|Two United Methodist bishops must testify in a lawsuit filed by a one-time church member who claimed he was sexually abused, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled Friday, turning away the church leaders’ efforts to stay out of the case.
The all-Republican court, in a 7-2 decision, rejected attempts by the current bishop for north Alabama, Debra Wallace-Padgett, and her predecessor, Will Willimon, to avoid sworn testimony.
Both Wallace-Padgett and Willimon, who now teaches at Duke University, claimed they didn’t know anything personally about the complaints of a male who claimed he was sexually abused as a minor by a United Methodist youth pastor. Wallace-Padgett also argued it would be “unduly burdensome” for her to provide documents.
The justices rejected their arguments, saying neither was protected by a rule that shields high-ranking corporate or government officials from testifying about cases in which they have no direct knowledge.
The decision came as courts nationwide grapple with lawsuits and legal questions raised by complaints of sexual abuse within multiple religious denominations.