Louis Bristol addresses the court at his sentencing hearing
Paul Wellman

Two women sexually abused by a Carpinteria Community Church youth minister have filed a lawsuit against the church and the Presbytery of Santa Barbara. The civil suit comes just a few days after a nearly identical civil case was filed on behalf of a third victim.

Attorney Tim Hale is representing all three women and claims church leaders ignored and mishandled nearly eight years’ worth of complaints against youth minister Louis Bristol. Hale said the church, which has denied all allegations, was more interested in protecting its reputation than its congregation and the rest of the Santa Barbara community.

Bristol, 31, pleaded guilty last year to sex crimes against the two victims of the most recent lawsuit. He was sentenced to jail and probation, and is a registered sex offender. Bristol groomed and preyed on members of his worship team and often brought them to the Holiday Inn, where he also worked, to abuse them, criminal and civil records show.

While three women so far have come forward about their abuse, a source close to one of the victims claims Bristol molested at least three additional teens who are too afraid or too ashamed to speak out. Bristol worked for the Carpinteria Community Church from 2004 until 2012 when he was arrested. He is named as a defendant in both lawsuits.

According to Hale, when the two victims in the recent civil case spoke to church leaders about Bristol’s crimes, the congregation reacted with “at best disbelief and in some cases outright hostility.” Hale also faulted the Presbytery of Santa Barbara, which oversees the Carpinteria Community Church, for allegedly failing to act sooner when it was made aware of Bristol’s behavior.

In a statement last week, church officials said “neither the Church nor the Presbytery had any knowledge of any inappropriate activity during Mr. Bristol’s employment.” They said any allegations against Bristol were immediately reported to police.


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