JOIN US MAY 20-21 FOR RESTORE CONFERENCE

Mary
DeMuth

Scot
McKnight

Screenshot 2023-01-13 at 1.50.18 PM

Naghmeh
Panahi

Reporting the Truth.
Restoring the Church.

Alleged Sex Abuse Victims Sue Arkansas Church and SBC Executive Committee for ‘Negligence’

By Josh Shepherd
pierce arkansas negligence lawsuit
David Kent Pierce, 53, was on-staff for 29 years as music minister and choir director at First Baptist Church of Benton, Arkansas. (Photos: Facebook / Missouri Sex Offender Registry)

Two men claiming they were sexually abused as minors by a choir director at an Arkansas church have filed a lawsuit, claiming negligence, against the church and the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee (SBCEC).

The suit filed Jan. 24 in Pulaski County Circuit Court in Little Rock names First Baptist Church (FBC) in Benton, Arkansas, as a primary defendant. It also names the SBCEC and other denominational groups as defendants.

The two alleged victims, who aren’t identified in the suit, allege that the church’s former choir director, David Kent Pierce, sexual abused them on numerous occasions between 1994 and 2002.

In 2009, Pierce pleaded guilty to four counts of sexual indecency with a child, reported the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Fifty other counts against Pierce were dropped, following a plea agreement.

He was released from prison in 2012, with the requirements that he leave the state and register as a sex offender. He is currently living in Branson, Missouri, according to the state’s sex offender registry.

Your tax-deductible gift helps our journalists report the truth and hold Christian leaders and organizations accountable. Give a gift of $30 or more to The Roys Report this month, and you will receive a copy of “Baptistland: A Memoir of Abuse, Betrayal, and Transformation” by Christa Brown. To donate, click here.

FBC Benton Lead Pastor Rick Grant gave The Roys Report (TRR) a statement on behalf of the church. It stated: “The church will continue to cooperate with any investigation regarding the allegations made in this lawsuit and will work with its legal counsel to respond appropriately to the lawsuit.” Grant added the church was made aware on Jan. 28 of the lawsuit filing.

The suit also claims that the SBCEC, the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, and other Baptist groups, “created a culture of sexual abuse.” The suit cites multiple incidents of “negligent hiring” and “negligent training and supervision.”

The plaintiffs in the suit are seeking unspecified damages “for both physical and emotional pain and suffering, for punitive damage, for costs of suit, (and) attorney fees.”

According to the lawsuit, the two men were eighth graders when they joined the choir at FBC Benton in 1994.

Pierce had been hired by FBC Benton in 1980 as a music minister and youth choir director.

According to the suit, Pierce groomed the boys by telling them he was going to hold them “accountable for ‘the four S’s,’ which Pierced defined as scholastic, social, spiritual, and sexual.”

The suit alleges that Piece “watched (and) exposed minor boys to pornographic videos on his computer” in his church office. It further alleged that Pierce “forced minors under his care, custody, and control to masturbate, while Pierce watched.” This happened at multiple locations, including his office, the church bell tower, and on church-sanctioned fishing trips to the Saline River.

The suit states that shortly after joining the choir, Pierce had a private voice coaching session with one of the victims. Pierce reportedly reached into the boy’s pants and touched his genitals, explaining he was “showing the boy how to sing from his diaphragm.”

The other victim recounted similar incidents of sexual abuse.

He stated that Pierce had purchased a synthetic vagina and had the boy masturbate “while Pierce held the device in his hands.” The suit further alleges that Pierce further instructed the boy to “ejaculate into the silicone vagina while Pierce ogled and masturbated himself to ejaculation.”

Both alleged victims recounted numerous fishing trips at Saline River where Pierce instructed them to masturbate in front of him.

The suit states that one of the boys reported Pierce’s sexual abuse to Pastor Rick Grant in November 2008. Subsequently, Grant requested the boy meet with him and Pierce together.

“In that meeting, Pierce explained that he had experienced a ‘rough patch’ when he abused (the boy) and other victims,” the suit states.

rick grant
Pastor Rick Grant (Photo: FBC Benton)

The suit alleges that Pierce remained employed at FBC until April 24, 2009, when Pierce was terminated for what Grant described at the time as “serious moral failures.”

In a statement to TRR, Grant noted Pierce “served a sentence . . . with respect to his actions from over 15 years ago.” Grant is slated to retire from FBC Benton sometime in the next month.

The lawsuit comes as the SBC is claiming that it’s reforming its response to abuse.

Following a public report in 2022 that found SBC leaders had mistreated and silenced abuse survivors for years, denominational leaders created the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force. The task force subsequently launched a beta website to track abusers, but it is not yet live.

SBC
Logo of the Southern Baptist Convention (Courtesy image)

In a lawsuit filed on Dec. 31, 2023, other alleged victims have accused the SBCEC of “maliciously and systematically” covering up sexual abuse, as previously reported by TRR.

TRR reached out to the SBCEC for comment on both lawsuits but did not hear back.

In the church statement regarding the recent Arkansas lawsuit, FBC Benton stated that its members were provided licensed counseling by a third-party “free of charge . . . to any affected individual needing such services.”

“It is our hope and prayer that those victimized by Mr. Pierce’s actions can be healed and comforted,” concluded the church statement.

Freelance journalist Josh Shepherd writes on faith, culture, and public policy for several media outlets. He and his family live in the Washington, D.C. area.

SHARE THIS:

GET EMAIL UPDATES!

Keep in touch with Julie and get updates in your inbox!

Don’t worry we won’t spam you.

More to explore
discussion

2 Responses

  1. Thanks for writing this article Josh. The SBC sexual abuse of children is overwhelming. Pierce plead guilty to 4 counts of abuse, but 50 counts were dropped in the plea bargain! 50 counts!

    And what’s up with Arkansas forcing their trash to move to another state?

Leave a Reply

The Roys Report seeks to foster thoughtful and respectful dialogue. Toward that end, the site requires that people register before they begin commenting. This means no anonymous comments will be allowed. Also, any comments with profanity, name-calling, and/or a nasty tone will be deleted.
 
MOST RECENT Articles
MOST popular articles
en_USEnglish