Former altar boy alleges abuse by choir director, sues Portland church for $3.1 million

By Everton Bailey Jr.
July 21, 2017

A Portland man is suing St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church for $3.1 million alleging he was repeatedly sexually abused by a choir director in the 1960s on church grounds and nothing was done to stop it.

A former Northeast Portland church altar boy and choir member is suing the parish for $3.1 million, claiming he was repeatedly sexually abused by a choir director in the early 1960s on church grounds and nothing was done to stop the abuse.

The Portland man, now in his late 60s and identified in the suit as M.W.R., is alleging battery, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress against St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church. The lawsuit accuses former choir director Jay Shisler of befriending and grooming M.W.R. when he was 11 and 12 years old and later kissing, sexually touching and sexually abusing him.

The lawsuit was filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court on Thursday, and M.W.R. is being represented by attorneys Barbara Long and Randall Vogt.

The church rector, the Rev. Christopher Craun, declined to comment on the lawsuit Friday because she wasn't aware of the allegations and hadn't seen the lawsuit.

Shisler died in 2001 at age 60. 

According to the lawsuit, M.W.R. said he reported the abuse at the time to then-church executive director Rev. Eric Gratian, but no action was taken against Shisler and the abuse continued. 

"Instead of helping him, the Church told him to keep quiet," Long said on Friday. "My client kept that secret his entire adult life until a couple months ago when he disclosed the abuse to a counselor."

The Episcopal Church practiced "firm and consistent obedience to any instruction from a church employee," the lawsuit said. Among the alleged grooming tactics was Shisler requiring M.W.R. to meet alone for "private lessons." 

The lawsuit accuses the church of not adequately investigating Shisler's activities with child parishioners, not notifying police or parents about Shisler, and not taking any action against him.

It's not immediately clear when Shisler stopped being a choir director at the church. According to the church's website, the Men and Boys choir under Shisler's direction gained local, regional and international attention and performed concert tours nationwide and in England.



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