Feb 042015
 

On January 28, 2015, our attorney Mark Goldowitz…lead counsel of the California Anti-SLAPP Project or CASP…gave oral arguments on our behalf before the California 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Bob Grenier’s appellate attorney Todd Baxter out of Fresno also presented oral arguments.

I was not present for a number of reasons…among them…I didn’t want to see my mom in the flesh or I thought it would start the grieving process all over again. Right now, she’s dead to me…she made her choice and I consider her deceased and have fully grieved that loss. Once a person gets sucked into a religious cult-of-personality that far, I have to accept things as they are and not keep wishing for things as they should be. I have calloused up in that regard and accept the loss and have moved forward. Fortunately my kids fill the void with love quite well.

Paul Grenier and Tim Taylor were present for the proceeding. Paul Grenier is my 10-year younger brother…we have the same mom, but different dad. Bob Grenier is Paul’s biological father. Paul attended the hearing and stood strong in support of his original testimony that he asked be published on this blog many years ago now. Paul Grenier still maintains that he was sexually abused by his pastor-dad. I continue to believe Paul and to support his overcoming that abuse. I was physically abused, I cannot imagine the additional weight of sexual abuse. Tim Taylor, the Calvary Chapel Visalia congregant who spoke out publicly about wrongs he experienced from Pastor Bob, has been strong in his resolve in speaking out against abuse and corruption in the church as well.

From conversations with Paul and Tim…the case seems to be hinging on whether or not Bob Grenier is a Limited Purpose Public Figure, an All-Purpose Public Figure or a Private Person. According to Paul and Tim, that seemed to be the main line of questioning from the Appellate judges.

It’s difficult to predict what is in the minds of the judges and I won’t try to do that here. I am happy it is a panel of three judges and I’m glad that it is in Fresno and outside of Bob’s very cozy Visalia/Tulare County turf where he has forged very deep political alliances in that community as well as having family members from his Calvary Chapel Visalia inner-circle in positions within the courts and legal justice system there. Human nature tells me it is “an” influence…it’s just how the world works. You give the benefit of the doubt to people you are loyal to, you support people that have helped you politically…and you tend to take their side.

That dynamic is completely removed, in my opinion, with regards to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Bigger venue, three judges, not in Bob’s backyard. I am confident the judges will view and apply the law as best they can and we’ll see what they decide.

This is a pivotal case.

Where does Clergy fall in the Public Figure spectrum?

In a case we’ll call “Gallagher”…the court ruled a priest of a particular parish was “not” a public figure. In Gallagher’s case he was very private and pretty much kept his Moral expertise inside the walls of his local parish. He didn’t seek fame, didn’t seek to spread his Brand, didn’t seek to reach well beyond his local church walls to claim his Moral expertise and to spread his Moral message and Moral opinion to a ton of others. Gallagher was public as Clergy…but only public to his small local congregation, inside the four walls of his particular church. As such, the court ruled him “not” a Public Figure.

OK. A small local priest or preacher who does stand up publicly and tells you how to live your life properly with their particular definition of Morality…but only does it within their own four walls to their local church….can be Private.

What about the Pastor/Preacher who makes a tremendous effort to be known…to spread his Brand and his Moral opinion into the broader public?

This seems to be one of the major issues of this particular case.

It will be hard, in my opinion, to call Bob Grenier “Private”…when I watched him for over 30 years do all that he could to interject himself into the public discussion regarding issues of Morality. Bob sought out the spotlight and the public platform with great lust…and he admired the bigger Gurus like Raul Ries and Greg Laurie and others…he wanted to be them.

Bob has his own radio program that is spread across the nation at a large number of Christian radio stations where his Brand and his message is disseminated to thousands and thousands of people well outside of his four walls of Calvary Chapel Visalia.

From his actively seeking paid speaking appearances at Mega-Churches in Southern California, to his actively pursuing speaking appearances at Bible Conferences all over the US, South America, Israel, Europe, Philippines, Japan and many other parts of the World…to being a speaker on “Ministry Cruises” for many years….to seeking the spotlight at Mega-Crusades like Franklin Graham and Harvest Crusade for opportunities to speak publicly to build his Brand and his credibility as a rising star in the Calvary Chapel Movement…to sending out press releases to media to be quoted on issues like Gay Marriage (and he’s been sought out as a self-proclaimed Moral expert many times in that regard and been quoted by media many times in opposition to Gay Marriage)…to his own book, “A Common Miracle” where he creates his own narrative about his life and times and his Brand of Moral authority (the book left a lot out about the rest of the story, which we filled in..and got sued for).

The Lower Court evidence presents a pile of examples after examples after examples of Bob Grenier intentionally, willfully and energetically seeking the Public Spotlight…to establish himself as an expert in Morality as well as an authority to be listened to…while he regularly solicits money from the public to support his “ministry” as an agent of Morality and God.

Bob Grenier demonstrates his lying and dishonesty in his court testimony by claiming he is just a lowly private quiet small-time preacher who doesn’t seek the spotlight…just like Gallagher.

What a crock of horse manure. Anyone that knows Bob Grenier in any capacity knows this is an absolute lie. Bob is about as private as a measles outbreak. He doesn’t sneak up on you. He wants the attention, he goes after the attention, he gets the attention…and I only scratched the surface of all the things he’s done over the years to grab the Public spotlight.

If Bob is confirmed by the Appellate Court as some form of a Public Figure, then Actual Malice has to have been proven in the Lower Court case…and it was not. We believed what we publicly stated then and believe our sources and know our own experiences…and have documented those credible real sources….and we believe those things now. That is the litmus test for Actual Malice and we are innocent.

Bob is clearly no Gallagher…but it is the court’s job to determine where the line is between Public and Private…and if Bob is Private…then that will send shockwaves through the Legal World…as it will raise the bar so high to be considered Public that those who seek to speak out against abuses and corruption in the Church and other organizations will be effectively silenced due to threat of Defamation lawsuits with a very low threshold to sue people into capitulation and silence of online criticism.

The Court has up to 90 days to issue their ruling. We hope for the best.

 Posted by at 12:30 pm
Feb 032015
 
A portion of the 2013 IRS Form 990 for Raul Ries's "ministry". According to IRS docs, Ries's household has taken home more than $1,300,000 of the money collected "for Jesus" and "ministry" from 2011-2013.

A portion of the 2013 IRS Form 990 for Raul Ries’s “ministry”. According to IRS docs, Ries’s household has taken home more than $1,300,000 of the money collected “for Jesus” and “ministry” from 2011-2013.

“Give your money to Jesus! Give your money to the work of the Lord!” the preacher bellows with passion and emphasis.

We’ve all been there, sat through the subtle and not-so-subtle appeals for money to fund the “ministry” of Jesus…and the particular Pastor and Church has this or that “need” and we are blessed to be giving our hard-earned money to them because that’s what Jesus wants you to do…to build his Kingdom and give to “his” work…which so happens to be that particular Pastor and his particular “non-profit” church corporation.

OK, fine and well…but, what happens when the Pastor is taking home over $500,000 per year of the Jesus Money?

While in many cases this may be technically “legal”…is it Moral? Is it “right” and “righteous”? Or, is it corrupt and evil and criminal from a Moral perspective?

It has come to the attention of CalvaryChapelAbuse.com that Raul Ries and his personal household take in an alarming $500,000 plus per year from his “ministry”…to the tune of over $1,300,000 from 2011-2013.

IRS form 990’s were obtained by CalvaryChapelAbuse.com and a portion is posted in this article to validate the claims.

Raul Ries isn’t the only Christian mega-celebrity to get rich from “ministry”…sources inside Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale report that Bob Coy’s salary and compensation package exceeded $500,000 per year and sources allege that Greg Laurie makes more money from Jesus than either Pastor. Even the squeaky clean Franklin Graham is tainted by the revelation of his over $1,000,000 salary from two Christian charities he “served”…so-much-so that the disclosure shamed him into cutting one of the enormous salaries…now he makes about $450,000 per year from Jesus.

According to recent studies and CNN Money, you are in the Top one percent of all American incomes if you make over $389,000 per year (averaged across the United States).  In rich states like California and Florida that number is $433,000 and $367,000 respectively. Where does $500,000 per year put your household? You are in Elite air…and that doesn’t even take into consideration the tax-free nature of this income which boosts the Real Income a lot higher.

In all of the cases reported above, only Franklin Graham is fairly transparent about how much Jesus Money he takes for his “service” to the Lord. In most cases, the mega-pastors’ mega-salaries are carefully hidden from the public eye and you have to work very hard to get the information.

Where is the line folks? Is this what Jesus and ministry is all about?

When your Pastor makes more than 99.5% of the rest of the Population…and asks you for your money…should you know? Should we care?

 

 Posted by at 4:14 pm
Nov 132014
 
Jason Stellman and Christian Kingery...both ex Calvary Chapel Pastors...take some shots...literally and metaphorically...at Religion, Politics and Culture.

Jason Stellman and Christian Kingery…both ex Calvary Chapel Pastors…take some shots…literally and metaphorically…at Religion, Politics and Culture.

Former Calvary Chapel Pastors Jason Stellman and Christian Kingery launched a new podcast aptly titled “Drunk Ex Pastors.”

As the title suggests in a provocatively blunt manner…these guys take some shots and then discuss tame subjects like Religion, Politics, Culture…you know, non-controversial things like that.

While I am politically much more conservative than the pair…I do appreciate their willingness to explore the boundaries in what is a witty, often irreverent yet intelligent manner. I don’t always agree…rarely politically…though I often agree with regards to their more liberal approach to Theology/Religion…but I always laugh and they cause me to think through my particular positions.

The podcast is not for those who are easily offended or stumbled by non-political correctness, so be warned :-)

In the episode linked below, Drunk Ex Pastors discuss…among other things…Calvary Chapel.

http://www.drunkexpastors.com/podcast-9-cops-calvary-chapel-hell-and-football/

 Posted by at 12:50 pm
Nov 112014
 
Volunteer leader at Calvary Chapel West Grove arrested for sexually abusing a teen girl...unlike past bad examples within Calvary Chapel...the senior pastor at this CC franchise reported immediately.

Volunteer leader at Calvary Chapel West Grove arrested for sexually abusing a teen girl…unlike past bad examples within Calvary Chapel…the senior pastor at this CC franchise reported immediately.

Vincent Daniel Lavello, a 50-year-old Calvary Chapel West Grove volunteer church leader, was arrested and charged with one felony count of unlawful sexual intercourse with a child at least 10 years younger than the defendant and six felony counts of lewd acts upon a child, according to Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

According to police reports, the victim is a 14-year-old girl.

OC Weekly broke the story here: http://blogs.ocweekly.com/navelgazing/2014/11/vincent_daniel_lavello_calvary_chapel_child_sex.php

According to the OC Weekly report, it was Lavello’s wife who first became aware of the alleged sexual abuses and then she went to the Calvary Chapel West Grove pastor and reported her allegations, including “inappropriate text messages.”

The article states that the Calvary Chapel West Grove pastor immediately contacted the police.

CalvaryChapelAbuse.com contacted lead pastor Brad Young. He confirmed that he did report the matter to authorities right away and did not try to handle it in-house. When asked if his Calvary Chapel franchise had Child Protection Policies in place, his reply was “of course we do” but he was hesitant to discuss the matter further stating he wasn’t excited about another article coming out about this situation.

If you have any information about Vincent Lavello you are asked to contact Garden Grove Police Detective Dave Young at 714.741.5836 or Supervising District Attorney Investigator Kelly Core at 714.347.8794.

CalvaryChapelAbuse.com Commentary and Opinion:

Terrible tragedy, too common among church “leaders” and volunteers…we see this happen far too frequently in Calvary Chapel as well as other Church Organizations like the Roman Catholic Church and even institutions like Penn State University.

The message here is: It’s not a matter of “if” there are criminals and sexual abusers in our midst in the halls of church “leadership”…it is “when” will they offend…and is that church and the rest of the leadership there doing the best they can to protect kids from these predators.

In this case, from initial reports, it looks like Calvary Chapel West Grove and their pastor did what they should…they reported to the police right away. This is in stark contrast to the Elizabeth Ayub statutory rape by then Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa pastor John Flores….where leadership there, according to inside sources, first wanted to handle the crime in-house and send the teen girl to the Calvary Chapel castle in Austria and make things go away. This example of immediate reporting is also contrasted by reports from the victims’ family that Bob Grenier of Calvary Chapel Visalia was made aware that an employ of his was molesting his two step-daughters. According to the victims and family, Grenier told them not to go to police and attempted to handle the matter in-house…which is against the laws of mandatory reporting by clergy. Fortunately, the mother eventually reported to police, the step-father copped to the molestations and the family was able to make eventual amends. The family reports that Calvary Chapel Pastor Grenier essentially kicked them out of church for not submitting to his authority on the matter by going to police.

Good job Calvary Chapel West Grove for immediately reporting the sexual crime. Unfortunately, the mindset in many Calvary Chapels is still to handle things in-house and to not immediately report, which is now a crime due to Mandatory Reporting laws. It is my opinion that Pastors like Grenier and others tried to cover up the scandal because they believe it would affect the reputation of their church and attendance and giving if it was found out that such a crime occurred at the hands of one of their leaders, staff, volunteers or pastors. Could it also be that pastors who don’t report are themselves guilty of abuse? Either way, it is very wrong.

Again, I call on the Calvary Chapel Association, the Body that hands out the official “Affiliation” to Calvary Chapel Pastors to use the name and logo rights owned and controlled by Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and Chuck Smith’s Estate…to implement Mandatory Child Protection Policies as By-Laws in prospective Calvary Chapel franchises/affiliates. Why is this not required? Why does Calvary Chapel continue to leave it to the individual franchise holders to make up their own rules with regards to Child Protection Policies…yet requires the same franchisees to sign off on other rules regarding doctrinal agreement, agreement to follow the rules of the Calvary Chapel Distinctives, etc?

Good examples are out there. Calvary Chapel Boise, for instance, has solid Child Protection Policies in place and maintains and executes a policy of reporting alleged abuses immediately to the authorities. Calvary Chapel Boise also background checks all volunteers, employs, pastors, leaders etc. screening for child abuse, sexual abuse, felonies etc. I have had a lengthy discussion with Pastor Bob Caldwell about what he would do in the case of a report/allegation/accusation of Child Abuse at his Calvary Chapel franchise…he told me he would take the matter seriously and would report immediately to local authorities and not try to handle such a matter in-house…no matter who was accused.

Pastor Young did the right thing by immediately reporting. I understand his hesitance and not wanting to discuss the matter and draw more attention to a bad situation…however, the story needs to be told and lessons need to be learned. This stuff does happen and, unfortunately, other CC Pastors have a history of doing the wrong thing when it does happen. Pastors, like it or not, you are on the front lines of this stuff. Most folks will seek YOU out as their pastor first, instead of the authorities. It is your job to have a plan of how to deal with these matters and to deal with them lawfully and correctly.

May Calvary Chapel find Accountability Jesus in this important area, Organization wide.

Oct 182014
 
Mark Driscoll, embattled pastor/founder of Mars Hill church...recently resigned for being a jerk.

Mark Driscoll, embattled pastor/founder of Mars Hill church…recently resigned for being a jerk.

Mark Driscoll, the Mars Hill founder and charismatic alpha male mega-pastor, has resigned his position as lead pastor after a very public battle with former assistants, congregants, elders and large online community of critics.

Here is a link to Driscoll’s mea culpa and resignation letter that first appeared in Religion News Service: http://www.religionnews.com/2014/10/15/exclusive-mark-driscolls-resignation-letter-to-mars-hill-church/

A lot of critics have been really hard on Driscoll. Here is a key portion of Driscoll’s public response:

“I readily acknowledge I am an imperfect messenger of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are many things I have confessed and repented of, privately and publicly, as you are well aware. Specifically, I have confessed to past pride, anger and a domineering spirit. As I shared with our church in August, “God has broken me many times in recent years by showing me where I have fallen short, and while my journey, at age 43, is far from over, I believe He has brought me a long way from some days I am not very proud of, and is making me more like Him every day.”

Prior to and during this process there have been no charges of criminal activity, immorality or heresy, any of which could clearly be grounds for disqualification from pastoral ministry.”–Mark Driscoll.

Driscoll and Mars Hill church had come under fire for reports by many former members, elders, employees who alleged he was basically an asshole and shouldn’t be a pastor. Initially Driscoll and Mars Hill took a stonewall approach and tried to deflect the criticism as largely “anonymous” online complainers who were bitter and disgruntled. That public response prompted a Group to name themselves and it seemed to throw gasoline on an already raging fire.

The Group “Dear Pastor Mark & Mars Hill: We Are Not Anonymous” exploded onto Facebook with over 1,200 members…many calling attention to specific allegations of general douchery by Driscoll.

The media has since well-covered the resignation…and many of the Groups that criticized Driscoll have pretty much panned his resignation as insincere and not good enough.

CalvaryChapelAbuse.com Commentary and Opinion:

Critics of Mark Driscoll…what is it exactly that you want from Driscoll and Mars Hill? You want Mars Hill to erect a pyre and burn Driscoll at the stake? You want his body drug through the streets of Seattle? What?

It’s hard to be intellectually honest sometimes because it is always guaranteed to piss someone off.

In this case, the majority of Driscoll’s critics have lost their rational minds.

The man acknowledged specific sins. He resigned. Mars Hill accepted his resignation. I am, frankly, quite shocked by the public apology and the public church discipline…and more shocked that Driscoll fell on his sword and didn’t drag the thing out any further…and over him being a dick no less, not even something as serious as Child Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Adultery, or Financial Misconduct (though we’ll discuss that one in a bit…something might be a bit off there).

Driscoll didn’t molest or beat any kids, he wasn’t boinking his secretary or make-up artist and while he was/is paid a reportedly big salary/compensation package…there are no allegations of financial malfeasance…except one specific concern we’ll discuss shortly.

If it turns out that Driscoll’s “sin” was him being an asshole…then he’s come clean and he’s resigned. Well done Mark Driscoll. If he stops being an asshole, then he should be allowed to pastor again if he wants to do so. Pretty simple. Good example by Mars Hill and Driscoll of actually dealing with sin in a Church Org…something Calvary Chapel doesn’t nearly do.

Here’s the one caveat to my opinion above: There is a question about money that was donated to a particular mission’s fund that allegedly ended up in the Mars Hill general fund for Driscoll to spend. If that is the case…then big trouble in little China…and all bets are off. If it turns out that money was collected under the guise of “this is for overseas missions!” and then it simply went to pay the bills of Driscoll and Mars Hill…well, then, this scandal takes on a whole new light…and Driscoll’s quick resignation may be a smokescreen to take the heat off of folks digging any further into that one.

After analyzing the macro-Mars Hill/Driscoll scandal…that’s the big red flag. If there is anything more serious than Driscoll simply being an asshole…then that’s the issue they (Mars Hill and Driscoll) are afraid of…because that is the issue that, if true, could be illegal and could have much greater implications than a resignation.

Time will tell…but again, if it proves out that Driscoll’s only sin was being a douche…then he’s come clean and he’s resigned…and if he demonstrates repentance by not being a jerk any longer…then he should be restored…in my opinion.

Calvary Chapel could learn a lesson from Mars Hill. CC has seen resignations…but usually at the point of a metaphorical smoking gun to the head of a Bob Coy or an arrest like Dino Cardelli, Chris Olague, Jimmy Kempner, etc. Guys like Bob Grenier of Calvary Chapel Visalia make Mark Driscoll look like a choir boy…yet Calvary Chapel stonewalls and even defends their embattled pastor and invites him to their annual official Pastors’ Conference.

Ironically, Grenier is accused of something similar to the allegations of Driscoll’s bait-and-switch. A separate Reaching Youth non-profit entity was set up by Grenier and Calvary Chapel.  A prominent area home builder, Andy Mangano, gave a large one million dollar donation to the separate charity…and got a headline in the Fresno Bee for it. According to former staff, board member and bookkeepers of Calvary Chapel…a huge portion of the Reaching Youth monies…estimated to be in the many hundreds of thousands of dollars…ended up in Bob Grenier’s general fund at Calvary Chapel Visalia…where he compensated his household to the tune of over $150,000 per year in salary/perks/benefits. Nice trick. An inside source also alleged that Matt Bixler’s law firm that handled the very precarious transaction was quite nervous about it…which in my opinion is very telling that it stinks to high heaven.

We’ll see what happens with the allegations about Driscoll’s money issue and I’ll change my opinion about his coming clean and resigning if it turns out it was just a strategy to deflect attention from a much more serious issue.

Note to Driscoll and Mars Hill…instead of doing what the bible tells you, maybe you should consider pulling a page from Calvary Chapel’s and Bob Grenier’s book and simply sue everyone in sight to try and shut them up. That seems to be a better worldly strategy to silence critics and protect an abusive pastor. Your bad. Maybe next time.

 Posted by at 12:56 pm