City of Memphis Employee Accused of Sex Abuse at Church

Commercial Appeal
November 18, 2016

A city of Memphis library employee has been placed on paid leave after an ongoing police investigation into allegations that he sexually assaulted children when he worked as an assistant youth minister at a Germantown church 18 years ago.

The employee, who has not been arrested or charged in the cases, was placed on paid administrative leave pending the investigation into the allegations, city officials said in an email earlier this week.

Memphis police spokesman Louis Brownlee confirmed that the department's sex crimes detectives are investigating.

"We do have an open investigation related to these allegations," Brownlee said. "As with any investigation, if there are additional victims who have not come forward to file a complaint with law enforcement or if there are any individuals who have information concerning these incidents, they should contact MPD at any precinct or report to the Sex Crimes Bureau located at 201 Poplar Avenue, 11th floor."

Last week, Michael Hansen, his brother, Brooks Hansen and childhood friend, Kenny Stubblefield took to social media where they accused the man, a former assistant youth minister at Immanuel Baptist Church in Germantown, now the Church at Schilling Farms in Collierville, of sexually assaulting them in 1998. The man's name is not being used by The Commercial Appeal because he has not been charged in the incidents.

Hansen, 35, who now lives in Birmingham, said they came forward and filed the police report after nearly two decades when they learned the former youth minister is now working at the Memphis library.

"Since we didn't come forward then, we have an opportunity now to finally bring this to light and stop him from doing it again," Michael Hansen said. "That's our number one priority is to just stop it."

Hansen said he was 16 when he was sexually assaulted by the assistant youth pastor who was a 20-year-old college student at the time the assault occurred.

"We were doing Bible study at his parents' home in Memphis when I spent the night," Michael Hansen said. "He said sleep in my bed because the oils from your skin will get on the couch and on the carpet."

Hansen said after the assault, they told Immanuel Baptist Church pastor Scott Payne.

Payne fired the youth minister, but Hansen said the church covered up the assault and did not report it to police.

"The church's attitude was we fired him and that's good enough," Hansen said.

ON Friday, a Mid-South support group called for Payne to be removed from a Baptist association.

Leaders of SNAP (the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), sent a press release urging the Mid-South Baptist Association in Tennessee to "denounce, discipline and publicly remove Rev. Scott Payne” from any posts in their organization.

The group said last week in an interview with Local 24 News that Payne said that he did not call police to report the assault when the victims told him about the abuse.

“Rev. Payne should have no role or position in any church or religious body and should be drummed out of the ministry and never again given a position in which he might again ignore or hide child sexual abuse, either known or suspected,” said David Clohessy of St. Louis, director of SNAP. “We hope law enforcement will investigate his actions - and inaction – and consider prosecuting him.”

Payne could not be reached for comment about the allegations or calls for his resignation from the Mid-South Baptist Association.

Meanwhile on Friday, Highpoint Churchposted a statement on its website about the alleged child sexual abuse allegations and that church's decision to back away from a planned merger with The Church at Schilling Farms because of the allegations.

"When we learned of the situation regarding the alleged sexual abuse, we had to alter the plans and timetable for the merger as it was originally planned. We certainly did not want to be sued over something that happened before our church came into existence. While our attorneys advised us there was doubtful legal basis to hold us accountable for these actions, we did not want to risk being named in a lawsuit," according to the statement from Highpoint Church.

Instead of a merger, Highpoint Church agreed to lease property from The Church at Schilling Farms.

"It remains our plan to purchase this property if and when all the legal complications are resolved," the statement said.

Church officials at Highpoint said they did not report the alleged abuse to police because the victims are now adults.

"When we learned of this abuse, the victims were adults. Based upon previous experience of working with adults who are dealing with prior child sexual abuse situations, we know that the authorities will only act if they are dealing with the adult who was abused as a child. Moreover, we felt it would be an invasion of their privacy for us to report this without their permission, especially after receiving the letter from their attorney," according to the statement.

Highpoint officials added that they decided to make a statement after the allegations were made public.

"Some have criticized us for remaining quiet about this matter and the decision to move away from a merger. Given the sensitive nature of the allegations and the potential that a lawsuit could be filed, we felt it best not to publicize anything that could create additional complications. Since this entire situation has now been made public outside our control, we wanted to provide our church family with all the facts," according to statement.

A voicemail message left Friday afternoon for Highpoint Church officials was not returned.








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