has released a statement after the church, its senior pastor and two former employees were named in a civil lawsuit that claims a teenage boy was allegedly sexually battered and the church could have prevented it.
"The church was made aware of these allegations more than two years ago, and has fully cooperated with law enforcement in their investigations. To our knowledge, the criminal case remains pending, and the accused has not been tried on these charges. The church takes very seriously its responsibility to ensure the safety of all of its members and attendees, especially children and youth. 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."
A Cherokee County grand jury in April 2011 indicted one of the former employees named in the suit, 29-year-old Matthew Brent Sheffield of Canton, in the alleged June 2010 sexual battery of the boy, who was 14 years old at the time. Sheffield, who pleaded not guilty to the charges, faces two felony counts of child molestation.
The civil suit was filed Aug. 1 in by the boy's parents.
To protect his identity, Patch is not naming his parents, who are represented by Woodstock attorney Channing Ruskell. Ruskell could not be reached for comment.
When Patch contacted Sheffield's attorney, the office of David L. Cannon Sr. said there would be no comment.