COGIC sexual abuse civil trial begins this month in NC

smithIf mediation fails, the Church of God in Christ will be facing its first public civil trial on sexual abuse October 16 in an Asheville, North Carolina courtroom.

The saga begin with the 2007 conviction of Leonard Smith, a longtime COGIC music minister. Smith was sentenced to 16 years in jail for sexually abusing young boys. A plea bargain spared him a longer sentence. Smith’s accusers said that jurisdictional and national church officials were informed of the crimes, but did nothing. Hence, the civil suit.

Smith may be in jail, but the civil suit for unspecified damages names Sycamore Temple COGIC, Greater North Carolina Jurisdiction (Bishop Leroy Woolard) and COGIC, Inc. as defendants.

In many ways the trial parallels the Sherman Allen case set to start November 16 in Fort Worth, Texas.

Of the three defendants, COGIC, Inc and the local church claim to have money issues. The “national church” claims to be self insured and does not possess an insurance policy to cover sexual abuse cases. Self insured refers to organizations who in essence “pay out of their pockets” as opposed to an insurnace company paying for the legal judgments against them.

According to GuideOne, a major insurer for Protestant churches, most of its clients choose $100,000 of coverage for sex abuse. That might cost a small church with one pastor as little as $100 a year. A much larger church that also runs, say, a day-care center, might pay $6,000 to have $1 million in coverage. Religious organizations buying a lot of coverage may need to prove that they’re taking precautions to lower the risk of sex abuse. GuideOne, for instance, requires some churches to conduct criminal background checks on employees, to allow volunteers to work with kids only after they’ve completed six months of service with the church, and to make sure that no child is ever left alone with just one adult. The policy won’t cover everything. Insurers may put a limit on how much they will pay in aggregate, or for each case. (Recently, three major Protestant insurers reported that they receive 260 reports of child abuse every year.) Partly because of rising insurance costs, a small number of churches are foregoing the coverage.Source: Slate.com

Can COGIC pay up?

In a video interview released by COGIC on August 11, 2009, Blake stated that his church has invested a considerable amount of money into the church web/technology outreach. The interviewer asked Blake, in particular, about the COGIC website.

“So we’ve just pulled out all the stops. We’ve invested a quarter of a million dollars ($250,000) initially…” (5:41)Our italics.

Maybe I’m missing something or maybe Bishop Blake didn’t accurately answer the question. $250,000 initially for the website that is up now? I find that stunning considering the site is a jumbled, incomplete mess. No indication on the site of who’s doing the work, but they’ve made off like a bandit if this is what the church has “invested” the money of the saints in.

The Greater North Carolina jurisdiction reportedly has $300,000 worth of sexual abuse insurance coverage, but it is independent of what a jury may award the plaintiffs for the inaction of the national church.

A spokesman for one of the plaintiffs told GCM Watch that even after Smith plead guilty to the charges ten people including the pastor of the church Supt Samuel Payne came forward as character witnesses for Smith.

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8 thoughts on “COGIC sexual abuse civil trial begins this month in NC

  1. I am disturded by what is happening with COGIC now. I don’t see where Bishop Blake is doing anything about this period. You have the International Holy Convocation coming up in a couple of weeks where a lot more sexual harrassments, scandals and other ungodly things will take place. I am praying for the entire COGIC and its leadership to do better and be aware of things such as this. P.S. I know Bishop Mason would not be pleased to see this happening in the church he founded if he was alive.

  2. Pastor,

    I thought about the issue of self insurance also meaning “each church for itself” as well after talking with you, and based on earlier posts you made regarding the church’s claim of not having a national system in place since the reports and financial livery of the church is all “volunteer”. I wonder if this is what they are actually saying and maybe not so much that they plan to pay out of pocket for anything that comes up as a national body. But that each church since they’re ‘independent entities’ has the responsibility of insuring themselves and answering for any lawsuits.

    I don’t know if you’ve confirmed otherwise based on your research that self insured means out of pocket and not every church for itself, or that’s its both. Just a thought. Set me straight if I’ve mis-interpreted.

  3. P289, that definitely may be a legal definition to be considered in this issue. If fact if it was not, only the local church would be sued. But when superiors (jurisdiction and national) are informed and they do nothing to remove or restrict the perpetrator, the meaning of self insured has in my opinion little relevance other than every man for himself.

    When it comes to sexual abuse the “independent entity” argument isnt applicable. Again, I believe that’s why COGIC, Inc is a defendant and the courts have not dismissed the civil lawsuit against them.

    The independent entity/self insured issue may be applicable only in the sense that each entity is responsible for paying the damages levied against them.

    Maybe someone else can help shed some light on this.

  4. Pastor,

    I hear you on that. The mindset seems to be try to squeeze out of it any way possible as you’ve covered and save face nationally. If the church can sorta isolate the fault to a local body then it keeps up appearances, and deflects attention for a need to respond by giving the national a way to say the situation took care of itself and the system is functioning as is (which it clearly is not since there’s no real system to address sex abuse problems).

    Certainly, the court is not buying it; that’s not an affirmative defense in any sense of the word legally speaking. Anyone ordained and serving under the ecclesiastical unmbrella of the church is going to be a risk to the entire body, and their actions hold the church liable for the damages.

    Respondeat superior, aka “let the master answer” is the legal term for employer responsibility for its employee’s actions. IF anyone cares to look it up, dictionary.law.com will explain it quite concisely.

  5. I continue to read about all the sexual sins and its issues within the universal visible church, which is where these sins are taking place, which is the unversal apostate church,and is not to be confused with the true church the spiritual body of Christ the One New Man, who will be of God’s final tabernacle and priesthood, the holy city New Jersualem in the new heaven and the new earth. It is the apostate church of tares with whom you all are struggling with.

    GCMW: Edited

  6. Amazingly Shakespeare speaks the sentiments of my heart on these matters, “I am hurt. A plague a’ both your houses!” Both = Every church that has an ungodly shepherd & every church that has a shepherd that upholds ungodly shepherds!

  7. Sheep of the pasture

    There is a prevailing mood that goes with the spirit of the times. Woe to them that call evil good and good evil. The sheppard’s are changing the sheepfold. If you walk though the valley of the shadow of death, you better watch to see who’s shawdow it is. They will fear no evil, but I will fear the prelates that are sodomising the sheep in the sheepfold. When did the pastors defend the sin and let the innocent be condemned in the Bible? Why is the watchman watching and not alerting!

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