Local church at the center of lawsuit

A local church and Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Deputy are at the center of a lawsuit filed earlier this month.

It claims the church left two teenagers falsely accused of sexual battery in a Florida jail during a youth trip last summer.

Two mothers have filed the suit against Taylorville Baptist Church and Keith Fair, who was acting as a chaperone on the trip, not in the capacity of a deputy.

The suit states the teens were playing with other youth from the church “lifting up other minor children by their arms and buttocks areas and throwing them into the air where they would fall back into the water.”

The complaint also alleges Fair “conducted a ‘private investigation’ of the matter and ultimately concluded on his own that the conduct engaged in by was inappropriate and illegal.”

That’s when Bay County Florida officials became involved.

The lawsuit claims the church never contacted the families of the teens in question after they were arrested and that the entire group returned to Tuscaloosa, leaving the two teens in Florida in police custody.

The lawsuit accuses the church and the fair of malicious prosecution, slander, negligence, and assault and battery.

Attorney Paul Patterson is representing Taylorville Baptist. He released the following statement to WVUA 23 news:

“The church has received a lawsuit that named them as a defendant and a chaperone, Mr. Keith Fair, as a co-defendant. The church was not aware of the allegations in the complaint against Keith Fair until all the kids had already returned from the beach.

“My office has conducted its own internal investigation into this matter, and we will be responding in the next few weeks. Taylorville Baptist Church is a wonderful church that took all the facts of what occurred in public at the pool and at the beach, and they addressed the behavior immediately upon learning of it.

“Church representatives concluded that the behavior did not warrant law enforcement investigation, however Mr. Fair, who was chaperoning as a parent, alerted the Bay County Sheriff’s Office to the matter and an investigation ensued.

“It’s important to note that church officials contacted the parents of these young men as soon as they were taken into custody. The parents were told to come to Florida immediately to assist in efforts to gain the release of the youth involved.

“Bay County law enforcement officers would not allow the church officials to contact parents while the youth were being detained and interrogated. These children were not abandoned by church officials at anytime.”

Though a date for the trial has not been set, Judge Jim Roberts is set to hear this case.

The sexual battery charges from the Florida trip against the two teens have been dismissed.

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