Court Dismisses Civil Lawsuit Due To Statute Of Limitations

The judge in the civil lawsuit ruled today that the statute of limitations had run out for the alleged victims, saying that the victims needed to sue within three years of turning 18.  That deadline had passed for most of the plaintiffs years ago.

Today’s ruling has nothing to do with whether the charges of the lawsuit itself were true or not.  It also does not affect whether or not criminal charges could be filed someday.

530 comments

  1. Persona says:

    The police are now engaged in their own investigations and, thankfully there is no statute of limitations on bringing the cases to trial later on.

    Also, there are now many concerns about SGM in the reformed community and beyond. SGM has had its wings clipped and the movement will not have unfettered influence in the church at large. That is part of God’s judgment for their stiff-necked resistant to the Holy Spirit.

  2. Guy says:

    Most of you will remember that several lawyers have said that this would likely happen (on the civil side). I wonder what the criminal side looks like?

  3. Persona says:

    Guy, I don’t remember anyone mentioning statute of limitations do you? I do think SGM has traded the easier sentence-a monitary one, for possible time in prison…not sure that was a smart move on their part.

  4. Guy says:

    Persona, not necessarily the statute of limitations, but I remember a few comments about how difficult it would be. I will have to look back and refresh my tired brain. I think it will be interesting to see how the criminal investigation goes. However, regardless of outcome, God will not be mocked. The guilty will be found guilty, the innocent will be freed, and the victims will be comforted. In that I am sure.

  5. Greg says:

    Geez, you would think Susan Burke would have addressed the issue of statute of limitations before naming names on one hand and getting plaintiffs hopes up on the other hand. If there are criminal charges, then at least the criminal justice system is the right place to address these issues.

  6. Guy says:

    Greg, I agree. One would think that information would be the first thing to check.

  7. Patricia says:

    As a survivor myself I would not let today’s ruling discourage me at all. The judge simply ruled that the people suing today did not sue in time. Today’s action does not comment on the guilt or innocence of anyone involved. This isn’t nearly over yet, but it really shows how terrible it is when kids are abused and justice is not swiftly met. The newscast reported that two of the eleven plaintiffs just turned 18 so they may still have a case, but they live in the state of Virginia rather than in Maryland where today’s case was heard. Also, the news reported that there is no statute of limitations for felonies so the pastors and two churches could still face criminal charges as this moves forward.

    I am sure the plaintiff’s lawyers expected this as they know all about statutes of limitations. This did not take them by surprise at all. There is some reason they pursued this avenue first today (perhaps this better clears a path for a criminal investigation.) This is now in the media spotlight. I suspect the plaintiff’s lawyers have more moves ahead and I remain confident that SGM is not going to get off the hook on this. There are simply too many victims coming forward and too many SGM employees being named.

    Chin up and prayers Heavenward!

  8. Guy says:

    Patricia, excellent point regarding allowing this to happen. That aspect never dawned on me (which proves how horrible of an attorney I would be).

  9. Galatians101 says:

    Patricia,
    I believe you are correct!
    Susan L. Burke did not fall off the back of a turnip truck!
    There was a purpose in TODAY !

  10. Brent Detwiler says:

    This is heartbreaking news for the Plaintiffs! They have been greatly harmed and should be restituted by the Defendants. I have no doubt their accounts are true based upon an intimately knowledge of the facts. The facts presented to the public and those still undisclosed. Thank God the criminal investigations continue. There is no statue on limitations for felonies. Will SGM, CLC, CLS, SGCF continue to cover up for the individual defendants? I assume so. John Loftness should be immediately removed from ministry. His categorical denials are fallacious. No one should doubt the Plaintiffs but everyone should weep for them in their time of sorrow.

  11. Much afraid no more says:

    Psalm 12:5 says: The LORD replies, “I have seen violence done to the helpless, and I have heard the groans of the poor. Now I will rise up to rescue them, as they have longed for me to do.”

    Praying that as the Lord has said in Psalm 12, He will now do. Come Lord Jesus… come

  12. Paul says:

    Anyone know if this ruling can be appealed? One possibility is that Ms. Burke didn’t expect this ruling and thinks it’s wrong.

    I agree that it’s unlikely that Ms. Burke would have taken the case if she thought this would be the end of the matter.

  13. Galatians 101 says:

    P.S.
    The thought occured to me after I posted that there is something I can personally do to show my support and evcouragement to the victims and their courage in coming forward. I’m going to send a letter of thanks and a check for $ 25 to Susan Burke’s office in an effort to encourage this effort to proceed forward! It may be only a drop in the bucket, but I can do more than write on this blog.

  14. Foot says:

    Patricia #7

    Yep, foundation is laid. On to criminal investigation where it belongs. The clock is ticking, more criminals need to be rounded-up, more witnesses, more evidence, more testimony, much much more documentation, all the rubber duckies in a row…

    I am glad in a way, it needs to be more comprehensive to do real justice to those who have not come forward yet. Meantime, $GM can cook up there next move and show forth more dead works!

  15. Jenn says:

    Greg and Guy:

    Susan Burke did address the statute of limitations issue. Check out items 5,6, and 7 on Brent’s website. http://www.brentdetwiler.com/class-action-lawsuit/

    The judge simply rejected her arguments. This case was a long-shot that only a lawyer as brilliant and fearless as Burke would ever take on at all. I believe that the victims knew this.

  16. narrowistheWay says:

    Long long long time lurker, first time poster. It almost seems to me that the criminal aspect of this case should be the most important. I’m no lawyer, but I am a survivor. It took most of my life and alot of good Christian counseling, and a patient loving wife and children to become whole, or at least as whole as I can be this side of Glory. Life is good!
    Perhaps if tihe perps are sought, prosecuted and punished individually, justice would be better served. Just my opinion.
    Do not lose heart!

  17. Brent Detwiler says:

    The Covenant Life pastors should publicly promise the church they will do all in their power to prosecute the sex abusers that have operated in the midst! Furthermore, they should take strong action against any pastor who obstructed justice, refused to report crimes to law enforcement, failed to alert others in harm’s way and thereby contributed to molestation of other children. They must hold C.J. accountable. All this happened on his watch. He was complicit in covering up the activities of sex abusers and they now know that to be true. They can’t remain silent. In addition, they must clearly state their policy on reporting suspected pedophilic crimes to law enforcement and also their policy on warning all families of pedophiles in the midst.

  18. Foot says:

    Hmmm, just looking at Susan Burke’s website. This is just my opinion, but looks to me like she specializes in complex cases. Not flash paper cases. Seems like she is in it for the long haul, based on the type of cases she has accepted. This will not be good for $GM, it just means that the criminal case can be more complete and comprehensive. And, more criminals will be brought to justice in our lifetime.

  19. SGM disappointed says:

    This was a disappointment but not unexpected as laws vary widely state to state as far as statute of limitations. Criminal charges have extended or no limitations for child and sex abuse in most states and it seems as though criminal investigations are in process behind the scenes (many take a long time to investigate before charges are brought).
    I hope that the lawyers have back up strategies as the SOL should have been an obvious one but they may anticipated this to set up another legal move. The victims need to have this confronted in open court and some sort of resolution made to bring justice and closure. Too many people have been allegedly hurt without even an apology. Having gotten off with a technicality such as SOL is far from being innocent.

  20. Kraftig says:

    The civil suit was probably the first [merciful] attempt to allow the real perps to come clean and settle in a relatively quiet and agreeable way; the victims get their stories validated, the perps pay a steep and lasting price. Fighting that opportunity tooth and nail for months, the real perps now face the consequences of months of exposure, increasing courage of the wounded, and whatever lay ahead in any criminal proceedings as a result thereof. For them, the relief is temporary — and to be fair, they had no choice as there insurance providers would demand the resistance.

    For those harboring guilt to whom justice is still looming, a ruined career and financial disaster from a civil suit would have paled . . .

  21. Kraftig says:

    *their

  22. katie says:

    Can anyone recommend a good christian counselor in the Gaithersburg area?

  23. Patti says:

    I’m glad some of you pointed out that the lawyers went ahead with the filing even though the statute of limitations issue was a possibility, even likely. Renee appeared rather matter of fact about the ruling in the interview.

  24. Kraftig says:

    N.B., too, the way SGM decides to address this outcome in their next release. Dismissed on a technicality, really, not merits — AT ALL.

  25. CLCyoungadult says:

    @Katie Honestly? I think if it’s a big issue you should see a secular counselor. Issues have spiritual ramifications, and psychological ones. It’s important to deal with both. I don’t know who I could recommend that I would feel confident would deal with the latter well. MAYBE HeartSong? Honestly though? Do some legit therapy. Get real-life secular coping mechanism.

  26. katie says:

    It’s not for me… and I would normally feel the same as you regarding therapy, I’m just not sure a secular therapist could understand the SGM stuff and still bring a person back to God in the end. However I would still consider it an option.

  27. LetMyPeopleGo says:

    Guy, thanks for the encouragement @4.

    Welcome narrowistheWay,
    We’re glad to have you here. Thank you for your thoughts and your encouraging post. I am a survivor, too. I agree….we can’t lose heart….because there are amazing victories being won in survivor land! People are breaking free from and leaving SG churches, churches are leaving SGM, CJ has been deposed publicly from leading SGM (even if he tried to spin it by saying he is better gifted at preaching than directing an organization), and many who have been harmed by this group of men are getting healed and moving on in lives of true worship of our Lord. That is so, so good and God is doing it all through people who truly care for His sheep…because God’s gracious plans of redemption and restoration can not be thwarted. And because He has raised up people to care for His children at such a time as this.

    God will continue to set His people free so that they can worship Him with all their hearts….until the Lord returns.

  28. Oswald says:

    Katie @26 — How about contacting Bob Dixon and see what he can do or if he can recommend someone in the area.

  29. Taylor Hall says:

    Heartbroken. Victimized all over again. :( *tears*

  30. Patricia says:

    Foot, I like how you spell $GM. Very appropo.

    Yeah, this isn’t over by a long shot. Just consider Covenant Life member Nathaniel Morales who is currently jailed on criminal sex abuse charges in Montgomery County. According to the lawyer the pastors had been told by victims that Morales had molested them and the pastors did nothing about it.

    Regarding counselors, sexual abuse is too serious of an issue to be left to a rookie, and too many pastors pretend they are qualified to handle situations like this. My personal opinion is to pray God provides a fully qualified Christian counselor, but if one cannot be found in your area, then interview (via free consultation in person) three different secular counselors specializing in sexual abuse and ask pointed questions to determine where they stand on a number of issues important to you, including religious. Check licenses, referrals and associations. Some therapists are Christians, but do not advertise as such. Oswald’s suggestion to contact Bob Dixon for referrals is good. He specializes in cult abuse I believe which is also another important area.

  31. It's just the beginning says:

    Weeks or Months from now, if no criminal charges are brought against the individuals mentioned in the lawsuit or the organizations — what does that tell us about the allegations?

  32. Mary says:

    I would bet that Susan warned all of them that this could happen. I would also bet that unlike what some have said, these courageous souls were not in it for the money. My guess is this was to get the ball rolling on the criminal proceedings. Shame on Montgomery County officials if you do not investigate this fully. These are children that were tortured in the worst way possible. I believe them. And for all you pastors that are celebrating tonight: do not be deceived! God is not mocked. There is no SOL with God. May you experience all that you deserve. If by some chance you are innocent – you have nothing to fear. But, I will be praying that every morsel of guilt is shouted from the roof tops. You have destroyed many lives. May your sin be exposed. Stop hiding the truth. Truth is easier than lies. Your people have only asked for the truth. Treat them with some degree of respect – or go home.

  33. Former CLC'er says:

    @Katie – you could contact Seneca Creek Community Church or Church of the Redeemer for a list of Christian counselors. In the past, I have had good Christian counselors who helped me process issues concerning CLC. When I looked around a few years ago, I had difficulty finding a good one, but I think there are a few that Seneca Creek especially could recommend.

  34. Mary says:

    Katie,

    My pastor has a depth of understanding that is unmatched. He cries when I tell him about SGM. If you or a friend need a pastor and not a counselor you are welcome to get my email from Kris and send me a note. I understand not trusting secular counselors. That is a rule of SGM that I have not been able to break no matter how badly I might have needed a counselor. My pastor is not a professional counselor but he has more discernment and love than anyone I have ever met.

  35. Mary says:

    Number 31…What does that tell us about the pastors? Read the stories here. There have been wolves in leadership. I wanted deeply to think Josh would change things. But, to change you need to repent. Have the honor to speak the truth. Abuse happened in SGM, we repent, we want God..that I could respect. Until then, I know that I know that SGM is full of wolves, and the best thing for people to do is run.

  36. Formersgmer says:

    The sgm church in Michigan is gone. The state is grayed out on the map

  37. AnneGG says:

    Katie at 22 -http://www.lifechristiancounseling.com/counselors.htm

    I know Kathy Alverson has counseled individuals and couples who left CLC, for various issues.

  38. Formersgmer says:

    According to Christianity today blog two of the plaintiffs just turned 18 so their complaints against sgm can continue

  39. Patricia says:

    #31, that is not likely.

    Covenant Life member Morales is already sitting in jail and he has friends in high pastoral places who did not protect children from his evil.

    At least eleven plaintiffs have come forward to speak out about sexual abuse they experienced. Five of them have given their real names. And more will probably be coming forward as this progresses. It is unlikely that this many people would come forward if the allegations were not true.

    Add to that the $GM culture that allows such abuse to occur so easily. From my viewpoint these guys in leadership have made some fatal miscalculations “from the cheap seats”.

    And last but not least there is a God in Heaven who we all will answer to one day.

  40. Kris says:

    “It’s just the beginning” said,

    Weeks or Months from now, if no criminal charges are brought against the individuals mentioned in the lawsuit or the organizations — what does that tell us about the allegations?

    I don’t know that it would necessarily tell us much of anything about the allegations, except maybe that there must not be enough evidence to prove them beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

  41. glad i am out says:

    Truth, from the previous thread….
    It is interesting how you name yourself TRUTH and yet do not care to find out the actual truth but seem to be happy that your “heroes” are off the hook, temporarily, on a technicality. You clearly have a bias, as everyone on this site does, too, however, your bias “gloats”, which in SGM-ese is Pride, I am sure you know that is a no-no, and you celebrate the vindication of alleged pedophiles on a “technicality”. They may be innocent, it’s true, but what do you care? You do not want the TRUTH as your name implies. You just want to continue to sip that sweet kool-aid and could give a crap about the fact that there just might be some real “truth” to the fact that little young innocent children have had their lives all but destroyed! It would be one thing if a judge and jury tried the case and found your heroes innocent- but you have gloated that they are innocent because it is too late to try them. I think you are a fool. And i think you know it. And i think you care more about your heroe’s reputation than little children’s lives and that make you an A*****le.

  42. Mary says:

    This ruling aside..there should be enough evidence here for church members and those in the church at large to be deeply concerned…that is only if you care at all about other brothers and sisters in God’s kingdom.

  43. AnneGG says:

    This ruling is disappointing on one level, of the attempt to expose widespread abuse throughout SGM and specifically at CLC and Fairfax churches. We here at this site can continue to pray that God will shine His light in the dark areas that need to be exposed, that truth will be revealed and justice will be served in ongoing criminal investigations.

    In addition to prayer, we can also write emails or notes to Susan Burke and the plaintiffs, thanking them for stepping forward. We can also follow Galatians101 lead and send financial support to the legal team.

    When the original lawsuit was filed last October, I felt relief. The Holy Spirit had, for about 12 months prior to that, been giving me visual images of abused children locked up in a building attic, alone, forgotten. On the main level of this building, adults were gathered as in a large social setting, milling about, enjoying fellowship and totally oblivious to the abused children hidden in their building.

    These images came to me repeatedly on several different occasions over a period of one year or so. I often had these images while actually on the grounds of CLC, and when children were gathered, such as in the main lobby for Summer Celebration or the school sports teams gathering for their buses, or CLS classes passing through on their way to the gym or sanctuary. I often had a sense that my own children were not safe there at CLC. I only told my husband of these specific images. Prior attempts to share other visual images over other issues with CLC leaders had been met with dismissal. It seemed to me that CLC/SGM theology did not hold to the idea that God speaks personally to His people through dreams, visions, the prompting of the Holy Spirit, all in addition to His Word.

    When the lawsuit was filed last October, I felt relief in the sense that my visions MADE SENSE. There was an explanation WHY I had them. I was not relieved that they did indeed pertain to CLC/SGM.

    During the time of experiencing those visions, and after the October filing of the lawsuit, I prayed that God would bring this issue to light, that if there were abused children in CLC’s midst, it would be made known.

    So while I grieve in the alleged abuse of the plaintiffs, I am thankful they had the courage to step forward.

  44. Bridget says:

    I’m wondering how this SGM/alleged perpetrators issue will play out in light of the Sandusky/Penn State case. It seems that in the later, people and institutions were held accountable and experienced consequences for their part even beyond the conviction of Sandusky. Wasn’t it years later for those victims as well?

  45. GGMO says:

    Wait wait wait… As Far as I can see this is over completely at least in Maryland for the churches themselves. Maybe I’m wrong but isn’t Maryland one of three states that has no criminal penalties for failure to report? I mean as late as December last year they were trying to get a bill passed. After looking through the state website it looks like in Maryland, educators, health practitioners, social service workers and police officers are required under state law to report suspected child abuse to local authorities and their bosses. But A church doesn’t appear to have that requirement. I don’t know about Virginia. It looks like right now they are trying to get a mister meaner charge with up to 5 years and 10k but that’s still pending I think. The net result however is that it is not a Felony and thus could not be used in a criminal complaint. Am I right? Is this effectively over for anything in Maryland except the actual abusers themselves? And how do you turn a failure to report into a Felony charge?

  46. Persona says:

    No matter what the victims do I expect SGM to try and squeeze a shallow victory out of today. In other words, I expect them to post some sort of lame announcement on their blog.

    I suspect the publicity of the class action lawsuit has been used partly as a net to gather anyone who has been wrongly treated by SGM pastors and others. Since SGM and ex-SGM churches have done a poor job of asking their congregations if anyone else has been harmed or abused by others in their midst, there aren’t many other ways to get that message out to the general public.

    It takes an enormous amount of courage but, I hope anyone else who has been abused will step forward now.

  47. JeffB says:

    It’ll be interesting to see if the Silent RBD report the dismissal of the lawsuit.

  48. Hännah says:

    Katie, I’ve been really happy with Anna Stratton on K Street in DC–she’s Christian, but not churchy, and she’s aware of the crazy stuff in groups like ATI and SGM.

  49. Diego says:

    As OJ did not escape justice, nor will CJ.

  50. Julie Anne says:

    JeffB: Denny Burk and Kevin DeYoung were quick to tweet about the news of the case after Christianity Today tweeted the story:
    https://twitter.com/CTmagazine/status/335566832700366848