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SBC Lawyers Side Against Sexual Abuse Survivor in Amicus Brief to Kentucky Supreme Court

SBC amicus brief
TEDD LiGGETT, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) continues to embroil itself in scandal regarding sexual abuse as it was revealed this week that lawyers representing SBC entities submitted an amicus brief to the Kentucky Supreme Court. The brief argued against statute of limitations reform for sexual abuse survivors attempting to sue non-perpetrating parties who failed to report the abuse.

In addition to an outcry from abuse survivor advocates, some Executive Committee members have expressed that they had no prior knowledge of the brief. 

Filed in April, the amicus brief was submitted by four lawyers representing four entities: the SBC, the EC, Lifeway Christian Resources, and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS).

The brief comes in the context of a sexual abuse case that has no connection to any of these entities. However, its outcome will likely affect present and future litigation against the SBC.

The case centers on Samantha Killary, who was sexually abused as a child by her adoptive father, Louisville Police Officer Sean Jackman. Jackman has pleaded guilty to multiple sex offenses and is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence. 

As reported by Andrew Wolfson of Louisville Courier Journal, Killary subsequently sued Jackman, as well as Linda Thompson, whom Jackman dated from 2001 to 2003, and Jackman’s father. Killary claims Thompson and the elder Jackman knew about her abuse but failed to report it. Louisville Metro, which employed all three individuals, was also named in the suit.

The case was dismissed on the grounds that the statute of limitations, which stated that an abuse survivor only has five years after turning 18 years old to sue, had expired. 

In 2017, the Kentucky legislature extended the statute of limitations to 10 years. In 2021, the legislature said that survivors had the right to sue not only the perpetrator but also entities such as police departments, government agencies, or religious institutions that had failed in their duty to protect them. 

The Kentucky Supreme Court is now tasked with determining whether this new legislation should be applied retroactively to abuse that occurred before the new standards were implemented. 

If so, then Killary’s lawsuit can move forward. This is exactly what the lawyers representing SBC entities are seeking to avoid, presumably to limit the SBC’s own legal exposure.

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Of note is that the SBC, the EC, Lifeway, and SBTS are all named in a lawsuit that was filed in 2021 by abuse survivor Hannah-Kate Lee Osborne (formerly Hannah-Kate Williams). In the suit, which was filed in Kentucky, Osborne alleges that these entities failed to properly respond to the child sex abuse she endured from her father, who was an SBTS student, employee of Lifeway, and SBC pastor.