Nine former members of the charismatic religious group People of Praise, of which Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett has reportedly been a longtime member, have accused the group of ignoring their reports of sexual, and in one case physical, abuse.
Among those accusers, who told their stories to The Washington Post, is a woman named Katie Logan, who says she told PoP leaders who also acted as heads of the religious Trinity School, in 2006 that a popular teacher named Dave Beskar sexually assaulted her when she was 17 years old, after she had been his student.
Logan says that shortly after she graduated from Trinity School, Beskar, on whom she’d had a “crush” as his student, arrived her home while her parents were out of town, asked to use her family’s computer, and then suddenly shoved his hand into her pants until she asked him to stop and politely tried to get him to leave.
Though Logan told her family of the incident afterward, she didn’t report it to the head of Trinity School at River Ridge until 2006. Trinity, which has multiple campuses nationwide, has deep ties to the People of Praise. In order to serve on the school’s board, which Amy Coney Barrett once did, members must belong to PoP. The group is founded on ideas around charismatic principles, like speaking in tounges, but also ideas around men as spiritual “heads” of families, meaning that single individuals often live “in household” with established families and families often reside in groups.
Accusers like Logan say that this rigidly patriarchal structure not only put them in danger—she believes Beskar groomed her by being in constant contact within the tight-knit community—but also allows for secrecy around the abuse. After Logan reported her assault, Beskar remained at Trinity coaching girls’ sports until 2011, when he left to teach at another charter school in Arizona, and eventually became headmaster of another private Christian school in 2015. During this time multiple other women complained about Beskar’s behavior, and Logan reports that the headmaster of Trinty, Penelope Arndt said she was “worried that this would happen” when she reported her assault.
In 2020, Logan reported her assault to police, and Arndt verified Logan’s reporting of the incident, saying that she, in turn, reported it to the president of Trinity School’s board and then again to the headmaster who replaced her in 2009, though she does not know what action, if any was taken. Beskar’s own conversations with police suggest there were none:
“When police asked Beskar if he had ever been confronted with allegations of sexual misconduct by a school, he said, “No, never,” according to a recording of the interview. Beskar’s personnel file contains no indication that school officials ever spoke to him about alleged misconduct or urged him to leave. On the contrary, it shows officials expressed alarm about Beskar breaking his contract midyear to leave for Arizona.”
Likewise, another woman, Sarah Mitchell Kuehl, says she was sexually assaulted as a child by a man named Gary McAlpin when he placed within her family in the 1970s. Kuehl says her parents reported her abuse to leaders, who did nothing to remove her abuser from the community, where he went on to marry, have children, and head his own family. After she filed a civil at 17 years old, the resolution of which recommended her abuser receive “treatment for pedophilia.” The man left the church rather than receive treatment. Her family has also left People of Praise due to the ways the church handled the allegations:
“I am still waiting for them to acknowledge that they didn’t act when they should have acted, but instead they give excuses like ‘people don’t recall the details,’ or ‘it was so long ago,’ or ‘how the organization handled abuse was different back then.’ ” Kuehl said in an interview. “What about saying, ‘We failed to act. People were hurt.’ ”
Kuehl, Logan, and others who say People of Praise ignored their reports of abuse, including one man who says church leaders did nothing when he reported being kicked in the face at 10 by his father and left with a black eye, connected via a Facebook group called “PoP Survivors,” formed in 2020 after the Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett. Through this group, Logan found the support to finally report her abuse to police, and while authorities found her story “credible,” they say they are still looking for a way to prosecute Beskar. In the meantime, Beskar has taken leave of his duties as headmaster of the Chesterton Academy of the Twin Cities.