A Kansas judge has ruled that two victims of sexual assault suing a Southern Baptist church will remain anonymous in court proceedings.
Johnson County District Court Judge Kevin Moriarty granted a motion last month allowing the plaintiffs to proceed using pseudonyms in their case against Westside Family Church in Lenexa, Kan., a Southern Baptist congregation founded in 1977 with an average attendance of 4,700.
In June the church filed a motion claiming the teenage sisters and their parents were using their anonymity to generate “a Pearl Harbor-style barrage of negative publicity” timed to coincide with the congregation’s Vacation Bible School.
David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said it was the first time in his 28 years of advocacy work he had witnessed a religious organization trying to “out” a minor coming forward to allege sexual abuse.
The anonymous victims and their guardians allege that Westside Family Church knowingly let a convicted teen sex offender now serving a 17-year sentence in prison gain access to the girls, who at the time were younger than 14 and attending the church, in order to commit abuse. Church leaders said they were aware the youth had experienced some problems in the past didn’t know it had anything to do with sexual abuse.
The ruling issued Sept. 20 was reported recently by the Kansas City Star. According to the newspaper, the judge also denied a defense motion to dismiss the suit, which is scheduled for jury trial next August.