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Friday, January 31, 2014

Lawsuit Alleges Reverend Sexually Harassed Female Minister In St. Louis AME Church

Posted By on Fri, Jan 31, 2014 at 9:30 AM

Reverend Frederick McCullough - VIA
  • via
  • Reverend Frederick McCullough

A former African Methodist Episcopal Church minister was hit with a lawsuit Wednesday over allegations of sexual harassment.

Filed in St. Louis Circuit Court, the suit alleges that Reverend Frederick McCullough brazenly harassed -- and nearly raped -- an associate female minister during the two years he headed the Wayman AME Church in St. Louis.

"The unspoken message for women and especially female preachers has been that we must either accept the sexual harassment...or risk being being expelled," said the plaintiff, Brenda Jones, in written statement. "I am fighting this because it has to stop."

The lawsuit alleges McCullough groped Jones on multiple occasions, forced her to look at a photo of his penis and told her that he liked older women and was "going to get [him] some of that pussy."

See also: With or Without Names, St. Louis Archdiocese's "Matrix" of Sex Offenders Leaves Questions

click to enlarge A handful of SNAP members protested outside Wayman Church on Thursday in support of a lawsuit against a minster accused of sexual harassment. - DANNY WICENTOWSKI
  • Danny Wicentowski
  • A handful of SNAP members protested outside Wayman Church on Thursday in support of a lawsuit against a minster accused of sexual harassment.

Jones and her lawyer, Kenneth Chackes, are seeking a jury trial and unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

It's worth noting that allegations in a lawsuit don't carry the weight of a criminal investigation, and to date no criminal charges have been brought against McCullough.

As it stands, Jones' lawsuit alleges multiple incidents of sexual harassment, including a September 2012 incident in which McCullough invited Jones into his office where grabbed her, forced her to bend over his desk and pulled up her skirt before saying "I'm going to fuck you right up in this church." Jones claims she was able to escape.

Hope Whitehead, McCullough's attorney, tells Daily RFT that her client "denies any and all allegations of sexual harassment and will vigorously defend his good name and reputation in a court of law."

Jones joined the AME church in 2006 and became a preacher at the Wayman AME Church in 2011, the same year McCullough was assigned to lead the church as pastor.

See also: St. Louis Archdiocese Paid $10 Million in 10 Years in Clergy Abuse, Misconduct Costs

Jones eventually filed a written complaint against McCullough that resulted in a three month internal investigation. The lawsuit alleges that during the investigation, McCullough was allowed to remain in his position and used the pulpit to publicly berate Jones in his sermons, referring to her as "Potiphar's wife," a Biblical reference that implies Jones falsely accused McCullough because he declined her sexual advances.

The lawsuit also lists as defendants the national African Methodist Episcopal Church, the 5th Episcopal District of the AME Church, which includes churches in Missouri and Wayman Church. Also included is Bishop Larry Kirkland, presiding prelate of the 5th Episcopal District of the AME Church, who the lawsuit says used an October 2013 church meeting to denounce Jones as "the devil."

Continue for the result of the AME Church's internal investigation, as well as statements from SNAP's David Clohessy...

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