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Volunteer Sues Megachurch for $10 Million

HOUSTON (CN) - A volunteer demands $10 million from Lakewood Church, a self-described Houston "megachurch," claiming its negligence and "criminal conduct" caused him to be wrongfully accused of child molestation. Daniel Guzman sued Lakewood Church in Harris County Court.

The complaint does not describe the alleged incident, which Guzman denies ever happened.

The Houston Chronicle reported that another volunteer claimed she saw Guzman inappropriately touch an autistic child. She notified the church and the police. But the child cannot speak and the investigation was inconclusive, the newspaper reported.

The complaint states that the non-incident happened on or around Feb. 13, 2010.

More than a year later, in May 2011, Guzman was arrested. He was released on $10,000 bail, and a Harris County grand jury declined to indict him in July, the Chronicle reported.

Guzman claims the church "abandoned" him after he was "wrongfully accused of sexual harassing or abuse or assault or molesting a minor child at the premises and the defendants procrastinated the report and/or investigation, did not act properly at the time, or after the fact, abandoned plaintiff, injur(ing) plaintiff in non-action".

He claims that similar events had occurred at the church, but Lakewood "failed to take any corrective action to prevent a recurrence of the problem."

He claims that Lakewood Church failed to secure video and evidence, failed to train and provide adequate personnel, "after creating peril failed to assist and/or actually caused more harm," "took too long to report," and "compelled Daniel Guzman into a worse situation."

Guzman's attorney Javier Marcos told the Chronicle that Guzman left Texas as a result of the false allegations.

"All his licenses are being revoked, be they real estate or mechanical, and he cannot get a job anywhere," Marcos said. "In a nutshell, if Lakewood would have properly trained employees or properly followed procedure for any kind of outcry, none of this would have gotten where it got."

Guzman seeks damages for "lost wages, damage to reputation, lost future wages, lost opportunities, damage to licenses, and to endure ridicule, anxiety, pain, and illness resulting in damages."

He also demands punitive damages, claiming the church "had a specific intent to cause substantial injury or harm" to him.

Lakewood Church, run by author and TV preacher Joel Osteen, has the largest congregation in the United States, according to media reports. It describes itself on its website as a megachurch.

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