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Hoey files defamation lawsuit against PC(USA)

A second defamation lawsuit has been filed against the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) A Corporation – the denomination’s corporate entity – stemming from an ethics investigation involving the 1001 New Worshipping Communities program.

Eric Hoey, who has served as the PC(USA)’s director of Evangelism and Church Growth, filed suit in Jefferson Circuit Court in Kentucky on June 16.

Hoey is the second person involved with the investigation to file a defamation suit. Roger Dermody – who was hired in 2010 as the PC(USA)’s deputy executive director for mission, serving directly under Linda Valentine, executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency – filed suit on May 29. Valentine has announced that she is resigning as of July 10, although she says her decision to do so is not related to recent difficulties but to a sense that her call to that job has ended.

The 1001 program is the PC(USA)’s effort to start 1001 new worshipping communities between 2012 and 2022.

In the lawsuit’s complaint, Hoey states that around March 2014, Presbyterian Mission Agency employees involved with the 1001 program created a separate nonprofit corporation in California called the Presbyterian Centers for New Church Innovation, Inc., and transferred a PC(USA) grant to an account for that corporation. No one involved “took, diverted to personal use or in any fashion misused any of the funds transferred from the PC(USA) account” to the corporation’s account, the complaint states, and all of the money was returned.

The complaint also refers to coverage in the Outlook regarding the investigation. It states that “Hoey had requested that the PC(USA) not make false allegations accusing him of ethical violations but these violations were and continued to be published. Every statement from PC(USA), its directors, officers, and/or employees acting within the scope of their employment, to the Presbyterian Outlook that Hoey had committed ethical violations was the publication of a false and defamatory statement.”

The complaint states “that Hoey’s reputation has been injured, exposing him to public ridicule and humiliation and will further affect his future employment prospects and career.”

The complaint states that Hoey is seeking a jury trial; a judgment against the PC(USA) for defamation; compensatory damages “for public embarrassment and humiliation, adverse affects on his future employment prospects, and other economic damages;” punitive damages “sufficient to punish PC(USA) and to deter it from engaging in similar conduct in the future; and attorneys fees and court costs.

Claims made in filing a lawsuit give only one side of the case.

Click here for the full text of the complaint.

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