Member # 2917
Founder of Florida's Biggest Megachurch Accused of Molesting a 4-Year-Old
Tim Elfrink | November 14, 2017 | 8:00am
The call came from California. A woman told Coral Springs Police she had recently learned something terrible: A South Florida man had molested her daughter for years. It began when the girl was just 4 years old.
An officer noted the information and called the victim, who was then a teenager. She confirmed the story in stomach-churning detail.
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By the end of that harrowing call on August 20, 2015, police knew the accused predator was no ordinary suspect. His name was Bob Coy, and until the previous year, he'd been the most famous Evangelical pastor in Florida.
Over two decades, Coy had built a small storefront church into Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, a 25,000-member powerhouse that packed Dolphin Stadium for Easter services while Coy hosted everyone from George W. Bush to Benjamin Netanyahu. With a sitcom dad's wholesome looks, a standup comedian's snappy timing, and an unlikely redemption tale of ditching a career managing Vegas strip clubs to find Jesus, Coy had become a Christian TV and radio superstar.
But then, in April 2014, he resigned in disgrace after admitting to multiple affairs and a pornography addiction. Coy shocked his flock and made national headlines by walking away from his ministry, selling his house, and divorcing his wife.
The sexual assault claims, which have never before been divulged, raise new questions about the pastor, his church, and the police who handled the case. Documents show that Coral Springs cops sat on the accusations for months before dropping the inquiry without even interviewing Coy. His attorneys, meanwhile, persuaded a judge with deep Republican ties to seal the ex-pastor's divorce file to protect Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale from scrutiny.
The revelations come at a sensitive moment for Calvary's national network of about 1,800 churches, which have been riven by legal infighting and dogged by claims that bad pastors have been allowed to run amok. In fact, at least eight pastors, staffers, and volunteers in Calvary Chapel's network around the United States have been charged with abusing children since 2010. In one case, victims claimed the church knowingly moved a pedophile to another city without warning parents.
"Religious leaders have a tremendous amount of power over their flock," says Scott Thumma, a professor of sociology of religion at Hartford Seminary who has studied the Calvary movement. "If Calvary gives these pastors this much authority and they use and abuse it with no accountability, they have to blame themselves."
Coy, who was never charged with a crime, lay low after leaving Calvary but recently turned up at Boca Raton's Funky Biscuit, where he helps manage the club. (Update: The club has now terminated its relationship with Coy and says it had no inkling of the allegations against him.) Tracked down at the bar on a recent weeknight, the well-dressed ex-pastor looks no different from the days when he preached to thousands of followers. He declined to discuss the child abuse case except to say he is innocent and passed a polygraph test to prove it.
"I can't discuss it on the record," he said, before adding cryptically: "If you're foolish enough to go through with this story... it would hurt a lot of people."
Were there other abuse claims against Coy during the nearly three decades he controlled Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale? The church won't say, though a spokesman says the chapel was "saddened to hear of the allegations." That's not good enough, critics say.
That is all.....
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