Monday, March 9, 2015

Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Filed Against Santa Barbara Presbyterian Church

The Santa Barbara Independent reports that a has been filed against the Carpinteria Community Church and Presbyterian Church USA (the national organization for which the church is a member) related to allegations of sexual abuse by a former youth minister. (See story here)  The lawsuit alleges that Louis Bristol (the former youth pastor), committed sexual acts with minors.  Mr. Bristol pled guilty to criminal charges related to two other victims.

The lawsuit alleges that Bristol was brazen about abusing youth that he was charged with counseling and that there was a cover up by the church of his activities, which allegedly date back to 2000.  The lawsuit further alleges that there were other ministers within the church that were involved in similar acts and that they were not removed and the church members were not warned.  In similar allegations to the recent spate of Catholic Church cases, the allegations are that the church knew of these illicit activities and chose to move ministers to various other churches within Ventura and Santa Barbara counties rather than terminate them.

Under California law, if it can be proven that church officials knew of the abuse and failed to report it to law enforcement or take other appropriate actions, the church may be held civilly liable for money damages.  This may include "punitive" damages to punish the wrongdoing in addition to "compensatory" damages to compensate the victims for the emotional distress caused.