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Church leader jailed on molestation
charge; claims vengeance plot
BYLINE: By David Beasley Staff Writer
PUBLICATION: The Atlanta Journal and
|GRIFFIN, Ga. - The leader
of a fundamentalist church remained behind bars on child molestation charges Wednesday,
the eve of a court hearing on allegations by church officials that
law enforcement officers searched the "world headquarters" of the
denomination without a warrant. |
The Rev. Norman LeGallienne,
47, general overseer of the Union Gospel Holiness Church of God,
which claims 1,000 affiliate churches nationwide, was arrested at a
revival meeting April 12 and charged with child molestation and aggravated
sodomy. He has been unable thus far to post a $17,600 bond.
The fact that the minister is accused of
molesting the 8-year-old son of an ex-girlfriend and that the crime
is alleged to have taken place more than three years ago has
prompted charges by LeGallienne that the woman is "on a vengeance
The Rev. David Carnrike, who is charge of the church
while LeGallienne is in jail, complained that officers broke up a
revival meeting to arrest LeGallienne and that they unlawfully
searched the church and adjoining living quarters without a warrant.
A hearing on the church's allegations that the search was
unlawful and improper has been scheduled today in Spalding County
Jimmy Jordan, an investigator with the
Spalding Sheriff's Department, said deputies had a warrant to enter
the church when they arrested LeGallienne. A week earlier, deputies
entered the church with the permission of a man who lived in the
adjoining living quarters, he said.
Molestation charges often take
several years to surface, said Jordan.
The alleged victim's
mother and her son moved in with LeGallienne after meeting him at a
Union Gospel Holiness revival in Arizona, the minister said in a telephone
interview last week.
"It had been suspected since the mother
and child left (LeGallienne's residence) that some molestation had taken place,"
said Jordan. "But the child had suffered some real mental and
behavioral problems. They thought he had learning disabilities and
were working with the child. It finally came forward and this was
apparently the child's trouble."
But LeGallienne contends
that the molestation charge stems from
nothing other than the fact that he refused to marry the mother.
"She's on a vengeance trip," said LeGallienne. "I never touched that
LeGallienne also has been engaged in a long-running
battle with the Spalding County Department of Family and Children
A week before LeGallienne's arrest on the child molestation charges, sheriff's
deputies and DFCS representatives came to the church and took twin
14-year-old boys into custody who had been living with the minister for almost a year.
Last week, the DFCS successfully petitioned the Juvenile
Court of Spalding County for temporary state custody of the twin
boys, contending that the youths were "without proper parental care,
control, subsistence or education."
According to the DFCS
custody petition, LeGallienne, who has been separated from his wife
for nine years, "deliberately" was keeping the twins and other boys
in his care out of school, claiming to be teaching them himself
through a correspondence course. The twins had not been in school
since the fourth grade, the petition states. LeGallienne himself
never completed the 11th grade.
Conditions were unclean at the church living
quarters where the twins were staying, according to the petition.
Once before, in May 1983, DFCS removed the twins from
LeGallienne's home and warned the minister not to renew
contact with the children. The mother also was warned to keep the
children away from LeGallienne.
Nevertheless, in May 1984,
the mother, who still contends that LeGallienne provided excellent
care, returned the boys to his custody.
"I'm a free person
in the U.S.A., and I just thought they didn't have a right to tell
me that," she said. "He's a decent man. He's respectable. You can
When authorities went to the church on April 5
to take the boys, LeGallienne was arrested and charged with giving
false information to law enforcement officers after he allegedly
gave the wrong names when asked to identify the youths. He was
released on bond in that instance.
Local DFCS officials
refused to comment on the case.
But friends and supporters
of LeGallienne say he is not guilty of molestation or abuse.
Robert Presley, 23, who moved in with LeGallienne five years
ago after experie ncing family problems in Marietta, disputes the
DFCS accusations and believes the preacher provided excellent care
for those who lived with him.
"He helped me out in ways my
real daddy wouldn't," said Presley. "He bought me clothes. He taught
me the Bible."
LeGallienne, who sports a bumper sticker on
his car reading, "Get Government off the Back of Religion," now is
concerned primarily with getting out of jail. But he fears his
church work will suffer regardless of the outcome of the charges.
"It's ruining me and it's ruining my reputation," he said.
"I'm sick and I'm tired and I just want to get out."