by Chet Hardin
This week, the pastor of St. John's Baptist Church, Willie J. Sutton Jr., was served in a new lawsuit filed by St. John’s Baptist Church Governing Body, Inc.
Filed by Denver-based attorney Edward Hopkins on behalf of a number of members of the church, the suit asks the courts to hand over possession of the church property to the plaintiffs. Currently, it's unclear who owns controls the historic church, which has been mired in controversy for well over a year.
"This is the lawsuit that the courts really can't dismiss on the grounds that there are First Amendment issues," says Hopkins. "Because it involves property, the court has to step in and decide who has the right to control it."
Hopkins is referencing the challenges he has faced in pursuing his original suit, which the court at first chose not to allow to continue, citing First Amendment protections for religion.
As we reported back in December, a Lincoln Navigator is a big part of the ongoing feud:
In a sworn affidavit from church secretary Norma Jackson, allegations emerge that Sutton forged Jackson's signature on a purchase agreement for the $30,000 vehicle — essentially buying the Navigator, which he drives, in the church's name.
In the affidavit, Jackson further alleges that Sutton instructed her to say that she'd given him permission to use her name, or else he'd spread the rumor that she'd had sex with a member of the church.
The Colorado Springs Police Department has confirmed that there is an open investigation into Sutton.