In 1982, pastor Robert Morris was a 21-year-old husband and father who traveled the country telling young people about Jesus.

Cindy Clemishire was a 12-year-old girl who dressed in flowery pink pajamas and still liked to play with Barbie dolls.

On Christmas that year, Morris — who would go on to found Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas, and become a leading figure in the American evangelical movement — began what he would later describe as “inappropriate sexual behavior” with Clemishire while he was staying at her parents’ home in Oklahoma. Clemishire said Morris told her to come see him in his room before bed, and she was the type of girl who listened to instructions from trusted adults.

But 25 years later, when Clemishire hired an attorney and threatened to sue Morris, accusing him of repeatedly molesting her as a child, a lawyer representing Morris responded by blaming Clemishire for what happened to her, according to 2007 correspondence obtained by NBC News.

“It was your client,” wrote lawyer J. Shelby Sharpe, referring to Clemishire at age 12, “who initiated inappropriate behavior by coming into my client’s bedroom and getting in bed with him, which my client should not have allowed to happen.”


Reached by phone Monday, Sharpe said that he had no recollection of the $25,000 settlement offer or NDA demand and that he no longer represents Morris. He denied knowing at the time that Clemishire had been a child when Morris began engaging in sexual behavior with her. However, the initial correspondence Drummond sent to him stated clearly that Clemishire was “twelve years old” when the abuse began.

“I don’t ever remember seeing that,” Sharpe said after a reporter read the document to him. After a reporter offered to share a copy of the messages, Sharpe said he did not have time to read them and declined to share an email address.

“I can tell you that the letters that you’ve seen, they speak for themselves,” said Sharpe, who has also served as a personal attorney to Paige Patterson, a Southern Baptist Convention leader accused of mishandling or concealing sexual assaults that date back to the late 1980s. “I will not amplify beyond those letters, because they speak for themselves.”

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Cindy Clemishire

Woman says Gateway Church pastor Robert Morris first molested her when she was 12-years-old In a statement, Morris admitted to "inappropriate sexual behavior with a young lady" 35 years ago. A woman accuses Gateway Church pastor Robert Morris of first molesting her on Christmas in 1982, when she was 12-years-old.  Cindy Clemishire, the accuser, tells WFAA the abuse continued until 1987 when...

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Gateway Church

Gateway Church is a non-denominational, evangelical Christianmulti-site megachurch based in Southlake, Texas, near Fort Worth.  In 2024, its founding pastor, Robert Morris, resigned after allegations of past sexual abuse of a minor.