The lawsuit names First Baptist Church Canton Senior Pastor Dr. George Anderson and former church employee Shawn Finch as defendants.
Canton resident Matthew Brent Sheffield is also listed as a defendant and is accused of molesting the plaintiff’s male teen.
The Tribune does not name the victims of sex-related crimes and chose not to name the teen’s parents in order to protect the child’s identity.
The teen’s parents, who are asking for punitive damages against the defendants, are being represented by Woodstock attorney Channing Ruskell.
Ruskell did not return calls for comment.
The parents claim church officials were aware of Sheffield’s alleged sexual misconduct with children and allowed him to accompany children on a beach trip in which they say he molested the then-14-year-old.
Sheffield was arrested in August 2010 on suspicion of sexual battery after he he was accused of touching the teen in an inappropriate manner.
Sheffield was indicted in 2011 by a grand jury with two counts of child molestation, but the case has yet to go to trial.
First Baptist Executive Pastor Brian Ergle said the church has been cooperating with the investigation.
“The church takes very seriously its responsibility to ensure the safety of all of its members and attendees, especially children and youth,” he said in a prepared statement. “The church has referred the matter to legal counsel and will vigorously defend itself and its employees against these claims. The church will continue to pray for all of the individuals involved in this matter.”
The lawsuit claims that Sheffield, who was then employed as a substitute teacher with the Cherokee County School District, had been accused of sending sexually explicit text messages to students who at the time attended Cherokee High School.
It also claims Anderson and Finch met with the students’ parents, who informed the church of the allegations, and instructed Sheffield to cease with his actions.
The lawsuit alleges the church officials never notified the school district of Sheffield’s behavior.
Sheffield later had his employment terminated by the district after parents reported the alleged behavior to district officials.
The plaintiffs also noted Sheffield, who was employed by the church to supervise children in various activities, was fired from his role for “insubordination once it was determined that he had not stopped, but had continued sending sexually explicit text messages to male high school students.”
The plaintiffs also said Sheffield was allowed to return to the church as a volunteer to run its sound system.
First Baptist had knowledge of Sheffield’s past behavior and allowed him to continue interacting with children as a volunteer, the lawsuit claimed.
It also states Sheffield initiated contact with the plaintiffs’ teen by sending explicit text messages and making inappropriate remarks.
The parents allege their teen was abused by Sheffield during a June 14, 2010, Bible school session.
The lawsuit states the parents were unaware of the abuse at the time, and the child refused to return to Bible school.
The parents, still unaware of the alleged abuse, signed the teen up to go on a beach trip the following week with the church.
The parents state in the lawsuit Sheffield was allowed to go on the beach trip and they say the man committed sexual battery against their teen.
The teen reported the incident to a sibling, and their mother and father reported the incident to law enforcement officials.
The parents also alleged Finch tried to downplay the abuse by calling the child “unruly” and that the church provided Sheffield with a rented car so he could leave the beach trip before the parents picked up their teen.
Anderson, the suit claims, also tried to minimize the incident during a meeting following the trip with the teen’s parents, “indicating that the matter was closed.”
Another complainant came forward, who noted his grandson said Sheffield offered the child $50 to perform a sex act, according to the lawsuit.