A federal judge in New Mexico recently rejected an Arkansas couple’s second attempt to void the 2013 sale of Glorieta Conference Center by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Senior District Judge Robert C. Brack of the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico determined in a ruling Dec. 19 that a 2017 lawsuit filed by Kirk and Susie Tompkins claiming bad faith by Southern Baptist leaders essentially rehashes claims settled in a previous suit filed by the couple in 2013.
On Dec. 21 the Tompkinses filed notice of appeal to the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, the same court that in 2016 upheld a lower court’s dismissal of the previous lawsuit on procedural grounds.
The couple, who owned a vacation home on property leased from Glorieta, challenged legality of the sale of the 2,400-acre retreat center near Santa Fe opened by Southern Baptists in 1952 for $1 in a lawsuit originally filed in September 2013. U.S. District Judge James O. Browning dismissed the lawsuit in a judgment later upheld by the appellate court.
They filed a second lawsuit in April 2017 claiming the ground lease between them and Glorieta was an “unconscionable” contract under New Mexico law. Brack, assigned as trial judge in the case in October, however, said that claim is barred by a legal doctrine called “preclusion,” which prevents a plaintiff from relitigating a case already decided by the courts.
Their appeal was added to the docket of the 10th Circuit Dec. 26. The couple must file an opening brief within 40 days.
LifeWay officials claimed unloading the retreat center was necessary because it was losing money and in need of costly deferred maintenance. The current owners of what is now called Glorieta Adventures Camps have clashed with county officials over building permits, water use and environmental safety.
Kirk Tompkins, who prepared both cases without aid from a lawyer, has tried, with little success, to air his grievances from the floor of annual meetings of the Southern Baptist Convention. As recently as Dec. 3 he sent out a circular criticizing Southern Baptists for “procrastinating on stopping LifeWay’s alleged mishandling, debasement and alleged illegal conveyance of this hallowed ground.”