(This just in: DailyKos reports on Christopher Peterman story!)
This is not a headline from The Onion. It happened to Christopher Peterman on Tuesday.
Here’s what really happened.
In the late 1990’s, a 15-year old girl was raped by a married man at her fundamentalist church in New Hampshire. She became pregnant. When the girl reported it to her pastor, the pastor had her publicly apologize to the congregation for her role in an adulterous relationship. Then he sent her to live with people in Colorado where she had the baby and gave it up for adoption. The pastor’s name was Chuck Phelps. (No apparent relation to Fred Phelps of the Westboro Church in Kansas).
A year ago, ABC’s 20/20 aired an entire episode on this incident, with Elizabeth Vargas reporting. Soon after, the rapist was brought to trial, convicted by a jury of his peers and sentenced by a judge to 15-30 years in prison, where he is today.
As it turns out, however, the pastor who covered this man’s crimes for fifteen years remained on the board of trustees of Bob Jones University, the self-proclaimed “Fortress of Faith” in Greenville, South Carolina. The founder of BJU famously said that if his university ever strayed, he hoped alumni and students would take action and demand the administration “Do right.” His most famous saying was “Do right til the stars fall!”
Christopher Peterman decided to do just that, to follow the founder’s admonition and demand that BJU “Do right” and remove Chuck Phelps from the board. BJU, in typical fashion, rather than do the right thing, threatened Chris with expulsion if he continued to protest the school’s board member.
Chris refused to be silenced. Rather than back down, he organized a protest of students and alumni. A protest at Bob Jones University! Last December, those who opposed BJU’s decision to keep Phelps on its board wore red to show their opposition to Phelps. A BJU spokesperson told a reporter that the university would take no retaliation against any students organizing or participating in the protest. Days before the protest, in an unprecedented move, Phelps stepped down from the board. Naturally BJU said his resignation had nothing to do with the protest.
At BJU, however, nothing is ever as it seems. Despite its claims that no retaliation would be taken against the students, Chris became a marked man. He was called into meeting after meeting, sometimes in the middle of the night, to talk about his spiritual condition with a dean. They moved an informant, a resident assistant, into his room, to report on his activities. Finally, days before he was to have graduated, they expelled him. Supposedly, his expulsion was due to an accumulation of demerits for offenses like watching Glee. But we know the truth and the truth has a nasty habit of coming back to haunt those who don’t want the truth to be known. Just ask Ernie Willis. He’s just begun a 15-30 year prison sentence because the truth, although slow, eventually became known by everyone.
Here’s what happened in Chris’s own words: