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The Village Church settles sexual abuse lawsuit

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The Village Church in Texas has reached a settlement with former church members over allegations that a children’s minister sexually abused their daughter at a church camp event in 2012.

The church, led by Matt Chandler, announced it reached a settlement with “Jane Doe One” on Aug. 1 over the allegations linked to former staffer Matt Tonne, who was accused by Christi Braggs and her husband, Matt, in a 2019 report in The New York Times of sexually abusing their daughter when she was about 11 years old.

The Braggs alleged that The Village Church responded to their concerns in a spiritually abusive manner and appeared to be more concerned with the reputation of the megachurch instead of their daughter.

In August 2020, prosecutors in Dallas County dismissed the criminal charges against Tonne, stating “the fact remains that the complainant cannot and has not positively identified [Tonne] as the person who committed [the] offense.” 

Upon settling the civil case, the litigation was dismissed from the Dallas County Court.

While the settlement was not disclosed, the lawsuit filed in July 2019 sought more than $1 million in damages for the alleged sexual abuse.

The charges were also expunged from Tonne’s record in late 2021.

The church released a statement Tuesday, which read in part: “The safety of our children and the vulnerable among us has been, and remains, our highest priority. After a thorough and lengthy legal investigation, we maintain and firmly believe that we committed no wrong. 

“It has been our practice to exceed the standard of care as it relates to child safety, and we will continue to take accusations of or suspicion of abuse seriously.”

The church also continues to “provide ongoing training to all of our staff, elders, deacons, and key lay leaders to increase awareness and delineate instructions for filing reports,” according to the statement.

Braggs told the NY Times that she was getting ready for a family weekend at a lake with friends in February 2018 when her daughter, who is now an adult, asked to talk to her alone.

Her daughter then recounted how when she was at church camp six years earlier, she awoke in the girls’ room with some of her undergarments pulled down. 

Braggs said a man, whom her daughter did not identify, was sitting on her bed, touching her. He left when a light went on in the bathroom.

Braggs, who revealed she is a sexual assault survivor, wasted no time in filing a police report and contacting The Village Church. 

Her daughter later identified Tonne as the man who was sitting on her bed.

In a 2019 video clip shared with The Christian Post, Chandler recounted how as soon as they were told about the situation in 2018, they got the police involved and held a meeting with all the parents of the children at the camp that they were able to locate.

“I was dealing with it not just as a pastor, but as a dad,” Chandler said. “My oldest daughter was a cabin away from where this incident, alleged incident, took place.”

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