February 17, 2016 Gainesville, GA: Robb Lawson has come forward saying he was sexually assaulted by a Boy Scout leader while on a camping trip in the 1980’s. BRANT SANDERLIN/BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM
Photo: Brant Sanderlin
Photo: Brant Sanderlin

Boy Scouts, Gainesville church argue to drop sexual abuse case

A Gainesville church and the Boy Scouts of America committed fraud when they allowed a confessed predator to keep his leadership positions, according to a lawsuit filed by a former scout who was raped in 1985.

It wasn’t until 2015 that Robb Lawson learned the name of his abuser, Fleming Weaver, and found out the church and scouts knew four years before the rape that Weaver was dangerous. But Lawson’s 30-year silence before confronting the church that sponsored his troop should be reason to drop his civil suit, attorneys for the Boy Scouts, the church and alleged molester argued Thursday.

Lawson’s attorneys argued that the Boy Scout oath — taken by scouts and volunteers — misrepresented the truth behind the organization, which covered up the abuse along with others in the church community.

“We’ve alleged actual fraud,” attorney Natalie Woodward told the court. “We’ve alleged fraudulent misrepresentations that continued on.”

The civil case will continue on at least another month, when Cobb County Superior Court Judge C. LaTain Kell will rule on whether to dismiss the suit, which names First Baptist Church — a large and prominent congregation in Gainesville that counts Gov. Nathan Deal among its members — as well as former pastor, Steve Brown; the Boy Scouts of America; and Fleming Weaver, the former scout leader and deacon accused of molesting Lawson.

Lawson, now 46, was on a weekend camping trip for the Order of The Arrow, an honor society for scouts, when he says he was raped by Weaver in 1985. But he told no one until 2015, when he made church leaders aware. Lawson and his parents were in court Thursday, but Weaver was not.

Kell praised the work of attorneys on both sides of the case, which was transferred from Fulton County to Cobb, where the Atlanta Area Council of the Boy Scouts is located.

But Kell asked attorneys on both sides to submit further orders addressing the issues in the case, including whether there was “fraudulent concealment” of knowledge of the molestation. Kell gave the attorneys a Nov. 20 deadline to submit their arguments before he will issue a ruling.

The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages and requests a trial by jury.

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