Home > Current Events > more about local youth minister Matthew Nichols

more about local youth minister Matthew Nichols

Here’s a followup on yesterday’s post regarding Matthew Nichols, a local now-former ELCA youth pastor who has been arrested for possession of child pornography and fired for failing to disclose previous felony convictions in Pennsylvania. Here’s the indictment (PDF); there are six counts, all related to child pornography, and all mentioning his previous felony conviction. Here is the link for the New Mexico sex offender registry. It is not clear to me that Nichols was required to register when he moved here from Pennsylvania; Megan’s Law was more or less a mid-Nineties phenomenon, and Nichols was convicted in 1980. And finally, the only other value-added blogging I’ve seen about the Nichols case: a post on an atheist blog suggesting that in the aftermath of Nichols’s arrest his church circled the wagons, etc.

Some of the coverage in the Los Alamos Monitor suggests that the local police department was unaware that Nichols was about to be arrested; it appears that the case against Nichols was focused entirely on child pornography, and as yet nobody is asking questions about what else Nichols was doing in the Espanola/Los Alamos area: comments from Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELCA) do not say that they’ve asked anyone Nichols may have had inappropriate contact with during his seven years at the church to come forward. Of course they don’t say they haven’t; this sort of followup falls into a gray area where very likely nobody (the local police, the school system, the church, or the synod) will do anything unless or until someone comes forward and volunteers information.

The ELCA has guidelines for background checks, but stresses that any organization within the ELCA may use any provider they choose; so far as I can tell the Rocky Mountain Synod, of which Bethlehem is a member, does not offer any additional guidance regarding background checks. I would be tempted to discount any claims of background checks that don’t offer verifiable information such as the name of the organization that does the checks.

Finally, I’d like to suggest that there are no perfect systems for keeping predators away from children, but cases like this tend to expose weaknesses in existing approaches. I really have no idea if Mr Nichols posed a threat to children in Los Alamos, but it appears obvious that he was able to avoid barriers put in place to keep him away from children.

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