Protecting children on your church campus is a first priority, and failure to do so not only leaves a child emotionally scarred for life, but opens a church, leaders and employees to serious criminal and civil liability. CSA has advocated for background checks, but in this case, a background check wouldn’t have revealed the suspect, the pastor’s son, as a potential abuser.  However, the suit points out the church should have had policies and procedures for detecting and reporting child abuse.

According to USA Today,

“An Olney, TX church and its regional non-profit corporation are being sued for over $1 million by the mother of an alleged sexual abuse victim.

The civil suit seeks recovery of damages based on sexual assault and sexual exploitation allegations against the First Assembly of God Church of Olney and the North Texas District Council Assemblies of God West Region.

The allegations of the victim stem from the church’s “Royal Rangers” youth program, which was “jointly supervised, controlled and locally operated” by the church and district council, the lawsuit states.

The victim participated in the Royal Rangers program when he was about 6 to 8 years old “at the behest of First AOG of Olney and its agent/youth minister, Ryan Anthony Winner,” the suit states.

In a federal criminal case, Winner was sentenced in January 2016 to serve 60 years in federal prison for the production of child pornography.

The Olney church and district council “authorized and empowered Winner to perform all the duties of Royal Ranger leaders… (and) a youth minister,” the suit claims.

In his roles, Winner was placed in a position of power and trust over the boys by his father, who was the lead minister at the Olney church.

The suit alleges the father named his son as youth minister “even though he knew or should have known that he was unfit psychologically for such a position because of his propensity to sexually abuse minors.”

“Winner’s authorized duties and activities as Ranger leader and youth minister led to and resulted in his sexually abusing and sexually exploiting (the victim) between approximately 2014 and 2015,” the suit states.

After gaining the family’s trust, Winner reportedly invited the victim over to “hang out” with him at his residence and his father’s residence.

“During these times, Winner variously photographed and/or videotaped the naked boy” and “forced him to participate in sexual contact with an unidentified adult male,” including on church premises, the suit claims.

The suit states the sexual exploitation was discovered by Operation Predator, a Department of Homeland Securities investigation. Winner pleaded guilty to the allegations.

The civil suit seeks to hold the Olney church and district council liable for Winner’s actions due to gross negligence, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and misrepresentation.

The suit states defendants “failed to perform adequate background checks on persons hired or in position of authority over youth” and didn’t implement “reasonable” policies and procedures to detect or prevent sexual abuse of children.

The suit claims the church and council failed to investigate reports of sexual misconduct made against Winner and instead “promoted him as a qualified, trained and supervised” youth leader.”  Read full report here.

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