Ex-First AME pastor Hunter alleges assault, libel at S.F. church
The Rev. John J. Hunter, who was unceremoniously rejected by the San Francisco flock he was assigned to lead, filed a civil lawsuit against church leaders for physically barring him from taking the pulpit.
The lawsuit, which alleges assault, battery, libel and emotional distress, is the latest in Hunter’s public battle with members of the African Methodist Episcopal denomination. In October, he was abruptly transferred from First AME in Los Angeles to Bethel AME, a reassignment he has challenged.
In the filing, Hunter alleges that Bethel members “did raise their hands in such manner so as to cause Plaintiff to believe he was about to be touched, struck or pushed in a harmful and offensive manner.”
The 55-year-old pastor is seeking unspecified restitution exceeding $25,000. Bethel did not return calls seeking comment.
Hunter was moved after a controversial eight-year tenure in L.A. that was clouded by a federal tax investigation, a sexual harassment lawsuit and the questionable use of $122,000 in church credit cards.
First AME filed a civil lawsuit against Hunter in December, alleging that Hunter, his wife and a small “cabal” of church leaders misappropriated millions of dollars in church and nonprofit funds.
AME’s judicial body is still deliberating whether he should be reinstated as the pastor at the Los Angeles church.
But it recently ruled that Bethel parishioners violated Hunter’s rights as a minister when they blocked him from preaching.
In his lawsuit filed last week in San Francisco County, Hunter alleged that the church falsely stated that he had “charges” pending against him when they passed a resolution rejecting his pastoral assignment.
"There has been no expression of regret or apology from any of those involved in assaulting Pastor Hunter, nor has there has been any effort to rescind, withdraw or otherwise correct the libelous statements" in the resolution," Hunter's attorney, Victor Bullock, said in a statement.
-- Angel Jennings
Photo: Former First AME Rev. John Hunter at a news conference in 2011. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times