Gateway Church settled lawsuit after multiple pastors accused of covering up sexual assault of minor

Thousands listen as Pastor Robert Morris speaks at Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas, June 2, 2018.
Thousands listen as Pastor Robert Morris speaks at Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas, June 2, 2018. | Gateway Church

Just two months before Gateway Church founder Robert Morris resigned over an explosive allegation of child sex abuse, the megachurch settled a lawsuit in which at least five Gateway Church pastors and a youth leader were accused of concealing the sexual assault of a minor by another member.

The initial lawsuit was filed in Tarrant County Texas in August 2020 on behalf of a minor identified as A.D. and her mother, who The Christian Post doesn't name in this piece. Gateway Church, Denise Edwards and youth leader Logan Edwards were all named as defendants, along with Doug Vaughn and Gateway Church pastors: Kelly Jones, Rebecca Wilson, Samantha Golden, Mondo Davis and Sion Alford.

The plaintiffs in the case were both members of Gateway and sought damages of more than $200,000 but not more than $5,000,000.

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In settling the case on April 18, Gateway Church and its pastors, who were accused of gross negligence and breach of their fiduciary duty to the plaintiffs as members, admitted no liability and stated that they only settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed amount to “buy peace.”

“All parties having waived a jury, it was announced to the court that an agreement for settlement of all matters in controversy, approved and recommended by the parties and the Guardian Ad Litem, had been entered, subject to the approval of the Court; ..."

“The parties entered into a confidential compromise settlement agreement and release in full settlement of all claims of plaintiff against defendants. It was further announced that said compromise settlement agreement and release was being made on disputed claims against defendants and that defendants denied any liability to the plaintiff,” the final judgement on the matter said. “Defendants agreed to enter into the compromise settlement agreement solely to buy peace, without admitting any liability.”

According to the allegations in the case, prior to the sexual assault, the minor and her mother frequently attended worship services and participated in various ministries and church sponsored functions. On or around March 14, 2018, the minor was sexually assaulted by an unnamed member at the member's personal residence.

In his capacity as a youth leader at Gateway Church, defendant Logan allegedly became aware of the sexual assault through conversations with the alleged perpetrator and other youth who attended Gateway.

Logan went on to share the allegations with other pastors and defendants named in the lawsuit.

“Defendants Samantha, Sion, Kelly, Rebecca, and Mondo were all informed of the sexual assault accusations to which Plaintiff Doe subjected to as being the central leadership of Gateway. Although Defendants were made aware of the sexual assault accusations made by Plaintiff Doe, a minor, none filed a formal complaint with the necessary child protective agencies, law enforcement agencies, or even alerted … Plaintiff Doe’s mother, to the existence of the alleged assault,” the lawsuit states.

The Gateway pastors and other defendants in the case allegedly engaged in many conversations with the accused member and their parents. As soon as the minor’s mother eventually learned what happened to her daughter, she filed a report with the Haltom City Police Department.

After the victim’s mother did that, the Gateway pastors were accused of trying to discredit the plaintiffs.

“The defendants who were ordained pastors of Gateway, embarked on a concerted campaign to conceal, misconstrue, and discredit the assault accusations while the active criminal investigation was ongoing. Defendants encouraged other members of Gateway to ostracize (minor’s mother) … and had her removed from the various ministries of which she had served dutifully,” the lawsuit claims.

The minor and her mother claimed they were forced to “endure immense shame and embarrassment, and emotional distress” by the defendants who used their influence to taint the police investigation.

“Due to the weeks of active concealment by defendants, significant evidence of the alleged criminal assault was allowed to waste and degrade, further hindering law enforcement’s ability to accurately investigate the original assault,” the lawsuit adds.

Just last month, 54-year-old Cindy Clemishire reported that Gateway Church founder Robert Morris began sexually abusing her on Dec. 25, 1982, when she was just 12 years old. Morris was a young adult married traveling evangelist at the time. Clemishire says the abuse continued for four-and-a-half years before Morris was found out, but he was later allowed to return to ministry.

Clemishire contends that officials at Gateway Church were informed of her allegations against Morris years ago. However, Lawrence Swicegood reiterated in a statement to The Christian Post that the current board of elders did not know that the megachurch founder had been accused of child sex abuse.

“The Board of Elders called a special meeting and accepted the resignation of Pastor Robert Morris several weeks ago. Gateway Church is committed to protecting people — first and foremost children and the most vulnerable. Abuse simply cannot be tolerated,” he said.

“The Board of Elders has retained the law firm Haynes and Boone, LLP to conduct a thorough and independent inquiry so that the facts can be understood. Even though this abuse occurred many years before Gateway was established, the Elders are committed to finding the truth and holding people accountable,” he added.

“Regrettably, prior to Friday, June 14, the current Elders did not have all the facts. The Board of Elders is deeply committed to walking in integrity and finding the truth. Having this inquiry done by an independent and unbiased outside law firm is best practice. This review has begun, and the Board of Elders pledges its full cooperation.”

Contact: Follow Leonardo Blair on Twitter: @leoblair Follow Leonardo Blair on Facebook: LeoBlairChristianPost

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