Court Rejects Assemblies of God’s Motion to Dismiss Sex Abuse Lawsuit

Assemblies of GodLast week, an Oregon trial Court ruled against the national office of the Assemblies of God church on its motion to dismiss the claims against it in a sex abuse case we filed against it in 2016. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time the General Council of the Assemblies of God has failed to get out of a sex abuse case on legal grounds. In a news story, the spokesman for the national office said that the General Council has never “been held liable by a court” in a case like this.

The decision means that the case will proceed to trial against all three defendants: the national General Council, the state District of the Assemblies of God, and the local church, which at the time our client was abused was called the First Assembly of God of Albany. We allege in the case that Royal Ranger leaders Ralph Wade Gantt and Todd Clark sexually abused our client at least 20 times between 1984 and 1987.

Oregon law allows victims of sex abuse to bring civil lawsuits before they turn 40, or even after the are 40 if they file the case within five years of when they know or should know of the connection between the abuse and the injuries caused by the abuse.

Gantt and Clark were arrested and convicted in the late 1980s for sexually abusing a total of four other boys in the Royal Rangers program and served time in prison for their crimes.

Royal Rangers is a youth program run by Assemblies of God churches. The program’s mission, according to its website, “is to evangelize, equip and empower the next generation of Christlike men and lifelong servant leaders.”

In attempting to get itself dismissed from this case, the Assemblies of God national office argued that local Royal Ranger leaders were not their agents. The court agreed with our argument that the General Council has the right to control the Royal Rangers leaders, by the way they created the program and implement it on a local level through the state Districts.

The national AOG General Council also argued that our lawsuit is barred by the religion clauses of the First Amendment and provisions of the Oregon Constitution. The court rejected that argument and granted judgement in our favor on those defenses.

Trial is scheduled to start on August 14 in Portland.

Dumas and Vaughn Attorneys at Law has law offices in Portland, Oregon and serves clients in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and other states.

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