Southern Baptist Church Sex Abuse Lawsuit
Evangelical Church Child Abuse Lawsuit
Are you the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a Southern Baptist leader? Have you repressed your memories until now and want to seek justice? At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, our personal injury attorneys are sexual abuse victim advocates and can help you too.
Contact our childhood abuse injury lawyers at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone call) or use the contact form today to schedule a free consultation. Let us discuss how the abuse occurred in a confidential setting to start the journey of getting the justice you deserve.
Over the last few decades, many religious organizations, including the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), have been criticized for inappropriately handling accusations of sexual misconduct among their ministers and laypersons. These religious organizations, including SBC churches, have covered up Church sexual abuse claims, relocating known sexual offenders to other communities.
The actions of the church leaders appear to place the Southern Baptist Convention’s reputation over the health, safety, and well-being of sexually abused survivors.
In February 2019, the Houston Chronicle reported pervasive sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Church involving about 380 clergy, volunteers, and lay leaders. These Southern Baptists faced alleged sexual abuse in local churches involving over 700 abuse victims dating back to the late 1990s.
The Southern Baptist Convention
For nearly two centuries, the SBC has remained the largest Protestant denomination in America, operating nearly 50,000 Southern Baptist churches nationwide. The leaders provide spiritual ministry, guidance, and leadership to nearly 15 million Southern Baptists.
In 1845, the Southern Baptist Convention formed a denomination from the Baptists who settled in Colonial America in the early 17th century over a conflict involving slavery with the Northern Baptists. At that time, the Northern Baptists forbid missionaries to own slaves.
According to the Pew Research Center, more than 5% of all adults in the United States were recognized members of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2014. Since then, the number has decreased.
#MeToo Movement & Southern Baptist Convention
In 2018, the #The MeToo Movement put pressure on the Southern Baptist Convention concerning domestic violence and sexual misconduct allegations among churchgoers.
During its annual national meeting, the Southern Baptist convention struggled with an onslaught of accusations involving multiple sexual misconduct cases. As a result, about two dozen people protested across the street during the two-day convention calling for creating a database that identified pastors and other religious leaders accused of sexual misconduct.
Convention delegates adopted numerous resolutions condemning any inappropriate sexual behavior by Southern Baptist ministers and called on preventing “all forms of abuse” by encouraging sexually assaulted survivors to contact civil authorities for support and protection.
In a recent blog post, Southern Baptist theological seminary President Reverend Albert Mohler stated, “The avalanche of sexual misconduct that has come to light in recent weeks is almost too much to bear.”
Sexual Abuse Investigations
Major news organizations reports indicate that church leaders within the Southern Baptist Convention relocated credibly accused sexual predators to other communities, avoiding a culture of sexual misconduct. But, unfortunately, inappropriate sexual behavior among Southern Baptist religious leaders and laypersons is nothing new.
The San Antonio Express-News and Houston Chronicle reported that ten Southern Baptist churches employed ministers, pastors, and volunteers previously charged with sexual assault.
Some known predators are registered sex offenders, including Pastors Joseph S Radcliffe, Michael Lee Jones, and Leslie Mason, who continued in their positions of religious authority after sexual abuse allegations came to light.
Baptist churches recently in the news involving sexual assault include Ranchland Heights Baptist Church, Bellevue Baptist Church, and Oakwood Baptist Church.
Teddy Leon Hill Jr. & Millcreek Baptist Church
An Arkansas judge stated in February 2021 that he will rule whether a sexual abuse lawsuit can go to trial against Mill Creek Baptist Church and the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. The plaintiff is a 21-year-old Hot Springs, Arkansas resident, claiming that an SBC minister, Teddy Leon Hill Jr., sexually molested him when he was a 14-year-old boy, and the predator was a 16-year-old Greenwood, Arkansas man.
The plaintiff added the Arkansas Baptist State Convention and the Mill Creek Baptist Church as defendants. The two Arkansas associations involved as defendants in the case argued that “they can’t be held responsible for what happens with their Church membership because each Church is an independent operator that makes its own decisions, even when it comes to hiring and firing pastors.”
The lawsuit document claims that at 13 years old, the plaintiff found an interest in the Mill Creek Baptist Church, when his abuser, Teddy Leon Hill Jr., allegedly “made sexual advances toward him for years, from as early as age 13, by occasionally groping him, rubbing himself up against [the plaintiff] or making comments about his anatomy. [The plaintiff] told investigators that he never told anyone at the Church about [the child sexual abuse] or got counseling for [his abuser] or other help.”
The abuse survivor stated in the lawsuit that Hill routinely assaulted and raped him, sometimes on church property, through July 2018, before Hill quit his ministry.
Pastor Donald Foose
In February 2020, USA Today reported another case of allegations of sexual assault committed by former pastor Donald Foose. Reporters stated that the former pastor Foose resigned from Oakwood Baptist Church suddenly, without informing the congregation.
Two churchgoers had uncovered the Camp Hill, Pennsylvania pastor’s previous conviction in 2000 involving the sexual assault of an underage relative. Yet, even with Foose’s arrest and conviction for sexual molestation, the Southern Baptist church, which also operated a school, chose to hire him as a pastor.
In time, the Church made him the Christian school principal, helping in classrooms with children when other adults were unavailable.
Church officials informed the Southern Baptist congregation that Foose had resigned, stating that they knew he could not pass a background check before he was hired. However, SBC leaders chose to hire Foose anyway after he had declared he had been falsely accused.
One leader who stated he was aware of the conviction of sexual misconduct stated he could not say anything due to “pastor-member confidentiality,” stating that Pastor Foose had promised he would not be involved in the school.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education (DOE) took away Foose’s teaching license when he was convicted and imprisoned for molesting a minor relative. The DOE stated that Foose was a “danger to the health, safety, and welfare of students,” and he was forbidden to participate with children, even driving a school bus.
In 2009, Reverend Darrell Gilyard was arrested and sentenced to three years in prison and probation on sex crime charges involving two underage females. By 2020, he was Mount Ararat Baptist Church’s new pastor in Jacksonville, Florida. He is currently registered as a sex offender in Florida.
The Reverend was charged with sex crimes with two preteen girls at Shiloh Ministry Baptist Church in Jacksonville, where he had served as the pastor since 1993. At the time of his conviction, he served as a nationally renowned preacher and had been mentored by many recognized leaders in the SBC.
In 2012, Reverend Gilyard preached at Christ Ministry Tabernacle Baptist Church, on Davis Street, in Jacksonville, within two months after leaving prison for sexual assault. The Reverend stated that he was preaching because he needed to earn a living and felt that God had called him back to ministry.
Pastor Darrell Gilyard stated that as a registered sex offender, it was difficult to get jobs in prison ministries or work with ex-sex offenders. However, Southern Baptist Church leaders stated that the arrangement between the Reverend and the Church was mutually beneficial because both were nearly financially broke at the time.
One Deacon stated that the Reverend “was down on the ground, and the church was down on the ground, and we both needed to get up.” Court records indicate that in 2004, the Reverend admitted that he had fathered a child with a woman accusing him of rape during a 2004 counseling session.
Fort Worth, Texas – In 2019, Mark Aderholt pled guilty to sexual assault involving two minors over 20 years before. At that time, Aderholt was 47 years old and a former Southern Baptist minister, missionary, and state convention worker charged with four counts of sexual assault involving a child under 17 years of age.
Initially, prosecutors charged Aderholt with four felony counts of second-degree sexual assault. However, after pleading guilty, the judge ordered Aderholt to serve 30 days in jail followed by 24 months of probation and pay a levied $4000 fine after he confessed to a Class A misdemeanor.
The sexual abuse survivor stated that when she was 16 years old, she had searched online for help organizing a ‘See You at the Poll’ event while she was a high school junior. At that time, 25-year-old Aderholt responded to her online requests while a Southwestern Baptist theological seminary student.
The International Mission Board investigated the allegations allowing Aderholt to resign. However, over the following 11 years, Aderhold continued to pastor and large churches throughout Arkansas.
The now-adult woman participated in the plea agreement and gave a victim impact statement on record in court, terming the sexual battery ordeal when she was a teenage girl as “over.”
She told her sexual predator that “I used to believe that [for] this ordeal to be over, you need to tell the truth and ask me to forgive you. I now know that is not the case. This is over because I have spoken the truth. It is over because I have forgiven you. Your lies have no more power.”
In February 2021, The Texas Court of Appeals ruled against former Judge Paul Pressler, allowing a sexual abuse lawsuit to move forward involving a case of sexual abuse involving a minor. For decades, Pressler has been an influential Southern Baptist helping leave the conservative revolt back in the 1970s and 1980s.
At 14 years old, Gareld Duane Rollins Jr. met Paul Pressler at Bible study when he played a leading role in taking control of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1979. By 2017, Rollins accused Pressler of sexually molesting him for years, claiming that the alleged rape began in 1980.
The lawsuit document claims that the sexual abuse continued until Rollins was in his 30s, while he served as Pressler’s assistant while a young man was struggling with addictions and troubles with law enforcement. At the time the lawsuit was filed, ninety-year-old Pressler denied any wrongdoing.
During the original case, the lower court dismissed the sexual assault lawsuit, citing the expiration of the statute of limitations. However, Rollins’ attorneys argued that the sexual abuse-related trauma prevented Gareld from realizing that the alleged inappropriate relationship was non-consensual.
In February 2021, the Texas Court of Appeals ruled that the defendants’ (Pressler and others) case “did not conclusively negate” the plaintiff lawyers’ argument, sending the suit back to the lower court.
In a separate incident in 2003, Court documents revealed that Pressler and Rollins had “an altercation in a Dallas hotel room” that led the young man to sue the Baptist leader for sexual assault. Pressler settled with Rollins agreeing to pay $1500 a month for 25 years so long as Rollins would keep the 2003 altercation and the negotiated settlement confidential.
The state Court of Appeals also ruled against the Southern Baptist Convention, which is also listed as a defendant in the Rollins/Pressler lawsuit. However, it had failed to negate the “unsound mind tolling” argument the defense made.
An attorney on behalf of the Southern Baptist Convention stated that “the convention is simply not responsible if another defendant, in this case, engaged in any wrongdoing.”
The Time for Restitution and Justice
Religious leaders often use “local Church autonomy” to excuse churches that failed to prevent abuse among clergy and laypersons. In response, some sexual assault survivors requested that the SBC create a third-party registry tracking allegations against sexual predators. However, Church officials declined to adopt the mechanism, citing local Church autonomy as a constraint.
Like the Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention, some religious organizations have apologized to sexual abuse survivors for inappropriate sexual activity. However, only a few victims have obtained justice or restitution, typically because these organizations protect the interest of their leaders and local congregations at the victims’ expense.
Unfortunately, the sex abuse survivors that have sought justice and protection often face the aggressive legal maneuvering of religious authorities that have spent years covering up the problem and prohibiting public investigation.
However, some reputable personal injury attorneys serve as legal advocates for victims of child sexual assault and provide legal representation, so they do not stand alone against abusers employed by Baptist churches.
Hiring Child Sex Abuse Attorneys That Represent Victims of Sexual Violence
Are you, or a loved one, the victim of child sexual abuse? Did a member of a religious organization or others strip your innocence days, months, years, or decades ago?
At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, our child sexual assault attorneys can provide immediate legal representation and compassionately listen to your story in a confidential setting. Call our law office today at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact form today to schedule a free consultation.
All sensitive information you share with our legal team remains private through an attorney-client relationship. Additionally, we accept all sexual abuse cases through contingency fee arrangements, meaning no fees are paid until we resolve your case successfully through a negotiated settlement or jury trial verdict.
- Southern Baptist Conference Blindsides Congregation
- Southern Baptist Conference and the #MeToo Movement
Many million-dollar cases have already been settled out of court with victims of sexual assault that occurred when they were children or teenagers. Call our law office today at (888) 424-5757 to receive immediate legal advice. We are here to help.