Iowa’s largest predominantly African American church is suing a Texas church for allegedly libelous claims about the marriage of a 63-year-old bishop to a woman in her late teens.
The lawsuit pits Iowa’s Christ Apostolic Temple, and its leader, Bishop Dwight Reed, against Texas’ Kingdom Church and one of its leaders, Demetrius Sinegal.
According to the lawsuit, which was filed this week in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa after an initial filing in state court, Dwight Reed is a bishop consecrated in the Apostolic faith, selected to serve as the Iowa church’s pastor in 2017 after the death of his father, the church’s founder.
Jeremiah Reed founded Christ Apostolic Temple in 1969, initially as Calvary Church of God. The church now claims to have grown to be the largest predominately African American church in Iowa, with roughly 800 members.
According to the lawsuit, last November, Bishop Dwight Reed, then 63, married his current wife, Jordan Goodlett, then 19. The two married without ever engaging in premarital sex, the lawsuit states. A short time later, in early 2022, Sinegal allegedly launched a campaign to smear the couple and the Christ Apostolic Temple over the purported nature of the marriage.
Through Facebook posts, YouTube videos, podcasts and a social media called Clubhouse, Sinegal allegedly disparaged Reed while providing followers with “multiple convenient ways to financially contribute to him and Kingdom Church.” Sinegal also is alleged to have initiated a petition to “investigate Bishop Reed,” and that petition has so far been signed by more than 6,400 people.
Among the alleged claims for which Christ Apostolic Temple and the Reeds are now suing Sinegal and the Kingdom Church are assertions that Dwight Reed is a “child predator” who misused his position in the church to “groom a teenager.”
According to the lawsuit, Sinegal has also portrayed Jordan Reed as a “victim,” claiming she did not marry of her own free will, and alleged that Bishop Reed helped finance GG’s Chicken and Waffles, a restaurant owned by Mrs. Reed’s relatives, in order to win their permission to marry Jordan.
Sinegal also is accused of claiming the temple is a “cult,” and that Reed is a “shepard (sic) that has starved his flock to feed himself,” while comparing Reed to the singer and convicted sex offender R. Kelly.
“While Sinegal claims he has ‘nothing to gain’ from his attacks on the plaintiffs,” the lawsuit alleges, “his attacks are always linked to an easy means to financially contribute to him and Kingdom Church. In essence, he has created a maelstrom of controversy, over which he is the admitted ‘spearhead’ and from which he is the direct financial beneficiary by funneling money to organizations over which he has control and from which he is compensated.”
The lawsuit claims this is part of a pattern of Sinegal using manufactured controversies to raise money and alleges that this pattern has prompted others to accuse Sinegal of operating as a “church snatcher, petty hustler, liar and a thief.”
Sinegal’s statements, the lawsuit alleges, falsely imply that Reed has engaged in sexual assault and are linked to his other claims that he is communicating with the Iowa Attorney General’s office and local law enforcement about potential criminal charges.
As a result of Sinegal’s actions, the lawsuit alleges, there has been a decline in membership at Christ Apostolic Temple, a decline in tithing, and an increase in threats and harassing phone calls and messages directed at Reed.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages from Sinegal and the Kingdom Church for libel and for the intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The Kingdom Church and Sinegal have yet to file a response to the lawsuit. Lawyers for Christ Apostolic Church have told the court that Sinegal has made numerous efforts to avoid being served with notice of the lawsuit and that the Kingdom Church may only exist as a digital footprint.
The lawyers have alleged individuals at Sinegal’s purported homes and businesses appear to be “actively lying in an effort to protect Sinegal from having to answer for his false claims.” They were recently granted permission by the court to have Sinegal and the church served electronically.