Lutheran abuse cases settled, Texas church involved

Associated Press/April 8, 2004

Marshall -- Settling one of the most serious sexual abuse cases to hit a U.S. Protestant denomination, plaintiffs suing the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and its agencies said Wednesday they had reached agreements with all defendants except the regional synod.

The announcement came just two days after a jury was selected in a civil case brought by 14 victims of former Lutheran minister Gerald Patrick Thomas Jr. and their families. They claimed the Chicago-based denomination, which has 5 million members, should have done more to stop Thomas.

A joint statement by the plaintiffs and the defendants Wednesday said the settlement involved the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio, the Southeast Michigan Multi-Synodical Candidacy Committee and the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Marshall, where Thomas served as pastor from 1997 to 2001. The settlement is subject to court approval at a hearing Monday.

None of the parties would reveal details of the settlement or how much victims might be paid.

A source close to the case told the Associated Press last week that the sides were nearing agreement on a $40 million settlement, averaging about $2.85 million per plaintiff. However, the settlement amount could not be verified Wednesday.

The trial set to begin next week is expected to proceed, however, against the Dallas-based Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Synod, which was not a part of the settlement.

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