The Southern Baptist Convention has been added to a lawsuit accusing former Texas state judge and lawmaker Paul Pressler of sexually molesting another man.
The civil suit filed in Harris County on Oct. 18 accuses Pressler of molesting Gareld Duane Rollins over the course of 35 years. The suit alleges that molestation started when Rollins met Pressler at First Baptist Church as a 14-year-old. The document alleges that Pressler enrolled Rollins in Bible study and began molesting and raping him in his master bedroom study.
The 87-year-old Pressler has vehemently denied the allegations.
The initial complaint named Pressler; his wife, Nancy; his law partner, Jared Woodfill; First Baptist Church of Houston; Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; and its president, the Rev. Paige Patterson. It seeks $1 million in damages.
Woodfill called the move an attempt to “extort money from the Southern Baptist Convention,” which prompted Rollins’ attorney, Daniel Shea, to add a defamation claim against Woodfill, The Texas Monitor previously reported.
An amended complaint filed last month added the Southern Baptist Convention to the list of defendants. The suit accuses the defendants of concealing Pressler’s actions and creating an environment that allowed the alleged molestation to flourish.
The suit says the defendants give the indication to the public “that Pressler was a Godlike, sexually safe, moral, and great person of the earth who, as a Magistrate, worked God’s wisdom and thus would not be sexually dangerous to minors.”
Pressler is considered a leader in the conservative resurgence movement in the 15-million member SBC that pushed more liberal thought out of the church for fear it was eroding core values in the group.
Roger Oldham, spokesman for the SBC’s executive committee, told The Tennessean that those allegations are baseless.
“We are satisfied the allegations about the SBC in the amended complaint are without merit,” he said.
Johnny Kampis can be reached at [email protected]