-- Yet another test of faith in justice without compromise
Apostle D. Franklin Snorton, head Pastor of the Kakata branch of Philadelphia Church International, is behind bars in the Carter-High Central Prison in Margibi County, awaiting trial.
While in pretrial detention, women organizations and other civil society groups are calling on the justice system to try him speedily in order to avoid another round of negative public sentiments against the system. The civil society organizations say their call comes on the basis of “Bad history of some cases, mainly involving rape and murder in Margibi.”
The President for the Margibi chapter of Women in Peacebuilding Network (WIPNET), Lango N. Dargar, said there have been rape cases in the past that the public did not get any information about their conclusion.
“We are crying. We are tired of this kind of life here. This one, we will not rest until they bring Pastor Snorton before a judge in the court and hear from him and all others who are supposed to answer questions,” she said. The Margibi WIPNET head added that her organization is not casting guilt on the Pastor but wants the judicial system to investigate the case as quickly as possible in order to give hope to people in the legal system.
“Sometimes there are women who lie on men. Sometimes, too, it can be true that men rape. To make things look good for everyone, and to make others afraid of doing the same bad thing, the court people should not be delaying cases or allowing the accused to escape,” Madam Lango told the Daily Observer.
She noted that she and her colleagues are totally embarrassed to hear that a pastor, especially the renowned Apostle D. Franklin Snorton, could even be mentioned as a suspect in a rape case. She said as mothers, they are hurt each time they hear that a girl child, or woman is raped or sexually harassed.
“We are mothers and we have sons too. We are not only there for women but men also. This is why we want the case to be looked at fast so we can know if our son, the pastor, actually raped our daughter,” Dargar explained. “What I heard on the radio was that the girl carried money to the Pastor and he was to give her a paper for the money she carried to him and, during that time, he went on to force her to have sex with him. The girl was afraid because the Pastor said he was going to kill her if she refused or told anybody. She gave in to him and he had sex with her, even though she is pregnant for a different man. This is what I heard and this is why we are into it until justice is served.”
The WIPNET leader continued that after the alleged forceful affair between Pastor Snorton and the young lady, she ran to her mother in tears and explained what transpired between her and the Pastor. “The neighbors joined the girl’s mother and reported the matter to the Police. We were told that the girl was taken to the hospital and the result showed that she was tampered with,” Madam Dargar said, stressing that they will keep fighting for justice.
Another voice among the women was the voice of Madam Esther J. S. Clark, President of the Rural Women Organization and one of the spokespersons of WIPNET. “We are working together here and everywhere we have our network of collaborators. We condemn rape done to our children by men. The pastor’s case is not excluded and this is why we are here standing with the girl and her family. We are also interested in making sure that the Pastor gets a fair trial but not for any compromise, as some cases have been, to be reached,” Madam Clark warned.
She said women are many out there and it is a good thing for any mature and responsible man to go for those women who agree to sex proposals without any noise or a call for alarm.
“Women are plenty. We are not saying that he is guilty, but if it comes to be true, the Pastor should have known better by going for a mature woman. He controls the Church money and finding a good woman couldn’t have been a difficult thing. We know he is a human but raping or harassing women for sex is totally ungodly. It is shameful and regrettable for the Christian community,” she added.
The women civil society organizations’ rural chapter leader said it is a disgrace to the Church, even if the allegation is investigated and found to be false. “It is about image. Rev. Snorton is one of the very respected men in Margibi, but with this rape case hanging on him, it is a disgrace to him and the Church,” she further noted.
Rev. Snorton, the founding pastor of the Philadelphia Church branch in Kakata, is married with about three biological children. His wife of about 25 years is undergoing treatment for breast cancer in India. Sources who claim to know him personally say there were many young ladies around who saw him as a father figure, but some of them parted company with him because of alleged sexual harassment.
Whether such allegations are true or not, Rev. Edward Travis, head of the Margibi chapter, Civil Society Movement of Liberia (CSML), says he is just as embarrassed as anyone else about the news of a renowned ‘Man of God’ being charged and sent to court on allegation of rape.
“I am not saying what people have been saying is true but I have heard of so many allegations of sexual harassment meted against women by Rev. Snorton,” Rev. Travis said. “They may have been hiding those incidents but this has come to light. “We all have been out there, calling on the Police to send the matter to court. Now that the court is in charge of it, we are pushing for a speedy trial. We don’t want a long delay of justice that may lead to justice denied.”
He added: “Rape case is non-bailable according to our law now. Therefore, we stood our ground and pushed for the Police to act accordingly. No more compromise.” According to Rev. Travis, apart from rape cases, there have been other criminal cases, including murders that were not concluded, yet the perpetrators are moving around freely.
“The Police have complained that some big hands in Margibi County sometimes obstruct their investigation of cases. Another Pastor was accused of rape before, but he did not go to court or jail. He was freed and is now in America. This is the kind of justice system we have. We were told that some big hands here got involved” on the pastor’s behalf, he alleged.
He also stressed that incarcerating rape suspects is not enough, but a fast-tracking investigation of the matters of the case. “A man was sent to jail before [in Margibi] and he spent more than three terms of court without any trial. That was a violation of his rights. And, interestingly, in the fourth term of court, he was tried but found not guilty of the rape allegation levied against him,” Travis explained.
He called on the Supreme Court to help the Circuit Court in Margibi expeditiously deal with cases, mainly those of highly sensitive nature such as rape and murder. The civil society man admonished the members and leadership of the Philadelphia Church International to not interfere with the court proceedings by seeking sympathy because Snorton is a Pastor.
In fact, the Philadelphia Church International made an early move, clearly responding to the rape allegations against Apostle Snorton by condemning the alleged act and called on everyone to give the justice system a chance to investigate properly and speedily.