Former minister arrested on sexual battery charges

Steve Haney (Courtesy: Shelby County Sheriff's Department
Steve Haney (courtesy of Shelby County Sheriff's Department)

WMC-TV Memphis

Reported by Jason Miles

July 14, 2007

A former Mid-South minister faces sexual battery charges.

Investigators said Steve Haney, former pastor of Walnut Grove Baptist Church, was out on bond Friday night.

Haney served as pastor for Walnut Grove Baptist Church for 20 years.

He is now being accused of molesting a former church member from September of 2001 to December of 2006.

Rev. Steven Haney was Pastor of Walnut Grove Baptist Church for 20 years.  During at least five of them, he's accused to abusing at least one young man.

"Oh, I'm flabbergasted," says Hunter Ryan.  "I can't believe it," he adds.

Ryan attended Walnut Grove Baptist with his mother.

"It just don't sound like Steve Haney to me," says Ryan.

Haney is charged with Sexual Battery by an Authority Figure.  According to his official arrest ticket, Haney is accused of forcing a 15 year-old church member to take an "obedience test."  It required him to do perform various sex acts with the preacher.  The abuse allegedly lasted for five years.  The victim claims it happened in the pastor's study inside the church, at his home, and elsewhere.

Nobody answered when we knocked on Haney's door.  But there was a car in the driveway with a "jesus is lord" tag bracket.

"Today, it doesn't surprise me as much as it would 10 years ago even," says neighbor Shelia Wright.

"Even with your pastor, even with your sister, or brother, or whomever--you never know," adds neighbor Jonetta Doggett.

A teenager in the neighborhood told us he'd been approached by the preacher who wanted to videotape him playing baseball.

"This is an ongoing investigation and we're checking to see if there might be other victims involved in this case," says Shelby County Sheriff's Office spokesman Steve Shular.

It's a case that may be just beginning.

Haney is out on bond and set to appear in court Monday morning.

Former church member speaks out about accused pastor

WMC-TV Memphis

Reported by Jason Miles

July 20, 2007

Bea Wilkins thought one thing when we reported that Steven Haney was under arrest on serious sex charges.

"I thought, thank God," says Wilkins.

Wilkins was once an active member of Walnut Grove Baptist Church.  But she says she lost faith in its longtime pastor, Steven Haney, when accusations involving another teenager first surfaced in the mid 90's.

"I never thought a family would let anything like that come out if it weren't true," says Wilkins.

Despite an investigation, the preacher was never charged.  So, Wilkins and nearly 30 other families left the church.

But she never forgot.

"I prayed that God would do something to this man before I died," says Wilkins.  "Well, he did," she adds.

She says she knows the young men now coming forward with stories of their own abuse.  She believes they have gone through hell.

Shelby County Sheriff's Investigators plan to track all new allegations.  They want to figure out when they happened, and where, before consulting with the District Attorney about further charges.

"We have now started the interview process with as many as 10 people who say they've had dealings with Mr. Haney in years past," says Shelby County Sheriff's Office spokesman Steve Shular.

"These are people who can be believed--believe me--I know them," says Wilkins.

Bea Wilkins says the past has finally caught up with her former pastor.

Steven Haney resigned from Walnut Grove Baptist last year.  His attorney, Leslie Ballin, tells Action News 5 they will deal with any new charges if and when they are filed.  Meantime, he's preparing for Haney's next court date, July 24th.

See also: (1) Young victim: Former Pastor said sex was "a test of faith", Memphis Commercial Appeal, 8/30/2007 ; (2) Alleged victim says former pastor told him sex was test of faith, EthicsDaily, 9/20/2007; (3) Former Cordova pleads guilty to sex charges involving boys, Memphis Commercial Appeal, 4/29/09; Former Southern Baptist pastor pleads guilty to sexual abuse, Associated Baptist Press, 4/30/09

SNAP Note:  Walnut Grove Baptist Church is listed as an SBC-affiliated church.