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Ex-Southern Baptist professor files sexual assault lawsuit by Jennifer Lyell in Alabama

The former Southern Baptist Convention seminary professor, who was accused of sexual abuse by his former student, filed a defamation lawsuit in Alabama against her and several SBC units, alleging the allegations were part of an attempt by the SBC to improve its image after the cover-up of the enhance sexual abuse scandal.

David Sills, the professor, and his wife Mary Sills allege defamation, conspiracy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence and arbitrariness in connection with “untrue allegations of sexual abuse” made by Jennifer Lyell in 2021.

Although the Sillses live in Mississippi and Lyell, Tennessee, the lawsuit was filed in Mobile County Circuit Court because former SBC President Ed Litton, who is among the defendants in the lawsuit, is a resident of Mobile County and the SBC, the convention’s executive committee , other SBC entities “own and maintain property, employees and/or agents in Alabama, including Mobile County Alabama,” the lawsuit states.

In a post on her website, Lyell accused Sills of sexually abusing her during a missionary trip in 2004, claiming the abuse continued for over a decade.

She said she was motivated to tell her story after hearing about Megan Lively, who was raped by a fellow student at a Southern Baptist seminary in 2003 and then advised by the seminary president not to report the incident to the police.

However, Baptist Press, the SBC’s internal news service owned by the Executive Committee, falsely reported that Lyell had admitted to being involved in a “morally inappropriate relationship” with her former professor.

Baptist Press eventually apologized for the article, but Lyell said she was already devastated by the impact of its inaccurate reporting.

The Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee offered Lyell a public apology and a confidential financial settlement earlier this year and announced the resolution during their February meeting in Nashville.

In May, Guidepost Solutions, which investigated the SBC scandal, released a report that found alleged sexual abuse survivors met with “resistance, walls and even outright hostility” from some members of the SBC Executive Committee.

In his lawsuit, filed Nov. 21, Sills alleged that Lyell’s allegedly false claims were repeated in the SBC media as “an opportunity to improve the appearance and reputation of SBC’s handling of abuse cases” and made him a “good faith.” Scapegoat”.

While the SBC’s reports of Lyell’s allegations claimed Sills was fired, the former professor claims he resigned voluntarily after admitting a “morally inappropriate relationship” with Lyell.

Sills claimed there was no “legitimate or proper investigation” into Lyell’s allegations against him.

Lyell’s attorney suggested to Baptist Press that Sills felt it was improper to file the lawsuit in Alabama.

“Regarding this particular matter, it is hard to imagine how it would be appropriate to require a Tennessee resident to go to Mobile, Alabama, to argue with a Mississippi plaintiff,” attorney Philip Elbert told the outlet . “However, rest assured that regardless of location, the case will be vigorously defended.”

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