The Fifth Principle Project is appealing to its membership to support Rev. Kate Rohde’s GoFundMe request. Kate explains the reason behind her GoFundMe program in her January 1, 2024, posting on the Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism. She wrote
The Unitarian Universalist Church was once my home. Now, after the church stripped me of my ministerial credentials and defamed me for expressing what it now deems heretical views, I am suing.
Kate has established a funding goal of $48,000. She has raised approximately $33,000 from over 300 donations. We ask that all Fifth Principle Project members consider making an online donation. Any amount would help bring Kate closer to her goal.
Why Bring a Legal Suit?
On November 9, 2023, Kate filed a suit in the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County, Pennsylvania, against the Unitarian Universalist Association and Sarah Lammert, Executive Secretary for the Ministerial Fellowship Committee and Co-Director for the Ministries and Faith Development at the UUA.
The suit requests a trial by jury and claims
Religious institutions cannot hide behind the mantle of the First Amendment’s protections while they recklessly disseminate falsehoods and purposely destroy an individual’s reputation and livelihood. Yet this is precisely what Defendants in this case have done.
The legal suit continues that the UUA
- “Instituted a disciplinary process against the elderly, disabled, retired Rohde for social media posts expressing just the sort of opinions that the UUA bylaws expressly claim to protect.”
- Without due process “stripped the retired Rohde of her credentials as a minister as well as her past-earned retirement stipend for her 30-plus years of service to the UUA community.”
- The suit observed, “To this day, the UUA refuses to identify any specific policies that Rohde actually violated.”
- The suit further stipulates, “Nor has the UUA explained its unprecedented and vindictive actions in stripping a retired minister from her ministerial credentials, not for impacting any UUA affiliated churches, but because her statements in a 1200-person Facebook group offended three women who were lurking in that group and took offense at retired Rohde’s opinions.”
Statement of Material Facts
The essence of the legal suit is based on allegations made by Rev. Sarah Skochko, Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum, and Rev. Amy Petrie Shaw in April 2022. The allegations, referenced in the legal suit as the “Joint Complaint,” were eventually taken up by the Ministerial Fellowship Committee that removed Kate from fellowship.
The suit observed that the investigation conducted by Rev. Karen Hutt “failed to identify any specific statements that were at issue in the Joint Complaint, nor did it identify what specific rules, policies, or procedures those statements had allegedly transgressed.”
The suit further commented on Hutt’s investigation
In other words, her investigation did nothing more than summarize the hurt feelings of the Complainants. Without identifying any policies or statements at issue, Hutt’s investigation concluded that the Complainants “experienced harmful behavior and language.” The specific harmful behavior or language was not identified. The UUA has still failed to specify what behavior or language was allegedly “harmful.”
You can read the full legal filing here. You are encouraged to carefully read the Statement of Material Facts starting at line 17.
Kate is seeking the following relief
- For damages, including general and special damages, in an amount to be determined at trial.
- Require the Unitarian Universalist Association and Lammert to post a retraction of their false and defamatory statements.
- Other relief as the Court may deem just, equitable and proper under the circumstances.
Time for Accountability
Your support of Kate’s GoFundMe program may finally bring some accountability to the Association.
As Kate wrote in her January article
I have fought for justice against those who denied women equal rights, denied rights for African Americans, denied rights to gays and lesbians, against those who led death squads in El Salvador, and against those who bled the poor in Mexico. I’m old. I’m tired. I am fighting one last time for my faith, liberalism defined by freedom, reason, tolerance, and justice.
Thank you for your support.
The UUA has filed a motion to move the case from Pennsylvania to Massachusetts. If this motion is granted, it will add an additional burden on Kate regarding travel and expense. Which may be one of the objectives of this motion.
There is another concern Kate shared in her January article
When queried by lawyers about the UU’s violation of their own bylaws promising freedom of conscience and their lack of normal due process, the UUA replied that as a religious organization, they are legally entitled to contravene their own rules if they choose to do so.
We now have the irony that the UUA, which has demanded that people be accountable for the impact of their words, is now seeking to dodge the very accountability they demand from others.
Please make a statement and contribute to Kate’s GoFundMe.