The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Release
Clergy sex abuse victim wins key court ruling
For more information: David Clohessy 314 566 9790
Judge OKs his civil lawsuit against Methodist church
A civil lawsuit against an accused child molesting clergyman and his church supervisors may end up in a courtroom trial, thanks to a new ruling by a St. Joseph judge.
Officials with the Methodist church asked that the case be tossed out, claiming that the court could not hold the church defendants responsible for the alleged abuse by their minister.
But Buchanan County Circuit Judge Randall Jackson disagreed. In a two page ruling issued last week, he said that a jury should hear the evidence and then decide for themselves whether the abuse happened and whether the church defendants were negligent in failing to protect the alleged victim and in failing to properly supervise the minister.
Jackson ruled that a 1997 decision of the Missouri Supreme Court, which held that abuse victims could not sue religious organizations for negligence, was outdated and should no longer be followed.
“Judge Jackson’s ruling that churches can be sued for negligence is very significant because it treats religious employers the same as other private employers, such as private schools, in holding them accountable for their own negligence when they fail to protect children from sexual abuse,” said Ken Chackes of St. Louis, the victim’s attorney.
The case involves alleged crimes by Rev. John Bourne, a former minister at Huffman Memorial United Methodist Church in St. Joseph. Bourne's current whereabouts are unknown. The victim alleges church officials knew of or suspected Bourne’ sexual propensities and covered up this information, letting him keep working as a minister around kids.
Jackson ruled against three defendants: Huffman, the United Methodist Church's Pony Express District (based in St. Joseph) and the Missouri Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (of Columbia). The accused predator is Jim Bourne, a former minister at Huffman.
A support group for clergy sex abuse victims applauded the ruling.
"This brave man deserves his day in court and Methodists deserve to learn the truth about what happened," said David Clohessy of St. Louis. He's the national director of a self help group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPnetwork.org). "Bourne may still be molesting kids today, so this courageous man is helping to protect vulnerable kids now by taking legal action against this predator."
"In child sex abuse and cover up cases, it's immoral for church officials to try and exploit legal technicalities," said Clohessy. "If a church official is convinced that a cleric is wrongly accused, then they should welcome a chance to prove this in court. Instead, they try to find and hide behind loopholes and get cases immediately dismissed, which leaves a cloud of doubt over everything."
The victims are represented by St. Louis attorney Ken Chackes (314 872 8420), who has represented dozens of sex abuse victims.
Churches Named in Sex Abuse Lawsuit
Reported by: Bob Cervera - Wednesday, Feb 11, 2009 @10:36pm CST
Two St. Joseph churches are named in a child sex abuse lawsuit.
A third church named is in Columbia, Missouri.
All three will have to answer to something that allegedly happened in the 1970's to the same person.
The alleged victim said he was first abused as a boy at Huffman United Methodist Church in St. Joseph.
The SNAP organization, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, has taken up the victim's cause.
David Clohessy is the national director.
"Because of the passage of time it's unlikely there'll be criminal charges at least relating to this victim," said Clohessy.
The lawsuit claims the boy's devout Methodist family developed great admiration, trust, reverence and respect for Huffman Church, when Reverend Jim Bourne was lay pastor.
It goes on to say Reverend Bourne used his authority and position with the church to direct the boy to engage in various sexual acts.
"Childhood sexual abuse does have, almost inevitably has serious long-term affects on its victims," said Clohessy.
A SNAP news release said in this case, the victim's coping mechanism didn't allow him to realize he'd been abused until 2007.
"Often times, the next best approach to alerting families about a dangerous man is to file a civil lawsuit, get his name out there in the public and to urge other victims to come forward and other adults to keep their children away from them," Clohessy said.
Clohessy said Reverend James Bourne can't be found.
The other church named in the lawsuit is the Pony Express District United Methodist Church.
None of the churches could be reached for comment.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests