A former security volunteer at Harvest Bible Chapel this week published a video accusing me of “burying” explicit and predatory texts by a former Harvest youth pastor for unethical reasons.
The accusations are baseless. And those with first-hand information about the situation have confirmed their falsehood.
Yet in the current climate, truth doesn’t matter. These baseless allegations are now being circulated online. And those spreading the allegations seem to have done little homework to determine whether the allegations are true.
In his video, former Harvest volunteer James Engleman alleges that I received “screenshots of all of the sexting text messages that had gone back and forth between Paxton Singer” and boys Singer allegedly was “sexually exploiting.”
According to Engleman, the text messages said things like, “Do you get erections when you wrestle other boys? Do you want to meet me at a hotel tonight? Can you send me a picture of yourself in your underwear?”
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Engleman says that in a phone call (presumably in 2019) I told him I had the texts but wouldn’t publish them because Singer “had suffered enough,” plus I was expecting a “big story” from Singer’s father.
Engleman seems to believe that if I published these alleged texts, it might have affected the outcome of Singer’s trial. Singer, who was charged in 2018 with sexual exploitation of a minor, was convicted of disorderly conduct in November 2019. The conviction was overturned in 2021.
Engleman also alleges that within two months of his phone call with me, “The Roys Report (TRR) was born.”
Engleman suggests that Singer’s “big donor daddy,” who allegedly “was connected” to David Wisen—a member of the wealthy Van Kampen family—had something to do with TRR’s launch.
These allegations are very serious. They’re also patently false.
First, TRR has never received a dime from Paxton Singer’s father, Lloyd Singer, or from David Wisen. Engleman is simply forwarding a baseless theory.
But more importantly, I never received any texts or screenshots of texts from Paxton Singer to teenage boys. None.
Furthermore, Engleman says I received Singer’s explicit texts through asubpoena my attorney issued to former Harvest counseling pastor Rob Williams. The subpoena would have been part of my defense against a frivolous lawsuit Harvest and MacDonald brought against me and four others in 2018.
However, Williams—now the executive director of care and counseling at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, Virginia—confirmed Wednesday in a text to me that he never possessed any of Singer’s texts either.
“As I recall, you saw the texts from Paxton but never possessed them, right?” I texted Williams.
Williams responded, “I never possessed any of those texts, you are right. I heard bad pastors describe some of what they read in text thread. Erections and hotel details came out in court. I certainly did it (sic) send you any texts like that.”
Williams also sent an email to me on Thursday, responding to Engleman’s allegations.
“The texts that were exchanged between Paxton and one student. . . were printed and Rick Donald (former Harvest assistant senior pastor) would have described and read a few aloud to a few of us pastors,” Williams wrote. “Rick never allowed anyone else to hold those papers, never allowed us to read them, or have copies of them. I never possessed them so it would be impossible to share them with Julie Roys or Jim Engleman.”
Similarly, Ryan Mahoney, who was a co-defendant in MacDonald’s and Harvest’s lawsuit against me, tweeted Wednesday that he never received Singer’s texts either. As a co-defendant, Mahoney would have received responses to any subpoenas my attorney issued. The only exception would be if the response came in the small window between when Harvest filed a motion to suppress information discovered through subpoena and when Harvest dropped the suit.
Clearly, the lynchpin of Engleman’s accusation—that I possessed Singer’s explicit texts and buried them—is false.
I confronted Engleman Wednesday with Williams’ and Mahoney’s statements debunking his claims. Yet rather than retract his false statements, Engleman on Thursday tweeted screenshots of texts he alleged I had buried.
But the screenshots Engleman tweeted were not of explicit texts between Singer and minors. Instead, the screenshots showed texts between Harvest pastors discussing a report by an “Aurora dad” that Singer had sent inappropriate texts to the dad’s son.
None of the pastors in the text thread said they had seen Singer’s texts themselves. So, the thread represented only second-hand reports or hearsay of Singer’s alleged explicit texts to minors.
And I don’t report hearsay.
However, I did use the text thread Engleman tweeted as evidence for something else. The entire thread, along with other documents Williams produced in response to my subpoena, showed that former Harvest Pastor Craig Steiner had failed to properly report Singer’s alleged child abuse to authorities.
I don’t know why Engleman is spreading defamatory rumors about me and others he alleges are connected to me. For example, Engelman detailed allegations against former Harvest Elder Dan George, whom he alleged served on my “initial board.”
George never served on my board, and disputed Engleman’s allegations in a comment posted to Facebook, which is posted below:
It should be noted, however, that Engleman, who once was a critic of disgraced pastor James MacDonald, has now become a MacDonald apologist. In the video, Engleman argues that people should “make room for (MacDonald’s) repentance.”
This, even though James MacDonald has never truly repented for anything. He’s even suing one of the Harvest whistleblowers, Mancow Muller, as well as the law firm that found MacDonald had misused millions in church funds.
Survivor advocates spread unsubstantiated rumors
But what’s most disheartening about Engleman’s video isn’t the video itself. Engleman has been producing angry, misleading videos for some time. Most people familiar with what happened at Harvest know to disregard them.
What’s disheartening is how a new audience is eagerly spreading Engleman’s rumors without verifying what he says. And people you’d expect to be wary of deceptive troll accounts are instead retweeting them.
For example, Amy Smith, an abuse survivor advocate, on Wednesday retweeted a tweet from an account titled “NOT Julie Roys.” The retweet advertised a “bombshell torching of Julie Roys” and linked to Engleman’s video.
This is the same troll account that attacked me relentlessly for reporting child abuse coverup by John MacArthur and Grace Community Church.
The account also has labeled the survivor community “#VictimhoodCulture” and attacked Lori Anne Thompson with names I won’t repeat. This seems a strange bedfellow for an abuse survivor advocate.
Yet Smith has also been retweeting Protestia and David Morrill tweets, which is bizarre given those accounts’ track record for misogyny, sensationalism, and half-truths. Morrill has similarly ridiculed the survivor community with the “VictimhoodCulture” hashtag, and does disgusting things like mock a racial trauma counselor for his lisp.
Smith’s embrace of these fringe and hateful voices is concerning.
Smith also published a blog Friday with Engleman’s video and leading questions.
“There are questions that James Engleman has asked in relation to (Singer’s) case and Julie’s decision not to report further on Paxton Singer,” Smith wrote. “. . . Was there any professional or financial incentive from donors and/or supporters to forgo further reporting on the Paxton Singer case?”
Similarly, Ashley Easter, another victim advocate, retweeted Engleman’s allegations Wednesday night.
In response to Easter’s tweet, I tweeted information showing that Engleman’s allegations had been debunked by Rob Williams and Ryan Mahoney. I also offered to provide Easter with Williams’ email so she could talk to him herself.
Easter never asked for Williams’ email, but instead defended her right to “post opinions I think are interesting.”
Here’s the thing, I don’t trust what you say Julie.
I am allowed to post opinions that I think are interesting.
— Ashley Easter (@ashleymeaster) May 12, 2022
Easter also retweeted a David Morrill tweet attacking me.
Another “church abuse awareness” Facebook page reposted Engleman’s bait-and-switch texts, claiming the “receipts” supported the video.
A blog that considers itself “an online community of faith” posted Engleman’s video and said if I don’t’ have a good answer, I’m “toast.” Though the blog has posted some decent content in the past, I don’t regularly visit it, so it’s surprising I even saw the comment. But what I don’t understand is if the site’s author wanted a response, why didn’t he come to me and ask for one?
I’m all for holding Christian leaders accountable, but that’s not at all what this is. This is gossip—and I rarely use that word because it’s been so horribly misused to try and silence legitimate whistleblowers and critics.
But that’s what the spreading of unconfirmed, sensational reports about another person is. This is wrong. It’s ugly. And it certainly isn’t Christian.
So friends, can we stop? If you hear an allegation about me, or anyone else for that matter, don’t publish it unless you can confirm the information.
That’s the ethic I and other journalists use every day. But it’s also just following the Golden Rule. And whether you’re a journalist, a blogger, an advocate, or just someone who tweets, it’s a good and decent principle for life.