Readers of this blog might recall a story I told about an English teacher who encouraged me by praising a story I wrote about a predatory preacher.
This was during the 79/80 era.
My story was inspired by 'Apocalypse Now', where my character was going to a fundamentalist Christian camp. When he arrived at the camp, he learned that the leader was abusing campers in a satanic ceremony. My hero escapes and finds someone who is totally the opposite in beliefs as the abusive preacher, but willing to take my alter ego in.
My hero trusts this person, only to have this person reveal he, and the abusive preacher, are on the same page. This person takes him to the police, where the police bring him back to the abusive preacher. In the end, he gives up and winds up 'drinking the koolaide'.
Keep in mind, this is decades before Bob Gray, the founder of TCA, would be arrested for sexually molesting children in his office.
When I came back after my first year at college (University of South Florida), I wanted to speak with Tom Bennett because I read Nathanial Hawthorne's 'Young Goodman Brown' which,co-incidently, seemed like a carbon copy of the story I wrote in his class. Bennett wasn't around because he had been fired.
Why was he fired? I asked one of the assistant pastors who just replied, over and over again, 'Tom Bennett is a pervert! Tom Bennett is a pervert! He was asking teens inappropriate questions!"
I further asked about the inappropriate questions, but didn't receive an answer that seemed rational. The questions, asked in another context, could also be asked by someone who heard rumors of sexual improprieties, and was trying to get to the truth of the matter. I remember, quite clearly, asking, "What if there's child molestation going on at Trinity Christian Academy, and Bennett was trying to find out what's really happening?"
The assistant pastor wouldn't listen. He just kept repeating his mantra, 'Tom Bennett is a pervert!' as if he thought I would believe him if he said it over and over again.
After Gray was arrested, I posted this account on my blog, and had people get angry at me for painting Bennett like a righteous crusader. I asked for updates on where Bennett was, but received nothing beyond that he was gay, and he eventually broke up with his wife. That made me think maybe he was being harrassed with false charges because he was gay.
One of Bennett's current students (a community college) just got in touch with me.
Bennett is in hot water down in Daytona. Now, after reading this article,, and noticing sex charges following him, and not just in Christian schools, it does give me pause.
There are other sex offenders who came from Trinity, and may still be there. The two most notorious, besides Bob Gray, have been Tony Denton and Tom Rake. If Bennett's thrown into the mix, people are just going to roll their eyes and go, "Typical for Trinity!"
This student does not believe the allegations, and I can understand where she's coming from. Bennett, out of all the teachers at TCA, seemed to encourage my 'rebellion' which involved writing about things done in secret by moral authority figures. That's hardly in keeping with a man who also has dark secrets he wishes to keep.
Why would a man who allegedly abuses children encourage me by praising a story I wrote about a predatory evangelist? A brilliant cover? Get behind someone whose unmasking predatory pastors? There have been cases of predators infiltrating child advocacy groups, so it's not beyond the realm of reason.
Still, there have been cases, such as the account of Geoffrey Hill, of a child advocate who was arrested after indecent pictures of boys were found on his computer. He alleged they were planted by the police. We will never know the full story as his body was found, shot in the chest, and buried in the desert near the Salton Sea.
Whistleblowers have taken up Geoffrey Hill's cause:
Article: Retaliation against Citizen Whistleblowers.
All those other accusations about Bennett, though, from different schools, does make me wonder about my hypothesis. Still, people do have closed minds, and it's possible he could be receiving false charges simply because he's gay. Who knows?
Bennett does not seem to be the whistle blower type, though. I tried in vain to get in touch with him when I first began this blog back in 2006. Didn't happen.
Unfortunately, this is the first evidence presented to me that Bennett is, at least, still a teacher:
Article: Man Continues To Teach Amid Sex Allegations.