published Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Vineyard Community Church in Chattanooga limits pastor's son's participation after sex assault arrest

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A 21-year-old pastor's son won't be allowed to work with children or hold a leadership position at the Vineyard Community Church in Chattanooga after being charged with simple battery, two counts of third-degree cruelty to children and sexual assault in connection with an incident at a church camp.

The church, which holds services at Tyner Middle Academy, 6837 Tyner Road, hosted a church camp in Temple, Ga., last month and Zachary Anderle served as a camp counselor.

Affidavits in Carroll County, Ga., allege that Anderle climbed on top of a 13-year-old camper and placed his penis on top of the boy's crotch while other boys were watching. Anderle also slapped the child's face, the report states.

The Times Free Press does not name victims of sex crimes.

"Zachary will not be allowed back at any future camp events, as a counselor or otherwise. Also, the church has removed Zachary from the church's band rotation," said Bud Winderweedle, a member of the investigative committee the church organized to look into the incident. He responded to emailed questions submitted by the Times Free Press.

The committee hasn't reached a conclusion but believes "this was a case of horseplay gone wrong, which we deeply regret," he said.

Anderle's attorney, Allen Trapp, said the complaint surfaced after the boys told their parents what had happened.

If convicted, Anderle will be placed on the sex offender list.

Trapp said the incident started after Anderle tried to silence the 13-year-old, who was reportedly bullying another child.

"This boy was using a lot of unsavory, sexually charged language. Zach told him to stop repeatedly. When he wouldn't, Zach told him, 'If you do not stop, I will come down there and sleep with you naked,'" Trapp said. "And he actually jumped on him and all the other boys laughed and thought it was funny."

A magistrate found there was no probable cause for a child molestation charge. The remaining charges will be presented to a grand jury, possibly in October.

Winderweedle said the camp director attempted to apologize to the 13-year-old's mother and offer counseling, but she did not respond.

"We would love to talk to her if she wishes, but we also want to fully respect her right to avoid speaking with us if that is her wish,' he said in the email.

"The family at issue was not a part of the church, which makes our regret and embarrassment over this incident even greater," he said. "The families within the church all viewed the incident as horseplay -- horseplay which we condemn -- and, to our knowledge, none have withdrawn from the church. We nevertheless remain heartbroken over the entire incident."

Contact staff writer Beth Burger at bburger@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6406. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/abburger.

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