AR--Arkansas clergy sexual exploitation suit filed; SNAP responds
For immediate release: Wednesday, April 29
A civil lawsuit has been filed against a Little Rock minister accusing him of sexually exploiting an adult congregant. We applaud this brave woman and are confident that her speaking out will prod others who were hurt by this minister to step forward and get help.
Apostle Lawrence E. Braggs, pastor of the Awareness Center International Ministries, allegedly manipulated, abused and exploited a church member, Jennifer Richardson, from roughly 2007 until 2012.
This was NOT an “affair” or a “relationship.” This is exploitation.”
It’s not “consent.” It’s manipulation under the guise of spiritual help. It’s awful.
It is inherently problematic and unhealthy when clergy have any sexual contact with congregants. There can be no true "consent" given the power difference between the individuals.
Our society has long understood that it's virtually always hurtful when a doctor has any sex with a patient or a psychologist has any sex with a client. Gradually, more people are finally understanding this.
An allegedly holy religious authority figure who holds the exalted title of “reverend” cannot ever have truly consensual or healthy sexual contact with a congregant. It is always morally wrong and emotionally harmful. Often, it’s also illegal.
That harm is compounded when the minister or his backers mischaracterizes the exploitation.
Clergy always hold an exalted position, and when they have any sexual involvement with church-goers, it is always hurtful.
It's always the duty of powerful official – doctor, therapist or priest - to maintain boundaries and refrain from any sexual contact with the radically less powerful person – patient, client or parishioner.
It's the duty of church officials to help congregants understand this. And it’s the duty of church officials and members to reach out to and help those hurt by this kind of egregious and hurtful misconduct and to help expose those predators who engage in it. We call on former members of Braggs’ church and former colleagues of Braggs’ to aggressively seek out and offer comfort to anyone who may have seen, suspected or suffered his hurtful misconduct.
The case, Richardson v. Awareness Center International Ministry, Inc., et al. is now pending in Pulaski County Court. Richardson is represented by Chicago attorney Jessica Arbour (312) 854-8091; firstname.lastname@example.org
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 22,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
50 State AG Call for Grand Jury
Any investigation must be:
- independent of and separate from the church
- must have subpoena powers and ability to compel testimony under oath
Anything short of these criteria is a sham and whitewash.
In addition, write letters to the editor, make phone calls to politicians as they can apply pressure to keep them responsive to our demand. We need to make efforts to ensure that they follow up on what the state is doing to investigate these crimes.
Note to Letter Writers
Use your own words and style of writing. Cut and paste from the templates as you wish. Include your experiences, whether as a survivor or as a member of the community. And relate your letter to the state you were abused in or state now living in.