March 2, 2012
Expert on Child Spirituality Arrested on Child Porn Charges
Professor from Wheaton, Biola, Vanguard, and Toccoa Falls is known for his work on the spiritual formation of children.
A Wheaton College professor noted for his work on the spiritual formation of children was arrested Thursday for allegedly possessing child pornography.
Donald Ratcliff, the Price-Lebar Professor of Christian Education at Wheaton, was charged after an investigation that tracked Web users trading child porn. Investigators say they found pornographic images of preteen children on at least six computers seized from Ratcliff’s home.
Police also seized two guns and 1,600 rounds of ammunition from his home. Ratcliff did not have a firearm owner’s identification card and faces charges for possession of the munitions. Ratcliff’s attorney told The Daily Herald the guns are “family heirlooms,” but added no further comment on the case.
Judge Elizabeth Sexton set Ratcliff’s bail at $750,000 Friday morning. Sexton also ordered that should he post bond, Ratcliff cannot have contact with anyone under 18 or use a computer or the Internet until his March 8 hearing. Ratcliff would have to post 10 percent of the bail to be released.
Ratcliff has studied and been an expert on children’s spiritual formation for more than three decades. Before arriving at Wheaton in 2006, Ratcliff taught at Biola University, Vanguard University, and Toccoa Falls College. He also served as an adjunct at Talbot School of Theology. On a webpage promoting his most recent book ChildFaith, Ratcliff described the importance of children and families in the church, writing, “Children are not the church of the future; they are very much the church today!” Christianity Today interviewed Ratcliff about his work in 2010.
In a brief statement Thursday, Wheaton said Ratcliff has been placed on administrative leave.