Woman Suing Mt. Zion Baptist Church Speaks Out - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Woman Suing Mt. Zion Baptist Church Speaks Out

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by Nick Beres

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A woman suing Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Nashville is speaking out about why she filed the lawsuit.

"I believe that it was time for me to say something," said Valencia Batson.  She and three others, who remain anonymous, are suing their former church for $5 million.

"I felt like I was dead. A walking person that had no life that was spiritually bound. My soul was in turmoil," said Batson.

The lawsuit claims leaders in the church participated in sexual exploitation in counseling, sexual battery, aggravated sexual battery and sexual harassment, assault and false imprisonment.

"It's wrong. It's not the right thing to be happening -- especially in a place like a church," said Batson.

The claims are leveled against Bishop Joseph Walker III -- the pastor of one of Nashville's largest churches with more than 20,000 members.  It also names five other Mt. Zion church leaders.

Mt. Zion issued a statement: "The only thing this action demonstrates is that anyone can sue, sometimes anonymously, no matter how ridiculous the claims or how sensational the charges. It is truly sad that a church and its leaders can be attacked with such shocking and ugly charges when the apparent motive is to extract huge sums of money from the congregation and its leaders.  It appears this action is not a quest for truth or justice, but instead solely for money."

"It's not about money. It's about that next woman or the woman who is in it now or the woman who can't move forward with her life," said Batson.

Batson declined to comment about specifics like times and dates of the alleged assaults or the nature of the evidence against the church.  Her lawyer, Connie Allison, said that will all come out in court. 

Many of claims made in the lawsuit involve potentially criminal offenses.  Sexual battery is a crime.  But Batson said she never contacted police out of fear of retribution.

Both Batson and her attorney said they fear for their own safety after filing the lawsuit.  But Allison said they have made no reports of any threats.

Allison said others have come forward and contacted her about joining the lawsuit since this story broke.

Pastor Kerry Bryant -- one of those named in the lawsuit -- has also issued a statement on the lawsuit. Bryant worked for 20-years at Mt. Zion and now works in Ohio.  He called the accusations false and that Batson and the others are suing for self-gain.

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