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If you’re a youth pastor at a church, and you’ve seen all the articles about youth pastors getting arrested or being sentenced to jail for sexually abusing kids, how on earth could you think it’s a good idea to hand out a sticker to children in your church saying “I ❤️ hot youth pastors”?

Because that’s what a 35-year-old youth pastor did this week:

Sometimes, these posts in various moms’ groups have dubious origins, but in this case, the stickers were traced back to Fairview Baptist Church in Greer, South Carolina where they were handed out by “student pastor” Cory Wall, who was hired earlier this year and who has since made his Facebook page private.

It raises all kinds of questions.

  1. Is this supposed to be a joke?
  2. What the hell kind of joke is this?
  3. Who made these stickers?!
  4. Why would anyone order these stickers?!
  5. Who thought it’d be hilarious to give these stickers to children?!?!?!?
  6. Why are conservatives complaining about gay teachers when THIS IS GOING ON IN THEIR OWN CHURCHES?!

*Deep breath*

In an email Wall sent to one woman who expressed concern about the sticker after her sister received it, he insisted it was all just a big misunderstanding:

Last night, I was made aware of your concerns involving the sticker being distributed to your sister at Midweek. Let me assure you that my intentions were pure, and the last thing I wanted to do was make you, your sister, or anyone else in attendance feel uncomfortable.

We’re updating our church-wide database, and I encouraged kids to come see me to get a sticker and update their information. The sticker was meant to poke fun of the “I Love Hot Mom” culture. In hindsight, the joke was of very poor taste and a mistake on my part. I do apologize for their distribution.

One of our top goals with Fairview Students is to create a safe place for students. Last night, we fell short. Please accept my apologies.

I don’t get the joke. I would love to hear Wall explain it. Hell, I’d attend church on Sunday to hear Wall stumble through the explanation.

A statement from a different church leader wasn’t any better and only raised more eyebrows:

We see and hear your concerns and affirm the matter has been taken seriously. I cannot comment on our accountability actions with Cory because it is a personnel that cannot be discussed publicly. I will confirm the leadership and Cory understand the severity of the incident and have addressed it with the him. He is meeting with his leaders to discuss the mistake he made and that it was in very poor taste. I will confirm this has been dealt with as a serious matter in our response with Cory privately according to our Personnel Manual Guidelines.

Cory’s mentioning, “having a porn addiction”, was about at a time when he was a high schooler and young adult. We were aware of this in his testimony when we interviewed him. When he mentioned this to the students was during the summer and it was brought to our attention. We met with Cory and he understands this should not have been shared with the students until he made parents aware of the topic beforehand and explain the context of why he would share this from his testimony. This was discussed and our leadership handled this according to our Personnel Manual Guidelines.

If you have any more questions or concerns, please continue to contact me.

Oh, I definitely have more questions. And many, many concerns.

Why was he talking about his supposed “addiction” with these kids? Was it an actual addiction or did he just watch some adult videos? And if this guy has a “porn addiction,” WHY IS HE HANDING OUT A STICKER REFERENCING “HOT YOUTH PASTORS” WHEN IT’S BASED ON A SLOGAN INVOLVING “HOT MOMS”?!

*Deep breath*

The “I ❤️ hot moms” shirts which can be found online aren’t a “culture” so much as pathetic frat boy humor. But as far as I can tell, it’s not like these “youth pastor” stickers are available online. That would mean they were custom-ordered by Wall (or someone else) who thought it was a good idea at the time. At no point in the entire process did that person stop to think this might not go over well.

That’s especially concerning for a church affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, a denomination that has been going through its own major sexual abuse reckoning to the point where the Department of Justice is now conducting its own investigation.

Want to protect your children? Get them out of churches like these and let them visit a library where drag queens read stories to kids. The people you should be concerned about are in the churches.

A request for comment from Wall and senior pastor Eddie Leopard was not returned as of this writing.

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Hemant Mehta is the founder of FriendlyAtheist.com, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.