The Rev. Donald Sanford of the Canaan Galilee Missionary Baptist Church in Madison is denying sexual harassment claims made by a parishioner in a lawsuit filed in January in Madison County.

Represented by attorney Robert Elovitz of Edwardsville, Sanford also seeks to have the complaint, filed by “Jane Doe,” dismissed and his costs paid, according to his May 2 answer.

Doe alleges that Sanford made sexual advances toward her after she sought counseling for “various types of secular issues.”

She alleges the pastor’s position of authority compelled her to consent to several encounters.

Doe asks for more than $50,000 in damages for medical expenses, loss of income and court costs.

In its answer seeking dismissal, the church - named as a co-defendant - states that any contact that may have occurred between Doe and Sanford was consensual. The church also argues that Doe had failed to state a cause of action, “because no legally recognized fiduciary or otherwise ‘special’ relationship existed between Plaintiff and this Defendant or co-defendant Rev. Donald Sanford.”

Doe is represented by attorneys Eugene K. Hollander, Paul W. Ryan and Gina M. Smith of Chicago.

Steven J. Hughes and Natalie J. Higgins of Pitzer Snodgrass in St. Louis represent the church.

Circuit Judge Dave Hylla presides.

Madison County Circuit Court Case No. 13-L-160

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