Sovereign Grace Ministries statement sees First Amendment threat in lawsuit over sexual abuse

The Courier-Journal

Posted on November 27, 2012 by Peter Smith

Initial worship service at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville this fall. (Pete Rodman photo / Special to The Courier-Journal)

Sovereign Grace Ministries — a church network that moved its headquarters to Louisville earlier this year — says in a recent statement that First Amendment religious-liberty protections would be threatened if a lawsuit succeeds in “allowing courts to second guess pastoral guidance.”

The church’s statement comes in response to a lawsuit filed Oct. 17 in Maryland — where the denomination was based for its first three decades until this year — on behalf of three plaintiffs the suit describes as victims of sexual abuse by members of Sovereign Grace churches in Virginia and Maryland.

The lawsuit seeks class-action status on behalf of other victims, citing “a culture in which sexual predators were protected from accountability and victims were silenced.” It alleges elders at Gaithersburg, Md., and Fairfax, Va., churches intervened in cases in which members sexually abused minors. It alleges the pastors sought to minimize criminal penalties against the abusers and pressured victims to forgive their perpetrators.

The Sovereign Grace statement, issued by Director of Administration Tommy Hill, notes that no pastors are accused of abuse in the lawsuits and that the abuse did not take place on church property. At issue is how the church elders responded.

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