An international church group now based in Louisville allegedly fostered a climate of fear and unquestioning obedience that allowed sexual abuse to persist among members, according to a new lawsuit.
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Three plaintiffs filed suit Wednesday in Montgomery County Circuit Court in Maryland alleging that Sovereign Grace Ministries "created a culture in which sexual predators were protected from accountability and victims were silenced."
The denomination moved its headquarters to Louisville from Montgomery County earlier this year. Less than a month ago, it launched Sunday services at its new congregation, Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, led by longtime President C.J. Mahaney.
The plaintiffs, using pseudonyms, allege that church elders mishandled the sexual abuse of children at congregations in Maryland and Virginia between the late 1980s and 1990s.
The suit describes the plaintiffs as a Virginia teenager and a Maryland college student, both sexually assaulted by church members as young girls, and a young Maryland woman whose family was allegedly shunned by her church for refusing to seek leniency for her sister's assailant.
The lawsuit seeks class-action status for what it claims is a wider pool of victims and a continued culture of cover-up.
"Over time, the families realized that they weren't the only ones," said Washington attorney Susan Burke, who is representing the plaintiffs.
"There's a real concern about reaching existing members so that the children do not remain vulnerable," Burke said.
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SOURCE: The Courier-Journal