New lawsuit says married minister “exploited emotionally frail” victim
A married minister from Legacy Christian Church deceived an “emotionally frail” younger man, counseled him, “insisted” he attend church, and used his status to sexually exploit the man, according to a new lawsuit filed by Horowitz Law in Polk County Circuit Court.
Rev. Steven Glenn Newland and Legacy Christian Church, both of Lakeland, are being sued by Joshua Murphy of Polk County. Despite being married with kids, Rev. Newland reportedly used a gay dating website to find and date Murphy for months, later becoming Murphy’s minister, counselor and spiritual advisor. Prodded by Rev. Newland, Murphy disclosed that he was struggling “over his sexual identity and his desire to maintain his Christian faith” and was “in awe of Rev. Newland’s high stature within his congregation and his enthusiastic dedication to his faith,” according to the lawsuit.
Rev. Newland “breached his fiduciary duty through his emotional and sexual exploitation of Murphy during their counseling relationship despite knowing that Murphy was emotionally unfit for a sexual relationship, much less one involving his counselor/minister who occupied a position of trust and could exploit his emotional problems and fragility,’ the suit charges.
“Right from the start, Rev. Newland deliberately deceived Joshua,” said Adam Horowitz, Murphy’s attorney. “It was a shrewd abuse of power designed with just one goal: For Rev. Newman to get his way sexually with a much younger, lonely, vulnerable man seeking guidance from someone who claimed to be holy and wiser.”
“I want the truth out there, want to make sure it doesn’t happen again and want to be sure he can’t be a minister again,” said Murphy. “I won’t be silenced or be part of any type of minister disaster cover up.”
At Legacy, Murphy participated in church programs and received counseling from Rev. Newland.
Rev. Newland “occupied a position of trust and could exploit (Murphy’s) emotional problems and fragility,” the suit says, and as a result Murphy “has suffered physical, psychological and emotional injuries, mental anguish and the loss of enjoyment of life.”
Legacy Christian is named as a defendant because it “was responsible for the selection, assignment and supervision of ministers, the safety of church attendees, and the implementation of policies and procedures at its church including safety protocols” and it employed Rev. Newland.
Newland and Murphy met on a dating website in February 2017. Rev. Newland is 37 and Murphy is 24. The lawsuit, filed in Polk County Circuit Court, alleges negligence and breach of fiduciary duty.
Attorney Adam Horowitz represents children and adults who were victims of sexual abuse by a priest, minister, rabbi, deacon, nuns, or other clergy in civil lawsuits. If you or someone you know was a victim of sexual abuse or sexual assault at a church or other religious organization, please contact our law firm at 888-283-9922 or send an email to [email protected]