The law firm of McGowan, Hood, Felder, and Phillips has filed a lawsuit against Michael D’Attoma, Northside Baptist Church in Lexington, the South Carolina Baptist Convention, and the Southern Baptist Convention for alleged sexual abuse of a teenager at the church from 2009-2012.
The suit alleges that “Jane Doe” was 15 years old when D’Attoma began grooming her. It purports that the abuse escalated throughout an approximately three-year period.
The SBC and SCBC are included in the lawsuit because, according to a blog by attorney S. Randall Hood, “The SBC, South Carolina Baptist Convention, and Northside Baptist Church did nothing to protect our client, and it resulted in even more victims.”
The official statement from the SCBC states, “We are still processing the allegations to determine if and how they may apply to the South Carolina Baptist Convention. As Christians, we are deeply concerned for survivors of sexual abuse and pray for all involved.”
The SCBC has responded to the lawsuit and is waiting to determine if the case involving the state convention will move forward or be dismissed.
Northside pastor Rocky Purvis told The Courier, “On June 16, an individual contacted our church and informed us that they had heard allegations about a former youth pastor who served at the church approximately 10 years ago.” This was the first the church leadership had heard about the allegations, he said.
“With regard to the civil lawsuit that was filed, we are still reviewing it and cannot comment until we know more details,” Purvis said. “Our hearts break for all victims of abuse, and we ask that you join us in praying that the truth will come out and healing will take place.”
If the lawsuit moves forward, it could challenge Baptist polity, which sees every church as an autonomous organization, independent of any ecclesiastical entity.
As The Courier went to press Aug. 18, no ruling had been made on the lawsuit.