A Southern Baptist megachurch in Kansas is seeking to out two underage victims of sexual abuse, whose accuser has been convicted and sentenced.
According to Baptist News Global, the Westside Family Church in Lenexa, Kansas, filed a petition to request that a pair of teenage sisters and their parents not be allowed to go forward with a lawsuit with their identities protected.
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The lawsuit against the church stems from a Bible school volunteer, Kessler P. Lichtnegger, who was convicted of sexually abusing the two girls last year and has been sentenced to 17 years in prison. Before this conviction, he was convicted of sexual assault against a 15-year-old girl with developmental disabilities in 2011.
The lawsuit claims that Westside Family Church leaders knew or should have known that Lichtnegger posed a threat. It accuses the church of negligence for allowing him access to children.
Lichtnegger was 18 at the time of the assaults. According to Kansas City news station KSHB, his victims were 13 and 11.
The church has fired back at the family, accusing them of "a Pearl Harbor-styled barrage of negative publicity" against the congregation, Baptist News Global reports.
"We believe that it is always wrong, in fact immoral, for any defendant in any case of sexual violence to try to out the accuser, but it is especially wrong in a case involving children, and when the predator's guilt is so clear," said David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). SNAP has been involved in bringing publicity to the case. Clohessy says that the Westside Family Church's behavior is some of the worst SNAP has seen in nearly 30 years.
"That is about as awful as it gets: punishing one party for what another party did, especially if [the lawsuit was filed anonymously] out of compassion and concern for the safety of kids," Clohessy said.
Westside Family Church did not return calls in time for publication.