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U.S. Briefs: SBC quietly settles abuse lawsuit

Confidential settlement ends six years of legal wrangling

Jared Woodfill David J. Phillip / AP

U.S. Briefs: SBC quietly settles abuse lawsuit
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The Southern Baptist Convention and several other plaintiffs entered a confidential settlement on Dec. 28 to end six years of legal wrangling over accusations of abuse. The dispute began with a 2017 lawsuit accusing prominent Baptist leader Paul Pressler of raping and molesting Duane Rollins for 24 years. Rollins also sued Pressler’s longtime law partner, Jared Woodfill, and First Baptist Church of Houston for enabling or concealing Pressler’s abuse. Rollins, Pressler’s former aide, said the abuse began when he was 14 and attended Pressler’s Bible study at the church. Pressler, now 93, is a former Texas judge who served on the SBC’s Executive Committee and was an influential figure in the denomination’s “conservative resurgence” in the late 20th century. He has denied Rollins’ allegations. As part of Rollins’ suit, seven other men came forward with claims of sexual misconduct against Pressler, according to The Texas Tribune. The case propelled a wider investigation into how the denomination has handled abuse claims. —Mary Jackson


Pro-abortion activists secured enough signatures to add a referendum to this year’s ballot that would enshrine abortion access in the state’s constitution. The Florida Division of Elections validated 911,169 signatures by Jan. 8, more than the approximately 891,500 required. The proposed amendment reads in part, “No law shall prohibit, penalize, delay, or restrict abortion before viability or when necessary to protect the patient’s health, as determined by the patient’s healthcare provider.” If passed, parental or guardian notification would still apply for minors getting abortions. The state Supreme Court must review the proposed ballot measure for clarity. State Attorney General Ashley Moody called the word “viability” an attempt to mislead voters. —Todd Vician


The University of Maryland is launching a study researchers describe as “first-of-its-kind” to better understand how the flu is transmitted. They have already recruited healthy adults to stay in a hotel in Baltimore. But now they need people recently diagnosed with influenza to join them in a closed-off area of the historic Lord Baltimore Hotel for up to two weeks. They will participate in group activities that mimic real life to see who gets sick. Researchers will measure the amount of virus particles in the air and test various air filters for their effectiveness in stopping the spread. Participants will be paid up to $1,900 and will have access to medical care. The National Institutes of Health provided $15 million to fund the study. —Emma Freire

Anya Semenoff/The Denver Post via Getty Images


USA Boxing officially believes it’s OK for men to hit women. Starting this year, boxing’s Colorado Springs–based governing body will allow adult male boxers to fight women in the ring: Men who self-identify as “transgender” can compete as women after suppressing their testosterone levels to below 5 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L) for at least four years before their first women’s bout. Men typically have testosterone levels exceeding 10 nmol/L and sometimes higher than 30. Women’s levels, by contrast, are often below 3 nmol/L. Under USA Boxing’s rules, women who identify as men must also wait four years to compete in the opposite gender category. During that time, they must increase their testosterone levels to 10 nmol/L or greater. The rules state both men and women must also complete “gender reassignment surgery.” Several female professional boxers lambasted the policy: Former junior lightweight unified champion Mikaela Mayer tweeted that it “completely disrupts the even level playing field that sport works so hard to create.” —Ray Hacke

Gavin Newsom

Gavin Newsom Rich Pedroncelli/AP


On Jan. 1, the Golden State became the first to make its healthcare program available to all illegal immigrants. Medi-Cal will now cover about 700,000 undocumented immigrants between 26 and 49 years old. Until Jan. 1, this segment of the state’s illegal immigrant population could only receive emergency and pregnancy-related services. The state opened Medi-Cal to illegal immigrant children in 2015. Gov. Gavin Newsom expanded the benefit to include adults between 19 and 25 in 2019, and all residents over 50 in 2022. Critics argue Medi-Cal service providers are already straining to accommodate the 14.6 million Californians on their patient rolls—more than a third of the state’s population. Illegal immigrants are not eligible for Medicaid and other federal programs, so California will not get federal matching funds to pay for the estimated $3.1 billion ­expansion. —Addie Offereins

U.S. Virgin Islands

A small, locally owned newspaper on the island of St. Croix ended its 180-year run on Jan. 7. Owner and publisher Rena Brodhurst said in a letter to island residents Dec. 31 that the St. Croix Avis, first published in 1844, could not compete with social media and free emailing of its ­content. The Avis is a successor to the Royal Danish American Gazette, the first known newspaper published in the Virgin Islands. Much of its content was printed in Danish until 1917 when the United States bought the islands. Brodhurst credited the Moravian Church’s insistence on enslaved people learning to read and write for the paper’s creation and continued success. Slavery was abolished in the Danish West Indies four years after the Avis printed its first issue. St. Croix, one of the three main Virgin Islands east of Puerto Rico, has a population of 41,000, mostly black residents whose ancestors were slaves. —Todd Vician


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