Doug Wilson recently met with members of his congregation — heads of household (HOH), specifically — to discuss the Sitler and Greenfield/Wight cases. He pulled his information, he stated in his introduction, from “elder minutes, from the HOH minutes, and occasionally letters.”
Based on the records from this meeting, we know precisely what Doug told people and can hold him accountable for his words. So let’s fact-check the statements that Doug Wilson has made to his congregation. I encourage you to go back to your own notes of the meeting, if you have them, and compare them to the public records and other links I’ll be posting here.
Steven Sitler Case
- The information spin: In the Steven Sitler case, Doug waited months before informing his congregation about what Sitler (who was not then in jail) had been up to. Doug doesn’t deny this, but in the meeting he claimed that talking about this is “misleading.” He specifies: “there are a number of things that have been out on the internet that have been misleading. One of them is um, one of the arguments of the things that’s alleged is that we took many, many months before we communicated with the HOH about this, but you have to remember that this was a small town event, public, a very public event — nobody needed to be told what had happened, the basic facts of the case.” So, why is saying he waited to inform the congregation “misleading”? Apparently, because Doug didn’t think his congregation needed to be informed that a serial pedophile had access to his congregation. Which is the whole point of what “the internet” finds problematic about this. As for the implication that people knew about it anyway — that’s a pretty weird argument given the church-wide directive not to gossip about situations like this, because the church will tell you what you need to know.
- The “victims were all OK” spin: Doug stated repeatedly in the meeting that he is concerned for Sitler’s victims and did his due diligence there, but he appears to have left Sitler’s victims and their families out of his calculations about bringing Sitler back into the congregation. Doug states: “After the State of Idaho gave permission for him to worship on Sunday morning, the elders considered it, we had a HOH meeting where we communicated that prospect, that possibility to the HOH, got feedback from that, and decided to do that.” In actuality, at least one of the families obtained a No Contact order against Sitler coinciding with Silter’s release into the congregation, which prevented him (very rightly) from being around his abuse victims, including during church. I say this based on the No Contact orders listed under Sitler’s name in the Idaho Repository (note: again, rightly, the victims are not named in the Idaho Repository; you can look up the Sitler case and find these orders listed under his name). There are three such orders, dated December 13, 2005; May 4, 2006; and a year later on May 4, 2007.
- The parole violations lie: Doug Wilson claimed that Sitler did not violate his parole at any time. His words: “From the time he was released to the time of his wedding, he was free of any probation violations. And from the time of the wedding until the present, the same.” This is flat-out false (or, at the very least, highly misleading). Sitler was arrested for voyeurism a few weeks after being released, and has had two (alleged) probation violations since then.
- The “back to prison” spin: Doug expounded on this by stating “Steven was sentenced to life, uh, a lifetime sentence, which means that when he is out on probation, if there were a probation violation for example, he could go back to prison for life.” As we’ve seen, there have been probation violations or at least potential violations, and Steven has not gone back to prison. Now, in theory, Doug is correct that Steven could go back to prison, but the probation violations would have to be pretty extreme. It’s not just any violation.
- The “no kids” spin/lack of due diligence/lie: Doug stated that when the Sitlers got married, “I know that initially the plan was to not have children.” Now, this is a very weird thing to “know,” given that the state of Idaho publicly recorded the opposite at the time. An officer told the court that Steven had stated he did intend to have children, based in large part on his religious beliefs. I find it ludicrous that the officer would know this ten days before the wedding and Doug Wilson would not. Particularly since this is the same hearing Doug referred to in order to justify the fact that the judge signed off on the Sitler wedding. Now, Doug could have been referring to the fact that the woman who married Steven had stated she was going to be on birth control until she was done with college (maybe that’s what Doug meant by “initially”). But if Doug knew this, he’d also have to know the next item uttered in the hearing, which was that they’d try to have kids after that. Additionally, Doug was present when someone else, as part of the wedding ceremony, prayed that the Silters’ union would be fruitful and bear children.
- The “marriage is all good” spin: Doug stated in the meeting that the judge thought that Steven getting married was a “good idea,” and that the church agreed. That’s pretty strong language based on the actual dialogue of the court records. In the court recording, Judge Stegner does say “an age-appropriate relationship with a member of the opposite sex for Mr. Sitler is one of the best things that can happen to him and to society.” However, he expresses ambivalence elsewhere and stresses that there’s not much he can do to stop the wedding, given how soon it is. For example, he states, “I think it’s a reasonable restriction that he not reside with his wife and child, in the future, if in fact they have children,” which would make for a strange Father-centric Christian marriage, no? Additionally, Doug totally skips over the part where the Idaho Department of Corrections advised against the marriage — again, based on the fact that Sitler had stated he intended to have children.
- The total lack of understanding of what abuse victims need and how healing works: Doug’s descriptions of the victims of these crimes is a bit weird — on two levels. Firstly, it’s weird that he appears to think that the victim’s problems have “largely just ceased, or at least apparently ceased” once the perp is apprehended. Secondly, it’s weird how he words this — he uses double negatives and double-speak to the point that it seems like he’s arguing opposite things. He says, “when you have a molestation or a problem like this and the offender is caught, the victim’s family’s problems have largely just ceased, or at least apparently ceased. We found out what the problem was. Now I know that’s not true, but in terms of the — the offender’s problems have just started. So, um, I’m — let’s just make up another imaginary situation not like this at all where someone offends some grievously, and then they get caught and it’s criminal, I’m going to be getting ten times more phone calls from the offender needing help, who’s in trouble, who knows he’s in trouble and wants pastoral help, and the people who just got delivered from this problem are going to say, ‘well I need to forgive,’ and that’s true, but for victims, there’s often times, things that need to be processed, so I’m not saying no help is needed, but it’s not on fire the way it is with someone going to court and who might be facing penitentiary time.” Clear as mud, right? This sort of prevaricating is exactly the kind of thing you should be avoiding when you’re ministering to sex abuse victims. There was nothing in the records that suggested a clear and reasonable plan of action for how to minister to abuse victims, either — aside from Doug suggesting his wife would be the counselor he recommended for women. And when you add Doug’s words about victims of sexual assault from his latest blog post, things look really bad: “One in four women are sexually assaulted on college campuses because feminists feel like statistics are necessarily validated by how dire they are. One in three women, regardless of the actual number of assaults, would feel even truer… we released The Free Speech Apocalypse at exactly the right time. If you watch that most excellent film, you can see victims actually painting their own bruises on. At least nobody said ow ow ow while they were doing it. Victim make-up for made-up victims.” Translation: don’t pay attention to women who say they’ve been sexually assaulted, because some are sure to be lying. Instead, pay to watch a film I star in, where I continue to make fun of these women.
Jamin Wight/Greenfield family case
- The “parent approved relationship” spin: What is Doug’s basis for claiming there was a “parent approved relationship”? The main thing he referred to in the meeting is what Jamin told him. Remember: Jamin, among his other crimes, has committed perjury. Doug stated, “[Natalie’s mom] and Gary knew about it, um, Jamin knew about it, Jamin has confirmed to me recently that — I asked him that question, did Natalie know about it. According to Jamin, he said yes, she knew — she knew all about it. She knew she was in a relationship with him, but did she know that this was a parent approved relationship? Jamin would say yes. I think Natalie would say, from this distance, no.” Later on, in a bizarre twist, Doug states, “it would be disingenuous for me to apologize for having trusted [Jamin] when I didn’t.” Yes, Doug, you did and you do, or you wouldn’t be using his quotes as evidence (Jamin said he knew there was a relationship; therefore there was a relationship). Doug additionally states that “we have documents from the time that clearly show they were in that courtship… [but] I couldn’t prove right now that [Natalie] knew about it.” That’s pretty weird… a “courtship” where one party in the courtship might not know it’s a courtship. Is this even possible? I submit that it isn’t, unless by “courtship” you mean something way more nebulous than the way the word is used 99% of the time… So what are these “documents” that Doug keeps referring to that “prove” this so-called “relationship” that Natalie might or might not have known about? Few in his congregation appear to know, because Doug refuses to answer questions about them. He claims he’s doing this to protect “the Greenfields,” but absolutely none of the Greenfields feel protected by the way Doug has handled this. Doug’s slandering all of them and refusing to man up and say exactly why. And let it be noted that Doug was certainly willing to quote letters by and about the Greenfields aloud in the meeting. So here’s the thing: the only documents I know about that “prove” what Doug is claiming are authored by Jamin. You can even see the outline of this in Doug’s assertion to the HOH that the courtship was real because the Greenfields didn’t deny the allegations at the time. Well, as far as I can tell, Gary’s refusal to even entertain such an absurd claim, and refusing to let his family near the church’s spreading of these lies, is a pretty strong denial. Not to mention, they’re denying it now, when it’s publicly being tossed at them. So, my guess is, given all of these details, the only “proof” Doug has of a “parent-approved relationship” is what Jamin wrote down. Yeah, the same guy who committed perjury. And I’m guessing that’s the real reason Doug refuses to talk about it in detail.
- The “abuse” spin: Doug claims Gary Greenfield was abusing his family, and while the abuse was different than what Jamin did, it was still “every bit as bad” as what Jamin did. Doug mentions a number of things that Gary was supposedly doing to abuse his family. What Doug mainly talked about in the meeting, tellingly enough, was how Gary wanted his family to leave the church and move away from Moscow. He mentioned that Natalie wrote a letter to Gary saying no, she didn’t want to move. He also claimed that Gary blamed Natalie for what Jamin did to her. This is either a misunderstanding or a deliberate spin of the facts — Gary at one point did go off on a tirade blaming Natalie, but it was not for her abuse, and it was not for the breakup of the family — it was specifically (if this is the incident Doug is referring to) for medication-induced health problems, caused by a dangerous lack of oversight (on the doctor’s part) when combining sleeping pills and other meds, which Natalie was on in an attempt to deal with her PTSD from the abuse. Natalie actually discussed this with me before this HoH meeting even happened. Natalie does not remember what she specifically wrote to Doug ten years ago that would “prove” what he’s claiming, but she does remember the events with her father, and she knows her father as well as herself much more fully after taking the time to sort through some of this stuff.
- The “weaponized apology” lie: Doug claims that he can’t apologize because his apologies get “weaponized.” He stated, “I wrote [Natalie], emailed her and apologized; and the next morning the attack blogs had quotes from that letter.” I confirmed with Natalie, but no blog whatsoever published quotes from the email Doug is referring to — the next morning or any morning thereafter. Natalie didn’t share this email with many people, and it’s true that the people who read it were disgusted by how self-servingly the “apology” was worded. Nonetheless, they didn’t publish it. As far as I know, the only thing remotely pertaining to this has to do with things I’ve published on my own blog. I once wrote an obviously-faux quote from Doug stating “I sneezed in Natalie’s direction once, and she didn’t take this as a sincere apology, so what are you going to do?” Is Doug really arguing that this is a direct quote from the letter he sent Natalie? That would be hilarious. Or maybe he’s thinking of where I quote the coercive letter he wrote to her after his “apology” — although I waited weeks before publishing quotes from this. If anyone can point me in the direction of other blogs that quote Natalie’s letters to Doug, I would greatly appreciate it, because I’m committed to being as accurate as possible here.
- The sex offender lie: Doug claimed that Jamin was legally labeled as a sex offender: “He was labeled, I think for a short time, so he got sentenced and was labeled as a sex offender for a certain period of time and I forget how long that was. But then that label was dropped. So, but he was labeled that for a time.” In reality, Jamin was never labeled a sex offender, not even for a second. Had Jamin been convicted of his original charge, he would have been a sex offender. However, because he plead guilty to a lesser charge (thanks at least in part to a last-minute judge DQ), he escaped the sex offender label.
Why is Doug Wilson commenting authoritatively on stuff he clearly knows nothing about? Because this, you see, is my real beef with him. He’s unqualified to handle abuse cases and legal cases, and he sincerely appears to believe that he is — and/or that his equally-unqualified wife is. This total lack of understanding and expertise has severely injured many people in his congregation, and it will continue to until Doug can step back and admit what he doesn’t know — and the way he’s mislead people based on what he doesn’t know.
Now for the real test. How will Doug react to being informed that he spread misinformation at a HOH meeting? Will he brush any factual errors aside with “well, I forgot, big deal”? Will he claim that I’m making his quotes here up, or taking them out of context? Will he accuse me of slander? Will he use his elders to caution anyone who brings these things up to him, “well, she’s on a crusade to slander us, so you can’t believe anything she said; if you agree with her about anything, even factual things, then you’re an enemy of the church”? Will he insist him lying to his congregation is nobody’s business? That the only legitimate way to bring up concerns is through his panel of hand-selected elders under the specific church rules he himself made up?
Here’s the thing, which I’ve mentioned before: I’m not out to slander Doug, and everything I publish on my blog has to pass the litmus test of whether I could prove it in a court of law. Because I’m putting my name on this. I’m hanging myself out there for potential retaliation, and given the number of people I’ve talked to who are scared of Doug retaliating if they speak up, it seems like a legitimate concern. I know I need to have my ducks in a row. I do not always reveal my sources or discuss how I know things, or even, in some cases where I’m deliberately vague, what exactly I’m referring to. I need to keep my sources safe. And I need to keep myself safe. And the only way I can do that for sure is by telling the truth.
And, unlike Doug, I welcome constructive criticism if something I’ve written is factually inaccurate, even a little bit. So please contact me if that’s the case.