The lawsuit has divided members of the congregation. Some, includingCarol Barham, staunchly defend Privette. They say he is an affectionateperson who is being persecuted by those who want to take over the church.
Lawyers argued pretrial motions in the case on Monday. Plaintiffs areseeking a minimum of $10,000 in monetary damages from Privette and areasking that he be ousted as senior minister.
Privette was pastor of White Plains United Methodist Church lastFebruary when three women, Tracey Newman, Kathy Kahall and Debbie Smithfiled a lawsuit alleging that Privette inappropriately touched them. They say he often pulled them close, slapped them on the buttocks, or kissed them on the neck. One of the women, Gail Lawson, says she was fired as a church employee forcomplaining about the overtures.
Lawson told WRAL-TV5 News last year that Privette providedthe wrong kind of leadership in her office.
"I was hugged by the pastor and I was uncomfortable," she said. "I put a stop to it by pulling away and showing I did not want to be hugged".
Joyce Davis, attorney for the plaintiffs, says she intends to show thatPrivette should not be allowed to continue in his position.
Privette, who denies the allegations, was suspended with pay for twomonths and ordered to receive therapy. He has filed a countersuit allegingthat his reputation has been damaged, and has since returned to duties atthe church.
This past Sunday, he was in the pulpit preaching about healing.