THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening, everyone. Appreciate your joining us.
Tonight’s “Eye Opener,” sex for salvation, a trusted minister and shocking allegations of sin and scandal.
MONA BREWER, FORMER CHAPEL HILL HARVESTER CHURCH MEMBER: He said, well, I guess you will just have to take your clothes off because I’m going to have to love you. You know, I didn’t want to do it. But what choice did I have?
ZAHN: What really went on behind the walls of this mega- ministry?
ZAHN: I want to warn you now that you may not want the kids in the room for this next story. It deals with some disturbing allegations of sex, trust and betrayal. The central figures in the story, a major church in a big city, its respected leader, and a young woman who turned there for spiritual comfort after a crisis.
Here is David Mattingly with tonight’s “Eye Opener.”
MONA BREWER, FORMER CHAPEL HILL HARVESTER CHURCH MEMBER: And she died when she was 18 in a car accident suddenly. And I really had a real experience with God at that time.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Twenty years ago and just a teenager, a young Mona Brewer was reeling from the death of her sister and turned to God. She found comfort in the welcoming arms of the Chapel Hill Harvester Church near Atlanta. At the time, it was one of the nation’s growing charismatic mega- churches, with thousands of members led by the influential Bishop Earl Paulk.
BISHOP EARL PAULK, CHAPEL HILL HARVESTER CHURCH: I want you to praise God with us today.
BREWER: He had a — a fresh word from God every time he came to the pulpit, which was several times a week. And it was amazing, you know, that God spoke to him such — on such a frequency. And we were taught that spiritual authority was — your level of spiritual authority was according to, you know, your revelation from God, or the things that God revealed to a person. And he was — we were taught he was a prophet and an apostle in the church.
MATTINGLY: Mona says she came to view Paulk, a married father and grandfather, as a holy messenger of the lord selected by God to speak for the almighty. And, over time, Bishop Paulk’s church became her life. Mona became a teacher in the church school, a soloist in the church choir. And, at age 27, she even married an associate church pastor, a union blessed by Paulk himself, a man she believed so close to God that his words could never be questioned.
BREWER: There were signs on the walls at the church. They didn’t put scriptures on the wall. They put his sayings, his quotations. And one of them was, “The kingdom of God is built in trust.” And we were taught that we were to trust our spiritual authority, and we were taught not to question it.
MATTINGLY: And so it went for years, Mona says, until, one day, Paulk asked for a meeting with her. It was a request that left her both elated and curious.
BREWER: I was just overwhelmed, because that was such a great opportunity. Nobody got to do that. I mean, he was awesome. I mean, everybody wanted to talk to him. And he just invited me to his office to talk to him for a few minutes. And that was really incredible.
MATTINGLY: She says this man she respected so much, it turns out, had been moved by her singing and wanted to take her to a higher level of ministry.
BREWER: And, at the end of the chat, he said, well what is it you want for me? And I thought to myself at the time, well, I didn’t — I didn’t ask to come here. You asked me to come. But I couldn’t say that, because that would sound verbose. And I couldn’t say that. So, I just said, well, I guess I need a father, because that’s what everybody was — said. And I thought — and I did. I thought, you know, well, that’s a good thing to say. So…
MATTINGLY: But Mona was about to get something she never expected. She says, in her next few meetings with Paulk, his plans for her became shockingly clear.
BREWER: He said, well, I guess you will just have to take your clothes off, because I’m going to have to love you. Whoa. And I thought, oh, God. You know, I didn’t want to do it, but what choice did I have? I mean, I have been taught for all these years not to question him. And I had this word from God. I mean, God obviously wanted me to do this.
And it was so foreign to me, but I — I didn’t know what else to do. I was on the spot. So, I took off my clothes, and we did it.
MATTINGLY: The tryst, she says, went against all she had been taught about marriage, sin and adultery. Then age 29 and a member of Paulk’s church for 10 years, she was left confused, conflicted, and questioning what she knew about her faith.
(on camera): And, according to Mona Brewer, it was just the beginning. The liaisons continued, she says, and became frequent. She says that Paulk used the scriptures to justify the seemingly unholy behavior, claiming that God had elevated him above the sin of adultery.
BREWER: Because he said, you know, the adultery issue was for the little ones. It was for the — the people, the, you know, commoners. It wasn’t for people who God elevated and trusted with special things like this, relationships like this. And that’s the way he explained it to me.
MATTINGLY: And now you were elevate as well?
BREWER: Oh, yes. God trusted me with this relationship. And that was major.
MATTINGLY: And how long did this go on?
BREWER: Fourteen years.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): Fourteen years of alleged silence, secrets and sin, now spelled out in a stack of legal documents in a lawsuit filed in 2005 by Mona Brewer and her husband, Bobby, against Paulk, other church leaders, and the church itself.
The couple accuses Paulk of abusing his confidential relationship with Mona as her spiritual adviser and, through manipulation, coercion and deception, caused her to believe her only route to salvation was to engage in sexual acts, at the request of Bishop Earl Paulk.
But Paulk responded, denying all allegations, including that he coerced or manipulated Mona into having sex. Paulk and the others filed a countersuit seeking damages for libel and slander.
Mona claims, however, that Paulk’s request didn’t just involve having sex with him. She claims Paulk arranged for her to have sex with a member of his family and, once, with a visiting minister.
BREWER: Paulk brought him into Atlanta, had him stay in his own home, in the basement bedroom, where we always had sex. He wanted me to go downstairs and have sex with him, and then come upstairs and have sex with himself, and tell him all about it.
MATTINGLY: And the list of alleged encounters would not end here.
Mona Brewer claims there were times that, unknown to her, Paulk had others watching while they had sex.
Still, for years, she never denied him. All the while, she says, thinking her salvation depended on it. But eventually she says there was one Paulk perversion that even God couldn’t make her do.
BREWER: The whole time I’m laying there praying, praying, God, you know, I will do anything for you. You know, I’ve proven that. But please don’t make me do that. I don’t want to do that.
ZAHN: So what does Mona Brewer say her pastor actually wanted? And what do other women of the church have to say? David Mattingly’s report continues in just a minute, we’ll be right back.
ZAHN: Can’t tell from the picture, but a nice, crisp night out there tonight in New York City. We continue the story now of Mona Brewer. She says the influential pastor of her church abused his power and then pressured her into an affair that lasted more than a decade. And it grew more and more bizarre as time went on. Again, here is David Mattingly.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MATTINGLY (voice-over): From the outside, Chapel Hill Harvester (ph) appears much more than a church. A campus of rolling hills gives way to schools and offices and a massive multi-million dollar cathedral. All of it built under the charismatic leadership of Bishop Earl Paulk, who is now named in a lawsuit by a devout former church employee, Mona Brewer, alleging acts of sexual coercion.
BREWER: I mean, it certain wasn’t consensual in the way that you would — say you were in the office working with someone and you were attracted to each other even though you had spouses, and then you just went ahead and — that’s consensual to me. This situation, I was brainwashed. And I was taught that he was infallible and I had to do whatever he said, not knowing it would lead to something like that.
MATTINGLY: What it led to was an alleged 14-year sexual relationship between Paulk and Brewer, in which Paulk is accused of also manipulating her into having sex with a member of his family and a visiting leader of another church.
Believing all the while, she says, that she was acting in the service of God. Mona, however, reached a critical moment when she says Paulk had the idea for her to pick up strangers in bars, have sex with them, then return and tell him all about it.
BREWER: The whole time I’m laying there just praying. I’m praying, God, you know, I will do anything for you. You know, I’ve proven that. But please don’t make me do that. I don’t want to do that.
MATTINGLY: Fortunately Mona says Paulk never asked her to go through with it. And eventually she says she found the strength to break away, reject what Paulk was telling her and leave the church that had become her entire life.
(on camera): People are going to see this interview and hear how you were doing this and talked into doing this and how you were manipulated. Sure, I can believe it once. OK, maybe twice, but for years?
BREWER: Well that’s how much I believed it. But anyone who’s ever been in a cult or known someone in a cult will immediately recognize it and understand. But if you’ve never been in anything like that, or related to it in any way, it does seem so bizarre, doesn’t it?
MATTINGLY (voice-over): Brewer’s reference to a cult is her way to describe the pressure she felt to comply with Paulk’s wishes and her lawsuit does not allege that the church itself is a cult. Paulk’s attorney describes Chapel Hill Harvester as a non-denominational, full gospel, charismatic church.
And in a statement to CNN, he writes, “It would be interesting to see what percentage of viewers would buy into this beautiful 40-year- old woman’s preposterous sex fantasy.”
The attorney claims it was Mona who seduced Paulk and only on one or two occasions. He says Paulk has openly confessed this to his congregation and he suggests that the Brewer’s lawsuit is driven by money.
(on camera): Now almost 80-years-old, Paulk, according to his attorney, is recovering from recent cancer surgery and remains in very poor health. He has not commented publicly outside of church about the lawsuit. And Mona Brewer is not alone in her accusations.
Mona was talking about that she — there was a time when someone was watching. That was you.
CINDY HALL, FORMER CHURCH MEMBER: Yes.
MATTINGLY: Did she know it at the time?
HALL: No. She did not know it at the time.
MATTINGLY: What did he get out of it? Did he have you come talk about what you saw?
HALL: Yes, well, he was turned on by the fact that I was watching while he was having sex with another woman.
MATTINGLY: And when she would leave, what would it then be your turn?
MATTINGLY (voice-over): Cindy Hall is also a married former member of the Chapel Hill Harvester Church, who claims to have also been manipulated by Paulk for 10 years into performing sometimes twice daily sexual acts with him and occasionally other men and women.
Now, a friend of Mona Brewer, Hall has provided a deposition for the lawsuit. And like Mona, she says she was made to believe she was serving God and was compelled by her faith to obey.
(on camera): After these episodes, did he ever pray with you?
HALL: Oh, yes. There were several occasions that he prayed with me.
MATTINGLY: Right there in the bedroom?
HALL: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.
MATTINGLY: What would he say?
HALL: Oh he’d pray with me during sex sometimes. He’d pray for me and, yes, during sex.
MATTINGLY: Pray for you?
HALL: Pray for — pray for the relationship. Pray for — yes, he would pray during — sometimes during sex, yes. When I say pray over me, that’s kind of hard to describe. MATTINGLY (voice-over): And hard to believe, according to Paulk’s attorney, who writes “Cindy Hall’s story is even more ludicrous and unbelievable that Mona’s. All of it categorically denied by Bishop Paulk.”
But through the years there have been other lawsuits and accusations. In 2001, there was another lawsuit by a woman claiming Paulk molested her as a child. That case ended with a confidential settlement. In 1992, seven women held a press conference to publicly accuse church members of sexual misconduct, one of those women accused Earl Paulk. They were sued by the church for libel and slander, but that libel case was later dropped.
(on camera): By coming forward, what do you hope to accomplish?
HALL: My goal is to help stop it and whatever I can do to expose, this type of behavior, you know, I’m willing to do that. And I’m willing to come forward and talk about my situation. Maybe somebody that sees this, that has been through a similar situation, maybe it will help them.
(voice-over): Cindy Hall says she is now in counseling. She and her husband left the church and have stayed together. But the experience with Bishop Earl Paulk, she says, has shaken her faith. For a time, Mona Brewer says, she was suicidal.
BREWER: And I thought of ways to do it. And every time I would think, “What if the kids think it’s their fault?” And I couldn’t deal with that, so that kept me, you know, going every day. Just putting one foot in front of the other.
MATTINGLY: For Mona Brewer, the final break came in March of 2004. She told her husband Bobby of the 14-year affair and the couple invited Paulk and his brother Don to their homes. These photographs reveal the result. The meeting ended when Bobby punched both of them in the face.
Mona says because her husband has stayed by her side, it has given her the strength to pursue their lawsuit. She is also thankful that her faith in God remains in tact.
BREWER: And I know there’s a God up there that loves me in spite of everything and I know he forgives mistakes and I know that he will vindicate the righteous.
MATTINGLY: David Mattingly, CNN, Atlanta.
ZAHN: And Mona Brewer and Cindy Hall say they hope that by telling their stories, others will come forward from the church. The church, meanwhile, continues to hold regular services and no court date has yet been set.
[…entire relevant section…]
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com
We appreciate your support
One way in which you can support us — at no additional cost to you — is by shopping at Amazon.com.
Our website includes affiliate links, which means we get a small commission — at no additional cost to you — for each qualifying purpose. For instance, as an Amazon Associate Religion News Blog earns from qualifying purchases. That is one reason why we can provide this service free of charge.