Megachurch pastor sues after sex assault allegations: 'It was only kissing and awkward fondling'

A former Southern Baptist president is suing his former church after he was accused of assaulting another pastor's wife, saying his reputation was ruined by the allegations, Religion News Service reported.

Lawyers for the Rev. Johnny Hunt, who headed a Georgia megachurch, admit that he “had a brief, inappropriate, extramarital encounter with a married woman” in 2010, but that it was consensual and should not have been made public. “Some of the precise details are disputed, but at most, the encounter lasted only a few minutes, and it involved only kissing and some awkward fondling,” the complaint read.

In a May 2022 investigation by Guidepost Solutions, the firm found that Hunt had actually sexually assaulted the woman. Hunt's suit accuses Guidepost of defamation, libel and invasion of privacy.

“The decision to smear Pastor Johnny’s reputation with these accusations has led him to suffer substantial economic and other damages,” according to the complaint. “He has lost (his) job and income; he has lost current and future book deals; and he has lost the opportunity to generate income through speaking engagements.”

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“By focusing on the allegation against Pastor Johnny — an allegation by an adult woman that involved noncriminal conduct — and by then taking aggressive action against Pastor Johnny, the Defendants sought to create the appearance that the SBC has learned from its previous mistakes and is now working to protect victims of sex crimes,” the complaint claims.

“Defendants’ decision to feature the allegation against Pastor Johnny in their public report was a strategic decision to deflect attention from the SBC’s historical failure to take aggressive steps to respond to reports of child sex abuse and other sex crimes in its past,” it continues.

During a sermon at New Season Church in Hiram, Georgia on March 19, Hunt said his attorney "has asked me to allow the case to play out."

“However, if I had done what that report says I’ve done, there is no way I could have preached today.”