Children, mother get $750,000 after suing pastor, church

Associated Press/May 14, 2004

Columbia, SC -- Two children and their mother will get $750,000 to settle a lawsuit against a Johnsonville pastor who admitted to sexually abusing the youngsters.

The women and children sued several defendants, including the pastor, Larry Farmer, and the local, state and national Church of God, according to a story published Monday in South Carolina Lawyer's Weekly.

Farmer was arrested in March 2002 and seven months later pleaded guilty to committing a lewd act on a minor.

Farmer admitted to sexually abusing the children for about three years, first at the Church of God in Johnsonville and later at a second church, the newspaper reported.

"We absolutely do not tolerate that kind of conduct," the Rev. Jerry Chitwood told the publication. Chitwood is the administrative bishop for the Church of God in South Carolina.

After Farmer pleaded guilty, the Church of God ordered him to never be a pastor again in their church.

"This is a sad case," Chitwood told Lawyer's Weekly. "I'm a father and a grandfather, and I can tell you the church stands firm against this kind of behavior. When he revoke a minister's credentials for sexual conduct with a minor, they can never be restored."

Both the children have been treated for depression and are undergoing counseling. Their medical bills since the abuse have topped $20,000, according to the settlement.

All the defendants except Farmer denied liability in the settlement, which will be paid by insurers for Farmer and the church. A breakdown of who paid which portion was not available, the newspaper reported.

Lawyer's Weekly got a copy of the settlement after Florence County court officials initially told them it was not open to the public. Rules approved by the state Supreme Court a year ago only allows judges to seal settlements in limited circumstances involving public safety or health.

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