Church youth leader charged for sexual relations with teen boy

By The Christian Post

Courtney Michelle Bingham, 35. | (Photo: Loudon County Sheriff's Office)

A 35-year-old church youth leader in Tennessee is now in jail on charges of aggravated statutory rape and soliciting sexual exploitation of a minor after a 16-year-old boy told police that they had sex at least 10 times. The youth leader doesn’t recall being intimate with the teenager more than four times, police say.

According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, Courtney Bingham, who served as a youth leader at Bethany Baptist Church in Loudon, where she met the teenager, was arrested Dec. 4.

The Loudon County Justice Department first received reports about the illegal relationship on Dec. 3, according to WVLT. The sheriff’s office was notified by the boy’s father, the Sentinel reported.

The boy told police that he and Bingham had sex at her house. He also alleged that Bingham sent him pornographic images found on his phone. A warrant indicated that most of the images were captured at Bingham’s home.

Police told WVLT that Bingham admitted she had a sexual relationship with the teenager starting in November but could recall having sex with him no more than four times.

Loudon County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Jason Smith told the News-Herald that the case was very serious.

“It’s very serious,” Smith said. “You’re dealing with somebody that’s 35 years old and has sent pornographic images of herself with inappropriate comments to a juvenile. Not only that, was also having sexual intercourse with him as a member of a self-described youth leader of the church.

“So being in a position of an authority figure, being in a position of a caretaker at times at the residence, [it’s a] very serious matter as far as the crime that she’s committed."

No one at Bethany Baptist Church was immediately available to comment. The church’s pastor, Rick Harrell, told the News-Herald that Bingham was a faithful servant with a “bubbly” attitude and loved by the young people at the church where she had served as family activities coordinator for the last four years.

“You just don’t think about this kind of thing going on in your Christian church family and certainly we loved her and considered her a special part of what we did here,” Harrell said. “She was faithful to the church, always had a bubbly attitude. The young people loved her, were drawn to her.”

He further noted that the church has been “wounded” by Bingham’s actions and they would work to facilitate healing and look at ways to prevent it from happening again.

“We want to help everyone heal that’s been wounded by this. That’s our objective,” Harrell said. “... We’re certainly looking at every avenue to prevent something like this. Meeting with our youth leaders, directors, to be more cautious about what we see and what’s going on. When people are friendly and befriending people, you never know if something of the irresponsible nature’s going on. It’s just impossible to tell unless you have some sort of clear evidence.”

Bingham is currently being held at the Loudon County Jail after her bond was set at $57,500 on the combined charges, jail records cited by The State said. She is set to appear in court on April 3, 2019.

Source:The Christian Post