Before the Tennessee primary, Rick Santorum visited the Bellevue Baptist Church outside of Memphis where he prayed alongside Pastor Steve Gaines. Gaines said that “God doesn’t come to take sides, God comes to take over and I pray that He will takeover in America.” He asked God to forgive America for “the sins of racism, the sins of abortion and the sins of immorality”:
Gaines has a sordid history, and the website Ethics Daily, a project of the Baptist Center for Ethics, reported back in 2006 that Gaines failed to report to the police a minister in his church, Paul Williams, who molested his own:
An assistant prosecutor said Bellevue Baptist Church Pastor Steve Gaines may have committed a crime if he knew the "moral failure" a church staff member confessed to him six months ago involved child molestation.
All 50 states have laws requiring mandatory reporting of suspected child sexual abuse. Tennessee requires any person, including ministers, with reasonable suspicion that abuse of a child has occurred to report it immediately.
Gaines has admitted that Paul Williams, a minister on staff at the Memphis, Tenn., mega-church for 34 years, told him in confidence about inappropriate behavior that occurred 17 years ago.
While Gaines did not disclose details of the confession, a Web site critical of his leadership alleged Williams molested his own son. Church leaders have suspended Williams and launched their own investigation, due to last a month.
"Everyone has a duty to report," Kevin Rardin, chief prosecutor of child sexual abuse cases in the district attorney's office in Shelby County, Tenn., told Memphis station WMC-TV. "There are not exceptions for clergy or anyone else."
In fact, Gaines kept Williams’s admission a secret for six months:
"It is that every person is required to make a report to an agency like Department of Children's Services if they have reason to believe that someone may, a child may have been molested or abused," said Nancy Williams, with the Memphis Child Advocacy Center.
According to Bellevue Pastor Steve Gaines' own words, he didn't just have reason to believe it, he had a confession from one of his ministers, who admitted to molesting a child.
A report by church leaders found that Gaines allowed the minister to remain on staff even after his admission:
The report states that Williams "engaged in egregious, perverse, sexual activity with his adolescent son over a period of 12 to 18 months."
In May 2006, Williams informed Jamie Fish, the church's minister of biblical guidance, of his past actions. The report said Fish erred by not coming forward with the information, particularly since Williams' job duties included interviewing adult lay ministry volunteers who had indicated they had been sexually abused.
The following month Williams and his wife met to discuss the issue with Dr. Steve Gaines, Bellevue's senior pastor. Williams indicated that he confessed and repented to his family and there had been no further sexual abuse. The meeting was kept confidential and Williams remained on staff.
But in early December, Williams' son met with Gaines "for an explanation, in light of scriptural qualifications for ministers, as to why Paul should be allowed to continue as minister on the church staff."
While Gaines failed to report a case of child molestation and allowed an admitted child predator to remain on the church’s staff, he did ban a softball team from the church’s athletic league because the coach was openly gay. In fact, Gaines consistently rails against gays and lesbians, warning that gay rights and gays in the media jeopardize America’s security and economy:
"As important as these issues are, ... I believe they pale compared to two other issues that I believe will determine the future of America," Gaines warned. "I personally believe with all of my heart that the two issues that will determine what God will do not only with America but to America are abortion and homosexuality. ... America's economy and America's safety are more tied up with what's going on in those courts in Massachusetts than what's going on in Wall Street or over in Iraq." …
"We love [homosexuals] because we know -- as Jesus said from the cross -- 'they know not what they do.' They're in bondage, but aren't you glad today Jesus Christ can set people free from all sorts of bondage, even homosexuality?"
Southern Baptists should oppose "pro-homosexual television programming," such as "Will and Grace," "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" and MTV's homosexual channel, Logo, Gaines urged.
"We must help curb the epidemic spread of lesbianism by telling our daughters and our young girls that the passionate kisses shared by Madonna, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera at MTV's Video Music Awards last August were an abomination to a holy God," Gaines said.
In another sermon, he warned that since “homosexuals and lesbians cannot reproduce biologically so they prey on the children of normal people, seeking to entice them to be trapped in their perverted lifestyle”:
On the home-front, radical homosexuals and lesbians seek to take over our nation. You cannot watch television without being subjected to Gay propaganda. They seek to brain wash our citizens so they can make same-sex marriage the law of the land. Homosexuals and lesbians cannot reproduce biologically so they prey on the children of normal people, seeking to entice them to be trapped in their perverted lifestyle. They want to silence Baptist preachers and others from denouncing their sinful lifestyles by making it an illegal “hate crime” to point out what the Bible says about their wicked practices. Regardless of what anyone says about the goodness of being “Gay,” the Bible still calls it a “degrading, unnatural, indecent, and depraved” (Romans 1:26-28). Homosexual practice always has been, is, and always will be “an abomination” in the sight of Holy God (Leviticus 18:22). By God’s grace, homosexuals can be saved and set free from their sinful lifestyles because the blood of Jesus can cleanse anyone from any sin. But they must first repent of the sin of homosexuality and denounce their ungodly homosexual behavior.
The Old Testament prophet, Joel, preached to God’s people in Judah just before the Babylonian armies came and destroyed Jerusalem and took God’s people into exile. He cried out for them to repent so that God could spare the land from the coming invasion. His words of warning are very pertinent for us today. I personally believe that if America does not repent, she is headed for national disaster.
The negative publicity around Gaines, however, did not prevent Rick Santorum from actively seeking his support. In fact, Santorum has made frequent appearances with extremists in the Religious Right in his bid to defeat Mitt Romney.