Former Two Rivers pastor Sutton files libel suit against critic

Wednesday, December 9, 2009 at 11:22am

In the latest blow in the long-running fight that tore apart a Nashville megachurch, the Rev. Jerry Sutton has filed a libel suit for $600,000 in damages against the congregation member who led the charge against him.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in Davidson County Circuit Court accuses Frank Harris of engaging in a “personal crusade to defame” Sutton even after he retired after 22 years as pastor of Two Rivers Baptist Church and moved to Lynchburg, Va.

“We just decided that enough was enough,” said Larry Crain, the attorney representing Sutton.

Harris, who could not be reached for comment, was kicked out of the church in 2007 during a hastily called business meeting. At the time, Harris was a longtime church legal trustee. He then sued Sutton and began publicizing claims against his pastor. Among them: Sutton inappropriately spent more than $4,000 of church funds on a wedding reception for his daughter, and improperly met with representatives of a resort hotel who wanted to buy some of the church’s property.

A judge dismissed the lawsuit, declining to become involved in ecclesiastical matters. But, according to the latest court action, Harris refused to end his pursuit of the pastor, sending a 14-page letter full of the same allegations to officials at Liberty University in 2008 when Sutton applied for a teaching position there.

The letter accused Sutton “of theft of God’s money,” saying he “lived a lavish lifestyle on the back of tithers” and claimed the district attorney was investigating Sutton.

Despite the letter, Sutton was given the position at Liberty’s Baptist Theological Seminary and teaches there now, Crain said. But the lawsuit says Harris “inflicted devastating harm” to Sutton’s “personal and professional reputation and served to lower him and the estimation of him in the academic and church communities.”


15 Comments on this post:

By: frank brown on 12/9/09 at 4:18

This opens the door for Frank Harris to expose everything he knows about Jerry Sutton. This should be a mud-slinging waste of human effort as well as padding the pockets of attorneys.

By: Siobhanne on 12/9/09 at 7:47

The damage is done.. and Jerry "Glutton" did quite a bit to tarnish his own reputation. You can only call it libel if it is false. I'm sure Frank Harris is more than willing to expose Jerry's dirty laundry. Not a sight I want to see. Now that Liberty University has given him teaching position far from Nashville, he should be grateful that he has a decent, respectable job to see him through this horrible recession.( Lots of his former parishoners don't have that anymore) . Instead of thanking God for showing mercy, grace and new beginnings... he is still behind a bully pulpit.

By: rldavenport@com... on 12/10/09 at 8:14

Perhaps Mr. Sutton should re-read the Lord's teaching (through His messenger Paul) in I Corinthians 6 about Christian brothers taking each other to law and remember the humility with which our Lord endured His suffering.

By: HighlyAnnoyed on 12/10/09 at 8:23

Today's churches are all about making money from selling the biggest lie of all time - god. Their business model is faith. Faith equals gullibility. It's a dishonest and slimey business and Sutton in quite good at it. If you are stupid enough to give one of these churches your money, then you don't really have a reason to complain.

By: OneTimer on 12/10/09 at 9:50

i love that our country has the freedom that is has so that someone like HighlyAnnoyed doesn't control how i live my life. if only i were as smart as he is. and also, it's not "god". it's "God". you don't have any faith so you bad mouth it. and that's ok. it's your choice. faith requires courage. you are right in saying that most churches today are about making money and putting butts in seats. but you don't have to go to church to have faith.

By: pswindle on 12/10/09 at 10:05

Jerry Sutton stayed too long and he got caught up in his own power. Mr. Harris has something on Sutton or he would not have written Liberty University. Sutton should have kept his mouth shut, he may end up in prison.

By: HighlyAnnoyed on 12/10/09 at 10:06

Sorry, faith requires absolutely no courage. Quite the opposite. Courage is seeking the real objective truth no matter what the results. I know christians think they know the truth. But, their perception of reality and truth has been distorted by their religious indoctrination (brainwashing). Faith is the cowardice to ignore reality and continue believing in fantasy because it makes you feel better.

By: d4deli on 12/10/09 at 11:44

I never did know what all that fuss was about at Two Rivers, but I do know that it made God sad. It still does. I don't think there are any innocent parties in this argument. And Highly Annoyed, I feel sorry for you. You may never rise to the occasion because you seem to put your faith and trust in something tangible. You don't understand Faith, so you need not comment.

By: HighlyAnnoyed on 12/10/09 at 1:26

d3deli - there is nothing more pathetic than idiots like you that "feel sorry" for people that are smarter than you are. But, if thats what it takes to make you feel better about yourself, go right ahead.

By: border collie on 12/10/09 at 2:25

highly annoyed: where exactly did you originate? i hope your mother , of course, but are you an atheist? or what? just curious.

By: HighlyAnnoyed on 12/10/09 at 2:51

border collie - yes, I originated from the same place everyone else did - their parents. Am I an atheist? I don't embrace labels because people are too quick to assume they understand you once they put a label on you. They will also argue against what they think your position is instead of asking questions to understand your position first. The definition of "atheist" in the dictionary was written by christians, so it is biased. I am not defined by what I am not but what I am.

By: border collie on 12/10/09 at 3:06 don't believe in God, i think we have that affirmed. how did mankind get on this earth? do you believe in evolution, re-incarnation? you seem to attack all those who believe in God and i wonder why you attack people who are mostly trying to live by the only principles some of us have ever known? principles which embrace (for the most part) to be kind and forgiving and not judge others.
Many Many Churches have corruption inside. that is why i don't go anymore. my Church became a fashion show on Sunday and gossip mill about their neighbors. hence my decision to keep my butt and money at home. but i do believe most of the people in Church try to live right. there are always a few bad apples. we are all human.

By: HighlyAnnoyed on 12/10/09 at 3:39

border collie - you would have to define "God" in order for me to tell you whether or not I believe in it. If you mean a supernatural god, then no I don't believe in the supernatural. I'd venture to guess that most of the principles you live by don't come from your religion but from other humans. That is, unless, you stone to death disobedient children and kill people you think are witches. Do you have any slaves? That's ok according to the Bible. Christianity is a religion based on stealing. It stole it original virgin birth story from other religions. And, in recent times, it has stolen many of it's values from secular humanism and tried to claim them as it's own. Those of us that are educated about religion understand these facts. Religion is designed to control people and should be shunned. Belief in the supernatural is delusional and harmful and should be shunned also.

By: border collie on 12/10/09 at 4:15

interesting. i have heard some of those thoughts before. and since i do believe in God then i must also say this...i think we will all be very surprised who is in Heaven...the Jewish believe your "hell" is what you endure on earth...i pray they are right cause it does make since. that will be enough for some of us. and i wonder if the only ones in Heaven will be the Amish or the Mennonites or people like them. who the end i think we are all in for a BIG surprise. because i do think there will be an end to this earth whether divine intervention or nuclear blasts cause it. i know you don't but that is your right.

By: Dore4Life on 1/14/10 at 8:42

There is a song title that fits HighlyAnnoyed's view perfectly: "I Wanna Feel Something"