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GIRL'S FAMILY SUES CHURCH OVER SEX ABUSE

The suit says pastors knew what was happening but did nothing.
Published Jul. 30, 2010

The family of a girl who was sexually abused by a youth pastor at Calvary Chapel Worship Center has filed a lawsuit against the church and two of its other pastors.

The suit says the church knew that youth pastor Scott Wright had made sexual advancements on the girl, who was 16, but did nothing to protect her and even talked Wright out of resigning.

Wright, 36, who was married with four children, was arrested last year and accused of penetrating the girl with his fingers in her Palm Harbor home in 2007. He pleaded guilty last August in Pinellas County to two counts of unlawful sexual activity with the girl.

At the time of his arrest, Wright lived on Echo Lake Drive in New Port Richey. He had left Calvary Chapel and served briefly as youth pastor at The Crossing Church in Tampa, which fired him in November 2008. He was arrested on the sex charge five months later.

Wright was sentenced to more than four years in prison, followed by six years of registered sex offender probation.

When he gets out of prison, he will be barred from living near a school or other location where children congregate. He also will face restrictions on where he can work and whether he will be allowed to use the Internet.

The girl and her family are not being named because of the nature of the case.

In their lawsuit, they say she was suffering from anxiety and other emotional problems when Wright offered her counseling and spiritual guidance. The church, and pastors William Strayer and Andre Erasmus, were aware of the arrangement.

"After (the girl) had received sexual advancements from Pastor Scott Wright, she informed (him) that these sexual advancements made her feel uncomfortable," the suit says. "(Wright) thereafter confessed his inappropriate actions with the minor child to Erasmus, who is in charge of counseling at the church. ... Erasmus talked (Wright) out of resigning and took no further actions to protect (the girl), discipline (Wright) or rectify the situation."

The church declined to comment Thursday. The lawsuit was filed in Hillsborough County.

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6245.

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