Wherever there is a fundamentalist institution that has managed to land itself in legal hot water, one can be assured that somewhere in the shadows will be support from the legal minds of the Christian Law Association.

As self-proclaimed “legal missionaries” the CLA are given donations by countless churches to defend those who are “facing difficulties for the Biblical faith.” In other words, they are The Fixers for fundamentalism.

For years, the front man for this organization has been Dr. David Gibbs Jr. (and more recently David Gibbs III) who showed up at least yearly at my Fundy U to preach and tell the good news of how our religious liberties were being defended in the highest courts in the land. As a student, I always looked forward to his sermons because even though they tended to be strong on legalism (stories of reading the Bible through every month spring to mind) they were as cogent as they were hilarious. A bit light on exegesis, perhaps, but still very entertaining.

It was only after I left those hallowed halls that I began to consider exactly what role the CLA plays in fundamentalism. As has been demonstrated over and over again, fundamentalists have more than their share of skeletons in the closet and those skeletons often involve some type of legal action. The links between Hyles and the CLA, for example, go back as far as the 1970s and can be documented right up to the present day with David Gibbs III being selected to hand out an award during the 2010 Pastors School at FBC Hammond. Dave Gibbs Jr. also routinely fills the pulpit next to men like Clarence Sexton and Scott Caudill. These are fundamentalists of the fundamentalists.

Consider, would anybody be more likely to know about the dirty secrets of churches, colleges, and schools than their legal counsel? Yet, knowing first hand exactly the caliber of people with whom they are dealing, the CLA not only continues to laud these institutions as righteous but they also take money from churches by characterizing this defense of fundyland as “missions.”

You can count on two things: 1) Fundamentalist churches and colleges will act stupidly and end up in court 2)More often than not the CLA will be somehow involved in cleaning up the mess.

115 thoughts on “The CLA”

  1. I’ve been waiting for a post on this. Who’s Scott Caudill? I’vee never heard of him. Clarence Sexton I do know, but not Caudill.

  2. Always wondered if I was the only one who wondered what pastors/churches were doing to be faqcng legal prosecution in America. Like CLA etc makes a ton of money portraying themselves as the defender of righteous against a tyranical gov’t, but even pre internet it wasn’t that hard to question just where exactly it was in America all these injustices were being perppetrated against law abiding citizens/churches.

    Am very proud to have withheld any contributions from all CLA related offerings, and never really bought any of their BS. I don’t recall them speaking at PCC, I’m sure they irritated me immensely even back then.

    1. Believe me, there’s not a lot of money in it. They operate very much on a shoestring budget, mission style.

      1. Midori wrote, “Believe me, there’s not a lot of money in it. They operate very much on a shoestring budget, mission style.”

        I bet that shoestring budget is all that is left after CEO salary and expenses. Just my humble opinion, of course.

    1. Yes, there is video of Hyles talking about the CLA and their stand with Roloff. I’ll see if I can look it up later.

      1. … how Roloff took a stand and then moved everyone out of state in order to avoid a real investigation, thus setting a prescident and showing all fundies who came after him how to cloud an investigation and remove any damning evidence… while technically not breaking the law… A tried and true method… Just ask Trinity…

  3. The CLA certainly has a checkered legacy. I’m sure they have done plenty of good in defending frivolous or malicious suits from legitimately innocent ministries, but based simply on their work for the Roloffs, Wills, Pattersons, etc., of the Fundyverse, they are not worthy of my support.

    1. I don’t doubt that the CLA defends some legitimate cases of religious intolerance.

      Then again, so does the hated ACLU.

      1. I was just going to comment that if your religious liberties were really being threatened call the ACLU. They take a lot of bashing from the religious right, but will defend a fundamentalist if there has been a legitimate threat to their first amendment rights. But I don’t think they will defend you if you are being prosecuted for molesting Sunday School students 🙁

        1. As a card carrying member, I hope they would not defend that. I do think they filed an Amicus in favor of free speech for Fred Phelps who I hate, but does have the unfettered right to spew his venom.

  4. Praise the Lord that I live in Canada where separation of church and state is recognized!!

      1. Don’t believe everything you read in right wing publications. Of course there is freedom of speech in Canada – just not so free that we tolerate the likes of Westboro Baptist Church disrupting funerals etc. Hate speech is not tolerated such as suggesting all people of a particular race should be killed etc. Some of the human rights cases you may have heard about have been totally misrepresented in some publications. By the way, prior to my retirement I worked at the former BC Human Rights Commission for 5+ years.

        1. Definitely is an large difference between free speech and an absolute free speech. I despise Westboro as much as anyone, but would prefer the absolute for any all view points to be protected.

        2. I stand against all forms of censorship. If someone’s safety seems to be in danger (i.e. raging lunatics outside a funeral) then we’re no longer dealing with free speech. If we’re going to be a freethinking society, then we have to put up with some craziness to get there.

        3. Wout, if there is free speech in Canada, why was Mark Steyn prosecuted for writing about Islam and Islamic fundamentalism?

        4. Morgan:

          You asked why Mark Steyn was prosecuted for writing about Islam and Islamic fundamentalism. He wasn’t.

          A muslim organization complained that an article Mr. Steyn had written constituted hate speech under human rights legislation. Human Rights commissions/tribunals must investigate complaints of perceived violations. In Mr. Steyn’s case, the complaint was investigated and it was determined that no violation had taken place. He was therefore not prosecuted.

        5. While I don’t know much about Canadian Law, it seems to me any church crying gov’t abuse probably is saying some pretty vile things. I’ve heard rumors about you can’t call homosexuality a sin. I’m highly suspicious of that. I sjuspect you might not be allowed to incite violence, or encourage discrimination based on orientation. Like gov’t is not the ideal way to force Churches to reign in the absurd anti-gay rhetoric, but I’m not that offended if they do.

        6. Wout,
          Respectfully disagree with you there. Mr Steyn and his publisher had to employee lawyers and thousands of dollars to defend themselves against the charges of “hate speech” as defined by the Canadian commission on civil rights. I can’t remember its official name. But I would say if he was not “prosecuted” he was persecuted for expressing views that were viewed as offensive by a tiny minority of Muslims.

          BTW, I love Canada, I live close to Canada, I have Canadian relatives and spend my vacations in Canada. I even love hockey. But its “human rights” politics mean that everyone somehow has the right to not be offended.
          Especially Muslims, because they riot when they are offended.

        7. Wout, Mr. Steyn was, if not techncially prosecuted, was persecuted and investigated for expressing his views – mostly satrical – of Islam. He was even persecuted for quoting Islamic views of Islam. He and his publisher had to fork out thousands of dollars to defend themselves against so called “hate speech” charges by a small group of Muslim students. I would say that yes, free speech is endangered in Canada.

          Read “Lights Out: Islam, Free Speech, and the Twighlight of the West” if you doubt me.

          BTW, I love Canada. I even love hockey. But some of its politics are definitely messed up.

        8. Who are we trying to kid here. The radicals at the University of Ottawa wouldn’t even allow Ann Coulter to speak, causing a near riot. Did the great Canadian Authorities restore peace and let her speak? Uh, No. Hey I know Coulter is provacative, that’s what she does, but canadian authorites don’t think enough of free speech to retore order and let a conservative speak. On the other hand is Michael Moore, who is much more provocative but he is allowed to spew his liberal, socialist rhetoric all day long in Canada.

          I understand that Coulter filed a grievance with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, haven’t heard how that turned out.

        9. Ann Coulter is not a conservative; she’s a raving, hysterical maniac.

          That’s all I’m going to say about this debate.

        10. I guess the Canadian authorities called Big Gary got the low-down on Coulter, and then went on about their business. This wasn’t about your opinion on Coulter, I was trying to make a point that at least some speech is allowed in Canada, if its contents is “state approved” Guess that entire point got past you.

        11. Coulter’s entire schtick is saying outrageous thing in as inflammatory way as she can think of. If she does it in a country without an absolute freedom of speech like she thrives on here, she’ll continue to face prosecution and intense opposition. I’ll stop there, but I have little to sympathy for Ann for whatever happens to her in Canada.

        12. Wow you guys are just completely locked in on hatin’ Coulter, I know she says wild obnoxious stuff that’s what she does. I am simply trying to demonstrate the point that hateful, obnoxious anti-american rhetoric can be spewed all over Canada by people like Michael Moore, and not a peep out of the speech police. I find it hard to believe that you can’t get past your hatred for Coulter to see this point.

        13. I wouldn’t be sympathetic if moore got the same treatment in a country that limits speech. He also has a flair for the dramatic that often goes overboard. I favor living in US 1st ammendment, but I doubt non bombastic speech in Canada is that fiercely monitored.

  5. Canada is a fantastically fucked up place. I am a socialist (by US standards at least) and a Christian (by US standards at least). There are a thousand different ideas floating around here which could improve our country or drive it into the ground! Grace a Dieu, je suis libre a faire mes choix moi-meme!!!

    1. Seperation of church and state is recognized here as well, despite what some people say, and also I personally would appreciate less descriptive language. “filthy communication”

      1. Recognized in law, but many many many citizens and politicians attempt to trample on it, disdain it, and exploit it as a nuissance all the time.

    2. Rod….politically and by religion, you are the very FIRST that I’ve found myself in agreement with! Ditto, I love Canada too…the wife and I had, at one time, seriously considered emmigration.

  6. I’m not sure of how much “wrong” they have done, but I personally consulted them on a work situation that had me working on Sundays after my employer had allowed me to be “off” for years on Sundays and they offered me wonderful, professional counsel and helped me resolve my situation, so all I can say about CLA is that they were there for me when I needed them.

    1. Yeah, they actually take up a lot of good cases, even when they don’t necessarily agree with the brand of religion they’re defending. They also publish references helpful to churches re: employment practices and risk management, with good advice about treating employees fairly and making sure you do background checks on volunteers who work with kids and report abuse, etc. There are some quirky elements, but some credit is due.

      FWIW, the staff attorneys who do the grunt work are usually pretty great folks. The higher-ups who make the fund-raising speeches is where it starts getting weird.

  7. I went to a Fundy U, and sho ’nuff about once a year Gibbs was there preaching at both the school and the church. Hopefully his doctorate is more legit than mine.

    1. I don’t know. You help a school with a big case and we’re certainly heading into honorary doctorate territory.

  8. With some of the stuff my former church has had happen over the years, I’m sure they have the CLA on speed dial. 🙄

  9. From Chuck Phelps’ letter to his church in Indianapolis:
    “I have retained David Gibbs, III as my legal counsel. Mr. Gibbs has contacted the authorities on my behalf to register my concern regarding the way the police have represented this matter to the media.”
    Good luck with that, David.

  10. We had to retain an attorney at our church one time because the Pastor used firecrackers indoors and it just so happened that the Fire Marshall was there. He goes to the Methodist church usually but was visiting for Fire Prevention Sunday that day. Also, Bro. Stafford had a Vietnam flashback and had to be carried out by the ushers.

    1. I heard that that wasn’t all that happened. I heard from a friend who heard it from their pastor who heard it at the barber shop that the Firecracker Incident caught the Christian Flag on fire and Cousin Junior, who was running the aisles already, ran on stage, grabbed the flag and dove into the baptistry with it. 😯

    2. CMG you’ll have to set the rest of the story straight.
      On the one hand I heard that Cousin Junior’s belly flop splashed the mural and the river Jordan now looks more like a topxic lake since it was originally done in water color.
      On the other hand some are saying the baptistry was empty and Cousin Junior had to be put out with an extinguisher, then brought to with a drop from Uncle Hiram’s medicinal hip flask.

      Could you set the story straight?

  11. I wonder why the CLA advises pastoral abuse victims to “keep quiet for the sake of the ministry”? Doesn’t any ministry need guileless leaders? Doesn’t what has come to light in Jacksonville, FL at TBC make it clear that timely confession and repentance will avoid many being offended and rejecting the church’s message to the unsaved? Just wondering.

    1. I think the CLA is wicked in the way they defend churches from abuse allegations. No matter how sick and depraved the pastor is, their (if successful) defense will enable him to continue pastoring. Their involvement in the Bob Gray / Tom Messer abuse situation was unconscienable. How can anyone support them without violating their own conscience?

    1. And btw, there was a petition handed around “to be signed” by adult church members. (Guess who weaseled her way out of signing it?)

      I know most of my church members were well-intentioned. I just wish they would have been well-intentioned AND made an effort to be well-informed. Is that too much to ask?

        1. Well, (here comes the wrong part) that’s kinda what it comes down to. Except, like I said, I doubt they knew the severity of the case because I doubt they bothered to check it out before doing a case of knee-jerk-rallyrounding.

      1. The Tina Anderson case is what I was referring to in my comment up there somewhere. Chuck Phelps, former Trinity pastor, wrote to his current church back in May (?) to tell them that Gibbs was representing him.

  12. You know when we start connecting all the dots, the Independence of the IFB is awfully Interdependent isn’t it. It requires schools, publications, radio and media, legal, missions boards, and a host of other players in order to keep the little ol’ Independent Fundamental KJV-only Baptist church, Independent, doesn’t it? “Likewise” it takes a whole mess of schooling and teaching to keep the IFB pastor Acts 4:13(a) qualified. 😯

  13. I’m pretty sure that David Hyles worked for CLA in some capacity a while back. It’s all starting to make sense now!

  14. I remember the whole read your Bible in a month message. As I recall, it was 45 minutes in the morning and 45 minutes at night. Or was it 90? Don’t you have that time for God?

    1. I still can’t read my Bible without a sense of guilt and fear…I never think that I read enough and/or do enough.

    2. I remember that message too. It was indeed 45 minutes morning and evening. I really tried, but an hour and a half a day for a working college student was a bit much.

  15. It never ends. As soon as I think that you’ve covered everything that I do (and don’t) remember, along comes another outstanding post.

  16. Darrell,
    Our old Fundy U no longer considers David Gibbs III to be separated enough to be allowed in their pulpit. He fell out of their good graces shortly after you graduated.

    He must have legally aided someone they disapproved of. 🙄

    1. My wife informed me that my information is dated. It seems they made up after my departure unto a better place. The excommunication seems to have been lifted.

  17. I’m sure the CLA has done some good in the past, but I absolutely have no respect or love for Gibbs, Jr. The man is a self-absorbed prick who lives to exploit anyone and everyone around him for his own amusement. Had we not both been guests at the same church when he worked his anti-charm on me I would have openly and blatantly flipped him off and walked out of the room. As it was I did turn my back on the jack@$$ and walk out of the room while he was pontificating towards me, and two eyewitnesses suggested the position of my hand supporting my head might have looked like I actually was flipping him off – I can neither confirm nor deny that. All I know is the man is everything everyone hates about lawyers, and I despise him even more for being the slimy lawyer behind the veneer of a saintly Christian. There are very few people I truly hate; he is one of them.

    Too strong?

    1. Sounds about right. I’m generally in favor of “sleazy” lawyers defending people who have done reprehensible things, and minimizing the punishment, even when I wish for greater punishment.

      Defending religious nuts who try to skate as close to legal walls as possible, or willfully violate said laws wrecklessly, and calling that a Christian ministry is downright despicable in my book.

      Would love to know what he said/did. 😯

      1. Would love to know what he said/did. 😯

        Eh, I’d rather not go into specifics. Basically we were chatting in private (not about anything embarrassingly private, just private) and later at lunch he decided to mock in front of the entire table everything I told him, for no other discernible reason than he needed a laugh. When I complained to him about it later, also in private, he completely blew me off like he hadn’t done anything wrong.

        That told me all I need to know about his character. On the plus side, there’s hope for him to eventually spill all that dirt on Fundamentalism that he must know. 😎

    2. Some CLA Facts:

      1. The Gibbs Family has proffitted immensly from the donations directed towards the CLA

      2. The CLA keeps a warehouse that stores the Gibbs familys toys such as motorcoaches, boats, and sports cars

      3. David Gibbs III lives in a house on Madiera Beach Florida. Waterfront property and elevator included.

      4. CLA has no actual employees. Its legal services are farmed out to one law firm, The Gibbs law firm. Every hour billed by a Gibbs Law firm attorney is billed to the CLA This is how money is taken from the donations and put into the families hands directly. This is legal but extremely unethical.

      5. Much like his friend Jay Sekulow David Gibbs tells people he is working on cases that he is not. Sometimes he flys to court cases and sits as an observer in the court room so he can say he was helping in the court room. I am not saying that his prayers were not helping its just not legal help

      6. David Gibbs makes up many of the amazing things that happen to him.

      7. If he needs something from you David Gibbs is the nicest person you will every meet. Good luck if he doesn’t. By the way he needs people to call and get advice. Its how Gibbs Law Firm bills the CLA. Your call will be free, pleasant, and allow him to get his fingers on those donations.

      8. I hope none of you donate to this shame. If you do I have to admit there are some people who get helped. Every lie has some truth. When a Con artist helps an old ladie across the street she makes it there safely. He is just doing it to convince you he is a good guy. Good luck to you if you trust him.

      Though Monty’s words are strong if everyone knew the real David Gibbs they might feel the same way.

      1. Sekulow drives me more crazy. I’ve heard of CLA, and never really trusted, but didn’t know that much about as I’ve learned from the comments. Sekulow I’ve listened to on the radio, and thought “who would believe this BS”, and then I’d get to church on Sunday AM for some serious “reason fail”.

      2. Note on #4: This may actually be for ethics rules regarding the structure of law firms and non-profits. There are some weird rules about that that don’t really account for public interest models and require creative structure.

      3. You mean the story of how he landed the aircraft in Alaska, aided solely by advice from the control tower, after the pilot had become incompacitated was phony? (faints in shock)

    3. I have personally witnessed him emotionally manipulate an audience….He is quite the fundraiser speaker. My opinion coincides with yours.

  18. How is this for a fundy rule?

    “Any time anyone fails to obey one of our rules they are rebellious and out of the will of God. Any time we get into legal trouble for failing to obey the needles laws of our liberal government, we are suffering unjust persecution.”

    Or perhaps?

    “Separation of church and state in our canonized Constitution means that we have the rights to legislate our morality on others while not being held accountable for our tax fraud.”

    1. AMEN, JohnRF!

      I can’t tell you how many times we heard about “persecution” when there were issues with school accreditation, accusations of abuse at the school or the children’s home, or other issues.

      It isn’t persecution when someone is calling out legitimate wrongdoing.

  19. I once heard Gibbs rant on and on about the National Anthem being written in Boston Harbor during the bombardment of Fort Henry. 🙄

    1. Wouldn’t surprise me if he didn’t know, but that’s and easy slkip of the tongue to make Baltimore/Boston both start with B

      1. Gibbs probably got that part wrong too. I wouldn’t put it past them to have said the Pilgrims or Frank Garlock wrote it in the Civil War! 😉

  20. This site has finally “jumped the shark”. What used to be entertaining has now turned into digging through the couch cushions, looking for something to post to have page views.

    1. You think? Given all the recent legal problems in Fundyland (cf. Brad Smith in Schaumberg for the most recent example) and hot on the heels of a post about that monster Roloff, this is a very well-timed post. Gibbs is an idol in some corners of Fundyism, and I’m a little surprised this is the first appearance he’s made so far.

        1. “Dear Friends and Family of Bethel Baptist Church,

          Effective November 3rd, 2010, Bradley Smith resigned as Senior Pastor of Bethel Baptist Church. The Deacons unanimously accepted his resignation and plans are already under way to find God’s next man for the Senior Pastor of Bethel Baptist Church.

          Bethel has been in existence for 50+ years bringing honor and glory to the Lord serving Schaumburg and the surrounding area. We look forward to the Lord’s leading at Bethel Baptist Church for the next 50 years.”

          Reason I’ve heard: embezzling funds ($150K or thereabouts is what I’ve heard.)

    2. Jumped the shark? …. ummmm naaaa. This is just connecting the dots. Shining light on the Interdependence of the Independent Fundy Movement.

    3. You totally forgot to insinuate that Darrell is getting mega rich off this site, and hasn’t founded a fundy u yet!

      1. I don’t think, he is getting mega rich. I think this site has just become, non entertaining. The CLA exists for the same reason, the ACLU exists, to protect the interests of its supporters. It is a law firm, that happens to have lawyers that run in independent Baptist churches. I am sure they have defended folks outside of that branch. They do what lawyers do, defend their clients. Am I am sure they take cases in which they do not always believe their client was the perfect law abiding citizen.

        1. Wrong on the ACLU’s reason to exist. They exist to protect freedom of speech and expression for all Americans. They rarely to never represent people who have contributed anything, but people who’s rights are violated wheher have contributed anything or not is tangential.

        2. Yeah, I’m sure a lot of that is true, but they, specifically their leadership, are a part of fundamentalism and embody some of the ills of fundamentalism. I remember being in a church where Gibbs would regularly come to speak. Talk about manipulation.

  21. At my former church a staff member molested a bunch of kids. Mr. Gibbs advised my former pastor to sweep it under the rug “for the good of the ministry”. Which he did to the detriment of the children who were molested and their loved ones.

    By the way, the staff member admitted to molesting the children to several groups including the police.

    1. Sounds similar to the Bob Gray situation at Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville.

  22. Yikes!!! My grandma used to work for Gibbs!!! 😯 No kidding!!! I’m totally tripping right now!!! I was only a kid at the time, so I don’t remember much. I’m pretty sure she was required to wear skirts all the time. And I remember one time they came into town and we went to dinner and ice cream with her and Gibbs (I’m pretty sure it was the III). I was only 12 or 13, but I remember being amazed at how much food they ordered at such an expensive (to us) restaurant. We were at Pappadeauxs in Houston.

    Weird weird weird.

    1. I never met Gibbs myself, but he and I attended the same conventions when we were in high school. Daddy Gibbs always spoke one night to the crowd, of course. Gibbs III was always winning the oral arguments state and national competitions, so I’m not surprised where he is now. He was destined to follow in his father’s footsteps.

      I just wish some of the stuff he and CLA have had to defend would have given him a wake-up call.

  23. Though I am coming late to this CLA item as I just found this website I do have something to add. The CLA group writes the incorporation papers for IFB churches. The incorporation legally gives the pastor totally control of everything in the church. That is another reason that IFB love the CLA.

  24. The Document referenced by Chris above – that defends Brad Smith at Bethel Baptist was written by an individual that volunteered at Bethel for some time.

    It has been passed around a lot – and the deacons at Bethel have not answered it, except for saying it’s wrong. They will not address it line by line. I believe they are afraid of it.

  25. I have read all over the Internet that David Gibbs, III uses money donated to the Christian Law Association to defend horrific perpetrators of crimes against children. I need to verify that these allegations are true as I am interested in telling a fact based, impartial story about David Gibbs, III and David Gibbs, Jr. Would you please either respond here or to my email address Thank you so much for any and all help!

    Mimi Rothschild

  26. I have a question for any of the men in IFB churches with accusations out there. If you did nothing wrong why would you not speak to defend yourself. Why has Brad Smith said nothing to anyone since his removal. Why is it suchg a secret if he did nothing wrong. He wont even take phone calls from ex-members who worked with him. It was a money issue…not like a molestation issue. If there is no shame incrued due to nothing having happened wrongly then speak up, set it straight, and move on. I went to that church and interracted with him for 14 years and he does not have the decency to speak to me? To his friends? To those he preached to? Really?

    1. Hi,We caanot find a Church home near Schaumburg,and were thinking of Bethel.I know you left,so I guess that means you wouldn’t recommend it,right?The problem is,it’s the only Baptist Church we can find that hasn’t gone trendy rock concert.We visited a few times and I have hesitations…please respond thanks.We seriously need to park it somewhere.Did you find a good Church?..Ann.

  27. The good thing about IFB Churches is they haven’t jumped on the trendy band wagon and gone rock concert.Besides IFB,ALL the Baptists Churches in my entire area all went trendy…I HATE THAT!!!!

  28. I know….some contemporary music is absolutely beautiful,I just don’t think we should throw out all the hymns because they’re testimonies born out of persecution from our brothers and sisters before us.I don’t want to forget them.And they can be very theologically substantial…Some music,just because it’s on the radio doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for corporate worship…Also,sometimes it’s SO loud,I can’t hear myself pray,so how can I hear the Holy Spirit..And the constant jumping up and down by the worship leader is so distracting,my focus is on him not God….How about just a nice reverent blended service?There.Solved…Can’t find it !!!!

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