Paige Patterson, seminary sued over alleged mishandling of sex abuse claim

Paige Patterson, 75, speaks at the AWAKEN Conference in Las Vegas, NV, in January 2014.
Paige Patterson, 75, speaks at the AWAKEN Conference in Las Vegas, NV, in January 2014. | (Screenshot: YouTube)

Former Southern Baptist Convention President Paige Patterson and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary have been sued over allegedly mishandling the response to a former student who was raped multiple times.

The lawsuit was filed in May in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas by a former student identified as “Jane Roe” and was unsealed earlier this month.

Roe names Patterson and SWBTS in the suit, accusing them of mistreating her when she reported being stalked and repeatedly raped by a male student identified as “John Doe” in 2014 and 2015.

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The lawsuit alleges that when Roe met with Patterson and other male leaders at the Seminary about the sexual assaults, Patterson “seemed to enjoy making Roe even more uncomfortable with his questions.”

When Roe said she felt like “damaged goods” as a result of the rapes, Patterson allegedly responded that it was “a good thing” that she was assaulted, for “the right man would not care if she was a virgin or not.”

The BH Carroll Memorial Building at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
The BH Carroll Memorial Building at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. | (WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/MICHAEL-DAVID BRADFORD)

Although SWBTS eventually expelled Doe for owning “prohibited weapons,” according to the lawsuit the Seminary “offered no support or protection for Roe and her family.”

“Patterson refused to offer financial assistance for Roe to seek medical attention or counseling and callously rejected Roe’s request for his prayers,” stated the lawsuit.

The suit also alleged that Patterson disclosed information about Roe’s rapes to other people without her consent and during a 2015 meeting denied that she was ever assaulted.

The lawsuit accused the seminary and Patterson of having failed to properly handle the allegations Roe brought and for causing longstanding harm to the plaintiff.

In a statement emailed to The Christian Post on Tuesday, current SWBTS President Adam W. Greenway explained that he could not comment on the ongoing litigation, but did explain that “we take these matters seriously and are committed to our campus being a safe place for the vulnerable and for survivors of abuse.”

“As I said in my report at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, I realize in a Genesis 3 world that there may be times when our seminary may fall short of expectations,” stated Greenway, referencing the biblical account of the fall of man.

“In any and every area where this has been the case, I am sorry. It is my resolve for our seminary to do better.”

CP reached out to Patterson for this story, however a source close to him responded that he was unavailable for comment due to presently being out of the country.

In May 2018, Patterson resigned from his position as president of SWBTS partly over allegations that he had a history of mishandling sexual abuse claims.

Last year, for example, The Washington Post published an article in which a woman accused Patterson of discouraging her from going to the police after she was raped.

The rape, according to the woman, occurred in 2003 while she was a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, when Patterson was president.  

Patterson has denied any wrongdoing. Following his removal as president of SWBTS, Patterson was given a position at Southern Evangelical Seminary to co-teach a course on ethics.

Some, including distinguished theologian Norman Geisler, defended Patterson, arguing in an opinion column published last year by CP that Patterson did nothing "worthy of being fired."

"No biblical grounds were given, let alone, seriously considered. There are numerous Christian leaders who have committed sins worthy of discipline. Patterson is not one of them; he hasn't committed any such sins. On the contrary, he has done many things worthy of exaltation. In fact, he is one of the top conservative Christian leaders of our day," wrote Geisler.

"Many who opposed Dr. Patterson were apparently caught up in winds of the #MeToo movement of the day. But no doctrinal or moral charges were even offered, let alone proven by two or more credible witnesses against him."

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