The pastor at the Church of the Nazarene in Lake Wales has
been charged with sexually assaulting a 17-year-old youth leader three
times in 2001.The Rev. Gene Francis, 52, of Lake Wales, was
arrested Tuesday and charged with unlawful sexual activity with a minor.
He was released Tuesday night from the Polk County Jail on $5,000
bail.Francis denied the allegations when he was confronted by a
Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent on Sunday, a police report
said.Francis did not return a telephone call for comment
Wednesday.A Lake Wales police report said detectives began
investigating Francis after the teenager reported telling Nazarene church
officials about the abuse but could not persuade them to discipline the
pastor.Wednesday, the church issued a statement denying it took no
action.Church officials said they called a meeting with the youth
leader after he complained of inappropriate comments being made to him.
The pastor was confronted with the allegations and denied them, said the
statement from the Central Florida District, which is made up of 90
churches and located in Lakeland."The complainant was told more
than once that his allegations were being taken seriously by the church
and he was free to report these events to anyone he chose, including the
police," the statement said.Francis has been suspended until the
matter is resolved, church officials said.
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