As Southern Baptists review and unpack the report released today (May 22) by the Sexual Abuse Task Force, at least two lawsuits involving individuals featured prominently in the report remain active.
One is by survivor Hannah Kate Williams, who filed a lawsuit Aug. 16, 2021, in Kentucky’s Franklin Circuit Court in which she alleges years of abuse by her Baptist pastor father, James Ray Williams.
Williams names 12 defendants and alleges that “since her advocacy began” the powers in the Southern Baptist Convention have intentionally and concertedly acted to silence her, lie about her, and deny her truth.”
In the suit, Williams names 12 defendants, including the SBC Executive Committee, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Lifeway Christian Resources, Williams’ father and eight other SBC figures, including Hershael York, dean of of the school of theology at Southern Seminary, and Pastor Mike Stone, former EC chair and candidate for SBC president in 2021.
She alleges the defendants were part of a “conspiracy to silence her or frame her as a liar, charlatan or crazy person” and deny her story as she advocated for herself and other survivors.
Williams’ story alleges physical and sexual abuse by her father beginning when she was 4 or 5 years old and continuing until she first left home at 16.
During the early years, her father was both a student and an employee of Southern Seminary, where he was jointly employed by Lifeway to run the campus bookstore. He went on to serve as pastor of several SBC churches.
In an ongoing legal battle in Texas, the Texas Supreme Court ruled in April that a lawsuit filed by Duane Rollins against Paul Pressler, a prominent Southern Baptist often referred to as “co-architect of the conservative resurgence,” could proceed.
Pressler fought the suit, claiming the statute of limitations had expired.
Rollins, a former assistant to Pressler, claims Pressler sexually abused him beginning when Rollins was 14 and a member of Pressler’s Bible study. The abuse continued into Rollins’ adult years.
According to court documents, Rollins and Pressler had “an altercation in a Dallas hotel room” in 2003 that led to an assault lawsuit, which was settled. As part of that $450,000 settlement, Pressler agreed to pay Rollins $1,500 per month for 25 years as “long as the confidentiality of this agreement is maintained.”
Rollins testified that it took years for him to realize what had happened to him was abuse.