A federal appeals court has turned down an appeal by an Arkansas couple claiming wrongdoing by Southern Baptist Convention officials when they declined to renew their lease at the Glorieta Conference Center and instead sold the campus.
Kirk Tompkins, who along with his wife, Susie, sued LifeWay Christian Resources and another SBC agency in 2013, said the SBC publishing agency “won a hollow legal victory, but not a moral victory” when the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals dismissed his case Dec. 21.
The couple from Little Rock, Ark., were among 65 Glorieta homeowners evicted when LifeWay Christian Resources sold the 2,100-acre property near Santa Fe, N.M., for $1 in a deal to unload a retreat center that reportedly lost money 24 of the previous 25 years. While the new owners offered homeowners options to phase out their leases, Tompkins said none came close to their vacation home’s fair market value.
Like a federal judge who dismissed the lawsuit in 2015, the appellate court determined that Tompkins, who the first time around took on the case without representation by a lawyer, failed to state a legal claim of wrongdoing by SBC leaders conducting the sale.
This time, however, the court took an additional claim introduced by an attorney appointed to represent the couple in their appeal challenging the lease between Glorieta and homeowners based on a legal doctrine called “unconscionability.”
Unconscionability is a doctrine used in contract law to describe terms so extremely unjust or overwhelmingly one-sided in favor of the party with superior bargaining power that they are deemed contrary to good conscience.
The court of appeals agreed that the lease arrangement “operated to the detriment of the Tompkins” but not to a level required to “establish substantive unconscionability under New Mexico law.”
“The United States Court of Appeals has upheld the district court’s dismissal of this long, arduous lawsuit,” Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources said in a statement. “Each step of the way, the courts have wisely demonstrated the frivolity of the suit and strongly affirmed LifeWay’s position.”
Tompkins took his case to the media Dec. 21 with an email asking editors of Baptist state convention-owned newspapers across the country to inform Southern Baptists about alleged wrongdoing by leadership “with truths through investigative reporting by an unbiased Baptist state media.”