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Countersuits rock First AME Church

November 5, 2009 12:18:19 AM PST
A former female employee of the First AME Church in Los Angeles and a reverend at the church are trading lawsuits. One lawsuit alleges sexual abuse, and the other, an attempt to extort money.First African Methodist Episcopal Church (First AME Church) has always figured prominently in Los Angeles politics, charity and religious work. Its senior minister, Reverend John Hunter, is now accused of forcing a fellow minister into sexual submission.

The court documents allege he fired Reverend Brenda Lamothe for refusing to continue to submit. Lamothe filed a lawsuit this week. Her attorney says he has love letters written by Hunter to Lamothe.

"I believe once these documents are disclosed and everybody can see them that the language used, the things that were said, really point to a relationship outside of the marital relationship," said Solomon Gresen, Lamothe's attorney.

Trustees and other leaders of First AME have filed their own complaint against Lamothe. They believe Hunter's explanation that the love letters were stolen from his wife is accurate.

"Both Pastor John and Mrs. Hunter immediately recognized these notes as their own personal communications they had shared with each other as husband and wife," said Constance Fortune, a trustee at First AME.

Lamothe alleges four years of sexual submission where she actually traveled to hotels and other cities and states. Her complaint alleges that " ... Pastor John insisted that it was 'God's will' that she comfort him." She said " ... Pastor John is considered a prophet, and as a prophet he demanded sex from her ... did not confine his demands to his office."

"When your boss is also your spiritual leader and you are following that spiritual leader as a disciple or as a reverend within First AME, that's very difficult to walk away from, very difficult to resist," said Gresen.

The church leaders say their Methodist doctrine does not recognize pastors as modern-day prophets.

No court date has been set yet but if this case involving two influential ministers goes to trial it promises to rock one of the most powerful African-American churches in Los Angeles.

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