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Settlement reached in Pressler sexual abuse case

Paul Pressler

HOUSTON (BP) — A six-year-old lawsuit claiming repeated sexual assault by Paul Pressler has ended with a settlement and dismissal filed “with prejudice” by plaintiff Gareld Duane Rollins, Jr.

The Southern Baptist Convention, First Baptist Church of Houston and the SBC Executive Committee were also named as defendants in the decision issued Dec. 27 in the 127th Judicial District Court.

“It appears to the Court that all matters in controversy between Plaintiff and all Defendants have concluded,” said the statement by Judge R.A. Sandill. “With all claims, counterclaims and controversies now resolved, the Court is therefore of the opinion that the Motion should be granted and the matter dismissed as to all parties.”

Pressler, along with Paige Patterson, is credited with helping lay the foundation for a conservative resurgence in the SBC. Patterson was dismissed from the case in April.

A retired Texas appellate judge and Southern Baptist layman, Pressler first identified a leftward shift in the SBC during the 1960s and ’70s. In 1999, Pressler authored a book detailing the resurgence, titled “A Hill on Which to Die: One Southern Baptist’s Journey.”

Special counsel to the SBC and SBC Executive Committee also released a statement on the “confidential settlement agreement” with Rollins.

“The Southern Baptist Convention and its Executive Committee were each fully prepared to proceed to trial,” the statement said.

“However, several factors ultimately made settlement the more prudent choice. Chief among those factors was the horrendous nature of the abuse allegations, the likelihood that counsel for the SBC and Executive Committee would have to confront and cross-examine abuse survivors, the Executive Committee’s current financial condition, and the willingness of multiple insurance carriers to contribute to the terms of the settlement.”

In the suit originally filed in October 2017, Rollins alleged that 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.

As recently as last spring, Rollins had been seeking $1 million in damages.

Baptist Press’ attempts to obtain comments from Rollins’ and Pressler’s attorneys were unsuccessful.