This is part of a larger story on former House Speaker Lee Chatfield and the Independent Fundamental Baptist Church
Emily, who asked City Pulse not to use her real name in this story for fear of retaliation from church members, moved to northern Michigan with her husband and young family in tow. They were happy, she said. Her husband worked for a delivery company. She found work teaching at the school attached to their local Independent Fundamental Baptist church.
She was a popular teacher, with the school’s teens clamoring to spend time at Emily’s home. She kept the same rigid rules of the school in place at her home — always keeping the boys and girls separate. The girls were always happy to help care for her young children, she said.
“We were the safe place. We were the cool people,” she said. “We loved them. They loved us.”
Emily moved her mother, who had multiple sclerosis, in with the family. It seemed as if the American dream had dropped in their lap after helping “plant” an IFB church in Texas.
They had come into their own. But then her mother died suddenly.
Emily had to not only deal with her grief, but the grief of her children and the students who had come to know her mother. She was the executor of the estate. She was buried in the tumult in the wake of the death, but she trusted her students to help fill the gap and mind her children.
“I had backup plans and backup plans for backup plans,” she said. “I had lots of extra eyeballs.”
One of those students at her home was a 15-year-old boy. And he brutally assaulted Emily’s 5-year-old daughter in a bathroom during the chaos in the wake of her mother’s death, she said.
It took nearly six months for the daughter to tell her what happened. She had been wetting her bed and showing other signs of trauma. Emily and her husband chalked it up to grief at the loss of her grandmother because each time they would ask, she would tell them, “I miss grammy.”
Emily said she invited some of the single female teens over for Valentine’s Day and created a celebration of independence and girl power. And that’s when her daughter mentioned that a teen boy who visited the home had her “pull her panties down” one afternoon.
She whisked her daughter to a more private area and encouraged her to tell her what she was talking about. Her daughter feared telling Emily about the boy’s actions because “I’ll get hurt.”
“She was petrified, the poor little thing was shaking, afraid she was going to get hurt and we would be mad at her,” Emily said.
As law enforcement began its investigation into the incident, the pastor told her that the boy was innocent until proven guilty, she said. Still, Emily demanded the boy be removed from the school. The pastor, in turn, said he would take care of everything. And that Sunday, the family walked into church to find the abuser was in the choir. Her child refused to enter the sanctuary.
The sermon given that day was about forgiveness, she said.
“I followed him, the pastor, to his truck, after the service and asked him what are you going to do,” she said. “He said: I am going out of town tomorrow, so basically you do what you have to.”
Emily reached out to her daughter’s teacher, who in turn alerted the elementary teachers. It took two weeks to get the boy removed from the school — and only after a confrontation with the pastor, who was more worried about the boy’s reputation than the trauma to Emily’s daughter.
Word got around about the abuse, and the pastor accused her of “ruining” the boy’s potential.
“He did that when he viciously attacked my baby girl,” she said to him. “He made that choice.”
Afterwards, Emily said that her car was subjected to vandalism, including slashed tires. No suspects were identified. The 15-year-old boy was convicted in juvenile court of criminal sexual conduct and given a severe punishment by the local courts. Emily and her family left the church.
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