A Nashville judge on Thursday morning dismissed allegations levied against Mt. Zion Baptist Church’s Bishop Joseph Walker III by a former parishioner.
Davidson County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Brothers granted Walker’s motion for summary judgment based on the one-year statute of limitations on tort claims, freeing him from allegations of sexual assault, battery, fraud, false imprisonment and other claims filed against him by Valencia Batson.
Batson had claimed the last physical or verbal contact with Walker was in January 2005, meaning the suit filed last January was six years past the statute of limitations.
The lawsuit claimed Walker used his position as a pastor to convince numerous women to have sex with him in order to become “closer to God.” Batson also claimed Walker intimidated her and forced her to keep the misconduct quiet.
Batson’s attorney Connie Allison attempted to argue that coercion on the part of Walker and other Mt. Zion employees caused her client to develop post traumatic stress disorder — and that the statute of limitations should have started when she finally came forward with the allegations.
But Brothers disagreed and sided with Mt. Zion’s attorney, Bob Boston, who argued state case law has repeatedly determined that duress and depression can’t be used to extend statute of limitations for tort claims.
Another suit filed by a former parishioner, Corey Corbin, was dismissed on similar grounds earlier this year.
However, Brothers ruled that one claim involving the church’s chief financial officer, Jerry White, can move forward. Batson alleges that White inappropriately touched her with his foot during a lunch meeting in 2011 to discuss her rental of office space from Mt. Zion.
Batson further claims that Mt. Zion knew White had a history of sexual abuse, and therefore could be liable for negligent supervision and negligent retention.
Brothers said Allison could decide to re-file a new suit that solely focuses on the claim related to White.
Mt. Zion Baptist Church has three locations in Middle Tennessee and claims to have more than 20,000 members.