- (Photo: Willow Creek Community Church)
Two lawsuits were filed against Willow Creek Community Church, claiming the megachurch failed to prevent two boys from being sexually abused by a volunteer.
The most recent lawsuit, filed on Thursday, claims negligence in the case of an 8-year-old special needs boy, who was sexually abused by Robert Sobczak, 20. Sobczak was sentenced to two years of probation and forced to register as a sex offender after he pleaded guilty in December.
According to the prosecutor from the criminal case, Sobczak brought the special needs boy to a secluded area before he sexually abused him on Feb. 17, 2013. The boy told his mother immediately who reported it to police.
This one-on-one attention was something that the Special Friends program, in which the 8-year-old was enrolled, had specific guidelines against. The ministry's policy mandated that children be under the supervision of two adults at a time. Sobczak admitted to violating that policy, church spokeswoman Susan DeLay told The Chicago Tribune.
Delay also added that since the incident, the church has retrained the staff regarding the rules and added more surveillance cameras for greater security and compliance.
"We remain committed to the safety and protection of all children and vulnerable adults who attend our church, and follow a strict protection policy that includes thoroughly vetting and training all staff and volunteers," Delay said in an email to The Christian Post.
She also confirmed the lawsuit but said that the church could not comment on its specifics.
"On February 14, the leaders of our congregation were notified that a lawsuit was filed against our church. Regretfully we cannot comment on pending litigation, particularly when a minor is involved. In any and all situations involving law enforcement officials, we have and will always cooperate fully with the authorities," she wrote.
Another lawsuit, which was filed in November, alleged that Sobczak had sexually abused a 9-year-old boy who was in the same special needs program in 2012 for close to a year.
No charges have been filed in the case, according to The Chicago Tribune, "purportedly because of difficulty confirming that Sobczak had been alone with the boy."
Acting South Barrington Police Chief Ray Cordell said that as the investigation continues, he feels that the church has done its best to help authorities.
"Willow Creek Church has been very cooperative and forthcoming assisting us with the investigation," he said.