Southwestern Fires Patterson • Abuse Survivor’s Lawsuit • Church LGBTQ Access: News Roundup
    This week’s headlines that affect churches and church leaders.
    Southwestern Fires Patterson • Abuse Survivor’s Lawsuit • Church LGBTQ Access: News Roundup
    Image: Sharon McCutcheon / Unsplash

    Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Fires Paige Patterson and Removes Retirement Benefits. “Paige Patterson lied to the board of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) about a rape allegation that came before him at another seminary, withheld documents from his previous presidency, and referenced attempting to 'break down' the victim of a more recent rape incident, according to a new statement released Friday [June 1] by the chairman of the school’s board of trustees. Kevin Ueckert offered more details surrounding the board’s recent decision to fire the former SWBTS president, referencing documentation of a 2003 rape allegation at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS), which Patterson previously led for over a decade, as well as emails surrounding a 2015 rape allegation at Southwestern. The SEBTS graduate—whose story was reported in The Washington Post and who has since made her case public on social media—claimed that Patterson and fellow officials did not report her rape, discouraged her from doing so, and urged her to forgive the perpetrator. The information in the SEBTS student record Ueckert reviewed ‘contradicts a statement previously provided by Dr. Patterson in response to a direct question by a board member.’ . . . [T]he board stands by its unanimous decision to fire Patterson, with Ueckert saying, ‘In this difficult situation, the Executive Committee based its decision on the current performance of the president and did not allow the legacy of Dr. Patterson or the #MeToo pressure to steer the outcome. We did not react; rather, we decisively exercised our responsibility based on the Seminary’s biblically informed core values and integrity’” (“Paige Patterson Fired by Southwestern, Stripped of Retirement Benefits,” Christianity Today).

    Patterson’s initial removal was covered in last week’s News Roundup.

    Sexual Abuse Survivor Sues California Church. “The Modesto church that allegedly covered for sexually abusive pastors years ago faces a lawsuit from a victim. Jennifer Roach, now 47 and living in Washington state, seeks unspecified damages for the church's alleged negligence, failure to supervise her abusive youth pastor, sexual battery and infliction of emotional distress. Roach, emboldened by the #MeToo movement, was the focus of a Modesto Bee report in February, leading to an investigation commissioned by a Kansas City church now employing Brad Tebbutt, her abuser three decades ago. Modesto's CrossPoint Community Church, formerly First Baptist, is not specifically named in the lawsuit, filed last week. Defendants will be added in time, says the document, whose narrative includes names of men leading the church now and since the 1970s. They ‘relied on their positions of power to overwhelm and silence victims and their families’ when Roach and others came forward with stories of abuse, the lawsuit says, charging that leaders ‘continue to pursue a policy of secrecy’” (“Modesto church facing lawsuit from sexual abuse survivor,” The Modesto Bee).

    Roach was interviewed for our recent piece on creating a church culture of accountability in light of the #MeToo movement.

    Church’s Event Space Manager Sues Church over Breach of Contract, Anti-Discrimination Law Violations. “A suit seeking $2.375 million in damages against a Portland, Oregon Catholic church was filed in an Oregon state court two weeks ago by a company which alleges that its business relationship with the church was wrongfully terminated. The complaint (full text) in Holiday Investors, Inc. v. Holy Rosary Church of Portland, Oregon, Inc. . . . alleges that plaintiff contracted to operate the Ambridge Event Center, a social hall owned by the church. Under a morals clause in its contract with the church, plaintiff was not permitted to rent out the event center to persons or organizations affiliated with the LGBTQ community. When plaintiff, pursuant to this requirement, refused to rent space to an African-American LGBTQ support group for its annual party, it suffered extensive negative publicity. In an attempt to rehabilitate its reputation, plaintiff, among other things, hired an openly gay man as its events coordinator. This resulted in the church terminating its contract with plaintiff. Plaintiff sued alleging breach of contract and violation of state anti-discrimination laws” (“Church Sued by Manager of Its Event Space over LGBTQ Access,” Religion Clause).

    Find out more about public accommodations laws (and how they affect your church) in this article.

    Iowa Supreme Court Rules Church Did Not Defame Women Pressured into Sex with Pastor. “The Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday [June 1] that an all-male church board’s characterization of female congregants who were pressured into sex with the pastor as sinning ‘adulteresses’ who gave into ‘temptation’ was constitutionally protected religious speech. The court held that members of the Covenant Reformed Church’s board of elders didn’t defame the two women because they were expressing their religious beliefs. It also found that the Pella church wasn’t obligated to provide counseling to the women that conflicted with its religious teachings. But it did allow the women’s challenge to proceed alleging that the church didn’t adequately supervise the pastor, Patrick Edouard. Edouard, who was later removed from the ministry, was convicted of sexual exploitation by a counselor in 2012. . . . The church elders said that ascribing all the blame to Edouard was a ‘false dichotomy’ because the women ‘are certainly sinned against, but they are also sinning.’ One elder allegedly told the women they weren’t victims and another allegedly said that the women ought to go to jail, too. . . . Chief Justice Mark Cady wrote for the court that those statements were either opinions, regardless of whether they were offensive, or protected by the First Amendment, which prohibits courts from prohibiting the free exercise of religion” (“Court: Iowa church didn’t defame women exploited by pastor,” The Washington Post).

    We're always preparing the best and fastest ways to bring you the news in the context of expert advice. For more regular updates, follow us on Twitter or on Facebook.

    Emily Lund is assistant editor for Church Law & Tax.

    This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is published with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations."

    Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

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