According to the PA homepage, a volunteer at the Roaring Brook Baptist Church has been charged for sexually abusing a minor. Richard Garnett volunteered at the church and assisted with activities related to the AWANA club. During his time at Roaring Brook Baptist Church, Garnett allegedly sexually assaulted an underaged child from 2004 to 2006.
The victim was in the first or second grade when the assaults occurred, reported the police. The affidavit shows the victim was assaulted while at Roaring Brook Baptist Church on at least three different occasions. The victim reported he believed the man was the church's pastor. According to the affidavit, Garnett would take the boy to the basement of the church. Garnett allegedly told the victim that "God would want him to do this" and not to tell anyone, reported the PA homepage.
Another man claims, 12 at the time of the assault, being sexually assaulted by Garnett but did not file charges. This man reported to the police that Garnett would ask him to remove his clothes and tell the other victim to touch him when he was 12.
Previously, Garnett was charged in August 2020 for assaulting two children under age ten between 1980 and 1984. After the new charges, Garnett's bail has been set to $250,000, and his preliminary hearing has been set for April 13, reported the PA homepage.
Attorney contributor Brian Kent, an experienced sexual abuse lawyer licensed in Pennsylvania, represents victims of sexual assault and their families in civil lawsuits. In an interview, we asked Brian to share his insights about the rights of victims sexually abused by a clergy member.
"Churches have a legal obligation to uphold the safety of their congregation and ensure clergy members are credible. Unfortunately, we have seen sexual predators place themselves in positions of trust and power to abuse minors in churches. These predators have been reported across the country for exploiting their victims. This exploitation has been seen across an array of religious organizations. Numerous religious leaders have faced charges for sexually abusing congregation members, specifically children."
"In cases where a church does not uphold the safety of its members, it may be considered liable. In some sexual abuse cases, abuse only occurs due to negligence on behalf of a third party, such as a religious organization. One example of negligence is if previous misconduct complaints were filed against a clergy member and the member was still permitted to work in a church with youth groups. In cases of negligence, the religious organization might be considered negligent. Victims and their families should secure an experienced sexual assault lawyer's services to explore all their options. Victims should know in negligence cases they may have grounds for a civil lawsuit."