Three years ago I reported the story of the campaign of harassment against my family by a NewSpring staff member and some volunteers under the apparent supervision of NewSpring executives. In 2010 my wife and I sued Noble, NewSpring, two other pastors, the staff member and two volunteers over their behavior during the summer of 2009. After several years of document exchanges and depositions, in September of 2012 we settled with NewSpring and its insurance company for an amount that both sides have agreed not to disclose. Although much of what I learned about Perry Noble and NewSpring’s executives cannot be disclosed, I can tell you about the facts as they happened to us and other details that are not covered by confidentiality orders because they came to be known to us through channels outside the lawsuit.
We sued the parties for negligence, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, assault (Maxwell only), civil conspiracy, unfair trade practices, and negligent hiring, training and supervision. We alleged that Perry Noble and other NewSpring leaders were aware of the harassment from early on and did nothing to stop it; though they deny those complaints. Here are a few highlights of what we found through publicly available information:
- Maxwell and the two volunteers were left to defend themselves. Noble, who was represented by five of his own lawyers, didn’t see fit to offer legal help to the folk who had tried to protect him. Maxwell and his friends discovered that having their pastor’s back was a non-reciprocal deal.
- While Noble fulminated about bloggers who didn’t have the courage to talk to him face to face, he made at least one call to complain about my blogging to the president of Anderson University, where I am a tenured associate professor. (This was after Noble had ignored my requests to meet with him.) Why contact my boss unless you want him to take steps to shut me up, either by discipline, demotion or termination? Fortunately for me and for Anderson University, our president is an honorable man who recognizes the value of public debate and discussion. At our university we love Jesus and we love the truth, even though we might sometimes disagree with each other about what that truth is or how it’s best expressed. I’m grateful for an administration strong enough to act as a firewall between its faculty and an angry and underhanded local preacher.
- Noble and NewSpring’s official defense was that the whole harassment campaign was my and my wife’s fault. Their argument was that we should have known that criticizing NewSpring would cause bad things to happen to us, so we were really just asking for it. That’s not an argument you’d expect from a local church, but I assume they believe it, otherwise I’d have to believe that they perjured themselves. Here’s the relevant section from their defense:
Plaintiffs [my wife and I] were negligent, willful, wanton, and reckless in one (1) or more of the following particulars.
- In engaging in a pattern of behavior and course of conduct intended to intimidate, harass, and otherwise damage New Spring and the Defendants [Noble, NewSpring and the two other pastors] professionally;
- Knowingly and intentionally publishing misleading and/or false statements concerning New Spring and these Defendants; and
- In failing to exercise a degree of care of prudence a reasonable person would have exercised under the same or similar circumstance.
The Plaintiff’s negligence, willfulness, wantonness, and recklessness was more than 50% of the direct and proximate cause of the alleged damages complained of.
This is chilling. They are saying–in a signed, public legal document–that it is imprudent and dangerous to criticize Perry Noble. Anyone can go to the Anderson County courthouse and read it. Their message to anyone else who wants to blog about Noble or NewSpring is that he or she should expect similar treatment.
- Maxwell and Travis Dickson apologized to us for their participation. Noble and NewSpring have not.