Trump’s Spiritual Adviser Quasi-Confesses to Molesting 12-Year-Old Girl

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

The pastor of one of the country’s largest churches—and who Donald Trump once named as a spiritual adviser—has admitted to “inappropriate sexual behavior” with a woman who says he sexually abused her when she was just 12 years old.

On Friday, Cindy Clemishire told The Wartburg Watch, a religious watchdog blog, that Robert Morris, the pastor of Texas’ Gateway Church, asked her to come into his room when he stayed with her family for Christmas in 1982. She was 12 and he was 20 at the time. She said Morris molested her and then ordered her not to say anything about his behavior “because it will ruin everything.” The abuse continued for years before Clemishire confided in a close friend, prompting Morris’ wife to find out and Morris to step down from the ministry, according to the report.

He eventually returned to the church and founded Gateway Church in 2000, turning it into one of the country’s largest megachurches with an estimated weekly attendance of 100,000, according to the church. He serves as its senior pastor, prompting Trump to name him to a spiritual advisory board in 2016.

After Clemishire came forward, Morris acknowledged the claims in a statement to The Christian Post, admitting he engaged in “inappropriate sexual behavior” with a “young lady,” refusing to acknowledge Clemishire’s age at the time.

“It was kissing and petting and not intercourse, but it was wrong,” he said.

He claimed that, with the blessing of the girl’s father and church elders, he returned to ministry two years after the abuse was reported. “I asked their forgiveness, and they graciously forgave me,” Morris said.

Then-President Donald Trump is flanked by Pastor Robert Morris and Gateway Church Bishop Harry Jackson during a roundtable at Gateway Church in June 2020.

Then-President Donald Trump is flanked by Pastor Robert Morris and Gateway Church Bishop Harry Jackson during a roundtable at Gateway Church in June 2020.

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Elders at Gateway Church also told The Christian Post that Morris disclosed a “moral failure” and had since been absolved. He has not been criminally charged, but Texas’ statute of limitations does not cover sexual offenses committed against a child.

“Pastor Robert has been open and forthright about a moral failure he had over 35 years ago when he was in his twenties and prior to him starting Gateway Church. He has shared publicly from the pulpit the proper biblical steps he took in his lengthy restoration process,” they said, according to the Post.

Still, the church has worked to shield Morris from public view. He did not lead the church’s Saturday services, according to the Dallas Morning News, and the church has declined to grant any further interviews or release more statements.

Clemishire told the Dallas Morning News that her family never condoned Morris’ return to the ministry, despite Morris’ claim to the contrary.

“We don’t believe anyone that’s done anything like this should be an overseer to anyone in any industry, but especially in the church,” Clemishire said.

As for whether she found Morris’ public apology to be earnest, Clemishire struck it down.

“I don’t think that it’s repentant when someone calls a 12-year-old a young lady and tries to just dismiss what happened as just some heavy petting,” Clemishire said. “I don’t believe that’s repentance. There’s no child on earth that any person should ever do that to. It’s just unacceptable. There’s zero excuse.”

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