A Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York minister said a local man recently indicted on child pornography charges did not have contact with children attending services.
Thomas A. O'Connor, who has been a three-year member of UUCY, was charged with production, distribution, receipt and possession of child pornography after agents allegedly found images depicting minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct on computers in O'Connor's home.
The charges against O'Connor, 44, of York, were announced Aug. 29 by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
"Our hearts go out to Tony's family and friends, to the child and child's family, and to all of those affected by this terrible situation," said the Rev. Robert Renjilian, UUCY's parish minister, in a statement released by him and board president Jon Paulos.
The congregation helped host fundraising activities to support O'Connor when he received a heart transplant, they said.
Shocking: Renjilian and Paulos also said they are "shocked and saddened" by O'Connor's arrest. They said O'Connor was not a religious education program teacher, and no one is aware of any allegations of inappropriate contact with children in the congregation.
"Abuse of children is against our religious principles and against the law," Renjilian and Paulos said. "Our congregation is committed to ensuring the safety of all its members, but especially our children."
They also said UUCY's policy requires background checks on leaders who work one-on-one with students and to have two leaders present in classes with children.
"We have clear guidelines for how our adults interact with our children and we follow those guidelines," Renjilian and Paulos said.
O'Connor also was general manager at the former Harp & Fiddle pub in downtown York.
The case: If convicted of the child pornography charges, O'Connor faces penalties of up to 30 years' imprisonment and $250,000 in fines.
The FBI is investigating the case and Assistant U.S.
Attorney Meredith A. Taylor will serve as prosecutor.
Assistant federal public defender Heidi Freese is listed as O'Connor's attorney. She did not return phone calls seeking comment.
The case is part of Project Safe Childhood, a U.S. Department of Justice nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse.
Led by the U.S. Attorney's offices, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, and to identify and rescue victims.
For more information about Project Safe Childhood, visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.