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Parishioner claims pastor sexually
abused her: Baptist leaders call lawsuit
BYLINE: By Anne Rochell and Celia Sibley STAFF
Atlanta Journal and Constitution
|A 22-year-old woman has
accused a Southern Baptist minister from Gwinnett County of sexual abuse, saying he touched her
improperly several times over a period of almost 10 years.
The woman, who was a member of the now-defunct Grace
Reformed Baptist Church in Atlanta, alleges in a civil lawsuit that
the Grace pastor, the Rev. William
Franklin, sexually abused her and threatened her so she would not
reveal his actions.
The Rev. Franklin "has engaged in a
persistent pattern of conduct wherein he offensively and without her
permission touched the plaintiff's body in a sexual manner, and
attempted to conceal his improper conduct by verbally assaulting and
degrading the plaintiff," states the suit, filed in September in
Gwinnett State Court.
The Rev. Franklin, now pastor of Northbrook Baptist
Church in Lawrenceville, could not be reached for comment, but his
attorney said Tuesday that he denies the allegations.
just did not happen," said attorney B. Thomas Cook Jr. "As far as he
knew it was just a standard relationship between a minister and a
The woman, who no longer lives in the Atlanta
area, has not filed a complaint with the Gwinnett District
Attorney's office, or made any other attempt to have the Rev.
Franklin charged with a crime.
"This was a matter that the
family wanted handled as discreetly and privately as possible," said
her attorney, Keith Richardson. "What they're after is for Mr.
Franklin to come to repentance for what he has done. Their desire is
to avoid criminal prosecution and to avoid penalties more severe
than they were actually seeking."
The suit alleges that the
woman has incurred heavy medical expenses because of her experiences
with the minister, and that she has suffered and "continues to
suffer severe emotional trauma and depression which may be
She also claims that she had not taken legal
action until this fall because she had repressed until recently the
memories of his alleged advances.
The family is seeking
general and punitive damages, to be determined by a jury, plus legal
The Rev. Sid Hopkins, executive director of the
Gwinnett Metro Baptist Association, said his association's leaders
are aware of the charges.
"They reviewed everything and feel
like the charges are frivolous, untrue and vindictive in their
nature," the Rev. Hopkins said.
Northbrook, which has about
90 members, became a mission church of Peachtree Corners Baptist
Church more than a year ago.
The Rev. Franklin, a Baptist
minister for more than two decades, was ordained into the Southern
Baptist ministry about two years ago. His background was examined
thoroughly before joining the Southern Baptists, the Rev. Hopkins
The Rev. Franklin has filed a motion to dismiss the
case, which will be heard in state court on April 19.