FREETOWN (WBSM) — The pastors of Freetown’s churches are seeking to clarify that a man convicted of child rape and identified as a Sunday School teacher at a Freetown church was not associated with any of their congregations.

“We, the pastors of Calvary Pentecostal Church, East Freetown Congregational Christian Church, and the United Church of Assonet wish to express our compassionate concern for the member of our community who was brutally victimized by a local substitute teacher,” the pastors said in a statement.

Gilbert Hernandez, 58, was sentenced Wednesday to 30 to 40 years in state prison for numerous incidents related to the rape and molestation of a 14-year-old girl. The Bristol County District Attorney’s Office referred to Hernandez in its releases as “a former Freetown substitute teacher” and “a Sunday School teacher at a church in Freetown.”

READ MORE: Former Freetown Teacher Sentenced for Child Rape

The statement clarifying the latter was put out by Rev. Don Bliss of the East Freetown Congregational-Christian Church, Rev. Greg Baker of the United Church of Assonet, and Rev. Curtis Dias of the Calvary Pentecostal Church.

“The convicted felon in question has been reported as being a ‘Freetown Sunday School teacher,’ however, he has had no relationship with any of our congregations, which are the only churches in town that have Sunday Schools, rather than other forms of Christian education,” the statement read. “We worry that this kind of reporting might unfairly impugn our sincere and faithful ministries.”

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The faith leaders said they wanted to put out the clarification because of the negative connotations people might make with a convicted child rapist and the church.

“Unfortunately, there is a common narrative that links religious institutions with the injury to innocents,” the statement said. “We do not all bear the culpability for such actions, but we all bear the responsibility for the healing of all victims.”

The faith leaders said each of their congregations has a “safe church policy” which includes “CORI checks, minimum supervision levels and mandatory reporting.”

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