March 03, 2005

Church Loses Harassment Suit

Washington Post

By Eric Rich
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 3, 2005; Page B01

A jury awarded $1.35 million yesterday to a woman who said she was driven from her job as music director at a Lutheran church in Gaithersburg and pushed nearly to the brink of suicide by a pastor whose alleged sexual advances she had rebuffed.

Mary Linklater alleged that she was ostracized from Prince of Peace Lutheran Church because of a campaign of retaliatory harassment by its pastor at the time, the Rev. Rufus S. Lusk III, and his allies. Linklater, 46, contended in a lawsuit that after she complained about Lusk's conduct, he delivered a series of sermons intended to discredit her by focusing on such topics as the sinful nature of bearing false witness.

The jury in Montgomery County Circuit Court awarded $1 million in punitive damages and $300,000 in compensatory damages against Lusk, finding that Linklater was the victim of intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The jury, which deliberated for two days, also awarded $50,000 in compensatory damages against the church.

Attorneys on both sides said they were surprised by the size of the award. Linklater, a Germantown resident who now gives private music lessons, said she, too, was stunned by the outcome.

Posted by kshaw at March 3, 2005 02:11 AM