Witness describes torment by pastor

The grown-up student made it clear to his former church pastor and teacher that he recalled no bad behaviour during classes in the basement of Ambassador Baptist Church.

“Were you an unusual group of kids?” asked Royden Wood, 57, who is defending himself at his assault and sex trial.

“Yeah,” Jon Franson, 35, answered yesterday. “We were terrified of you.”

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Franson testified at Wood’s Superior Court trial about watching Wood discipline three boys, who Wood called The Three Stooges.

Wood has pleaded not guilty to 13 charges. Ten of them are for assault and assault with a weapon in connection with his conduct involving three boys who were pupils at the church’s alternative school between 1985 and 1987.

The other three — two for sexual assault and one for sexual exploitation — involve female complainants.

Superior Court Justice Lynda Templeton has heard from all three boys, two of them brothers, whose identity is protected by a temporary publication ban. They have described a host of punishments carried out daily while they attended the school.

The third of the three boys, now 34, finished his testimony yesterday. He admitted he told Wood when he was a boy the discipline had made him stronger and was “good for me.”

But his opinion changed, he said, after a falling out with the church and reflection on what had happened.

He said everyone at the church knew what Wood was doing to him, his brother and another friend.

Franson told assistant Crown attorney Peter Kierluk he recalled Wood forcing the boys — who he said did nothing more than fidget and talk in class — to stand in the same spot for hours. He said Wood harassed them so the rest of the class could laugh.”

He also said he saw Wood repeatedly hit the boys on the shoulder with his knuckle. He saw one boy develop a “bubble under the skin” from the repeated blows.

Franson recalled the boys sobbing after standing so long. He also said they would run every morning around the block to get Wood a doughnut.

Franson said Wood would give “odd speeches” about when he was a police officer and how he was going to teach them discipline. Franson said it sounded like the army, “with idealistic motives.”

If a boy was crying, Wood would tell them, “God’s bucket is full of quitters. We don’t need any more quitters.”

Franson admitted he had engaged in a wrestling match with Wood while a pupil because “I wanted to take you off your high horse a bit.”

Wood asked Franson if he recalled that the speeches — which Franson called “nonsensical” — were to teach them not to be quitters.

“To abuse little boys, a man of that character can’t teach anyone,” Franson said.

The trial continues today. Jane Sims is The Free Press justice reporter.

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Jane Sims, London Free Press, Feb. 15, 2008, http://lfpress.ca

Religion News Blog posted this on Friday February 15, 2008.
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