Two summers ago, a heinous crime took place at Fellowship Bible Church in Williamson County, Tennessee. Our attorney Kathryn Barnett filed a lawsuit last fall against the church on behalf of a family after their three-year-old child was sexually assaulted while his parents were attending mass. The first court hearing took place this week, where a trial date was set for April 2017.
Fellowship Bible Church made three motions, which included a “gag order” to prevent the plaintiffs from making any public comments about the case in the media. In a win for the plaintiffs, all motions were defeated.
The initial complaint was filed on Nov. 30, 2015 after the perpetrator, a male teenager, pled guilty to sexually aggravated battery. According to the defense, the complaint made bold, inaccurate statements against the church, including that it “was a haven for predators.”
Claiming that the statements incensed the press, which led to a lot of negative articles about the church, the defense asked that the “offensive allegations” be struck. Judge Michael W. Binkley, who presided over the ruling, stated that the defense couldn’t strike the allegations from the complaint simply because they were “offensive to the defendants.”
The defense attempted to make two other motions during the court hearing. The first was to dismiss the claim of the victim’s sister for damages, and the second was to dismiss claims for intentional and reckless emotional distress on the part of the church. Judge Binkley denied both motions.
The harrowing incident, detailed in the lawsuit, happened in August 2014. A three-year-old child, who was left in the care of the church nursery while his parents were attending mass, was raped in a bathroom by a male teenager who had volunteered to watch the nursery at the time. The lawsuit stated that the church failed to educate volunteers on preventing sexual assault and didn’t conduct sufficient background checks before selecting them.
When confronted by the parents of the victim, the church tried to place the blame on the family and urged them to move to another church. The family had attended Fellowship Bible Church for 12 years; the child had been baptized there, the parents had been married there, and members of the family had volunteered there for years.
Morgan & Morgan filed a lawsuit on behalf of the family on counts of negligence, emotional distress, and punitive damages. The names of the victim and his family are being kept private. Barnett continues to try this case passionately, seeking justice for the Does.
“We are disappointed the church will not accept any responsibility, but we are looking forward to bringing the Does’ case to trial,” said Kathryn Barnett on behalf of the family. ”The church didn’t take responsibility for what happened. They tried to get these people’s case kicked out of court. And they were unsuccessful.”