Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Youth Pastor Matthew Nichols arrested

Deemed a danger to the community, Lutheran youth pastor Matthew Nichols of Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church, was denied bond after his arrest for possession of child pornography. The most disturbing aspect of this case is that Nichols has a criminal past involving sexual activity with minors in Pennsylvania. Which process failed this time?

ICE made the bust.

ICE began investigating Nichols in October 2009 after receiving information from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children about an email address that had been used to transmit child pornography which was traced to Nichols' home and Bethlehem Evangelical Luther Church. The New Mexico Attorney General's Office, the New Mexico State Police and FBI assisted ICE in the case

His church is standing behind him.

Jerry Ethridge, president of its board of directors, said in an videotaped interview posted on the Los Alamos Monitor website that Nichols will remain on paid leave until the matter is resolved.

"Matt is a very well-performing employee of the congregation," he said. "All indications from both parents and all the children (are) that during that period of time, there's been no ... inappropriate action by Matt."

Background checks performed by the church did not show Nichols’ criminal history.

Ethridge says the church consistently runs background checks on church members and parents who chaperon children and somehow Nichols had passed two such tests without raising any red flags.

"Even in the background investigation and the interviews with him and the references none of that information came up," he said.

What’s a church to do? For starters they gutted their website. Most links are broken, and no news or statements are available. They have not disclosed their vetting process. We don’t know if vetting included a legitimate background check or if they were simply googling a name. And finally, we know that the church is protecting it’s pastor. I want to know why.

Hat tip: SLOG