Columbia nonprofit, New Life Bible Church: Parents partially to blame for sexual abuse

Wednesday, September 15, 2010 | 5:51 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — A western Missouri church and a nonprofit that were sued by a woman who said she was sexually abused by a man who worked for both groups said the woman's parents should be held partially responsible.

The lawsuit followed an October 2009 guilty plea by Michael J. Landy, who prosecutors said abused the girl over a four-year period starting when she was 13. Landy, 58, of St. Joseph, was sentenced to seven years in prison, with all but 120 days suspended, and five years of probation.

Landy was a regional director of OATS Inc., a statewide nonprofit based in Columbia that provides transportation for the elderly, rural residents and people with disabilities. Landy also worked as a youth minister with the New Life Bible Church of Easton, an evangelical church in St. Joseph.

His victim claims that some of the abuse occurred on property owned by the nonprofit between 1995 and 1999, while she was a teenager. The woman sued the church and OATS in February, saying they didn't adequately supervise Landy.

But both the church and OATS argued in court documents that her parents should be held partially responsible because they breached their duty by negligently putting their daughter under Landy's supervision. The groups asked a Buchanan County Circuit Court judge to add the woman's parents and father-in-law as third-party defendants.

On Monday, the judge agreed.

"The parents are 100 percent responsible for their minor children," the church's attorney, Patrick McGrath, said on Wednesday. "If you cannot account for the conduct of your minor child, you are a deficient parent."

The woman's attorney, Rebecca Randles, said the decision amounts to blaming the victim. She plans to appeal the ruling.

"They want to be able to go in front of the jury and have them assign some of the blame so they don't have to pay as much money," she said.

Randles said the parents left their daughter in Landy's care while they traveled on church mission trips and remain devout followers of the church, so "essentially, the parents are going to have to choose between their daughter and their faith."

OATS' executive director, Linda Yaeger, said the decision to involve the woman's parents was not easy. Yaeger said the fallout from Landy's arrest was "horribly painful" and her organization never suspected misconduct. Landy worked for the group for 34 years, and Yaeger said she directly supervised him for most of that time.

"How far does an employer's responsibility go?" she said. "I don't know much about the sexual activities of any employee. Certainly, a parent would know more about what was going on than I do."

That stance has led a St. Louis-based support group for victims of church sex abuse to publicly appeal for OATS donors to cease their contributions.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said it also plans to file a protest with the federal and state agencies that provide government support to OATS, which serves about 35,000 to 40,000 Missouri residents.

"Our goal isn't to hurt OATS," said SNAP director David Clohessy. "Our goal is to persuade them to act more compassionately toward a wounded woman who was sexually violated as a child and to make other defendants think long and hard before they use mean-spirited, intimidating legal maneuvers to evade responsibility."

Both lawsuits name the victim, her parents and others, but The Associated Press generally does not identify alleged victims of sexual abuse.


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Erika Sanchez September 15, 2010 | 7:29 p.m.

You have got to be kidding me. This argument is disgraceful: "If you cannot account for the conduct of your minor child, you are a deficient parent."
Essentially, the church and OATS are both contending that this minor child had fault in the abuse (hence her "conduct") and so do her parents. Unbelievable. Remember, people, SHE was the victim!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(Report Comment)
Steve Theisen September 15, 2010 | 8:18 p.m.

Let's see... we are going to blame victims' parents of all crimes now? Teenagers are car-jacked? Blame the parents.
Blame parents for murder, theft, genocide? Wake up Missouri !

(Report Comment)
Judy Jones September 15, 2010 | 8:29 p.m.

"They want to be able to go in front of the jury and have them assign some of the blame so they don't have to pay as much money," she said."

Rebecca Randles is right, this is a very callous tactic coming from both church and OATS officials.
This maneuver is also a very intimidating tactic, so that any other possible victims of this child predator will keep their mouths shut

We hope that anyone who has been harmed by Michael J. Landy, will have the courage to come forward, speak up, and contact police.
Also, there is help and healing for any victims who have been sexually abused by clergy.

"Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests' and all clergy

(Report Comment)
joelle casteix September 15, 2010 | 8:30 p.m.

Shame on defense lawyer Patrick McGrath who claims that parents "are 100 percent responsible for their minor children," and that "If you cannot account for the conduct of your minor child, you are a deficient parent."

His bizarre, callous theory would mean that never could a teacher, coach or day care center employee be found responsible for sodomizing or raping a child, because, really, it's the parents' fault.

I suppose if a drunk driver runs over McGrath's child, he'll only blame himself. . .

Joelle Casteix
Survivors Network of those Abuse by Priests

(Report Comment)
S Spaner September 16, 2010 | 10:04 a.m.

Here's the message folks. You New Life Bible Church of Easton faithful parishioners WILL NOT find support from your church when you follow the mission. You faithful parishioners WILL NOT find support from your church when you are being a responsible parent, you will be viewed as "a deficient parent". Plus you faithful parishioners WILL NOT find responsible and safe supervision of your children when you place them in the care of OATS Inc.. You have a choice. Continue using these institutions or leave them and DO NOT USE THEM. Are you a deficient parent or not?

(Report Comment)
jane hayden September 16, 2010 | 6:41 p.m.

Where is the wisdom in this ruling? To assume parental negligence is completely absurd! These parents didn't leave their child in harms way. They provided for her welfare by using, and trusting in, the services of a statewide non-profit organization whose mission statement is "to provide reliable transportation for transportation disadvantaged Missourians so they can live independently in their own communities." Reliable means dependable, responsible, solid and trustworthy. According to their own statement, Oats failed in its promise. Furthermore, what is the point of spending time and money on a trial, if the lack of wisdom in the courtroom also permits the child molestor's sentence to be suspended? What does any molestor learn from a mere slap on the wrist? More importantly, who else has he been able to molest while on probation? God forbid that the defense attorney's daughter be molested by someone he trusted her care with, while he is on his mission trip to throw the victim's parents under the Oats bus.

(Report Comment)

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