A pastor formerly employed by the Rock mega-church, a Point Loma–based operation with more than 16,000 members, claims that he was fired in an attempt to stop him from testifying in a child-molestation case brought against a fellow employee.
According to a lawsuit filed in superior court last week, August Hunter claims that in 2010 both he and his wife, both Rock employees, were witnesses to inappropriate behavior involving a child and a teacher at the church's affiliated school while waiting on an elevator at the church compound.
"When the elevator door opened, plaintiff and [his wife] saw Gary Shafer, a Rock Academy teacher, holding up a young girl, with the girl's legs straddling his hip area. Shafer's left hand was on the girl's back or shoulder, and his right hand was on her buttocks," reads a portion of the complaint.
Although the incident was allegedly reported to then–human resources director Treena Meyers (now an "executive director of talent management") and Meyers’s admission of "multiple apparent molestation incidents involving Gary Shafer," the church failed to notify authorities of the alleged misconduct and continued to allow Shafer to serve in his role interacting with students.
Years passed, and Shafer apparently continued to victimize children entrusted to his care, as a later suit would eventually unearth multiple allegations of inappropriate conduct.
In January 2013, parents of Shafer's victims filed a suit charging that "the Rock Church Academy knew about the abuse by Gary Shafer well before it was reported to the authorities."
According to a Courthouse News Service report, the Rock moved quickly to terminate Hunter "because of what he had and his wife had reported to upper management about Mr. Shafer's behavior."
"Plaintiff knew that Director Treena Meyers was aware of Mr. Shafer's offenses against children, by 2010 at the latest. Plaintiff and his wife's 2010 reporting of the elevator incident and Treena Meyers's account of the other incidents to plaintiff contradict the Rock Church's main defense in the parents' molestation lawsuit, i.e. that the Rock Church had no prior knowledge of Mr. Shafer's alleged abuse of Rock Academy students," reads another portion of Hunter's complaint, potentially jeopardizing another case against the Rock.
Hunter seeks punitive damages as well as lost pay and benefits, noting that his status as a reformed multiple-conviction felon that made him an inspirational hire at the church has significantly hindered his search for other employment.