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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Update: Dispute in abuse case

At presstime, April 6, John Brooks of the ELCA Department for Communication, said the ELCA and Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio, had reached a settlement in a lawsuit filed against them by 14 victims of Gerald Patrick Thomas, a former ELCA pastor.

In 2003 a Texas court sentenced Thomas to 397 years in prison on 11 counts involving child pornography and sexual abuse of minors in Marshall, Texas, where he had served Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. Thomas resigned from the congregation and the ELCA clergy roster immediately after the synod bishop learned of the charges.

Judge Bonnie Leggat had not yet ruled on the settlement. But Brooks said the church anticipated that ruling April 12 when Leggat had scheduled opening statements in the case, which also named the Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Synod as a defendant. Brooks offered no details on the settlement but said the ELCA will make a formal statement once the case is settled. The synod had not reached a settlement and remained a defendant in the case, he added.

As the jury was selected April 5, a dispute arose over whether any settlement had been reached. The Associated Press quoted lead plaintiff's attorney Edward Hohn as saying, "There have been no settlements. The case is going to trial as to all defendants."

But in the same report, Scott Shanes, attorney for Trinity, said, "There's been a settlement for all 14 plaintiffs. That's just subject to court approval now."


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