Cedarville University has hired Husch Blackwell LLP, one of the largest firms in America, to conduct its investigation into the hiring of a professor with a known history of sexual misconduct.
The university also has retained Mark DeMoss, “evangelicalism’s PR guru,” who over the years has represented some of the biggest names and organizations in evangelicalism, including Franklin Graham, Ravi Zacharias, Mark Driscoll, and Willow Creek Community Church.
DeMoss confirmed with me Friday that he has been hired by Cedarville’s trustees. He also said he’s had conversations and exchanged emails with Cedarville’s acting president, Lt. Gen. Loren Reno.
On May 1, Cedarville’s trustees placed university president, Dr. Thomas White, on administrative leave and appointed Lt. Gen. Reno as acting president, following major controversy surrounding the hiring of Dr. Anthony Moore. The trustees also announced that they would hire an independent firm to investigate the process surrounding Moore’s hiring and also to ensure that “nothing inappropriate” involving Moore happened on campus.
Moore, who had been fired from a previous church for making secret videos of a youth pastor showering, was hired by White in 2017. White said he knew of “at most two videos” at the time of Moore’s hiring, but fired Moore last month when he discovered Moore had made “at least five videos” over a period of months.
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The firm investigating White’s hiring of Moore, Husch Blackwell, employs more than 700 attorneys and had a revenue in 2017 exceeding $349 million. On its website, the firm describes itself as having an “industry-centric approach” that enables the firm “to lead our clients from where they are to where they want to be.”
The firm also will be seeking information concerning Moore’s behavior with Cedarville students. In an email sent to students and “recent alumni” on Thursday, Dean of Women Mindy May provided contact information for two Husch Blackwell attorneys and urged students to contact the attorneys directly with information that might be relevant to the investigation.
May added that the trustee board had directed the firm “to use its independent professional judgment” while conducting the investigation, and to present its findings to the board “independent of any outside influence.”
Is Cedarville’s Investigation Truly Independent?
One of the main questions surrounding investigations of this sort is whether or not they truly are independent. I reached out to Boz Tchividjian, founder of G.R.A.C.E. (Godly Response to Abuse in a Christian Environment)—an organization that specializes in investigating Christian organizations where there’s suspected abuse. Tchividjian said he wasn’t familiar with Husch Blackwell, but has “general concerns about law firms conducting supposed ‘independent’ investigations” and referred me to a 2015 article he wrote on the topic.
“Ultimately, it’s all about control,” Tchividjian writes in the article. “An internal investigation is when the institution being investigated is in control. Independent investigations require that the independent investigator be in control. The difference is fundamental.”
Tchividjian offered several criteria for discerning whether the investigation is “internal or independent.” (Cedarville has claimed its investigation is both “internal” and “independent.”)
1. Control of the investigator: Tchividjian writes that an investigator who has a “fiduciary duty to the institution being investigated” is not independent. “For example, attorneys owe their clients a fiduciary duty,” he said. “Thus, when a practicing attorney or law firm is hired to conduct the investigation, the institution is in the driver’s seat and the process in not independent.”
Tchividjian further explained in an email that the American Bar Association Rules of Professional Conduct state that a lawyer (or law firm) has fiduciary duty to his/her/its client. This means that the “client remains in control of the process and in control of the final product.”
However, organizations like G.R.A.C.E., though hired by the group they are investigating, do not have a fiduciary duty to that group, Tchividjian said. G.R.A.C.E. states in its agreement with organizations that it is not an agent of the group it is investigating and will act “independent with complete autonomy.”
2. Control of the process: Independent investigations, Tchividjian says, “prohibit those who are being investigated from determining who is interviewed, how such interviews are conducted, or limiting the scope of any other evidence the investigator determines is relevant.”
3. Control of the findings: In internal (as opposed to independent) investigations, the organization being investigated has complete access to the investigation’s findings, so those who participate have no confidence that their information will be kept confidential.
4. Control of the final report: One of the tell-tale signs of an internal investigation is that the organization being investigated has control of who sees the final report. For an investigation to truly be independent, the investigator alone must determine “the content of the final report and who will receive it.”
According to a statement Cedarville’s trustees released three weeks ago, the firm conducting its investigation will report its findings to the public concerning whether Moore did anything inappropriate while on campus. However, the trustees said the firm will report the findings of its investigation into the process surrounding Moore’s hiring to the trustee board.
39 thoughts on “Cedarville Hires Law Firm to Conduct Investigation; Retains PR Guru Mark DeMoss”
Cedarville must do better.
Will Cedarville investigate Dr. White’s (and Joy White) role in the Paige Patterson handling of Megan’s tragic rape? Will Cedarville investigate the handling of Kiara’s case and rape? Will Cedarville investigate the handling of the sexual harassment of a staff member by the Dean of the CU Pharmacy School? Will Cedarville investigate and report on the entire culture at Cedarville around sexual harrassment and abuse? How about the toxic environment for the faculty?
Why does Cedarville reward sexual abusers with leadership roles (Dr. Moore)? And why do they disregard the abused? There is a major problem here. The Board should take a bold step to address all of these issues. Why are they silent on these developments?
This type of conduct by “Christians” is one reason so many have turned away from the church, and it is EXACTLY THE REASON that judgment will begin in the House of God – 1 Peter 4:17. Constantly reading of all the situations where the church and it’s leaders have taken advantage of, and used, individuals is sickening. Do they really think they are fooling God – the One whose eyes roam the earth?? How foolish can one be?
One of the Hallmarks of a faithful Christian organization is that when they are confronted with sin, they repent. They don’t go out trying to ‘save face’ by hiring expensive secular law firms to threaten anyone but use the Bible as their moral guide to move forward. This is directed in 2 Tim.3:16 and 1 Cor.6: 1-6. In the Bible is everything we need for a live of godliness and it is a shame to Christ and His church to bring is secular people to make judgements.
In 2 Cor.10:3-6 God says “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.
I don’t see any of this happening at Cedarville but rather a ‘closing of ranks’ and a secular response. Very disappointing but all too common. What a shame.
“They don’t go out trying to ‘save face’ by hiring expensive secular law firms to threaten anyone but use the Bible as their moral guide to move forward…. In the Bible is everything we need for a live of godliness”
Jacob, as it turns out, the bible can be made to say whatever people want it to say.
Whatever will protect power and revenue and dodge accountability, many professional christian influencers will piece the argument together and call it “biblical” (among other christian marketing buzz words)
and many christians will believe it, minus any scrutiny.
I’ve seen this so many times, saw it last week, see it now…
So…..hiring this firm is basically hiring a DEFENSE attorney……..
Does White and the board really think that we are just that ignorant?
Julie, thanks for another important article, albeit with more troubling news.
In light of what Tchividjian says, we are deeply disturbed that the Board of Trustees chose to hire a law firm like HuschBlackwell, rather than, say, a truly external, independent organization like G.R.A.C.E.
Considering all we know about Mindy May from your report earlier this week about her mistreatment of Kiara (and our own unfortunate experiences), we have grave concerns about why May was chosen to initiate contact with students and recent grads on behalf of the law firm. Therefore, the third criterion is of particular concern: “In internal (as opposed to independent) investigations, the organization being investigated has complete access to the investigation’s findings, so those who participate have no confidence that their information will be kept confidential.”
We represent some of those recent grads who, as one just told us yesterday, still fear the the administration and feel like they can’t speak out against them “or they’ll hurt me.” Many, if not all, students and recent grads who “have no confidence that their information will be kept confidential” will probably not speak out at all.
So a pressing question we have is this: Why was Mindy May instructed to send the email at all? Why didn’t CU provide the email addresses to the investigators themselves, who then contacted each student? May’s very appearance in the investigation will, more than likely, inhibit people from coming forward because they don’t trust her. But of course, now that we know the investigation is being run by a law firm with the “fiduciary” responsibility to CU, that makes the distrust double.
It’s once again distressing that the investigation does not include faculty and staff. Plenty of male professors and staff members use the gym and saw Moore there regularly as well as interacted with Moore on campus and in the church in town. Since Moore was caught having committed the Texas felony of “Invasive Video Recording” of a youth pastor, why are staff and faculty being omitted from this part investigation?
And DeMoss? Seriously, this is like a comedy of errors, too. Hiring DeMoss cements in our minds that this whole thing is about image maintenance and information control, “control” being the key objective—and acting president Reno’s specialty. Reno controls narratives—it’s what he did with the censorship policy and what he’ll help do here.
I have been carefully watching these scandals play out in these watchblogs for going on 6 years now. It is funny how some of the names change, while others, like DeMoss, stay exactly the same, but it is the same b.s. over and over and over again. Jesus told us to be careful not to get deceived. The evidence is abundant that Satan has created and taken over much of what calls itself part of Jesus’ Church. This is why Jesus told us to be fruit inspectors. Good trees do not bare bad fruit. Satan is the god of Mammon and Power. Where Christians have created structures that require much Mammon to keep going and have positions where a few narcissistic jerks like White and Reno wield great power is where you are going to find the Devil.
This is one reason why God has designed and released this particular virus. It is designed to shake what calls itself part of God’s church. Most church denominations, “Christian” schools, “Christian” ministries with a charismatic leader and large “Christian” churches will be shaken and many will fall. Those that fall are not a part of Jesus’ True Church. Let those who have ears to hear, hear…
Mark DeMoss…. how are his services not propaganda? How is he not a professional liar-for-hire?
*Christian-with-power has much to lose.
*They choose to do something wrong, egregious, immoral, criminal.
*They hire Mark DeMoss, who spins the corruption-in-the-name-of-God until until it turns into words that actually make corrupt Christian-with-power out to be the honorable hero.
Not all crimes are against the law of the land. and there are apparently no victimless crimes. Does Mark DeMoss ever consider the people who were abused, stepped on, exploited, betrayed, stolen from? And that he is an accomplice in their pain? And making money from it?
But perhaps this is Gospel-propaganda, and Gospel-lying…. tack on that Gospel- prefix and by faith it therefore brings glory to God, somehow.
maybe that’s how he rationalizes it away.
If you know who is on the board of trustees this will come as no surprise. While not everyone is the same, a number of those who orchestrated the “take over” are still there. In addition, more SBC men are on it now.
They are so confident that “nothing happened” with Moore – or that they can control the scenario with having May et al., send out emails etc, that they will make those findings public. However, they won’t make public findings of wrongdoing, etc of the hiring process. This would hurt the image of their man.
What continues to baffle me is that they think we are all stupid. We’ve read documents where it is clear that he lied or at least misrepresented the truth.
But let’s reign this back in to the issue: people, specifically women, continue to be hurt and victimized by an archaic way of thinking that continues to be perpetuated and is so engrained in these people that nothing will change but for a total house cleaning. Which will never happen under the current trustee board because it would mean they need to clean out their own house = loss of power and prestige.
Amen and amen.
What about the father with close connections to both Dr. White and The Village Church, whose son was excited about his new relationship to Dr. Moore, in late 2017/early 2018? Isn’t that cause for concern? That father got the ball rolling some time early 2018 by talking to White.
Some months after the father interceded for his son, the youth pastor who was violated by Dr. Moore filed a police report in 2018. Later on, evidently in 2019, Lee Enochs wrote a very pointed letter to Dr. White reminding him he’d warned him about what would happen if Moore were hired.
There has been much going on behind the scenes, before the blogs started reporting about Dr. Moore.
How did Lee Enochs become aware of this situation, and just what did he tell Dr. White, and when? What more does he know about other board members at the time and how they influenced the decision to hire Dr. Moore?
This father of the boy, who had connections to TVC and Dr. White’s cell, what else does he know about the hiring of Moore?
It would be instructive to find out, and I do want to know, because it’s how our money is being spent, some of it anyway . . .
What has become of my alma mater? I will never give any more money to the school as long as this Board keeps doing things like this. And I am not encouraging anyone with high school kids to consider attending the school either. I don’t want a slick marketing campaign and more spin. I want the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
My daughter is a student at Cedarville and did not receive an email from Mindy May. Apparently Cedarville is picking and choosing which students are being contacted. It isn’t everyone. To be a comprehensive investigation, the entire campus should be contacted. Very disappointing but not surprising.
My daughter is a student at CU and got no such email from Mindy May. Either the email wasn’t sent out or it was sent out selectively. I do agree, however, that it should not be sent out by Mindy May but by the “independent” investigators. I am so so disappointed in CU. I have loved this school for a long time, but now? I just don’t know.
I am SOLELY saying this as someone who has been part of an external organization asked to do an investigation (NOT IN ANY WAY RELATED TO CU OR THE OTHERS ON THIS SITE), but the approach of the external firm is dependent upon the school policy, local privacy laws, and attorney-client privilege (if an internal investigation has already been done).
I have had clients who did NOT allow us to directly reach out unless an employee/student indicated interest, and the way to do so was to reply to such emails as this. Also, if some students are minors (it is common for some freshmen to be 17, or for there to be privacy policies or laws protecting students under 21), that can add another layer to this.
There are also times that we – as an external firm – would ask for a “warm introduction” so that we could directly reach out without alarming (or getting ignored by) the employee/student, and a person would be selected to send an introductory email. Sounds like in this case the person is Mindy.
It is also common for an investigation to have “phases” so that an external firm doesn’t come in trying to investigate or boil the ocean all at once. This means it would start with investigating select individuals/departments/etc and slowly expand based on need and/or findings.
I cosign on the concern that a lot of the scope of the investigation (i.e. who the firm has access to, what triggers an expansion of the investigation, who gets the report, etc) is managed by CU. But I did want to clarify what can be going on when it comes to some of the logistics.
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
So this is what it’s come down to – retaining a high profile legal firm and Mark DeMoss. It could be a whole lot less expensive if those in leadership recognized that decisions have consequences. It doesn’t matter if they acted with good intentions. The Cedarville University family has been put at risk by their hands, and the situation continues to spiral.
I plead with Thomas White, Tom Mach, Loren Reno, Jason Lee, Jon Wood, Mindy May, Marc Sweeney, and Trustees involved in the Anthony Moore scandal and Title IX abuses – please resign for the good of the name of Christ. Clinging to the vestiges of your power and position is only making things worse.
With the Presidency and a luxury custom home (under construction) on the line…. Thomas White has a lot to lose.
The heart and soul of the University is at stake…
The world is watching.
Well said, Sarah. Hard to believe this scandal hasn’t been on NATIONAL NEWS…yet.
And someone needs to take pictures and post this luxury custom home under construction. Funny, only heard about this from comments. Not on CU website. Not part of the 10 year master plan?! Who paid for this?!
Duped Parent – You can visit @wielandbuilders on Instagram and see the home. It is in their “Story Highlights” listed as “GreenfieldGrove”. It was originally called “Cedarville”, then the name was changed to “Cedar Grove”, and now they are calling it “GreenfieldGrove”… They can keep changing the name of the project, but it’s the same house. It’s located at 2668 Harbison Road on the back side of the golf team’s driving range on University owned property per the Greene County GIS site (which is public record). You can see an aerial view of the home there. I have no idea who is paying for it.
It’s described as “PRESIDENTS HOME-CED U” on the county building permit (pin# 138568).
According to various social media posts by the builder, it is a “custom build” “dream home”, “luxury home”, “just under 9000 square feet”, with “22 foot ceilings”, etc.!
Thanks, Sarah. Interesting that the home keeps getting a new name. That would explain why I couldn’t find it before! And thanks, Jerome.
Confirms there is no “humble” to be found in abode or any matter concerning White. Glad to see our 4 year “investment” has been put up good use! Ugh
The “luxury home”
is funded personally by the trustees and the sale of the president’s current residence. White requested to put a mother-in-law pod on the current property, which the trustees did not approve. Instead, they proposed the new build with the mother-in-law suite, a guest apartment with separate entrance, and handicapped-accessible bathrooms on the first floor for when the president’s family hosts large student events. It is funded separately from tuition and the 10-year plan.
“Donors” have paid for it apparently.
Mark DeMoss spoke at Cedarville University sometime in 2012 or 2013 and employees were offered a free copy of his The Little Red Book of Wisdom. Cedarville had then recently paid for his PR services to help CU with lawsuits arising from then recent issues involving the firing of Bible faculty, reports to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) of tampering with professor’s ability to speak freely on campus, and the general mess of the SBC “taking over” Cedarville and ousting then President Bill Brown.
See these two articles with the AAUP:
On this topic, but related to Mindy May, I can’t see why any student who received the email from Mindy May instructing them they had the opportunity to voluntarily contact lawyers to report something inappropriate done by Anthony Moore would, after having heard on the Roys Report podcast earlier this week having confidence they would be heard, helped, and supported by Cedarville and the attorneys it has hired. (https://julieroys.com/podcast/rape-victim-at-cedarville-asks-where-was-my-protection/)
If a student has experienced something troubling or traumatic, it’s very likely they are not comfortable speaking about it if they don’t feel they have support. Kiara did not receive support, and I noticed that in the Roys Report on how Megan Livey was treated in 2003 by Thomas and Joy White, Megan definitely did not receive support either (https://julieroys.com/rape-victim-whose-story-ousted-paige-patterson-says-cedarville-pres-thomas-white-was-part-of-cover-up/).
Over here, the way I read this comment is that students are asked to report by May 26, which is over the holiday weekend, and I think the letter was sent on May 21: https://thouarttheman.org/2020/05/11/no-shirts-required-while-cheering-on-president-white/#comment-9670
This comment has some information on one of the lawyer’s previously fighting to have Title IX case at another school dismissed: https://thouarttheman.org/2020/05/11/no-shirts-required-while-cheering-on-president-white/#comment-9669
It is likely the “independent” investigation will show no students reported new complaints. (Are faculty being invited to also report complaints?)
The trustees would then only have the existing complaint to consider from the parent who contacted White a year or so ago about Moore asking his son to go on a camping trip; the trustees would also have the outrage from the local Grace Baptist Church in Cedarville to consider, the outrage from the current CU community, the broken trust within and toward the Bible dept., the outrage from alumni, and the fact that White himself fired Moore. (White must have felt his restoration plan, which he must have thought was God-led, could not be continued three-fifths of the way into it because he claims to have just learned in April 2020 that Moore, who he knew had twice filmed a man while showering, had, in fact, filmed that man more than twice. Too much for God to handle!?).
The trustees would also have all the cases of tampering with tenure-reviews, publicly shaming and then demoting the professor in the English dept. harming students under the auspices of the counseling services division led by Mindy May, and possible, impending violations handed down by the Higher Learning Commission and the NCAA. See the past month of Roys Reports that cover all but the last two of those items.
Will the trustees look the other way and say White has learned a valuable lesson and it better-equipped now to be a great president for CU? Or does the hiring of DeMoss possibly mean the trustees realize the severity of this mess and they hope DeMoss will help them restore their reputation after they release White? Whether White stays or leaves, CU has a lot of rebuilding to do.
Do we see a trend here? CU Trustees covering up the mess they’ve made for years?! Who holds them accountable?
It’s time for CU alumni and CU parents to call for their resignation. Nothing will change at CU until this happens. Nothing.
Mindy May didn’t even ensure in her statement that anything that was brought forward would be confidential. Why/how do they think that any student/alumni would feel comfortable to bring very sensitive and potentially traumatic information forward unless they are assured that they will be protected and information kept confidential? There isn’t any protection and empathy for potential victims and to not victimize them again. The email from Mindy May is cold.
Yeah, this sounds real independent – after reading May’s email. There is less confidentiality in this investigation than reporting through Title IX. Sad that a Christian institution can’t submit themselves to a true independent investigation that promises confidentiality to those who may be victims or have pertinent information. Controlling the narrative – protecting themselves – throwing victims under the bus.
So, someone who has potentially endured something very traumatic has 5 days to determine whether or not to report to some lawyers? I think Cedarville should be engaging with experts in sexual abuse on how to help victims to bring their stories forward with support and love. A cold email to contact lawyers doesn’t seem very loving to me. Sounds like Cedarville wants to wrap things up quickly.
What if alumni or former faculty with first-hand information were to contact the law firm? Or what if others, having heard of the short timeline, were to contact the law firm?
Thank you, Julie Roys, for your fearless work bringing this story to light! Keep digging!
The email above states, “Previously, I sent you an email in response to the University’s announcement concerning the termination of Dr. Anthony Moore.” So, the above email was only sent to the students that were sent a previous email. My understanding is that the first email was sent only to students that “had personal interactions with Dr. Moore either through class or various forms of campus involvement.” I have two children that attend CU and neither of them received any communication from Mindy May. One of my children DID have Anthony Moore as a substitute professor for a Bible class. Mindy May did not reach out to all of the students that had interactions with Moore. I understand she may have not have thought of all instances. This leads me to conclude that she should have sent the email to all students.The second email was sent out on May 21 and students and recent alumni are supposed to respond before May 26….after a holiday weekend??? Why not send this email to all faculty and staff at CU? Did they not have interactions with Anthony Moore? Do they not have a voice?
I am no legal expert. That being said, if it were my daughter or son who had a story/incident to tell, my recommendation would be to get a private attorney involved. Let the family’s private attorney fence the situation for them by contacting Hanson and Teeter directly with the information. I’m betting the private family attorney would be better skilled and able to negotiate the landscape – as well as protect the confidentiality of the reporting student (or faculty/staff member).
They may also be able to parlay some terms into the agreement, such as expanding the scope of the investigation or terms for public reporting based on what information has been shared with the private family…with a boundary set around “failure to do so.” Meaning, my client and I will release our information and how your firm has handled this investigation directly to the news, with all other reports we have gathered from other known associations (ie. students, faculty, or staff).
This strategy may have more strength if families, faculty and staff joined together, using a law firm to represent them.
But like I said, I am no legal expert. Just my 2 cents worth.
Would not all of this just be resolved easier if the students just all left and went somewhere else? Why waste any more time or energy on something that can only be resolved by voting with your feet and dollars? We cannot force evil men to do the right thing. We can choose not to participate in their evil by supporting it with our own resources.
Cedarville is worth saving, but many must be sacrificed.
These lawyers sound just like the lawyers fighting my title IX suit against a different Christian University. I wish people would just do the right thing to begin with. I should have to file a federal lawsuit and be relooking my case to see if there are any criminal violations by school faculty -e.g. coverup related- that I can take to the police.
As far as the why go through all this? Sometimes little transfers and/or too much debt already such as a student in a PhD program. Sometimes it’s a special calling from the Lord to help expose the mess so others won’t be hurt. Sometimes it that ethically what happened cannot be ignored. Many reasons.
Victims need to call the police. That is all.
JC, I agree. If someone is assaulted in any way, the best thing to do is contact the police. If not, then merely reporting it to the school can become a temptation for the school authorities to protect its image.
If they’d simply practice what they preach everything would be fine in the middle of the cornfield.
Thinking the paint crew needs to freshen up the SSC again… paint over some of the core values on the walls:“integrity in conduct” and “love for others”
Cedarville is out for the summer. How many students are actually checking their university email account at this time?
Has anyone heard anything on the “investigation”?
Since it’s worthless, except for CU, I filed a formal complaint several weeks back with the Higher Learning Commission in an effort to do something. First response from HLC was automated. Not setting well with me, I pushed the issues. With that, the HLC sent a more appropriate formal response. Below is a section of it:
Upon initial review of your complaint, HLC determined that the matter regarding Cedarville University raises potential concerns regarding the institution’s compliance with the Criteria for Accreditation or other HLC requirements. Due to these potential concerns, HLC will conduct a further review of the institution based on your complaint. HLC will forward your complaint to the institution for formal review and response. The institution will have 30 days to respond to the concerns in writing and provide appropriate supporting evidence.
HLC will review the institution’s response to determine what action, if any, is needed based on the evidence. The Commission, however, is unable to provide any further updates on the status of the review of your complaint beyond the information included here. If HLC’s continued review of this complaint leads to a formal evaluation of the institution, including the scheduling of an Interim Report, Focused Visit, or other such evaluation, it will be published on the institution’s Statement of Accreditation Status (SAS). Cedarville University’s SAS is available for viewing on the HLC website
Let’s see if the HLC has more integrity than Cedarville University or if they are just appeasing me.
Maybe it would make a difference if the HLC got inundated with complaints of CU. It was worth the 5 minutes of my time either way since CU needs to respond to the HLC at the least.
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