$112G Sex Talk
Rev Loses Harassment Suit, Job 'In Jeopardy'
By Jarrett Renshaw
The Jersey Journal
January 11, 2006
A court has ordered the longtime pastor of a Baptist church in Jersey City, and the church itself, to pay more than $100,000 to a former organ player who says the pastor sexually harassed him.
The ruling came after the pastor, the Rev. Sammie Lee Hawkins, left the courtroom during a hearing on the matter in August and did not return.
Hawkins, head of St. John's Baptist Church on Bramhall Avenue for 15 years, was accused by a former church employee of conducting a "campaign of sexual harassment" that drove him to quit his $33,000-a-year job as the church's organist in 2003.
Kevin Profit, who is married with children and now lives in Connecticut, alleges that he quit after Hawkins made numerous "lewd sexual comments" about his "sexual organs," as well as telling Profit that he wanted to have sex with him and "other men," according to court documents.
On May 28, 2003, Profit alleges Hawkins said he had a "fetish" for him, and that he "loved" him and "dreamed about him," according to court documents.
Hawkins, who denied the charges in court documents, chose to defend himself and the church - but not before he fired two attorneys.
During a pre-trial hearing before state Superior Court Judge Carmen Messano in Jersey City, Hawkins excused himself to take a phone call from his son but he never returned, according to court documents.
Messano issued a default judgment in October against Hawkins and the 76-year-old church, ordering them to pay $112,415, according to court documents. To date, neither Hawkins nor the church has paid any money to Profit and a federal lien has been placed against the church. It is unclear whether the church has insurance.
"We sent them written questions concerning their assets, and we will attempt to acquire the property if we don't get our money," said Mark Mulick, Profit's Montclair-based attorney.
Hawkins agreed to an interview with The Jersey Journal shortly after the ruling was issued but then didn't appear. Subsequent phone calls were not returned. Hawkins also agreed to let a photographer into the church during a Sunday service, but he and others chased the photographer away when she arrived.
An attendee of a recent service said Hawkins warned members to stay away from reporters asking questions and advised them not to believe everything they hear.
"It's because of his actions the church is in this position, and we are losing members," said Darreth Millers, one of 10 members of the church's board of trustees. "He has not been man enough to go to the members or the board and tell them about what's going on, and that's wrong."
The chairman of the church's board of trustees, Robert Weldon, agreed to an interview, but when The Jersey Journal arrived at the church, Weldon was nowhere to be found. Subsequent phone calls were not returned.
Millers said the board was aware of the litigation from the start, but "regrettably" did not take an active role, saying members allowed Hawkins to handle the defense. However, given that the church was named as a defendant in the case, Millers said he acknowledges that the trustees failed to live up to their responsibility.
Now, Millers claims he and the other trustees want to get the church removed from the lawsuit, an uphill and potentially expensive battle.
When asked about Hawkins' future, Millers said, "his future is definitely in jeopardy."
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