Presbyterian Church named in abuse lawsuit

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Associated Press

Posted on July 29, 2014 at 8:01 AM

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A minister is taking his own denomination to task, claiming in a lawsuit that the Presbyterian Church was partly responsible for sexual abuse he suffered as a teenager.

The Rev. Kris Schondelmeyer, a youth minister in Toledo, Ohio, is seeking unspecified damages in a lawsuit he filed against Louisville, Kentucky-based Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); the First Presbyterian Church of Fulton, Missouri; the Missouri Union Presbytery in Jefferson City; and his alleged abuser, Jack Wayne Rogers.

Schondelmeyer, 31, a native of Sedalia, Missouri, said he was sexually abused at a youth conference in Maryland in 2000. At the time, Rogers was a lay pastor in Montgomery County, Missouri. The suit alleges Presbyterian officials allowed Rogers to work as a chaperone despite Rogers' 1992 conviction for child pornography.

An attorney for the denomination declined comment, citing the pending litigation. A hearing on the case is scheduled for Aug. 18 in Fulton. Rogers, 69, does not have a lawyer in Schondelmeyer's lawsuit.

Rogers has a long criminal history. In 2004, he pleaded guilty in Missouri for practicing medicine without a license and assault for cutting off a man's penis as part of a makeshift gender reassignment surgery at a hotel in Columbia, Missouri. That same year, he was convicted of federal child pornography and obscenity charges.

He is serving a 30-year sentence at a federal prison in Miami.

Authorities have also cited him as a potential suspect in an unsolved missing person case in northwest Missouri. Branson Perry was 20 when he went missing after leaving his parents' home in Skidmore in 2001. Rogers has denied involvement and has never been charged.

Schondelmeyer said he fears there may be other victims of Rogers. In a statement issued through the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, he said he still believes in the Presbyterian Church.

"There is much compassion and mercy in my heart, and I would rather stand with church leaders than against them to work together to create safe and sacred space for children and youth," Schondelmeyer said.

SNAP said Schondelmeyer sought to file a criminal complaint in Maryland last year, but was told the statute of limitations had expired.

The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, along with legal fees.

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