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Southern Baptist Convention Settles Case Over Alleged Abuse by Paul Pressler

The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

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The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has reached a confidential settlement with Gerald Duane Rollins Jr. in a lawsuit he filed against the denomination in 2017, according to reporting by the Texas Tribune.

In the $1 million lawsuit filed in Harris County, Texas, Rollins claimed he was sexually abused by Paul Pressler for decades starting at age 14. The denomination was sued for its part in concealing or enabling the alleged abuse.

While Pressler, age 93, is a layman in the denomination, he was influential in the 1970s and ’80s conservative takeover of the SBC. He also served on the SBC’s executive committee.

Pressler, a former appellate judge in Texas, has denied the allegations.

Rollins previously sued Pressler for assault based on a 2003 altercation in a Dallas hotel room. That case was settled with Pressler agreeing to pay $1,500 per month to Rollins for 25 years.

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An attorney for Pressler did not respond to the Tribune’s requests for comment about the recent settlement, which is not public.

The Southern Baptist Convention and its executive committee confirmed in a statement to the Texas Tribune that it had “entered into a confidential settlement agreement” despite being “fully prepared” to proceed to trial. The trial has been postponed twice already this year, but was most recently scheduled to begin in February.

“However, several factors ultimately made settlement the more prudent choice,” the SBC wrote. “Chief among those factors was the horrendous nature of the abuse allegations, the likelihood that counsel for the SBC and Executive Committee would have to confront and cross-examine abuse survivors, the Executive Committee’s current financial condition, and the willingness of multiple insurance carriers to contribute to the terms of the settlement.”

The lawsuit also settled claims brought against Jared Woodfill, the former chair of the Harris County GOP and Pressler’s longtime law partner, who is currently running for the Texas House of Representatives.

Earlier this year Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth and its former president Paige Patterson agreed to a settlement in the case.

The suit claimed that Southwestern Seminary and Patterson were liable due to their professional, personal or denominational connections with Pressler and their part in concealing the abuse.

“Dr. Patterson is grateful that he has been removed from a suit that he should never have been included,” Patterson’s attorney Shelby Sharpe said in a statement. “No money was paid on Dr. Patterson’s behalf or by him to have him non-suited.”

The SBC has been dealing with the repercussions of a report issued in May 2022 that found it had disregarded abuse victim reports and had worked to protect the denomination from liability.

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Kim Roberts

Kim Roberts is a freelance writer who holds a Juris Doctorate from Baylor University. She has home schooled her three children and is happily married to her husband of 25 years.