20 N.J. Men Allege Sexual Abuse By Lutheran Pastor

CBS News/August 17, 2007

Toms River, N.J. -- Twenty men have come forward and are claiming the pastor of a Lutheran church in New Jersey sexually abused them when they were children, adding that children in the parish were abused for almost 20 years.

Michael Isaacs is the only one of 20 men suing St. Thomas Lutheran Church in Brick, N.J. on sex abuse charges who isn't afraid to show his face and address the public.

"He'd make you touch him, ask if you liked it, and make sure you wouldn't tell anybody about it," Isaacs tells CBS 2 HD. "He called it the 'typewriter game' where he'd bring you into his office, sit you on his lap and let you hit the typewriter keys and he would fondle you."

Other plaintiffs insisted on staying anonymous because they say the alleged abuse by former pastor Robert Slegel was so traumatic they don't want any more public embarrassment.

Many of the plaintiffs lived in the neighborhood and they charge that the sexual abuse took place not only at the church, but also at the pastor's house.

"He would take you into the house. He would sodomize you," Isaacs says.

Robert Fuggi is one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs, seeking tens of millions in damages.

"He was a surrogate father figure. He manipulated them through trying to intimate that he loved them, but did sexual things to them," Fuggi says.

The case passed its first hurdle when the judge agreed to let it into court, but the next hearing won't be for about a year-and-a-half.

The bishop of the New Jersey Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church says it's too early to comment on the allegations in the lawsuit, but he stressed the church "does not tolerate inappropriate sexual behavior of any kind by members of the clergy."

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