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Former NH Pastor Sentenced to Over 10 Years in Prison for ‘Horrific’ Child Sex Abuse Crimes

By Josh Shepherd
stephen bates child porn
Stephen Bates, pastor of Bible Baptist Church in southern New Hampshire, has been removed from his duties after being charged with possession of child sex abuse images. (Photo: Nashua Police Department)

The former pastor of a New Hampshire church has been sentenced to over a decade in prison after pleading guilty to the manufacture and possession of child sex abuse images.

Stephen Bates, 48, who recently resided in Apalachin, N.Y., pleaded guilty to 11 charges last week at Hillsborough County Superior Court South in Nashua, N.H. This included one count of the manufacture of child sex abuse images and 10 counts of possession of such images.

Bates, who had served as pastor of Bible Baptist Church in Nashua for 17 years, was arrested last March at the parsonage adjoining the church. Police said Bates had two flash drives with numerous images of child sex abuse in his possession when he was arrested.

On October 12, New Hampshire Superior Court Judge Jacalyn Colburn sentenced Bates to 10 to 23 years in prison for the manufacture of child sex abuse images, according to multiple reports.

The ruling stated that Bates can get two years off the minimum sentence if he completes a sexual offender course. As part of a plea deal, a sentence of seven-and-a-half to 15 years behind bars for the possession charges has been suspended.

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bible baptist church IFB nashua
Bible Baptist Church in Nashua, N.H. (Photo via Facebook)

According to local outlet WMUR, Judge Colburn referenced Bates’ own testimony in handing down her judgment.

“You used the word ‘horrified,’ and that’s an excellent word, because these were horrific crimes, and you should be horrified,” she said. “You’re a very intelligent man. You have the support of a family and a lot of people in your community, and you abused that trust and support.”

During the hearing, one of Bates’ former victims addressed the court via Zoom and said the former pastor robbed her of innocence.

“Within a split second, I felt like I had lost all my innocence, and trust in all men,” said the victim, who was not named in the news report. “To curl up at night and wonder if living is really worth it. I couldn’t understand why someone would want to hurt me like this.”

The investigation of Bates began when the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received a tip in 2016 that child sexual abuse images had been accessed from an IP address associated with the church. Police investigating both that tip and similar ones in 2017 said they did not find enough evidence to support criminal charges.

However, an IP address associated with the church later surfaced as part of a 2019 Homeland Security investigation into the production and distribution of child sex abuse images in Denver. A year later, one appeared as part of a Tallahassee, Fla., child porn case. And, in 2021, a Blaine, Wash., investigation of social media communications about sexual contact with children was tied to an IP address at the Bible Baptist address. 

According to media reports, prosecutors said a detective posing as a young girl managed to uncover Bates’ involvement.

Following his arrest last March, Bates continued to reside at the church according to the conditions of his bail.

Bible Baptist Church is affiliated with the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement. In a previous statement, church leaders condemned Bates’ actions, calling them, “ungodly, unholy, unnatural, perverted, and reprehensible.”

Once Bates is released, he will have to register as a sex offender and will not be allowed to be alone with anyone under the age of 18, except family members. He was also ordered to comply with the findings of a psychosexual evaluation and not to have contact with any of his past victims.

Freelance journalist Josh Shepherd writes on faith, culture, and public policy for several media outlets. He and his family live in the Washington, D.C. area.

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8 Responses

  1. Unfortunately another “abusive” pastor in the Baptist denomination; and the Independent Fundamentalist group is likely the worst.

    Is there a problem with oversight – or churches having appropriate blockers on their staff computers?

  2. Paul lamented in Acts Paul said “I grieve when I die RAVENOUS WOLVES will come and overtake the FLOCK!

    And oh have they slaughtering entire households and churches because there are no WATCHMAN in the Pulpit anymore

  3. Turns out the pointing fingers in all other directions should have been directed inside the church. At some point you have to ask how so much abuse emanates from the institution that claims to represent the highest morality standard possible. As I now say, “I left it for a higher moral standard than my faith ever provided.” When you can claim to be forgiven anything, sexual predators get a pass and victims are often not believed. Males need to be fully vetted and thoroughly background checked in every position of leadership. Religion’s protection of abusers shows its patriarchal default setting is not working at all.

    1. There’s nothing in any of the related articles or media stories that points blame at the local church leadership. If anything, they are guilty of a failure to supervise. Granted, the strident patriarchal leadership model used by BBC lends itself to abuse since genuine accountability and transparency are lacking. And most likely there’s a not a female to be found in any meaningful leadership role who might pushback on that. Incidents like this should be a wakeup call to churches about monitoring and restricting access on church IT assets.

  4. I agree with Jesus about a millstone around their necks and casting them into the sea. Or with Pres. Trump who believes pedophiles, murderers and drug dealers should receive the death penalty.

  5. Are these sex offender ministers at those churches because there aren’t enough good men to hire? It could be interesting to look at the their resumes/applications to see what academic records and previous experience they have. How many of these men are able to imitate preachers with certain styles of preaching that appeal to folks when they do a candidating sermon or give oral interviews? Is the pay so low that better qualified men won’t bother to apply? I know personnel matters are private but do these men have something in common that can raise suspicions?

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Your tax-deductible gift helps our journalists report the truth and hold Christian leaders and organizations accountable. Give a gift of $30 or more to The Roys Report this month, and you will receive a copy of “What If Jesus Was Serious about the Church?” by Skye Jethani.