Religious organizations added to $82 million lawsuit in sex abuse case
CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WWBT) - Several religious organizations and church leaders face an $82 million lawsuit in a child sex abuse case involving eight boys, that stemmed in Colonial Heights and Chesterfield.
Attorneys with the law firm Breit Cantor says the boys were abused by a youth group leader at Immanuel Baptist Church between 2008 and 2015.
Added to the lawsuit on Monday were the following Baptist groups:
- Southern Baptist Convention
- Baptist General Association of Virginia
- Petersburg Baptist Association
"They had the power to do more and to help protect these children and to warn these families of these abusers," said attorney Kevin Biniazan, who represents the plaintiffs.
Already named in the lawsuit are Jeffrey Dale Clark, the church’s youth leader at the center of the allegations, who is currently serving a 25-year sentence; his father, Alvin “Ted” Clark, who held a variety of positions at the church; and Fred K. Adkins Jr., who was the junior pastor at the time.
“The elder Clark is alleged to have threatened one of the plaintiffs unless he recanted his allegation against his son, which enabled Jeffrey Clark to continue working at the church and preying on the children,” said Biniazan.
The plaintiffs in the case are now between 14 and 23 years old.
The lawsuit says it added the other groups to the lawsuit following a Houston Chronicle report about church leaders in the U.S. who were convicted of sex crimes, but were still allowed to work at churches.
The plaintiffs also say some of the abuse at Camp Kehukee in Petersburg, which is owned and operated by the Petersburg Baptist Association.
"Some of our clients were actually abused at the camp after we believe the Petersburg Baptist Association had knowledge of the allegation made against Jeffrey Clark,” added Biniazan.
Biniazan also says the Baptist General Association of Virginia could have stepped up to fight abuse within the Baptist church, as well. "(BGAV) should have known what happened with Jeffrey Clark in their own backyard, so to speak, here in Virginia,” he said.
The Southern Baptist Convention, also named in the lawsuit, includes 47,000 churches. "Going back to the 90's, the Southern Baptist Convention was being asked to do something about sexual abuse of children,” said Binianzan.
Even though Binianzan acknowledges SBC made some effort, he says they don’t believe the organization took enough action. Binianzan says the $82 million will help pay for therapy and other medical expenses, as well as punitive damages, for the boys.
“Plaintiffs suffered and continue to suffer pain and suffering, pain of mind and body, shock, emotional distress, physical manifestations of emotional distress, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem, disgrace, fright, grief, humiliation, loss of enjoyment of life, post-traumatic stress disorder resulting in physically manifested injuries including anxiety, depressions, sleep disorders, nightmares, psychological injuries, physical and mental sickness, and bodily injuries,” he said.
NBC12 reached out to the organizations and individuals listed in the lawsuit, and has not yet received a direct response to the allegations.
A representative for the Southern Baptist Convention says they are still reviewing the details of the case, and that Southern Baptists grieve whenever they learn of an instance of sexual abuse in a church setting.
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