(CN) – A Wisconsin charity that supports orphanages and schools for poor children in the Third World sued a one-time beneficiary of its fund raising, saying it has received credible reports of sexual abuse by members of the recipient organization’s staff, and competing and “confusing” solicitations of donors.
Mission Honduras International claims in Cook County Chancery Court that after it decided to suspend funding for the defendants, APUFRAM International and Special Missions Foundations, the organizations competed for donors by using the plaintiff’s “Man on a Mission” trademark.
Before their split over the sexual abuse allegations and fund-raising dispute, Mission Honduras International and APUFRAM – a Spanish-language contraction for The Association of Franciscan Boystowns and Girlstowns – helped schools, orphanages and others serve 1,100 children in Honduras, the Dominican Republican and Liberia.
Mission Honduras International worked with Fr. Emil Cook, a Franciscan who traveled across the United States for 5 months each year, preaching, speaking and soliciting funding, according to the complaint.
In addition to paying Fr. Emil’s expenses, Mission Honduras says it underwrote other projects, including a book, “Man on a Mission: On the Road with Father Emil Cook and Mission Honduras International,” and a documentary of the same name.
Mission Honduras said it has a proprietary interest in the phrase “Man on a Mission.”
But December 2008, Mission Honduras says, it learned that a director appointed and employed by APUFRAM had raped a 14-year-old girl in the care of the group’s Liberian mission. It says it learned of additional abuses, including demands of sex from female students under threat of expulsion from the program.
Mission Honduras says it demanded the removal of anyone suspected of involvement in the incidents, and claims that APUFRAM’s response was insufficient.
Complicating matters, Father Emil, the linchpin between the two organizations, sided with APUFRAM, Mission Honduras says.
For instance, Mission Honduras claims, “Fr. Emil wrote about the rape in Liberia, ‘She was not violently raped. It wasn’t rape as she consented to it and she is an adult. It only happened three times.'”
Mission Honduras adds that Fr. Emil accused it of becoming “somewhat like a rogue organization,” and wrote a letter to donors saying that “If these charges were made in Honduras, APUFRAM would bring lawsuits against [Mission Honduras] for defamation of character and false statements.”
Father Emil then asked the recipients to make donations directly to APUFRAM, the complaint states.
Mission Honduras International wants the defendants enjoined from using the phrase “Man on a Mission” in its communications and fund raising, and damages for trademark infringement. It is represented by Patrick Donnelly with Donnelly, Lipinski & Harris in Chicago.