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LEGAL DIGEST: Pressler suit delayed; SBC files for dismissal in Hunt suit

Suit against Pressler, SBC delayed until October

By BP Staff

HOUSTON (BP) – The jury trial against Paul Pressler, the SBC and the SBC Executive Committee has been delayed until Oct. 16. Judge Ravi Sandill granted the request of plaintiff Gareld Duane Rollins on Thursday (May 5). The trial had been set for May 15.

Pressler, a former SBC Executive Committee member, former SBC first vice president (2002 and 2003) and former Texas legislator and judge, is being sued by Rollins. In the suit originally filed in October 2017, Rollins alleges Pressler raped him in 1980, when Rollins was 14 years old and attending a Bible study at Pressler’s church. According to the affidavit, Pressler continued to rape Rollins, “over the course of the next 24 years or so” as Rollins progressed into his 30s.

The case had been dismissed in 2018 on grounds that the statute of limitations had expired, but the Appellate Court ruled in 2021 that Rollins had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, thus modifying the statute of limitations for reporting the alleged abuse.

Rollins is seeking $1 million in damages.

The case also names Pressler’s wife, Nancy, Jared Woodfill, Woodfill Law Firm F/K/A Woodfill & Pressler, L.L.P., and First Baptist Church of Houston as defendants.

SBC Executive Committee files motion for dismissal in Johnny Hunt suit

By BP Staff

Editor’s note: As part of the SBC Executive Committee, Baptist Press is named in the lawsuit filed by Johnny Hunt, which says, in part, the “SBC published the false accusations against Pastor Johnny in other locations, including through reporting by the Baptist Press and website links directing readers to the Report.”

NASHVILLE (BP) – Attorneys for the SBC Executive Committee and Guidepost Solutions are asking District Judge Eli Richardson to dismiss them from the suit filed them by Johnny Hunt in March. Hunt filed suit against the SBC, the SBC EC and Guidepost.

In the suit Hunt alleges, “the SBC, its leadership, and the firm hired for ‘damage control’—Defendant Guidepost Solutions LLC (‘Guidepost’)—decided to use [Hunt] as their scapegoat.”

The suit also alleges, “The encounter involving [Hunt] had nothing to do with the types of reports that led to Guidepost’s engagement. It should not have been included in Guidepost’s report. Indeed, it should not have been published at all.”

Thursday’s (May 4) filing included two grounds for dismissal.

First, it claimed the court “lacks subject matter jurisdiction … because the alleged conduct involves questions of theological controversy, church discipline, ecclesiastical government, or the conformity of Southern Baptist Convention’s cooperating churches to church doctrine.”

Guidepost joined with the SBC and the SBC EC in proposing the second ground for dismissal. The request says Hunt’s suit fails to state claims for relief.

A claim for relief is when one party establishes in court that they have the right to have damages recovered from the other party, according to a Cornell Law School article.

In an attached memo, attorneys for Guidepost write, “Hunt complains that the true focus of the investigation was wrongdoing by ‘child molesters and other abusers who were in the pulpit or employed as church staff,’ but not people like him. Hunt complains that he should not have been mentioned in the Report because he didn’t commit child abuse and wasn’t implicated in efforts to cover up such crimes. But Hunt’s spin is not entitled to any deference: the very first category of investigation mentioned in the Engagement Agreement (between the EC and Guidepost) was ‘allegations of sexual abuse by the Executive Committee,’ which Hunt, albeit grudgingly, concedes he was a member of.”

The memo also claims that the EC, the SBC and Guidepost did not have intent to cause harm to Hunt by including Hunt in the Guidepost report released by the SBC Sexual Abuse Task Force in May 2022.

A timeline for Richardson’s ruling was not given.

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