Showing posts with label Tenth Presbyterian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tenth Presbyterian. Show all posts

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Breaking News: Tenth Presbyterian Seeks Unconstitutional Prior Restraint of Free Speech

When it comes to really bad, really un-Christian behavior, it takes a church. And in this case, not just any church, but Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia.

Readers may recall the saga of Phil Snyder, the former member of Tenth Presbyterian, who spoke out about his concerns over allegations of sexual misconduct, including possible assault of a female church member in the basement of the church. In addition, there are concerns about a former employee of the church, who is alleged to have administered sexualized naked beatings to persons connected with the church.

Instead of taking these matters seriously, however, and recognizing Phil for his courage in speaking out, First Presbyterian appears to have tried to sweep matters under the rug, at one point claiming that they had investigated and found Phil’s concerns to be false. I find the church’s arguments unpersuasive, and strongly believe that Phil is not only largely on point, but that the situation may be far worse than Phil suspects.

All that said, instead of seeking peace, justice, and reconciliation, Tenth Presbyterian, for the second time, is seeking an injunction to prevent Phil from protesting outside the church. True to form for church bullies, the church is doing the usual church routine of claiming that somehow it is threatened by Phil’s protesting and other activities. But a sign is not a threat, and efforts by the church and its attorneys to portray otherwise are shameful and despicable. Nor have I seen anything, from Phil or the church, that suggests that the church or its members actually have been threatened. For example, the church’s lawyers claim that Phil called one person a “liar” and that she felt threatened. All I can say is that clearly none of these knuckleheads have spent any meaningful time in cyberspace. Indeed, if I had a dollar for every time someone on Twitter called someone else a liar, I would be wealthy indeed. And the court system would have collapsed long ago under the weight of so many injunctions.

Moreover, the church’s attorneys no doubt are aware that such an injunction would constitute a prior restraint of First Amendment rights; that is the reason for the church’s inflammatory rhetoric in its pleadings. Moreover, I know Phil, and while I have not personally observed his conduct in Philadelphia, I seriously doubt he claims to be Jesus or believes that to be the case. Any church or pastor that would sign off on such pleadings is, I believe, both un-Christian and unethical, and you can quote me on that. 

In short, this is a disgraceful situation in which a church, which is supposed to be a place of healing and reconciliation, attempts to “paper” the other side, and run up attorney’s fees for Phil in an effort to silence him. But I can confidently say that Phil won’t go away any time soon, and that being more than 1,000 from the church won’t in any way slow down the growing public awareness of problems at Tenth Presbyterian. In fact, the church’s actions all but guarantee that social media criticism of the church will ramp up—and given the importance to 20-somethings of social media, you can bet your bottom dollar that the church’s conduct will result in a sharp decline in its fortunes.

Meanwhile, as you look over the church’s outlandish and inflammatory comments, which outside legal pleadings could well be considered defamatory, consider this: The church does not appear to have obtained criminal charges. If Phil is making terroristic threats, why has there been no arrest? And how can a purported expert in active shooters assess Phil’s behavior without meeting him in person? Such ex parte conclusions are at best highly questionable, and would be grounds for professional discipline were a mental health professional to make a diagnosis without meeting Phil. And for the record, I’ve spoken with Phil multiple times, and have never seen any signs of mental illness. I’d point out too that the church already has been shown to have displayed questionable veracity in its claims that Phil has threatened it, as video footage appears to show that this was an utter fabrication on the church’s part. Bearing false witness, anyone?

Lastly, as I have said many times about my former church, folks at Tenth Presbyterian don’t get it. Phil isn’t their problem. Their problem is how they handle conflict, and their lack of personal and professional integrity in how they respond to serious concerns about abusive conduct. In other words, the church’s response to Phil is, itself, abusive, as it attempts to misuse the perceived authority of clergy and church officials.

And to Liam Goligher and elders at Tenth Presbyterian, I have this to say: Your conduct is highly unbecoming, and brings discredit on you, your church, and those affiliated with the church. And you can quote me on that.

Here is the filing:

Monday, April 1, 2019

Invitation to Victims at Tenth Presbyterian

As several who have been following this story know, I increasingly believe there is much more to the story of potential abuse at Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia. Indeed, I have had several recent conversations that suggest that issues may go back to Phil Ryken’s time as pastor, and several folks have shared anecdotes that are deeply concerning.

So, my offer is this: If you have been abused at Tenth Presbyterian, or by someone connected with the church, get in touch with me. Dee Parsons of The Wartburg Watch knows how to get in touch with me, and all conversations are confidential unless you specifically request otherwise. My promise to you is to listen respectfully, no matter what you tell me, and to be entirely supportive.

Or feel free to HMU on Twitter @gracealexwatch.

I welcome your comments.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

More Correspondence from Tenth Presbyterian

Today I received more correspondence between Tenth Presbyterian and Phil Snyder. None of it’s pretty, and it thoroughly underscores the lack of a genuine Christian ethos among leadership at the church. Further, I’ll add that Liam Goligher sounds disturbingly like Dysfunctional Bob Malm, including the allegations that Liam has committed perjury. Needless to say, I am dubious about the long-term prospects for any church where this sort of behavior is acceptable. I also question where the good Christians of Tenth Presbyterian acquired the notion that they are authorized to restrict First Amendment rights on public fora, like the sidewalk in front of the church. And, like Bob Malm, the seeming lies about threatening and harassing conduct reflect a thoroughly broken ethical reference point.

I’d also point out, as I have apropos Grace Episcopal, that friendly is not faithful. Bob Malm, and likely Liam Goligher, can be quite personable and engaging, But that doesn’t mean that he has any real faith, and it’s important to recognize the difference. If you support a clergyperson because you like him or her, without regard for their conduct, you are simply worshiping an idol. And turning a blind eye to perjury and other misconduct is to make oneself equally culpable.

Moreover, like Bob Malm and his perjury, the only thing that Tenth Presbyterian has accomplished is to increase awareness of its apparent propensity for bullying and its inept handling of allegations of sexual misconduct. Plus, the church all but guarantees that there will be additional protests and leafleting at the church.


Thursday, March 28, 2019

Still More Disturbing Correspondence from Tenth Presbyterian

Recently I received additional emails and correspondence relating to the debacle at Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia. The debacle includes multiple allegations of sexual misconduct; a seeming lack of accountability by the pastor, Liam Goligher; and possible efforts by the church and its law firm to suppress criticism by former member Phil Snyder. Most importantly, I believe that the church evinces an appalling lack of concern for those hurt by these actions.

In the first email, posted below, Frank Pulcini, who appears to be a member of Tenth Presbytrerian, discusses the allegations of sexual misconduct in the church’s basement, which it refers to as “the catacombs.” To Frank’s credit, he urges a engaged approach to the issue, including stepping up security and notifying others about the issue, as well as providing care for the alleged victim and pulling in the police. I also am grateful that Frank contemplated the safety of children—an issue too often overlooked.

At the same time, there are some disconcerting aspects to Frank’s message. For example, he urges church leadership not “to keep this hushed,” further noting that no one called 911 at the time of the alleged incident. Moreover, it appears that no one had notified the police. The notion that the church can handle this incident — which sounds like a case of sexual assault — is shocking and appalling, and sounds very much like the Catholic Church and its efforts to handle its own sexual abuse issues internally. The results of the latter are well-known, and should have been enough to make any reasonable clergyperson think twice before trying to handle things personally.

Here is the content of Frank’s email:

The second email, while brief, is equally troubling. An exchange between Phil and Liam Goligher, it shows that Goligher was personally aware of the allegations of sexual misconduct. But what is truly telling is the suggestion that they catch up after Sunday services.

I don’t know about you, but the time after services at every church I’ve ever attended has been a whirlwind of little kids, coffee, small talk, and people coming and going. It’s a great place to find out how elderly friends are doing, or if those who are sick and shut in need anything. But as a place to address  allegations of sexual misconduct, it is about the worst possible place and time imaginable. Thus, unless I am mischaracterizing life at Tenth Presbyterian, Goligher’s follow-up suggests a shockingly cavalier approach to a potentially devastating issue, particularly for the woman who allegedly was assaulted. In other words, yikes. Just yikes.

Here’s the email:

The third email I’m posting today is an email sent to various people following Phil’s loss of his defamation case in the Philadelphia courts. When reading it, keep in mind that these are allegations, and to my knowledge, nothing has been proven in a court of law. 

That said, I believe Phil. Issues involving sexual misconduct and the safety of church members should have been handled with dispatch. There’s no reason this should have been acrimonious, difficult, or divisive. Yet even in these cursory emails, it looks very much like church officials are trying to sidestep and downplay the matter.

Of course, that raises the question why. Why would the church not want the police involved? Why would it not want transparency? I don’t know the answer, but my gut instinct is that it has something to hide, and that there’s more to this than meets the eye.

I’d also like to add that I admire Phil’s tenacity. In my dispute with Bob Malm, I know what he’s experiencing, and I am willing to bet he’s been called everything from insane to a stalker and more. Been there, done that. Churches know no bounds when it comes to ad hominem attacks on those who challenge the status quo, in my case even urging me to commit suicide. I hope that true Christians will offer support, encouragement and prayer on Phil’s behalf.

Apropos the issue of defamation, I no longer practice law, having happily retired, and no longer am licensed to practice law. That said, it’s a basic notion of defamation law that substantial truth is a defense. Thus, while Phil may have used inaccurate legal terminology, it appears that some sort of involuntary sexual misconduct did occur. I therefore believe Phil to be correct when he says that it is not slander, horrible or otherwise. I express no opinion as to whether Goligher indeed has engaged in criminal activity.

Of course, as a practical matter, if you are a church official, is it in your best interest to discourage reporting of misconduct? Of course not. If you do, you run the risk of potential personal and organizational liability, as well as devastating reputational damage. The fact that Tenth Presbyterian appears to be rabidly doing so again suggests to me that something is seriously wrong at the church. Moreover, if Phil’s conclusion that the church is blaming the victim is accurate, then things really are ugly at Tenth Presbyterian.

Lastly, we see the most recent correspondence from Gary Samms, the attorney for Tenth Presbyterian, in which he attempts to persuade Phil to quit communicating about this situation. While I appreciate its professional tone and demeanor (versus that of a certain government contracts attorney in Washington, DC), as a former attorney I find it noteworthy that it doesn’t claim that Phil is engaging in defamation. My guess is that Gary knows that Phil’s assertions are accurate, and far from defamatory. This, combined with the fact that an inflammatory letter would simply result in further criticism, suggests to me that the church knows that there’s not much it can do to shut down criticism.

Of course, that begs the issue: If people at Tenth Christian really are Christians, why did they try to get an injunction against Phil in the first place? It seems clear that he was neither violent, nor threatening. As such, the church appears to have borne false witness. The fact that the church pursued such a course of action yet again leads me to conclude that it is hiding something—possibly something quite serious. Otherwise, why would the church engage in what appears to be profoundly unethical behavior? And behavior that is so very damaging to its reputation? Moreover, its actions suggest this is not an emotionally or spiritually safe church, nor one that is safe against sexual abuse. If nothing else, it’s profoundly stupid for Liam to announce his decision that the incident at a pastor’s home was a “cultural misunderstanding.” The appropriate response was to notify the police immediately, and possibly to hire independent counsel to investigate the matter and notify the deacons, staff and congregation of its findings. Beyond that, a visit from a law enforcement crime prevention expert or a consultant in church security would have been a wise move. There is simply no reason for Liam Goligher to play junior police officer.

That said, Gary talks about facts not at Phil’s disposal. If the former can prove that the church handled allegations of sexual misconduct appropriately, I am, of course, more than happy to publish that information. Same goes for evidence that Phil indeed was violent and threatening. Or if Gary or the church wish to refute my belief that there’s more to this sordid tale than meets the eye, I am happy to hear them out. Somehow, I have the feeling the phone’s not going to be ringing off the hook any time soon.

In the meantime, I am looking forward to receiving more information on this case, and am committed to publishing this information as I receive it.

Until then, my advice to Tenth Presbyterian is this: Don’t pull a Bob Malm aka be stupid. Act like Christians and make things right. Just as Bob’s efforts have done nothing to shut down criticism of him (indeed, Bob’s conduct has exacerbated his reputational woes) so too will Tenth Presbyterian only compund its problems if it continues down its current path.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Disturbing Emails Raise Concerns About Possible Cover-Up of Sexual Abuse at Tenth Presbyterian

As wave after wave of scandals hit the Catholic and Southern Baptist churches over allegations of sexual abuse, pastor Liam Goligher and Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia appear determined to drag their church into the same quagmire. Indeed, recent emails that I have received suggest a profound lack of concern for victims of sexual abuse, as well as the possibility of a coverup by church officials.

Today, I’m publishing these emails. Having seen the same sort of passive-aggressive language in my own dealings with abusive clergy in The Episcopal Church, the response of church officials sounds all too familiar.

Of course, I’m not privy to all the details of this situation. But these three emails raise some powerful and disturbing questions:
  • If Liam Goligher and Tenth Presbyterian really care about victims of sexual and other forms of abuse, why wouldn’t they treat Phil Snyder’s efforts as a welcome opportunity to speak up on behalf of possible victims?
  • How could Session have already addressed the issue when the parties seemingly most effected/involved hadn’t been there during the discussions?
  • Why wouldn’t the church itself have called the police? Isn’t that the criticism of the Catholic church, that it tries to handle allegations of abuse internally?
  • Why would the church excommunicate Phil and apparently falsely claim he was being threatening if it didn’t have anything to hide?
  • Why would Dave Collins state in his email that Session now considers the matter to be “closed,” without stating an outcome? Moreover, the reference to matters “directly observed,” sounds very much like an effort to silence a whistleblower, especially when coupled with the shallow reference to “prayer and encouragement.”
  • Why would the alleged victim fear possible retaliation from church officials if Tenth Prsbyterian is a safe environment? My experience is that when people fear reprisals there’s a high likelihood that spiritual abuse is occurring right behind the scenes.
  • Why on this green earth would you ever bring legal action against former parishioner (as in filing for an injunction)? As in my case, when a church goes to court with a member it invariably reveals that, right behind the scenes, it’s a very troubled place.  And just like the Catholic church, the ends don’t justify the means.
My take: The church’s actions sound very much like there’s more—much more—to this story. If it has nothing to hide, why the bad behavior? Why go to court over something that it should welcome, which is people coming forward with concerns? In a day and age when it’s illegal for publicly traded companies to retaliate, why do churches think it’s okay for them to do so? Churches like Tenth Presbyterian simply illustrate that, rhetoric notwithstanding, they are no friend to the poor, the outcast, the oppressed — and that includes those who may have experienced sexual violence or abuse.

I suspect that, in the coming weeks, we’re going to find out that these issues are just the tip of the iceberg at Tenth Presbyterian. Yes, these are unproven allegations, but they have the ring of truth, and there are so many disturbing aspects to this situation that I can only conclude this is one highly toxic church.

Stay tuned.