Jan 312018
 

Here is the full legal complaint filed against Calvary Chapel Honolulu pastored by Calvary Chapel Association board member Bill Stonebraker.

 

Based on the information I have, I would expect this case to be settled quickly and quietly with a non disclosure agreement.

Based on interviews I’ve done with attorneys and business people in the know, we’re going to see a bunch of lawsuits like this in the coming year.

The social climate has changed dramatically around these issues and more people who have been abused are willing to step out because of the support of social media.

When I started this blog, the accusers were generally thought to be the guilty party…not so now.

This is a good thing.

While we may finally see justice done in many places where injustice has occurred, I would also bring a note of caution.

The people who profit most from these lawsuits are lawyers…and some lawyers will take advantage of the current climate to sue where there has been no real injustice, but settlements are available from churches and companies who want to spare themselves the negative publicity.

In any case, I strongly suggest that all churches examine their hiring and labor practices along with how they “counsel”…because there are going to be a lot of rugs lifted to see what has been swept under them.

  42 Responses to “Calvary Chapel Honolulu Lawsuit”

  1. good report, and a good caution – like any wave it carries a lot of rubbish with it, too…
    we do have too many lawyers and realtors IMHO 🙂 too many chasing too few dollars
    ………. or so it seems to me ………. today

  2. At my old CC there was a creepy guy that I was pretty sure was a pedophile at heart… whether he ever acted on it, I don’t know. He was always helping out in the children’s ministry, always carrying around the little girls around on his shoulders…. I could go on but you get the picture. So I told the pastor who seemed very concerned that this man’s reputation should not be destroyed just because I had a bad feeling about him. That is definitely something to consider, I agree. All I could do is warn some of the parents of little girls that he befriended. None of them seemed very concerned, either. I had an over-active imagination, it was thought. This guy’s persona just screamed “pedophile” and I didn’t understand why no one could see it.

    Are some churches just hopelessly naive? They don’t think people they know could possibly be secret sexual predators? Is it that they don’t want to get their friends in trouble? Or they don’t take things like pedophilia seriously? I don’t get it.

  3. By the way, I did confront this man personally (didn’t just talk about him behind his back) and he gave me a bunch of mumbo jumbo that was not at all satisfactory.

  4. Thank you, Em.

    Xenia,

    I find this situation as baffling as I’ve ever been baffled by anything.
    Even after all the payoffs and bad press, a lot of guys just don’t believe this stuff happens and take it as an affront to their judgment and possession of the Holy Spirit to ask why there aren’t standards and procedures in place to stop it..

    It’s not just a CC problem by any means,but that’s the group I have the most experience with.

    Look for wage and hour claims from assistant pastors and staff workers to start popping up as well…

  5. I don’t think it’s a CC problem, in particular, either. Any place where there are groups of children, these guys will show up, wanting to be “helpful.” The man I was talking about targeted single moms who were grateful (but not suspicious) of his offers to baby sit their daughters. Not their sons, interestingly.

    We are afraid of offending people. If some “nice” man wants to help, it would be rude to turn him down, although that’s exactly what these mothers should have done. Again, I don’t know that anything physical ever happened but these mothers were unwittingly allowing their daughters to be fuel for his perverted fantasies.

    I think, anyway. I never had any proof, of course. I guess you only get proof when the unthinkable happens.

  6. Michael

    Unlike other complaints with allegations leading up to the request for compensatory damages, this one, if the allegations re advance knowledge of plaintiff as a known child molester (e.g. A typical background check check would have revealed same due to some public database re registered offenders), a easy settlement will likely not occur as punitive damages are not insurability. Hence if successful in the regard, the church, itself, would have to fund these damages. This will greatly complicate settlement discussions not necessarily as between plaintiff and defendants, but a between defendants and the insurance company. It may even rise to the requirement that the church, at its own cost, fund counsel to represent it as to the issue of punitive damages.

  7. I’ve already told the story here about how, decades ago, I had to cancel our home school group’s yearly camp outs in Big Sur because one woman insisted on inviting her relative (a former pastor) who was just out of prison for child molestation. He came once and acted in character. I said never again, we will no longer have camps if I can’t forbid a pedophile from coming.

  8. Jeff,

    That is great information!

    My assumption was that there would be settlements in cases like this to avoid discovery…your info puts a whole different light on the matter.

    Thank you, as always, again.

  9. What can a church do if a guy acts creepy but has no record? He will pass a background check because he never acted on his impulses (yet) or has not been caught. Myself, if I were a pastor and I saw this behavior I would never allow a suspicious person anywhere near kids but what if I warn parents? “Stay away from Fred, he acts like a pedophile.” Could Fred sue the pastor/ church for slander or defamation of character?

  10. Xenia,

    Excellent questions @#9…

  11. In a small parish I think everyone can see creepy behavior for themselves and take appropriate precautions but in a mega-church it’s impossible to know everyone and the assumption is that helpers have all been screened.

  12. The church that I grew up in had hired a new youth pastor the year after I graduated high school as the man who was my youth pastor had moved onto another church. Over the next couple years, this new youth pastor developed some very strong and close relationships with some of the girls in the youth group, but did not have anything of the like with the boys. It became a concern with some in the church and the elders counseled him on the issue as it just did not appear to be a healthy situation. The youth pastor refused to changed his ways and the elders ended up firing him.

    To my knowledge, the youth pastor never did anything physically or sexually inappropriate, but the situation sure seemed primed for something bad to happen. It was not an easy situation for the church leadership to deal with, but I am glad they did what they did. They very well may have saved some girl(s) from some very terrible things and saved themselves from a lawsuit to come many years later.

  13. I’ve been thinking about that family in southern California with the 13 children who were starved and otherwise abused. People are faulting the neighbors for not taking action. I don’t know what I would have done, personally. I almost called the cops on a home school family in my group because I thought a toddler showed signs of physical abuse but I knew if I was wrong, I could destroy this family. So I bided my time and turns out the little guy had a skin disease and was not abused at all. But they were a messy family, and a nosy, anti-Christian social worker could have really caused them some trouble.

    But what if, despite the skin disease, there was also abuse and something terrible happened. I would never forgive myself.

    It’s not always so cut and dry. There are many things to take into consideration before you set about ruining someone’s life… be it adult or child.

  14. Kevin… I am glad your church took the right step.

    Next question…. Did he gain employment at another church? And did your church warn them?

    We fault the RCC for switching pedophile priests from parish to parish because of their behavior but in the non-denom world, if a suspicious person is fired from one place, is there the obligation to see where he goes next? If not, this isn’t too much different than the RCC. And again, if your pastor tells the new pastor of his suspicions, is this slander?

  15. If this were the MIddle Ages, these guys would be beat to a pulp and put out of the city gates.

  16. Xenia,

    I think we’re in a lot of uncharted territory.

    Some claims we’ve seen are 30-40 years old.

    Being proactive could get you sued as quickly as turning a blind eye.

    In social media, the accused are always presumed guilty.

    I expect a lot of mess this year…

  17. Xenia,

    This was all happening primarily during my last year(s) of college and then soon after I had graduated and moved away. So I don’t really know/remember what happened to the man after that or whatever actions the church may or may not have made to warn other churches as I was not nearly as in touch with the church as I had been while growing up in it.

    However, a quick Google search revealed that this man is now the president of some kind of Christian-based social services ministry. By appearances of the website, it seems like a credible organization. However, it also shows the pictures of the other staff who work in the organization and under this man and the large majority are younger women…… it’s possible it could be coincidence, but this does not surprise me at all.

  18. Xenia:

    Absent some information, be it a (i) background check, (ii) reference during the hiring process (which are almost not given out these days), or (iii) information that would put a reasonable person on notice to deviant or abusive behavior, there really is nothing one can do to reject and disallow a person from being around children, assuming they are otherwise qualified as a congregant of the church.

    What I have seen is that most churches do background checks per no. (i) above, which eliminates the person being involved with children at all. Were (i) to be the case with this lawsuit, there will be a ,large price to pays as there should be. See my comments previous article on blog re: “giving a registered offender “a second chance out of grace/forgiveness, blah, blah, blah. I was uncompromising in those instances when I was in ministry, which, in part, earned me a reputation for being an unspiritual harda**. Fine with me as there was absolute clarity in my policy at that ministry, which existed even absent my legal background, that defenseless children need that degree of protection in the secular world, much less more-so in the church.

    A large issue is that pastors and church leaders do not want to confront people when (iii) occurs. In that instance I would/do see it as the Holy Spirit alerting the church as to the issue/wolf, but you know how leadership discounts such information or the source of it.

    One last thing, I don’t know how it works, but I cannot number the times women who worked in my ministry would alert me directly or through their husbands that a certain man gave them a “creepy” feeling. I would then keep a close eye and you know what? Almost all the times those “senses” were correct and keeping a close eye and taking action at the first sniff or irregular behavior always proved the correct course.

  19. It just seems that the Stonebrakers have allowed a pattern to occur under their watch and certainly with Danita, at least, pretended to be concerned but in reality, never doing a thing to either prevent or to rectify. Probably wanted to keep things on the down low….which never works in the end. Im not necessairly rooting for the downfall of CCH, but am interested in seeing people do the right thing…even if they did not do the right thing of their own volition. There is a price to be paid.

    Btw, my brother has elected not to pursue anything….

  20. Jeff, I was told recently by our insurance carrier not to waste our time or money with doing a basic Background Check / Live Scan in CA as recently a law passed prohibiting this kind of information being revealed. Apparently the rights of the offender supersede the rights of the kids. What they recommend is we use a Private Investigator who specializes in this area as he or she can dig deeper than the normal channels. Can you shed some light on this?

  21. The youth pastor at my last CC was everyones buddy. Us adults respected him, the kids all looked up to him and he was a gifted and energetic teacher that inspired several to seek out careers in ministry. Whenever he preached on Sundays in the senior pastors absence, it was something to look forward to. He was my direct oversight when I taught the college ministry, and although we were never friends we got along just fine. I moved away 6 years ago and never gave him any thought. In the meantime he resigned his position to work full time in some para church ministry he had previously been involved in. He was arrested last year and is awaiting trial for 5 or 6 counts of exposing himself and fondling boys aged 11-14. In his police interrogation he basically admitted to everything.

    Now, all of the abuse took place during my time at the church. I would speak to this man pretty much weekly. Many of the young men in my college ministry had been through our youth program. I never would have guessed this was happening, nor did any of my fellow parents. None of the college men ever gave me any idea of these things, and some of them were really good friends with the disgraced pastor. Hopefully they hadn’t been abused, but I really don’t know. At the time of his arrest he was just about to move out of town and become vice president of youth programs for a non profit.

    Normally, you would think these guys would give off some vibe or say creepy things. I guess thats not always the case. My only hope is that the church leadership didn’t know anything about it and let the guy resign without reporting him several years ago. The associate pastor was a retired police captain and could be as serious as a heart attack. I guess you just never know. Better to err on the side of protecting kids in my opinion.

  22. Covered

    It has always been the case that information gained through a background check must be kept confidential to the person obtaining the info and the subject person. While at Costa Mesa I and a retired police captain reviewed the checks. There are also laws requiring the checks being short term secured and then destroyed, while maintaining records verifying that a background check was obtained.

    I concur with your carriers recommendation if you are a small church. There has been a new law apparently passed in CA only allowing background checks after a conditional offer of employment is made, the condition being that their offer is conditioned upon nothing appears in their background check is in conflict with their job description. For instance, you are not required to hire a bookkeeper that has been criminally convicted of embezzlement.

    Since I am a few years past practicing and am inactive in CA, I would suggest using a resource like the Tax and Church Law resources through Thomas Nelson AND calling/using counsel offered by the Pacific Justice Institute or whoever they refer you to.

  23. Wise counsel Jeff as always. Thank you sir

  24. As I was driving in to town I remembered an episode that occurred in the late 1960s that I had a front row seat to…
    A local hospital for years had a custodian, white male family man – devout church goers… for years this man volunteered his time working with sick children – won awards and considered a local “saint”… turned out he liked little girls from babies on up – a pedophile
    My point is that these sorts can fool intelligent doctors and nurses and parents … it isn’t always a matter of overlooking the red flags or mushy Christian thinking. 😦

  25. I kind of question the need for youth pastors. In big mega churches the youth and adults are completely separated. Maybe that makes sense but it causes some the issues we see here. If parents, adults and youth can all be integrated into the same worship family instead of being so segregated I think it would accomplish a few things. It would keep predators away since the parents and other adults would be able to keep a better eye on things. And second it allows the youth to have vital role models in their adults that aren’t there in total segregation type settings. But you will never see this at CC since they have strict rules about kids in the sanctuary. I think that just creates these kinds of problems.

  26. Jeff @ 22 – what about non-staff positions?

    We did background checks on anyone who served in any capacity with a minor. From nursery and up, if you were going to be working directly with a minor in any kind of ministry position where you represented the church as a volunteer or otherwise, we did a background check on you.

    I realize that some of this varies state to state. So what is an appropriate CYA (Cover Your Assets 🙂 process these days in the current climate?

  27. Steve,

    IMO, the youth pastor function should be undertaken by parents. That is the parents’ vocation.

    Children should be with their parents in the worship service. I see no salutary value in dividing families up for worship.

  28. Thanks Jean. I thought I was alone with my belief.

  29. Corby

    Yes you should do background checks on all volunteers interfacing with children or youth minors, but the same confidentiality and security of information procedures apply. Of course, a proper authorization form must be used. I would assume the new CA laws apply to employees as they spring from the CA Labor Code.

    Also, employees now cannot be asked about criminal backgrounds, whether in a job interview or job application

  30. “Also, employees now cannot be asked about criminal backgrounds, whether in a job interview or job application.”

    Say WHAT??!!!!! 😤

  31. This will be my only comment on the subject as I don’t want to go down a rabbit hole on something that is not the main thrust of the original post.

    With that said, on the subject of youth pastors, no they should not replace parents and, no, the structure should not be that the youth are regularly separated from the rest of the church during worship.

    However, a youth pastor and/or an active youth ministry led and overseen by the youth pastor or others can be of significant spiritual and developmental benefit to youth. The youth pastor/youth ministry can be a supplement to good Christian parenting (or unfortunately, sometimes help fill in where there is a lack of parenting) and sometimes can even relate to or reach youth in a manner where parents struggle to do so. I know it can be beneficial because it most certainly was for me and some of my friends growing up. And I also saw it from the other side as an adult volunteer in a youth ministry seeing how kids were positively impacted spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and developmentally.

  32. Captain Kevin – for your consumptive pleasure:

    California Government Code,12952. (a) Except as provided in subdivision (d), it is an unlawful employment practice for an employer with five or more employees to do any of the following:
    (1) To include on any application for employment, before the employer makes a conditional offer of employment to the applicant, any question that seeks the disclosure of an applicant’s conviction history.
    (2) To inquire into or consider the conviction history of the applicant, including any inquiry about conviction history on any employment application, until after the employer has made a conditional offer of employment to the applicant.

  33. I suppose CA law is intended to get ex cons back into the workforce, but if the employer can check afterwards what’s the point? I so can’t wait to retire or of this state…

    When I volunteered in a kids class once, they had a female volunteer with me. It was a one time emergency deal. They do background checks on regular volunteers.

    When I due at risk youth mentoring, we got printed and did checks. This isn’t a 100% failsafe for many reasons. Male mentors, however, weren’t allowed to be alone with female teens. I had to pick up some girls. The rules for that were “not alone” which meant I had to have one male with me to pick up a female to drive to an event.

    I feel badly for my son, who says that his trundle is for when he can have a sleep over with a friend. I don’t tell him, “not unless I’m married and there is another female adult in the house.” As a teen, I might relax this. With my daughter, never. It’s not because I’m a pervert, it’s good policy to keep myself safe and demonstrate safety to the kids.

    I would only let the kids go to camp, church or otherwise, unless I see this practice followed. I will ask. Gavin deBecker, in his book Protecting The Gift, says that if any organization (including childcare providers) gives you static upon this request, find another provider. Never be ashamed about this. Given my daughter’s molestation by her uncle (it still painsb me to say this three years later), I’ve read too much about this stuff, and it’s burdening.

    As an aside, I’ve taught the kids that the “never talk to strangers” thing isn’t right. If they get lost, they will have to talk to a stranger for help! Better to embolden them to make the right choices. As such, deBecker’s suggestion is, “find someone who looks like a mommy,” that recent California couple with the 13 kids notwithstanding.

    Jean, S8 sits with me in service. D5 does sometimes. She’s getting better about behaving. The key that I see now is building emotional resilience so that when they’re teens they won’t hesitate to report anything untowards (or a good soft body part strike). The perp’s soul may belong to Jesus, but their body belongs to the civil authorities, as The Bible says (effectively).

  34. One wonders why you haven’t mentioned the NDA that was part of the grenier “reconciliation”.

  35. Wait, did Joseph copy Michael’s avatar?

  36. Joseph,

    One can wonder all they want.
    I didn’t know that there was an NDA, nor do I care.

    The “victim” in the case seems fine with the outcome of it.
    Why are you using my trademark?

  37. Joseph,

    Using my logo and my email address?

    Fraud.

  38. Scooter,

    I recall that song: “Be Like Mike”.

    Who wouldn’t? 🙂

  39. $$$$$ Settlement + NDA = HUSH MONEY.
    (Worked for Wacko Jacko…)

  40. Hey Scooter and Headless

    Not to take away your right to speculate at will and gin up conspiracy theories, but in my experience I have NEVER seen a settlement to litigation that did not contain mutual confidentiality and non-disclosure provisions as to the terms of the settlement and the fact of a settlement being entered into.
    Also, while you are acting as an attorney, an NDA is a separate agreement from a settlement agreement and since settlement agreements contain non disclosure provisions as a matter of course, there are noNDA’s entered in such circumstances.

    Now go back to using other people’s logos and email addresses.

  41. My apologies Scooter. My previous comment was to be directed to Joseph/Headless

  42. Jeff, no problem. You being the lawyer type and all, I thought maybe you knew something about me I didn’t know myself 😉

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