Federal lawsuit filed against church, children’s pastor following decade of abuse

Published: Jul. 23, 2014 at 7:46 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 24, 2014 at 12:43 AM CDT
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MUSCLE SHOALS, AL (WAFF) - A sexual abuse victim has filed a federal lawsuit against a Shoals church, their former children's pastor and a Colbert County business following more than a decade of sexual abuse. The lawsuit states the unnamed victim was sexually abused by Jeffrey Eddie, Children's Pastor at Highland Park Baptist Church in Muscle Shoals.

According to the lawsuit, the abuse happened several times between 2001 and 2013. The filing states the victim was abused in various locations at the church, including Eddie's office, a storage closet in Eddie's office, the church van, camp retreats at Earle Trent Assembly Camp, and at church sleep overs at Eddie's home.

The lawsuit states Highland Park Baptist Church did not monitor or supervise Eddie and that his office was isolated from other administrative offices. Eddie covered the only window with a bulletin board. The victim also states the church allowed Eddie sole control over installation and monitoring of security cameras.

According to the lawsuit, the church provided Eddie with two cell phones. One had a different carrier and billing record from other church phones. The victim alleges the church did not monitor Eddie's computer or phone activity.

The lawsuit accuses church leaders at Highland Park of waiting 10 days before reporting accusations of sexual abuse. Alabama law requires clergy to report suspected abuse immediately. The lawsuit states church officials insisted on conducting an investigation before reporting the abuse to law enforcement. The filing also accuses Eddie of  "repeatedly and consistently" sexually abusing children during his 14 years with Highland Park Baptist Church.

The victim states Highland Park Baptist Church is still providing Eddie's wife with his full salary, benefits and free cell phone service. Eddie's wife filed for divorce near the time of his arrest. The case has since been sealed.

The business named in the lawsuit is Loving the Shoals United Appeal Fund. The Alabama Secretary of State's office lists Jeffrey Eddie, along with other church leaders, as a director. Eddie is listed as the incorporator. The business is listed as a non-profit. The business nature is listed as "Glorify God by Raising Funds and Supporting Benevolence Activities".

Eddie worked for Highland Park Baptist Church from 1998 until his arrest in 2014. In December, Colbert County investigators arrested Eddie on 36 sexual abuse related counts. He pleaded guilty to 16 counts of sodomy, three counts of sex abuse of a child under twelve, and one count of possession of child pornography. Eddie was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Highland Park Baptist Church has not responded to a request for comment.

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