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:

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.