaking at conferences or pastoring churches until they are found not guilty of all charges in a court of law. This is a far cry from a lynch mob.

We live in a culture where all it takes to condemn someone is that you accuse them. You just have to say they’re guilty, and they’re guilty.  

This is so far from the truth, it’s absolutely laughable. I know of many stories of crimes, people who have been victimized, even horrifically, but it could very well be that in this life they will never get the justice they deserve and our society needs, because of issues like statute of limitations or powerful and corrupt people in high places, or other reasons. Again, statistics from RAINN (link) show that out of 310 actual rapes reported to the police, only 7 perpetrators will be convicted of a crime.

And if a bunch of people say they’re guilty, then they must be guilty. Because where there’s smoke there’s fire.  

Certainly it’s possible to orchestrate a conspiracy against an innocent person. But again, the majority of voices I’ve read are calling for orderly resolution and a willingness to step out of the public eye until trial, as I described in my first paragraph of response above. That is, to refrain from ignoring the charges and hoping they’ll go away.

That is not the Christian approach to guilt and innocence.  

Ryan is speaking as if none of us have any inside information at all. As if none of us are survivors of the criminal behavior, or witnesses to it, or close “others” who have walked with the victimized at length. It’s as if all the accusers, all the victimized, are people “out there somewhere,” not people who are in our midst, indeed, many of whom are Christians themselves.

And it might seem like the right thing to do, so you’ll hear people say things like, “Well, if a woman came forward, that took so much strength that she must be telling the truth.” But beloved, that’s not the case. Women are just as capable of lying as men. And it’s not a right thing to protect people against abuse by throwing everyone under the bus who’s accused of abuse.  

Another example of incendiary language. “Throwing everyone under the bus” sounds so bad. But is that what’s happening? Or are the voices simply calling for the accused to step down from positions of leadership until their cases are tried? Could I in fact say that this section of his sermon is “throwing the victimized under the bus”?

Yes, women are capable of lying, of course. But if Ryan Fullerton were paying attention, he’d know that the primary way people lie in regard to abuse is lying to minimize or deny the abuse. This is because of fear, misplaced loyalty, confusion, and a number of other reasons. Of course a woman can lie just to get a man in trouble. But false reporting of sexual assault is the case only 2% to 7% of the time, according to several studies (one report of which you can see here).

The Bible regularly establishes for us that we are not to receive accusations unless they come from two or three witnesses.  

It’s important to go to the source of what he’s talking about here, since he mentions the Bible but not a specific passage.

Deuteronomy 17:6 and 19:15 both refer to needing two or three witnesses in order to establish the truth of a crime, but that book was not written to the Church; it written to God’s Old Covenant people, who served as their own judges under a theocracy (and so could serve as guidance for a nation’s legal system). Also, there’s reason to believe that even in that culture the “witnesses” didn’t necessarily need to be people, but could instead be other forms  of evidence.

Matthew 18:16 quotes Deuteronomy, but applies that Scripture to a very different situation, that of having witnesses to your confrontation with a brother. The Matthew 18 passage has no bearing on establishing the truth of a crime.

In II Corinthians 13:1, Paul says that the disorderly conduct in the church will be established by the words of two or three witnesses. But like the Matthew 18 passage, this one is not about criminal behavior. In the non-theocracy of the Church, our God has said that the judicial court system is for that purpose. Criminal accusations are to be handled by law enforcement and the legal system.

Is Ryan Fullerton saying that criminal accusations are to be handled within the church? I hope not, because if he is, he is in danger of being in violation of federal law, under which pastors are mandatory reporters of certain crimes.

But that’s the way this brief allusion is sounding to me.

And two or three witnesses is not two or three accusers.  

This is where my mouth dropped open. A person who was sexually assaulted is not a witness to his or her own assault?

While Ryan appears to be showing his ignorance in saying that an accuser cannot be a witness, he also misses the fact that in a court of law, if an accuser of sexual crimes is willing to speak publicly about the lurid details of abuse, his or her credibility can actually be increased. In fact, the main types of proof in sexual assault cases are evidences that Ryan appears to be discounting: besides extrinsic corroborating evidence and previous disclosure to others, one of the biggest ones is multiple independent accusers.

Ryan, in true “innocent until proven guilty” fashion, is telling his congregation and other listeners that before believing someone who has been victimized, they must hear the legal decision. He told them that it was even unbiblical to rely on the very forms of evidence the courts themselves have to rely on to decide their case.

Now there aren’t always situations where there’s witnesses . . .  

So then what? Ryan has just implied that if there aren’t two or three witnesses to the crime other than the victims of the crime, then we should presume innocence. He has set up a nearly impossible situation for anyone to get others to believe they have been the victim of the crime of sexual assault.

. . . but still we have to look for a process of due diligence in our courts and in our churches where accusations against an abuser are established and proven . . .  

No. No no no. When accusations of abuse come against a person, that person needs to be reported to law enforcement. Period.

The church is not the place to establish the guilt or innocence of an accused criminal—that has been shown painfully true over and over again, as churches have handled cases of abuse wrong and allowed abusers to continue to abuse for years or decades.

We can witness, for example, in the case of youth worker Nathaniel Morales at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland (link), a case in which church leaders first learned about his sexual abuse of children in 1992. What did the church leaders do? They covered the crimes for many, many years. (Why? Because they didn’t understand? Because they wanted to “protect the cause of Christ,” meaning the reputation of the church? Because they thought the children were lying? Because “forgiveness” was paramount? Because they believed preaching like Ryan Fullerton’s?)

Though I hope this is not the case at Immanuel Baptist Church, Ryan Fullerton has just described an environment that any charming and “helpful” abuser will recognize as very welcoming to wolves, as long as they keep their water cooler talk clean.

. . . because a mob mentality is exciting and creates exciting lynchings when the people you don’t like are getting lynched, but when it turns on you, it’s not exciting at all, and it’s never Biblical, just because a lot of people are being proven guilty to say that everyone who is being accused is guilty.  

(As a side note, that mob, or crowd, mentality works the other way too. Videos and reports from large conferences of exalted Christian leaders lead me to believe that the exciting crowd mentality of idolizing Christian leaders is a huge problem in the conservative evangelical culture.)

Here at the end of this section, Ryan comes back to the very thing I didn’t want to talk about at the beginning of my post—that the problem really is about his opposition to accusations against people he likes. (After he said it’s exciting “when the people you don’t like are getting lynched,” I felt as if he should have said, “but when it turns on you or someone you like . . .”)

This should never be about liking or not liking people. When people I like are accused, it’s painful, of course, but that is unrelated to whether or not I’ll  listen to the accusation. Doesn’t he know that likeable people in positions of power tell their victims, “No one will ever believe you, because I’m so powerful and well-liked”?

Why wouldn’t Ryan want to talk about that?

What this can do to the victimized in his congregation

Let’s look again at the case of Nathaniel Morales from Covenant Life Church (an important case because it came from the church where Ryan’s good friend, CJ Mahaney, used to pastor), through the lens that Ryan Fullerton gives us.

Morales was finally convicted of child sexual abuse in 2014 (link), but allegations of his sexual abuse had been spoken to the leaders of Covenant Life as early as 1992, twenty-two years earlier. According to Ryan’s sermon, if we were hearing of these allegations in the 1990s and through the 2000s, what would we be supposed to think of them?

It appears from his sermon that Ryan would say no one should have believed those account of sexual assault, no matter how many accusers came forward, because

  • Accusers don’t count as witnesses.
  • Listening to accusers is not the Christian approach to guilt and innocence.
  • Thinking that Nathaniel Morales was guilty after listening to the testimony of several  accusers would have been a mob lynching mentality.
  • Thinking that Nathaniel Morales should have stepped down from his position until he had gone through a court trial and been found not guilty of all charges would have been throwing him under the bus.
  • If I believed the accusers, it must have been because I didn’t like (the reportedly very likeable) Nathaniel Morales.

It was twenty-two years between the time that Nathaniel Morales was accused to church leaders and when he was convicted of child sexual abuse. Twenty-two years, during which period of time he worked with children in multiple settings and married a woman with several young sons.

For all those years before he was found guilty, what would those he had victimized think of a sermon like this one?

This isn’t simply theoretical. The results of many studies prove it’s safe to say that in Ryan Fullerton’s church, about 25% or more of the people he’s preaching to have been sexually abused. One-quarter of the people sitting under that sermon.

What are they to think of his preaching?

They may think, many of them, “My voice doesn’t matter. The criminal behavior perpetrated against me doesn’t matter. What matters is the nearly impossible hoops Ryan Fullerton has set up for me to jump through in order to convince anyone in this church that I was assaulted.”

This is not the heart of Jesus. The gospel is not about protecting the strong and powerful against the weak and powerless.  The Lord Jesus Himself said in Luke 18 that even the unjust judge would avenge a weak and powerless woman of her adversary, and how much more will our God do that for His people?

Even though He says that wheat and tares will grow together until Judgment Day, our Lord charges His church to get the evil ones out from their midst (Matthew 18, I Corinthians 5, and Hebrews 12 all describe such scenarios), but in so many churches it is the oppressed that get “disciplined out” rather than the oppressor.

Note: Because I was advised that this post claimed to know Ryan Fullerton’s motives, and because I could see credibility in that accusation, I’ve edited the following section significantly.

Some background information

As disturbing as it is to think of those who have been sexually assaulted drawing conclusions about themselves and their perpetrators from this sermon, there is more information to consider.

Why would Ryan Fullerton preach in a way that appears to throw the victimized under the bus? (A term I’m not crazy about, but if it ever applies, it certainly applies here.) Why would he preach a sermon that would give the message that they should not be heard? Why would he imply that this is the way Jesus changes everything for women?

Here are some thoughts to consider.

In the past, Ryan Fullerton has shown unwavering support of CJ Mahaney (link) in the face of credible accusations that Mahaney covered sexual abuse in his own church, Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, including the Morales case (the accusations of which were presented in a formal complaint that you can read here.)

Ryan has very clearly wanted to keep his connections with Mahaney (who has never answered the charges against him even though four years ago he said he would) and his connections with Mahaney’s powerful friends.

Mahaney spoken at Ryan’s church and Ryan has spoken at Mahaney’s church (not the one in Maryland that Mahaney used to lead before he was accused of crimes and other inappropriate behavior, but the one right there in Louisville that he ran away from the Maryland church to start [after he was given sanctuary by the man who says members should never leave churches while they’re under investigation or else they’ll be excommunicated], especially since he’s been welcomed into the Southern Baptist Convention and happily allowed to pretend that none of this ever happened).

But even more, this link shows that Ryan Fullerton is a scheduled speaker at the Together for the Gospel conference in 2018 (as he was in 2016).

Whether or not this sermon reflects a conscious choice of turning away from the weak in order to support the powerful is not for me to say, but it can definitely harden the hearts of listeners. Those of us who have walked with the survivors of abuse at Covenant Life Church—we can be made to feel as if we are seen as mob-lynching-mentality under-bus-throwers who gullibly believe every accusation just because it’s made and who simply don’t like CJ Mahaney.

Those of us who care for the oppressed are calling out to others to turn a listening ear to the “accusers” in cases of sexual abuse, even if those they accuse are powerful, to be willing to listen, help the “accuser” follow the path of pursuing justice if they so choose, and be willing to stand with an “accuser” against a powerful person, even when it will mean personal cost.

I urge believers to refuse the limelight of popularity and the seductive words of popularity, follow the way of Jesus, and embrace those who are being harmed, even in His Name.

God help us all.

A challenge to Ryan Fullerton

I challenge Ryan Fullerton to take his own words from earlier in his sermon and expand their context—from beyond dirty jokes around the water cooler or gender slurs from the boss—to a willingness to listen to those who claim to have been victimized and help them report to the police (or do the reporting if they’re underage) and be willing to stand with them, even against powerful people. These are those words again:

We are to say things that speak for righteousness. We speak against those things that are wicked. What an amazing thing it would be, what a . . . gift it would be for those who are subject to harassment and assault if others were standing up for them. It’s a circle of silence that allows these things to go on, and that circle of silence is broken when men and women speak up. . . . . We should expose the sin of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

This isn’t just theoretical, you know. This isn’t just about hearing the boss say a gender-oriented slur at work. This is about real people and their real lives and their terrible secrets. This is about being a safe person for someone to talk to about horrors that  happened to them, something that the two minutes of “innocent until proven guilty” appeared to discount.

Some words from a pastor in the trenches

I believe it would be appropriate here to end with a quotation from pastor Jimmy Hinton (link), a man who, when his own pastor-father was accused of child abuse, reported him to the police, undaunted by the “innocent until proven guilty” mantra.

Somewhere along the line, we church leaders got it badly wrong. We began to shift our focus away from the wounded and started to protect the church’s image. The sheer number of children who continue to be abused and ignored by the church clearly demonstrates this sad fact. The apostle Paul once boldly wrote, “If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I AM NOTHING.” The beloved Paul went on to say that love always protects.

Pastor Jimmy Hinton has some more words in that post which, when taken to heart, can be one of the ways Jesus truly changes everything for women, and men, who have been abused.

First and foremost, know that you are loved. God loves you exactly where you are and he gave his Son to die for you. . . yes you! He made you in His image and you are his sons and daughters. You may be wondering why God failed you and allowed you to be abused. Truth be told, God didn’t fail you–-sinful people did. Despite what you may have been told, the abuse was not your fault. It never was. You are worthy of God’s love, and you are worthy of the love of mankind. Yes, You. Are. Worthy!  

 It’s a truth I often repeat to the people who cross my own path. Our God is a God who is infinitely worthy to be praised and adored, but every individual can be affirmed as worthy of dignity and respect, with a soul of intrinsic value.

For those who have been unheard, unseen, and unknown, grasping this truth—this—this will be a crucial part of what helps bring them to a place of joy.

God help us all to see it.

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momzilla76
Guest

There are so many layers to this issue. As parents to boys both my husband and I are growing concerned that in our societal haste to remedy the “never believe the woman” tradition it is sliding towards “to be male is to be guilty”. Human nature tends towards extremes. First a woman was always at fault for sexual misconduct. Now my sons are going to become adults in a society where they might need to live in fear of making the wrong woman angry because her accusation will ruin his life. Of course I am talking social and employment ruin not actual jail time. Evil people take advantage of good things for their own purposes.

A sister in the Lord
Guest
A sister in the Lord

reminds me of “injustice in the guise of mercy”… from Dale’s/your book on tear down the walls of silence… sounds good on it’s face, but so sick once it’s dug into… also reminds me of Ps 55… words as smooth as butter but war was in his heart, words soft as oil but were a drawn dagger… or something like that… smooth, persuasive words covering a very ugly attack… bless your heart Rebecca… really appreciate your discernment on this, as I’ve been running into all kinds of denying, minimizing, dismissing, distracting, diversionary arguments from men mostly to divert the focus from the overwhelming evidence that it is mostly women and children harmed, and mostly men who are doing the abuse…

2samuel127
Guest

Excellent post Rebecca.

Ryan Fullerton is, in my opinion, a man driven to make a name for himself and obtain celebrity status. Somewhere along the way he has lost any concern for “the least of these.”

He knows how the game is played. Blatant flattery, lies and supporting who Mark Dever and Al Mohler support (C.J. Mahaney) is a (seemingly) small price to pay for garnering their approval.

I wasn’t aware until I read in this article that Fullerton’s tactics have been rewarded with a speaking slot on the T4G stage. I find this very disheartening, yet quite in line with what passes as Evangelical Christianity these days.

cindy burrell
Guest

As I began reading the pastor’s early words about abuse (as encouraging as they seemed to be) I felt this niggling sense of doubt rise within me, as though I was waiting for the other shoe to drop – and I felt grieved when my instincts were confirmed, when it became apparent that this guy doesn’t get it. (sigh)

Typical abusers know all about how to put on a good show in public and play a good game. It’s what goes on behind closed doors that is the problem. It’s stunning how the those within the church so often deny the presence of wolves in our homes and workplaces – or worse – cover for them because the offenders are deacons or generous contributors, or it is deemed a higher priority protect the image of the church, which must come at the expense of the innocent.

“Oh, well,” he essentially tells the victim. “You can’t prove it. Get over it and move on.” And the abuser smiles to himself and continues along his treacherous path…

Thank you, Rebecca, for clearly explaining why this pastor’s teaching falls so grievously short and unwittingly serves to empower the wicked.

Lea
Guest
Lea

“The Bible regularly establishes for us that we are not to receive accusations unless they come from two or three witnesses. And two or three witnesses is not two or three accusers.”

So unless you are a victim of one of those super common rapes in front of 5 witnesses in broad daylight we should assume you are lying? Even if 8 other women have the same story?

The problem to me is that men in these situation cannot think beyond ‘what if I am (presumably falsely) accused’. They stop right there. Who cares about all the women who are not lying, if one of them *might* lie, right?

Law Prof
Guest
Law Prof

The primary reason for the “innocent until proven guilty” doctrine is not to force jurors in a criminal case to automatically assume the defendant is innocent. They’re not forced to do mental gymnastics like that going in, that would be ridiculous. It’s more about burdens of proof and trial procedure. The state has the burden of proof in a criminal case, the accused does not have to prove himself or herself innocent. In its case-in-chief, the state must go first, and prove up its side of the argument, calling witnesses first, entering in evidence through testimony, tangible physical evidence, documentary evidence, expert witnesses, exhibits, etc. which establishes by the standard in a criminal case (“beyond a reasonable doubt”) each of the essential elements of the crime. Only after they have done all that successfully, does the burden of proof shift to the defendant–and the defense then goes through essentially the same process in their case-in-chief.

That’s what this is all about, it’s about the state having to prove their side first, about a jury that hasn’t prejudged the case and is willing to consider it fairly, regardless of their personal beliefs on the matter, it’s about understanding the burden of proof is on the prosecution, and that they should not find the defendant guilty unless they consider the state met the standard of proof.

So even in a court of law, even on a jury, it’s not expected that going in, you think the defendant is innocent.

And absolutely, positively, in terms of public opinion, we have every right to believe what we wish and state our opinions on the matter. There is absolutely no biblical mandate that we go around assuming everyone’s innocent unless they’ve been convicted in a court of law. I can listen to what two people say and think to myself and tell others “I think that guy’s lying, he sounds shifty, his story doesn’t add up.”

The only people served by Ryan’s policy are people like Ryan: the powerful, the privileged, the ones who benefit when the little guy or gal is beaten down and silenced. One last thing, I truly hate it when people like Ryan refer to people in the congregation as “My beloved”. Leave that to God, buddy, He’s the one who really loves them, and let’s just be blunt, Ryan, you probably hardly know them–and they probably hardly know you.