7 Nov 2010

Missouri court rules that churches can be held liable for negligence in sex abuse cases

The Missourian - September 15, 2009

Court OKs sex abuse lawsuit against Methodist church in Missouri

by Courtney Shove

COLUMBIA — After a recent sex abuse settlement involving a Boonville Catholic church, a separate lawsuit has been filed against a United Methodist Church in St. Joseph and its overseeing bodies, including one located in Columbia.

On Sept. 1, 5th Judicial Circuit Court judge Randall R. Jackson overruled a motion to dismiss a civil sex abuse lawsuit against Huffman Memorial United Methodist Church in St. Joseph. It is also against the Pony Express District of the United Methodist Church in St. Joseph and the Columbia's Missouri Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, both of which are overseeing Methodist bodies.

The plaintiff is a former Huffman member who filed the suit anonymously.

"This ruling is significant because it is the first time a Missouri court has held that a negligence case could be pursued against a church for sexual abuse," said Ken Chackes, the plaintiff's attorney, who has handled about 100 cases involving alleged sexual abuse involving the clergy. In earlier lawsuits, victims had to prove that the church knew the abuser was going to harm children and failed to take actions to prevent it.

The legal petition states that former Huffman lay pastor Jim Bourne "engaged in unpermitted, harmful and offensive sexual conduct and contact upon the person of the plaintiff, who was a minor at the time of the contact."

According to the petition, the plaintiff is an adult male who no longer lives in Missouri and was a minor at the time of the alleged sexual abuse in the early 1970s.

"There are no other victims as of yet," said David Clohessy, director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, when asked if others have brought forth allegations against Bourne.

A co-founder of the network's mid-Missouri chapter, Don Asbee, said six abuse survivors, outside of the Bourne case, have contacted the chapter since its inception in May.

"We take these types of allegations seriously," said the Rev. Sherry Hobben, director of communications for the Missouri United Methodist Conference. "The United Methodist Church is one of the leading religious organizations in our training and screening of lay people and clergy."

Hobben said Bourne served as a staff member at Huffman for 16 months and left without the church's knowledge of any misconduct.

"He moved on and had other opportunities in the area," she said. "He left with a good relationship with the church."

The case against the Methodist church is scheduled to go to trial May 10, 2010.

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1 comment:

  1. United Methodist Pastor Charged with Sexual Abuse of Teen in Court

    WSAZ, GALLIPOLIS, Ohio October 17, 2012

    A Gallia County pastor is facing charges after investigators say he sexually abused a teenager.
    According to a press release from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, agents with the Crimes Against Children Unit, which is part of the Attorney General's Bureau of Criminal Investigation, assisted deputies with the Gallia County Sheriff's Office in the arrest of David Young Tuesday afternoon.

    Investigators took Young into custody at the Simpson Chapel United Methodist Church in Rio Grande, Ohio, where he is the pastor.

    According to the release, Young is accused of sexually assaulting a teenager between the ages of 13 and 14 who was part of a class he taught through the church.

    "These allegations are extremely distressing because Ohioans should be able to trust people in positions of authority," said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. "We will go to all lengths necessary to hold those who commit crimes against children accountable."

    Gallia County Prosecutor Jeff Adkins officially filed the felony charge of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor against Young Wednesday afternoon. The case will now head to a grand jury.

    Authorities are not commenting on the frequency of the alleged abuse or the locations where the incidents may have taken place, according to the release. Investigators, however, are warning the community that there could be other victims.

    "These are very serious allegations, and we urge anyone with additional information to come forward," said Gallia County Sheriff Joseph Browning. "We are thankful to the Attorney General and the agents with Bureau of Criminal Investigation who quickly took action to help us investigate these allegations of abuse."

    Young is currently in the Gallia County Jail.

    UPDATE 10/17/12 @ 10:30 p.m.
    GALLIPOLIS, Ohio (WSAZ) -- A trust betrayed. That was the feeling in Gallia County Wednesday night where a man of the church is now in jail, charged with sexual assault.

    Police believe there may be more than one victim.

    The news is really hitting home for church members at Simpson Chapel United Methodist.

    "It's a beautiful church, and it has a lot of beautiful people in it," said Ginny Showalter of Rio Grande, Ohio.

    Showwalter is still proud to call herself a member. She's just ashamed of what her pastor's accused of doing.

    "It's very shocking," she told WSAZ.com. "I think it's a criminal situation for our membership. They do not deserve to be disgraced like this."

    David Young was arrested Tuesday at the church in Rio Grande. He is charged with unlawful sexual conduct of a minor. Investigators with the state's Crimes Against Children Unit say Pastor Young is accused of sexually assaulting a teenager -- who was 13 or 14 at the time -- and was part of a class the pastor taught through the church.

    Gallia County Sheriff Joe Browning says the Ohio Attorney General's office is investigating if there may be more victims out there.

    "We're hoping to get to the bottom of what happened with them," the sheriff said. "But also, if there are any other victims out there, we want to find that out, as well."

    Investigators wouldn't comment on how often the alleged abuse happened or where it may have taken place.

    Showalter and her adult daughter are probably like most folks at the church, still in disbelief over the whole thing.

    "If you do something and somebody doesn't believe in you anymore, it's just very hard to get it back," Diane Clark said while chatting with her mother on her family's front porch.

    Young's case will be presented to the next grand jury in Gallia County.