A bishop at one of the largest African-American Christian churches in the United States has been accused of grooming and sexually assaulting a female member of the denomination for more than 20 years.
Kimberly Pollard, who is now 37, filed a $12.2-million lawsuit against the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) and Bishop James L’Keith Jones, accusing the church of allowing her to be sexually assaulted by the high-ranking bishop for 20 years, according to court papers obtained exclusively by DailyMail.com.
Pollard claims that Jones not only groomed her into what became a 20-year sexual relationship and extra-marital affair, but also tried to groom her six-year-old daughter, telling her she looked ‘sexy’ and that he would wait until she was 18 to date her.
The mother-of-one from Lubbock, Texas, says that the relationship between her and Jones turned sexual in or around 1995, when she was still a minor.
She says that during a Holy Convocation in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Jones used his relationship as a then-pastor to sexually assault her and engage in an illicit sexual relationship.
And over the next 20 years, as Jones was promoted to higher rankings and given more responsibility in the church, he continued the sexual relationship through coercion, threats and his position as a spiritual adviser, Pollard claims.
Jones went on to marry another woman, but Pollard claims the illicit relationship between her and the now-bishop continued.
Pollard says she attempted to end the relationship several times, and even suggested that she confess her sins to the church, but Jones told her that no one would believe her allegations because of his high-ranking in the organization.
Jones said that if she confessed, she would only be left humiliated, Pollard says.
Then six years ago, Pollard became pregnant with a child not fathered by Jones, which caused him to become irate and demeaning, Pollard claims, adding that he accused her of violating the trust of their relationship.
Pollard says that in February of this year, Jones sent her now-six-year-old child a video message in which he said: ‘You look very “sexy” in your night gown.’
He also told the child that he would wait until she turned 18 to date her, she says.
Pollard claims that after her daughter received the message, she realized that Jones was trying to groom her child – and realized that he had done the same with her.
Shortly after the incident, The Grievance Committee of the Board of Bishops was made aware of the situation and set a trial date for Jones.
But the board then changed their decision and decided not to move forward with the trial, which Pollard says is in direct violation of the board’s rules and procedures.
She claims that during its investigation into the grooming of her daughter, the grievance committee found just cause to believe that Jones violated the church constitution by engaging in sexual acts with Pollard without being married as well as coercing her into an extra-marital affair by exploiting his position with the church.
Pollard has accused the church of being negligent in their supervision of the Bishop throughout their 20-year affair and says that the organization failed to pursue an investigation into other allegations of misconduct by him.
‘They knew or should have known of the illicit conduct that Bishop Jones was engaging in with Plaintiff Pollard because a basic investigation would have revealed these facts,’ Pollard says in court documents.
She claims that the alleged predatory behavior – which she says included sexual abuse, sexual molestation, manipulation, controlling behavior, and abuse of power and trust – has caused irreparable emotional, psychological and physical harm to both her and her child.
In her lawsuit, Pollard has demanded $6 million in non-economic damages and $100,000 in economic damages for the alleged abuse she faced, and another $6.1 million for the damage done to her daughter.
COGIC is one of the largest African-American Christian denominations in the United States, with more than six million members, 12,000 congregations, and churches in every state and 70 countries.
The current head of the church is Bishop Charles E Blake, Sr, who President Barack Obama appointed to serve on his 25-person White House Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
COGIC, which has a predominantly African American following, is ranked as the largest Pentecostal denomination and the fifth largest Christian denomination in the United States.