Former Linden Presbyterian Church minister William Weaver has been accused of using oral sex during exorcism rituals for men who sought counseling. Three men have come forward with similar allegations, saying that Weaver took advantage of their trust and mental states to force sexual contact upon them.
The 69-year-old minister was scheduled for an internal church trial in January of this year. But just one day before the scheduled start date, Weaver renounced the jurisdiction of the Elizabeth Presbytery. By doing so, Weaver gave up his ordination and membership in the Presbyterian Church and avoided an internal trial. The church had accused him of “multiple acts of idolatry and sexual misconduct.”
The Presbytery defines sexual abuse as “whenever a person in a position of trust engages, with or without consent, in a sexual act or sexual contact with another person to whom s/he owes a professional and pastoral responsibility.”
This trial was scheduled after the three men notified the Elizabeth Presbytery of the alleged abuse. This group oversees 41 Presbyterian churches in Somerset, Middlesex, Union, and Hunterdon counties.
The men claim that some of the incidents occurred on church property, including in Weaver’s office and the manse – a house owned by the church for its ministers.
No criminal charges have been filed against Weaver as of June 10, 2019. According to an article by My Central Jersey, the three men did report the alleged sexual encounters to the authorities, including the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, New Jersey State Police, and the New Jersey Attorney General’s clergy abuse hotline.
Attorney contributor Brian Kent represents survivors of sexual abuse in civil lawsuits against their abusers and negligent third parties. Here is Brian with some general thoughts on the legal options available to clergy sex abuse victims in New Jersey:
Sexual abuse by religious leaders has been a widespread problem for decades. In recent years, there has been an increase in victims coming forward to report sexual abuse by pastors, priests, ministers, and other religious leaders. Previously, many survivors of clergy sex abuse may have hesitated to come forward for a number of reasons. But with an increase in media coverage and the extensions of statutes of limitations for sexual abuse in New Jersey and several other states, many survivors now feel empowered to come forward.
In May of 2019, New Jersey extended the statute of limitations for filing a civil sexual abuse lawsuit. This extension allows victims of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits up until their 55th birthday or within seven years of realizing that the abuse has caused harm.
If you or a loved one is a survivor of clergy sex abuse in New Jersey, you have options for justice. Filing a lawsuit can help demand accountability from your abuser and the church (if the church was negligent in a way that enabled the abuse) and provide financial support for therapy and other damages you’ve suffered. Additionally, lawsuits can sometimes be an alternative path to justice if the criminal justice system fails to prosecute or convict the perpetrator.
You can learn more about your legal options as a survivor of clergy sex abuse by contacting one of our experienced sex abuse victims lawyers for a free consultation.