A Dallas area Southern Baptist church has fired a music minister charged with sexually assaulting a child, and told Baptist Press (BP) the alleged crime occurred before the accused’s employment there.
Valley Ranch Baptist Church (VRBC) in Coppell, Texas, fired 40-year-old associate minister of worship Jason Thomas after the Mesquite Police Department (MPD) arrested him Feb. 10, pastor Larry Parsley said Feb. 12.
“We were in contact with the Mesquite Police Department,” Parsley told BP. “We weighed everything we learned and our church council and I determined [firing Thomas] was the right decision to make at the time.”
Thomas was released on a $50,000 bond Feb. 10, the MPD told BP. Police have charged him with one count of aggravated sexual assault of a child, whom police said was under age 14. The incident reportedly occurred before 2005. Police received a report of the alleged assault on Jan. 12, the MPD said in its press release, and arrested Thomas without interference at his residence.
“The Mesquite Police have informed us that the charge relates to events prior to Jason’s employment at VRBC,” the church said in a statement updated Feb. 11. “Neither we nor the police are aware of any victims who are current or former members or attenders of VRBC or the Valley Ranch Baptist Weekday Preschool.”
A background check the church conducted on Thomas before his September 2005 employment revealed no crimes nor allegations, Parsley told BP. In the full time position, Thomas primarily led worship.
“We were of course heartbroken. We have for many years had policies in place to screen employees and to protect children and youth. One of our very highest priorities is to protect children and youth,” Parsley said. “So we’ve had policies in place, but we will certainly use this opportunity to audit our policies as well, to make sure they’re the very best they can be.”
Both the MPD and the church have asked those with information of any additional alleged victims of Thomas to call 972-329-8303 or 972-285-6336.
“Like you, our hearts are breaking for everyone involved in this situation,” the church said in its statement. “Please be in prayer.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)