What is the difference between the Mafia and the government? One of them is organized. link
Quick TWW tutorial: I want to teach you how to talk *Godfather style. What you need to do is to practice saying:
with this sort of inflection.
Mark Driscoll, Sutton Turner: accused of racketeering.
You cannot make this stuff up. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports Ex-members, in suit, charge Mark Driscoll with "pattern of racketeering" at Mars Hill Church. We always knew that Driscoll had a racket going. It appears that some former members and deacons agree with us.
Four former deacons and members at Mars Hill Church sued on Monday, asserting that ex-senior pastor Mark Driscoll and general manager Sutton Turner engaged in a "pattern of racketeering" at the defunct Seattle-based mega-church.
In order to get you into the mood for this post, here is the theme song from The Godfather. Perhaps you could play it quietly in the background while you read, preferably sipping a lovely Italian Chianti. The more Chianti you drink, the more you will convince yourself that you sound like The Godfather.
Racketeering at Mars Hill as defined in The Rico Act.
The RICO (Racketeering Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act) suit filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle describes a pattern of activity under which "a deadly toxin was injected into the MHC body, ending in complete destruction of the church."
As one example, the suit contends that Mars Hill raised $2.3 million for an international missions project, of which only $120,000 "was actually sent overseas."
The Rico Act is defined in Wikipedia
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, commonly referred to as the RICO Act or simply RICO, is a United States federal law that provides for extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization. The RICO Act focuses specifically on racketeering, and it allows the leaders of a syndicate to be tried for the crimes which they ordered others to do or assisted them in doing, closing a perceived loophole that allowed a person who instructed someone else to, for example, murder, to be exempt from the trial because he did not actually commit the crime personally.
The penalties are stiff if it is proven. Besides monetary damages, the racketeer can be put in prison and be forced to give up all ill-gotten gains. Continuing with the Wikipedia post.
Under RICO, a person who has committed "at least two acts of racketeering activity" drawn from a list of 35 crimes—27 federal crimes and 8 state crimes—within a 10-year period can be charged with racketeering if such acts are related in one of four specified ways to an "enterprise". Those found guilty of racketeering can be fined up to $25,000 and sentenced to 20 years in prison per racketeering count. In addition, the racketeer must forfeit all ill-gotten gains and interest in any business gained through a pattern of "racketeering activity."
Both the criminal and civil components allow the recovery of treble damages (damages in triple the amount of actual/compensatory damages).
Yes, that means Mickey the Mouse and King Bus Driver could be forced to pay back everything gained in the alleged *racket.* And they could be in treble trouble (I could not resist.)
Organized crime and RICO
Originally, this act was developed in order to prosecute organized crime. Hence, the Godfather references strewn through this post. Once again, Wikipedia states
Although its primary intent was to deal with organized crime, Blakey said that Congress never intended it to merely apply to the Mob. He once told Time, "We don't want one set of rules for people whose collars are blue or whose names end in vowels, and another set for those whose collars are white and have Ivy League diplomas."
Initially, prosecutors were skeptical of using RICO, mainly because it was unproven. However, during the 1980s and 1990s, federal prosecutors utilized the law to bring charges against several Mafia figures. The first major success was the Mafia Commission Trial, which resulted in several top leaders of New York City's Five Families getting what amounted to life sentences. By the turn of the century, RICO cases resulted in virtually all of the top leaders of the New York Mafia being sent to prison.
Examples of alleged racketeering at Mars Hill associated with Driscoll/Turner
The Seattle Post Intelligencer outlines three specific items amongst the many mentioned in the suit. None of these will comes as a surprise to any of our long time readers.
The suit focuses on a number of controversial Mars Hill financial dealings, including:
The Book Deal: Mars Hill contracted with a firm called ResultSource, Inc., a California marketing company, to get Driscoll's book Real Marriage onto The New York Times bestseller list. The use of church resources, under a contract signed by Turner, included a $25,000 fee and purchase of at least 11,000 books valued at around $210,000 using multiple payment methods. The contract outlined tactics to outsmart systems put in place by The New York Times to safeguard its bestseller lists. It said: "Note: The largest obstacle to the reporting system is the tracking of credit cards.RSI uses over 1,000 different payment types (credit cards, gift cards, etc)." The Driscoll book spent a week on the NYT bestseller list.
Mars Hill Global: The fund was promoted as "church planting" in Ethiopia and India, but money allegedly went into general operations. A famous Mars Hill internal memo stated: "For a relatively low cost (e.g. $10K a 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 lawsuit contends the global fund was taking in $300,000 a month by May of 2014. Nearly $2.3 million was donated to the fund between July of 2012 and July, 2013. "However, disbursements from that fund were not reported, nor have they ever been made public." The lawsuit continues: "Though disbursements from global fund are not reported, it appears from the information that is in the 2013 annual report that only $120,000 (5 percent) of the $2.3 million raised for international missions was actually sent overseas."
The Jesus Festival: Mars Hill set out to raise $2 million, over and above its normal budget, for projects including an "evangelistic, outdoor reach" called the Jesus Festival to be held at Marymoor Park in August of 2014. "We've got something brand-new and super cool," Driscoll said in a Dec. 1, 2013 sermon. "We'll pick a nice day, be outside, We're going to have bouncy houses for kids, lots of fund stuff. We're also going to do baptisms, and preaching, and music at Marymoor Park." "Guess what? HE DID IT! (God). We've received $2,991,852 above our budget by Dec 31," said a church announcement on Jan. 13, 2014. On May 13, however, a quiet post by Mars Hill Sammamish announced that the Jesus Festival had been "postponed for a future time" and that "an event of this scale is too expensive at this time."
"The Jesus Festival was canceled, and MHC has never provided information about the amount received, if any, by the global Fund," the lawsuit contends..
Alleged organized crime at Mars Hill
The Think Progress website wrote an article Mark Driscoll, The ‘Rush Limbaugh Of Evangelicalism,’ Is Being Sued For Racketeering which also outlined Mickey the Mouse's troubles.
According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, four former deacons of Driscoll’s onetime church filed suit against the pastor on Monday, accusing him and another church official of engaging in a “pattern of racketeering” while heading up Mars Hill Church, a once thriving Seattle-based congregation. According to the lawsuit, Driscoll, who Forbes declared in 2014 to be “one of the nation’s most prominent and celebrated pastors,” repeatedly raised funds for projects without spending the money as intended, including an instance in which the plaintiffs claim he raised $2.3 million for an international missions project but only spent $120,000 of it abroad.
“[Driscoll and church general manager Sutton 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,” the complaint, which was filed in U.S. District Court, reads. The lawsuit also noted that Driscoll regularly solicited such funds during his sermons.
The Mouse's former activities are starting to be noticed by the Phoenix media
As you know, The Mouse is launching his new church, The Trinity Church, in Phoenix. Apparently the local media is starting to sit up and take notice of thee lawsuit. According to Dr Warren "The Professor" Throckmorton, Phoenix Public Radio, is featuring the recent antics of The Mouse. I predict he will be a gold mine of fascinating stories for the years to come. There were days that the Deebs would wake up and not have a story to write. We would then check the news for CJ Mahaney and Mark Driscoll and viola! Post written without breaking a sweat.
The Trinity Church is in its early stages of development. All it has is a website, some online supporters and a video message from founder Mark Driscoll and his wife.
Driscoll’s previous venture became a megachurch, which is a protestant congregation with at least 2,000 members. At its height, the now-disbanded Mars Hill Church in Seattle had an average weekly attendance of more than 12,000 people, spread across several different campuses.
Mars Hill fell apart when Driscoll resigned following allegations of emotional abuse and mismanagement of church funds. He now faces a lawsuit from former Mars Hill members.
As an aside, look at who Driscoll calls wise counsel. Robert Morris! This is the dude who said that Paul was under the influence of demons. I bet demon trials will be the rule of the day at Trinity Church. That will be a post in and of itself.
ECFA named as a Co-Conspirator
As if it couldn't get any crazier, ECFA has been named as a co-conspirator!
You know ECFA. The group that is supposed to guarantee that Christian organizations do not look like La Cosa Nostra. Well…the Christian Post reports that ECFA Named as Co-Conspirator in Lawsuit Against Mark Driscoll, Ex Mars Hill Chief Elder.
The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, an accreditation organization for many leading Christian nonprofits, has been accused of helping former Mars Hill Church Pastor Mark Driscoll, and his chief elder, Sutton Turner, engage in fraud and racketeering concerning donor contributions.
ECFA issued a statement in which they denied everything and accused the plaintiffs of "not understanding accreditation." Yep, *blame the victims* is alive and well with this group.
the ECFA issued a statement to CP noting that the individuals bringing the lawsuit "have no direct knowledge of the ECFA's accreditation process" and are "wrong" about the ECFA's involvement with Mars Hill Church.
"Neither ECFA nor any of its employees are named as parties in a private lawsuit that has been brought against the leader of a formerly accredited ministry," said ECFA, which highlighted that it was not sued but was instead listed as a co-conspirator. "It also appears that the individuals bringing the lawsuit have no direct knowledge of ECFA's accreditation process and have the facts wrong regarding our involvement with the ministry in question."
"ECFA is committed to enhancing trust in Christ-centered churches and ministries, accrediting these organizations based on our Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship. Additional details about our accrediting process can be found at ECFA.org," it added.
The plaintiffs strike back and accuse ECFA of rubber stamping Mars Hill's practices.
"As a result of ECFA's ringing endorsement and declaration that MHC met the highest standards of financial ethics, faithfulness, and accountability, the Jacobsens, Kildeas, and thousands of other donors continued to be deceived, making donations to MHC they would never have made if ECFA had disclosed RICO defendants' wrongdoing, rather than making a 'a powerful statement' that MHC 'acts responsibly and honors its commitment to accountability,'" charges the complaint.
The ECFA it alleges, despite Mars Hill Church's "habitual pattern of racketeering activity," kept rubber stamping the church with its trusted seal until the church was run to the ground in 2014.
"At all times relevant hereto, from September 2012 forward, ECFA accredited MHC in spite of RICO defendants' ongoing and habitual pattern of racketeering activity involving RSI, the Global Fund, Campus Fund, and the Jesus Festival," the complaint charges.
"ECFA's accreditation of churches is, at best, a rubber stamp. In view of RICO defendants' fraudulent conduct detailed herein, it is inconceivable that ECFA would have accredited MHC and held it out to the public as meeting 'the highest standards of financial ethics, faithfulness, and accountability,'" it adds.
Seminary Presidents, Professors and TGC Council Members were the cheerleaders for Mark Driscoll.
In 2009, when we started this blog, we were critical of Mark Driscoll. And boy did we ever get hammered. Our local seminary, SEBTS and professors were quite supportive of Driscoll. We were told, point blank, that something was wrong with the two of us since we were down on Driscoll when so many seminary leaders supported him. We were called, get this, prudes for being concerned with the *trajectory (a really cool Calvinista term)* of his lectures on college campuses which often brought up the gospel™ subjects of anal sex and pole dancing.
It is my opinion that these professors and leaders were secretly delighted with Driscoll's garbage because they thought it made them appear cool. What it really made them appear is uninformed and biblically weird. As time has gone on, it is patently obvious that we two women knew more than many seminary professors, leaders, celebrity Calvinista pastors and good old boys looking for an excuse to indulge in porno jokes.
Mark Driscoll has embarrassed the Christian community. It is now clear that many seminary professors don't understand the Gospel as much as two middle aged women without seminary training. It is the Driscoll fiasco that has convinced the two of us that seminary training does not prepare these men (since women are rarely listened to) to accurately spot a loose canon or was that cannon?
Enjoy the Mafia references, gospel™ leaders. You egged him on.
Dee "Cute Shoes" Parsons
Deb "Pretty Face" Martin