Gospel for Asia Again Fails to Produce Promised Evidence

In February 2016, it was learned that Gospel for Asia was removed from membership in the National Religious Broadcasters. NRB membership requires members to demonstrate good financial oversight and GFA had been evicted from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability in October of 2015. Thus, GFA was removed from NRB. In response, GFA spokesperson Johnnie Moore told the Christian Post:

Gospel for Asia is 100% focused on continuing its work around the world while working very hard to put an end to the false accusations being continually made against the ministry. Gospel for Asia can document the legal and ethical use of funds donated and clearly answer every question.

GFA’s leaders and spokespersons have repeatedly said they want to provide the information which will establish their innocence. Why haven’t they done so?

Over 2.5 years later, GFA’s leaders still are unable or unwilling to produce materials which could prove donated funds were spent as promised. In the federal fraud case brought by Garland and Phyllis Murphy, GFA’s lawyers recently filed a motion (October 6, 2017) to prevent discovery of the very information GFA’s leaders said in 2016 they wanted to reveal.

In the Murphy’s reply of October 16, 2017, attorney Marc Stanley asked the federal judge to require GFA to supply information which would establish whether or not donations went where GFA promised they would go. Murphy wrote:

In sum, there should be no further obstacles between whatever the truth is, and the parties and the Court. If the requests for admission will establish that Defendants do not have the evidence of how the donated funds were spent, Defendants should simply admit that. If they will establish that Defendants have such evidence, Defendants should furnish it. Deflections, inaccurate representations, and obfuscation will not substitute for the simple truth the Murphys have been attempting to discover.

The promises from GFA have not been kept. The Murphy motion lays out the promise with the failure to keep it. It seems obvious that GFA eitherPope KP2 doesn’t have the information to answer the charges or is withholding it. Since K.P. Yohannan controls both GFA in the U.S. and Believers’ Church in India, I believe the latter explanation is most likely.

From the motion to order GFA to produce evidence or declare they don’t have it:

The Court then specifically asked Defendants’ counsel about how the money is tracked:

THE COURT: All right. Mr. Mowrey, you apparently—your clients apparently track donations received by these different categories. Help me
understand the methods that they use to track their disbursements or their expenditures by purpose.

MR. MOWREY: All right, your Honor. Yes, and I will answer that question.
Transcript [Doc. 37] 18:25-19:4.

But the question was never answered. And, with the benefit of two weeks from the time of the conference to submit a written response, Defendants have come no closer to furnishing an answer. All of the verbiage in their response says nothing remotely definitive or clear about how they track expenditures by purpose, much less whether they have such evidence (or, if so, when they will produce it). Either Defendants have the information or they don’t—only they know the truth. If they don’t, they should simply say so.

As Your Honor observed in addressing Defendants’ counsel:

THE COURT: They have a right to acquire it independently; and to the extent that you don’t have the documentation and you do not control in any manner production of documents that have been requested, then I get it. You may not be in a position to provide documents that you don’t have access or control over; but if that’s the case, that’s your response.
Transcript [Doc. 37] 28:15-21.

Instead of giving that response—which the requests for admission would elicit— Defendants insinuate in their brief that they may now attempt to reconstruct some type of accounting from information they (maybe) receive from entities they (supposedly) do not control. But that is not relevant to whether Defendants in fact discharged their obligation to track the donated funds over the last several years (at least through the agreed-upon discovery period of 2009 to Q1 of 2016) and ensure that they were spent as donors designated.

In addressing the Court at the telephone conference, Defendants’ counsel reaffirmed (at least indirectly) that they can corroborate or verify how the donated funds were actually spent:

THE COURT: You’re describing for me somewhat of a shell game inasmuch as if a donor were ever to say, “How can I know that the money that I designated for ministry tools actually went to ministry tools,” and you’re saying, “Well, we can’t prove that. You’d have to ask the people that we gave it to,” who, by the way, are foreign companies or foreign entities or foreign individuals.

So if that’s what the response is, then are you telling me that there is no accounting or accountability mechanism from the people that you forward money to in Asia to corroborate or verify that they are spending the money in accordance with your donors’ intentions?

MR. MOWREY: No, your Honor, I’m not saying that….
Transcript [Doc. 37] 22:2-15.

But Defendants’ response sheds no light at all on what the mechanism is. It obliquely says that more documents may be coming (who knows when), but it also says that “the situation in the Field is complex,” suggesting otherwise. Interestingly, the main “complexity” Defendants cite is “to ensure that the Field partners’ FCRA status is not jeopardized.” Response [Doc. 39] at 6. (“FCRA” is the Indian law requiring registration of entities that receive foreign donations.).

Yet, on the very day Defendants filed their response, The Times of India reported: “The Believers Church, founded by K P Yohannan, and three NGOs associated with it have been barred from bringing in foreign funds to India with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) cancelling their FCRA registrations.”

The Times of India report also quotes Believers Church spokesperson Fr. Sijo Panthapallil: “Our FCRA registrations are under revision for the last one year. They had sent us a letter asking for documents and we have submitted the required documents.” Fr Panthapallil said they had submitted a huge cache of documents, weighing 60kg, to MHA two months ago. “Then they demanded four further documents, which we had submitted on September 4, 2017,” he said. Might the 132 pounds of already-compiled documents (plus four further ones) sitting in the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs have any bearing on what happened to the donated funds? Or are they all completely irrelevant? Whatever the truth is, only Defendants know, but at least obtaining answers to questions like this won’t jeopardize the Field partners’ FCRA status, as the MHA had already suspended it.

In sum, there should be no further obstacles between whatever the truth is, and the parties and the Court. If the requests for admission will establish that Defendants do not have the evidence of how the donated funds were spent, Defendants should simply admit that. If they will establish that Defendants have such evidence, Defendants should furnish it. Deflections, inaccurate representations, and obfuscation will not substitute for the simple truth the Murphys have been attempting to discover.

For years GFA has promised the public to clear up the allegations of fraud and yet they don’t produce even an audited financial statement. Meanwhile donor dollars continue to be plowed into legal and public relations maneuvers to keep the evidence from seeing the light of day.

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