Three Lawsuits Filed Against Nebraska Church for Alleged Sexual Abuse by Former Officials

The Associated Press/November 2, 2002

Lincoln, Neb. -- Three lawsuits have been filed against a Lutheran church school for alleged sexual abuse by former officials, including a minister who served as principal.

The lawsuits against St. John Lutheran Church in Seward seek millions of dollars for the alleged abuse.

The Lincoln Journal Star reported in Saturday's editions that two lawsuits were filed in Lancaster County District Court on Friday by unnamed plaintiffs who alleged they were abused by longtime principal David Mannigel.

Mannigel, a Lutheran minister, apparently killed himself last year.

The other lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Lincoln on Wednesday by T. Mark Kraft, a Colorado man, for claims of abuse by retired teacher Arlen Meyer. That lawsuit seeks $1 million.

Herb Friedman, attorney for one of the unnamed state court plaintiffs, said his client has suffered from anorexia and post-traumatic stress disorders because of the abuse allegedly suffered from Mannigel.

"My client has had a very difficult life because of this," Friedman told the newspaper.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified general damages and $750,000 for medical costs related to the alleged abuse and lost wages in roughly 30 years since the incidents.

The alleged abuse took place in 1971 and 1972 when the plaintiff was in the fifth and sixth grades, according to the lawsuit. Friedman declined to further identify his client.

In the other lawsuit filed Friday, a girl identified as "Jane Doe" claimed Mannigel had repeated "sexual contact" with her during the school years 1999-2000 and 2000-2001. She was in the seventh and eighth grades at the time.

The petition, filed by Lincoln attorney Sandy Pollack on behalf of the girl and her parents identified as John and Mary Doe seeks $3 million in damages.

"She continues to see a psychiatrist," Pollack said of the girl who is now in high school.

Gary Lewien, president of St. John Lutheran Church, declined to comment on the lawsuits.

A woman who answered the phone at Meyer's home said he was not available.

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