Thursday, Texas Democratic Party officials accused Denton state Rep. Lynn Stucky of having ties to Missouri's Kanakuk Kamps, a Christian summer camp where multiple instances of child sex abuse have occurred.
Since 2002, Stucky has served on the board of directors for the Kanakuk Institute, which is an eight-month college graduate discipleship program for young adults, but the institute is an entirely separate entity, Stucky said in an emailed statement. He has no role in what goes on at the summer camps, he wrote.
“The sexual assault incidents that occurred are terrible,” Stucky wrote. “There is no other way to put it. I in no way shape or form condone that behavior. My role on the Kanakuk Institute Board had nothing to do with those incidents.”
As Election Day approaches, political races are intensifying nationally and statewide, with both sides ramping up targeted attacks. Yet as is the case with President Donald Trump’s leaked tax returns, the Kanakuk incident serves as a partisan Rorschach that shifts meaning depending on one’s party.
Stucky is up for reelection in House District 64, which covers a portion of Denton County. He’ll be running against Democratic candidate Angela Brewer.
The Branson Tri-Lakes News reported that Kanakuk Kamps saw a former director and a former counselor plead guilty in 2010 and 2012, respectively, to molesting boys. Documents from a lawsuit allege the camp’s CEO Joe White knew about the abuse by the former director but did nothing to stop or prevent it, according to the article.
Abhi Rahman, the Texas Democratic Party’s communications director, said that it’s troubling that Stucky continues to serve on the Kanakuk Institute’s board after news of the camp abuse surfaced.
“It’s a huge deal. Stucky has known about these problems but he stayed on the board for it,” Rahman said. “It shows his character, right? It shows that he’s willing to be an accomplice to this and he’s not willing to stand up for our children, which is absolutely terrible.”
What’s really terrible, Stucky countered, is that Democrats would use children’s trauma in an attempt to take him down.
“It is unfortunate that some would twist the story to exploit children and these horrific acts for political gain,” he wrote.
Rahman said it’s problematic that Stucky has accepted campaign funds from Kanakuk officials. For instance, in 2016, CEO White donated $250 to Stucky’s campaign, which occurred after White had already been accused of enabling sexual abuse at Kanakuk.
Stucky said the $250 from White was a one-time donation.
Jeremy Otis, TDP’s deputy research director, said in an emailed statement that he camped at Kanakuk every summer as a kid. Learning what the disgraced camp director Peter Newman did to his fellow campers was “traumatic,” he said.
“It was the final straw for me, and a lot of other kids, but it wasn’t the final straw for Lynn Stucky,” Otis wrote. “It is disgusting that he continues to support this camp, which actively puts children in danger.”
The sexual abuse scandal isn’t the only PR nightmare that Kanakuk Kamps has faced in recent years. In July, it again made headlines after NBC News reported that 82 children contracted the coronavirus there over the summer.
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Texas Democrats are also taking issue with a problematic acronym used to describe camp attendees. According to the camp’s website, they’re known as “Kanakuk Klassic Kampers.” That KKK acronym, of course, carries strong white supremacist connotations.
Kanakuk Kamps bills itself as a “world leader" among Christian summer camps on its website. Aside from the Kankakuk Institute, it lists several other programs as part of its ministry, including Kanakuk Haiti and Kanakuk Across America.
While the camp serves kids, Stucky said that the institute is a graduate program for adults 22 to 30 who are interested in the ministry of God and biblical skills.
Those who engage in “inappropriate sexual or homosexual behavior” face instant dismissal from Kanakuk Institute, according to its student handbook.