Child Pornography Allegations
Pastor Stephen foster & Morning star church have not provided a credible defense of the child pornography found on his phone.
This is a problem.
Below is an excerpt from page 1 of the linked documents to what was found. The excerpt is a Verizon employee testifying to what they saw on the phone.
“...I transferred the information from one of the phones to another and then offered to show the customer that everything had been transferred. As part of this demonstration I showed the female customer the photo gallery. The cover photo of at least one of the galleries showed very young, under ten years old, boys and girls dressed in only underwear; inside one of the galleries I observed what I estimated to be a collection of approximately 200 - 300 images of primarily young boys, which I estimated to be between four years and ten years old, posed nude (with their genitals exposed) on or about a bed in various standing, seated, and laying positions. The bed was white with white sheets and the area around the bed had a white background… the woman indicated the phone was not hers, but was her employer’s.”
Let's go over this again.
They found 200-300 images of children. Ages 4-10. Naked. With exposed genitals.
Take a breath.
These photos were all of children in white rooms, white beds, white sheets. This is a style of photograph. This suggests preference. This suggests intent. This does not suggest that they randomly appeared on accident.
These pictures were in a gallery on the phone. That means they were not downloaded on accident -- they were stored.
200 - 300 images is a LOT of images.
Stephen and Leadership tried to frame it on his personal assistant (referred to hereafter as PA). Besides the fact that every church member knew PA and that she does not have the character of a person to download child pornography, that is not a defense. It is pointing fingers, playing the blame game, and not answering any of the sickening questions about why and where and how this could possibly have happened. This is an enormous red flag and Stephen Foster has not made himself accountable.
An aside, talk to any pastor worth his salt, any CEO for that matter, and ethically, the right thing to do in this situation is to step down until a thorough investigation has been completed. I have personally heard Stephen go on and on about "ministerial ethics," but where was the ethical response in this situation?
The story I personally was given by Stephen/Ldshp in March, before I left in April and a few days before the Northwest Herald published the article on March 12, 2017, was that PA had downloaded the images in December 2016, took the phone to Verizon, and then fled the state shortly after on January 1, 2017. There’s a lot of detail surrounding that, but that’s the bottom line. I was one of the few people who knew in January that she had left, and while it was super strange to me that she was gone, the accusation that she had framed Stephen was at least an explanation. I was reeling and very unsure of everything I hearing, but I didn't really know what to do at the time but trust what I was being told (at least on some level). This is all very difficult information to sift through, practically, emotionally, spiritually. In some ways, I froze. I didn't know what to do with it. But again, nothing had been published in the newspaper at this point. There was no legal documentation available to me at the time. Once the Northwest Herald went public two days later and I read the court records, everything fell apart for me.
According to the legal affidavits, the child pornography images were first seen by Verizon employees in July 2016. I find it strange that PA would put child pornography on Stephen’s phone in July and then not leave for 5 months. In the legal affidavits linked to above, the Verizon employees also testify that she didn’t have his passcode. If the screen locked, she literally had to leave the store, go to wherever he was, have him unlock it and come back. It just doesn’t add up that she had the kind of access necessary to download that much child pornography unnoticed. According to the Verizon employees, the screen-locking-going-to-find-Stephen-unlock-it dance happened on at least one occasion.
The day Stephen/Ldshp informed the congregation what was going on, Sunday, March 12, was the day that the Northwest Herald went public with the story. The point is, the church was basically forced to inform the congregation of events that had already been going on for months. Again, ministerial ethics? So the church began to point fingers. They publicly eviscerated PA's character to the congregation, attempting to make a case for why she would have reason to frame Stephen. It was an excessive campaign, going on for hours in front of the people she most loved and served for years and years and years. It involved her own husband, at points exclaiming with a raised voice about her wickedness.
This alone is a huge red flag.
Suspiciously, church leaders did not mention a word about the fact that the bulk of what was actually found on his phone was homosexual pornography (click here for details), or anything about the July 2016 timeline. They made it sound very simple. "She did it, she left." That's very convenient but it doesn't match a word of what is filed with McHenry County Courthouse. This was the biggest thing I initially could not get past. I couldn't wrap my head around the child pornography piece, to the point where I couldn't mentally process it, but the homosexual pornography found and the fact that it was completely covered up... it set off every alarm in me.
A follow up, yes the case was dropped. This does not mean everything is okay. After speaking with law enforcement professionals, I learned that law enforcement needs to be able to prove access to prosecute a child pornography case, meaning that they have to be able to prove that the alleged perpetrator was the only person with access to the device or cloud account, etc. That’s very difficult to do, and just because they couldn’t do it doesn’t mean that everything is okay.
Additionally, what most people in the congregation don't know is that Stephen switches out his phones every few months, if not more frequently. Everyone in leadership and on staff knows it -- it's common knowledge. Just because they found nothing illegal on the phone they confiscated in February 2017 doesn't mean that what Verizon employees saw in July 2016 was fabricated.
The fact that there are no good answers and explanations to these allegations is a problem. Lord help us.