Lawsuit Charges Sexual Abuse of Teen by Florida Baptist Minister
by Mark I. Pinsky, Sentinel Staff Writer
October 22, 2005
A Southern Baptist minister who has worked at two Central Florida
churches is accused in a lawsuit of sexually abusing a teenage church
pianist in Texas nearly four decades ago.
The Rev. Thomas Gilmore, who worked as children's minister at First
Baptist Church of Oviedo and had been consulting at Cornerstone
Community Church in Seminole County, is accused of coercing the
girl, who was 16 at the time, into sex during six months in 1968
and 1969. According to the suit, Gilmore told her the sexual acts
were God's will. At that time, the age of consent in Texas was 18.
In a court filing, Gilmore, 64, denied all the charges. He did not
respond to telephone messages left at his home.
In a letter to the Sentinel, Gilmore's attorney, Randall Walters
of Dallas, wrote, "We sympathize with anyone who has suffered
from sexual abuse." In this instance, however, "the events
recounted by one person often materially differ from those recounted
by another person."
According to the suit, which seeks unspecified monetary damages
and was filed in June in Texas, C.L. Brown was "a deeply religious
young girl who was very active" at First Baptist Church of
Farmers Branch, Texas, when the abuse began. Gilmore was in his
late 20s, married with a child and serving as the congregation's
youth and education minister.
Brown said in the suit that Gilmore had started counseling sessions
with her after another minister mentioned that the teen was having
After several months, Brown told the church's music minister, the
Rev. James Moore, what had happened, according to court documents.
In an affidavit filed last month, Moore wrote: "I approached
Tommy Gilmore and told him that if he did not leave, I would take
the matter to the church." Gilmore left the church within a
few weeks, the affidavit said.
After the affidavit was filed, Moore was dropped from a separate
suit filed by Brown against him and the church over the alleged
Brown, who is now an attorney, said she was prompted to sue when
her own daughter turned 16, more than a year ago.
"It was a gradual process," she said in an interview.
Imagining her daughter being in a vulnerable situation caused her
to recall the experience she described in her court filing, she
Ministers at the two Central Florida churches where Gilmore has
been employed said there were no complaints about him.
"I'm quite surprised by the whole situation," said Dwayne
Mercer, pastor of First Baptist Church of Oviedo. He said Gilmore
left the congregation more than two years ago by mutual agreement
and was not dismissed, after serving about two years.
At Cornerstone Community Church of Central Florida, a Baptist congregation
where Gilmore has been working as a consultant with adult members,
the Rev. Paul Cornwell had the same experience.
"He was always the highest of moral character," Cornwell
said. Cornwell said that when he asked Gilmore about the suit last
month, Gilmore said he could not discuss it based on advice from
his attorney and offered to resign. Cornwell accepted the resignation.
Mark I. Pinsky can be reached at [email protected]
Brown ended her lawsuit in February 2006. The First Baptist Church
of Farmers Branch issued a formal apology to Brown for the "very
serious sexual abuse" that was inflicted on her by its prior
minister Tommy Gilmore when she was a girl in the church youth group.
The church expressly confirmed that its music minister had knowledge
of the fact that Gilmore had sexual contact with Brown as a minor.
Despite that long-standing knowledge, the church's response to Brown's
report of abuse was "inadequate and less than compassionate,"
according to its own admission, and Gilmore remained in ministry
in Florida until Brown finally resorted to filing a lawsuit.