Lawsuit: Church of God in Christ leadership failed to stop child sex abuse by clergy

Memphis Commercial Appeal/February 3, 2020

By Micaela A Watts

The Memphis-based Church of God in Christ has been named as a defendant in a lawsuit that alleges multiple accounts of rape and sexual assault of a boy starting when he was 12 years old.

The alleged abuse took place in two COGIC churches in Albany, New York, between 1974-1978, at the hands of four clergy members and church volunteers, according to court documents filed Jan. 29 in Albany County Supreme Court.

The lawsuit implicates high-ranking members of COGIC clergy as leaders who were in a "superior position" and therefore oversaw and exchanged sensitive information about abusive behavior at the hands of COGIC clergy.

"Church leaders at the highest level were aware that a child was being sexually assaulted, but they adhere to a widely-known church policy of ignoring and covering up sexual abuse. COGIC still follows that policy today," said Richard Serbin of the Janet, Janet and Suggs law firm.

On Tuesday, COGIC spokesperson Robert Coleman declined to comment, saying the church does not comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit details the involvement of several COGIC clergy and volunteers who allegedly sodomized the young victim between the years of 1974-1978, and often forced the victim to perform sexual acts on other young boys, also attendees of COGIC.

The claim was filed under the Child Victims Act, a New York law that extends the statute of limitations for survivors of sexual abuse against minors. The law also allows for an extended time frame in which civil suits seeking monetary damages can be filed.

The plaintiff currently resides in South Carolina, where, according to the suit, he "continues to suffer damages."

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