Momentum is slowly building behind a story I first broke back in August about mega-church preacher (and close McGavick advisor) Pastor Joe Fuiten, and his cynical efforts to steal the homes out from under a community of retired ministers, missionaries and church workers at the Cedar Springs Bible Camp. The plucky Lake Stevens Journal has continued to cover the controversy despite thinly veiled legal threats from the Fuiten camp, and last month KIRO-TV’s Deborah Horne aired a nice segment on the residents’ predicament.
But recently I had begun to despair that the residents would get the justice they deserve.
The Bible Camp sits on 150 acres of prime property near Lake Stevens, and Fuiten recently took control of its board by assuming $150,000 of debt, promising to run the camp without major changes. This was an absolute steal for Fuiten, who recently hocked just a small parcel of the property to back a $1.12 million loan. But avarice knows no bounds, and Fuiten has methodically set out to evict the Camp’s small residential community from homes they built on plots they have leased from the camp for the past forty years. Unable to move these permanent structures, and with Fuiten being the only possible buyer, their houses are now worthless.
So while media interest in the story has slowly built (I know of at least two journalists at major newspapers who are pursuing coverage,) I had begun to worry that Fuiten would successfully run out the clock. As pastor of the largest mega-church in the state, and perhaps the most powerful clergyman in WA Republican Party politics, Fuiten has deep pockets and aggressive attorneys. Fuiten’s strategy was to drag the dispute out as long as possible, bleeding the residents dry — a strategy that preyed on the residents own faith, for they entered negotiations expecting to be treated in a Christian manner by a pastor from their own denomination, the Assembly of God.
Fuiten’s strategy was also aided by the passivity of the residents’ own attorney, who has allowed the proceedings to drag on for months while billing them tens of thousands of dollars, and strongly urging them from going public with their complaints.
Well… no longer.
I was relieved to get a call from resident James West yesterday telling me that attorney Knoll Lowney had agreed to take on their case. In Lowney, Fuiten and his attorneys have drawn a fierce opponent who is more than willing to play the kind of legal hardball Fuiten has been flinging at the residents for months. Lowney also has well-earned reputation for effectively engaging the media in defense of his clients… which is really what Fuiten and his people have feared all along. They don’t mind stealing houses from a community of retired ministers, missionaries and church workers. They just don’t want anybody to know about it.
If you want to know more, tune into “The David Goldstein Show” this Sunday night at 8PM on Newsradio 710-KIRO. I’ll have Bible Camp resident James West on to talk about the dispute and take your questions.