Alabama High Court Orders Bishops to Testify in Sex Abuse Case

Courthouse News Service

January 24, 2020

By Daniel Jackson

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled Friday two bishops in the United Methodist Church must answer questions about what they did to prevent child sex abuse around the time a boy was allegedly victimized by a former youth leader.

“Today’s decision puts church leadership on notice that when children are alleged to have been harmed through the church, church officials will be called upon to answer for what steps they took to investigate allegations of child sex abuse and what they have done and are doing to prevent child sex abuse,” the boy’s attorney Gregory Zarzaur said in a statement.

In 2015, the boy – named J.N. in the court documents – filed a suit in Talladega Circuit Court claiming that while he attended the First United Methodist Church of Sylacauga he was abused by youth pastor Charles Terrell, the 24-page decision said.

J.N. asked the former bishop of the North Alabama Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, William Willimon, and the current bishop, Debra Wallace-Padgett, about their efforts to prevent child sex abuse.

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