Religious Controversy

Texas megachurch slapped with sexual abuse lawsuit over youth pastor's behavior

Texas megachurch slapped with sexual abuse lawsuit over youth pastor

Second Baptist Church in Houston
Second Baptist Church in Houston has a robust youth ministry. Photo via Facebook

A Texas family is suing Second Baptist Church in Houston for its alleged role in the sexual assault of a then 12-year-old girl. The lawsuit, filed last week in Harris County, claims that Second Baptist youth pastor Chad Foster targeted victims under the guise of spiritual leadership.

In 2013, Foster pleaded guilty to sexual assault charges and received a five-year prison term. Using the pseudonym Jane Doe, the family's civil lawsuit seeks unspecified financial damages from the megachurch for negligence, breach of fiduciary duty and sexual exploitation of a minor.

Community of Faith Church, where Foster worked after Second Baptist, is also named in the suit.

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

Led by senior pastor Ed Young, Second Baptist Church has about 65,000 members across five campuses. It has an annual budget of $53 million.

According to the suit, Second Baptist "encouraged Foster to develop close emotional bonds with unsuspecting youth he met at public schools," yet the church did not provide any training about appropriate behavior with minors.

Instead, the suit alleges, 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.

Once Foster won Jane's trust, he began to chat with her on Facebook and Skype. "Using Jane as his muse, Foster would expose himself and engage in acts of self-gratification while he was in his bedroom," the suit reads. "He would ask Jane to take off her clothes, talk dirty to him and help him."

Sometime after January 2011, the suit says Second Baptist "quietly passed Foster off" to another church, Community of Faith. He continued his sexual abuse of Jane, and Community of Faith "simply picked up where Second Baptist left off."

"Once again, Foster was allowed to use his guise as a youth minister as a vehicle for his own sexual interests with a minor," the suit continues. "If not for his position with Second Baptist and then Community of Faith, Foster would have been unable to victimize Jane."

Because the churches "promoted Foster as a qualified, trained and supervised youth pastor," they are liable for his misconduct, the suit alleges.

In a statement to CultureMap, Second Baptist denied any knowledge of Foster's sexual proclivities and expressed sympathy for the girl he allegedly abused.

Our hearts ache for the young lady and her family if she was subjected to the things described in the lawsuit. HOWEVER, Second Baptist Church did not know of any of those allegations. 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.