Paul Pressler’s former law partner, who has been accused of knowing about the Baptist powerbroker’s alleged abuse of young men and not reporting it, is running for the Texas House of Representatives and aspires to become speaker of the House, according to the Texas Tribune.
Reporting by Robert Downen, former writer for the Houston Chronicle and now a reporter for the independent online news service Texas Tribune, makes the link between Jared Woodfill, a well-known anti-LGBTQ adversary and Pressler, co-architect of the “conservative resurgence” that reshaped the Southern Baptist Convention in the late 20th century.
While at the Chronicle, Downen also authored the “Abuse of Faith” series that exposed hundreds of cases of clergy sexual abuse in SBC churches.
In his Nov. 17 post for the Tribune, he wrote: “Woodfill has for years been at the helm of conservative Christian and anti-LGBTQ movements in Houston and Texas. In 2015, he and well-known Houston GOP powerbroker and anti-gay activist Dr. Steven Hotze played key roles in the defeat of an ordinance that would have extended equal rights protections to LGBTQ Houstonians, during which they compared gay people to Nazis and helped popularize ‘groomer rhetoric.”
He also reported of Woodfill: “He has for years been at the center of an ongoing lawsuit in which a man accuses Woodfill’s former law partner and Southern Baptist leader Paul Pressler of decades of sexual abuse. In March, The Texas Tribune reported that Woodfill testified under oath that he was alerted in 2004 about child sexual abuse allegations against Pressler, who Woodfill was representing at the time in an assault lawsuit that was settled for $450,000. Despite that, Woodfill continued to work with Pressler, providing him with a string of young, male personal assistants who worked out of Pressler’s home.”
That lawsuit was slated for trial in November but has been delayed without explanation. The Harris County District Court website says the case has been referred for mediation, but Downen reported the trial is now scheduled for early next year.
Woodfill seeks to take down incumbent Republican Rep. Lacey Hull, who has been ranked as one of the most conservative members of the Texas House in his first term. Among Woodfill’s beef with Hull and current Speaker of the House Dade Phelan is their role in attempting to remove Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton from office. The Republican-dominated Texas House voted to impeach Paxton, but the Senate did not muster enough votes to remove him.
Woodfill vows he will “bring decency back to HD 138 and return our conservative grassroots values back to the Texas House of Representatives.”
Yet the aspiring representative has his own history of legal problems, beyond his affiliation with Pressler.
Downen notes Woodfill is representing Hotze “in a criminal investigation stemming from a 2020 incident in which a private investigator, allegedly acting at Hotze’s behest, held at gunpoint an air-conditioning repairman who he believed was transporting fake ballots.
And in 2018, Woodfill was investigated for money laundering by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office after being accused of misappropriating funds from two clients of his law firm, but no charges were filed.
Also in 2018, Woodfill told a Religion News Service reporter the Pressler lawsuit is “a frivolous lawsuit filed by an ex-con in an attempt to extort money from the Pressler family, Paige Patterson, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, First Baptist Church of Houston and me.”
Plaintiff Duane Rollins claims after he enrolled in Pressler’s Bible study at First Baptist Church, Pressler lured the devout and impressionable 14-year-old to Pressler’s home and a private club for fondling and anal sex. He convinced Rollins to keep “our secret,” a court brief says, by telling the boy he was “special” and “no one but God would understand” their relationship.
The pattern continued throughout his high school years, Rollins alleges, sometimes as often as two or three times a month. Rollins says he turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with the mental stress, typically triggered by contact with Pressler.
Downen previously reported there have been “repeated accusations of sexual misconduct and assault dating back to at least 1978, when (Pressler) was forced out of a Houston church for allegedly molesting a teenager in a sauna.”