A pastor and volunteer sheriff’s chaplain exposed himself to a former church member after showing up at her home in a long orange skirt and telling her he’d lost a bet, authorities allege.
The Rev. Robert C. Christian, 61, turned himself in to the Spokane County Jail on Friday and was released. He faces a misdemeanor charge of indecent exposure in Spokane Municipal Court.
Christian, who has been fired as a chaplain, initially denied the allegations when questioned by lead sheriff’s chaplain Curt Quaschnick after a police report was filed in March, according to court documents obtained Monday.
But the pastor changed his story in an interview with Spokane police detectives and said if the woman “said I exposed myself to her, then it happened,” according to the documents, which were prepared by Spokane police.
Christian spent 13 years in law enforcement in Ohio before leading his first church in 1989, his wife, Sandy Christian, told police. Sandy Christian directed a reporter’s questions to defense lawyer Gloria Ochoa, who was not available late Monday.
Police began investigating Robert Christian in March after a 72-year-old woman and former member of the Heritage Congregational Church, 1801 E. 29th Ave., where Christian is senior pastor, said Christian showed up unannounced at her home in the skirt on Feb. 27. The woman, who lives alone, said Christian told her he’d lost a bet and had to wear a skirt for the day, according to court documents. The woman invited Christian in and he asked to use the bathroom. He emerged from the room after an extended period and sat down at the dining room table for coffee. It was then the woman saw Christian’s erect penis sticking out the front of the button-up skirt, police allege.
The woman said her cultural beliefs prevent her from making allegations against people in positions of authority, so she said nothing to Christian. He stayed at the home until two real estate agents arrived for a previously arranged showing of the home. Christian told the woman “don’t tell them I’m a pastor” and left after explaining to the real estate agents he “had lost a bet, which was why he was wearing the skirt,” police say.
The woman said she was extremely anxious and fearful as she prepared coffee for the real estate agents, then exclaimed to them “Do you know what he did to me?” and told them about the exposure. The agents tried to persuade her to report the incident, but the woman said she feared she’d face problems if she accused a pastor of such a thing. She also feared investigators would defend Christian because of his position as a chaplain with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.
The woman said she found a note from Christian on her front door Feb. 28 that thanked her for the coffee and her hospitality. She told a pastor at her new church about the incident on March 14, and he reported it to police.
The real estate agents did not report seeing anything illegal to police but did say they saw a man wearing a pastel pink or orange skirt when they arrived at the home. They said the man appeared nervous and said he’d lost a football bet with a friend and had to wear the skirt.
One of the agents “insisted the defendant was not wearing a kilt but a skirt,” documents say.
That distinction was drawn after another employee at Heritage church, Ted Pettis, said Christian had bought a kilt for a possible St. Patrick’s Day promotion that would feature him wearing the kilt in a photo with a caption saying the church “had a leg up on a friendship.” The idea was scrapped after they agreed someone might be offended, Pettis said. Christian’s wife told detectives that she and her husband are “out-of-the-box thinkers” who like to do fun things to get attention for the church, such as wearing sandwich boards and walking up and down the street, but she said her husband never told her about a kilt or the potential St. Patrick’s Day promotion until after he was contacted by police.
Detectives contacted stores where Christian said he’d purchased a kilt. None recalled selling one recently.
In the interview with Quaschnick in March, Christian said he was wearing a kilt as part of a St. Patrick’s Day promotional idea for the church when he stopped by the woman’s home for coffee. He denied exposing himself and said he was not a cross-dresser.
Christian said “that people who expose themselves to women don’t do it just one time; there is a pattern in their life and ‘I am not one of those people,’ ” according to court documents.
But Christian later told police he used poor judgment. Detectives say he apologized for offending the woman and “denied that he had visited any other elderly widows within his congregation while wearing a skirt,” documents say.