What did Christ Community Chapel pastor Joe Coffey know and when did he know it?
From 2014 until now, Christ Community Chapel lead pastor Joe Coffey has defended his friend and colleague Tom Randall, who was accused of mishandling sexual abuse reports at an orphanage he had founded in the Philippines. (Randall has now also been accused of molesting a teenage girl while he lived in the Philippines.)
On November 5, 2013, Coffey’s friend and recent hire Tom Randall had received an email from a missionary he had known for over thirty years in the Philippines. The message said that two girls at the orphanage that Randall had founded and funded had disclosed sexual abuse by the orphanage director, who also happened to be Randall’s right-hand man and close friend.
The case eventually reached the attention of the Philippines equivalent of the FBI. On January 13, 2014, Randall was arrested by the National Bureau of Investigation Anti-Human Trafficking Division on suspicion of obstruction of justice and negligence in suspected sex trafficking. The orphanage director, Toto Luchavez, and his son, Jake Luchavez, were arrested and subsequently charged with sexual abuse.
Coffey has gone on record making a number of claims which have since been shown to be false. But did Coffey know these statements were false when he said them? Did he mislead knowingly? Or was he deceived? By whom?
What did Joe Coffey know, and when did he know it?
FALSE CLAIM 1: One fifteen-year-old girl made a false allegation of a kiss and quickly retracted it.
Within the first few days of Randall’s arrest, Joe Coffey had gone on record multiple times claiming that there had been one fifteen-year-old girl who alleged a kiss because she was angry about a discipline issue. Coffey claimed the girl had recanted:
- “Joe’s original charge was that a worker at the orphanage had kissed one of the girls. That ended up to be untrue. The girl recanted the story and said she made it up because she was angry that privileges had been taken away as discipline.” (Jan 14, 2014, “My Friend Tom” blog post)
- “From what I understand, there was an allegation against a worker at his orphanage by a 15-year-old girl who said the worker kissed her. Tom called children’s services to investigate. They found that the allegation wasn’t true. The girl recanted and said she made it up because she was mad at the worker for taking away her privileges.” (Quoted Jan 18, 2014, Akron Beacon Journal)
- “And the rumor itself that got to Tom, because he and I sat and talked about it, was that the worker who is in charge of the orphanage, a man named Toto Luchavez, had kissed one of the fifteen year old girls.” (Jan 19, 2014, sermon at Christ Community Chapel)
FALSE CLAIM 2: A December 2013 investigation cleared the orphanage of all allegations.
Joe Coffey has on multiple occasions appealed to an investigation he says was done by the Lucena DSWD in December 2013. He has strongly implied that this investigation thoroughly looked into all the allegations and cleared everyone:
- “[Joe Coffey said,] ‘While he [Tom] was at the orphanage, there were some allegations of misconduct (against him and) a couple of his workers.’ Coffey said he was told the allegations were investigated and ‘no problems’ were found.” (Quoted Jan 17, 2014, by MyTownNEO)
- “I don’t think this is the place to go back and forth. suffice it to say that i think you are slanting this account severely. It doesn’t take much to wonder how the charges morphed to sex trafficking. If you had indeed done all of this then the DSWD would have arrested the two when they investigated before Christmas.” (Jan 17, 2014, comment on “My Friend Tom” blog post in response to Martha Goebel)
- “So Tom went through three days of interviews with the child services, where they interviewed every child and every adult worker in the orphanage. And he would call me multiple times during those days — they were seventeen hour days for him. Each time he would call, he would just be exhausted, he would just say, ‘We went through another day.’ And then he finally called me and said, ‘They’ve completed their investigation and we’ve been cleared of any kind of misconduct. The two girls who made that accusation have recanted and said they made it up because they’re mad at being disciplined for a privilege being removed.’ So Tom was overjoyed. And he said, ‘So, I’m gonna head on my trip now.’ They celebrated Christmas together in the orphanage and then he headed on his basketball trip.” (Jan 19, 2014, sermon at Christ Community Chapel, Hudson, OH)
FALSE CLAIM 3: The charges against the accused orphanage staff were dropped and the raid deemed unjustified by a judge in August 2014.
On August 29, 2014, Joe Coffey tweeted:
News frm filipines.all charges dropped against toto and jake.raid deemed completely unjustified by judge #timeandtruth
Two people replied informing him that the charges had not been dropped — the hearing had ended in a continuation. Coffey didn’t respond to them. A reporter at the Cleveland Scene asked Coffey for a source:
Trying to confirm @JoeCoffeyTalk but couldn’t find online. Source? RT [Joe] All charges dropped against Toto & Jake. Raid deemed unjustified
@SceneSallard Tom heard from his attorneys today regarding the hearing last night.my guess is news won’t cover
(Coffey was incorrect. Allard did cover the story — although perhaps not in the way Coffey would have liked.)
Coffey’s statements were objectively false
Let’s start with the basics: Coffey’s statements were objectively false.
Was there only one fifteen year old girl who made an allegation of a kiss and then took it back? No.
- There were two girls who made the initial allegations sent to Tom Randall on Nov 5, 2013.
- Both girls alleged a pattern of multiple coerced/forcible kisses.
- Neither girl was fifteen years old.
- Both girls reiterated their claims to the NBI in January 2014.
- One continued to speak out, first in May 2014, and again in November 2018, and she continues to stand by her allegations.
- Further allegations came out in early January 2014, including charges of rape and molestation of boys.
Did a December 2013 investigation clear both Toto and Jake Luchavez of all allegations? No.
- Both girls reiterated their allegations to the NBI in January 2014, which makes it hard to believe that both had just recanted to a local investigation in December 2013.
- At least one of the girls who made the initial allegations says she did not recant her claims in December 2013.
- In any case, the allegations against Jake Luchavez were not uncovered until January 2014. It’s not possible that they were investigated and discarded in December.
Were the charges against Toto and Jake Luchavez dropped after a hearing in August 2014? No.
- The hearing transcript shows clearly that no decisions were made about the charges and the judge in no way calls the raid “unjustified”. Coffey never corrected his tweet.
- In fact, documents clearly show that the case continued until at least 2016.
So why did Joe Coffey make false statements?
Why would Coffey mislead the news and his congregation about how many girls first reported abuse? Why say a December investigation cleared everyone? Why misrepresent the results of the August 29, 2014, hearing?
The common thread here is that Coffey was receiving his information through Tom Randall.
- When Tom Randall first received letters from two girls reporting abuse on November 5, 2013, Joe Coffey has said that “he [Tom] and I sat down and talked about it.” But Coffey has never stated outright that he read the original email from Joe Mauk. The girls’ letters were written in a combination of Tagalog and English, so it is possible Coffey did not read them either.
- Coffey wasn’t in the Philippines, but he describes multiple daily phone calls with Tom Randall getting updates on the December 2013 investigation.
- Coffey said his source regarding the August 2014 hearing was Randall.
Let’s take as given that Tom Randall, being directly connected to the events, was aware of the facts on the ground. Anything else would be gross negligence. Then logically, there are three possibilities:
- Coffey lied: Tom Randall presented the truth to Joe Coffey, but Coffey chose to present a false version to the news and his congregation.
- Randall lied: Tom Randall presented a false version to Joe Coffey, who repeated it without checking it or realizing that it was false.
- Coffey misunderstood: There was some kind of communications mixup where Randall was telling the truth but Joe Coffey misheard or misremembered it.
Which is it? What did Randall tell Coffey?
We don’t know. Tom Randall hasn’t volunteered. But there are a few notable areas where Randall and Coffey have said different things at different times:
Coffey talked about two girls on occasion, while Randall has only ever publicly mentioned one
- “The NBI, which is their version of the FBI, also got involved. They interviewed all the kids. They interviewed all the workers. They found that the girls ended up recanting their story, said they made it up about the person who runs the orphanage because he had taken privileges away from them,” said Coffey. (Quoted Jan 17, Fox 8 News)
- “The two girls who made that accusation have recanted and said they made it up because they’re mad at being disciplined for a privilege being removed.” (Jan 19, 2014, sermon at Christ Community Chapel)
So we can conclude that Coffey did know about at least two female complainants by January 17, 2014, at the latest.
Randall, however, has never publicly mentioned two girls. His October 2017 newsletter, which capped off his account of the saga, only mentioned one girl:
Even the girl who accused our staff member of a kiss has asked forgiveness from him and Karen and me.
Coffey edited his blog post to remove Joe Mauk’s name — so why not also correct the omission of one of the girls? And why the inconsistency when speaking on the 19th?
Coffey claimed Randall told him the December investigation had been completed, but Randall has said otherwise
Joe Coffey said Randall told him before Christmas in December 2013 that the investigation had completed:
And then he [Tom] finally called me and said, ‘They’ve completed their investigation and we’ve been cleared of any kind of misconduct. The two girls who made that accusation have recanted and said they made it up because they’re mad at being disciplined for a privilege being removed.’
But Tom Randall said in a December 2018 meeting that he had still been waiting on the report from the DSWD investigation:
The DSWD was supposed to meet with us on Wednesday [Jan 15, 2014], give us their report, their decision and what we were supposed to do. What … with everything, the complaints and everything. It’s clear? The problem was on Monday [Jan 13, 2014] we got a second raid.
One has to wonder why Toto Luchavez was allowed to travel on a ministry trip if Randall was still waiting on a decision from the DSWD?
In general, why hasn’t Coffey mentioned the two young people who still stand by their allegations?
What’s interesting is that, despite Coffey’s many statements downplaying the abuse and Christ Community Chapel’s involvement in defending the accused abusers, he has never publicly mentioned the two victims who were and are standing by their allegations today.
Is it possible he didn’t know about them? No.
Coffey mentioned both of these victims by name in emails. In November and December of 2018, Coffey engaged in a lengthy email conversation with a church member who had just found the audio interview with the first victim and was concerned about whether justice had been subverted.
- Coffey strongly implied the first victim was lying, referencing her “file” and “background” (Nov 15 email).
- Coffey independently brought up the other victim who spoke out publicly. Coffey insinuated that both victims had been bribed or threatened by Joe Mauk (Nov 18 email).
- Coffey claimed he had spent “hundreds of hours” looking into the situation. He seemed offended when the church member wrote that he and his church appeared to be ignoring the victims who were speaking out and asked rhetorical questions like, “Do you know how many hours have gone into the investigation in the Philippines and here in the States?” and, “And yet you say we have ignored this whole fiasco and never done the necessary investigation to find out the truth of what happened?” (Nov 18 email).
It’s documented, therefore, that by November 2018, Coffey knew about the two alleged victims standing by their statements. If he had already spent hundreds of hours investigating, it’s likely he knew about them all along — and as early as June 2014, Coffey was claiming he had “followed the investigation and the charges very closely.”
Yet he never disclosed this to his congregation. If Coffey knew there were two victims standing by their statements, why didn’t he ever acknowledge them? Why did all his public statements say or imply that the allegation(s) were retracted?
Is Suzanne Lewis-Johnson investigating Randall and Coffey’s inconsistent statements as part of her review into CCC’s organizational response? Her email is email@example.com if you want to ask her.
I try hard to check facts and link to sources in my posts. If you find an error, please let me know so I can make a correction. You can reach me at at firstname.lastname@example.org.