"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Minnesota Laestadian Sex Abuse Case

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Minnesota Laestadian Sex Abuse Case

Apparently sex abuse is still happening in Laestadian circles in the United States as well, as attested to in this article regarding a case that hit the news last July involving a volunteer at the Old Apostolic Lutheran Church on Rowland Road in Minnetonka, Minnesota.

Minnetonka church volunteer gets a year in jail for having sex with teen

As the parents grew increasingly suspicious, they contacted authorities. Foley told a sheriff's deputy that he was acting as a "counselor" to the girl and other members of the church, Old Apostolic Lutheran Church on Rowland Road.


  1. I didn't know there is an OALC in Minnetonka. The surname Foley is familiar to me. Can someone enlighten me? Thanks. SISU

  2. Sometimes I think we've only hit the tip of the iceberg with these cases.

    I applaud the parents of this 14-year old girl who obviously were brave enough to stand up for their young daughter. If that's what occured. I don't know the extenuating circumstances, but I do hope this is the case.

    My grandmother was 14 years old when she started dating my grandfather, who was 23 years old. That was a different time. She did say that they were not allowed really to be alone together and most of their courtship involved visiting her home after services. Today, in nearly all Laestadian communities, I do think most such relationships would be discouraged if seen the light of day. That was then, and this is now.

    This summer I attended Finn Grand Fest in Canada. I went with a non-Laestadian friend and we met two rather chatty and conservative-looking women in the hotel hottub from Arizona. I don't know how the conversation took this turn, perhaps because of the increased border security in Canada that many experienced, but she started telling me a story about a man from her church who could no longer go home to Michigan for fear of arrest. Despite that all his family were living there. It had been 20 years since he was able to go home. I inquired why. Her tones got hushed. There was an "awful, crazy young girl" who made "awful accusations against him" and because of that, he had to Arizona (where consequently, there are Laestadians from at least three different branches.) Apparently the girl is now on drugs, drinking, etc. so she completely could not have been telling the truth.

    Later, when these nice church ladies left, I shook my head, and noted to my friend--these ladies had to have been Laestadian. I knew entirely through the context of the story. It seems so repeated in nearly all if not all the branches in the movement.

    A distant cousin of mine has been mentally troubled for many years. At about 30 years of age, she revealed that her favorite uncle had molested her. The same uncle's wife had divorced her later, and everyone had said she was simply crazy. The truth came out later--he had begun molesting her their only daughter, their youngest girl. Unfortunately, it was probably caught too late, and this daughter has had many drug issues resulting in the loss of her minor chidren. I remember telling my mother about this story, and she was very upset. "How can anyone accuse "Bobby" of such a thing--this niece and daughter were crazy--look at their lives! But if you read any of the latest research, sexual molestation is devastating abuse to a young person. In many Laestadian churches, the male-dominated culture and attitudes make it difficult for females--especially young girls--to speak out their truths without being further victimized by the court of public opinion, in my opinion, made up of gossiping women.


  3. The drinking and drug abuse are simply ways to try to self-medicate away the pain and shame inflicted by the abuser and then the community who failed to protect or believe. If they would bother to educate themselves it is scientifically documented! Such an expected and normal reaction to being molested and tormented.

  4. I can tell you this, the abuser was most certainly not a counselor no was he a volunteer but rather someone who wished to tarnish the church. I say this with the knowledge of knowing both parties very well.

  5. So you see .. we are born into a very big powerful world inside a world that "noone" seems to ever heard of. Kinda scary on it's face. HMU ...I personally know the accused and yes he could sell shoelaces to barefoot people but hey I'll leave it alone. .. I actually am friends with his older brother EVEN though I was S. mol. (man-man) as a child by that brother.

    1. That is a shame you were molested, I am sorry to hear that. You should bring it to the authorities and bring criminal charges upon him. Some of these terrible crimes never seem to be brought to justice which is a shame. Perhaps the molesters are protected by the forgiveness of sins.

  6. The sex abuse factor within these organizations is alarming. I have recently been considering trying to form a group for MN victims. They have no support, and are being pushed down under the cover of the forgiveness of sins. I know for a fact, (the others I have no proof to back up with,) of two family patriarchs that have molested and abused members of their families or close friends. They are walking around, old and free, still trying to get little kids to come sit on their laps. Meanwhile, the kids that they abused are now adults and perpetrating their own crimes. All under a vow of silence. I want to join these victims and encourage them to hold these monsters accountable! As awful as the crimes have been, the vicitms are being shamed and degraded, and the perps are being held as the ones to truly feel bad for, to help. Argh!

  7. Dear Argh,
    Please do start a group for MN victims. Consult your social services agencies for advice on how to proceed. Even if all you can do is put up a website that links to resources, that is a beginning! Use laestadian and apostolic as keywords to help searchers find you.
    Let me know if I can help.

  8. Free,
    I left MN for a warmer (in more ways than one) climate. I am still going to work on getting support for these people. It's rough terrain, largely misinterpreted by even the most well meaning social workers and professionals. It's very difficult with current statutes of limitations to prosecute. Many of the victims are now adults. They seem to have gone on a few similiar paths-
    Left as a young adult.
    Become a perpetrator at some point.
    Have families of their own now that they are terrified of becoming ostracized from if they open up/leave.
    Something happened, one woman opened the door to discussions regarding this serious cancer. Many women were on the brink of openly discussing. However, men of the board intervened and squashed it. A few women have left and all are suffering. How predictable...no responsibility, hide under the "forgive and forget" blanket of unaccountability. I feel like it may be easier for someone like me, who has been cast off, to stir the pot. However, having been gone awhile makes it a bit more difficult. Also, these women are in my mother's generation, and obviously are resistant to change even though they struggle and know in their hearts much of what they see is wrong. Can you imagine having kept secrets like that for 50 years?!
    A website is a good idea. I wish this blog could have a sub-blog for sub-issues. I thought about creating a secret facebook page but that wouldn't work for obvious reasons.
    It's not only sexual abuse, but child abuse, spiritual abuse, emotional abuse, of which are more difficult to set parameters for and other topics entirely. What would you suggest for being the moderator of such an affair- in getting started aside from resources?

  9. Let me think about this. Maybe there is a way of creating a subsection of this blog that would deal only with abuse issues, and provide resources for those who need help, as well as the addresses and names of leaders of the different churches, so that they can be contacted with petitions or letters.

    Readers, what do you think?

    1. I may be naive about this, but it's my impression that the Laestadian group I know the most about, the LLC, is genuinely interested in maintaining a safe environment for its children. I think the people at the LLC office would take seriously any warnings they received about people working at camps, for example.

    2. EOP-
      Perhaps there is a genuine interest in creating a safe environment for children in the LLC, but what of the molesters/rapists that are not public knowledge? Once something is "forgiven" you do not speak of it again. As a former member of the LLC and having been molested myself as a child, I know all too well that quite often those sins are forgiven and forgotten much too easily. If a family has the ability to contain that dirty little secret and protect their "perfect" family name, they will. I am generally one to believe the best in people, but from my experience and knowing of others in similar situations, I cannot that everyone has the same concerns. This is not an attack towards you or what you said, but I have seen for myself just how far a family will go to contain this.

    3. Please use a name when commenting.

  10. I think that's a great idea...


  11. There is a new page on this site called "Help Stop Abuse."

    I hope readers will submit resources for it.

    It's a start.

  12. There has been a big issue for years in the media in Finland how many cases was revealed in the biggest Laestadian community, hidden for years even by the leadeng persons of SRK (!) and never told to the police.

    "Laestadian Abuse -- Story Continues "

    "Court of Appeals increases sentence of Laestadian convicted of child abuse "


    "Conservative Laestadians admit serious mistakes in dealing with child abuse issue – trust is gone in SRK"


    An academic researcher, Dr. J. Hurtig published a reaerch on the victims of abuse within the Laestadian community. The sresult was that over 140 cases are known, and 20% of the criminals hold an authoritative position in the community (preachers and leading members).

    "Shedding light on child abuse among the Laestadians"


    So many in common with the exclusing communities. :-(


    About the research report (in Finnish):