Couple Say Pastor Was a Predator

     PHOENIX (CN) - A pastor at a megachurch manipulated a parishioner during counseling and told her to have sex with him, with "God's approval," and divorce her husband, the couple claim in court.
     Jody and Derek Gallagher sued Dale Lee McFarland, Radiant Church Assembly of God, and the Arizona District Council of the Assemblies of God, in Maricopa County Court.
     The Gallaghers claim McFarland, while pastor of a church in Surprise, Ariz., "breached his duty as a pastor and counselor when [he] began manipulating a vulnerable Jody for his personal, perverted sexual pleasures."
     Jody claims she began counseling with McFarland after her daughter allegedly was victimized by a Prescott youth counselor.
     Jody Gallagher claims McFarland told her "that he was receiving direction from God regarding his counsel to her and told her that Derek had abandoned her emotionally."
     She claims that McFarland "love bombed" her "with romantic declarations telling her of his love for her and God's approval of him and Jody becoming sexually involved."
     Derek Gallagher claims he too sought counseling from McFarland, and told him "of his love for Jody and his children and his complete inability to understand why his family was falling apart and Jody drawing away from him."
     After meeting with Derek, "McFarland told Jody that Derek was the most dangerous and violent man he had ever seen and that he was personally 'scared to death' of Derek during his counseling session," the Gallaghers say. McFarland also told Jody "to change the locks on the house for the safety of herself and their children," according to the complaint.
     Jody says she followed McFarland's counsel, "demanded that Derek stay away from their home and filed for speedy divorce although she had recently discovered that she was pregnant."
     The Gallaghers claim that McFarland "gradually increased the pornographic style of his communications and even persuaded Jody to send him nude pictures of herself and to exchange nude pictures of himself. He proposed clandestine meetings at motels, including one in Prescott near where Jody lived, and provided her cash for such purposes. He described in crude and rude terms his desire to 'F***' her on his Harley and told of his visions of her private 'wet' body parts and 'Ah-mazing' other body features that he described in crude ways and intimate detail," the complaint states.
     Jody claims McFarland manipulated her "into having physical relations with him in the inner sanctum of the pastor's chambers after he arranged for all staff to be absent" - the "very same place where McFarland provided Derek marriage counseling just days after having sexual relations with Derek's wife Jody."
     Derek claims McFarland's chicanery "placed Derek under enormous stress, which caused Derek to develop severe anxiety and chronic tension headaches in addition to exacerbating a latent neurological condition which his doctors tell him he will struggle with for the remainder of his life."
     The Gallaghers claim that Derek began to "call into question whose baby Jody was carrying, adding to the fact that the baby has Down syndrome and had other critical ailments during gestation."
     The Gallaghers claim that McFarland's wife, Sandra, "knew about her husband's adulterous behavior and his penchant for pursing vulnerable women congregants of his flock, married or unmarried and was complicit in his behavior by choosing to allow it to continue, knowing other women would be harmed and victimized."
     Sandra McFarland also is named as a defendant.
     In sum, Jody Gallagher claims, McFarland "purposefully introduced her into his life of depraved pornography, adultery, scheming, lies and the abandonment of her marriage and family with the intent that it would lead to the destruction of her marriage and family, which he knew would be going against everything she ever believed in or truly desired."
     The Gallaghers seek $6.6 million for breach of fiduciary duty, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and other claims.
     The Gallaghers say in the complaint that they are still married, and receiving counseling elsewhere.
     They are represented by Dan Durrant, with Gillespie, Shields, and Durrant.