Tennessee pastor charged with 47 counts of sex crimes with underaged boys

A Tennessee pastor was arrested last week and charged with 47 charges related to sexually abusing minors — including one victim who was under 13-years-old.

Ronnie Gorton, who was formerly the pastor of Awakening Church in Atoka, has been accused of molestation or rape by at least three people according to local authorities.

According to WREG, Gorton faces the following charges:

– 1 count rape
– 5 counts aggravated sexual battery (victim under 13 years old)
– 17 counts sexual battery by an authority figure
– 2 counts of continuous sexual abuse of a child
– 16 counts of statutory rape by an authority figure
– 2 counts offense of soliciting sexual exploitation of a minor
– 2 counts contributing to delinquency
– 2 counts enticing a child to purchase alcoholic beverages

Speaking to WREG, Gorton’s neighbors said he was known in the neighborhood for keeping to himself, “but they also couldn’t help but notice all of the young people who frequented the home he shared with his wife.”

“We knew he had a church and, you know, he had boys over there a lot,” neighbor Donnie Overbeck told WREG. “When they’re cutting the grass, three or four at any given time.”

According to neighbor Sonja Young, young boys were seen at Gorton’s house going back several years.

“They were different boys. I mean, they would have a couple of them for a few months,” Young said.

The allegations against Gorton first became public after deputies showed up to his home January 31 while responding to a report of a suicidal man.

Gorton was gone when deputies arrived, but when they located him, he was taken in for questioning and a psychiatric evaluation.

During their investigation, they learned that Atoka police were investigating Gorton after an underage boy accused Gorton of raping him. That incident allegedly took place at Gorton’s home just weeks earlier.

Daugherty said two more victims came forward after WREG’s initial story aired, bringing the total to three, but he said that might not be the final number.

“There could be more, potentially, victims and certainly if there are any victims that remain, we encourage them to come forward,” Daugherty said.

Writing for the Friendly Atheist, David McCafee says that Gorton’s case is a prime example of religious leaders using others’ assumptions that they are “doing good things” to get away with some of the “worst atrocities you can imagine.”

“Forget the supposed divine moral code he claims to follow; he can’t even live up to our societal ethics against sexually abusing underage children,” McCafee writes. “I wish I were surprised, but this happens all too often.”

Watch WREG’s report on the story below:

Featured image via WREG

Sky Palma

Before launching DeadState back in 2012, Sky Palma has been blogging about politics, social issues and religion for over a decade. He lives in Los Angeles and also enjoys Brazilian jiu jitsu, chess, music and art.