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Pastor Robert Morris’ lawyer blamed a 12-year-old girl for initiating sexual contact


Clemishire said that in the mid-2000s, after years of counseling and after having watched a television interview about grooming and sex abuse, she realized what happened to her was a crime.

She began writing to Morris at his Gateway Church email address in 2005, asking that he compensate her for the trauma she says he inflicted. In 2007, she hired Drummond to make a formal demand, according to documents provided to NBC News by Boz Tchividjian, the lawyer she hired last month. 

On Jan. 30, 2007, Drummond wrote to Sharpe on behalf of Clemishire, using her legal name at the time, Cindy Clemishire McCaleb. Drummond detailed the sexual abuse Clemishire says she suffered from 1982 to 1987 and how Morris “led her to believe that they were having a special relationship that had to remain secret.”

“Morris convinced Ms. McCaleb that she was responsible for what he did to her,” Drummond wrote, “and he convinced her that she was the offender.”

Drummond attached a draft of a lawsuit he said Clemishire planned to file if Morris failed to respond within 15 days.

“Reverend Morris began sexually assaulting Ms. McCaleb, who was then twelve years old.”

Gentner Drummond, Jan. 30, 2007

Sharpe responded a week later, on Feb. 6, 2007, with his letter casting Clemishire as the one who initiated sexual contact with Morris.

“It was your client who initiated inappropriate behavior by coming into my client’s bedroom and getting in bed with him, which my client should not have allowed to happen.”

J. Shelby Sharpe, Feb. 6, 2007

Sharpe also claimed in the letter that Clemishire “acted inappropriately with two other men who stayed in her home between 1982 and 1987,” when she was between the ages of 12 and 17. And Sharpe wrote that Clemishire had “confessed her conduct” to Glenda Faulkner, a woman who attended Shady Grove Church near Fort Worth, Texas, in the 1980s, when Morris was a pastor there. 

Faulkner, now Glenda Faulkner-Woodliff — a licensed counselor who later attended Gateway — did not respond to messages requesting comment.

In an interview, Clemishire disputed Sharpe’s characterizations. She said two other men touched her inappropriately at her home when she was a child, but she said she did not initiate those interactions. In one instance, Clemishire said, it was Morris who instructed her, when she was 13, to go into a bedroom at her childhood home where another traveling evangelist was staying. Once she was inside, she said, the man, whom she declined to name, began to kiss her but eventually pulled away and told her she was too young.

In another instance, in 1986, Clemishire said, another man who was staying with her family climbed on top of her while she was sleeping on a sofa bed next to his 3-year-old daughter. She believed he planned to rape her, but she said the man suddenly got off of her.

“I really think God intervened,” Clemishire said. “God made him feel like someone was walking by, and he just rolled off of me and left.”

It was that incident, Clemishire said, that eventually led her to confide in Faulkner-Woodliff, also a family friend. Faulkner-Woodliff asked whether anyone else had ever touched her that way, Clemishire said. Clemishire then reluctantly explained what Morris had done to her, she said. Afterward, Clemishire said, Faulkner-Woodliff insisted that she tell her parents.

That’s how, in March 1987, her father learned that Morris had been sexually abusing her, Clemishire said. She said her father was enraged and contacted Olen Griffing, the senior pastor at Shady Grove Church, to demand that Morris step out of ministry.

Clemishire remembers getting a call from Morris’ wife, Debbie, a few days later. 

Debbie told her, “I forgive you,” she said.

“I’ll never forget that,” Clemishire said. “They wanted me to believe that I — me, the child — was responsible for what happened. And they’ve never stopped trying to make me believe that.”



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