Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Church sued
Parents file suit against Parker Hill
By Don McGlynn
Reporter / Photographer

Parents look to hold accountable Parker Hill Community Church for the part it may have played in the molestation of a minor.

The parents of a minor who was molested are suing Joshua W. Landis and Parker Hill Community Church in Lackawanna County Court.

Landis, a former youth leader at Parker Hill, was sentenced, after pleading guilty, to unlawful contact with a minor and corruption of a minor.

Landis received consecutive sentences Oct. 27 from Lackawanna County Judge Michael J. Barrasse. He will face 12 to 36 months at a state prison on the count of unlawful contact with minors, and nine to 24 months for corruption of a minor.

Following his release, Landis will be required to complete four years of special probation, during which time he is prohibited contact with minors.

He was arrested Feb. 23 on charges that he assaulted a teenage boy under his care.

After informing police of the alleged abuse, the boy was recorded by detectives while talking to Landis in a conversation in which Landis admitted that his conduct toward the boy was inappropriate and he apologized for his actions.

Attorney Kevin P. Foley filed the suit at Lackawanna County Court Dec. 21. The suit claims that the church fostered an atmosphere in which Landis felt that child sexual abuse could, and did, take place.

The suit claims Parker Hill was aware of similar allegations against Landis while he worked as a youth minister and was given a small group of teenage boys to mentor and chaperone at Union Center Christian Church (U.C.C.C.) in Endicott, N.Y.

The suit said that Landis, during his time with U.C.C.C., reportedly provided alcohol and cigars to the minors, and had inappropriate contact with a minor.

He was allegedly asked to leave the church and advised to undergo counseling.

New York State Police charged Landis with unlawful dealings with a child in June 2007. None of the parents involved pressed formal charges, according to the suit, and Landis pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct.

He was sentenced to a fine of $100 and one year of probation.

During the time a criminal investigation was pending in New York, Landis moved to Clarks Summit and became involved with Parker Hill, according to the suit.

The suit states that in August 2007, Landis contacted a U.C.C.C. minister, informing them he had joined Parker Hill and he had begun counseling with a church counselor and a pastor at Parker Hill.

Upon receiving this information, the minister from U.C.C.C. allegedly contacted a pastor from Parker Hill and, it is believed, expressed his suspicions and concerns about Landis, specifically with children. It is further alleged that the minister disclosed the criminal allegations against Landis’ sexual tendencies towards boys and his supplying alcohol to minors, according to the suit.

After allegedly receiving the information, Parker Hill allowed Landis to serve in a leadership role to teenage boys.

In November 2008, Landis became a youth minister with Parker Hill. According to the suit, it is believed that the church did not perform a criminal records check until long after he was appointed.

While a youth minister, the suit said, Landis groomed the plaintiff in the case by lavishing him with expensive gifts, including a Macintosh computer.

In Oct. 2009, Landis made inappropriate sexual advances toward the minor plaintiff.

As a result, the suit states, the minor has sustained severe mental pain and anguish, as well as suffered great discomfort, embarrassment and loss of sense of identity, all of which have disabled him and have required medical care and treatment for his injuries, which are of a continuing permanent nature.

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