Victims of Williams Urged to Call Hotline (855) 382-3385 to Determine Breadth and Scope of his Alleged Sexual Assaults of Children

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY (May 20, 2022) – Today, attorney Vanessa B. Cantley of Bahe Cook Cantley & Nefzger and Brian Kent of Laffey, Bucci & Kent, LLP announce that they represent Hannah Kate Williams (“Plaintiff”) an alleged victim of James Ray Williams (“Defendant”). A lawsuit has been filed against Defendant, his former employer Lifeway Christian Resources of The Southern Baptist Convention (“Lifeway”), the Southern Baptist Convention, as well as its affiliated religious non-profit entities, Executive Committee of The Southern Baptist Convention, Inc. (EC) and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Inc (SBTS). The Complaint alleges that Defendant, a former seminary student of SBTS in Louisville, Kentucky and employee of LifeWay, engaged in unlawful, harmful, and offensive sexual conduct and physical abuse with Ms. Williams who is Defendant’s daughter. The Complaint alleges that SBTS negligently failed to act to protect Ms. Williams or other children in Defendant’s care after SBTS learned of the abuse from an employee.

“Defendant James Ray Williams had access to countless children in his multiple positions working for SBTS,” said Cantley. “After all the harm he caused, the Defendants’ collective failure to act to protect Hannah Kate, her siblings, and other children is grossly negligent.”  The Complaint further alleges that the church defendants engaged in a concerted effort to discredit, malign, and threaten Hannah Kate Williams as she attempted to seek redress for her abuse, causing her extreme emotional distress.

The Complaint alleges years of sexual and physical abuse that started when Ms. Williams was just four or five years old, beginning with Defendant holding Ms. Williams underwater in the bathtub for extended periods of time to “baptize” Plaintiff for her “sins.” The Complaint alleges that Defendant used this form of physically and psychologically abusive “punishment” on some or all his other children.  The Complaint further alleges that when Ms. Williams was eight years old, James Ray Williams began sexually abusing her. Ms. Williams reported the abuse to Defendant’s employer at an SBTS-run day camp; the report was spurred by Ms. Williams experiencing extreme fear of water while other children were playing in the camp pool. After Plaintiff’s report, based on information and belief, SBTS was notified of Defendant’s conduct toward her and took no action against Defendant, despite Defendant’s proximity to other children, including Ms. Williams’ much younger siblings. Ms. Williams made a second attempt to report Defendant’s conduct to an SBTS elder when she was 24. Thereafter, as alleged in the Complaint, SBTS took no corrective actions, or actions internally to investigate or report to law enforcement Plaintiff’s allegations of physical, sexual, and psychological abuse against Defendant.

As alleged in the Complaint, in response to Plaintiff’s first report, SBTS relocated Defendant to other SBTS facilities and parishes and allowed him to remain in SBTS’ employ in various jobs and locations. As Plaintiff grew older and attempted to seek redress for the years of abuse she suffered at the hands of the Defendant, the Complaint alleges that the Southern Baptist Convention and EC engaged in a concerted effort to undermine Plaintiff’s credibility, malign her character, and threaten her through social media (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter) and at several public church-sponsored events.

As alleged in the Complaint, at one point The Southern Baptist Convention and its members’ harassment of Hannah Kate Williams was so extreme that Lexington, Kentucky police officers patrolled outside Plaintiff’s home. “After knowing the full details of what happened to me, the church turned around and not only blamed the victim, but they actively encouraged animus toward me and weaponized the spread of lies and vitriol against me—to the point I needed police protection,” Ms. Williams said.

“We encourage anyone who may have experienced inappropriate conduct or sexual abuse by Williams, or sexual abuse by any other employee of the Southern Baptist Convention to come forward,” said Kent. “The church must be held accountable for its negligence and the harm it has caused Hannah Kate, and we believe, many others.”

A press conference will be held at the law offices of Bahe Cook Cantley & Nefzger, 1041 Goss Avenue, Louisville, KY 40217, at 4:00 p.m. on Friday, May 20.  Hannah Kate Williams, and attorney Vanessa Cantley will be available for questions.

If anyone has information about James Ray Williams, or if they have been a victim of abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention, they can call Bahe Cook Cantley & Nefzger at (502) 587-2002 or Laffey, Bucci & Kent’s law firm hotline at 855-382-3385.

Laffey, Bucci & Kent, LLP is a personal injury law firm representing individuals seriously injured due to the negligence of others. The Philadelphia lawyers have a long history of representing sexual assault, sexual abuse and crime victims in civil actions. For more information, go to www.laffeybuccikent.com.

Bahe Cook Cantley & Nefzger PLC is a personal injury law firm headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky. Its trial lawyers serve catastrophically injured individuals and families in Kentucky, Indiana, and nationally. If legal help is needed, visit the firm’s website at http://www.kentuckyinjurylaw.com.