Summary:

Mark Galli, former editor of an evangelical magazine who made national headlines for criticizing Donald Trump’s failed character, has been accused of sexual harassment during his tenure as editor.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Donald Trump, who referred to “far left” evangelical magazine Christianity Today as “ET” in a 2019 tweet after its editor-in-chief Mark Galli called out his moral failings, must be rubbing his hands in glee over the news that Galli was exposed as a sex pest this week.

Image via YouTube

Religion News Service reported this week that Galli, above, and former CT advertising director Olatokunbo Olawoye were responsible for sexual harassment for more than a decade. The harassment included “demeaning, inappropriate, and offensive behavior.”

In a full, frank and lengthy admission that sexual harassment went unchecked at the magazine, news editor Daniel Silliman revealed that:

For more than a dozen years, Christianity Today failed to hold two ministry leaders accountable for sexual harassment at its Carol Stream, Illinois, office.

Silliman said that a number of women reported demeaning, inappropriate, and offensive behavior by Galli and Olawoye. But their behavior was not checked and the men were not disciplined, according to an external assessment of the ministry’s culture released on Tuesday.

Silliman interviewed more than two dozen current and former employees and heard 12 firsthand accounts of sexual harassment.

Women at CT were touched at work in ways that made them uncomfortable. They heard men with authority over their careers make comments about the sexual desirability of their bodies. And in at least two cases, they heard department heads hint at openness to an affair.

Daniel Silliman, news editor at christianity today

More than half a dozen employees reported harassment from Galli or Olawoye to a manager or HR between the mid-2000s and 2019. But neither leader was written up, formally warned about their inappropriate behavior, suspended, or otherwise punished. There is no record that CT took any corrective action, even after repeated complaints of nearly identical offenses.

Image via Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office/Handout)

In 2018, Olawoye, above, was jailed for three years after pleading guilty for traveling to meet a minor for sex last year.

“In the midst of our ugly world,” Galli wrote in 2015, “Christianity Today offers an oasis of the true, the good, and the beautiful.”

Silliman said that at the same time that Galli was developing the “beautiful orthodoxy” branding for CT, he made inappropriate comments about women. Three people recalled him talking in the office, for example, about how he liked to watch female golfers bend over.

Galli denies the specific comment but said he probably referred to the women on the golf course as “eye candy.”

It wasn’t until after the start of the #MeToo and #ChurchToo social media movements that CT leadership started to review policies and train staff on sexual harassment.

When one woman was hired as an editor in the mid-2000s, someone joked that she was only brought on because a senior editor wanted to have sex with her. She didn’t report that to HR, but a colleague did. After that, the woman heard regular comments from men at CT about how she was too quick to see sexual harassment in everything.

Women in the office organized informally to protect each other against unwanted attention from Olawoye, who was known at CT by his nickname “Toks.” Several described warning new hires that he did not respect personal boundaries, but frequently invited himself into women’s offices, shut the door, and engaged them in long, personal conversations.

When others did report Olawoye for inappropriate behavior, they found they were treated as if they were the problem.

One woman told her manager that Olawoye was staring at her breasts during meetings. The manager’s response:

It helps if you wear a scarf.

The manager, who is a woman, confirmed that account but noted that she did not receive training about sexual harassment when she was promoted and did not know to file a formal complaint.

Another manager, a man, did file a complaint. He went to HR and said that Olawoye was spending an inordinate amount of time talking to a college intern. He seemed to be asking her inappropriate questions—whether she had a boyfriend, whether she’d ever had a boyfriend, and whether she’d like to have dinner at his house.

A few days later, Olawoye stormed into the office of the manager who reported him and demanded an apology. He had learned who made the complaint and was irate about the possibility of an “awful mark” on his record.

Olawoye’s tenure at CT ended after he was arrested by federal agents in a sting operation in 2017. He was attempting to pay for sex with a teenage girl.

After Olawoye’s arrest, HR offered counseling for employees who may have been upset but did not investigate whether anyone had been harmed by Olawoye during his time in the office, according to multiple employees. Instead, CT leaders urged the staff to show Olawoye grace and remember that everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

In CT’s editorial department, it was Mark Galli who shared the news of Olawoye’s arrest and delivered the message about suspending judgment. He told at least two women he supervised that he understood how a man could be tempted to pay for sex with a teenager.

According to the women, Galli said that he also had unfulfilled sexual urges and that was a common male experience. The important thing was learning not to act on those urges.

Sillimore wrote that today, Galli views the allegations as misunderstandings and quoted the former editor-in-chief as saying:

I have never done anything consciously, deliberately wrong. I’m happy to apologize for those areas in which I miscommunicated or made people think one thing when I was actually trying to do another. I’m happy to do that.

The accounts shared with Sillimore followed nearly identical patterns. Most of the women said he rubbed his hand on their lower back and touched their bra clasp.

Some said his touch seemed sexual and they felt violated. Others said they did not believe he intended it to be sexual, but they were bothered that he didn’t respect boundaries. He acted, they said, as if he could cross any personal or professional lines he wanted.

After repeated complaints to HR, Galli considered making a personal policy against touching people in the office but rejected the idea, he told Sillimore. He touched people to encourage them, to connect, and to communicate effectively, he said, and he thought he would just have to live with some misunderstandings.

Of course, I crossed lines. It shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows me that, working there for 30 years, I probably crossed boundaries. Yeah, that happened. Just to be clear, I never had any romantic or sexual interest in anyone at Christianity Today.

In 2018, Galli barged into an office where an employee was pumping breast milk. There had been an announcement that a new mother would need privacy and a sign on the door that said, “Do not disturb.”

Galli looked at the sign and said out loud, “That doesn’t apply to me,” according to two people who were there.The incident was reported to HR. Galli was not formally reprimanded or disciplined.

In a separate piece, Timothy Dalrymple, president and CEO of CT, wrote:

We hold these women in the highest regard and were deeply saddened to hear their stories. They described highly inappropriate comments and unwanted touch that left them feeling disrespected, objectified, and unsafe.

Our immediate response was to grieve with them, thank them for their courage, and commit to a process that rigorously examines what we got wrong as a ministry and what we must do differently going forward.

RNS pointed out that in 2019, not long before he retired, Galli called for then-President Trump to be removed from office, saying Trump’s character flaws made him unfit for his office. The editorial caused a national uproar among evangelical Christians. Galli then left CT—which was founded by the famed evangelist Billy Graham—in early 2020 and has since converted to Catholicism.

Veteran journalist and free speech activist Barry Duke was, for 24 years, editor of The Freethinker magazine, the second oldest continually active freethought publication in the world, established by G.W....