Robert Morris’ attorney blamed 12-year-old Cindy Clemishire for getting into his bed, initiating abuse

Robert Morris, senior pastor of Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas, speaks at The Gathering, a 'solemn assembly' on Sept. 21, 2016.
Robert Morris, senior pastor of Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas, speaks at The Gathering, a "solemn assembly" on Sept. 21, 2016. | The Gathering 2016

A former attorney for Gateway Church founder Robert Morris suggested Cindy Clemishire, a 54-year-old woman who accused him of sexually abusing her over multiple years as a child, is partly to blame because she climbed into his bed when she was 12. He also stated that she acted inappropriately with two other adult men in her home as a child.

In a 2007 correspondence cited by NBC News, Morris' then-attorney, J. Shelby Sharpe, who also served as personal attorney for former Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson, suggested to Clemishire's attorney that she was at fault for the abuse she suffered when she tried to sue the megachurch founder.

"It was your client, who initiated inappropriate behavior by coming into my client's bedroom and getting in bed with him, which my client should not have allowed to happen," Sharpe wrote in the Feb. 6, 2007, letter when Clemishire asked for $50,000 in restitution from Morris to pay for her counseling.

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Gentner Drummond, Clemishire's attorney at the time who is now Oklahoma's attorney general, confirmed the correspondence with NBC News but didn't offer any additional comment.

Sharpe, who no longer represents Morris, told the news network that he did not recall the settlement offer and denied knowing that Clemishire was a child when the abuse started.

"I don't ever remember seeing that," Sharpe said when he was reminded of the letter.  

Cindy Clemishire, 54.
Cindy Clemishire, 54. | Screenshot/CBS News

"I can tell you that the letters that you've seen, they speak for themselves," said Sharpe. "I will not amplify beyond those letters, because they speak for themselves."

Sharpe reportedly stated in the 2007 correspondence that Clemishire "acted inappropriately with two other men who stayed in her home between 1982 and 1987," when she was between the ages of 12 and 17, according to NBC News.

The letter noted that Clemishire "confessed her conduct" to Glenda Faulkner, a woman who attended Shady Grove Church near Fort Worth, Texas, in the 1980s, when Morris was also a pastor there. 

Clemishire told NBC News that two other men touched her inappropriately in her home as a child, but she did not initiate the incidents. 

She recalled one occasion, alleging Morris told her when she was 13 to go into a bedroom at her childhood home where another traveling evangelist was staying.

She said the man, who she did not identify, began to kiss her once she was inside the room but stopped himself and told her she was too young.

Another incident occurred in 1986. She said another man staying with her family climbed on top of her while she was sleeping on a sofa bed next to his 3-year-old daughter.

She said she believed he was going to rape her but stopped suddenly.

"I really think God intervened," Clemishire told NBC News. "God made him feel like someone was walking by, and he just rolled off of me and left."

After the 1986 incident, Clemishire said she decided to confide in Faulkner-Woodliff, who insisted she tell her parents what was going on with Morris.

Her father urged Olen Griffing, the then-senior pastor at Shady Grove Church, to have Morris step out of ministry.

Morris resigned from Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas, the megachurch he founded in 2000, on June 18. His resignation came after Clemishire reported that he began sexually abusing her on Dec. 25, 1982, when she was just 12 years old. She says the abuse continued for four-and-a-half years before it came to light. But Morris was later allowed to return to ministry.

When questioned about the allegations by The Christian Post, Morris initially confessed to being involved in "inappropriate sexual behavior with a young lady" more than 35 years ago and said he repented and was restored to ministry.

Elders at Gateway Church, who have commissioned an independent investigation into Clemishire's allegations, initially defended Morris and stated that the pastor, who was a married and a traveling evangelist at the time of the alleged abuse, had already repented and biblically restored to ministry.

Gateway elders later revised their public statement on the allegations in an announcement of Morris' resignation on June 18, saying they were not aware Morris had sexually abused a child.

"Regretfully, prior to Friday, June 14, the elders did not have all the facts of the inappropriate relationship between Morris and the victim, including her age at the time and the length of the abuse. The elders' prior understanding was that Morris' extramarital relationship, which he had discussed many times throughout his ministry, was with 'a young lady' and not abuse of a 12-year-old child," the elders explained.

"Even though it occurred many years before Gateway was established, as leaders of the church, we regret that we did not have the information that we now have. We are heartbroken and appalled by what has come to light over the past few days, and we express our deep sympathy to the victim and her family."

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

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