Portland Church Sued for $5.25 Million over Alleged Abuse

Apostolic Faith Church in Portland OR Sued for $5.25 Million over Alleged AbuseA 30-year old Oregon woman last month filed a $5.25 million lawsuit against the Apostolic Faith Church, a Portland-based worldwide Pen-tecostal missionary organization, for severe childhood sexual abuse she allegedly suffered at the hands of two different church leaders from 1986 to 1990.

The woman, identified in court documents only as HK, “has overcome an incredibly difficult young adulthood and brings this case not only to secure justice for herself, but also to help encourage other victims of childhood abuse to break their silence and get help,” according to a statement from her attorneys, Kelly Clark and Gilion Dumas of Portland’s O’Donnell, Clark and Crew LLP. They frequently handle childhood abuse cases against youth-serving organizations and churches.

“She is one of the more remarkable young women I have ever represented,” said Clark, who estimates that he has represented nearly 300 victims of childhood abuse over the last 20 years.

Contacted by Christian News Northwest for comment, the Apostolic Faith office said it would forward to the church’s legal counsel the newspaper’s inquiry. It declined, however, to identify the church’s legal counsel at this time.

Clark said HK’s “childhood and early adulthood read like some dark and tragic story, except that it was all too true, and yet, she has overcome all that.”

According to her attorneys, she is now a motivated young woman with a thriving family full of kids, who does great work as a youth leader, especially working with troubled kids. “She is an inspiration to all of us here and serves as a role model for how young women can overcome awful childhood sexual abuse, “ said Dumas.

The lawsuit alleges that Assistant Pastor Walt Smith, who has since died, and daycare worker James Sheals both abused HK, although at separate times, over a four-year period, when she was between 4 and 8 years old, and that, at least as to Sheals, the church knew that he was a danger to children.

“This young man had already been identified by DHS as dangerous, and was not supposed to be around children, all of which the church knew,” said Dumas.

A prior lawsuit in the 1990s also identified Sheals as a perpetrator, according to the lawyers. Both Sheals and Smith separately abused the woman on dozens of occasions, including kissing, fondling, and sodomy, according to the suit.

The lawsuit also alleges that the Apostolic Faith Church — which has churches all over the United States and international missions as well — had an “institution-wide” child sexual abuse problem that was concealed.

The Tacoma church had received a letter from Washington State child protective authorities in 1990, warning the church that at least three pedophiles were active in that church, according to the lawsuit.

Still, noted Clark, nothing was done to remove those individuals or to protect children. “We expect that this lawsuit will show that this organization, like too many other religious institutions, chose to protect itself and its reputation and not to protect children,” said Clark.

According to its website, the Apostolic Faith Church was founded in 1908, and has hundreds of churches on six continents.

Read more on the Christian News Northwest website.

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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