Cedarville board puts president on leave, starts investigation

Credit: Chris Stewart

Credit: Chris Stewart

The Cedarville University Board of Trustees placed President Thomas White on administrative leave Friday amid adverse national attention and local pressure over how he hired and then fired a friend accused of secretly videotaping a youth pastor at a church in Texas.

Retired Lt. Gen. Loren Reno, senior adviser for the office of the president and former vice president for academics, was named acting president.

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Cedarville also will hire independent firms to conduct an internal investigation to make sure no inappropriate action took place on the Greene County campus or elsewhere with Cedarville students and to audit how Anthony Moore was hired.

“Dr. White has pledged his full support of both internal reviews being conducted and will make himself available to respond to either inquiry as requested,” according to a statement from Cedarville.

White hired Moore, his friend, in 2017, bringing him to the university as a “restoration project,” White said in a blog post. Moore had been fired from the Village Church in Fort Worth after he was accused of videotaping a youth pastor in a shower at least five times over five months, according White’s blog post.

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White then fired Moore on April 23 after learning more about the incident in Texas, he said in the blog post.

Moore declined comment to the Dayton Daily News.

The board of trustees also recently learned additional information related to Moore’s past that led to the termination, according to Cedarville’s statement. The board members understand the gravity of the situation, the statement says.

“The board is incredibly grieved over this new information and the questions it raises,” the statement says.

The results of the internal investigation will be reported to the board and then to the Cedarville University community, the statement says.

The audit of Moore’s hiring will include a review of all relevant communication involving White and Moore, the trustees, The Village Church in Texas where Moore previously worked and employment references, the statement says. The auditing firm will report its findings to the board.

The Fort Worth area church where Moore was accused secretly videotaping a youth pastor in the shower at his home multiple times also issued a statement saying Cedarville University was “thoroughly” informed about the allegations involving Moore.

“In January 2017, The Village Church removed Anthony Moore from staff because of grievous, immoral actions against an adult church member. We promptly communicated his dismissal the following Sunday to our entire church body at all services, stating publicly and clearly that he was unfit for ministry of any kind.

“Out of respect for the victim’s express wishes for privacy and healing, we did not share the personal details with the entire church, since doing so would have jeopardized that confidentiality. However, we did thoroughly inform Cedarville University about all of the known details of Anthony’s offense and reiterated clearly that we did not believe he was fit for ministry of any kind,” according to the statement.

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The Texas youth pastor told the Dayton Daily News that Moore concealed a cell phone to film him in the shower, and also accused him of verbal, non-contact sexual, spiritual and emotional abuse. The youth pastor also said he never spoke with White about the alleged abuse until recently.

The youth pastor filed a police report but didn’t follow through with investigators and the case was dropped.

In response to questions from the Dayton Daily News about hiring practices, the university said it carefully background checks potential employees.

“Cedarville evaluates all employment candidates through a lengthy application process, including doctrinal questionnaire; employment interviews; reference checks; and an extensive background check program. As part of our regular practice, we review to ensure policies and processes are carefully followed,” Mark Weinstein, Cedarville’s executive director of public relations, said in an email.

The current controversy began building in recent weeks.

A group of alumni, professors, staff members, and former employees posted an online petition for White's firing. On Friday, more than 1,300 signatures were on the petition.

The petition followed reports by bloggers revealing Cedarville's hiring of Moore.

White couldn’t be reached for comment on Friday and has not responded to requests made through Weinstein. He issued a video statement and his blog post.

Cedarville University board members, including Chairman the Rev. Chip Bernhard Jr., senior pastor of Spring Creek Church in Wisconsin, have declined to comment on the record or not responded to inquiries.

Most faculty, staff and alumni also declined to comment on the record.

Tonya Baise, a 1995 graduate now living in Beavercreek, blasted Cedarville leadership.

“I’m furious. The whole thing is very upsetting to me,” Baise said. “It just feels real sneaky.”

Baise chalked it up to the university leadership’s male-dominated, fundamentalist culture.

“No one wants to lose their job. No one wants to make the Christian community look bad,” she said. “It’s too late.”

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