Former metro Atlanta pastor, 81, to serve 5 years for child molestation

Benjamin Harter

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Benjamin Harter

He served as a pastor in metro Atlanta churches beginning in 1971. Now, the 81-year-old is serving time behind bars after pleading guilty to three counts of child molestation, the Forsyth County District Attorney’s Office said Thursday.

Benjamin August Harter was sentenced to 20 years, including five to serve in prison. He pleaded guilty Aug. 12 and was rearrested the same day, court and jail records show. On Thursday, Harter remained in the Forsyth County jail awaiting transfer to state prison.

Harter was arrested Aug. 30, 2019, at his Cumming-area home, five days after the Forsyth sheriff’s office was informed of the molestation allegations. He was released in October after posting $82,500 bond. Conditions of his bond prohibited Harter from any contact with children, forced him to surrender his passport and made him wear an ankle monitor.

Harter had served as pastor of Ebenezer Primitive Baptist Church in Sandy Springs since 2014. Following his arrest, an associate pastor said Harter was no longer affiliated with the church.

Harter previously served as pastor of Bethany Primitive Baptist Church, now located in Suwanee, for nearly three decades beginning in November 1971. In the mid-1990s, Harter and his wife began traveling to the Philippines regularly to work with churches there.

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He began serving as pastor of Ebenezer Primitive Baptist Church in Sandy Springs in 2014.

Credit: Bob Andres

He began serving as pastor of Ebenezer Primitive Baptist Church in Sandy Springs in 2014.

Credit: Bob Andres

Combined ShapeCaption
He began serving as pastor of Ebenezer Primitive Baptist Church in Sandy Springs in 2014.

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

He later resigned from Bethany church in May 2000 and moved with his family to the Philippines for several years, the Ebenezer Primitive Baptist website previously stated before Harter’s arrest. In the Philippines, the Harters built an orphanage before returning to the U.S. in 2008. The couple adopted 19 children over the years, bringing them back to their home.

“For over seven years, Gus traveled, taught, and served the fast-growing primitive baptist congregations of the Philippines,” the church’s website previously stated. “In that time he participated in the formation of over 100 new congregations and helped constitute over 60 as churches.”

After Harter completes his prison stint, he will spend the remainder of his sentence on probation and must register as a sex offender.