Friday, July 20, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

Baptist leader charged with aiding and abetting prostitution

Coy Privette has resigned from the Board of Directors of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and its Executive Committee, following revelations July 19 that he has been charged with six counts of aiding and abetting prostitution.

While withholding judgment and pledging prayers, news of the allegations has shocked North Carolina Baptist leadership. Privette was president of the Christian Action League and a prominent figure in North Carolina moral battles. He is free from Rowan County jail on a written promise to appear in court Aug. 22.

According to arrest documents secured by the Biblical Recorder, Privette's alleged actions took place in Rowan County hotel rooms from May 4 to June 25.

Privette, 74, is a former president of the Baptist State Convention, retired pastor, Cabarrus County commissioner, former board member of Southern Baptists' Christian Life Commission and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Tiffany Denise Summers, 32, of Salisbury was charged with six counts of prostitution in connection with the investigation.

A State Bureau of Investigation spokesman said the investigation is ongoing.

Privette's position as president of the Christian Action League is non-paid, but he was executive director of the League for 15 years, beginning in 1980. The Christian Action League lobbies legislators to be sure they consider a Christian, moral perspective in pending legislation, according to Executive Director Mark Creech, who was "shocked and dismayed" by the allegations against Privette.

"We discourage the promotion and use of beverage alcohol and other drugs, pornography, sexual immorality and other sinful practices that not only undermine the spiritual lives of those who participate in them, but also undermine the strength of our state and national character," the League's web site says.

In a press conference July 19 outside the League office, Creech expressed his love for Privette, whom he said mentored him in his Christian activism. He said Privette "has been a man of good reputation and excellent character."

Unable to reach Privette for comment, Creech said, "We only know the charges. We haven't heard from him and are reserving judgment until we do."

If the allegations prove true, Creech said, "Then I am absolutely broken hearted and disappointed."

"Our hearts are deeply burdened by this news," Creech said. "We are praying for Mr. Privette, his family and all those that this situation effects."

Milton A. Hollifield Jr., executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention, expressed a similar sentiment, saying, "I am deeply grieved about these allegations should they be proven true. Although I am saddened by this news, I appreciate Mr. Privette and the good service he has rendered through the years to the people of this state including various Baptist organizations. The most important statement that I can make is that my prayers are with Coy and his family during this difficult time for all of them."

Hollifield said the Convention's nominating committee is charged with bringing nominations for new board members to fill unexpired terms to the Executive Committee for election.

The League board during a conference call removed Privette as president, pending resolution of the charges. League vice president David Hansley of Kinston has assumed the duties of president.

Creech feels charges against Privette will not hinder work of the Christian Action League with legislators as he seeks input into legislation that has moral implications. "I'm hopeful and don't believe it's going to injure our credibility with them," he said. "Legislators know better than anyone that one man does not represent the whole body.

"The Christian Action League has been an organization of considerable integrity with a positive record for honest, effective, good moral leadership," said Creech.

Privette was a state representative from 1984 to 1992 and has been a strong opponent of liquor by the drink, gambling and illegal immigration. He had been interim director of missions for Rowan Baptist Association until July 19, when an association spokesman said he was "no longer" in that position but would give no further details.

Privette and his wife, Betty, also taught English in China several times as a member of North Kannapolis Baptist Church, where he was pastor from 1962 to 1976.

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