Are evangelical Christians views on lawsuits changing? From a Gospel to Asia lawsuit to Bill Gothard lawsuit and more, have Christians reached a tipping point and are more comfortable with legal action? My thoughts on how a lawsuit against a corrupt organization or ministry can be a form of worship in holding them to account.
“I decided there and then to sue the bastards.”
“I’m an evangelical Christian but as I said on the blog: Someone needs to sue these bastards.”
Mother of a Child Sex Abuse Victim from SGM in a recent Washingtonian article
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. 6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
Romans 13: 1-7 NIV
On February 8, 2016 Warren Throckmorton reported about a class action lawsuit that was filed against K. P Yohannan and Gospel for Asia. You can read the initial post here, the follow up which has the lawsuit attached. You can also read this Christian Post article as well about the lawsuit. I have not been following the Gospel for Asia situation in detail, but I have read a few things on Warren Throckmorton’s blog here and there on his blog. Gospel for Asia has been under intense scrutiny for misusing its funds. In October 2015 it lost its Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability rating. Also Gospel for Asia was prevented by the United States government in participating in the Combined Federal Campaign by Office of Personal Management (OPM). The Combined Federal Campaign is the largest and most successful charity fundraiser in the United States. It should be noted that OPM action’s had nothing to do with the organization being Christian as other Christian ministries participate and have no problem what so ever. The lawsuit against Gospel for Asia is being handled by the Stanley Law Group which is based in Texas. Here is the copy of the statement released by the law firm that was posted at Warren’s Throckmorton’s blog.
CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT FILED TO HOLD GOSPEL FOR ASIA ACCOUNTABLE FOR FRAUDULENT SOLICITATION AND MISUSE OF CHARITABLE DONATIONS
Now that to my knowledge is not the only lawsuit that is ongoing. I mean there has been news of others, and indication of a forthcoming lawsuit.
- There have been a number of people who stepped forward and became part of a lawsuit against Bill Gothard’s IBLP. Now I am not an expert on Bill Gothard as such I really don’t write about him. I prefer to leave that to the talented, and diligent Julie Anne Smith who knows the fringe organizations and movements like that much better than I. But that is a lawsuit that I never anticipated.
- We had the first part of the Sovereign Grace lawsuit which sadly was thrown out on a technicality. However, in the Washingtonian article about Sovereign Grace Susan Burke indicated that the Virginia lawsuit will commence in the future at some point. So the legal troubles for C.J. Mahaney are not over…not by a long shot.
- There is still the ongoing situation of a possible RICO lawsuit against Mars Hill Church which last I heard was being run by Kerry Dodd. Warren Throckmorton wrote about it a while back in this post. There is also this dedicated website which explains why a RICO lawsuit needs to be brought forth against Mars Hill Seattle.
Is the Evangelical Christian Church at a Tipping Point on Lawsuits?
Now this is not the first time I have written about evangelicals and lawsuits. It will also not be my last. In this post I wrote to those formerly involved in Mars Hill Seattle and hoped that they would file the RICO lawsuit. Meanwhile in this post I thanked Pam Palmer and many former members of Sovereign Grace for filing the lawsuit against SGM. The lawsuit was needed, necessary and overdue. For me it also helped in finding a working solution to the problem of evil. Watching some Christians stand up against their former denomination, church and pastors indicated for me that you don’t turn a blind eye to such behavior, instead you confront it.
Today I am amazed that I am hearing more and more Christians use lawsuits as a tool to combat questionable and corrupt ministries. If I go back 10 years to 2006 a lawsuit and Christian would not be in the same sentence. It would be something that I would not foresee nor anticipate. Yet its something that is occurring with more frequency. Here’s my question and I would love for you to discuss and consider this question. Is the evangelical Christian church at a tipping point when it comes to lawsuits? Are people at a point where they are so fed up, and angry that they are going to the next step where as recently as ten years ago they would not? Part of the problem is the following….many churches and Christian ministries would often treat people with contempt, in a cruel manner, or were focused more on their image than the family or people they steamrolled. There are a lot of ministries and organizations that should not exist, and never should have existed. Sovereign Grace for example never should have been formed. Mark Driscoll never should have been a pastor, and Mars Hill never should have come into existence. In the end it was an organization that gave birth to trauma, pain, and malfeasance. So are people at a point especially when the scandals became so horrific and trying that they finally decided to go to the next level? Have we reached a level of corruption in Christianity that is at an all time high, and un-paralleled? I mean consider:
- You have plagiarism issues from Mark Driscoll that stun me.
- C.J. Mahaney was so corrupt in how he threw around money that it appears he corrupted a number of other people in the process.
- You have child sex abuse issues which are stunning.
- You have abuse of authority that is amazing in itself. I think of Paul Petry and Bent Meyer in that example. Who could have foresaw that type of maneuvering? What Mark Driscoll did was outright evil.
- You have people that have left who are propped up by others despite being mired in outright corruption. For example you have Robert Morris prop up Mark Driscoll. You also have Al Mohler and Mark Dever prop up C.J. Mahaney.
I’m honestly more skeptical when it comes to ministries after so much fraud, waste, and scandal. There are a lot of places that look like they are transparent who really lack transparency. For example you can have a church that boasts of having an elder board that can keep the pastor in check. THEN you can learn that behind the scenes the pastor used his influence to appoint or lobby certain men to get on the board. In the end you don’t have and elder board…you have a bunch of “yes men” who are a tool of the pastor. So as I close out this section let me pose this question….are more people at a point where they are ready to bring lawsuits against their churches, pastors and ministries?
How a Lawsuit Against a Corrupt Christian Ministry Brings Glory to God
I want to make this claim…a lawsuit that takes aim at a corrupt ministry is a form of worship to God. It’s a form of worship in that it stands up for justice and stands against inequity. Lawsuits are a needed necessity in today’s world. No one ever imagines they will be a part of one, but its something that can be used to push back against great injustice. Christians seem to forget that government can be ordained by God. I think many Christians forgot that government has a purpose and can be an instrument of good. (On the flip side government can be used for evil as well…I’ll use Nazi Germany as my example in that counter point.) However I think many Christians forget that government has its uses as well. For example our form of government that was God ordained helped dismantle Nazi Germany. In the case of lawsuits I think many people have a tainted view of government because of the culture wars that many evangelicals have waged. For example some evangelicals have been so wrapped up in the efforts to criminalize abortion that they view the legal system through the lens of Roe vs. Wade. Meaning they mistrust and disdain it, and as such they have a jaded sense on these issues. This is another reason why the culture wars create problems it adversely affects the church, society, and those outside the faith.
But a lawsuit in a God ordained legal system can help bring about change and hold a corrupt ministry to account. The government has the legal means to help bring this about and it might be time to look at things through a different lens. For example lets take C.J. Mahaney…I have often wondered if in the move to Louisville if he violated tax exemption laws, or tax codes in the process. Is it possible that there are financial issues that have been hidden in the end? I think this is important to emphasize because in some forms of prosecution certain crimes have been hard to prove. For example when Al Capone ran his empire the United States government tried and had problems in bringing him to account. You know what sent Al Capone eventually to Alcatraz (by way of Atlanta) for a period of time? He was found to have not paid his taxes and that situation is what led him to enjoy a ticket on the rock in the San Francisco bay. I think its time that C.J. Mahaney’s finances should be examined and scrutinized. But here is another thing that should be remembered, those people who bring a lawsuit against a corrupt organization actually demonstrate faith in many ways. The lawsuit shows that they care, and that they want to bring a perpetrator to justice both for their benefit as well as the perpetuator. For example say you have someone who sexually abused a young child, bringing a lawsuit against him and prosecuting him can get him the necessary help that he needs. When Christians don’t file a lawsuit when they should the other problem is that they become enablers of the system and letting it continue. In many of these issues there is no neutrality. I’m sorry to say this, and some will not like this…but there is no neutrality when it comes to topics like domestic abuse, rape, child sex abuse, financial fundraising that is fraudulent and abuse of authority. When a person chooses to be silent on such issues they are perpetuating the problem.
Like the Washingtonian Article Says, “Someone Needs to Sue these Bastards…”
The only way things are going to change is when Christians bring lawsuits against corrupt ministries and ministers. It’s overdue and its something that frankly needs to happen. In other words…it’s time. Many people who engage in such corruption often have no fear of the law or respect for it. I find that particularly disturbing especially when scripture talks about honoring the law in Romans 13. That is reason why I led this post with Romans 13. Christians are to follow the laws of the land and when a ministry is abusing its tax exempt status, or cheating entities like the New York Times or covering up illegal acts like child sex abuse; the legal route should be pursued. There comes a time when the legal process needs to become a part of the Christian vocabulary. Because the reality is that individuals like C.J. Mahaney or Mark Driscoll just don’t care. They don’t care what they do and they think they can get away with it. A problem exists when you have a theology system that says you can’t sue or take legal action. The issue exists when the reality of the situation is the following…when Mark Driscoll and C.J. Mahaney and others don’t follow the scriptures in this context of taking care of the sheep. The system expects those at the bottom to follow the laws and rules but those up top are exempt. Its with that in mind that it appears as if we have arrived in a new era when more Christians are pushing back through the legal system. The only way things will change is if there are massive settlements like the Catholic church faced. When there are legal settlements so massive that it threatens the very existence of an organization that is when things will change. That is how change happens. Plus to be very frank, there are some individuals who I don’t think get it. The only way individuals like Mark Drisocll, C.J. Mahaney and others such as Kevin DeYoung and Mark Dever will get it is when they are hit with a successful lawsuit. It’s with that in mind that I say it’s time for more of these lawsuits to commence. I hope we have turned a corner and are in a new era. As one of the people in the SGM lawsuit said in the Washingtonian magazine, “someone needs to sue these bastards.” Indeed many of these bastards need be sued. The time is now, and my prayer is that more lawsuits will develop. Lawsuits I would suggest are a form of worship against a corrupt organization or minister. As always I love you guys! 🙂