• King County megachurch accused of sexual harassment in lawsuit

    By: Deedee Sun

    Updated:

    The megachurch "Christian Faith Center" is facing a lawsuit. Court documents claim one of its former pastors -- the founder's son -- sexually harassed church employees.

    The former employee who is suing also claims the church didn't do enough to stop it. 

    The person accused in the lawsuit is Caleb Treat.

    Christian Faith Center says he no longer works at or is affiliated with the church, but there's still a lot left to be played out in court.

    Civil complaint documents say Treat “repeatedly preyed upon female employees and church members" while he was a pastor at the Christian Faith Center in Federal Way.  

    Many videos on the church’s YouTube page show him preaching. 

    The lawsuit is filed by Leslie Massey, and documents say she attended the church for many years and started working there in 2014. 

    The complaint says Treat started with "support and friendship" and counseling, but it became  a situation where Treat was "sexually harassing Plaintiff and/or demanding sexual favors." 

    The church was closed Friday, but KIRO 7 caught up with people leaving a Christian Schools teacher’s conference.

    “It is heartbreaking,” Tricia Stutterheim, a teacher, said. “People look up to those labels a lot. It's a terrible thing, awful thing. It makes everyone hurt, not just the victims."

    “There’s trust built there too, it's just trust that gets broken. And it's something that's hard to overcome,” Monica Schug, whose husband was attending the conference, said. 

    The complaint also accuses the church -- founded by Treat’s parents, Casey and Wendy Treat -- of "failing to take effective action to control Caleb Treat’s behavior or to protect his female subordinates.”

    The lawsuit says at the Federal Way campus, Treat "victimized at least three women" before Massey. 

    “It (can) happen anywhere, doesn't matter where it's at. And unfortunately it can even happen in a church,” Schug said.

    We stopped by the victim's home in a south King County neighborhood.. But she declined to comment on the case.

    Christian Faith Center’s executive, Theresa Fazekas, said in a statement, “The plaintiff had a romantic and mutually consensual relationship with Caleb Treat while both were employed at Christian Faith Center.  Sadly, both parties were married to others at the time.  Caleb Treat has relocated with his family to another state.  He is no longer employed by or affiliated with Christian Faith Center.”
     
    The church's attorney says Treat denies the allegations of sexual harassment.

    The victim’s attorney, Mark Shepard of Pivotal Law Group, provided KIRO 7 this statement in response to the church: 

    “’It was consensual’ is the same tired defense Harvey Weinstein is putting forward.  Brave women across our country are taking a risk and reporting men in influential positions who have abused their power in an effort to take advantage of women.  Caleb Treat was a powerful man at CFC with a history of repeated victimization of female church members or employees.  The church governance knew Caleb was abusing his authority and position but failed to protect its vulnerable female members or employees.”

    Unless both parties in this case reach a resolution, it will go to trial next year.

    The lawsuit says Massey is seeking damages for "loss of earnings -- mental and emotional trauma, humiliation, pain and suffering, and loss of reputation."

    The megachurch has three locations -- Federal Way, Gig Harbor and Everett. 


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