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REPORT: Texas Megachurch Sued As Women Allege Church Encourage Sexual Abuse By Pastor

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Mariane Angela Entertainment And News Reporter
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Three women are suing a Texas megachurch, alleging it failed to act after a pastor sexually abused them, according to the Miami Herald.

The lawsuit accuses Houston’s megachurch Champion Forest Baptist Church of enabling former youth pastor Timothy Jeltema, who has pleaded guilty to child sex crimes. Three women claim a youth pastor sexually abused them during their teenage years. The pastor stole their childhoods and shattered their faith, according to a Texas lawsuit, the Miami Herald reported. The women are seeking $1 million in damages from the church, Jeltema, and the Southern Baptist Convention.

Jeltema, who was the youth pastor at the time, abused the women when they were 14, 15 and 16 years old. The lawsuit claims that Jeltema used his position to become inappropriately close to the girls he mentored, with the church’s encouragement, Miami Herald stated. Initially hired as an intern in 2009 at the age of 18, Jeltema later became a full-time youth pastor, primarily working with young girls in middle and high school. (RELATED: Mormon Leaders Accused Of Concealing Widespread Sexual Abuse And Incest Within The Church)

In 2018, the church dismissed Jeltema after he confessed to engaging in an inappropriate relationship with an 18-year-old member. Jeltema faced charges of online solicitation of a minor and additional child sex crimes in 2018 and 2021 after several victims stepped forward, as detailed in the lawsuit and his criminal court records. He entered a guilty plea and received a five-year prison sentence in 2022. Jeltema is now serving a prison sentence following his guilty plea to child sex crimes, ABC 13 reported.

MIAMI - FEBRUARY 02: A judges gavel rests on top of a desk in the courtroom of the newly opened Black Police Precinct and Courthouse Museum February 3, 2009 in Miami, Florida. The museum is located in the only known structure in the nation that was designed, devoted to and operated as a separate station house and municipal court for African-Americans. In September 1944, the first black patrolmen were sworn in as emergency policemen to enforce the law in what was then called the "Central Negro District." The precinct building opened in May 1950 to provide a station house for the black policemen and a courtroom for black judges in which to adjudicate black defendants. The building operated from 1950 until its closing in 1963. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

MIAMI – FEBRUARY 02: A judges gavel rests on top of a desk in the courtroom of the newly opened Black Police Precinct and Courthouse Museum February 3, 2009 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

“I’m so anxious all the time. I feel like I can’t talk to anyone. I feel like everyone’s looking at me thinking, ‘How stupid are you.’ I feel like my religion was ripped from me,” a 15-year-old said during his sentencing.

“This man has known me since I was 9 years old. He watched me grow up into a beautiful young woman as well as these other women and he took advantage of his church position and he preyed on us and he made us feel like we were alone, scared, pathetic, useless, and that we had no purpose in life because of what he did to us,” another minor victim stated.

The church has also expressed their dismay over the incident during the sentencing.

“We are extremely saddened by this heartbreaking situation. For over 16 years, our church has had multiple layers of policies and procedures in place-including a national background check that is performed on all staff as well as volunteers who work with children and youth up to age 18,” Champion Forest Baptist Church, according to ABC 13.