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Church Attracts Protest Shelter For Minister In Sex Case Criticized

St. Louis Post Dispatch/August 16, 1993

By Stephen Kirkland

About a dozen protesters lined the street in front of a church in Caseyville on Sunday to criticize the church's decision to give housing to a minister convicted last week of child molestation.

"Before you find salvation, you're going to find perversion," the mother of one of the minister's victims shouted across a lawn to those in the church, a single-story building with a white cross on its red brick wall. No one came out of the Christian Worship Assembly church on New Bunkum Road to respond, although 20 cars were in back.

The woman's daughter is among three girls - ages 9, 13 and 16 at the time of the incidents - who have accused their former pastor, Thomas Jolly, 83, of molesting them between September 1987 and August 1988 at the Gospel Assembly Church in south St. Louis County. At that time, Jolly headed a congregation of 600 at the nondenominational church at 13169 Tesson Ferry Road.

"Our family life has been hell," the woman said. "And he received a slap on the hand."

A judge in St. Louis County Circuit Court on Tuesday convicted Jolly of first- degree sexual abuse, a felony; two counts of sodomy, both felonies; and two misdemeanor counts of sexual abuse. Judge James R. Hartenbach sentenced Jolly to five years' probation and barred him from unsupervised contact with teen- agers.

Jolly has lived on the church grounds in Caseyville since the St. Louis County church stripped him of his ministry in 1991. Some members of that church then formed their own congregation in Caseyville and gave Jolly refuge.

Sunday, with protesters about 75 yards away, Aubrey Jernigan, 66, stood under a tree in the driveway leading to the grounds and explained why the church had given Jolly a place to live.

"I never saw one indecent thing out of this man for 30 years, and I've hauled him all over the country," said Jernigan, who, like others, said he followed Jolly in the 1960s to St. Louis from Florida. Jernigan said he cared for Jolly, a diabetic with a pacemaker.

Out on the roadway, protesters handed passing motorists fliers that warned, "A convicted child molester lives in your neighborhood."

The brother of the 16-year-old victim told a woman who rode by in a beige Chrysler New Yorker, "Watch your kids."

The mother of the girl who had been victimized at 9 years said she had been followed as she drove home to Imperial after the sentencing Tuesday. Later there was a phone call.

"Someone called my 14-year-old daughter, the victim, a whore and (said) that she was going to go to hell," said the mother.

"The law didn't give us any justice," the woman said. "This is our form of justice.

"We were in this man's fellowship all of our lives," the woman said. "We were always taught to be meek and never to stand up for what's right. Standing up for what's right is not wrong. But it took us a long time to realize that."

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