Adventist Denomination Sued by Victims of Sexual Molestation
by Monte Sahlin
By AT News Team, August 28, 2014
Two men in their mid-50s have filed a lawsuit in an Oregon court against the General Conference (GC) of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination because a convicted pedophile was allowed to lead a Pathfinder Club in the 1970s. The allege that he sexually abused them and television station KEZI in Eugene is reporting that the man was convicted of molesting one of the two.
Adventist Today has elected not to mention the names of any of the individuals involved as victims or the perpetrator. The two men have stated through their attorney that they have brought the lawsuit in order to generate systematic change in culture of the Adventist denomination. One of the two is an active member in a local church.
The court papers state that in 1972 a man who had previously served two years in prison for molesting three boys was appointed the leader of a Pathfinder Club in Veneta, Oregon, a suburb of Eugene, according to a report from Reuters. The man was permitted to work with children "because he repented and was re-baptized," Reuters quotes court papers.
The same man was charged with sexually abusing a 12-year-old boy in 1975, the report states, but continued to lead the youth group until he left the church in 1979. The lawsuit asks for $13.5 million in damages because church leaders appointed a known offender and did not intervene even when complaints were made. It is alleged that church leaders did not take steps to protect the children.
Reuters states that an attorney for the GC "has previously settled three other cases involving allegations of abuse" by the same man. The television station reports that he continues to live in the state but is not a registered sex offender.
The denomination "is very aware of all the issues and takes great pains to make sure this kind of behavior is not going to be repeated," Reuters quotes the GC attorney. On Sabbath (August 23) all local congregations around the world were asked to provide educational presentations on the topic, an annual event that has been organized throughout the denomination for several years.
"This is a problem in all religions," a retired professor of ministry told Adventist Today. "But it is particularly embarrassing to Adventists because we have prided ourselves in a higher standard than other faiths." The two men in this case told Reuters through their attorney that they hope there will be a growing movement among survivors of abuse in the Adventist community.