Dan Herron, founding pastor of Hope Presbyterian Church in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo: Hope Presbyterian Church)

Indiana Presbytery Allows Pastor to Sue for Accuser’s Silence

By Sarah Einselen

The former pastor of an Indiana Presbyterian church is now suing two women who say he sexually harassed them—and his presbytery isn’t stopping him.

Civil court documents show Dan Herron, an elder and former pastor of Hope Presbyterian Church near Indiana University in Bloomington, filed suit in Monroe County Circuit Court against Kara Million and Abigail Harris. Herron claims the women defamed him when they accused him of grooming students and church members through touch and verbal intimidation.

Herron’s attorneys say in court filings that the women lied about Herron’s behavior toward them and that their statements hurt his reputation. Attorneys for the women have countered that their claims are substantially true.

The Roys Report left a message seeking comment from one of the attorneys representing Herron but he did not immediately respond.

Much of the suit stems from claims Million, Harris, and two other former church members made in 2019 in a letter to the Central Indiana Presbytery (CIP) of the Presbyterian Church in America. Hope Presbyterian, where Herron was pastor at the time, is part of the CIP.

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The Roys Report emailed a presbytery officer for comment but did not receive a reply.

The presbytery investigated but did not charge Herron. An elder who took issue with the ruling filed a complaint alleging it had been mishandled, and the CIP launched a new investigation in February, The Roys Report previously reported.

Then Herron filed suit in civil court in June. He also sent a cease and desist letter to Million and Harris, ordering them to stop talking about their accusations, according to a description of the letter in court filings.

 “He made it very clear (in court filings) that he was suing us for coming forward in the first place, not necessarily because of all the resulting media attention,” Million said. She noted the women’s 2019 letter to the presbytery was exhibit A.

The presbytery’s elders, displeased that Herron had gotten state authorities involved, told him to withdraw the suit, Million said. Then they disciplined him when he didn’t. They also put a hold on their proceedings regarding the sexual harassment claims.

But in speaking with the elders, Herron argued it was “crucial that the state be involved in order to protect the truth,” elder Steve Marusich told The Roys Report.

The presbytery then reversed its discipline of him in September, Marusich and Million said, effectively letting him go through with the defamation suit. The presbytery also reinstated its investigation. Million said she expects a trial “soon.”

Herron’s legal team based his defamation suit partly on the claim that Million’s and Harris’s allegations had triggered the presbytery’s investigations. Some of its defense was based on the outcome of the first investigation, too.

However, the attorneys are asking the circuit court to quash a subpoena of the presbytery’s records related to Herron.

In court filings, attorneys for Herron claim the records are protected from disclosure under clergyman privilege—or a person’s right to privacy when they seek spiritual care from their pastor.

Million’s attorneys responded in court documents that clergyman privilege doesn’t apply to the particular documents they’re seeking.

A hearing in the civil case is set for Nov. 4, court records show.

Sarah Einselen is an award-winning writer and editor based in Texas.

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13 thoughts on “Indiana Presbytery Allows Pastor to Sue for Accuser’s Silence”

  1. “the attorneys are asking the circuit court to quash a subpoena of the presbytery’s records related to Herron.” Wanting to be opaque about one’s history is always a good sign of innocence. Yikes.

    1. Anytime a church or Pastor does not want to be completely open, while claiming innocence, they are showing you exactly who they are and what they serve.

  2. This is a tough one for me. I want to say the pastor is wrong. However, what if he really was falsely accused??? Unfortunately, people don’t always tell the truth and in a clergy vocation one lie can completely devastate the pastor and his or her family. I have seen this happen several times.

    1. He has the right to take them to court and let the facts speak for themselves. It appears he is using the James MacDonald tactic of sue to shut them up, but will back out when the court rules against him in discovery, then he can play victim.

    2. ~20 people have come forward with similar claims about Herron, and two separate investigations found our claims credible. “The truth will out.”

  3. 99% of the time I wouldn’t side with the pastor here, and even now I mostly don’t, but what the heck is “substantially true”? Hmm.

    That phrase raises an eyebrow for me.

    1. It’s a legal term. It’s so people can’t get sued for getting a tiny detail wrong when overall they were telling the truth.

        1. If he does have something to hide, why sue? He won with the denominational court. The civil court case will bring everything out into the public.

          People can be psychologically influenced by public hysteria. Remember the famous story of the announcement of tainted coke at the football game. Massive numbers of people became sick after hearing the announcement. But the coke wasn’t tainted. Or remember the mass hysteria witch trials beginning with the false charges and convictions in the McMartin day care case. We have to be careful, human nature being what it is, to investigate carefully and punish people based on evidence, not people’s perceptions or beliefs.

          The Courts are a safeguard to this. I found it rather audacious that the litigants wanted their testimony to the denominational officials held in confidence! C’mon these were sworn documents drafted with advice of lawyers no doubt for a denominational court. Bet they’d not want that to work the other way.

          1. I understand the point you’re trying to make, but Herron did not “win” in ecclesiastical court. Our case was about to go to ecclesiastical court when he filed the lawsuit; in fact, we received his cease and desist letters the day after the trial dates were formalized. Why not wait until he was exonerated by the presbytery before filing the lawsuit? When questioned about this, Herron stated that he was suing to prevent Abigail and myself from testifying in church court. To this day our case has not been heard in ecclesiastical court, although we are told it will be soon.

            We did not have lawyers’ assistance drafting our original letter, we were not “litigants” at the time, and the letter was not a “sworn” document. Church process had not officially started (and would not start for another two years). We understood that if this went to church trial, our identities and letter would have to be revealed. We just didn’t want that to happen until we knew for sure the presbytery was going to hear our case officially. We were in a very vulnerable position coming forward.

            If you read the public case record, you will notice that it is Herron who has attempted to keep all the presbytery records from becoming part of his civil case. If these records exonerated him, why not allow them to be produced?

            I look forward to when everything becomes public because I have nothing to hide. I told the truth, and I stand by it.

  4. If the law has been broken or the matter has attracted civil interest, it’s a matter for the courts. If he was merely ‘unpleasant’ it might be a matter related to the church’s conduct rules..

  5. Kara, how can I stay updated on this case? I am so proud of you for doing the very difficult and courageous thing by coming forward. I know all too well how hard it is especially when there is such fierce retaliation. I will continue praying for you and your team during this!

    1. The court case is public record. You can go to mycase.in.gov and search using the case # 53C01-2106-CT-001359. Also, thank you. I really needed your words tonight, April.

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