Doug Wilson’s Defense of Child Molester Steven Sitler

Steven Sitler, image via public records; Doug Wilson, CC image courtesy of Flickr, speric.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Julie Anne Smith’s blog Spiritual Sounding Board. It was originally published on September 4, 2014 and has been slightly modified for HA.

I read a disturbing article yesterday that sent me reeling. I think we always want to hope for the best in people, but after having seen this pattern taken place so many times, those who were familiar with the story could see the inevitable train wreck before it took place. Our fears were in fact confirmed this week, and I am heartbroken.

Many times when we hear of breaking scandalous stories, the focus is on the perpetrator and those who enabled the abuse. The background to this story can be broken down into several important topics, and I hope other bloggers will cover some of the other aspects to this story. But for this initial post, the victims will be the primary focus, as they should be. They are the ones we need to protect and defend.

Background Information

In Fall of 2003, Steven Sitler moved from Moscow, Idaho to attend New Saint Andrews College (NSA). Sitler attended Christ Church, pastored by Doug Wilson. When he came to Moscow, ”No one knew at the time, however, that Steven Sitler was also a serial [child molester] who preyed upon boys and girls, ages 2–12, and who left a trail of victims in at least two other states prior to his arrival in Moscow” (Source).

In March of 2005, the parents of one victimized child notified Doug Wilson, who advised them to retain the Christ Church’s attorney to accompany them as they notified legal authorities of the crime. This marks the beginning of Sitler’s legal issues.

About this time, Doug Wilson began counseling with Steven Sitler. To make a very long story short, Sitler was convicted, served time, took a plea deal, and will have supervised parole for the rest of his life.

A note of interest is the letter that Doug Wilson sent to the judge essentially defending Sitler and asking for leniency. Yes, you read that correctly – leniency for a serial child molester! Doug Wilson told the Judge Stegner he had been providing counseling to Steven Sitler for only SIX times, gave him some books to read, and assignments to do between sessions. He stated that at the beginning of their counseling sessions, Sitler didn’t know the nature of his problem, but was later convinced that Sitler was open and honest when he confessed his thought life and behavior.  The final paragraph of Wilson’s letter reads:

I am grateful Steven was caught, and am grateful he has been brought to account for these actions so early in his life. . . . At the same time, I would urge that the civil penalties applied would be measured and limited. I have good hope that Steve has genuinely repented, and that he will continue to deal with this to become a productive and contributing member of society.

Ed Iverson and Doug Wilson Encourage Courtship and Marriage of Steven Sitler

Fast forward a few years and time served, and now a young lady is on the scene. Let me introduce you to Katie Travis. Katie had posted her personal story online, but it has since been taken down. But it is possible to piece together her story from others who have quoted the words from her online journal.

Katie moved to Idaho to attend New Saint Andrews College from Fallon, Nevada. She lived with the family of Ed Iverson whom she had known several years before arriving at NSA. Mr. Iverson was NSA’s librarian and also an elder at Doug Wilson’s church, Christ Church.  Reports are conflicting as to their relationship, whether he was her grandfather by blood or acted as a father figure, but it is clear that she looked to him as a respected father figure, and he readily assumed that trusted role in her personal life.

At the age of 23, Katie was at the prime of life, single, and ready to find a husband and start a family like all young ladies who are brought up in Patriarchy. In Christian Patriarchy circles, women are encouraged to marry young, so 23 years was pushing it. Several reports indicated that Katie felt the pressure to find a husband in short order because most of her friends were courting or married. She asked Mr. Iverson to assist her in finding a spouse, and he eagerly agreed.

Are you picking up on this culture? Katie asked a family friend to find someone to court. He was to choose for her, not the other way around. And this was normal and what Katie wanted.

On August 18, 2010, Mr. and Mrs. Iverson invited Steven Sitler to come to their home for dinner. This dinner was set up for the express purpose of introducing Steven and Katie for the possibility of a future courtship. “Ed Iverson’s description of Katie was that, though NSA was tough for her, she persevered through and she was, “pretty good looking, too” (Source).

While Doug Wilson and Ed Iverson were obviously fine with this possible courtship and marriage, it’s important to note that the Department of Corrections did not support the idea of marriage for Steven Sitler at all.

Steven posted his account of their joyous meeting on the internet:

“We met on August 18th, 2010 at the insistence of Mr. and Mrs. Iverson. One week later we were writing emails like it was going out of style. On Katie’s first visit back to Moscow in October, we had our first date, after which I asked her father if I could start courting her. I got the pleasure of spending Christmas break with Katie’s awesome family and decided on a whim to ask her to “merry” (misspelling intentional, more on that later) me on our second date. Of course it wasn’t really a whim, I had been meticulously planning it for months. She was shocked… and speechless, but finally she said yes, and the rest, as they say, is history. I love you., Katie” (The Real Doug Wilson Encouraged & Presided Over the Marriage of a Serial Pedophile).

Katie and Steven wed on June 11, 2011.

The website http://sitler.moscowid.net originally hosted a video of Wilson officiating Sitler's wedding before the video's owner requested it removed.

The website http://sitler.moscowid.net originally hosted a video of Wilson officiating Sitler’s wedding before the video’s owner requested it removed.

Breaking News for the Sitler Case

Yesterday, CorrectionsOne.com reported (my bolding):

“A Latah County 2nd District Court judge ordered Tuesday that a convicted sex offender, Steven Sitler, must continue to have an approved chaperone present, within his direct line of sight, at all times he is around his infant child in the wake of new disclosures of “contact resulting in actual sexual stimulation.”

This was the train wreck we feared. The article stated that Katie was now disqualified as a chaperone “for failure to report disclosures related directly to the couple’s son and Sitler was required to move out of their home” (Source).

Ok, this is just sad for all involved.  I have a lot to say about Doug Wilson but I’m biting my tongue for the moment. What I’d like to discuss is Katie.

Katie’s World as Wife and Mom

Katie and her infant son are victims of her husband’s criminal behavior. Imagine Katie being in a town away from parents and her own pastor and trusted father figure selected a serial child molester for a husband. They had to convince her that Steven had repented. Who was she to second guess Mr. Iverson and Pastor Wilson?  They wouldn’t do anything to harm her, right?

In these circles, Katie would be expected to serve and submit to her husband and bear his children. But how does that work when the State says he can’t be around children? Doug Wilson knew this before he married them. Professionals warned that marriage was not a wise idea, but the State had no laws to prevent it from happening.

The article states that “the Idaho Department of Corrections would try to remove his wife and parents as chaperones.” This suggests to me that Katie and parents were not responsible in guarding the baby. Do you see this never-ending conflict? Katie of course wants her husband to have a relationship with his son, but yet she also has to police him? How does this work in a home where she is to obey her husband as head of the home? What an awkward position to put grandparents in, watching Steven like a hawk. There is no relaxing in this home, there is always a threat if Steven is in the premises.Life Sentence

When Ed Iverson and Katie’s parents agreed to the courtship of Katie and Steven, and then Doug Wilson agreed to officiate in this fiasco of a wedding, they pronounced a life sentence on Katie and her child, and extended family.  She will never be able to live as a normal wife and mother. This infant has already been sexually violated. Imagine the emotional stress in the home, always looking, trying to be vigilant, yet also trying to find a sense normal. There is no good thing in this situation, and Doug Wilson as pastor failed this young woman and her child. This is shameful behavior for a pastor who is supposed to be shepherding and protecting. What kind of shepherd intentionally puts sheep in harm’s way?  One who is arrogant to think he can determine whether a serial child molester is repentant or not.

The actions by Doug Wilson, I believe, also constitute as spiritual abuse. Katie put her trust in her spiritual leader to guide her and protect her. He asked for leniency for Steven – that is not protecting her. Wilson married them. That was also not protecting her. How might this affect how she trusts spiritual authority? If her pastor told her this, will she be upset at God for allowing it to happen? There are so ways this could lead to a real crisis of faith. I pray it doesn’t.

I sure hope Doug Wilson apologizes to this family for the harm he has caused them. What a disgrace not only to this family, but to the world as they once again see how Christian leaders mess up so badly.

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