NOTE: I made a correction in my original post. I had said that no accusation had been made against Dr. Patterson of a cover-up. I was directed to page 33 of the lawsuit where in fact such an accusation is made. The accusation is not proof of course, but my assertion that there was no accusation was not accurate.
It is a sad day for the Southern Baptist family.
We do not know the outcome of this. Perhaps in time the allegations will be disproven and dismissed, or perhaps they will not. But today, one of the luminaries of the Southern Baptist Convention has felt the sting of accusation. An online journal called the Texas Monitor has reported that Judge Paul Pressler is being sued by a man named Gareld Duane Rollins who claims that Pressler molested him from the time he was 14 years old in 1979 through 2014.
Pressler forcefully denies the allegations. His law partner, Jared Woodfill, also named in the lawsuit, claims this is an attempt to extort money and embarrass the SBC. Rollins is also suing Mrs. Pressler, First Baptist of Houston, Southwestern Seminary, and Dr. Patterson. While it may be standard to cast a wide net to get include as many deep pockets in a lawsuit as one can, Rollins argues that the Conservative Resurgence was a vast conspiracy that enabled men to abuse women and children.
I read the lawsuit and though I am not fluent in legalese, I think I understood most of it. I have talked to several lawyers about this. There was general amazement expressed about the strangeness of the suit and the poor quality of the pleading.
The fact that it is such a horribly written lawsuit does not make it either true or false. I would make some observations.
- There are two main sections to the lawsuit. The first – “Threshold Matters” – is a rambling “expose” of the Conservative Resurgence, Rick Patrick’s screed against Calvinism at Chapel at Southwestern, and some random psychological insights (pages 3-12). Then, on pages 12-40 he lays out the alleged offenses. It begins with the allegations of molestation against Judge Pressler (no graphic details) and then turns to the “joint and several” liability of the other defendants. He attempts to apply the principles of joint enterprise and conspiracy he lays out in the “Threshold” section to assign blame to Patterson, the seminary, and the church.
- He asserts that the CR is a joint (criminal?) enterprise designed to enable men like Pressler to exert control over women and children (or young men like Rollins – aged 14 when the alleged abuse began). He also accuses both Paul Pressler and Paige Patterson of being closet Calvinists (this will come as quite a surprise to many). He makes amazing claims about Calvinism (for instance, that only White people are elect). Somehow, he ties Patterson’s and Pressler’s “Calvinism” with the conspiratorial aspects of the Conservative Resurgence into a “Trojan Horse” that allowed them to control both the SBC and people like Rollins. The logic of the “Threshold Matters” section escapes me, but the result is clear. The Conservative Resurgence and Calvinism (which Patterson and Pressler both hold) were a joint exercise allowing men to control women and children and use them as they wish.
- He makes unequivocal claims that Judge Paul Pressler sexually molested him starting when he was 14 years old and continuing until 2014.
- His main claim is that the Conservative Resurgence was a conspiracy, but in his Fifth Cause, he claims that the other defendants had “actual or constructive knowledge” of the actions of Pressler and sought to conceal it. I missed that earlier. My lack of understanding of legalese bit me there. If he can prove that, it would be devastating to Dr. Patterson. Obviously, claiming he can prove it and proving it are two different things.
- The lawsuit comes across as a bit bizarre. But if the accuser is angry and bizarre it neither proves nor disproves the allegations. He could be an unstable and bitter man making a false accusation. Or he could be bitter and unstable because of terrible things that have been done to him. That is for the legal system, not for us, to decide.
- The plaintiff’s lawyer, Daniel Shea, is known for lawsuits against the Catholic church (he once sued the Pope) based on the molestation scandal. This seems to be his specialty.
I love the SBC and publishing this is grievous. Those who disdain our convention will rejoice at hearing an icon of our CR accused. But the day of sweeping these things under the rug has passed. The allegation has been made and Judge Pressler is now obligated to publicly answer it. It is news. It is public. We make no judgment as to the Judge’s guilt or innocence. in fact, we strongly encourage the reader not to do that.
Many will approach this with the presumption of Pressler’s guilt and will be nearly impossible to convince otherwise. This has already proven true on social media. This story has been out there for about a week, but we waited until Baptist Press (or someone else) went public. Some in social media have been circulating the story, often with false facts. Others, who are more supportive of the CR, may defend the Judge and disbelieve the accusations. This may become a bit of a Conservative Resurgence Rorschach Test. But this is very different than many of the situations that have played out in the news recently. There is, at this time, a lone accuser. That accuser is clearly angry and has an agenda. Is he angry because of the abuse or is he accusing the Judge because he is angry? That is beyond my knowledge at this point – or yours. We must withhold judgment. I would say two things.
- People we would NEVER believe could be guilty have been proven guilty of vile sins.
- People who have been accused of heinous crimes, and been tried and convicted in the court of public opinion, have later been shown to be innocent; falsely accused.
Either a rush to judgment or a rush to acquittal or absolution is premature. Withhold judgment and let the court system do its job. Pray for justice. Either he did it or he didn’t. Let truth prevail.
I am no historian, but I cannot remember an accusation like this ever being made against such a prominent leader in the Southern Baptist Convention. This will be devastating – whether it is true or false. We pray that the light of God’s truth will shine and that justice will prevail.
A PDF of the lawsuit is available here. If you read it and see something different than I did, please let me know by email. I would encourage you to READ the LAWSUIT. It is genuinely weird.
Nothing is to be gained by exchanging comments here, and much could be lost. Comments are closed.
Here is a link to the Baptist Press article on the lawsuit.
And yes, if you are wondering, you read that right. The basis of this lawsuit is that Dr. Paige Patterson (and Judge Pressler) is a Calvinist who promoted the Calvinist doctrine of inerrancy as a part of a conspiracy to create an environment of authority and control in which men could control and abuse women and children.