Three women have filed a class-action lawsuit against a Christian school and affiliated church in Canada, alleging that a former Sunday school teacher abused them in the 1990s and that administrator covered it up.
The women claim that administrators at Christian Centre Academy and Saskatoon Christian Centre church, now known as Legacy Christian Academy and Mile Two Church, knew about alleged abuse that they claim was done to them by a former school employee, Nathan Schultz.
Schultz is one of the over 20 defendants named in the proposed $25-million class-action lawsuit claiming that multiple officials at Christian Centre Academy and Saskatoon Christian Centre were sexually abusive.
The complaint alleges that Schultz, who no longer works at the school, abused the students when they were 4 to 7 years old, and that school and church officials allegedly hid what transpired.
The allegations, which were reported to police, have not yet been proven in court, nor has a statement of defense been filed, according to a CBC News report.
Schultz and his parents are all named in the suit, with the abuse allegedly occurring when his father was director of the school and both of his parents were elders at the church.
Caitlin Erickson, one of the plaintiffs, told CBC that she had attended the school and church for 13 years until 2005. Erickson said she was sexually abused by Schultz when she was as young as 6. Schultz, a graduate of the school and a Sunday school teacher, would have been 16 or 17 years old at the time.
Erickson recalled that when children's church took place on Sundays, Schultz was "always the guy that would volunteer to take the girls to the bathroom."
Erickson alleged that, on three occasions, Schultz took her to a nearby equipment room first and urged her to reach into his pants pocket.
On one of the occasions, he pressured her to do so after she said no multiple times. Erickson claimed that Schultz had cut out the pocket so that she touched his penis instead.
"After that, I would not go to the bathroom when I was at church," Erickson told CBC.
Earlier this year, 18 former students of Legacy Christian Academy filed criminal abuse complaints against the school and Mile Two Church, alleging that they were coerced into exorcisms and suffered corporal punishment at the hands of school officials.
One of the students, Christina Hutchinson, told Global News about an experience when she was 8 and attended Christian Centre Academy. She allegedly endured spankings and treatment, which she said mirrored an "exorcism."
Hutchinson recounted that she and other students were asked to recite a morning prayer in front of a school instructor. She refused to join because she was too nervous.
"The teacher at the time seemed to think that that meant I had a demon, so she would keep me in at break times and rock me in her lap while she spoke in tongues," Hutchinson said.
"It was an exorcism in the sense that she was trying to drive a demon out of me. I didn't know what she was doing, and I didn't have any control over it."
The church and the school sent a statement to Global News expressing remorse over the reported incidents, noting that "the people that are accused of these actions are no longer here or affiliated with us in any way."
"We are all heartbroken to learn the stories of some former students about their experiences from over 15 years ago. The current staff and leadership are hearing some of these stories for the first time, and we condemn any acts of abuse that previous leaders committed," they stated.