Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Preteen sex and the Christian Coalition?


According to the Associated Press, the longtime head of the Christian Coalition of Oregon said today that he is "withdrawing from public life," a day after news reports detailed accusations of sexual abuse against him by three female relatives.

"I am thankful for a family that loves and supports me, and intend to withdraw from public life until this is resolved," Lou Beres wrote in a statement posted on the organization's web site, at www.coalition.org.

Beres has denied any criminal misconduct and wrote that he will "pursue the Biblical response and do all within my power to reconcile with that person."

Multnomah County District Attorney Michael Schrunk told The Oregonian newspaper that officials are investigating the complaints against Beres.

The three women - now adults - allege they were abused by Beres as preteens. Their families called the child abuse hot line last month, after the three openly discussed the alleged abuse for the first time.

"I was molested," one of the women, now in her 50s, told The Oregonian. "I was victimized and I've suffered all my life for it. I'm still afraid to be in the same room with him."

Beres, 70, has blamed "personal and political enemies" for the complaint.

Only one of the three cases appears to fall under Oregon's statute of limitations on sex abuse, which expires after six years. Authorities said that case involves a young woman who was allegedly abused by Beres when she was in elementary school.

A nephew of Beres' is standing up for the three women.

"My family has gone through hell," said Richard Galat, 41, of Oakland, Calif., who told detectives that his uncle had molested "several" female relatives over the years.

"Lives have been ruined. Those of us who have come forward have been ostracized, verbally abused and the victims of character assassination...It must stop," he said.

In response to Galat's statements, Beres said on the Christian Coalition web site today, "I am grieved by the false allegations of my nephew, Richard Galat. I am attempting to determine the source of each claim."

Beres, who did immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press, is the former head of the Republican Party in Multnomah County, the Democratic stronghold that includes Portland.

Jim Moore, who teaches political science at Pacific University in Forest Grove, said Monday that Beres has not been particularly influential in Oregon politics. "In fact, under his leadership, the Christian Coalition in Oregon has gone downhill."

In state legislative races in 2004, for example, Moore said that, "we found that Christian Coalition candidates basically did not do as well as they did in the past."

Oregon Republican Chairman Vance Day said Beres hasn't been much of a factor in state GOP politics since he stepped down as Multnomah County chairman about 10 years ago. "I don't view this as having any major impact on politics here in Oregon; I don't think the Christian Coalition has a big footprint here at all," he said.

The group did support a constitutional amendment against gay marriage that passed handily with voters in November of 2004, but support for that cause was rallied by another conservative-leaning group, the Defense of Marriage Coalition.

Tim Nashif, the political director of that group, said he has few details about the allegations, and added that his group is not associated with the Christian Coalition.

"Anytime any family goes through anything like this it's a pretty grievous situation and our hearts go out to them," he said. "The truth has a tendency to come out."



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