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Defamation Lawsuit by Indiana Pastor Against Former Parishioners Settled

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A former Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) pastor and former members of the congregation he led have reached a joint agreement to settle a defamation case.

In 2019, Kara Million and Abigail Gschwend-Harris, members of Hope Presbyterian Church in Bloomington, Indiana, sent a lengthy letter of complaint to the Central Indiana Presbytery accusing their then-pastor Dan Herron of “sexual harassment and bullying.”

The letter prompted an investigation by the presbytery, and eventually the decision to hold an ecclesiastical trial of Herron.

However, in 2021, within a couple of weeks of the presbytery’s decision to proceed with a church trial of Herron, he filed a defamation lawsuit in Indiana civil court against Million and Gschwend-Harris claiming their accusations caused him harm.

He also accused them of continuing disparaging and defamatory remarks in articles and posts that were published after the letter.

In her reply to the lawsuit, Million filed counterclaims against Herron for defamation and invasion of privacy.

On December 14, the case mediator Denise Page, filed a document stating, “I am pleased to report that the above-referenced matters settled during the recent mediation session.”

Last week, on January 23, the joint stipulation of dismissal by all the parties was filed. Because it was a dismissal with prejudice, none of Herron’s claims against the defendants nor any of their counterclaims can be revived. Additionally, each party bears its own costs.

In a statement posted on X, Million stated that neither she nor her insurance company received from nor paid any money to Herron as part of the settlement. Neither did she sign a non-disclosure agreement.

“Ours was strictly a walk-away agreement,” Million wrote. She added that she “believes and supports survivors of church abuse.”

“With the complete exoneration from the ecclesiastical court and these mutually agreed-upon Statements of Understanding which resolved the civil litigation, Dan Herron believes he has been completely exonerated.  Due to other pending litigation, we are not at liberty to comment further,” Herron’s attorney, David Carr, told MinistryWatch.

The statements of understanding, which were provided to MinistryWatch by Carr, include an apology by Herron “for any impression he gave that led [Harris] to believe he was engaging in any sexual conduct of any kind towards her.”

He also expressed “regrets” regarding actions toward Million that caused her to believe he was engaging in “inappropriate conduct” toward her.

Both women maintained in the statements of understanding that Herron’s actions were “not satisfactory” and “less than [they] had the right to expect” from a minister.

In November 2022, the PCA Standing Judicial Commission conducted a five-day trial of Herron on seven charges. The preliminary verdict, released in March and later adopted as the final verdict, found Herron not guilty on all charges.

Herron also filed a lawsuit against Tears of Eden and Katherine Spearing for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress for statements made about him on a podcast. The lawsuit was removed to federal court and is still ongoing.

Main photo: Dan Herron / Video screenshot

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Kim Roberts

Kim Roberts is a freelance writer who holds a Juris Doctorate from Baylor University. She has home schooled her three children and is happily married to her husband of 25 years.