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Church Culture Investigations

Alabama Baptist Church Accused of Abandoning Two Teens in Florida Jail

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Two mothers have filed a lawsuit against a Tuscaloosa, Alabama, church and an off-duty Sheriff’s deputy who was acting as a chaperone after their teenage sons were falsely accused of sexual battery and left in a Florida jail while on a church trip.

According to the suit, the boys were traveling with a Taylorsville Baptist Church group when they were arrested by Bay County, Florida, officials after Keith Fair, the off-duty deputy, determined during a “private investigation” they had inappropriately touched other minor children while playing in the water. 

Paul Peterson, a lawyer for Taylorsville Baptist, told WVUA 23 TV news in Tuscaloosa that church representatives who were made aware of the behavior immediately concluded it did not warrant law enforcement investigation, but Fair still alerted the Bay County Sheriff’s Office.

Sexual battery charges were filed against the teens and later dismissed.

The lawsuit, which accuses the church and Fair of malicious prosecution, slander, negligence, and assault and battery, claims the teens were left in police custody in Florida while the rest of the group returned to Tuscaloosa, and that their parents were not contacted. 

Peterson said church officials had contacted the parents as soon as the teens were taken into custody requesting they come to Florida immediately. 

“These children were not abandoned by church officials at any time,” he said in a statement to WVUA.

No trial date has been set.

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Anne Stych

Anne Stych is a writer in Charlotte, North Carolina.