The church's only elder fired the pastor and had the locks changed, according to the suit.
By DEBORA SHAULIS
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A pastor is suing his Canfield church for damages and reinstatement after he says an elder falsely accused him of practicing witchcraft and fired him.
The Rev. Mark J. Musser and his wife, Kim, of Austintown, filed a civil lawsuit this week in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court against Emmanuel Community Church, 6512 Kirk Road, church elder Dominic Monroe of Boardman and unidentified deacons and trustees.
The Mussers seek compensatory damages exceeding $25,000 on each of five claims for relief. In the final claim, the Rev. Mr. Musser seeks immediate reinstatement with back pay as an alternative to monetary damages.
"This just came out of the blue," Atty. Matthew J. Blair of Niles said of Mr. Musser's firing.
Mr. Musser joined the nondemominational Emmanuel Community Church in January 2005 and was named permanent senior pastor one year ago today by voting members of the congregation.
The church had fewer than 50 members when Mr. Musser arrived, but he built it up to more than 200 people today, Blair said.
After a Bible study class May 3, Mr. Musser says Monroe told him he was fired for practicing witchcraft and "engaging in un-Christlike behavior," the suit reads. Monroe also is accused of having the locks changed at the church after he dismissed Mr. Musser.
Monroe repeated false and defamatory statements about Mr. Musser in subsequent meetings with church members, deacons and trustees, the suit continues.
Blair said Mr. Musser has no idea what acts of witchcraft he is accused of performing.
Neither Monroe nor Atty. Martin Yavorcik, who represents the church, could be reached to comment Tuesday.
Monroe is the church's only elder and "apparently thought he had this power," Blair said. Church bylaws are clear in that an elder is subservient to the pastor and that two-thirds of members must vote a pastor out just as they vote one in, he said.
Mr. Musser would like to return to church and resume pastoral duties "if he can," Blair said, adding that the witchcraft allegations have harmed Mr. Musser's reputation.
"How are you going to get a job anywhere? It's really put him in an odd situation," Blair said.