“The Southern Baptist Convention has been added as a defendant in a lawsuit that accuses one of its influential leaders of sexually abusing an assistant for decades.
The lawsuit, initially filed Oct. 18 in a Texas court, was widened on Jan. 12 to include the Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention, which is the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. with more than 15 million members.
The plaintiff, Gareld D. Rollins Jr., accuses former Texas state judge and lawmakerPaul Pressler of sexual abuse that started in the late 1970s, the lawsuit filed in Harris County District Court states. Rollins was about 14 years old at the time and the lawsuit says the abuse continued until 2004 when he was arrested on his third DUI charge.
Pressler, who is considered an architect of the denomination’s conservative takeover in the 1970s and 1980s, denied the allegations in court filings, court documents on the Harris County District Clerk‘s website show.
Pressler and the SBC are two of the eight defendants named in the lawsuit.
The 45-page amended complaint accuses the Southern Baptist Convention and other defendants of concealing Pressler’s conduct and creating an environment in which it could flourish.
The lawsuit says they fraudulently misrepresented to the public “that Pressler was a Godlike, sexually safe, moral, and great person of the earth who, as a Magistrate, worked God’s wisdom and thus would not be sexually dangerous to minors.”
Roger S. Oldham, the spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention’s executive committee, disputed the allegations in a statement.
“We are satisfied the allegations about the SBC in the amended complaint are without merit,” Oldham said.
Rollins is seeking more than $1 million in relief, the lawsuit says.”
The Southern Baptist Convention in the largest Protestant denomination in America