A Canadian church plans to terminate a rental agreement with a Christian school due to its connection to a lawsuit involving former students accusing local private school officials of abuse.
Forest Grove Community Church of Saskatoon made a public announcement Monday that it will terminate Grace Christian School's lease next month.
At issue is a Grace Christian employee being named in a class-action lawsuit by several former students of another school, Legacy Christian Academy, over allegations of abuse by school officials, including allegations of forced exorcisms.
The termination comes after it was discovered that Grace Christian School had hired staff who previously worked at LCA. Last week, Saskatchewan's education ministry appointed administrators to oversee LCA, Grace Christian and a third school that employs someone named in the lawsuit, Regent Academy in Prince Albert.
"Forest Grove Community Church's operations staff and church leadership have reviewed our rental agreement with Grace Capstone Ministries and have made the decision to terminate our lease contract with Grace Christian School, effective September 2022," the statement reads. "We are grieved for the students and families that will be affected and did not make this decision lightly."
Formerly known as Christian Centre Academy until 2013, LCA made international headlines in recent weeks after former students alleged teachers and staff coerced them to be part of exorcisms and subjected them to corporal punishment at the hands of school officials.
Caitlin Erickson, a former student of LCA who stepped forward with abuse allegations, told CBC News that she believes the church's decision to end the lease was the right one to make.
"I think it's very commendable," Erickson said, noting that she realizes the church will likely lose significant revenue. "I'm hoping that there are others who take the lead after seeing Forest Grove do the right thing, and they come forward and do the right thing as well."
Earlier this month, Erickson and other former students of LCA told CBC News their stories of alleged abuse at the hands of LCA officials.
Erickson remembers being spanked and paddled as a student in 2013 because she was accused of talking during a church service. She said she was left with bruises.
Erickson said it was like being a "cult."
Allegations from other students range from abusive discipline, solitary confinement, sexual abuse and an exorcism overseen by staff to remove "gay demons."
"This was abuse. This was a hate crime," Coy Nolin, a gay former student, told CBC News of his alleged experience being forced to have an exorcism performed on him in May 2004 at his home to "cure" him of his homosexuality.
"That was one of the worst days of my life. Even now, just thinking about it, I go numb."
Nolin filed his complaint with Saskatoon police in July 2021.
Sean Kotelmach, who attended the school from 1996 to 2008, told CBC that he wishes he had gone to the police after he was spanked and paddled by teachers and staff.
"Every part of me wanted to walk to the police and simply pull down my pants and show them what was done to me," he said. "[But] I was scared. I was so scared. I worried my parents would get in trouble for sending me to that school."
LCA and Mile Two Church, the church the school is tied to, formerly known as Saskatoon Christian Centre, released a statement to Global News expressing sorrow over the allegations.
"We are all heartbroken to learn the stories of some former students about their experiences from over 15 years ago. The current staff and leadership are hearing some of these stories for the first time, and we condemn any acts of abuse that previous leaders committed," they stated.
The school and church assured that the officials accused of abuse "are no longer here or affiliated with us in any way."