A Closer Look at Derek Gaubatz the General Counsel for the International Missions Board. Does “Religious Freedom” Mean the Right for the Southern Baptists to Cover Up Sexual Assault?

This is an overview of the General Counsel of the Southern Baptist’s International Missions Board, Derek Gaubatz. Gaubatz played a role in covering up a sexual assault scandal in the IMB by encouraging Anne Marie Miller to let it go. Mark Aderholt, a sexual predator was allowed to go to another church in the SBC and have access to children. This post looks at how Derek Gaubazt acted, especially in light of contacting federal authorities about alleged financial crimes in the Brady Nurse scandal. The question I would like to pose to a veteran attorney of the evangelical culture wars is this. Does “religious freedom” include the right to cover up sexual assault in the SBC? 

“IMB believes it is appropriate that Mr. Nurse face accountability for his actions and fully supports his prosecution under federal law. At the same time, IMB takes no joy in that prosecution. IMB is praying for Mr. Nurse and his family that they would experience the mercy of God in a fresh way.”

Derek Gaubatz on the prosecution of Brady Nurse

“Second, Dad’s love was righteous. Dad had a high standard of integrity, he did not tolerate lying or half-truths, as I found out whenever I sought to play fast and loose with the truth. I remember one time he made me call and apologize to a grown-up I had lied too. Moreover, Dad had a firm grasp of right and wrong and was prepared to discipline me when I did wrong. But this discipline was always rooted in his personal love for me and never displayed itself in harshness.”

Part of a eulogy Derek Gaubatz read for his father. 

“At this point, I would advise you to let it go,”

Derek Gaubatz of the IMB response to Anne Marie Miller 

About this time Jesus was informed that Pilate had murdered some people from Galilee as they were offering sacrifices at the Temple. 2 “Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other people from Galilee?” Jesus asked. “Is that why they suffered? 3 Not at all! And you will perish, too, unless you repent of your sins and turn to God. 4 And what about the eighteen people who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them? Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem? 5 No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will perish, too.

Luke 13:1-5 NLT 

Derek Gaubatz the General Counsel of the International Mission Board 

We are going to look at the General Counsel for the International Missions Board in more detail today. I have been writing about the Anne Marie Miller situation in the IMB. If you have not read a comprehensive narrative you can do so in, “Anne Marie Miller’s Alleged Sexual Abuse by Mark Aderholt, and Did the Southern Baptist’s International Missions Board Cover it Up? Plus David Platt’s Response.” In another post I also look at an interaction with Anne Marie Miller in 2015 and how she struggled with the sexual abuse she went through. You can read that in, “Writing About an Email Exchange with Anne Marie Miller in December of 2015 When Reviewing Cru’s (Formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) Christmas Conferences.

 

Who is Derek Gaubatz? 

Derek Gaubatz today is the General Counsel for the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Missions Board. But let’s go back a few years and review his past. Derek was raised by his father William Gaubatz and his mother Mary Elliott in California it appears.  Derek has two sisters and one brother. He attended college at the University of California San Diego, where he graduated in 1994. He studied political science and economics. While in college he was over in the United Kingdom and in a serious automobile crash. In 1994 he attended Stanford University Law School located near Palo Alto, California.  Later on Derek Gaubatz would be featured in a Stanford Lawyer about his work with non-profits which you can read here. After graduating from Stanford in 1997 he worked as a law clerk at the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. According to my research the Eleventh Circuit deals with legal cases out of Alabama, Georgia and Florida. In time he then worked for the Becket Fund of Religious Liberty where he was the Director of Litigation. He was with Beckett from 2001 until 2007.  I am going to spend more time with this below.  He met his wife Judy and married in 2003.  According to Linkedin it appears that Judy works at the World Bank in the  area of International Trade and Development. She is also based in Richmond, Virginia.  In July of 2007 Derek started to work for the International Mission Board as the General Counsel. In 2007 there was an incident with Wade Burleson from Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Oklahoma.  The Board of the IMB voted November 6, 2007 to censure and suspend Burleson from voting and official participation. You can read about the situation in detail here. Derek Gaubatz defended the decision to suspend the Southern Baptist pastor. 

Derek is also a member of the Federalist Society. In February of 2011 he wrote a paper for the Federalist Society that looked at religious discrimination by Barack Obama when it comes to federal grants. You can read that paper in, “Will the Obama Administration Re-Interpret Federal Law Re: Religious Discrimination When Awarding Federal Grants?” Gaubatz also serves on the Panel of Legal Experts for the Commission on Accountability and Policy for Religious Organizations. According to the organization what it does is  “represent practical solutions for enhancing accountability through improved self-regulation and donor engagement, as well as solutions for addressing the untenable current state of affairs related to the prohibition of political campaign intervention by 501(c)(3) organizations.”  On this committee he serves with a number of other evangelicals or conservative evangelical Catholics. Some of the people who works with Gaubatz are Todd Chasteen of Samaritan’s Purse (Franklin Graham’s organization), Deidre Dessingue formerly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, David Gibbs of the Christian Law Association, Steven McFarland of World Vision, Kevin Snider of Pacific Justice Institute in Sacramento, California. Others include Erick Stanley of the Alliance Defending Freedom and Matthew Staver of Liberty Counsel. A couple of these organizations I have already written about. For example I looked at the finances of Franklin Graham in, “Franklin Graham’s Salary, the IRS Change to Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Should Churches be Supporting “Operation Christmas Child?” In addition I also looked at Franklin’s admiration for Vladimir Putin in, “Franklin Graham’s Affection for Vladimir Putin, Plus is Franklin Graham a Modern Day Charles Lindbergh with His Love for Authoritarian Leaders?” I also wrote about Matthew Staver and Liberty Counsel when they were exporting the culture wars to Romania. You can read about that in, “When Evangelical Christians Export their Culture Wars Abroad: Kim Davis and Liberty Counsel Fighting Gay Marriage in Romania.” It would be incredibly tragic if Liberty Counsel worked at tipping Romania to illiberalism and autocracy and in the process killed the democracy that grew out of the 1989 Romanian revolution.

Sadly Derek’s father passed away in 2014. You can read the obituary for him here. Also worth noting is the eulogy that he read at the funeral service.  Derek enjoys listening to music and reading biographies. Today he is an Elder at West End Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia, which was planted in November of 2001. West End Baptist is a Neo-Calvinist church that is affiliated with The Gospel Coalition. His favorite baseball team is the Los Angeles Dodgers and he has three children. 

 

A Brief Look at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty 

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty was established in 1994 by Kevin Hasson. Becket is the first law firm that is dedicated to fighting for religious freedom issues. Previously Hasson worked at the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department and the Washington law firm Williams & Connolly. The organization was named after Thomas Becket who is the Archbishop of Canterbury. If you remember your history Thomas Becket was assassinated at Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. Historians debate as to whether or not it was King Henry II’s desire that Becket be killed. If you want to read more about the Thomas Becket assassination you can do so here. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is based  here in Washington, D.C. In 2018 they have eleven litigation attorneys and the firm operates as a nonprofit. 

The Becket Fund has been involved in the nation’s culture wars. While it has always been conservative among secular humanist and atheist groups there is a growing concern about Becket going too far to the right.  Though they take on any religious cases from Christian, Jewish to Hindu and more. It has taken on a number of notable cases before the United States Supreme Court. In 2012 you had the case of Hosanna-Tabor vs EEOC in which the Supreme Court ruled in favor of ministerial exception. This allowed religious organizations to practice discrimination as they became exempt from the EEOC law. They also served as the counsel to the plaintiffs in the case of Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. in 2014. This case allowed Hobby Lobby to exempt drugs and devices deemed as abortifacients from being in their health care plan because of conscious. In 2015 the Becket Fund litigated before the Supreme Court on the behalf of a Muslim inmate in the Arkansas prison system so that he could grow a beard. The Becket Fund takes the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) seriously. If you would like to learn more about the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty you can do so in both the video leading this post and then read the following articles. 

  1. Washington Post, “Becket Fund law firm gaining a reputation as powerhouse after Hobby Lobby win.” 
  2. Time, “Meet the Lawyers Fighting for Religious Freedom Today Before the Supreme Court.” 
  3. Politico, “God’s Rottweilers” 
  4. The American Prospect, “The Spirit and the Law.” 
  5. Political Research Associates, “Profiles on the Right: The Becket Fund.” 
  6. Los Angeles Times, “Law firm in Hobby Lobby win is playing key role in religion cases.” 

 

A Brief Look at Some of the Cases Under Derek Gaubatz at Becket 

As the Director of Litigation there are a number of cases that took place under Becket that Derek Gaubatz was involved. You can read about that in some of the articles I am going to link below. This is but a sampling of what my research uncovered. But first if you want to watch a video of Gaubatz, and you can do so in this C-Span presentation discussing religious freedom. 

  1. In Hacienda Heights, California (Los Angeles area) you had the issue of the proposed expansion of a Buddhist temple by building a 40,000′ visitors center. This was deeply controversial as some did not like the temple being in the community. 
  2. In Marin County, California there was a Jewish place of worship,  Congregation Kol Shofar in Tiburon which had run into controversy with the community when they wanted to expand. Becket went to support the congregation and a compromise was found in time. 
  3. Also in California in Alameda you had Redwood Christian which was denied the right to build a Christian school. The concern it appears was suburban planning and zoning issues. 
  4. In a secular high school in Massachusetts several students faced suspension when they engaged in evangelism around Christian holidays and passed out candy canes. From Becket’s point of view this was a situation of religious discrimination
  5. In Ohio in 2005 three religious prisoners sued claiming they were denied the right to practice their religion while incarcerated. Becket defended a witch, satanist and a racial separatist. 

 

Derek Gaubatz’s Interactions with Anne Marie Miller

Anne Marie Miller according to the Star-Telegram first interacted with Derek Gaubatz at Lake Pointe Church in Texas on October 22 and 23, 2007. Gaubatz was the General Counsel for the Southern Baptists International Missions Board.  Present with Gaubatz was two members of the IMB, a member of a SBC church and a court reporter.  Miller explained what Alderholt did and at Gaubatz request she explained to the board her faith in Christ and her religious journey. Gaubatz asked for graphic detail of the abuse. And he also questioned her about her sexual relationships beforehand and afterward. “Was it less physical, more physical with [your boyfriend after Aderholt]?” In late November Gaubatz emailed Miller her findings and results. Miller learned that Aderholt left.  The investigation came to three conclusions. It was “more likely than not” that Aderholt had engaged in inappropriate sexual relationship with Anne Miller. Also that she was affected by it and that Aderholt was not truthful with the IMB about the situation. With Aderholt facing disciplinary action he resigned in January of 2008. During the interview Gaubatz asked if she was going to press charges. Anne Miller who was scared and dealing with the stress of the situation said no. Anne described it like this, “I told myself, if I can’t handle this informal internal interview, there is no way I can face this man in court. There is no way I can do this on a larger scale,” she said. “I will not survive if I do that. I was terrified. I was far too terrified to do it because I honestly thought I could not survive it. I don’t mean that dramatically. I mean that quite literally.” Miller then asked the IMB general counsel if Aderholt had confessed to doing anything. Gaubatz responded by telling her to “let it go” This is what he said to Anne in an email. “At this point, I would advise you to let it go,” Gaubatz wrote in a Dec. 3, 2007, email. “Forgiveness is up to you alone — it involves a decision by you to forgive the other person of the wrongs done to you, just as Christ has forgiven you.” Two years later Anne learned that Arderholt was working with children and she emailed Gaubatz again inquiring about it. “How can Mark still pastor inside SBC churches like he is?” she wrote. “Isn’t there some checks and balances with something as serious as what he was terminated for?” Anne struggled with what to do, it bothered her that Mark was still pastoring and had access to children.

 

Derek Gaubatz’s and the Brady Nurse Case at the IMB 

What is incredibly telling as we consider the Anne Marie Miller and Mark Aderholt case is how the IMB under Derek Gaubatz handled another situation; that of the Brady Nurse case. Brady Nurse was a Southern Baptist missionary to Portugal. His role there was as a business and logistics coordinator. Both Brady and his wife were with the IMB since March of 2006. He originally came from Bothell, Washington. What had transpired is that he had engaged in wire fraud and fabricated expenses. In January of 2014 the IMB became aware of “suspicious transactions” that were related to the shipping of household items from Portugal to the United States. The IMB did a full internal audit with Nurse’s reimbursement requests.  When the IMB saw the evidence of the alleged criminal activity they immediately contacted the FBI and reported the crime. The FBI then opened up an investigation and prosecuted him. Brady actually resigned in January of 2014. According to the Baptist Press he pleaded guilty and was tried in U.S Eastern District Court. 

In U.S. District Court Nurse pled guilty on October 21, 2014 to obtaining the funds in fabricated expenses from 2008 until 2013 while working for the IMB. This is how the Baptist Press reported on Nurse’s plea. 

In pleading guilty, Nurse signed a statement acknowledging that he “routinely altered” amounts on valid documents and invoices submitted on expense reports to increase his reimbursement; “submitted fraudulent, manufactured, and/or duplicated documentation” on expense reports; “falsely represented” quotes and estimates for service from vendors as services actually provided, rather than lower amounts actually charged; altered documentation associated with household shipping charges “to obtain additional benefit from an increase shipping allowance”; and falsely obtained reimbursement for non-reimbursable expenses.

After his resignation as a missionary, the statement added, Nurse continued to seek reimbursement for “suspect shipping expenses by false statements submitted to IMB through interstate emails.” He also received nearly $21,000 in additional funds through a clerical error by the board’s benefits department and has yet to return those funds, IMB reported.

Nurse was sentenced for two years in prison for obtaining nearly $300,000 in missions funds by submitting fraudulent expense reports. Upon his release Nurse will be supervised for three years. That decision was handed down by U.S. Eastern District Judge James R. Spencer, who has since retired. The IMB who reported the crime apparently supported the prosecution and cooperated with the FBI. Actually from what Gaubatz said prosecution of this crime that a former SBC missionary committed was essential. Look at how Derek Gaubatz stated when Brady Nurse was sentenced.  “We are deeply grieved that one sent out to proclaim the free gift of the Gospel would violate the sacred trust placed in him by Southern Baptists,” IMB general counsel Derek Gaubatz said upon Nurse’s guilty plea in October. “IMB believes it is appropriate that Mr. Nurse face accountability for his actions and fully supports his prosecution under federal law. At the same time, IMB takes no joy in that prosecution. IMB is praying for Mr. Nurse and his family that they would experience the mercy of God in a fresh way.” The mission board “takes its role as a steward over Southern Baptist resources given for missions very seriously,” Gaubatz said. “While both IMB’s external auditors and the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) have independently verified that IMB has robust anti-fraud measures in place, IMB will be seeking their input on any additional measures they would recommend.”

 

Is it Religious Freedom to Cover Up Sexual Assault in the IMB? 

So here is the situation that troubles me as I researched and wrote this post.  The IMB reported a missionary to the FBI for federal crimes when $300,000 was embezzled. But then the IMB had no problem with letting a sexual predator go free and move around the SBC. As I look at Derek Gaubatz’s career and how he has acted it appears as if $300,000 is more important than the life of a a 16 year old girl who was sexually assaulted. If people in the IMB aren’t feeling sick about this, then the question is will they ever? Derek was involved for years in some of the nation’s culture wars. The question this blog would like to pose to Derek Gaubatz and the IMB is if “Religious Freedom”  means the right to cover up sexual assault? Is that what Derek learned from his time in the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty? The fact that Gaubatz would manipulate forgiveness and blow off someone who was sexually assaulted shows that the IMB is ethically and morally bankrupt. I am not a big fan of David Platt but he came on the scene much later. Derek Gaubatz in contrast was involved in this situation from 2007 onward. At any point Gaubatz could have contacted law enforcement, but he apparently chose not to. This raises another question…was Gaubatz involved in any other cases of sexual assault cover up in the IMB?

Here is another thing I want you to consider. Actually I want Derek Gaubatz to think long and hard about what I am going to say next. First let’s look at the eulogy that Gaubatz read at his father’s funeral. 

“Second, Dad’s love was righteous. Dad had a high standard of integrity, he did not tolerate lying or half-truths, as I found out whenever I sought to play fast and loose with the truth. I remember one time he made me call and apologize to a grown-up I had lied too. Moreover, Dad had a firm grasp of right and wrong and was prepared to discipline me when I did wrong. But this discipline was always rooted in his personal love for me and never displayed itself in harshness.”

Derek’s father Bill Gaubatz had a high standard of ethics. He also had a lot of integrity from what I read. What would Bill Gaubatz think of his son being involved in the alleged cover up of a sexual assault of a 16 year old? Would he be okay with it? Is this how Derek Gaubatz was raised by his father? If Bill forced his son to confess to lying when he was growing up, isn’t it time that Derek Gaubatz confess to being deceitful and hurting Anne Marie Miller? Anne Marie Miller is worth a lot more than $300,000. Her value is priceless. If Bill Gaubatz could sit down with his son Derek amidst this sexual assault cover up what do you think he would say? He would probably tell him to do the right thing. And that is what this blog is asking Derek Gaubatz to do. I am asking him to come clean, and confess his role in this scandal. If Jesus is about truth, then Derek should do the right thing in the end. This blog stands in the corner with Anne Marie Miller. And I am hopeful that in the near future Gaubatz will be compelled to do the right thing through his conscious. If not, then maybe the memory of his father’s integrity will compel him to take the right course of action. That is all for today, please know that I love you guys!