Woman sues church over employee's lewd texts
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (WSVN) -- A South Florida woman has filed a lawsuit against a local church alleging an employee sent her inappropriate text messages, including a picture of his genitals.
The woman, who declined to disclose her identity, said she used to love attending services at the Fountain of New Life Church at 4601 NW 167th St. in Miami Gardens. Her longtime worship, she contends, was ruined by a series of texts a church employee sent her in March. "He sent me a picture of his anatomy," the claimant said. The employee, who works as a custodian in the church, sent her a close-up shot of his penis March 8 at 12:54 a.m.
"It's unheard of," said Chelsie Lofton, one of several attorneys the claimant hired to file the lawsuit. "No woman should have to ... receive a picture of a man's exposed genitalia completely unasked for, and then, when she politely request that he stop, [texting him], 'Maybe you sent this to the wrong person,' to have it escalate to [him responding], 'Send me a picture, so I can play with myself.'"
The claimant said that when she received the employee's photo, she replied, "That pic out of the blue. I assume at that hour you might have meant to send it to someone else."
The employee allegedly texted back, "Send me a pic so I can play with my [expletive]."
The claimant said the situation escalated several weeks later, when he grabbed her breast at church. "He was standing there talking to me, saying, 'Don't I get a hug anymore?' [I said], 'No,' and he reached out with his hand and fully cupped my left breast."
After that incident, the woman felt she had to go after the church because she thought officials must know the type of person the custodian was. In the lawsuit, she stated, "The church was aware of his being overly friendly with the ladies in the past."
"It happened in a place of worship, one place where you would think you would have safety, and a place that you would think would be free of this type of abuse," said attorney Menachem Mayberg.
Wendell Locke, an attorney for the Fountain of New Life disputes the woman's claim that the employee fondled her breast. As for his alleged texts, the attorney stated, "The lawsuit is an attempt to extort money from the church for behavior unrelated to the church. These texts were sent outside of work hours. There are allegations made. The allegations involve behavior unrelated to church business. We think the claims are frivolous. The Church continues to investigate these claims."
The alleged victim admitted she never reported a complaint about the employee's behavior to police. "I wanted to deal with it internally, and so I went to the church later and brought them all the text messages, all the exchange, and thought that we could address it there," she said. "The response was, 'Go home, and we'll get back to you.'"
The employee continues working at the church. The claimant said she no longer attends church.
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