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Former UMC Pastor in Wisconsin Convicted on Child Porn Charges

By Sarah Einselen
wisconsin pastor rick haberland
Former United Methodist Church pastor Rick Haberland, 49, pleaded no contest on Friday to four counts of possession of child porn and one count of possession of methamphetamine. (Photo: Outagamie County Sheriff's Office)

A former United Methodist pastor in Wisconsin has been convicted of possession of child pornography and will be sentenced next month, according to court records.

Rick E. Haberland, 49, pleaded no contest on Friday to four counts of possession of child porn and one count of possession of methamphetamine, according to Outagamie County court records.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for October 14, records show. Possession of child porn is a Class D felony under Wisconsin law, punishable by up to 25 years in prison. Possession of meth is a Class I felony punishable by up to 18 months in prison and two years’ probation.

Nine other charges of possession of child porn were dismissed but read into Haberland’s record.

Authorities started investigating Haberland based on a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, according to the Outagamie County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff’s deputies arrested Haberland in February after a search of his home and church. Authorities seized his phone and found more than 150 videos on it, showing children being sexually abused, according to the criminal complaint.

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Messages in Haberland’s online accounts indicated he preferred “less than legal” children. A profile found on his phone also stated that his personal motto was “molest, abuse, rape & reuse.” Haberland admitted to setting up videoconference meetings to view child sexual abuse material, according to the criminal complaint.

Haberland had been a pastor in the United Methodist Church (UMC) since 2016, UMC records previously showed. He was appointed to pastor Oneida United Methodist Church in the Oneida Nation reservation in July 2020.

The online record of Haberland’s appointments still listed him as an active clergyman when The Roys Report accessed it Tuesday. It was removed from the UMC data website after TRR asked about his current status.

It’s unclear why Haberland’s church record is no longer available. Another former UMC minister whose license was revoked is still listed. The website is maintained by the denomination’s General Council on Finance and Administration, which didn’t immediately respond to a message left requesting comment.

Haberland’s appointment to Oneida UMC ended the day he was arrested, Wisconsin UMC spokesman Dan Schwerin told TRR. Schwerin said Haberland’s ministry license has also been revoked.

“We ask for prayer for the survivors of abuse anywhere, especially those alleged to have suffered from Mr. Haberland’s actions,” read a statement from the Wisconsin UMC conference in response to questions from TRR. “He is no longer under appointment or licensed by The United Methodist Church. Extensions of the Episcopal office went to the churches he has served, have offered support, and continue to follow up. We are cooperating with police and know nothing about the status of the investigation.”

Sarah Einselen is an award-winning writer and editor based in Texas.

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11 Responses

  1. Was he, like so many UMC clergy, supportive of SSM and LGBT ordination, or did he profess to stand for biblical truth in this respect?

    1. Don’t. They aren’t related and it smells of witch hunt logic.
      Research has eatablished that gay people are no more likely to be pedophiles than the generl population as a percentage basis it’s statistically identical. So just stop.

      1. Mark, did you really think that all who support SSM and LGBT ordination do so because they are gay themselves? I was questioning whether this guy was your run of the mill liberal, or whether he had been posing as a genuine Bible believer (A few years ago now there was a pederast psychiatrist who had been doing just that).

      2. John K and others who think his way are on a witch hunt. They are trying to make blanket statements about people. I will say it is wrong and unChrist like. I agree with Mark. Stop it!

        1. Tom Parker,

          Don’t you think that it is “wrong and unChrist like” to deliberately reject the plain values and teachings of Scripture in favor of secular standards and morality?

      3. Your statistics are lies. The short of it is that homosexual men are committing at least 1/3 of the total documented sexual molestations even though they make up a tiny percentage of the whole. There is also reported some quotes from reliable sources that the reported molestations among boys are actually under-reported, so the real number may very well be worse. So instead of heterosexual molesters being 39 – 99 higher in total, it is only 2 times. That translates to a higher pedophilia rate among the gay community of 20 – 48X that of the heterosexual community! Are we going to keep ignoring that? I have the sources for this and would gladly share them…

  2. We all know that the UMC is divided over the question of whether to ordain LGBTs and celebrate same sex marriages. On which side of the divide was he?

  3. Thank you for reporting on these cases. Please look for more information about this perpetrator. If he first became a minister in the UMC in 2016, did he “serve” in another denomination previously? Is he a graduate of any religious solfège or seminary? Does he have any prior criminal record? Does he have children?

  4. I’m with John Rokos on this one.

    Once a “church” has discarded any pretense of upholding Holy Scripture–anything goes.

    When you chuck all God-given morality out the window… anything goes.

    Am I terribly surprised that a denomination celebrating abortion and practicing LGBT behavior would produce this reprobate individual? Well… do you want me to tell the truth or not?

    1. Thank you, Mark. Everyone should watch this. Here is the link.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0V4G00Gl51c

      The issue is church polity, i.e. the authority structure. Here, no procedure, no protection for making complaints except telling the children that they themselves are liars.

      It sounds like the church made money from taking in register sex offenders and allowing them to live in dorm-like situations with children. It also sounds like the bolder children who insisted that things happened or acted out sexually were punished for being liars or wicked.

      Trust your instincts as parents. Believe what children say and protect them, even if they are acting out. This is NOT Godly, despite how many Bible verses people know and how much forgiveness is preached. Even the Devil knows to quote scripture and did it when he tempted Jesus.

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