Pastor arrested for child pornography

By Mike Behr Time of article published Sep 10, 2017

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A southern suburbs youth pastor who was arrested this week by the Hawks cyber crime unit for online child sexual exploitation, was known for his strong stance on the evils of pornography.

He is accused of collecting naked photographs of more than 60 local teenage boys and appeared in the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court on Friday.

Congregants this weekend recalled that the 27-year-old Common Ground Church pastor had often angrily railed against sleaze in talks with the teenagers in his youth group at the Rondebosch church.

But investigators claim the pastor, who is also a professional sports photographer well known for his photography on the school sports fields in the Rondebosch area, used an alias of a sexy teenage girl to flirt with teen boys via Instagram and WhatsApp.

Explicit images were allegedly exchanged. When boys expressed reluctance in going any further, the accused allegedly threatened to post their images online and send a link to their friends unless further images were supplied.

In a 2016 post on his Facebook page, the pastor said: “Porn doesn’t really show what sex is, it shows what selfish pleasure is. Porn shows conflicting messages about consent. Today’s porn sells the idea that your pleasure is more important than anyone else’s pain or abuse. It teaches viewers to minimise the sexual trauma of others because in porn, ‘no’ eventually turns into ‘yes.’ It’s time we wake up to the toxic ideas that porn promotes.”

The father of a 16-year-old who had belonged to the suspect’s youth group said: “He used to often have a go at my son saying, ‘Tell me, are you using porn? Do you use porn on social media? Tell me if you are doing that.’”

At a meeting at the Rondebosch Common Ground Church on Friday night pastor Ryan TerMorshuizen confirmed the pastor had been investigated two years ago for an inappropriate WhatsApp message asking a teenager for a photo of his injured genital area.

He had been assessed by two therapists and a clinical psychologist who all gave the young pastor a clean bill of health. He went on to minister at the Constantiaberg Common Ground Church.

Rigby Wallace, founder and co-leader of Common Ground Church, this weekend issued a statement confirming the church had alerted the authorities after a complaint from the parents of a 14-year-old boy.

“The wellbeing of the alleged perpetrator’s many victims, as well as that of their families, is our highest concern at this point. We have established a confidential helpline to assist those affected and made professional counsellors available,” Wallace said .

“We’re absolutely gutted that young lives have been so negatively impacted allegedly by one of our own employees, who was a trusted youth leader. In line with our child protection policy, this individual had the necessary police clearance. We are going to further review all our systems to ensure we get even better at protecting our children,” he said.

This weekend several youngsters from Diocesan College (Bishops) said the pastor had over several years given them and boys in the preparatory school motivational talks and they regarded him as a “very nice chap who was dedicated to his calling” and who took great pictures of sports events, including individual shots of surfers.

Many parents were equally astonished.

“I just can’t believe that he managed to totally infiltrate our families. The cops apparently have a hard drive of photos going back four years,” a parent said.

"The pastor even had the gall", claimed one parent, "to tell boys who came to him for advice to continue sending photos to his alias."

Another parent said: “I burnt with anger as I listened to my son tell his story to the investigating officers, but it also broke my heart.

“I thank God that he had the courage to tell me and to come forward with the truth.

“How this will impact him only time will tell - but I see relief in his eyes now, that he no longer has to bear this secret alone and I hope that other victims would do the same for the sake and safety of other children.”

The pastor is awaiting trial on R1000 bail and can only be named once he has pleaded. He faces charges of possession of child pornography and failing to report knowledge of the commission of a sexual offence with children.

The case was remanded until October 17.

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