Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Alleging Negligence Filed against the Florida Conference of Seventh-day Adventists — and More News Shorts

In this week’s news round-up, two sexual abuse victims file a lawsuit against the Florida Conference, Adventist teen tennis players win partial victory in religious exemption lawsuit, a Loma Linda nursing grad enters Miss World Philippines 2019, a restaurant across the street from Andrews University is highlighted in local newspaper, and an Adventist Community Health Fair in Virginia draws hundreds.

Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Alleging Negligence Filed against the Florida Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Attorneys for two victims abused by Orlando, Florida, Seventh-day Adventists pastor Billy Leveille have filed a lawsuit against the Florida Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, alleging the church was negligent after the Orlando pastor was convicted of sexual activity with a minor and child abuse. The women who wanted to be named and tell their stories had attended Bethel Elise Haitienne Des Adventists Church in Orlando, where Leveille was the senior pastor. Kenia Gilles said she was 16 years old and Jeny Desronvil said she was 21 when the abuse began, shortly after they were both elected and appointed to the church's secretarial team.

A video leaked in March 2017 of Leveille having sexual relations with both Gilles and Desronvil, and Leveille was arrested in May 2018. He was charged with unlawful sexual activity with a minor and child abuse after Gilles and her father pressed charges. He pleaded guilty and was sentence to seven years of probation.

Desronvil did not pursue criminal charges at the time. "In a Haitian church, it's difficult to really speak out on behalf of the pastor and say, 'This is what the pastor is doing to you,'" Desronvil said. "I'm tired of being mentally, physically, emotionally and even spiritually abused. I feel like my truth should be known."

The attorneys allege that the Florida Conference of Seventh-day Adventists was negligent in supervising Leveille and others at the church. The Florida chapter "had a duty to oversee, manage, and ensure the safety and wellbeing of its parishioner members at its churches," according to a lawsuit filed May 16 in Orange County Circuit Court.

From ClickOrlando.com, “Women sue Florida Seventh-day Adventists following Orlando pastor's abuse.”

Adventist Teen Tennis Players Win “Partial Victory” for Religious Exemption in Championship Tournaments. Joelle and Joseph Chung, a pair of teenage siblings who belong to the Seventh-day Adventist Church won a lawsuit securing a religious exemption from a tennis tournament in Washington state due to the games taking place on Saturdays, during their Sabbath. The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association agreed to add religious observance as a reason for missing a game without being penalized in response to a legal complaint by brother and sister tennis players Joelle and Joseph Chung.

The Chungs, who along with their parents had sued the WIAA over not including a religious exemption, filed a motion to withdraw on Tuesday in response to the change.

“Under the amended rules, it will not be a violation for J.N.C. to enter the postseason, and then withdraw, if necessary, upon reaching a point at which participation would be inconsistent with J.N.C.’s observation of the Sabbath.” Becket, a law firm that handles religious liberty cases and represented the Chung family, considered the result to be a “partial victory” since the 2020 championship game will still be held on a Saturday, likely preventing the Chungs from participating. “No student-athlete should be kept on the sidelines because he has the ‘wrong’ faith,” stated Joe Davis of Becket. “It’s a step in the right direction that Joseph is now able to play in postseason, but we will continue fighting for a solution that will ensure that Sabbath observers can compete all the way through the state championships on the same terms as all other student-athletes.” From Christian Post, “Adventist siblings win religious exemption for high school tennis tournament.”

LLU Nursing Grad Enters Miss World Philippines 2019. Kalea Lorren Pitel who graduated with honors from the Loma Linda University in California with a BS degree in Nursing, is now a candidate for Miss World Philippines 2019. Pitel has vowed to promote better and improved healthcare by educating people on various diseases. “Specifically, my advocacy tackles the importance of women’s health and preventing teen pregnancy,” she said. Now a registered nurse based in California, she has partnered with a foundation called Project PEARLS which stands for “Peace, Education, Aspiration, Respect, Love, and Smiles” which are the key values being promoted by the foundation. Project PEARLS is based in Tondo, Manila, and its primary beneficiaries are poor women and children living in the area. Pitel has led a number of charity events for the same causes that Project PEARLS espouses because they are near and dear to her heart. The foundation gives them opportunities through scholarship grants and educational resources. Educating the children will allow them to have a better future, breaking away from the vicious cycle of poverty. “Breaking the cycle of poverty is almost impossible. But poverty doesn’t have to be permanent, especially for children,” said Pitel, who is representing Olongapo City in the national pageant. “My journey to Miss World Philippines won’t be easy. I am doing this on my own, with the help of my family and friends and those of my pageant family. I will be facing challenges every day,” Pitel said. From Manila Bulletin, “Miss World PH 2019 bet helps poor kids achieve their dreams.”

Mexican-Jamaican Menu at Restaurant Serves Berrien Springs Community. Directly across the main gate of Andrews University stands Melendez International Restaurant in Berrien Springs; a two-culture menu greets diners each Thursday and Friday. “There was a need for it,” owner Joe Melendez says about augmenting the Mexican menu. “I saw a big West Indies population here.” Jamaican chef Paul, who is shy about giving his last name, comes early to cook his native specialties on Thursdays and Fridays then heads to his full-time job as a vegetarian chef for students at Andrews. The flavors of the West Indies span such island countries as Haiti, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas.

As owner, Joe Melendez moved to the current spot on US 31 five years ago, keeping up recipes that his now 90-year-old mother had influenced: wet tamales and wet burritos, both smothered with melted cheese. Now there’s fried plantains every day, too. “Everything we have comes in vegetarian form and vegan,” Melendez says — flautas, empanadas, tamales and others, filled with vegetables. From South Bend Tribune, “Mexico meets West Indies cuisine with vegetarian options at Melendez.”

Tidewater-area Seventh-day Adventist Churches and Schools Sponsor Community Health Fair. Hundreds of people turned out for the Tidewater Adventist Community Health Fair recently in Newport News, Virginia. The Seventh-day Adventist churches and schools in the Tidewater area partnered with other organizations to host the event. “We had over 130 volunteers on staff and another 50 medical volunteers,” said Paolo Esposito, the pastor of Redeeming Grace Fellowship Seventh-day Adventist church.

The fair reached its maximum registration limit of 500 people and even had some people on a waiting list. Several clinical services were available, including medical care, dental care, health screenings, and vision screenings. All of the services were free for those who registered. The clinical coordinator for the Tidewater Adventist Community, dentist Elias Llerandi, says the event was important for those who may not be able to get to a doctor. “The purpose of this is to reach a community particularly those who have limited access to care to medical and dental care,” Llerandi said.

Referrals were given to those who needed follow-ups and those who could not make it out to the event. Organizers of the event say they want to put this on again next year, and they hope to make the event even bigger. From Wavy.com, “Hundreds turn out for free healthcare in Newport News.”

Please note: Spectrum news round-ups are an aggregation of regional, national, and international publications around the world that have reported on stories about Adventists. As such, the accuracy of the information is the responsibility of the original publishers, which are noted and hyperlinked at the end of each excerpt.

Pam Dietrich taught English at Loma Linda Academy for 26 years and served there eight more years as the 7-12 librarian. She lives in Yucaipa, California.

Photo credit: Video still / News 6

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9862

Such a mix of news…hate the abuse but love the restaurant.

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Pastoral PERCEIVED NEED to entice young women into sexual
favors and perhaps threaten them with psychologically or physically
needs to be studied by social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists.
Of course, there will no way to know WHO is a candidate for this
type of behavior.
But would provide opportunity to discuss it openly in Theology
classes Undergraduate, Graduate, and Doctoral levels.
There also needs to be teaching and instruction to the laity of
ALL cultures.
One of the problems that the SDA church has is that there is NO
Mandatory Training of Safety for Children, Youth, Adults like some
other Denominations have, and to do so at least every 3 years with
copies of Certificates of Completion kept in Conference offices.
To make attendance for ANYONE who has contact with children,
youth, young adults mandatory and have current Certificates.

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"Of course, there will no way to know WHO is a candidate for this
type of behavior."

There are markers…but let’s ask the experts this question.
@elmer_cupino @GeorgeTichy

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The most common dynamic involved in situations like this include the power of position and the subsequent loss of boundaries through narcissism “Adonis Complex.” It is not uncommon for Individuals of high position to fail to understand that the relationships they have with their subordinates are a function of their position. Where there is power, the possibility of abuse is always present. Whereas mental health professionals are trained extensively to guard against seduction, I do not think ministers are trained to the same extent as mental health professionals.

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Thank-you for the explanation. Those of us who have worked in Mental Health know that it isn’t such an uncommon occurrence even among the SDAs (unfortunately). I have talked with those who run ministries for clergy abuse and I know that many people would be shocked to know how much it has, and is, a problem.

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I often wondered why our church officers who have been involved in inappropriate sexual encounters are usually promoted or transferred until it occurred to me that the modus operandi of our church is such that the burden is frequently placed on the victim and seldom on the perpetrator AKA “ God’s Servant.”

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Have you read the newest Review? Adventist Risk Management has considerable information and requirements. However, local conferences are the ones to make sure training and procedures are enforced.

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Absolutely…easier to blame the victim and not want to believe that the “Servant” failed. In talking with those who run these clergy abuse groups they say that the victims are re-vicitmized over and over again to silence/diminish their abuse and protect the abusers. So sad…too many stories of this happening.

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This is so overdue and I am happy that it is finally being implemented. I wish that I could say that I didn’t know children who have been abused by those who weren’t vetted. I expect that there will be some church members who get CORI checked and don’t pass…and there will be those who object to doing it in the first place. Rising insurance costs are likely prompting most of this- but I really don’t care why as long as it happens. Some people should never work with children…even (or especially) in a church.

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Alice –
One of the problems is that Risk Management is not given TEETH to implement
and Oversee a Certificate Training Program.
The “Committee” prints guidelines and then goes back to their chairs at
the beach sipping drinks under the umbrellas.

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True; under the current system of church governance, that responsibility is at the local conference level, regardless of what some in Washington, D.C. might wish. And, governance styles vary–depending on personalities and on knowledge of liability issues. The willingness to believe–or disbelieve–that Adventists, leaders or not, can willingly do harm to others is also a factor.

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