Church with infamous association fails in bid to get house back from ex-pastor
By Debby Woodin
Globe Staff Writer
NEVADA, Mo. - A judge has ruled against the Church of Israel and its trustees, who tried to take back the deed to a house and property that had been given to a former minister as part of a "peaceful" severance agreement.
In the lawsuit, the church's leader, Dan Gayman of Gayman Ministries, and other church leaders claimed they were forced under duress to give a house and 31/2-acre tract to Scott Stinson, a minister who left the church; his wife, Lori Kay Stinson; Stinson Financial Services; and its trustee, Thomas E. Stinson.
The church and the disputed property are on Schell City route 1.
Neither Kendall Vickers of Nevada, who was the attorney for the church, Gayman and other trustees, nor Jay Kirksey of Bolivar, the attorney for the Stinsons, could be reached for comment.
A person who answered the telephone at the Church of Israel hung up.
The church has widely been characterized as being associated with the fundamentalist Christian Identity movement, but Gayman denies it teaches racist philosophies. It is where fugitive Eric Rudolph, suspected in a string of abortion clinic bombings and the bombing of Olympic Park in 1996, once lived.
See Church, Page 5A
The Joplin Globe in January 2001 published an investigative report, "Ordained by Hate," that profiled the church and its leaders, and reported that it owned a compound in rural Vernon County that had grown to more than 1,400 acres.
The Globe also documented a rift between Gayman and Scott Stinson, an associate church pastor. At that time, it was reported that Stinson was given a deed to his home as part of a negotiated agreement that terminated his employment.
After the rift, the church tried to rescind the agreement, and the trustees filed a lawsuit in Vernon County Circuit Court seeking to nullify the deed and reclaim the property.
The plaintiffs other than the church and Gayman were listed in the lawsuit as Gerry Trembaly, Dean Gayman, John Coleman, Reed Benson, Gray Clark and Bob Burney.
According to court records, they claimed that they signed over the deed under duress, with Stinson threatening to send letters damaging to the church to the news media, the Division of Family Services, the Department of the Treasury, the Internal Revenue Service and other administrative agencies.
Church trustees contended they feared that if they did not give in to Stinson's demand:
The Division of Family Services would take all the children from the families involved in the church based on allegations by Stinson of child molestation by one of the church leaders.
Bo Gritz, a leader of a paramilitary movement, "was going to blow up with explosives the buildings and homes of the members of the Church of Israel, poison the wells and lay the property to ashes."
The media would give negative coverage of the Church of Israel, based on Stinson's allegations.
Stinson's alleged threats frazzled Gayman and the others to the point that they were "bereft of mind" when they made the deed, they contended.
A trial on the lawsuit was held July 10-12, 2002. After that, briefs were filed through October, and then-Senior Judge George Baldridge, based in Jasper County and appointed to hear the case, took it under advisement. In a decision dated April 22, Baldridge found in favor of the Stinsons.
"The evidence presented indicated Dan Gayman is a man of experience and background with 30 years plus in a ministry fraught with controversy as to its religious tenets," the judge wrote. "It is the impression of the court and the court so finds that Dan Gayman is not a person easily subject to duress."
Evidence was presented that Gayman remarked after the transaction involving the property that when asked for the house, "we didn't bat an eye. Not only that, but we gave without any compunction" for Stinson's service to the congregation.
"This court further finds that the Church of Israel does not have clean hands in seeking of this court a declaration of title. ... The maxim that he who comes into equity must come with clean hands is a cardinal one which touches to the quick the dignity of a court of conscience itself."
Church with infamous association fails in bid to get house back from ex-pastor
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