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Abuse, Cover-Ups, and Manipulation: The Truth about Clarence Sexton and Temple Baptist Church

This article has descriptions of abuse that may be triggering for some readers.

Pastor Clarence Sexton, the leader of Temple Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee, and the founder of Crown College of the Bible has been a prominent figure in the Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) movement for decades. He has built a following of devoted congregants who regard him as a charismatic and authoritative leader. However, his leadership has been marred by allegations of abuse and a toxic ideology that has caused harm to many individuals.

In a 2018 sermon, he stated that "the feminist movement is one of the most dangerous things that has ever happened to our society," and that women who want to be equal to men are "foolish." This kind of rhetoric is not only offensive but also contributes to a culture of gender-based violence and discrimination. Moreover, Pastor Sexton has a history of supporting controversial figures in the IFB movement. He has been a vocal supporter of the late Jack Hyles, a prominent IFB pastor who was accused of sexual abuse and misconduct. He has also defended other IFB leaders who have faced similar allegations, downplayed their wrongdoing and urged their followers to remain loyal.

The negative influence of Pastor Sexton and his ideology is not limited to his own congregation or followers. As the founder of Crown College of the Bible, he has trained and influenced countless pastors and leaders in the IFB movement. His teachings and beliefs have been exported to churches and communities worldwide, perpetuating a culture of abuse and oppression.

Multiple women have come forward with stories of abuse they experienced at the hands of Pastor Sexton and others within the IFB movement. In a 2020 investigation by the Knoxville News Sentinel, several former students and employees of Crown College described a culture of fear and control, where students were subjected to strict rules and harsh punishments. Former Crown College student Bethany Foeller Leonard spoke out about her experience of being sexually assaulted by a college staff member and then being blamed and shamed by college officials when she reported the incident.

In another case, a former member of Temple Baptist Church, Jennifer Lyell, wrote a memoir about the emotional and spiritual abuse she experienced under Pastor Sexton's leadership. In her book, "The Twenty-Two," she describes how she was forced to submit to her husband and to the authority of male leaders within the church, regardless of their actions or beliefs.

These are just a few examples of the widespread abuse and manipulation that has been reported within the IFB movement, of which Pastor Sexton is a leading figure. The IFB movement is characterized by a strict interpretation of the Bible, a rejection of modern culture, and a patriarchal hierarchy that places men in positions of absolute authority. Critics argue that this environment creates a breeding ground for abuse, where pastors and leaders are able to exert control over their congregants with little oversight or accountability.

Pastor Sexton has been criticized for his extreme and exclusionary ideology. He has been known to preach against LGBTQ+ individuals, feminism, and other progressive values, using inflammatory language that promotes hate and intolerance. In a 2017 sermon, he claimed that homosexuality was a "demonic spirit" that needed to be "cast out," and that anyone who supported LGBTQ+ rights was an "enemy of God."

These views have not only caused harm to marginalized communities, but they have also reinforced the patriarchal hierarchy within the IFB movement, where men are seen as superior to women and are granted unchecked power over their congregants.

One former member of Temple Baptist Church, who wished to remain anonymous, described how Pastor Sexton would use fear tactics to control his congregants. "He would preach sermons about how the devil was always lurking, waiting to pounce on anyone who strayed from the path of righteousness," the former member said. "He would tell us that we were sinners and that we needed to repent, and if we didn't, we were going to hell."

Moreover, Pastor Sexton's preaching has also been known to promote patriarchal values that have contributed to a culture of abuse within the IFB movement. He has been known to teach that men are the head of the household and that women should be subservient to their husbands. In a 2013 sermon, he stated, "The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. And just as Christ is the authority over the church, the husband is the authority over his wife." This kind of teaching has been criticized for promoting a culture of misogyny and sexism, where women are seen as inferior to men and are not given a voice or agency in their own lives.

In addition to his toxic teachings, Pastor Sexton's conduct has also been called into question. In 2019, a former Crown College employee named Landon Porter wrote an open letter accusing Pastor Sexton of using his position of power to control and manipulate those around him. Porter described how Pastor Sexton would routinely berate and belittle his employees, and how he would use the threat of firing as a way to keep them in line. "I watched as Pastor Sexton used his power to manipulate and control people," Porter wrote. "He would yell at them, belittle them, and make them feel small. And if they didn't do what he wanted, he would threaten to fire them."

These allegations of abusive conduct are particularly concerning given the power and influence that Pastor Sexton holds within the IFB movement. As the leader of Temple Baptist Church and the founder of Crown College of the Bible, he has a significant amount of authority and control over his congregants and students.

The allegations of abuse against Pastor Clarence Sexton are numerous and troubling, with survivors recounting instances of physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse. One survivor, who wished to remain anonymous, described how she was subjected to physical abuse by Pastor Sexton when she was a student at Crown College of the Bible. She stated that Pastor Sexton would often hit students, sometimes with a wooden paddle, as a form of punishment for perceived infractions. "He would hit us hard, and we would have bruises and welts," she said. "It was terrifying."

This kind of physical abuse has been condemned by experts in the field of child psychology, who say that corporal punishment can have serious long-term effects on a child's mental health and well-being.

Other survivors have described how Pastor Sexton would use emotional and spiritual abuse to control his congregants and students. One survivor stated that she was told by Pastor Sexton that she was going to hell for wearing pants, as he believed that women should only wear skirts and dresses. "He would shame us for our clothing choices and tell us that we were sinners for not adhering to his strict dress code," she said. This kind of emotional and spiritual abuse has been linked to several negative outcomes, including depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

Pastor Sexton has also been accused of covering up allegations of abuse within his own church. In 2018, it was reported that a former Temple Baptist Church member had filed a lawsuit against the church, alleging that she had been sexually abused by a church deacon in the early 1990s. The lawsuit stated that Pastor Sexton had been made aware of the abuse but had failed to report it to law enforcement.

These allegations of a cover-up are particularly concerning given the IFB movement's history of silencing survivors and protecting abusers. Experts in the field of abuse prevention have stressed the importance of reporting abuse to law enforcement as a way to hold abusers accountable and prevent further harm. Despite these allegations, Pastor Sexton has continued to maintain his innocence and has denied any wrongdoing. However, the growing number of survivors speaking out against abuse within the IFB movement mandates that change is necessary.

In 2020, the Knoxville News Sentinel investigated Pastor Clarence Sexton and his church, Temple Baptist Church, in Knoxville, Tennessee. The investigation uncovered numerous allegations of abuse and misconduct by Pastor Sexton and other church leaders.

According to the report, several former members of Temple Baptist Church and Crown College of the Bible, which is affiliated with the church, accused Pastor Sexton of physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse. One former member stated that Pastor Sexton "used his power to control people" and that he "manipulated and abused people emotionally and spiritually." The report also detailed allegations of cover-ups and misconduct by other church leaders. One former church staff member alleged that he was fired for reporting sexual misconduct by another staff member. The report also stated that the church had a history of silencing abuse survivors and discouraging them from reporting to law enforcement.

In response to the investigation, Pastor Sexton denied the allegations of abuse and misconduct. He stated that he "loved the people" and that the allegations were "untrue, unfounded, and defamatory."

However, the investigation received widespread attention and sparked a conversation about the IFB movement's history of abuse and cover-ups. Survivors and advocates for abuse prevention called for accountability and transparency from both Pastor Sexton and the IFB movement. In a statement to the Knoxville News Sentinel, Sarah Smith, an advocate for abuse survivors, stated, "We must believe and support survivors, and we must demand accountability from those who have enabled and perpetuated abuse. This is not just about one church or one leader. It is about a culture of abuse and cover-up that has been allowed to persist for far too long."

The Knoxville News Sentinel investigation is just one example of the growing movement to hold IFB leaders accountable for their actions and to create a safer environment for survivors. As survivors continue to speak out and demand justice, the IFB movement must confront its history of abuse and work towards a future that prioritizes accountability and transparency.

For individuals who may be afraid to speak out about the abuse they have experienced or witnessed within the IFB movement or any other religious organization, it is important to remember that you are not alone. You have the right to be heard and to seek justice for any harm that has been done to you. It can be difficult and scary to speak out against powerful leaders and institutions, but there are resources and support available. Consider reaching out to abuse prevention organizations, such as RAINN or the National Child Abuse Hotline, for help and guidance on how to report abuse and seek support.

It is also important to find a support system of friends, family, or professionals who can supply emotional support and validation as you navigate the process of speaking out. Remember that healing is possible, and by speaking out, you may be helping to prevent future harm to others.

Finally, we must all take action to hold religious organizations and leaders accountable for any abuse or misconduct that occurs. This can involve reporting abuse to law enforcement, supporting survivors, and advocating for policy changes within religious institutions to prioritize transparency and accountability. As a community, we must work together to create a safer environment for all members, and to ensure that no one is subjected to the kind of abuse and trauma that has been allowed to persist for far too long.


NOTE: Much of this has been pulled from the Internet Archives as they are not available on the original web pages.

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