The SGM Lawsuit; defending the wrong side; and Church Coverups of Abuse

child abuse casts a shadowMatt B Redmond posts:

“Just over a year ago the Second Amended Complaint against Sovereign Grace Ministries, Covenant Life Church, C.J. Mahaney, et al was dismissed by a judge due to the statute of limitations. It was not the evidence itself but the success of the guilty causing the suit to be dismissed. The suit alleges the cover-up of sexual abuse. Grant Layman, who is named in the suit, has already admitted he and the other pastors should have but did not alert the authorities to the crimes of sex abuse against children committed by Nate Morales. The goal was to keep victims and their families quiet. The guilty were so successful the case was dismissed due to the statute of limitations. An appeal was filed soon thereafter.”

The appeal of that dismissal is being heard today. (update below)

We already know now that the cover-up was real.  Grant Layman, C. J. Mahaney’s brother-in-law and one of the the pastors at the church were Majaney was senior pastor, recently testified under oath that he knew about the abuse in the 90s, knew he should have told the police, but he did not.

There are police reports quoting another pastor at the time, Boisvert, as admitting that he, too, knew of the abuse, and did not report it.

Three of those accused of abuse have already been found guilty.  However, because they were not submitted to the local magistrates at the time the church pastors learned of that abuse, in the 90s, they were able to go on to abuse multiple other victims.

If you’ve read that lawsuit, and you should, you may well remember the name of David Adams.  1982-4: He molested James Roberts.   James eventually told the principal of the school (and a man who has served as Soverign Grace board chairman) John Loftness, who had him re-enact the molestation! Further, he did not notify anybody who should have known- not the parents, not the police.  Instead, he had this child meet with his abuser privately, with nobody there to advocate for the child, and have a forced reconciliation- and Loftness ordered the child to forgive his molester.

James Roberts was later again molested on church premises by Nathan Morales, and at first he didn’t tell anybody because he did not want to be forced into another meeting like the first one. Morales was recently found guilty in the trial where Grant Laymen testified under oath that he knew about the abuse but didn’t report it.  I am so grateful for Roberts’ courage. His case wasn’t heard- but he has more to say about that here. 

He and other victims were able to put a stop to Morales.  But when he was a child, those in authority permitted it to continue for decades.

Meanwhile, although Loftness knew David Adams was a child molester, he did nothing to stop him.  Five years later, David Adams’ own daughter reported to her mother that he had been molesting her from the time she was 11 until she was 14.  Her mother reported it to church authorities.  Their responses including directing her other daughter not to tell anybody else, directing the mother not to tell the police but to let them handle it, telling the mother to send the daughter away so David Adams could return home as the head of his household.  Law enforcement did get involved, thankfully, but Loftness did not tell anybody about Adams’ previous history of molestation, and he and other pastors there actually hired and paid for a lawyer for the child molester.

Adams was convicted and served jail time. He was welcomed back to the church where he continued to have access to children.  Meanwhile, his wife and his children had been expelled. His wife was told that her family’s financial difficulties were self-inflicted because she had chosen to cooperate with the authorities.

2 yrs ago it was reported that “David Adams, who did serve jail time for child abuse, is still active at Covenant Life, and manages a children’s music band.”

Read more: http://www.wjla.com/articles/2013/05/sovereign-grace-ministries-class-action-civil-lawsuit-involving-child-sex-abuse-88894.html#ixzz33yZ3wOoF

That is what silence does.  It doesn’t protect your church’s reputation.  It doesn’t protect the reputation and good name of your family, your organization, or your educational system.  Silence creates many more victims.

Defending somebody who has been accused of molesting children doesn’t make you look like a hero, either.  

“It’s dreadfully hurtful to child sex abuse victims when people in authority publicly back accused wrongdoers. And it hinders criminal investigations because it intimidates victims, witnesses and whistleblowers into staying silent.

Support Rev. Mahaney if you must. But do so privately in ways that don’t further harm depress and scare other child sex abuse victims into keeping silent and thus helping child predators escape detection and prosecution.”

But that is not what happened in this case.  People who clearly couldn’t be bothered to read the actual lawsuit or speak to a single victim,  came out to defend the accused and ignored the victims.

Theologian Don Carson, pastor Kevin DeYoung and blogger Justin Taylor defended Mahaney.

As recently as this past week, so did Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, and Albert Mohler, and that last name seriously disappointed me and made my heart heavy.

You can read the initial statement posted on the ‘T4G’ (Together for the Gospel, if you can believe it) facebook page.  The comments were apparently too embarrassing for them, so they deleted it, but somebody saved most of it, and you can read it here:   https://www.evernote.com/shard/s2/sh/e3623beb-3591-4ba2-a332-30f2e94bb79c/48ade443a4715458c112553f82acf8c9

They reposted another version on their website, where they don’t have to endure the corrections of more informed commenters, and then they had to edit it. See screenshots of the two different versions here: http://boarsheadtavern.com/2013/06/02/36868/#more-36868

Peter Lumpkins posted about this debacle as well:

“Finally, they claim “As to the specific matter of C. J. participating in some massive cover-up, the legal evidence was so paltry (more like non-existent) that the judge did not think a trial was even warranted.” I can hardly believe these three highly-educated men would pen such undiluted fully verifiable nonsense. The judge did no such thing and Taylor, DeYoung, and Carson are simply perpetuating nothing less than what some would understandably call a polite fib. The judge didn’t cite lack of evidence as a reason to dismiss but the statute of limitations, a lawful limitation not even legally applicable to at least two of the plaintiffs. If nothing else in the article gave the impression Mahaney’s buddies were covering for him, this statement surely did.”

http://peterlumpkins.typepad.com/peter_lumpkins/2013/05/cj-mahaney-supporters-struggle-to-find-a-sympathetic-following-.html

Al Mohler, Mark Dever, and Ligon Duncun posted a message of support for CJ Mahoney on their facebook page. It contained a gross inaccuracy, which was pointed out to them. They altered the statement without acknowledgement. But comments continued to run 10 to one against their statement, so they deleted the whole thing. I have to wonder if they even read the amended lawsuit- given the inaccuracy of their first statement. And if they didn’t, how irresponsible is that? http://peterlumpkins.typepad.com/…/liberty-lawyer…

And now they seem to have deleted the one from the website as well. An apology and some expressions of concern for the truth and for victims would be welcome.

Compare what Mohler said about Joe Paterno of Penn State in that horrible child sex abuse case (where Paterno only knew of it, but he said nothing) to his actions here.  It grieves me much to see these feet of very solid clay in a man I had tremendous respect for as recently as last week, but the hundreds of victims allowed to continue hurting children because of the cover up at SGM grieve me more.

Can you imagine Peter or Paul behaving this way?  It’s like Dever, Duncan and Mohler saw the bits about the Memory Hole and Ministry of Truth in 1984 as a how-to manual.

“…Christian leaders who proclaim the Gospel with their voice, but remain silent and/or defensive about the horrors of child sexual abuse within the Church. These leaders have once again, and perhaps unwittingly, demonstrated the art of marginalizing individual souls for the sake of reputation and friendships.”

http://netgrace.org/where-are-the-voices-the-continued-culture-of-silence-and-protection-in-american-evangelicalism/

I’m not a baptist, and I’m not ‘reformed.’ This isn’t ‘my’ denomination, and I have never read a book or listened to a sermon by C. J. Mahaney.  I am only really familiar with a couple of the above names, or was, before I started reading about this.

“Why care about this?” some people want to know.

What I want to know is “How do you NOT care? ”

 

“If we side with those whose theology we agree with but have not love for the victims of abuse, we are nothing.”

http://mattbredmond.com/2013/06/07/the-religious-leaders-and-the-least-of-these-in-the-sgm-scandal/

See also: World Magazine on the lawsuit against CJ Mahaney and SGM churches:http://www.worldmag.com/2014/05/called_to_report

They may think they are only protecting their friend (although I suspect what’s being protected here is their brand)- but they are sending a horrible message to those who have been abused, and not just the plaintiffs in this particular suit.

An activist who advocated for victims during the Roman Catholic sexual-abuse scandal in the United States in 2002 says evangelical leaders publicly rallying behind a minister accused in a lawsuit of covering up sex crimes against children sends the wrong message to abuse victims everywhere.

David Clohessy, national director of SNAP — the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests – said May 28 that religious leaders voicing support for embattled Pastor C.J. Mahaney, named in a lawsuit recently thrown out of a Maryland court for legal reasons, ought to be ashamed.

“It’s dreadfully hurtful to child sex-abuse victims when people in authority publicly back accused wrongdoers,” said Clohessy, one of just four abuse survivors to testify before the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at their historic meeting in Dallas in 2002. “And it hinders criminal investigations, because it intimidates victims, witnesses and whistleblowers into staying silent.”

Mohler’s advice in his column on the Penn State scandal was right and good:

But the world has not only changed for college athletics. The detonation of the Penn State scandal must shake the entire nation into a new moral awareness. Any failure to report and to stop the sexual abuse of children must be made inconceivable. The moral irresponsibility that Penn State officials demonstrated in this tragedy may well be criminal. There can be no doubt that all of these officials bear responsibility for allowing a sexual predator to continue his attacks.

What about churches, Christian institutions, and Christian schools? The Penn State disaster must serve as a warning to us as well, for we bear an even higher moral responsibility.

The moral and legal responsibility of every Christian — and especially every Christian leader and minister — must be to report any suspicion of the abuse of a child to law enforcement authorities. Christians are sometimes reluctant to do this, but this reluctance is both deadly and wrong.

Sometimes Christians are reluctant to report suspected sexual abuse because they do not feel that they know enough about the situation. They are afraid of making a false accusation. This is the wrong instinct. We do not have the ability to conduct the kind of investigation that is needed, nor is this assigned to the church. This is the function of government as instituted by God (Romans 13). Waiting for further information allows a predator to continue and puts children at risk. This is itself an immoral act that needs to be seen for what it is.

A Christian hearing a report of sexual abuse within a church, Christian organization, or Christian school, needs to act in exactly the same manner called for if the abuse is reported in any other context. The church and Christian organizations must not become safe places for abusers. These must be safe places for children, and for all. Any report of sexual abuse must lead immediately to action. That action cannot fall short of contacting law enforcement authorities. A clear lesson of the Penn State scandal is this: Internal reporting is simply not enough.

But now he is defending Mahaney, who did exactly what Mohler decried. 

Today the appeal wil lbe heard.  It will probably be denied, but that doesn’t mean the case is over. The appeal is heard by the same judge who dismissed the lawsuit based on teh statute of limitations in the first place, and it is rare for a judge to overturn himself.  It’s just one step in the process.

The plaintiffs have every intention of continuing to exhaust all means necessary to bring these people to justice, to give victims a voice, to make it clear that covering up crimes in your local congregation and church schools brings shame and reproach to you and your organization.

Please pray for the truth to come out, and for children everywhere.

 

Here are notes of today’s trial, taken and shared by an observer at the trial.

My understanding- and I have zero legal training or expertise: The only issue being considered in this appeal, as I understand it, is whether the clock on the statute of limitations starts ticking when the conspiracy begins or when the victims learn about the conspiracy. 

The sexual abuse itself is not an issue. At this point, whether or not there was a conspiracy is not even the issue- it’s a question of what the law considers the starting point for the statute of limitations on conspiracy.

SGM’s lawyers are arguing that even if the charges of conspiracy and cover-up are true, the statute of limitations ran out on it a long time ago because the alleged conspiracy was in the 80s. 

( I don’t understand that, since it appears to me they were still conspiring to cover up when they issued that dishonest statement in 2012, claiming they had never known of the abuse until years later- a statement Grant Layman’s testimony revealed to be a lie, and a statement Josh Harris admitted was not as accurate as he thought and was part of the reason he offered to step down. So that sounds to me like they were still actively conspiring just two years ago.)

The plaintiffs argue that they only learned of the conspiracy in 2011 when they were finally able to pool their stories and compare details, and *that* is when the clock should start ticking.

But if you were to trust Mahaney and his defenders, you would imagine this whole trial had nothing to do with him and was all about proving or disproving the molestation charges, and had already been tossed without merit.  That is a flat lie.  The judge dismissed the case ONLY on the basis of standing and statute of limitations.  He did not address the merits of the case at all.

I left a comment at WW about the discrepancy between Layman’s testimony and the church’s official statement.

Dee at Wartburg Watch answered and explains why the recent admission by Layman doesn’t come into this case:

“You are correct and that is why some folks are wondering if a criminal investigation could be in the offing. However, on the part of the appeal, one can only submit the imformation that was avaiable to the trial which took place last year-prior of Layamn’s admission under oath. Also, this case which is appealed is a civil case, not a criminal case.  Many people are appalled at the statement by CLC and it is evident that Harris is as well.  Their only recourse is “Trust us, we’ll tell you the truth when we can talk.” They lost any appeal to trust a loooong time ago.”

 

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6 Comments

  1. Mya
    Posted June 9, 2014 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Ok, so my moral dilemma in reading all this and learning more and more about this appalling coverup is two fold – 1) where is the rest of the media coverage??? and 2) someone recommended a book by Carolyn Mahaney for our womens group, I got it and read and and really resonate with it before I knew all of this. I don’t think sin invalidates Gods truth, but how do I ask women to buy this book with out ‘giving my support’ to those who perpetrated this crime? Should this still be on our book list?

    • Headmistress, zookeeper
      Posted June 9, 2014 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

      I don’t know what to tell you. I wish I did.

      • Steph
        Posted June 10, 2014 at 7:28 am | Permalink

        Did Carolyn know about this? Or did it fall into ‘the secrets of the confessional’?

        If we find out that she didn’t know (of course, we have to believe what she says, but I think that it could be possible that she didn’t. My husband doesn’t discuss church business from the elders’ meetings with me.), then why not recommend her books? And, if the subject comes up, we will be able to explain her innocence.

        (This is my point of view, but I have no experience in dealing with abuse or victims of abuse. I am really, honestly ready to hear why the above is not a good idea.)

        • Headmistress, zookeeper
          Posted June 12, 2014 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

          Well, it did not fall under secrets of the confessional legally. And the whole problem with keeping quiet about sex molesters in the church is a huge part of the problem in the first place, but I don’t know how far that silence extended- so I don’t know how much Carolyn knew or when she knew it. There might be some mention of her in the amended second filing- I have read it, but it’s hard reading, and I don’t recall every detail.

  2. Harper
    Posted June 9, 2014 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    That’s not a church, it’s a cult.

  3. otming
    Posted June 13, 2014 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    Respectfully …

    Child sexual abuse shadows its victims for a lifetime. It shadows their spouses. It shadows their children.

    The covering up of child sexual abuse or the sexual harrassment and abuse of adult women shadows all those involved in the organizations that cover up and therefore tolerate the abuse and allow it to continue. Those who diminish what happened diminish the humanity of all those like the victims (for example, women and children) and the humanity of all those like the perps (for example men who wouldn’t dream of abusing anyone are feared, etc.) and their own humanity as responsible servant leaders.

    Those close to power in such dysfunctional organizations cannot help being affected by the abuse, whether they actually knew about it or not. It’s in the air, in the attitudes that prevail, in what passes for o.k.

    Is Mrs. Mahaney the only person speaking God’s truth? If not, then why not recommend another book that you can be reasonably sure will probably not carry the possibility of being tainted by attitudes that are definitely not o.k.?

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