Calif. United Methodists settle sex abuse suit for $6.7 million

Associated Press/August 4, 2006

Long Beach, Calif. -- California United Methodists have agreed to settle for $6.7 million a lawsuit brought by three men who alleged that a former associate pastor sexually abused them at a Long Beach church three decades ago, church officials said Thursday.

Gary Carson-Hull was a youth pastor at Los Altos United Methodist Church at the time the alleged abuse occurred, said church spokesman Grant Hagiya.

"We dismissed him and revoked all ministerial privileges after a parent complained in 1979," Hagiya said.

The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit in 2003 after the California Legislature reopened the state's statute of limitations for such cases. The defendants included the church, the California-Pacific Conference based in Pasadena, the Walnut Creek United Methodist Church and the California-Nevada Conference based in West Sacramento.

The out-of-court settlement will come primarily from insurance.

In a public apology, Mary Ann Swenson, leader of the California-Pacific Conference, said, "This situation has been a painful experience for all involved."

"In the decades since the incidents in this case occurred, we have implemented a number of policies and procedures designed to safeguard those who come into our churches," Swenson said.

Carson-Hull was initially employed as a youth leader at Walnut Creek while attending the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley in the early 1970s, Swenson said. After completing seminary, he was appointed to the Los Altos position.

He was arrested in 2002 after the Los Angeles County district attorney's office charged him with molesting the boys dozens of times. The case was dismissed a year later after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturned a California law that extended the statute of limitations in child molestation cases beyond 1988.

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