Lakewood Church Sued for $10M by Volunteer Accused of Molestation

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  • Joel Osteen
    (Photo: Hachette Book Group)
    Joel Osteen preaches at Lakewood Church in Houston, considered the largest church in America, in this undated photo.
By Katherine Weber, Christian Post Reporter
February 2, 2012|6:48 pm

A former volunteer at Pastor Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church who was accused of sexual molestation in 2010 is suing the nation's largest megachurch for $10 million for negligence, claiming that the accusations, brought by another ministry volunteer, ruined his reputation.

In Feb. 2010, a fellow volunteer accused Daniel Alvaro Guzman, now 26, of sexually molesting an 8-year-old autistic boy during children's ministry at Lakewood Church.

At the time of the charge, prosecutor Tina Ansari told ABC News 13 that one of two other chaperones allegedly "observed [Guzman] picking up an eight-year-old boy and touching him on his genital area."

Guzman was arrested and charged nearly a year later, in May 2011, with one count of indecency with a child and released on $10,000 bail. Guzman was cleared of the charges in July 2011, when a Harris County grand jury declined to indict him.

Guzman is now suing the megachurch, led by televangelist Osteen, for not properly investigating or responding to the molestation allegations.

Javier Marcos Jr., Guzman's attorney, told the Houston Chronicle that his client's "licenses are being revoked, be they real estate or mechanical, and he cannot get a job anywhere.

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"In a nutshell, if Lakewood would have properly trained employees or properly followed procedure for any kind of outcry, none of this would have gotten where it got."

Donald Iloff, a spokesman for Lakewood Church, told ABC News 13 that he had not received that lawsuit, but would not comment on it regardless.

The non-denominational, evangelical Lakewood Church attracts an average of 40,000 attendees every week. Osteen's sermons, sometimes criticized for failing to emphasize the Gospel, are broadcast worldwide. Osteen, a bestselling author, has also recently appeared on the Oprah Winfrey special, "Oprah's Next Chapter," in which he gained praise for confirming the biblical teaching that homosexuality is a sin.

 

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