Lawsuit: Spring Lake Park church failed to protect children against sex abuse

A 21 year-old Blaine man who says he was sexually abused at the age of 15 by his youth group leader at a Spring Lake Park church is suing its religious leaders.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Hennepin County District Court on the man’s behalf by attorneys with Jeff Anderson & Associates, names defendants Emmanuel Christian Center of the Assemblies of God in Spring Lake Park, its former youth group leader, Paul Alan Brandon, and the Minnesota District Council of the Assemblies of God.

The lawsuit claims the plaintiff, referred to in the complaint as John Doe 169, was sexually abused by Brandon in the summer and fall of 2005 when the youth pastor would hold church-sponsored Friday night sleep-overs at his home in Brooklyn Park.

Sarah Odegaard, an attorney with the Jeff Anderson law firm, said in a released statement at the time the Assemblies of God Church had a policy that allowed the youth pastor to have overnight stays at his private residence and, “in his role as youth pastor, Brandon would gather children at the church and drive them to his home in the church van.”

The lawsuit alleges church officials failed to provide a safe environment for children.

Dwight Denyes, senior pastor at Emmanuel Christian Center, said in an e-mailed statement Brandon served as an unpaid volunteer in the church’s student ministry beginning October 2000 but has not been a volunteer since August 2006.

“From what we know, the students that stayed over at Brandon’s home were those that knew him in his role as a volunteer in our student ministry and many were friends of his teenage son,” Denyes said. “There was a time when our student ministry allowed adult-supervised sleep-overs at the homes of our volunteers, but several years ago that policy was changed because the safety and security of our students is our highest priority in all the activities of our church.”

Officials with the Minnesota District Council of the Assemblies of God did not immediately return phone calls on Thursday seeking comment about the

Prior to plaintiff John Doe’s report of sexual abuse in 2005, Brandon was accused of molesting another victim during church-sponsored sleepovers. In 2010, Brandon was convicted of criminal sexual conduct for that abuse and the plaintiff’s abuse.

He was sentenced in August to roughly four months of consecutive weekends in jail and seven years probation for the two criminal-sexual conduct convictions. Brandon also had to participate in sex offender treatment, register as a predatory offender and stay away from children and vulnerable adults.