Former Adventist teacher standing trial for sexual abuse of students
Who said Catholics and Adventists have nothing in common?
On Tuesday, June 11, former Fresno Adventist Academy (FAA) and A.W. Spalding Elementary School teacher Christopher Bispham rejected a plea deal that could have saved him 230 years in prison. Bispham, 30-years old, is charged with “18 felonies, including oral copulation of a child 10 years or younger, lewd or lascivious act [sic] with a minor, and sexual penetration with a foreign object.” Bispham faces 260 years to life in prison if convicted. There is also a separate civil trial filed against Fresno Adventist Academy and Bispham by James Sepeda, Jr., a minor at the time of the sexual abuse, for negligence, emotional distress, and sexual battery. The civil lawsuit alleges that a pastor in Central California tipped Bispham off that he was under investigation by the Central California Conference and authorities and encouraged him to flee.
On the run
Authorities tracked Bispham down to Florida where he was arrested in 2017 after one of his former students reported the abuse, followed by other individuals coming forward, as well. The alleged crimes date back to 2013/14 (reports conflict as to the exact year), meaning this trial has been five-to-six years in the making. He was reportedly fired from Spalding Elementary in Collegedale, TN, in 2013 after being charged with a DUI. One factor adding weight to the lawsuit is its claim that his sexual misconduct can be traced back to his time in Tennessee at Spalding as well as Cohutta Springs Youth Camp in Georgia prior to being hired at FAA. The lawsuit accuses the Church of permitting his hire at FAA instead of preventing it.
Who spoke up?
Multiple former students, identified as “John Doe #,” have come forward with accusations of abuse during their time as Bispham’s students. After these initial accusers came forward, four more individuals added accusations of their own into the mix. One individual cited 30-40 incidents of inappropriate fondling. Bispham is due in court on June 26.
Word on the street is…
Many wonder how someone fired from one Adventist academy for a DUI charge was hired so soon by another. Others who knew Bispham at FAA were shocked to hear of this situation, saying they never expected such behavior from him. The majority opinion from Adventists seems to be that they are both grateful justice is being served and outraged that this ever happened in the first place.
Adventist Chief Justice speaks out against political corruption in Kenya
Kenya ain’t exactly Hakuna Matata right now
Seventh-day Adventist David Maraga currently serves as Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court in Kenya. Recently, Maraga spoke at the Oxford Union Conference in the United Kingdom where he criticized Kenyan government officials for political problems including voter fraud, corruption, gender discrimination, and elitism. He believes that corruption in particular is negatively affecting the results in elections, the making and enforcing of laws, and equal opportunity for women in governmental jobs. Maraga specifically criticized Parliament and the Executive branch. Through his position, he hopes to be a positive impact in the country’s political landscape. The opinion of many is that Maraga’s comments are not too far off from reality. The previous Chief Justice, Willy Mutunga, also spoke strongly against the same issues that Maraga outlined. Although Mutung’s focus was more specifically on cartel and drug problems, both men agreed that top politicians are a main cause for these kinds of problems.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church responds to the Equality Act
When everyone is equal, someone isn’t
On May 17, the Seventh-day Adventist Church issued an official response to the Equality Act. Passed in May 2019, The Equality Act aims to make amendments to Title VII. A part of the Civil Rights Act, Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion. Seventh-day Adventists have frequently benefited from Title VII when it comes to working on the Sabbath. The Equality Act extends these protections to gender and sexual orientation. Because it fails to make any exceptions for religious organizations, the Church feels that the Equality Act would infringe upon their First Amendment right to religious freedom. While, corporately, the Seventh-day Adventist church seeks to respect the LGBTQ+ community, it does have a stance that doesn’t support LGBTQ+ marriages or relationships. The Church’s position is that there is a way for the rights of every citizen to be upheld, while at the same time protecting the rights of faith communities to live, worship, and witness according to their convictions. One one side, many believe the “Equality Act” is a good thing, as protecting the rights of citizens (regardless of identity) is the responsibility of not only the government, but, some argue, Christians as well. On the other hand, others are worried about these amendments, questioning what this means for the future of Christians’ protected freedoms. Opponents believe it provides no allowance for communities or individuals of faith who hold traditional views of marriage and gender.