Support Kate Rohde GoFundMe

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.

GoFundMe

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.

Relief Sought

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.

Update

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.

 

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Anna
Anna
1 month ago

As with many corrupt organizations, it appears leaders and ministers felt they were protected and could do whatever they wanted in their hermetically sealed religious world, including breaking their own rules and ethical principles. However, they are not looking good under the daylight of outside scrutiny.

With the Financial Times article and other outside coverage, UU is sadly becoming a laughing stock.

They no doubt thought they were better than others including the “wrongthink masses.” However, they have shown themselves to be just as corrupt and power-hungry as many other corrupt churches

Last edited 1 month ago by Anna
Jim
Jim
1 month ago

Donated. ($100) The full legal filing is quite a read. I’d recommend it. The lawyer and her firm are very much involved in free speech issues, especially on campuses. Fighting the good fight. Not only with Rev. Kate Rohde.

Bill Baar
Bill Baar
1 month ago

The statement of material facts is indeed important reading. 30. Unlike other religious organizations, the UUA is not a theological organization, as it does not require its ministers to adopt a specific set of doctrinal or theological beliefs. 31. The UUA’s bylaws specifically state that “No minister shall be required to subscribe to any particular creed, belief, or interpretation of religion…” (§11.1) I’ve found many UUs over my 30 year experience with UU Churches and Societies understand the lack of requirement to adopt beliefs. They’ll acknowledge but too many quick to cite “values” instead and that one can’t be a… Read more »

Craig A Moro
Craig A Moro
1 month ago

Thanks for this update on Rev. Rohde’s legal case, filed on November 9, 2023. Here is another update, an excerpt from a letter sent by the Executive Secretary for the Ministerial Fellowship Committee and Co-Director for the Ministries and Faith Development (who is named in the case) on December 20, 2023 to announce her imminent departure from those positions: “A huge note of gratitude to you, my ministerial colleagues. You have collectively endured so much in these past years, and yet you continue to give so much to our faith. Special thanks to those of you who have partnered with me… Read more »

Sunil Wijeyesekera
Sunil Wijeyesekera
1 month ago

Happy to support this effort. Quite apart from the lack of due process, I was struck by the cruelty of those who would take away the service gratuity from a retired minister who had served the denomination for so many years. This was done in the name of love and compassion?

Anna
Anna
1 month ago

As with other congregations that lost members, my congregation is trying to attract outsiders and new people to the congregation. Most outsiders will be examining UU writ large to see if it’s a church they want to attend. Learning about stuff like this, stories of censorship, intolerance and expectations of conformity will repell many. I don’t understand how UUA leaders and inward-looking laity believe this, and the Hallmark card word salad of the new new Bylaws rewrite, is going to make UU attractive to most people. Many longtime UUs in congregants ignore this “technical stuff” coming out of Boston, but… Read more »

K. Lusignan
K. Lusignan
1 month ago

Your update states “The UUA has filed a motion to move the case from Pennsylvania to Massachusetts.” I assume The Fifth Principle Project, via Kate Rohde, has access to this Motion and also to the Answer to this Complaint, if it has also been filed. Please also make these documents available to your readers. Anyone who has experienced the legal system will be aware that reading only one side’s pleadings does not give a complete picture, so posting these “material facts” as if they are dispositive would be misleading. The language in the Complaint makes it clear, as has been… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by K. Lusignan
K. Lusignan
K. Lusignan
30 days ago
Reply to  K. Lusignan

Here is another POTENTIAL link (in a comment directly below this one), to the rules of a Facebook group that MAY be the one referenced in the Plaintiff’s Complaint, which cites a 1200-person group adminned by one of the Complainants. I have been in Facebook groups with Kate Rohde, but none were adminned by any of the named ministers. (I do recall asking Rohde in one of these groups, after a comment she made about congregants, if she spoke that way about congregants when she was a minister.) The Plaintiff’s Complaint also quotes the Joint Complaint (by the ministers during… Read more »

TomC
TomC
30 days ago
Reply to  K. Lusignan

So there are guideline…since we don’t know what was written in these Facebook groups, how do we evaluate whether the statements violated the guidelines.You can post as many links as you want but they are not useful.

It seems to me that you think Rev. Rohde got what she deserved. Why do you think that?

K. Lusignan
K. Lusignan
30 days ago
Reply to  TomC

I agree, we can’t evaluate the statements without seeing more of the story, hence my suggestion that this site obtain from the Plaintiff further pleadings that may contain that material and may or may not support her assertion that there was no defamation. I also could not draw a conclusion about “ministerial interference” without both knowing what was said in the group and knowing what the rules of the profession are (hence the link to the UUMA guidelines). Thus, I can’t conclude that “Rev. Rohde got what she deserved” without knowing more (although many here seem ready to conclude the… Read more »

Last edited 30 days ago by K. Lusignan
Frank Casper
Frank Casper
30 days ago
Reply to  K. Lusignan

You seem to want to debate the veracity of Kate’s case against the UUA. That’s really not what this thread is about. It is about helping Kate to raise the required funds for her lawsuit against the UUA. Given your remarks about how her attornrey appears to be “ideologically aligned” with Kate, suggesting a fatal bias to her case, I suspect that if you had all the documents you’re requesting we supply, something Kate is by no means obligated to do anyway, you would still not be inclined to contribute. So why are you pressing this? If you have any… Read more »

K. Lusignan
K. Lusignan
30 days ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

Why do I want to understand and know more? Because, like most UUs who are aware of these contentious issues, I would like to get to the bottom of the issues and conflicts, understand as many facts as possible, and find a better path forward. But thanks for clarifying that this thread is about raising money for Kate Rohde, not about providing full and accurate information about the lawsuit. Also, I think you missed the point of my comments about the attorney’s language. The pleadings are supposed to be partisan, although they are also supposed to contain facts. No one… Read more »

Last edited 30 days ago by K. Lusignan
Frank Casper
Frank Casper
30 days ago
Reply to  K. Lusignan

My statement regarding the intent of this thread was not meant as a rule. Everyone here would like to know more. But it’s been said a number of times that the docs you want are not available to us. If they were, we’d love to debate the matter. You could help by prevailing upon the three complainants to post their doc here. That would at least give everyone a chance to compare Kate’s post with what they wrote.

K. Lusignan
K. Lusignan
30 days ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

I believe they can’t, as stated–confidentiality. And although they are not named as Defendants, they may well be called as witnesses, so in addition to professional rules of UUMA they cannot break, there may be court rules (witness tampering, etc.). So I am definitely not going to ask anyone to provide confidential information.

However, if Kate Rohde can provide you with the Plaintiff’s pleadings, she can also provide you with the Defendant’s side. She gets all of those too, and as they are being filed in court, I believe they are not confidential now.

*Caveat: I am not an attorney.

Last edited 30 days ago by K. Lusignan
TomC
TomC
30 days ago
Reply to  K. Lusignan

Your comments about the attorney’s language is, for me, just the same flawed argument that somehow the “right-wing” language disqualifies the ideas.

K. Lusignan
K. Lusignan
30 days ago
Reply to  TomC

Both sides have “ideologies” and both sides’ attorneys are, and are supposed to be, partisan. That’s why one needs to look at all the pleadings to get a clear picture of the facts, legal issues, and arguments.

TomC
TomC
30 days ago
Reply to  K. Lusignan

So your personal observations are legitimate but anyone that supports The Fifth Principle are only looking at one side?

K. Lusignan
K. Lusignan
30 days ago
Reply to  TomC

Please stop putting words in my mouth. Thanks.

Mary Applegate
Mary Applegate
6 days ago
Reply to  K. Lusignan

I agree. I’m unable to evaluate this situation without knowing any specific information about what was said and what rules are alleged to have been violated. Everything I’ve seen so far is much too vague.

K. Lusignan
K. Lusignan
21 days ago
Reply to  K. Lusignan

Also, here’s what Kate Rohde’s 11/22 update to the Fundraiser said, re the Complaint charges (though doesn’t specify the Facebook groups):

Kate-Rohde-update
TomC
TomC
1 month ago
Reply to  K. Lusignan

It would be great if we could evaluate what happened on that Facebook group. I would expect if Rev. Rohde had violated the code of conduct for a minister, there would be a report that states what exactly she did and which guideline she violated.

I am willing suspend judgement until after I read the complaint against Rev. Rohde and the report of exactly what she did. Why haven’t those been released?

K. Lusignan
K. Lusignan
1 month ago
Reply to  TomC

I agree. Of course there are confidentiality considerations, legally as well as respecting the parties’ privacy, but now that there is a lawsuit filed, this changes the picture. The Plaintiff’s Complaint mentions a 70+ page document including screenshots of exchanges between the parties but also states that Kate Rohde was never told how she had committed defamation. It is interesting that “ministerial interference” wasn’t mentioned, if I recall correctly, although perhaps the Complaint sought to sideline this charge and whether the organization(s) in question were legally allowed to use this as a basis for their actions by its (the Plaintiff’s)… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by K. Lusignan
Bill Baar
Bill Baar
1 month ago
Reply to  TomC

I don’t believe UUA or the Ministerial Association has an obligation to release such documents. This all happens behind closed doors and always has, and their case will be it should be that way.

Bill Baar
Bill Baar
1 month ago
Reply to  Bill Baar

PS While pulling Rev Rohde’s pension a lousy action, this is akin to a question of employment law in a religious body. I’m not certain how involved the government should be here.

K. Lusignan
K. Lusignan
1 month ago
Reply to  Bill Baar

As noted above, my own guess is that UUMA and the MFC, etc. may have been unable to release such information due to confidentiality requirements. However, court pleadings are generally publicly accessible. That is why I suggested posting here the Answer, which will have to address each point made by the Plaintiff in a document that heavily references those proceedings.

Anna
Anna
1 month ago
Reply to  K. Lusignan

Why in the world would you assume they have those documents? There is no reason to know they have them. And why do you ask them to make available documents there is no reason to know they have?

Your comments are unreasonable, leading, and seem to be based in a prejudice.

Last edited 1 month ago by Anna
K. Lusignan
K. Lusignan
1 month ago
Reply to  Anna

The Plaintiff will have those documents. There is nothing unreasonable about asking to see more than half of the story.

Anna
Anna
1 month ago
Reply to  K. Lusignan

The Fifth Priciple Project isn’t the plaintiff. By your logic of some random person having to have these papers, why don’t you make them available to the readers? Did you ask your barista to make them available to the readers?

It’s of course your right to be able to play Devil’s advocate, but you seem to come to this forum simply to argue and be contrarian.

Last edited 1 month ago by Anna
Anna
Anna
1 month ago
Reply to  K. Lusignan

As even the future trial location hasn’t been determined, there’s no way that the defendants have filed a counterargument to the claims.

This makes your posts not merely contrarian, typically argumentative to be argumentative and asking for the physically impossible, but bordering on trolling.

Not only was your original post unreasonable and leading, it was illogical and asking for the impossible. You might as well have come to this forum demanding that FPP make available to readers the map of where Jimmy Hoffa was buried

Last edited 1 month ago by Anna
K. Lusignan
K. Lusignan
1 month ago
Reply to  Anna

You seem very invested in not having the other side of the story. I think most readers will be happy to have the additional information to better understand the lawsuit.

Anna
Anna
30 days ago
Reply to  K. Lusignan

You seem very invested in not having the other side of the story.”

How did you deduce this? Because it’s false.

Anna
Anna
30 days ago
Reply to  K. Lusignan

P.s. You say you know all about courts, filings and how defendants, plaintiffs and law firms disseminate information. However, it is clear that you know little about it. That you’re asking this website instead of the defendant for the defendants’ filings (and filings that it is obvious would not) speaks volumes about your ignorance and obvious bias in this matter. Why you are asking for this website for all the court documents in a case in Pennsylvania is beyond me. Why would they have them? As I said, some of your posts (Such as “Why don’t you make available documents… Read more »

K. Lusignan
K. Lusignan
30 days ago
Reply to  Anna

I didn’t say I know all about courts, filings, etc. I did work for attorneys for a number of years.That is the basis for asking questions and suggesting that more information might be helpful and suggesting that actual attorneys who have commented her previously or been featured on this page might provide informed commentary. You appear not to know that the Plaintiff is entitled to the same pleadings filed in court by all parties that the Defendant is. It is the Plaintiff who has elected to share one document only as part of a fund-raising venture. I am not holding… Read more »

Last edited 30 days ago by K. Lusignan
Peter Aitken
Peter Aitken
1 month ago
Reply to  Anna

If the UUMA etc have the documents, they should release them. If there are legal reasons not to release them, then explain. If they don’t have them, say so. Yes, it is that simple. The whole thing reeks of the old fish smell that has been emanating from the UUA for years, fish that are getting older and older.

Terri
Terri
1 month ago

If anybody needs another reason to donate, how about this? The UUA Board meeting today included an introduction to the members of the new “Accountability Launch Team.” These are members who have volunteered to police their fellow UUs, and make sure we are behaving properly. They are having their first formal meeting next week in DC. Thanks to Kate Rohde for taking on this bunch of bullies! I am happy to donate to this worthy cause, and wish her and her team the best going forward.

Craig A Moro
Craig A Moro
1 month ago
Reply to  Terri

Terri, can you send a link to your information source on this UUA Board meeting? This is one of the most blood-chilling things that I have heard. Back in the original Unitarian community in Transylvania, Giorgio Biandrata went from being a friend and colleague to Francis David (the first Unitarian minister) to being the chief prosecutor at his tribunal. Perhaps these Accountability Advocates will be known as the Biandrata Brigade.

Judy
Judy
1 month ago
Reply to  Craig A Moro

You can ask for a recording of the meeting from the UUA.

Burton Brunson
Burton Brunson
1 month ago

Over 40 ago I joined a local UU church. During the years, have met several UU ministers. Always found them reasonable. In recent months, I’ve asked three particularly reasonable ministers about the recent actions of the UUA. All three were obviously uncomfortable with discussing the matter, and used remarkably creative comments to evade the question. Now, this may be the real reason most ministers don’t openly speak out. Does the UUA administer a retirement plan for the ministers, with an option to effectively cancel payments of earned pension?

Jenna
Jenna
1 month ago
Reply to  Burton Brunson

Yes. In the past,I’ve known ministers who were independent-thinking and would openly critique what they saw as wrong about the UUA. The few newly ordained ones I’ve talked to about the UUA issues have either clearly drunk the Kool-Aid or are scared to be seen as criticizing the UUA. A church based on intimidation and creating fear is not a healthy place. It borders on what you hear about Scientology.

Jim
Jim
1 month ago
Reply to  Jenna

Or the old Stalinist Soviet Union,

 it’s not about agreeing with a particular idea that the Party supports, it’s about agreeing with what the Party supports

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
13 days ago
Reply to  Luke Robin

That link does not work.

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