Two Lane County women are suing a Springfield church for more than $7 million each, alleging they were abused hundreds of times by a youth pastor in the 1970s.
The suits, filed in Lane County Circuit Court, name Bethel Assembly of God of Springfield, City of Destiny Church and the national and state Assemblies of God organizations as defendants. It also names the former youth pastor, Morrice H. Corley, as a defendant.
Corley, of Springfield, declined to comment on the suit. Calls to the local church and its state council were not immediately returned.
The Bethel Assembly of God of Springfield merged with the City of Destiny Church in 2005. City of Destiny is a newer congregation formed by a Springfield couple and was not in existence at the time of the alleged abuse.
Judy Borgstahl and Marla Hansen filed separate lawsuits charging sexual assault, wrongful counseling and negligent hiring. Both women claim they received ministerial counseling from Corley when they were members of the church, Borgstahl from 1971 to 1975 and Hansen from 1974 to 1977.
The women, now both in their 50s, were in their teenage years at the time of the alleged abuse. The suits say they were actively involved in youth activities at the church at a time when Corley was the youth pastor, Sunday School teacher and bus driver.
Corley is accused of “grooming” the teens for sexual abuse through his counseling and other contacts with them.
The suits charge that he counseled them in a way that alienated them from their parents, encouraged them to disobey their parents, made them emotionally dependent on him and isolated them from friends their own age.
The suits also charge that the counseling was meant to “create a bond of trust which would make (them) amenable and pliant for future inappropriate sexual contact” by Corley. The suits charge that Corley then subjected the women to sexual assaults, inappropriate sexual contact and “acts of kidnapping.”
Borgstahl’s suit claims she was victimized more than 200 times between the ages of 13 and 17. Hansen says she was a victim of more than 100 attacks between the ages of 13 and 16.
Both women say they reported to church officials at the local, state and national level that they had been sexually exploited by Corley. The suits claim the officials counseled them to forgive Corley and not pursue the matter further.
The women say officials “coerced” them into taking part in an internal church inquiry that took place with Corley present, counseled them not to report the incidents to police, made them feel guilty about wanting to involve police and suggested disclosure of the abuse would alienate them from the church. They also say officials made them feel they would be acting contrary to the Bible if they were to go to police and that the officials failed to report the abuse allegations as required by state law.
Also, the suits charge that another parishioner also complained that Corley made sexually inappropriate and suggestive comments to underage girls.
In addition, the suits claim that the church did not fire Corley even after that complaint and complaints by the mothers of two other women about Corley’s conduct, did not investigate his background, and did not warn anyone about the allegations.
According to the lawsuits, the women have suffered shame, guilt and alienation from the church, resulting in physical and psychological injury. They claim they will need long-term psychological care.
Both suits seek $150,000 to cover the costs of future care and $7 million in noneconomic damages. No trial date has been set.