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Texas megachurch pastor resigns after woman says he sexually abused her in the 1980s

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Texas megachurch pastor resigns after woman says he sexually abused her in the 1980s
News

News

Texas megachurch pastor resigns after woman says he sexually abused her in the 1980s

2024-06-19 09:58 Last Updated At:10:00

DALLAS (AP) — The pastor of a Texas megachurch has resigned after a woman said he had sexually abused her on multiple occasions in the 1980s, beginning when she was 12.

Gateway Church's board of elders said in a statement Tuesday that they'd accepted the resignation of Robert Morris, the church's senior pastor and founder. The board said it had hired a law firm to to conduct an independent review to make sure they “have a complete understanding of the events” from 1982 to 1987.

The allegations came to light Friday on the religious watchdog blog The Wartburg Watch. Cindy Clemishire, Morris’ accuser, told The Dallas Morning News in an interview Saturday that she met Morris in 1981, when he was a traveling preacher and began preaching at her family’s church in Oklahoma. She said Morris and his wife and young son became close to her family. She said he was staying at her house in 1982 when he asked her to come to his room. He told her to lay on his bed and then began touching her inappropriately, said Clemishire, now 54.

She said the abuse continued for about the next four-and-a-half years. The Associated Press typically does not name people who say they have been sexually assaulted unless they come forward publicly, as Clemishire has done.

When asked about the allegations by The Christian Post, Morris, 62, said in a statement to the publication that when he was in his early 20s he was “involved in inappropriate sexual behavior with a young lady in a home where I was staying.”

“It was kissing and petting and not intercourse, but it was wrong,” he said in the statement. “This behavior happened on several occasions over the next few years.”

The board said that before Friday, they “did not have all of the facts of the inappropriate relationship between Morris and the victim, including her age at the time and the length of the abuse.” They said that their understanding of the “extramarital relationship” that Morris had discussed many times throughout his ministry was not that it was “abuse of a 12-year-old child.”

The church, based in the Dallas suburb of Southlake, was founded by Morris in 2000 and has multiple locations in the area and says over 100,000 people attend each weekend. Morris, the founding pastor, has been politically active. He was among those on former President Donald Trump's evangelical advisory board. The church hosted Trump on its Dallas campus in 2020 for a discussion on race relations and the economy.

Morris did not immediately respond Tuesday to a request for comment sent to his email at the church.

This story corrects the age of Cindy Clemishire to 54 instead of 52.

FILE - Pastor Robert Morris applauds during a roundtable discussion at Gateway Church Dallas Campus, Thursday, June 11, 2020, in Dallas. A statement issued on Tuesday, June 18, 2024, said that Morris has resigned after a woman said he had abused her on multiple occasions in the 1980s, beginning when she was 12. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

FILE - Pastor Robert Morris applauds during a roundtable discussion at Gateway Church Dallas Campus, Thursday, June 11, 2020, in Dallas. A statement issued on Tuesday, June 18, 2024, said that Morris has resigned after a woman said he had abused her on multiple occasions in the 1980s, beginning when she was 12. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — An Iranian-made drone sent by Yemen’s Houthi rebels struck Tel Aviv on Friday, leaving one person dead and at least 10 wounded in the group’s first lethal strike into Israel.

The aerial strike rumbled through the center of the city near the U.S. Embassy, causing shrapnel to rain down and spreading shards of glass over a large radius.

The hit in Israel’s biggest city was startling because the drone appeared to have crossed much of the country through the multilayered air defenses that have intercepted almost all of the drones and rockets that Yemen’s Houthis have been launching toward Israel since the Gaza war began. Most have failed even to reach Israel’s southernmost city, Eilat, on the Red Sea some 270 kilometers (160 miles) south of Tel Aviv.

The Israeli military said it was investigating what went wrong. Chief spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said the drone was detected by air defenses, but an “error” occurred and “there was no interception.“

“We are investigating the entire chain,” he said. Another military official blamed “human error.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.

The spokesman for the Houthis, Yahya Sare’e, claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement published on the social media platform X. He said it was in retaliation for the Israel-Hamas war and had hit one of the group’s many targets.

Israel’s military identified the drone as an Iranian Samad-3 upgraded to travel long distances and said it was believed to have come from Yemen.

The drone hit at around 3:10 a.m., blowing out windows and damaging cars throughout a coastal neighborhood of Tel Aviv and reverberating as far as nearby cities. The military said it had not determined if it exploded in the air or directly struck buildings.

Footage verified by the AP shows the low-flying drone arriving at Tel Aviv's shoreline and then heading into the city, moments before an explosion lights up the night sky.

In one building, the Sajiv family swept up the shattered glass of their apartment’s balcony door. Limor Sajiv said they were woken by the sound of a blast. “We had no idea what it was. I mean, we heard missiles before we heard things, this was different, really, really loud,” he said.

People thronged to the area as police helicopters hovered overhead. For many, it reaffirmed feelings of disillusionment with the military's handling of the war since October.

Yossi Nevi, a retired evacuee from Kiryat Shmona, said he was shaken awake in the hotel he lives in. Hearing it was human error, Nevi said, made him lose “all trust in the army, not that I had much after the past nine months.”

Eldad Namdar, who owns a camera store next to the intersection where the drone is believed to have exploded, said he hopes the war ends soon, but he also wants it to be concluded in a way that secures his future.

“I don’t want this to happen again in six months, I want them to finish this situation until the end,” he said.

The U.S. State Department said there was no damage to the U.S. Embassy or any of its staff members.

The Houthi strike hit hours after Israel’s military confirmed one of its airstrikes had killed a Hezbollah commander and other militants in southern Lebanon. Israel has so far not made attacks on the Houthis, allowing its allies instead to take the lead as it focuses its efforts on the war in Gaza and ongoing fighting with Hezbollah.

The attack also comes days before Netanyahu is to travel to Washington and address Congress.

The Houthis have routinely claimed responsibility for hitting targets in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

Analysts and Western intelligence services have long accused Iran of arming the group, a claim that Tehran denies. In recent years, U.S. naval forces have intercepted a number of ships packed with rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and missile parts en route from Iran to Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen.

The Houthis maintain that their attacks target ships linked to Israel, the United States or the United Kingdom. However, many have little or no connection to the war.

Friday’s drone strike on Tel Aviv could resurface fears about the war in Gaza becoming a regionwide conflagration.

Such fears run counter to renewed hopes that Israel signaling its operation underway in Rafah is nearing its finish could foster an environment more conducive to negotiations as international mediators continue to push for a cease-fire. The deal under discussion would halt fighting and free about 120 Israeli hostages held by the militant group in Gaza.

Israel remains divided over striking a deal, with some wanting the government to take the necessary steps to free the hostages and others, including far-right national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, disavowing the idea. On Thursday, Ben-Gvir visited Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site to pray for the return of Israeli hostages, he said, “without a reckless deal, without surrendering.”

Israel’s air defense system has intercepted thousands of projectiles throughout the war, including Hamas rocket fire from Gaza. But officials warn the systems are not 100% effective and appear to have struggled against small and hard-to-detect attack drones.

Like Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis are backed by Israel’s archenemy, Iran. Israel for the most part also has avoided direct confrontations with Iran throughout the war. Iran launched hundreds of drones and missiles at Israel during a single incident in April in response to Israel’s alleged assassination of a pair of Iranian generals in Syria at the time.

The war in Gaza, which was sparked by Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, has killed more than 38,600 people, according to the territory’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians in its count. The war has created a humanitarian catastrophe in the coastal Palestinian territory, displaced most of its 2.3 million population and triggered widespread hunger.

Hamas’ October attack killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and militants took about 250 hostage. About 120 remain in captivity, with about a third of them believed to be dead, according to Israeli authorities.

Metz reported from Rabat, Morocco. Ibrahim Hazboun contributed from Jerusalem, Jack Jeffery from Ramallah, West Bank, and Michael Wakin from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Find more of AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

An Israeli firefighter investigates the scene of a deadly explosion in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

An Israeli firefighter investigates the scene of a deadly explosion in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

A man films the scene of an explosive drone attack in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024. Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for a drone believed to have exploded above Tel Aviv early Friday morning, leaving one dead and at least 10 injured. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

A man films the scene of an explosive drone attack in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024. Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for a drone believed to have exploded above Tel Aviv early Friday morning, leaving one dead and at least 10 injured. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

A man films the scene of an explosive drone attack in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024. Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for a drone believed to have exploded above Tel Aviv early Friday morning, leaving one dead and at least 10 injured. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

A man films the scene of an explosive drone attack in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024. Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for a drone believed to have exploded above Tel Aviv early Friday morning, leaving one dead and at least 10 injured. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

People are seen through a broken coffee shop window next to the scene of an explosive drone attack in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024. Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for a drone believed to have exploded above Tel Aviv early Friday morning, leaving one dead and at least 10 injured. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

People are seen through a broken coffee shop window next to the scene of an explosive drone attack in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024. Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for a drone believed to have exploded above Tel Aviv early Friday morning, leaving one dead and at least 10 injured. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Israeli police investigate the scene of an explosive drone attack in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024. Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for a drone believed to have exploded above Tel Aviv early Friday morning, leaving one dead and at least 10 injured. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Israeli police investigate the scene of an explosive drone attack in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024. Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for a drone believed to have exploded above Tel Aviv early Friday morning, leaving one dead and at least 10 injured. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

People are seen through a broken window next to the scene of an explosive drone attack in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024. Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for a drone believed to have exploded above Tel Aviv early Friday morning, leaving one dead and at least 10 injured. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

People are seen through a broken window next to the scene of an explosive drone attack in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024. Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for a drone believed to have exploded above Tel Aviv early Friday morning, leaving one dead and at least 10 injured. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Israeli police investigate the scene of an explosive drone attack in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024. Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for a drone believed to have exploded above Tel Aviv early Friday morning, leaving one dead and at least 10 injured. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Israeli police investigate the scene of an explosive drone attack in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024. Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for a drone believed to have exploded above Tel Aviv early Friday morning, leaving one dead and at least 10 injured. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

A man watches from his window at the scene of an explosive drone attack in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024. Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for a drone believed to have exploded above Tel Aviv early Friday morning. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

A man watches from his window at the scene of an explosive drone attack in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024. Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for a drone believed to have exploded above Tel Aviv early Friday morning. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

People are seen through a broken coffee shop window next to the scene of an explosive drone attack in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024. Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for a drone believed to have exploded above Tel Aviv early Friday morning. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

People are seen through a broken coffee shop window next to the scene of an explosive drone attack in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024. Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for a drone believed to have exploded above Tel Aviv early Friday morning. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

A man films the scene after a deadly explosion, from his rooftop in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

A man films the scene after a deadly explosion, from his rooftop in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Israelis gather at the scene of a deadly explosion in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Israelis gather at the scene of a deadly explosion in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

A runner stops to speak with Israeli police investigating the scene of a deadly explosion in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024.(AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

A runner stops to speak with Israeli police investigating the scene of a deadly explosion in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024.(AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

People watch from their balcony as Israeli police investigate the scene of a deadly explosion in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024.(AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

People watch from their balcony as Israeli police investigate the scene of a deadly explosion in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024.(AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

A man eats breakfast in a cafe near the scene of a deadly explosion in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024.(AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

A man eats breakfast in a cafe near the scene of a deadly explosion in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024.(AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

A man films the scene of a deadly explosion, from his rooftop in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

A man films the scene of a deadly explosion, from his rooftop in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Israeli police investigate the scene of a deadly explosion in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Israeli police investigate the scene of a deadly explosion in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Caution tape surrounds debris at the scene of a deadly explosion in Tel Aviv, Israel, early Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Erik Marmor)

Caution tape surrounds debris at the scene of a deadly explosion in Tel Aviv, Israel, early Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Erik Marmor)

Israeli police and first responders gather at the scene of a deadly explosion in Tel Aviv, Israel, early Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Erik Marmor)

Israeli police and first responders gather at the scene of a deadly explosion in Tel Aviv, Israel, early Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Erik Marmor)

People gather at the scene of an deadly explosion in Tel Aviv, Israel, early Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Erik Marmor)

People gather at the scene of an deadly explosion in Tel Aviv, Israel, early Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Erik Marmor)

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