"Carla Coe was repeatedly assaulted by Defendant Tomczak and his co-conspirators during a 25-year period spanning her childhood and young adulthood…. On several occasions, Defendant Tomczak imprisoned Carla Coe and denied her food for extended periods of time."
Addendum 7/19: Please do not speculate on the identity of Larry Tomczak's alleged victim, no matter how sure you are.
The Sovereign Grace Ministries lawsuit continues to garner the attention of the media – both secular and Christian. Earlier today Janet Mefferd, a nationally syndicated talk show host on the Salem Radio Network, discussed the Sovereign Grace Ministries lawsuit with Attorney Bill O'Neal, who is co-counsel with Susan Burke. You can listen to it here (starting at the 7 minute mark).
Here is a portion of that interview:
Mefferd: "Now what is notable I think here in this most recent story is the fact that the co-founder of Sovereign Grace Ministries, Larry Tomczak, is now named, and he left, didn't he, years ago and had sort of a falling out and ended up reconciling but he's not part of it anymore. What is going with the actual naming of this defendant?"
O'Neal: "Well, one of the plaintiffs who came forward and told us her story alleged that she suffered physical beatings at the hands of Mr. Tomczak. It's also alleged that Mr. Tomczak kept her in captivity essentially without food and water for days on end, and so for that reason we named him directly. His actual history with the church, you know we've been told various things consistent with what you've said, but we don't really know what his current relationship with the church is."
Mefferd: "Well, it's shocking either way…"
The plaintiff who alleges she was beaten and abused by Larry Tomczak goes by the pseudonym Carla Coe. Here is the portion of the amended complaint that concerns Coe.
"Carla Coe is a female who was repeatedly abused by Defendant Tomczak, primarily in Maryland and Virginia. Due to the nature of the lawsuit, she wished to use the pseudonym Carla Coe to keep her identity confidential. Carla Coe brings this action on her behalf of those similarly situated."
FACTS REGARDING CARLA COE
"43. Carla Coe was repeatedly assaulted by Defendant Tomczak and his co-conspirators during a 25-year period spanning her childhood and young adulthood. Defendant Tomczak assaulted Carla Coe with his hands, as well as with various instruments, including but not limited to, plastic and wooden sticks.
44. On multiple occasions, including occasions after Carla Coe reached the age of majority, Defendant Tomczak forced Carla Doe to strip out of her clothing against her will, and be beaten on her bare buttocks. Defendant Tomczak continued to engage in this forced undressing and beating of Carla Coe until she fled and escaped from the abuse.
45. On several occasions, Defendant Tomczak imprisoned Carla Coe and denied her food for extended periods of time.
46. Defendant Tomczak verbally admitted on one or more occasions to the individual Defendants and to the Church that he abused Carla Coe. No one reported the beatings to the secular authority.
47. The assaults by Defendant Tomczak and his co-conspirator’s assault primarily occurred in Maryland and Virginia."
The news media has been extremely busy covering this debacle. The Tennessean featured this headline just two day ago: Lawsuit Accuses Franklin Pastor of Abuse: Corporal punishment defender denies beating woman over 25 years (link)
That article begins as follows:
"A Franklin pastor known for promoting corporal punishment has been accused of physically abusing a woman for 25 years, beginning during her childhood.
The Rev. Larry Tomczak, an associate pastor at Bethel World Outreach Church in southern Davidson County near Brentwood, was named in a Maryland lawsuit filed against leaders of Sovereign Grace Ministries, a denomination he helped found in the 1980s."
According to article, Tomczak denies the allegations, stating he had no involvement in any of it.
The Tennessean included the remarks of someone Dee and I greatly respect, David Clohessy of SNAP. Here is the pertinent excerpt:
"David Clohessy, executive director of the St. Louis-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a support group for clergy abuse victims, said that Sovereign Grace seems to have no structure in place to deal with abuse allegations.
That means victims have no place to turn inside the church, he said.
“These kinds of insular, secretive churches, outside the mainstream, with little or no hierarchy seem especially problematic,” Clohessy said.
According to the lawsuit, victims were told not to report the abuse to the authorities.
That’s a common mistake made by churches, Clohessy said. “Instead of saying, ‘Get some therapy and call the police,’ they are told to forgive their abusers,” he said."
Interestingly, Tomczak wrote a book decades ago that promotes corporal punishment called God, the rod, and your child's bod.
He has a newer book available on his website called The Handbook on Loving Correction. It appears that spanking is a discipline that Tomczak has boldly promoted throughout his long ministry.
Our friend Julie Anne Smith has written an excellent post called Sovereign Grace Ministries, Patriarchy, and the Spanking of Adult Children, which we highly recommend. She has been immersed in patriarchy for decades on the West Coast, and she has a keen understanding of what has occurred in SGM. Julie Anne writes:
"The important thing we need to understand is that while in the outside world, Carla probably would have graduated from college, might be living on her own, perhaps married, or living with friends, but most likely Carla was living at home with her parents. She most likely did not have the freedoms that so many normal 25-yr olds have. The life in a Patriarchal home is often sheltered from the outside world. Most likely Carla’s circle of friends were from church where this teaching was normal. She would have no need to question it as all of her friends were most likely in the same boat.
Former SGM member who writes at ChristianAgnostic blog said this about the how spanking was viewed at SGM:
"Some folks have reacted with disbelief that a young woman in her twenties would submit to this type of treatment. I can tell you from my own experience in SGM, that many a leader in the movement spoke about spanking children that were of age. I remember one conversation with Mark Prater, then a care group leader at Covenant Fellowship Church, in which he praised a teaching tape that spoke about a Father spanking his son who was in his late teens. This idea that children could be spanked at just about any age, was certainly discussed by different leaders in SGM at the time that many of the alleged abuses occurred.
The other thing to understand, is that SGM preached that to obey God, one had to unquestioningly follow those put in authority above you. For church members, it meant obeying your pastors, even when they were wrong (no kidding-I was told this by a pastor at Covenant Fellowship in my exit interview), for wives it meant their husbands, and for children it meant their parents. Simply questioning or disagreeing with any of these “God-given” authorities was tantamount to being in full-blown rebellion to God. This atmosphere of unquestioning obedience is a perfect breeding ground for abuse. (Be sure to read the whole excellent article here)."
As we wrap-up this deeply disturbing topic, think of a 21 year old woman being told to remove her panties so an adult male can spank her on her exposed bottom. This is troubling on many levels and will raise a number of red flags… We are so grateful that at long last this highly inappropriate discipline is being 'exposed'.
Please join with us in praying for Carla Coe and others like her who have been abused. May they muster the courage to come forward and be set free from the chains that bind them.
Lydia's Corner: Numbers 36:1-Deuteronomy 1:46 Luke 5:29-6:11 Psalm 66:1-20 Proverbs 11:24-26