Family sues US megachurch over youth pastor's sexual misconduct

(Photo: REUTERS / Jonathan Alcorn)Inside a megachurch. Worshipers depart a church service at the Crystal Cathedral megachurch in Garden Grove, California, March 18, 2012. The mega-church had been undergoing a crisis of leadership succession and financial problems.

A Houston family has filed a lawsuit the Second Baptist Church for its role in the sexual assault of a 12-year-old girl.

The lawsuit claims that the megachurch's youth pastor Chad Foster used his position to abuse teenagers, CultureMap Houston reported.

Second Baptist Church is led by senior pastor Ed Young and has some 65,000 members across five campuses with an annual budget of $53 million.

The church is accused of giving Foster the opportunity to interact with public school students without giving him proper training when dealing with minors.

The suit alleges that the church focused on "enticing pre-teens" with free lunches from McDonald's and Pizza Hut.

"By engaging youth met in public schools in church activities, the parents eventually become involved as they shuttle their children to various church activities.

"These same parents proceed to join Second Baptist, and subsequently help grow the flock financially," the suit reads.

As a youth pastor, Foster got to interact with public school students. He was able to gain their trust and eventually develop good relationships with them.

But what happened with the 12-year-old "Jane" went beyond the discipler-disciple relationship.

When Foster won Jane's trust, he began to chat with her on Facebook and have Skype chats.

Foster "would expose himself and engage in acts of self-gratification while he was in his bedroom," the suit reads. "He would then ask Jane to take off her clothes, talk dirty to him, and help him."

The church's response was to transfer Foster to another church, Community of Faith as he continued with his sexual abuse with Jane.

The suit stressed that the position given to Foster enabled him to perform sexual advances to a minor like Jane.

The church is liable for his misconduct because he was promoted as qualified, even though he is not trained and supervised.

The civil lawsuit seeks financial damages from the megachurch for negligence, breach of fiduciary duty and sexual exploitation of a minor.

Second Baptist told CultureMap it had no knowledge of Foster's sexual activities while he worked there.

"If these happened and if Second had been made aware of them, we would have immediately terminated anyone involved and ensured that such conduct did not continue for one minute.

"Mr. Foster's departure from Second was not due to any sexual conduct or due to any inappropriate interactions with young people. At this point, we are praying for healing for those involved."

In 2013, Foster pleaded guilty to sexual assault charges and received a five-year prison term.

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