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Mt. Zion Baptist Bishop Joseph Walker faces amended sex lawsuit with more details

Mt. Zion Baptist Bishop Joseph Walker faces amended sex lawsuit with more details

The Tennessean/December 4, 2012

On Sunday, Bishop Joseph Walker told members of his congregation at Mt. Zion Baptist Church that if they waited and had faith, God would deliver them from their troubles.

On Monday, Walker learned he might have to wait longer for his own to be over.

Two former church members sued Walker earlier this year, accusing him of using his authority to engage in sexual misconduct. One lawsuit was dismissed in November, and the attorney for the other plaintiff filed court documents to withdraw that suit.

But the attorney for former church member Valencia Batson filed an amended lawsuit Monday that includes intimate details of her alleged sexual relationship with Walker, as well as accusations of financial misdeeds at the church.

"This is not over," said Connie Allison, Batson's attorney. "It is not going away."

A spokesman for Mt. Zion declined to comment on the new claims. In the past, the church has called the charges against Walker ridiculous.

Monday's filing is the latest twist in the lawsuit first filed by Batson in February. Her initial suit alleged that Walker used his position to sexually abuse her, but it included few details.

Court documents show Walker's attorneys argued that Batson's suit should be dismissed in part because of the lack of details. They also claimed the statute of limitations had passed on some claims.

The amended suit claims abuse began after Batson began attending the megachurch in 1998.

According to the complaint, Batson was recently divorced and struggling to get by as a single parent with three children. She claims that Walker said being close to him would bring her close to God.

Batson says Walker asked her, "Would you do anything for me?" and then asked her to perform a sex act in the church.

Batson alleges she and Walker had sex at Mt. Zion's locations at 1112 Jefferson St. in Nashville and 7594 Old Hickory Blvd. in Whites Creek. She says she was coerced into group sexual encounters with Walker and other church leaders in his office, sometimes after Bible study.

The complaint also names Walker's brother Jerry Luren White, overseer of financial affairs at Mt. Zion, and the Rev. Michael E. Williams, pastor of Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church in Nashville.

Williams was arrested and charged with soliciting a prostitute during a police sting Sept. 7. That case was dismissed Nov. 14.

Prosperity gospel

Ebenezer and Mt. Zion are part of the same denomination, the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship Inc. They preach the prosperity gospel — the belief God will reward his faithful servants by making them rich. The suit says leaders taught that those who didn't donate to the church would be cursed.

As a sign of God's favor, Walker allegedly purchased a Bentley with mink floor mats and said the car had been a gift from the Rev. Paul Morton, a denominational leader. Batson claims that donations from church members were used to enrich Walker and other church leaders.

Church leaders, the suit says, misled the congregation by saying Mt. Zion was paying off its debts. Property records show that it took out mortgages totaling $159,332 last month.

Williamson County property records show that Walker took out a $1.5 million loan to buy a new home in Brentwood in 2007, about the time he was urging church members to get out of debt by enrolling in Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University program.

Walker and Williams are not the only Full Gospel pastors who have run into legal troubles. Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta settled a lawsuit in 2011 with four young men who accused him of sexually abusing them. Long was best man at Walker's wedding in 2009.

In November, a judge dismissed a lawsuit by former Mt. Zion parishioner Corey Corbin — in part because the statute of limitations had expired. Corbin alleged a marriage-destroying affair between Walker and Corbin's wife.

Walter F. Roche Jr. contributed to this report.

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