Earlier today, Anglican Watch attended the hearing on a motion to strike and a motion to redact in the Amjad Samuel case, now before a hearing panel in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut (ECCT). It will be a day or so before the panel issues a written decision, but we wanted to update readers.
Appearing for the respondent was co-counsel Daniel Agatino, working with Michael Rehill. Unfortunately, it turns out that Agatino is every bit as irritating as Rehill, and every bit as prone to frivolous and bad-faith pleadings and arguments.
And while Agatino may make bald assertions of racism in the matter, etc., the reality is that Title IV is about clergy. It does not, with one minor exception, cover the laity. Thus, every member of Samuel’s parish could be a racist, and it wouldn’t matter apropos the Title IV case. The only relevant issue is Samuel’s conduct.
As to Agatino’s assertions of a vast, diocesan conspiracy to get his client, spare us. That is as offensive as previous suggestions by counsel for the respondent that Robin Hammeal-Urban and the bishop may be mentally ill. Both are highly competent and honest, and we have no qualms in rejecting any notion that they are motivated by race.
It’s also worth noting that we have seen many dioceses in which the Title IV process lacks integrity. Indeed the worst offender is Todd Ousley, in the presiding bishop’s office, who utterly ignores parts of Title IV he finds inconvenient.
So, if we have any criticism at all of ECCT and diocesan staff, it is that the diocese waited so long. Specifically, in addition to the five or six complaints the diocese has received, we’ve heard numerous similar complaints alleging bad behavior by Samuel. So, this is a mess that’s been brewing for a while.
It’s also worth noting that the fact the matter went to a hearing panel is telling. Most Title IV cases are resolved via an accord or pastoral directive.
That is appropriate, particularly when the underlying allegations may be based on cultural differences, miscommunication, perception, or other non-malevolent reasons. But Samuel denies everything, and his tactics before the hearing panel indicate bad faith.
We also note that Agatino is misinformed as to disclosure.
While relevant pleadings, filings, and hearing panel correspondence can and should be disclosed pursuant to Title IV, complainants may report anonymously and in any manner.
Moreover, the canons specifically authorize the diocese to consider the privacy implications of those involved. Thus, those potentially hurt by Samuel’s behavior have every right not to be further traumatized by publishing their identities.
Rehill and Agatino know that and hope to cause embarrassment via the redaction issue. They don’t realize that their efforts, combined with Agatino’s silly platitudes, serve only to embarrass their client.
As to the emails among ECCT staff, the consistent theme we have seen is an effort by diocesan staff to be fair, to avoid the appearance of impropriety, and to ensure that the case is well-handled. That contrasts sharply with other dioceses, where we often see intake officers, bishops and chancellors acting outside their authority, making up policies on the fly, and failing to obtain adequate training.
In short, it appears to Anglican Watch that Agatino and Rehill are irritating judicatories and the public, making the situation worse for their client and sucking down the billable hours. A far better approach would be to head to mediation and find a positive solution.
As things stand, no Episcopal entity will touch Samuel if they get wind of the behavior we see before the hearing panel.
Regarding racism, there’s plenty of it to go around in the denomination, along with homophobia, gender bias, ageism, ableism, and more. But none of these apply to the diocese’s conduct in this matter, and Anglican Watch fully supports ECCT.
In other words, as to Samuel’s allegations of a vast, diocesan-wide conspiracy, there’s no there there, and he would be wise to stop the tomfoolery and deal with these issues like an adult.