Denomination Sued in Leonard Smith Sex Abuse Case

This story highlights what I see coming to Protestant denominations because we are refusing to admit there is a systemic problem with clergy sex abuse.  We’ve been content to bury our heads in the sand and think it’s a Catholic problem — it’s not.  I’ve been expecting to see this, and once the ball starts rolling, it is going to pick up steam and the church is going to wonder what hit it.  The church can also wave goodbye to any reputation it thinks it might still have.   Take a look at what is happening in the Catholic church.  Catholics are losing faith in their church — which so frequently includes losing faith in God — and abandoning the church in droves.  It WILL happen to Protestant churches too unless extreme measures are taken.

When reading the article, note what Alvin Clement says is the reason they are pursuing a civil lawsuit against the denomination.  It’s because when they tried to address the problem with denominational leaders, the leaders blew them off.  The Southern Baptist Convention had better take notice!  It is a problem in most, if not all denominations, but it’s already getting a lot of noise and press in the SBC and convention leaders are persistently making the worst possible choices.  If I had to guess, I’d say the SBC will be the Protestant denomination that will take the biggest and most public hit because they are the most publicly refusing to be responsible, while aggressively bad-mouthing the victims they’ve neglected and the advocates for those victims.  The Bible isn’t kidding when it says we will reap what we sow.

My thanks to The Asheville Citizen-Times for this story.  


by Leslie Boyd
published March 22, 2008 12:16 am

ASHEVILLE – For years, three members of the Clement family endured sexual abuse by their church’s music minister.

Leonard Smith was sentenced to more than 14 years in prison Nov. 29 for crimes that spanned 20 years.

Alvin Clement, now a state trooper in Guilford County, filed suit with four John Does and Sylvia Clement, guardian for a minor John Doe.

Family spokesman David Clement said the local church knew what was happening, and the state and national offices of Church of God in Christ knew about Smith’s crimes but allowed him to continue in his church and jurisdiction jobs.

“This is a long process,” David Clement said. “If we hadn’t contacted the state and national offices and been blown off by them, we wouldn’t be doing this.”

The lawsuit charges that the church, state office and denomination “knew, or should have known about the lengthy history of child abuse and sexual molestation engaged in by their employee, defendant Leonard Smith,” and that they “failed to take steps to stop Smith’s behavior and conduct.”

The lawsuit brings claims of civil battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence, and asks a minimum of $10,000 for each plaintiff, legal fees and “such other relief as the court shall deem reasonable and appropriate.”

Due to Good Friday, church officials could not be reached for comment.

One Response

  1. You are right. And I think most people in the various protestant denominations have no idea. It is so hard to get people to believe the the “Man of God” would do THAT.

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