Controversial pastor Mark Driscoll has been sued by four former members of his Mars Hill Church in Seattle.
Driscoll has been accused of running his megachurch like an organized crime syndicate, with the lawsuit alleging “a continuing pattern of racketeering activity” on Driscoll’s part, Religion News reports.
The lawsuit was filed on Feb. 29 as part of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, which was originally created to prosecute organized crime.
The church shut down in 2014 after a number of scandals, including allegations of Driscoll’s abuse towards members and leaders of the organization, misogyny, plagiarism, homophobia espoused on a Church message board and misuse of Church funds, Daily Beast reports. The lawsuit seeks redress for all of this.
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As far as the racketeering allegations are concerned, the lawsuit claims millions of dollars donated to the church to support overseas missions never left the U.S. Additionally, it claims the church paid more than $200,000 to a company named Result Source to get Driscoll’s book on The New York Times' list of best-sellers, as well as on other lists.
The complaints say that the church -- in particular, Driscoll and then-executive elder John Sutton Turner -- had marketed a “Global Fund” to congregation members who were told the millions of dollars in offerings went to missions in India and Ethiopia, when in reality they stayed in the U.S. and were used for the domestic expansion of the Mars Hill Church.
A memo from Mars Hill allegedly outlined the benefits of the Global Fund: “Besides the obvious gain of increased funding, for a relatively low cost (e.g. $10K/month), supporting a few missionaries and benevolence projects would serve to deflect criticism, increase goodwill, and create opportunities to influence and learn from other ministries.”
The plaintiff’s attorney, Brian Fahrling, wrote an email that reads: “Driscoll and Turner engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity so deeply embedded, pervasive and continuous, that it was effectively institutionalized as a business practice, thereby corrupting the very mission Plaintiffs and other donors believed they were supporting.”
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Driscoll is now based in Arizona, and previously stated that he planned to start a new church there. Efforts to contact Driscoll and Turner have been unsuccessful so far, according to Religion News and The Daily Beast.