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Youth Pastor Who Claimed God Wanted Him To Marry 14-Year-Old Charged With Sexual Abuse

Photo: Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office / MVolodymr / Shutterstock
PA Youth Pastor Charged With Sexual Abuse Of 14-Year-Old Girl

A former Bradford County youth pastor has been accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old over 20 years ago after his church approved that he be “betrothed” to the teen, according to the Pennsylvania Attorney General.

Between 1996 to 1998, when Robert Fenton was 26 years old, the now-52-year-old he allegedly sexually abused and assaulted a 14-year-old girl.

Robert Fenton allegedly claimed God wanted him to marry his sexual assault victim.

According to the announcement from the Attorney General’s office, Fenton had a vision in which “God wanted the victim to be his spouse,” and therefore sought approval from the church for a betrothal.

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The leaders at Abide in the Vine Church approved and agreed to “betroth” the girl to him “with an understanding that no sexual activity would occur.”

However, the victim came forward to the police about the abuse in 2019, according to the criminal complaint released with the announcement, which describes the abuse she suffered.

The victim said that after the “betrothal,” Fenton allegedly convinced her parents to take her out of public school in order for him to visit her at home.

This is where, she alleges, Fenton touched the girl’s genitals and made her touch him.

When Fenton and the victim had gotten engaged in 1998, he allegedly made her perform oral sex on him, according to the affidavit.

Fenton reportedly got pancreatitis around this time and had to call off the wedding. This ultimately ended their relationship around August-September 1998.

He then allegedly told the victim that she ruined his ministry before moving to Australia and becoming a pastor in Queensland, corresponding with information that the Attorney General has.

The Attorney General is seeking Fenton's extradition to the US from Australia.

In July 2021, the Attorney General’s office took over the investigation and started interviewing friends of the victim, congregation members, and her parents.

Her parents explained that they were aware of the betrothal and agreed to it, even sharing that the church elders set up a 6-month “no contact” period in which Fenton and the girl could only write letters.

Of course, he would “push the boundaries” on that as well, according to the parents.

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The pastor of the church at the time was reportedly against the relationship between Fenton and the victim, according to the pastor’s son, but was pressured by her parents and the youth pastor to agree to the “betrothal.”

The pastor’s son said that they compared their relationship to Mary and Joseph, with Mary being much younger, but he said he had no idea that the relationship had been sexual.

Another one of the elders who is also an attorney allegedly said that he would call the police on Fenton had the relationship occurred.

The criminal complaint, however, didn’t say whether or not that ultimately happened.

Fenton has been charged with Indecent Assault of a Person under 16, Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse with a Person Under 16, Aggravated Indecent Assault, Corruption of Minors, and Statutory Sexual Assault.

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“The defendant used his power and authority in his religious community to lie, manipulate and regularly abuse a young girl in his community. I promised we would hold anyone who was abusing children accountable – and Robert Fenton is no exception,” said Attorney General Shapiro.

The Attorney General’s office has revealed that they are working with the United States Department of Justice and U.S. State Department to extradite Fenton from Australia so he can be put on trial.

“Survivors experience a lifetime of anguish and trauma trying to overcome the impact of abuse,” Shapiro said.

“I want survivors to know – we believe you, and we will not let predators get away with the sexual assault of children.”

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Isaac Serna-Diez is a writer who focuses on entertainment and news, social justice, and politics. Follow him on Twitter here.