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Gateway Church Settled Lawsuit Claiming Multiple Pastors Covered Up Sexual Assault of a Minor

By Liz Lykins
gateway church
Thousands participate in a worship event at Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas. (Photo: Facebook)

Dallas megachurch Gateway Church recently settled a lawsuit that accused several church leaders of concealing the sexual assault of a girl who attended the church.

The suit was settled in April, just months before Gateway Church founder Robert Morris resigned over the bombshell allegations that he sexually abused Cindy Clemishire when she was 12 years old in 1982.

The initial lawsuit, filed in Tarrant County Texas in 2020, claims that five pastors and a youth leader were aware that a member of the church assaulted the girl in 2018, when she would have been less than 12 years old. She was not yet 18 when the suit was settled this spring.

However, the leaders concealed this from the victim’s mother and failed to report it to local authorities, according to the lawsuit.

The church leaders “collectively and independently engaged in a concerted effort to conceal the sexual assault accusations” to “subvert the accusations and avoid criminal investigation,” according to the lawsuit.

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gateway church southlake
Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas. (Photo: social media)

The girl and her mother sought damages from $200,000 to $5 million from Gateway Church, the pastors, and several other individuals, including Kathryn Edwards, Doug Vaughn, and youth leader Logan Edwards. The suit identifies Samantha Golden, Sion Alford, Kelly Jones, Rebecca Wilson, and Mondoe Davis as the ordained pastors involved.

In April, the suit was settled for an undisclosed amount. The church and pastors denied any liability and agreed to the settlement “solely to buy peace,” according to the document.

The girl’s portion of the settlement was paid to the court for her to withdraw when she turns 18, according to the document.

Lawsuit: Gateway Pastors ‘Concealed’ Sexual Assault

According to the original lawsuit, an unnamed person sexually assaulted the girl in 2018.

The girl and her mother were both members of Gateway and regularly participated in various church ministries and events, according to the original lawsuit.

On March 14, 2018, an unnamed church member assaulted the girl at the member’s home, the lawsuit stated. Sexual assault of a child under the age of 14 is one of the most serious criminal offenses under Texas law.

Days later, youth leader Logan Edwards learned of the assault in conversations with the assailant and other youth at Gateway, according to the lawsuit.

Logan Edwards then shared that information with the named pastors and individual at Gateway, the lawsuit states.

Although they were all made aware of the alleged assault, “none filed a formal complaint with the necessary child protective agencies, law enforcement agencies, or even alerted (the girl’s) mother, to the existence of the alleged assault,” the lawsuit said.

Instead, the Gateway pastors and other defendants all talked with the alleged perpetrator and their parents several times, according to the lawsuit.

When the girl’s mother eventually learned what happened to her daughter, she filed a report with the Haltom City Police Department, the lawsuit stated.

gateway church
Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas. (Photo: social media)

When a criminal investigation started, the pastors allegedly tried to discredit the girl and her mother. They “embarked on a concerted campaign to conceal, misconstrue and discredit the assault accusations,” according to the lawsuit.

The pastors also encouraged other members of Gateway to ostracize the mother and had her removed from serving in various ministries. The girl and her mother experienced “immense shame and embarrassment, and emotional distress,” the lawsuit said.

Additionally, the pastors’ concealment caused significant evidence to “waste and degrade,” the lawsuit stated.

The lawsuit alleges that the church and pastors had a duty to reasonably care for the girl, but failed to do so through their concealment.

Gateway’s Founder Accused of Sexual Abuse

News of this lawsuit comes as Gateway is in the middle of a scandal involving its founder, Morris.

In June, Cindy Clemishire alleged that Morris started sexually abusing her on Christmas night 1982, when she was 12 years old.  The alleged abuse continued until she was 16 years old.

Days after those allegations came to light, Morris resigned from the church’s top position.

Since then, Gateway leaders claimed they did not know the age of Morris’ victim and the length of her abuse, The Roys Report (TRR) previously reported. Gateway’s board of elders said they thought Morris had had an extramarital relationship with “a young lady.”

robert morris gateway scandal
Pastor Robert Morris preaches at Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas. (Photo: Facebook)

However, Clemishire said in a statement that she confronted Morris about the abuse in an email sent in 2005. Clemishire noted that former Gateway Elder Tom Lane responded to her email, “acknowledging that the sexual abuse began on December 25, 1982, when I was 12 years old.”

Gateway has retained the law firm Haynes and Boone to investigate the allegations.

Earlier this month, four Gateway Church elders, including Robert Morris’s son, temporarily stepped down from their positions at the megachurch, TRR reported. Their actions stem from the law firm’s recommendation that any elder with a potential conflict of interest step down temporarily.

Morris founded Gateway Church in 2000. At last count, more than 100,000 people attended each weekend at its nine sites and online.

Freelance journalist Liz Lykins writes for WORLD Magazine, Christianity Today, Ministry Watch, and other publications. 

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33 Responses

  1. Pastors being brought down is disconcerting to me as a believer in Christ. It seems to be a daily occurrence in the news in the last 5 years. It is, however, encouraging in that God is removing those who have become idols to congregants so that all will look to Jesus as Lord and not to man.

  2. Did the girl or her mother sign an non-disclosure agreement that would prevent them from talking about what they experienced from the perpetrator or the church? Were they also buying silence?

    1. Robert Patton Leland… no one has yet reported on whether Gateway Church required an NDA to be signed. Since what Gateway paid “was an undisclosed amount, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Gateway required some type of Restriction to Disclose.

  3. I knew there would be more. There is never just one. We all have a duty to protect our children, but when you can’t trust the church, then you can’t trust anyone.

  4. There are mandatory reporting laws for abuse and neglect that apply to ALL professionals in medicine, education, social work, law enforcement and ministry. Not only is reporting the morally right thing to do, avoiding it carries stiff penalties. Do these “shepherds” think they are above the law? What sort of care are they giving the sheep the Lord has given them? What shame they bring on the Body of Christ!

    1. Texas is stricter than most states. From the Texas Department of
      Family and Protective Services website:

      “If you suspect that a child is being abused or neglected, the law requires that you report it. [Texas Family Code Section 261.101 (a)]”

      “Failure to report suspected child abuse and neglect is a criminal offense (Texas Family Code, Section 261.109).”

      It appears to me all of the staff members involved here should be charged for failing to report this child abuse.

  5. I’m a bit confused. Does the settlement involve a second victim, someone other than Ms. Clemishire? Maybe it’s just me, I’m not sure how many possible assault victims we are talking about, one or two, and if two, whether Robert Morris is alleged to have been involved in both.

    1. Two different victims—Ms. Clemishire, back in 1982 when she was 12 years old and now this new unnamed victim, “less than 12 years old” which occurred in 2020.

      1. Brenda Trowridge – Just to correct the record, the Girl’s Assault took place in 2018; the Initial Lawsuit was filed in 2020.

        “The initial lawsuit, filed in Tarrant County Texas in 2020, claims that five pastors and a youth leader were aware that a member of the church assaulted the girl in 2018, when she would have been less than 12 years old.” By Liz Lykins of The Roys Report

    2. Jane Wineland – Regarding this Second Victim from 2019, no Robert Morris is Not Named in The Lawsuit.

      It happened in the Youth Ministry at the Private Home where some type of Youth Ministry Event or Youth Ministry Gathering was taking place.

    3. <>

      Sounds like the “church member” who assaulted the girl may have also been part of the youth group based on this, if the pastors talked with the “alleged perpetrator and their parents.” Could have been another older minor, or maybe a barely-adult (18 or 19) working with the youth.

      1. regardless of who the perpetrator is, they’re still mandated reporters. And, not only did they NOT report, they bullied and shamed the victim, and eventually her mom once her mom knew.

  6. Get rid of paid clergy and tithing, Tithing is not scriptural, When the $ go away , corruption goes away,

    1. You said a lot in that short paragraph, Art. I think you’re on to something. They’re not simply “paid” clergy, many are rock star paid. Nobody should complain about the Catholic priests; we are keeping up with them very well. Corruption City.

    2. There is plenty of scriptural support for financially supporting the Lord’s work, and those who labor in that work. “Let the elders who RULE WELL be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer deserves his wages.’” 1Tim.5.17-18. But I never saw an ox eating caviar, or flying in a private jet, or sleeping in a multi-million $ barn.

    3. Money isn’t the only cause of corruption and abuse. Power and authority also corrupt.

      We just need a different way of doing church in america- one that actually contains the transforming power of Christ. Because whatever we’re doing now certainly hasn’t transformed so so many of the leaders of this thing.

      1. The “new way” you are looking for is the original way of the New Testament. We need to abandon the Corporate America model and get back to “they had all things in common”, “if you love Me you will keep My commandments”, “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself”, “serve one another”, “He must increase, but I must decrease” just to name a few, and remember that the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life are Satan’s tools, not God’s.

  7. I am SICK & TIRED of grown Men preying on little Girls! We need to start seeing more criminal charges, and if that doesn’t work, and this won’t sound right, we need to start seeing the predators getting their butts beaten! I have absolutely no respect for a grown man who does damage to a little girl! I don’t want to hear ANY EXCUSES!

  8. Par for the course. It’s not about the girl at all—never was. It’s the money. They paid out but without admitting guilt—what bunk. If they knew allegations against them were categorically untrue, then why pay at all? Fight the suit. By the way, when are they going to tell Morris to get out of the home the church owns. And if you think there was a period of 35 years when Morris said he was “pure”, I’d like to know what you’re smoking.

  9. Mandatory reporters.

    No NDA or civil “agreement” or even the wishes of the victim or parents bypass that requirement. .

    Utterly criminal.

    These people do not respect the law or honor God.

    But yeah now it figures why the elder-initiated investigation is so narrowly-tailored with respect to time.

    1. Excellent reply to this article. As a preacher and former pastor who hopes to pastor again I understand that if I find anything that looks like the molestation of children going on amongst church members I am by law required to report it!

      Some won’t report for fear of the reproach it may bring in the community. I believe that is far from true. It is when it is covered up that the real reproach comes!
      For people in the community will condemn the church for covering up such a horrible sin and letting children suffer horribly!

  10. Strange how these pastors don’t seem to act as though they believe in God the Father or the Bible concerning sin, righteousness, salvation, Jesus or the Holy Spirit.

  11. How is the church still standing? Failure to report a crime against a child should be the mic-drop moment for every person who attends Gateway to warn them to stay away! I am appalled at this behavior from the church!

  12. It is obvious that this “church” in its present configuration must die. I hope the elders will do “the right thing”. I pray for the comfort of the young lady and her mom. May they both remember that Jesus loved the “little ones” and hard harsh consequences for the perpetrators. If I were one of the elders I would be deeply frightened.

  13. Here’s hoping they become uninsurable, like Bruxy Cavey’s church, and have to shut down.

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