Christian sports camp facing sex abuse lawsuits

Written by Muleskinner Staff

(BRANSON, Mo., AP) — A Christian sports camp network based in Branson is facing two lawsuits alleging sexual abuse of young male campers by an ex-director who is serving a long prison sentence for sexual abuse of boys.

One lawsuit, filed in Taney County against Kanakuk Kamps, alleges former director Peter Newman molested a boy from 2000 to 2005, beginning when the boy was 13. The second case, filed in federal court in Dallas, alleges Newman sexually abused a camper from 2001 through 2007, beginning when the boy was 10. The lawsuits allege the abuse occurred both at the camps and in other locations.
The lawsuits allege camp officials knew about Newman’s behavior, including swimming and riding four-wheelers in the nude with campers, but didn’t remove him or do anything to keep him away from the boys, The Kansas City Star reported. Two similar lawsuits, both filed in 2011, were settled this year.
Newman pleaded guilty in Taney County in 2010 to two counts of first-degree statutory sodomy, three counts of second-degree statutory sodomy and three counts of child enticement. Although the charges involved six youths, the prosecutor said Newman had admitted involvement with 13 others as well.
Newman, now 38, was sentenced to two life sentences plus 30 years. He worked at the camp from 1996 to 2009 as staff member and director. His duties included recruiting, supervising and mentoring children.
Kanakuk Kamps worked with authorities to bring Newman to justice and has implemented programs to prevent similar situations, the network said in a statement.
“The abusive, criminal behavior Pete Newman admitted runs counter to everything Kanakuk Kamps has stood for over the past 85 years,” the statement said. “We have never had, nor will we ever have, any tolerance for anyone who seeks to harm a child in any physical, sexual or emotional way.
The statement said Kanakuk now has a child protection plan in place that is serving as a model to help organizations across the country identify and prevent abusive behavior. In motions filed in the lawsuits, Kanakuk officials deny knowing that Newman was a threat to children.
Kanakuk’s camps in and near Branson provide summer sessions for more than 10,000 youths ages 7 to 18 each year. The nonprofit organization also employs about 1,800 staff members, according to tax records.
Earlier this year, another former Kanakuk counselor was sentenced to 10 years for sexually abusing three boys ages 9, 10 and 12 who had attended the camp in 2011.