Plaintiffs suing Bishop Earl Paulk for alleged sexual misconduct asked a judge on Friday to prevent his south DeKalb County megachurch from transferring property to protect it from their legal claims.
DeKalb Superior Court Judge Mark Anthony Scott said he will rule later on the matter.
Plaintiffs in a sexual misconduct suit againt Bishop Earl Paulk, who heads the Chapel Hill Harvester Church, say property shouldn’t be put beyond the reach of legal claims.
In their suit, Bobby and Mona Brewer, former leaders of Paulk’s Chapel Hill Harvester Church, accuse Paulk of coercing Mona Brewer into an affair that lasted 14 years. One of Paulk’s lawyers has acknowledged that Paulk had a brief sexual relationship with Mona Brewer, but he painted her as the initiator.
The Brewers also allege that Paulk borrowed $400,000 from them in 2003 to help settle a lawsuit brought by Jessica Battle, another former church member, who accused Paulk of molesting her as a child and teenager. Paulk has denied owing the Brewers the money.
At Friday’s hearing, Louis Levenson, lawyer for Bobby and Mona Brewer, accused Paulk and his church of moving property out of the state “to keep my clients from getting their hands on it.”
He requested that Scott issue an injunction to prevent any future transfers of property while the case is pending.
The Rev. Dan Rhodes, treasurer of Chapel Hill Harvester Church, testified Friday that the church had transferred 20 acres of land to the Texas-based “Chapel War Chest Trust” last fall to cover the legal defense in the Brewer case.
The trust sold the property for $1.15 million in November to Douglas W. Cotter, Jr., a prominent Gwinnett County home builder and developer. Cotter said in a telephone interview Friday he plans to develop the property for residential use.
“We wanted to make sure we had funds available for legal fees,” Rhodes testified. “The best thing to do was to put it in trust where nobody could get to it, including us.”
Rhodes said the church had been turned down when it attempted to buy insurance to cover claims of sexual impropriety against its ministers after the Battle case.
The trustee in charge of the “war chest” fund, Stan Seat, is affiliated with the Texas law firm of Paulk’s lead attorney, Dennis Brewer. The lawyer is no relation to Bobby and Mona Brewer.
Rhodes said the trust is “irreversible. If Mr. Brewer [the lawyer] doesn’t use all the funds, it’s up to the trustee to decide what to do with it.”
Stephen Yaklin, a Marietta-based lawyer for Paulk, argued that the trust was appropriate.
Paulk, 78, who underwent major surgery for cancer last fall, was not in the courtroom.
He has been dogged by allegations of sexual misconduct at various times during his long ministry. He was publicly accused in 1992 by his former ghostwriter and biographer of manipulating her into a sexual relationship.
Paulk denied that allegation, but in the midst of the scandal he admitted to having had an adulterous relationship in 1960 when he was pastor of what was then the Hemphill Church of God (now Mount Paran).
He left the church and the Church of God denomination at that time and founded what is now Chapel Hill Harvester.