A former Greenville and Rockwall minister is no longer allowed on the Greenville Christian School campus.
Billy Bob Burge is facing a multi-million dollar lawsuit alleging he sexually abused a teenager at First Baptist Church of Rockwall in the 1990s.
He resigned in late September as connect minister at Grace Community Church, according to Lead Pastor Adam Brind.
The allegations led to Greenville Christian School officials announcing Burge was no longer allowed on the school’s campus and a letter was sent to parents on Sept. 28.
Burge is accused of repeatedly sexually abusing John Jeremy Sweet-Gomez when he attended the church in Rockwall as a teenager.
Sweet-Gomez, according to the lawsuit filed in Dallas County District Court by his parents, Carla Sweet and Ed Gomez, committed suicide in January 2015.
Sweet and Gomez filed the lawsuit against Burge and First Baptist Church of Rockwall in September.
“I have very recently been made aware of information that I need to pass along to you as a school family,” GCS Head Administrator Steve Bowers wrote in the letter to parents. “Allegations of sexual abuse have been made by a family in the Dallas area against Billy Bob Burge, a volunteer that has served with our football team over the last decade or so.”
Bowers wrote that Burge was a volunteer trainer/water boy/ball boy for the football team, and, sparingly in 2008, as a substitute teacher.
“He has been notified that while the suit and allegations against him are pending, he is not allowed on our campus nor can he be involved with any GC school program or function,” Bowers wrote. “l strongly encourage you to have conversations with your children and help them to understand physical boundaries.
“Please encourage your children to discuss with you and/or any trusted adult, including GC faculty and staff, behaviors or touching with which they are currently uncomfortable or have been uncomfortable with in the past,” Bowers wrote.
Sweet and Gomez, according to attorneys with Dallas-based Turley Law Firm, are seeking justice for their son, who they allege was repeatedly sexually abused by Burge, who was a youth pastor at First Baptist Church of Rockwall.
The suit alleges that Burge began sexually abusing Sweet-Gomez when he was about 13 years old. The suit also alleges that the sexual abuse and assaults occurred on church property and during church-sponsored religious trips.
“At the Turley Law Firm, we have a long-standing commitment to representing victims of institutional and religious sexual abuse,” Windle Turley said. “Many organizations and their employees occupy positions of trust and confidence that make it possible to cause great harm under the guise of religion. When that occurs the wrongdoers, whether individuals or institutions, must be held accountable.”
Attorneys at the law firm would not answer questions about whether Sweet-Gomez or his parents went to police or church officials with their concerns.
Burge could not be reached for comment, and Don French, business administrator at First Baptist Church of Rockwall, said “it was 25 years ago” and would not comment.
Brind, though, said he and the rest of the church staff were shocked by the allegations.
Church officials did not ask for Burge’s resignation, though. He resigned after working at Grace Community Church since 2012.
“Obviously, we are shocked by it,” Brind said. “We do extensive background checks. It was done in this case.
“The safety of our children is paramount,” he said. “We are absolutely willing to be transparent.”
Brind said he has been in contact with Sweet-Gomez’s family and first learned a lawsuit would be filed about five weeks ago.
Prior to becoming a pastor at Grace Community Church, Brind said Burge worked at First Baptist Church of Greenville. He did not receive any negative feedback about Burge.
Brind said he had not seen any indications of misconduct on Burge’s part.
“He was absolutely fine,” he said.
Brind told Burge of the impending lawsuit.
“He, of course, categorically denied [the allegations],” Brind said.
Gary E. Lindsley may be reached at email@example.com.