Former pastor claims reassignment was race-based

A former staff member at Kentucky‚Äôs largest African-American congregation claims in a recently filed lawsuit that he was reassigned from a pastoral position because he is black.

By Bob Allen

A former staff member at Kentucky’s largest African-American congregation claims in a recently filed lawsuit that he was reassigned from a pastoral position because he is black.

Billy Hollins, a Southern Baptist North American Mission Board-appointed missionary who worked as a pastor in Kentucky and Illinois for more than 25 years, says St. Stephen Baptist Church hired him in August 2001 to serve as pastor of the church’s satellite campus in Jeffersonville, Ind. He claims the church’s senior pastor, Kevin Cosby, removed him and gave him a new job title in 2007 because he wanted the pastor of the Southern Indiana campus to appeal to white members.

After his reassignment as executive assistant pastor at the Louisville campus, Hollins says he was injured in a work-related traffic accident. After he filed a worker’s compensation claim and was told he could not return to work until he was off medication, he was terminated in August 2011.

Hollins claims his reassignment was discriminatory because it was for reasons unrelated to his work performance and based on his race. His subsequent termination, he claims, was retaliation for seeking worker’s compensation and disability discrimination in a job that he claims he was able to perform.

Neither side is commenting to media on the facts of the dispute, but the church’s attorney, Gordon Rowe, told Louisville Public Media radio station WFPL that he expects both sides to begin the discovery phase, including any depositions, in the next 30 days.

Cosby, a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has led St. Stephen Church since 1979. During his tenure church membership has grown from 500 to 10,000. The predominantly black church is affiliated with both the Kentucky Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention.