“Don’t confuse “strict confidentiality” with “keeping employees in the dark.” Private is useful. Secretive is deceptive.” ― Talent Mindset
A request for information from UK/US readers:
If anyone has information, they can confidentially contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Furney posted BLOWING THE WHISTLE ON NDAS which was written by Anonymous. Having been pressured by a Christian charity to sign a non-disclosure agreement, our guest author considers the ethical implications of the NDA.
…two years’ salary in return for a quiet exit from the Christian charity I had served for 20 years.The chair of the Board had listened intently and without judgement as I described the experiences of the previous months: the mismanagement of a safeguarding issue by directors, the jeopardising of the health and safety of staff and the bullying I’d witnessed. He was compassionate and unhurried. This was a man I knew and respected and it was a relief to finally feel heard. I grew in confidence that there would be a desire for seeking truth, restoring broken relationships and, where appropriate, holding people to account.
As he summarised our conversation, however, he dismissed the idea of an investigation into my allegations, claiming it would be too difficult to verify the truth. While not refuting my account, he hinted at previously unmentioned “counter-narratives” and drew my attention to how traumatic grievance and employment tribunal processes can be. That’s when he proposed the alternative. I would receive a large payment from the charity on condition that I leave quietly by signing a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). I would be required to trust the Board chair to address any issues as he saw fit and destroy any evidence that might support my case.
For the past 12 years, I’ve spoken with victim after victim who got caught in this trap. Remember, unless one is a celebrity pastor or leader, their salary is likely low. Here is what anonymous learned. he doesn’t appear to have included the attorney’s fees.
On the advice of my Christian lawyer, who told me I was being offered double what he could achieve in court, I signed the settlement contract and received the payment. That was in 2018. To this day I am legally gagged from telling you exactly what took place while I worked for that charity
Why do Christian organizations use NDAs?
NDAs have their origins in protecting proprietary information or trade secrets, but they have, in more recent years, been used to protect a wider range of sensitive information, notably employment issues, including disputes. I believe the original purpose remains legitimate – although I suspect there is almost no circumstance where this would be applicable in a Christian organisation or church.
NDAs rely on intimidation – if an employee breaks an NDA by speaking out, they risk not just any settlement payment, but the costs of legal fees and, potentially, damages.
Some high-profile individuals have courageously broken their NDA.
We are also witnessing a number of high-profile cases where people have intentionally and courageously broken their NDAs. Notably, this includes the Labour MPs who blew the whistle on antisemitism in the party and Zelda Perkins who broke her NDA of nearly two decades to shed light on Weinstein’s abuse. Which leads to the question – should a Christian who has signed an NDA ever break it?
It is possible that such a contract may not be legally enforceable.
Although I understand Professor Altman’s argument, unfortunately, it appears that victims must be the ones who come forward. I wonder why he doesn’t expect church leaders to come forward?
Law professor Scott Altman argues compellingly that victims of abuse have a right to silence to avoid trauma and discrimination– but that if they accept money for silence, they breach their duty to disclose and become complicit in the abuser’s subsequent wrongdoing. As the trauma of the abusive event recedes and if the organisation refuses to address the allegations raised, it is my belief that Christians should prioritise seeking truth, justice and reconciliation over observing a coercive contract that may well not be legally enforceable. By challenging the use of a tool of intimidation, abuse can be brought to light and vulnerable people protected. But it is a journey, not an event, and the fear of breaking an NDA is palpable.
Maybe it is the churches that should come forward?
The Archbishop of Canterbury—the senior leader of all Anglican churches worldwide—announced Tuesday that the Anglican Church will no longer support non-disclosure agreements.
Archbishop Justin Welby told Times Radio that non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) have been used to hide racism, but said nothing of NDAs hiding abuse—a practice abuse survivors claim is rampant. Welby added that he has written to several senior leaders in the church to tell them that the Church of England will no longer use confidentiality agreements.
For example, in 2018, Anglican leaders forced a woman, abused by a vicar who had exposed himself to her, to sign an NDA.
Welby said nothing about that case. He also did not address whether NDAs have impacted the hundreds of people who were sexually abused by Anglican church leaders from the 1940s to 2018.
According to a report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, the church prioritized its own reputation and that of abusers over safeguarding children.
The church is supposed to be in the light, not manipulate the light.
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Call me naive but I think the church is not supposed to hide in the darkness of NDAs. Instead, churches should openly admit to their abuses as those who live in the light. Hiding abuse is turning out to be a bad idea. Churches can put up blackout curtains and pretend that they have saved the church from…from what? Martin Luther coined the phrase (and I bet I’ll get some smart, young seminary student to say he didn’t but I don’t care)” Simul iustus et peccator.” We are simultaneously just and sinful. So, shouldn’t the church admit to their failings and stand in the light as they seek to find forgiveness from the victims and to make restitution for those victims sans an NDA.
Instead, we hide in the darkness and pretend we are good. Is that warped Christian thinking or what? What are they teaching in seminaries these days?
Lee Furney is forming an organization to fight these unjust NDAs.
The website isn’t quite finished but his effort will be called #NDAfree. Here is the tweet I saw.
So being the snoop that I am, I contacted him and asked about his group. He told me that the website isn’t quite set up but this is the information that will be included.
We are a (global) movement committed to releasing individuals, Christian organisations, local churches, and charities from the misuse of Non-Disclosure Agreements. Too often, these tools are used to silence people following abuse.
We’re a community of survivors, whistleblowers, and activists, brought together by a shared belief in this justice issue. As followers of Jesus, we long to see our communities press into the hard work of pursuing truth, promoting transparency, and, where possible, seeking reconciliation.
What we do – 2 campaign actions:
Safely enabling individuals to disclose they have been subject to an NDA. By telling our stories, we allow truth and light to flourish.[This is essentially about bringing what’s happened in the past to light.
- It’s individual focussed
- It’s about awareness-raising – to get a sense of the size of this hidden problem
- It’s a mechanism for those who’ve been gagged to use their voice
2) Pledging for a safer future
A pledge for churches and organisations to chose freedom from NDAs. Resources, templates, and ideas to encourage trust and healthy communities
- This is forward-looking
- It’s institutional focussed
- It’s about encouraging positive action
- It’s a mechanism to help put in place commitments not to gag people]
There you have it. The beginning of a new movement. As Jean Luc Picard would say: “Make it so!”
A Timely topic..
A needed topic and change to reveal what is hidden in churches.
It’s been a long time comin’…
> “Call me naive but I think the church is not supposed to hide in the darkness of NDAs. Instead, churches should openly admit to their abuses as those who live in the light.”
My interpretation is that the use of civil and contract law to conceal evil is another hint that the connection between “what Jesus started” and “what we have become” is rather tenuous.
I don’t mean to speak ill of good-hearted individuals, of whom there are many. But I think that many of the institutions have become deeply rotten.
1. Ostensibly off-topic information question:
In C of E canon law when a vicar does “something” and a bishop applies deferral (vicar can’t get another church position for a moderate period) the offence mustn’t be made known (and I don’t know if that affects witnesses who might tell someone privately) (and that it may be made known through personal contact what it WASN’T about).
I can see the sense in that. I think it should be seen as a very separate issue from an NDA. But are some authorities (outside any case I’ve seen) forgetting Holy Spirit getting the two different concepts muddled up?
In my observation there was a manic vicar who if he manages that, will not go wrong any more, plus an addle-brained, hysterical, Bethelated, Torontulated, congregation of Designer-Outlet Bromptosauruses, who were bad for that vicar as well as for each other.
Rather than rely on good heartedness and Holy Spirit filled balance to implement what good values genuinely are expressed in “canon law” (as I think was intended on that occasion), the “corporate” mentality of “jobsworths” thinks automatically, oh well the proper procedure “never” works anyway so we’ll just clamp down and impose a dead, iron will. Yet in God’s economy everybody, far from zero-sum competing, is each other’s best asset.
Seeing as (on a good day) Holy Spirit filled canon law = good, worldly “corporate” culture = bad. Central church authorities and their hangers-on that don’t trust Holy Spirit in the average congregant, are “dumbing down” church (blaspheming) below what Jesus intended.
The remaining danger in the case I saw is that congregation members aren’t open enough about the surrounding circumstances, many of which were their fault. And can any benefits in existing canon law be strengthened by suggested small amendments to it?
2. The “para-church” (“who ya gonna call” outsourcers) isn’t a worshipful body anyway but solely a business “group”. Many churches actually turned themselves into para-church. Nude massages, or salacious talk, or brandy-fuelled weekends, or expensive mystic-looking series of books, or snazzy videos, or breaking down the will by haranguing, are just an averagely “hedonistic” business trope to attract “suitable” recruits to quite a lot of this class of pyramids. Their sole Golden Rule is “compromise as thou would not be compromised by”.
Church troubles are like musical chairs in whom sole blame is likely to be heaped on, and the rest whitewashed.
At my last church but one, it wasn’t until I was told “the nasty people have left” that I left too. That milieu had built up an atmosphere of omerta around policies / ideas, and suddenly I’m wondering whether they were into NDAs, as their “eminence grise” is an international personality. They don’t have “membership covenants” but there is obviously an inner circle.
At my church prior to that (a very big one) the underlying ethos is the same, the method (especially from distant power centres) taking advantage of technology, simply comprising increasing amounts of counter-bitching about “not being on board” when less and less honesty about what “on board” even means, and similar such conveniently vague implying.
I completely agree…. I see no “righteous” “need” for them…
The Great Commission is all about telling the good news through the Church. It was always intended that what goes on within the Kingdom of God on earth is to be announced to all people everywhere. Nothing is to be hidden … the way, the truth, and the life are to be disclosed to all. In the real Church, nothing is hidden, nothing non-disclosed, no mouths demanded to be silent. All may come, all may hear the good news … no bad news is to be concealed in a dark corner. Non-disclosure agreements have no room in the Kingdom of God … only the kingdom of men use such things.
Jeffrey J Chalmers,
PS… I am using the word “righteous” in OT Hebrew since of the word…. not modern slang
I think we’re really at a point where nonprofits, including churches, should be taxable. Maybe it could be set up so nonprofits over a certain size are taxed. But many of these larger nonprofits act like they are for-profit corporations but hide behind a nonprofit status so they can hide their finances.
I don’t think NDAs should be able to hide abuse in any context. I can understand protecting information owned by the entity, but not abusive behavior.
Jeanette Altes, long time TWW participant, has passed away.
I agree. Many have. That is why it’s hard to find good ones. It took us a few years and we were diligent.
I would propose a compromise in that they still pay no taxes, but that they can no longer say none-o’-yer-beeswax to where all that moolah is going.
Fully itemized and on public record as it is for non-religious outfits.
Sad indeed. I had missed posts from Lydia and actually wondered about her this week, along with others who used to comment regularly: Gram3 and Nancy2.
May she awake to a goodly inheritance in Olam Ha-Ba.
I’m British & Anglican, & I’m going to need a translation for this.
Oh that’s sad to hear. May she rest in peace & rise in glory.
Bethelated = Bethel Church Redding California
Torontulated = Toronto Blessing
Brontosaurus’s = Holy Trinity Brompton
All of which are charismatic in some form or other.
TBH I was more interested in the Canon Law of the C of E 🙂
Just fyi, some of the terminology about Anglicans is unclear or incorrect. From the Roys post:
“The Archbishop of Canterbury—the senior leader of all Anglican churches worldwide—announced Tuesday that the Anglican Church will no longer support non-disclosure agreements.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop of the Church of England, sometimes called CofE and the Anglican Church. Based on the post, it would seem that the challenge to NDAs is limited to the Church of England (not even extending to Scotland).
The Arch is also the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, composed of various national churches. I’m not sure he has power to overturn NDAs in the Anglican national churches outside of England, although every last one of them ought to be paying close attention.
In addition, some Anglican groups and congregations are not part of the Anglican Communion. Some want to join, some are just part of the heritage and worship tradition. Some want to have member churches thrown out, so they can replace them. Fortunately all of this is at low ebb right now.
The main Anglican bunch in the US is the Episcopal Church (TEC). Smaller groups include ACNA (Anglican Church in North America) and CANA (Convocation of Anglicans in North America), neither of which is part of the Anglican Communion. So unfortunately, I think the NDA problem will have to be addressed in a thousand places, in a thousand ways.
I was thinking about Gram3 and other commenters not too long ago….and I totally get why people have many reasons for stopping or pausing commenting on a blog….and with the pandemic, I have become paranoid, assuming the worst.
(And there are times I feel sad….for not registering the fact that people whose comments I enjoyed reading haven’t commented for while….)
Very big sigh. I forgot to specify TWW commenters when I wrote my comment….
Right up my alley….and the information you provided added some clarity for me.
The lawyers are going to have a field day.
Far too many good people mistake their local 501c3 church for actually administering true Christianity.
I see what you point out. And exceptions. Both, and. Like in the church.
I found this definition: “Parachurch organizations are Christian faith-based organizations that work outside & across denominations to engage in social welfare & evangelism.”
We’ve been missionaries overseas twice with parachurch orgs where there were no covenants, no NDA’s, and no abuses of people or money (that we could see, & none reported since). We basically volunteered our time & efforts, our lives, for several years. Walked away with no financial gain, but basic needs had been met while serving. None of these orgs have been covered here at TWW. We engaged in both Evangelism (multi-lingual) & social welfare.
We’ve also testified in court here in the USA about “Christians” who have violated minors (while churches basically stood with the offenders), so we are aware of the problems. It was a bit scary, with threats and all, to do this. Church & ministries may not be safe for children.
Signing a covenant: church/ministries preemptively claims your $$$.
Signing a NDA: church/ministries own your voice.
Neither of these are evident in the NT. The Bible documents warts & all. Jesus never collected funds; he collected bread & fish which he distributed to 1000’s. The apostles collected & distributed to widows & orphans; administrative costs were slim to none. If anything, the NT church shared. Covenants seem to be a one-way commitment, as are NDAs. The NDA owner seems to reserve their own freedom of information/speech, while silencing the NDA signer.
Covenants: Don’t lie about donations (Ananias & Saphira) but there’s no giving requirement. No contract.
NDAs: Testify: “What we have seen & heard,” 1 John 1. No silencing lived experience.
Thought you might be interested in an update on an old topic, about Asian women killed in day spas in Georgia. Here is a profile of the oldest victim, Suncha Kim. There is no hint that she was involved in the illegal sex trade. Nobody deserves to die that way, but the more recent reports do not support 1) the disturbed young man’s justification for his crimes, or 2) his church’s account. There may be partial truth about illicit activity, yet to emerge, about one or more of the three businesses.
Being a loving mother and grandmother was her top priority, especially after losing her own mother as a teen, her family said. She taught her children to love their own children fully: “As much as you can give,” she would say.
Kim frequently left voice mails and wrote letters reminding her children and her three grandchildren that she loved them and that she was praying for them. In a letter last spring, Kim wrote in Korean:
“To my daughter, whom I love. Always remember this: The best thing I did in my life was raising all of you as God’s children. Thank you, God.
… To my granddaughter, you are beautiful, so beautiful. Grandma loves you, and you are beautiful. Study hard and take care of your siblings, and have courage. I love you.”
… A relative in Georgia recommended she work at Gold Spa, where she cleaned, cooked and did laundry for the other employees, her family said. Then, on March 16, the unthinkable: A gunman opened fire at three spas in the Atlanta area, including Gold Spa. Kim was shot twice in the chest, according to the autopsy report.
The ABC’s authority is vague – and though head of the CoE, he is archbishop only of Canterbury. (England has another archbishop at York, plus Scotland and Wales have their own.)
The larger point is the Anglican church does not remotely have anything remotely like a ‘pope’ – it’s Protestant! Individual churches are governed much like most American churches, by their vestry (board of elders) and the rector.
Thx for the link and follow-up.
You’d get a major argument with many Anglicans (at least in the US), who consider Anglicanism to be the via media, the middle way between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. It’s an old point, but of bedrock importance to many, to remember the lives lost in battle over church allegiance and teachings. The via media manifests itself today as a habit of listening in addition to teaching; Anglicans tend to shy away from exacting dogma.
Thanks for pointing out that the Archbishop of Canterbury lacks papal powers. Do you think he lacks the authority to challenge NDAs throughout the Church of England?
Businesses use NDA’s to protect sensitive and confidential information, and to ensure that good ideas aren’t stolen by employees and folks they negotiate with. It appears that churches and para-church organizations are using NDA’s to protect bad-boy leaders.
“what Jesus started” and “what we have become” is rather tenuous.
yeah, i bet jesus is a done, too. (i wonder if resurrected toes curl backwards)
thank you, dee, for being so personal, and hands-on about being personal. caring about us.
I will miss her wisdom.
Why always call them NDAa?
Other than that’s what Lawyers call them?
Use the REAL word – Oldspeak, not Newspeak:
WITH OR WITHOUT ACCOMPANYING HUSH MONEY.
With bullhorns from the rooftops.
oldthinkers unbellyfeel INGSOC.
And (as usual) get Very Very Rich.
(Richer even than Kenneth Copeland?)
As I understand it, an NDA is NOT legally enforceable if covering up a criminal act.
Can anyone confirm this?
An Attorney? LawProf? Judge Tim?
He can challenge but getting people to listen is another matter. I suspect to ban NDAs (or severely limit them) would require writing them into the rules governing the Church of England which would require approval by the Church governing body plus the Houses of Parliament (since it is a State church though as a member of the House of Lords he and quite a few other bishops have a vote). However once approved it would not be easy to evade. His authority in the rest of the Anglican Community is only that provided by persuasion.
“I suspect to ban NDAs (or severely limit them) would require writing them into the rules governing the Church of England which would require approval by the Church governing body plus the Houses of Parliament..”
and the Queen herself, I imagine.
now that would be interesting (assuming NDAs are part of the how the royal family’s handlers run things)
Thank you. Gosh, wouldn’t it be nice if moral suasion proved sufficient?
You describe a step that includes Parliament because the C of E is the state religion. Some might see that as worldly. However, it’s rather nice to see the state religion subject to public scrutiny.
I would ask the question HUG raised about NDAs in the US. In the UK, can an NDA be used to cover up criminal activity? Or is it valid only for protecting proprietary information (in corporate settings) and perhaps covering embarrassment?
His own dad and the senior minister burned Long over by baptising him after they had already baptised him and sending him to those drastically substandard establishments, and they gave themselves away instantly by not acknowledging they gravely wronged him while he was a minor.
Their secular agnostic neighbour was exactly right to condemn their teachings outright. Did Long think he was protecting Ravi Zacharias, or taking revenge on him?
The Mob, Mobsters & their Molls, enforcing their cover of criminal activity.
Godfathers, enforcers, networks
From church to cult to mob.
I don’t know. However, I think in most cases it is more a matter of civil law. It is meant to cover embarrassment; you don’t make a public issue of it and take us to civil court which your might or might not win; we’ll recompense you for it (bird in the hand is worth two in the bush). However it does leave the next victim thinking they are the first. Note that the UK has multiple legal systems. English law is sometimes quite different from Scottish law.
BTW the Queen’s assent is more or less pro forma. The first time she refuses assent, is likely the last time she will have the power to do so.
It is easy to imagine misuse of NDAs. It’s also plausible that an NDA has a legitimate place. For example, church officials could be embarrassed by release of emails about the merits and shortcomings of job candidates. They could be discussing spending priorities or trying to confirm rumors. I’m not convinced that every internal document should see the light of day. Clearly, though, evidence of crimes or misconduct should not be forever concealed this way.
This would fall under normal business practices of professional adult employees not blabbing details of work outside of work. But this has nothing to do with criminal activities.
Mandatory reporting is law in a variety of situations/places to ensure employees appropriately report suspected crime.
Two different things.
Thirdly, there are church-specific inappropriate behaviors for employees, (i.e., adultery), that should be reported to the church board, though not criminal. I’ve seen this put before the congregation, and I’ve seen pastors quietly whisked away – different handling of the same situation. In the 2nd case, were there NDAs? Don’t know – eventually everyone knew what was happening. A wife of a board member told me about the “secret” board meetings her husband was attending, trying to figure out what to do. (It was after the fact, and she was explaining the effectiveness of the lay board in dealing with inappropriate pastors.)
Despite NDAs, @RobDownenChron found more than 700 victims of SBC leaders/workers since 1998 & assembled a database with their mugshots. Public records aren’t silenced by NDAs. #churchtoo #SBCtoo w/ @chrondigger & @John_Tedesco
*blow off steam*
I saw what you did there…
“Him that can receive it, let him receive it.”
This is another example of how churches, and “para-church” groups are WAY behind the times. At Big STate U, the ONLY university communication that is completely protected from legal action to being made public, or at least being made available to the person paying the lawyer, is intellectual property paperwork. This includes ALL paperwork related to TENURE. When you consider TENURE is job for life, except if you commit serious felonies, this is a BIG DEAL.
Churches hiding from these “open records” or sunshine laws make me sick… The argument goes, BIg STAte U lives on tax payers $$$, so sunshine laws should apply. Guess what, preacher boys live off of donations, they should accountable also!
But again, I am an evil secular humanist that needs to be watched…. “preacher boys” are G$ds anointed and I should just roll over…
Watermark Church sounds familiar to me. And another celebrity pastor leaves the pulpit: https://julieroys.com/wagner-resigns-watermark/
The secular world of legal action, IOW, Rule of Law for the Common Good, is a sign of health.
“Preacher Boys” or any who do not abide by the Rule of Law for the Common Good, place themselves in categories of governance outside of democracy. Thus, @ninaburleigh and @ruthbenghiat use the term: christo-fascists.
Ben-Ghiat is Professor of History and Italian Studies at New York University – scholar, researcher, academic (part of what you term the “evil secular academic empire” – abiding by the Rule of Law for the Common Good – versus the Industrial Evangelical Complex, which does NOT seem to abide by the Rule of Law for the Common Good).
They would be more than happy to institute a ‘Biblical’ dictatorship.
If they could, they would.
“Reveal what is hidden”…
Do you mean APOCALYPSE?
What Scientology called “Clearing the Planet”.
“A SCIENTOLOGIST PLANET!
A SCIENTOLOGIST PLANET!”
— Sea Org cheer
This seems to be a good move. Although the idea that the Archbishop of Canterbury is genuinely concern about racism seems like a bit of a joke to me.
I don’t know a lot about his past comments and positions. What causes you to believe this?
I’m sure he would never refuse to shake hands with a black person or anything like that. But he is part of the same wealthy, racist elite which governs this country. He had an opportunity in the last election to speak out in favour of a candidate whose policies promoted a fairer and more equal society, and he undermined him instead. He presides over a church which has problems with misogyny, racism and homophobia, and has done very little to actually address this. On the surface he seems like a pleasant chap, but he regularly chooses “mustn’t upset the apple cart” over “let justice roll like mighty waters”. Perhaps not because of personal prejudice, but because he is the product of a wannabe colonial upper class and doesn’t see the structural racism he supports, because it doesn’t affect him.