Monday, October 10, 2005
Coalition leader faces sex abuse allegations
Thanks to Jan, who beat both me and Atrios to the punch...
Portland, Oregon - Law enforcement officials said Saturday they are investigating complaints that Louis Beres, longtime chairman of the Christian Coalition of Oregon, molested three female family members when they were pre-teens.
"There is an investigation of allegations that have been made," Multnomah County District Attorney Michael Schrunk said Saturday.
The Oregonian talked to three of Beres' female relatives, including two who told reporters that he molested them. All three said they have been interviewed for several hours by detectives.
"I was molested," said one of the women, now in her early 50s. "I was victimized, and I've suffered all my life for it. I'm still afraid to be in the same room with (Beres)."
Beres, 70, whose group champions socially conservative candidates and causes, confirmed he is under investigation for alleged molestation. He blamed "personal and political enemies" for the reports and said, "I never molested anybody."
Two of the alleged molestations occurred decades ago and likely would not result in criminal charges because state law limits prosecution of certain crimes. For example, the statute of limitations on sex abuse expires after six years.
One case, however, may fall within statutory timelines, authorities confirmed. That investigation involves a female family member who was allegedly molested by Beres when she was in elementary school, authorities said.
Beres family members told The Oregonian that they called the child abuse hot line last month after several women in the family said they openly discussed for the first time what happened with Beres. The names of the family members have been withheld because The Oregonian generally doesn't identify alleged sex abuse victims.
Another family member said she does not recall being abused by Beres, but said she would often wake at night and see him in bed with another young female family member.
Rich Galat, 41, of Oakland, Calif., is Beres' nephew. He said he told detectives that Beres has molested several female family members over two generations.
"My family has gone through hell," Galat said. "Lives have been ruined. Those of us who have come forward have been ostracized, verbally abused and the victims of character assassination. . . . It must stop."
Beres, of Clackamas County, is state chairman of the Christian Coalition, a political action group that endorses candidates and causes, publishes voter guides, lobbies the Legislature and Congress, and campaigns for and against ballot initiatives.
Its Web site describes the group as "Oregon's leading grassroots organization defending our Godly heritage." The group opposes abortion, gay rights and stem cell research.
The Oregon group is affiliated with the national Christian Coalition, which was founded in 1989 by television evangelist Pat Robertson. At its height in the late 1990s, the Christian Coalition claimed a network of nearly 3 million people in 48 states -- including 20,000 in Oregon -- publishing an estimated 40 million voter guides and distributing them at evangelical churches.
However, the national group's organization and influence have waned in recent years. Robertson resigned in 2001 as president of the Christian Coalition amid growing debt and declining membership. It wasn't known Saturday how many members remain in Oregon.
Beres is also former chairman of the Multnomah County Republican Party.