ABSC responds to charges in sexual abuse lawsuit

LITTLE ROCK – A lawsuit filed Dec. 16, 2019 alleges former Millcreek Baptist Church pastor Teddy Leon Hill engaged in sexual assault, battery, felonious conduct and the tort of outrage/intentional infliction emotional distress of a minor – referred to as John Doe in the suit. Hill retired in 2018.

The lawsuit also alleges Arkansas Baptist State Convention executive director James “Sonny” Tucker failed to report the suspected sexual abuse in the manner required by Arkansas law following a February 2018 meeting with Hill’s ex-wife, Carolyn Latham. The suit claims Latham personally contacted Tucker on multiple occasions to report her suspicions regarding Hill and specifically the sexual abuse of Doe. The lawsuit says that Latham had reason to believe Hill was abusing other minors in addition to Doe, but that after her alleged reporting of the conduct to Tucker, the abuse of Doe “was allowed to continue on multiple occasions and for months after.”

Regarding the allegations related to Tucker, the ABSC said in a statement released December 28, “These are serious allegations which the Arkansas Baptist State Convention is taking very seriously. The Arkansas Baptist State Convention and Dr. Tucker are being represented by the law firm of Friday, Eldredge & Clark, which is thoroughly investigating this matter. So far, our lawyers have seen no indication of impropriety on the part of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention or Dr. Tucker.”

“The Arkansas Baptist State Convention has long placed a high priority on ministry and safety for children and students. For several years, the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, under Dr. Tucker’s leadership, has been involved in an intentional, statewide safety and training emphasis to equip churches to better prevent and respond to sexual abuse,” the ABSC statement reads (see full statement below).

In addition to the allegations regarding Hill and Tucker, the lawsuit seeks to hold Millcreek Baptist Church, Tucker, Diamond Lakes Baptist Association and the ABSC accountable for the actions of Hill. Millcreek Baptist Church is a cooperating church of the ABSC and the Diamond Lakes Baptist Association.

The lawsuit claims the “defendants are part of a hierarchical institution in which there exists a system of oversight and control by ABSC over Diamond Lakes and Millcreek and Hill and by Diamond Lakes over Millcreek and Hill.” The suit claims that all parties were responsible for the care of Doe because of each defendant’s connection to one another.

The ABSC stated “it appears the plaintiff does not understand the relationship between the Arkansas Baptist State Convention and the local church and pastor. Apparently, the plaintiff mistakenly believes that the Arkansas Baptist State Convention somehow controls the local church and should have been monitoring this local church pastor’s actions. In any event, the Convention has no responsibility in this case for his and/or the local church’s actions.”

A Statement from the ABSC – December 28, 2019

As some of you may already be aware, a lawsuit has recently been filed by the attorneys of a young man who alleges a Baptist pastor in Arkansas had an improper relationship with him. The suit has been filed against the pastor, the church, and the local association. This suit also includes the Arkansas Baptist State Convention and Dr. Sonny Tucker, as the Executive Director of the Convention, alleging that the Convention received information about the relationship and failed to report it to the authorities. To date, no charges have been filed against the pastor or anyone else as a result of the claims in the suit, nor have there been any criminal convictions.

These are serious allegations which the Arkansas Baptist State Convention is taking very seriously. The Arkansas Baptist State Convention and Dr. Tucker are being represented by the law firm of Friday, Eldredge & Clark, which is thoroughly investigating this matter. So far, our lawyers have seen no indication of impropriety on the part of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention or Dr. Tucker. Rather, it appears the plaintiff does not understand the relationship between the Arkansas Baptist State Convention and the local church and pastor. Apparently, the plaintiff mistakenly believes that the Arkansas Baptist State Convention somehow controls the local church and should have been monitoring this local church pastor’s actions. In any event, the Convention has no responsibility in this case for his and/or the local church’s actions.

The Arkansas Baptist State Convention has long placed a high priority on ministry and safety for children and students. For several years, the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, under Dr. Tucker’s leadership, has been involved in an intentional, statewide safety and training emphasis to equip churches to better prevent and respond to sexual abuse. We grieve with every victim of abuse and pray for them and their families. It is our sincere desire to see every church minister to victims and their families with love and support.

We will continue to cooperate with our attorneys and defend what appears to be false accusations against the Convention and its Executive Director. We ask that you refer questions concerning this suit to Greg Addison, who may be reached at gaddison@absc.org.

Written by Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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