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Q: "Lawsuits" ( Answered,   0 Comments )
Subject: "Lawsuits"
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: bear8847-ga
List Price: $100.00
Posted: 19 Aug 2003 09:30 PDT
Expires: 18 Sep 2003 09:30 PDT
Question ID: 246472
Has the Assemblies of God sued ministers within its organization? 
Have they sued churches within their organization?  Who won the suit? 
What was the basis of the decision made by Judge or jury?

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 19 Aug 2003 12:02 PDT
Hello there,

As a matter of policy and belief, the Assemblies of God churches
discourage -- but do not prohibit -- lawsuits.  Nevertheless, this is
a large organization, and it is almost inevitable that they will be
involved in a number of legal actions, both as the one filing suit,
and the one being sued.

I have identified about 200 suits in which an Assembly of God church
is a party, or is otherwise cited in the case.  A great many of these
are suits involving challenges to government authorities over zoning
restrictions, real estate, fees, etc, such as:

Boutte Assembly of God, Inc. v. Champagne

which had to do with whether a road bordering church property was
public or private.

There are a small number of cases where an Assembly of God church is
involved in a suit with another church, or one of its own staff or
members. For instance, there's the famous case of Gorman v Swaggart,
where Jimmy Swaggart was sued by a Reverend of another church.

There are other cases, such as:

Georgia Dist. Council of the Assemblies of God v. Atlanta Faith Mem.
Church, S96A0512., SUPREME COURT OF GEORGIA, 267 Ga. 59; 472 S.E.2d
66; 1996


Louisiana Dist. Council of Assemblies of God, Inc. v. Victory Temple
Assembly of God, No. 83-C-1071, SUPREME COURT OF LOUISIANA, 434 So. 2d
411; 1983

However, in cases like these it's not clear from the summary
information available:

--what the detailed nature of the complaint is

--if the individuals involved are church ministers

--if cases were decided by a judge or jury

For some of the cases, there is no on-line access to detailed
information.  For others, the information is available, but there is a
charge to access it.

If you'd like, I can access three of the most promising-looking cases,
and provide you with detailed information about the nature of the
case, and their eventual disposition.

Let me know if that would be a satisfactory answer to your question,
or if you'd prefer a different approach.


Clarification of Question by bear8847-ga on 20 Aug 2003 17:16 PDT
To Whom It May Concern:
I am an Assemblies of God minister.  I have been ordained with them
for over 30 years.  The Southern California District Council of the
Assemblies of God has recently filed a lawsuit against me and they
have seized all of our assets (3 million plus) by walking into the
Bank of America and telling them that because they are the head of our
organization that they therefore have the "right" to take our money. 
(They have consulted no one in our church, not our Board of Trustees
and not our members, and they have not allowed me to have a fair
hearing in this matter.)
When they tried to take over our checking accounts, the Bank of
America took the position that they didn't know for sure who the money
belongs to so, therefore, they froze our accounts allowing no one
Access to the money until a court can decide who the money belongs to.
They have accused me of fraud with regard to the spending of the
churches money.  I do have an attorney and we have turned over 5 years
of financial information both for the church and for me personally. 
All of our records prove that there has been no wrong doing or fraud
of any kind.
Even though I have an attorney, I'm trying to take a proactive
approach and not depend entirely on an attorney.  Therefore, I need to
find similar cases where the Assemblies of God parent organization has
sued its ministers and/or churches trying to seize their property
and/or money.
In other words, I am trying to find legal precedence that will help me
win my case if possible.  I hope this information helps to clarify
what I am looking for.  Please let me know if I can answer other
Pastor Barry
Subject: Re: "Lawsuits"
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 23 Aug 2003 18:03 PDT
Pastor Barry,

Although there are many cases where an Assembly of God church is
involved as a party to a lawsuit, extensive research reveals that only
a handful of these appear relevant to your situation

I have cited the case information below, as taken from legal databases
as well as general descriptions from newspaper accounts.  I hope this
information will be useful to you and your counsel as the present
action in which you are involved moves forward.

If anything I am presenting below is unclear or requires elaboration,
please do not hesitate to post a Request for Clarification, and I will
be happy to assist you further.

And as a reminder...I am not a lawyer, and nothing here should be
construed as legal advice.

Good luck!



[A case that unfolded in Louisiana in the 1980's involves financial
commitments made by the pastor of the church, and is perhaps the most
pertinent to your current situation.  It involved matters of church
hierarchy (who actually is in charge of the church) and ultimately
went to the state Supreme Court.  I'm providing details of one of the
main decisions below, and citing other cases related to it, for your

Nos. 86-CA-116, C/W, 86-CA-117, C/W, 86-CA-118
Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit
501 So. 2d 321; 1987 La. App. LEXIS 8513

January 12, 1987, Decided.


PROCEDURAL POSTURE: Intervenor sought review of an order of the
Twenty-Fourth Judicial District Court, Parish of Jefferson
(Louisiana), which granted summary judgment to plaintiff church in its
suit for a writ of mandamus directing defendant, a parish's recorder
of mortgages, to cancel a collateral mortgage signed by the church's
pastor that secured a promissory note issued in intervenor's favor by
the pastor.

OVERVIEW: A mortgage on church-owned land, signed by the church
pastor, was issued to intervenor as security for a promissory note
issued in his favor by the pastor. On the petition of the church, the
trial court granted it summary judgment in its suit to compel the
parish recorder of mortgages to cancel the mortgage from his records.
On appeal by intervenor, the court reversed and remanded the
proceedings. Explaining, the court said the underlying issue was the
authority of the pastor to encumber the property, title to which was
in the name of the church, by the collateral mortgage that he issued.
While issues surrounding the ecclesiastical affairs of the church
would require a court to defer, issues involving property would
require a court's involvement, the court said. Here, crucial issues of
material fact involving the confection of the mortgage, record title
at the time, and the pastor's relationship to the title owner at the
time of its confection had yet to be resolved. Because genuine issues
of material fact existed, the grant of summary judgment to the church
was improper and intervenor should be allowed to present his case in a
trial on the merits.

OUTCOME: The court reversed the trial court order granting the church
summary judgment and ordering the recorder of mortgages to erase the
collateral mortgage, and remanded the matter to the trial court for
further proceedings.

OPINION:  [*322]  This is a suspensive appeal from the granting of a
motion for summary judgment. Victory Temple Assembly of God,
plaintiff, filed a petition for a writ of mandamus directing Raoul
Galan, Jr., Recorder of Mortgages for the Parish of Jefferson,
defendant, to cancel and erase from the records of his office a
collateral mortgage, signed by Ralph Adams, in the amount of
$100,000.00 on three lots of ground over which plaintiff enjoys
ownership. Ralph R.  [**2]  Miller intervened as the encumbrance
sought to be removed secures a promissory note issued in his favor by
Adams. n1 Adams issued both instruments while acting in the professed
capacity of President/Pastor of Victory Temple Assembly of God. The
trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff and
directed the defendant to cancel and erase the collateral mortgage.
Intervenor appealed.

[A footnote to the case includes some relevant information about the
relationship between the individual church and the regional council as
established by the charter and bylaws in use in Louisiana]:

Our initial opinion reported at 427 So.2d 662 addressed the efforts of
Adams and his family to control and operate the Victory Temple
Assembly of God Church. Following a lengthy hearing the district court
concluded the church was affiliated with  [*323]  and under the
administrative control of the Louisiana District Council of the
Assembly of God, Inc., and was not a separate entity. In affirming the
decision we noted that the church's corporate charter and the bylaws
of the Louisiana District Council clearly established a hierarchical
relationship and, because the First Amendment prohibits civil courts
from becoming entangled in essentially religious disputes, we deferred
to the highest authority of the hierarchical church organization.

[furthermore, the court notes;]
It is apparent to us that the issues addressed in our prior decisions
concerned Adams' effort to establish himself as supervising pastor,
and thus involved the ecclesiastical affairs of the church
association, requiring the court to defer to the highest authority of
hierarchical church organization. Therefore, we agree with intervenor
that neither the ownership of the property nor the validity of the
mortgage (which hinges on Adams' authority as of March 13, 1981 to
issue it) were raised or addressed. The latter is a distinct and
separate issue on which crucial issues of material fact involving the
confection of the mortgage, record title at the time, and Adams'
relationship to the title owner at the time of its confection [**5] 
have yet to be resolved. Hence, in our view, summary judgment was
improperly granted. HN1Summary judgment should only be granted if the
pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on
file show there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the
mover is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Kerwin v. Nu-Way
Construction Service, Inc., 451 So.2d 1193 (5th Cir. 1984), writ
denied 457 So.2d 11 (La. 1984). Basic notions of fairness indicate
that intervenor be allowed to present his case in full at trial on the


The original litigation began July 7, 1977, when the Louisiana
District Council of the Assemblies of God, Inc. filed suit against
Victory Temple, asserting administrative authority over Victory Temple
and asking that it be enjoined from resisting the exercise of this
administrative and supervisory control. (Louisiana District Council of
the Assemblies of God, Inc. v. Victory Temple Assembly of God,
Proceedings #202-438 "C", 24th Judicial [**7]  District Court for the
Parish of Jefferson).


[other cases in this same chain of events]

--Victory Temple Assembly of God v. Galan, No. 87-C-0622, SUPREME
COURT OF LOUISIANA, 506 So. 2d 108; 1987 La. LEXIS 9169, May 15, 1987,

-- Louisiana Dist. Council of Assemblies of God, Inc. v. Victory
Temple Assembly of God, No. 65,899, Supreme Court of Louisiana, 377
So. 2d 126; 1979 La. LEXIS 7550, November 12, 1979

 -- Victory Temple Assembly of God v. Galan, Nos. 86-CA-116, C/W,
86-CA-117, C/W, 86-CA-118, Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Fifth
Circuit, 501 So. 2d 321; 1987 La. App. LEXIS 8513, January 12, 1987,
Decided,  Rehearing Denied February 18, 1987.

--Louisiana Dist. Council of Assemblies of God, Inc. v. Victory Temple
Assembly of God,  Nos. 10006, 9826, Court of Appeal of Louisiana,
Fourth Circuit, 376 So. 2d 169; 1979 La. App. LEXIS 2997, September
20, 1979


The January 16, 1988 Los Angeles Times ran an article (Metro pg 5)
reproduce the full article due to copyright restrictions, but I have
summarized it below].

A regional council of fundamentalist churches filed suit seeking to
freeze the assets of an Orange congregation and force its pastor out
of office.

The lawsuit was filed by the Southern California District Council of
the Assemblies of God Inc, against the Assembly of God of Olive in
Orange, .

The suit alleged that the pastor, Tim Waisanen, had been voted out of
office last November, but Waisanen refused to relinquish control of
the church, to stop holding services or to surrender church and
church-school bank accounts containing more than $90,000.  According
to the suit, Waisanen failed to win endorsement of two-thirds of the
members of his congregation, and should have severed all connection
with the congregation but instead attempted to win additional support.

The council, at the request of one-third of the congregation,
appointed an interim pastor to replace Waisanen and announced it had
assumed control of the church.


  [The April 14, 1990 newspaper, The Modesto Bee, ran an article (page
reproduce the full article due to copyright restrictions, but I have
summarized it below].

Superior Court Judge Donald B. Cantwell issued an interim ruling  in a
dispute over who should have possession of the church -- the pastor,
or the District Council of Assemblies of God, with whom King and some
members of his small congregation have been at odds.  The ruling left
the Denair Assembly of God Church in the hands of the Rev. David King,
but prohibited him from locking out members of the church.  The ruling
extended an earlier  court decision that gave King temporary control
of the church.

The judge  also barred the Northern California and Nevada District
Council and General Council of Assemblies of God from entering the
church and approaching within 100 yards of the property.

In a lawsuit filed in Stanislaus County Superior Court, King charged
physical harassment from church board members, following which he was
informed by the church district council that his credentials had been
suspended and that the council would take possession of the church
property.  A counterclaim filed by the district council charges that
King and his supporters locked and chained the church doors to church
members, accosted church members, purged members from church rolls,
invaded church bank accounts and refused to account for the funds.

The dispute may have begun when church members found financial
irregularities in the church books which led to a petition signed by
19 people calling for district council intervention in the affairs at
the Denair Assembly of God Church.

Judge Cantwell is considering a request by the district council to
hold a membership meeting in the presence of the judge to determine
the makeup of the church board of directors and decide the future
direction of other church operations.

[I mention this case, even though I do not have details available on
it, as it is a real property case involving church vs church, and may
be relevant...your lawyer should be able to find out additional
details on the case.]

U. S. District Court of Delaware (Wilmington)
CASE #: 92-CV-566

Christian Life v. Assemblies of God, et al

Filed: 09/25/92
Assigned to: Judge Murray M. Schwartz
Demand: $79,000
Nature of Suit: 290 [all other real property]


[This last is actually a trademark infringement case, so is pretty far
afield of the topic you asked about.  However, since it involves a
matter of fiscal responsibility, I thought I would include it just the

Assemblies of God v. Dorney, et al

U.S. District Court
Western District of Oklahoma (Oklahoma Cty)
Filed: 10/17/01


As I said earlier, if anything here requires elaboration, just let me
know.  And again, best of luck.
There are no comments at this time.

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