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Pastor accused of groping women fights for job
beep ^ | 07.18.08 | Christy Gutowski

Posted on 07/18/2008 2:02:13 PM PDT by Coleus

For 23 years, the Rev. Andre Allen has led DuPage County’s oldest predominantly black church and worked to improve race relations in the broader community. But the pastor of Second Baptist Church in Wheaton may be ousted Saturday if a majority of his congregation votes for his dismissal. The special meeting was called in light of Allen’s arrest on charges alleging he committed battery and disorderly conduct Nov. 2. Police said he passed himself off as a self-defense instructor to female clients exercising at Lifetime Fitness in Schaumburg. It’s his second such arrest in 10 years.

Leaders of the 101-year-old church said Allen failed to disclose the arrest, which they discovered last month. Two weeks ago, in a 16-3 vote, they asked Allen to resign, but he refused. Saturday’s special meeting was called because church bylaws state the full congregation must vote by secret ballot for a pastor to be terminated. Its leaders declined to comment publicly beyond that, but say the situation has been an emotional ordeal.

Allen is fighting to keep his job at the 300-member church. The 54-year-old Wheaton man, who was an accomplished collegiate wrestler, maintains he was trying to drum up interest in self-defense among health club members so the facility would hire him. He denies his contact with the women was sexually motivated or that he told the women he was an employee. “I love the Lord. I love the church,” he said. “It is my hope the church will retain me.”

Allen pleaded guilty Jan. 18 to disorderly conduct for presenting himself as a Lifetime Fitness employee, according to Cook County court records. As part of the plea deal, prosecutors dropped the battery charge alleging he touched two women in a provoking and insulting manner. Allen was placed on one-year court supervision and agreed to perform 80 hours of community service. “He is adamant about the fact that there was nothing of a sexual nature,” said his attorney, Vincent Cornelius. “He pleaded guilty (to disorderly conduct) because he did see how these women thought he actually worked there, but there was no inappropriate touching.”

Allen added: “Other charges were dropped upon my plea of guilty to disorderly conduct. I accepted the plea agreement simply to bring closure to the matter and to avoid embarrassment to my family, to my congregation and to me. The prosecutor even agreed to a disposition that did not entail a conviction.” But the women who signed criminal complaints against Allen said they felt violated by his actions and continue to be troubled by their encounter with him.

Both Northwest suburban women spoke to the Daily Herald on the condition of anonymity. They said it was a Friday night when a stranger approached them separately inside the gym at 900 E. Higgins Road. He asked if he could show them self-defense moves for a class he hoped to instruct there. Both said they were in a hurry and declined, but he was so insistent, they eventually agreed to accompany him to a dark, vacant aerobics studio where he had mats set up in a back corner.

Both said they immediately felt uncomfortable. “He grabs my waist under my shirt,” said a 37-year-old Palatine woman, who is 4 feet, 11 inches tall. “I was thinking, ‘You’re getting a little too close.’ Then, he pushed me on the ground onto my stomach and laid on top of me. As I was trying to get free, he said, ‘Just wait 30 seconds.’ He was grinding into me. It was disgusting.” She added: “I was really nervous. All I could think to do was say, ‘No. No. No.” If he were really legitimate and serious, he should have let me go when I told him to.”

The other woman, who is 24 and 5 feet tall, said the man told her he was a gym employee and offered a free demonstration. Inside the darkened room, she said he ignored her pleas to let go of her wrists from behind her. “He said to me, ‘I’ll release you when you thrust your hips into me,’” the Elk Grove Village woman said. A copy of Allen’s arrest report obtained by the Daily Herald alleges he approached several women. A third woman declined to pursue charges but told police Allen grabbed her buttocks. A fourth woman left the gym before police arrived and was not identified.

Allen was hired as pastor of Second Baptist Church just months after graduating from Northwestern University’s Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston in 1984. He quickly stepped from the pulpit into the larger community to take the lead on race relations. He has served on many leadership boards, including the DuPage County Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration committee and the DuPage Chapter of the NAACP, to name just a couple. He formerly was a substitute teacher at Wheaton North High School and an assistant wrestling coach there for 11 years.

But the Nov. 2 arrest in Schaumburg is not Allen’s first criminal indiscretion. About 10 years ago, police arrested Allen on similar allegations. Two women working out in the fitness center at a Holiday Inn in Lisle said he touched them in a provoking manner after posing as a self-defense instructor. DuPage Circuit Judge John “Jack” Elsner found Allen guilty of one misdemeanor charge at trial.

Allen was placed on court supervision. He had the conviction expunged from his criminal record some time afterward, but several law-enforcement officials connected to the old case verified the details. How Allen’s parishioners will view the police matters will be seen on Saturday. “It is my prayer that others feel as I do, that justice has been served, and that closure has been achieved,” he said.

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; US: Illinois
KEYWORDS: baptist; pastor

1 posted on 07/18/2008 2:02:13 PM PDT by Coleus
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