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Attorneys for Jentezen Franklin say lawsuit over Holocaust survivor charity is ‘meritless’
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The Rev. Jentezen Franklin, Free Chapel senior pastor. - photo by Erin Smith

Attorneys for Gainesville’s Jentezen Franklin claim a lawsuit against him concerning funds raised for a charity benefiting Holocaust survivors has no merit. 

Churches United With Israel and its founder Michael Evans filed a federal civil suit against Franklin, who is the head of Free Chapel Worship Center, in July in the Northern District of Georgia. 

The lawsuit claims Evans started several projects in 2017 in Jerusalem that would benefit Holocaust survivors, including a feeding program and a community center. 

Evans and Franklin agreed to collaborate in fundraising for the projects after a dinner event in December 2017, according to the lawsuit. 

“Following the dinner and in furtherance of the initial conversation, Franklin proposed to Evans that (Franklin and Free Chapel) would solicit donations for the projects and promised that 100% of the funds (Franklin and Free Chapel) collected would to be remitted to Churches United for the projects,” according to the lawsuit. “Franklin further promised Evans that (Franklin and Free Chapel) would remit $100,000 per month in charitable donations to Churches United toward the projects and that additional donations in excess of that monthly amount would be remitted to Churches United, if additional amounts were received.” 

The lawsuit claimed Evans and Franklin solicited donations in person and through videos on multiple occasions, and Churches United purchased property in Jerusalem to begin construction on apartment complexes for Holocaust survivors. 

In August 2019, the plaintiffs claimed they received spreadsheets from one of Franklin’s associates that showed at least $4,535,000 in donations but only received $1.2 million from Franklin and Free Chapel. 

The lawsuit is alleging breach of contract, fraud in the inducement, negligent misrepresentation, misappropriation of name or likeness, civil conspiracy and unjust enrichment among other claims. 

The lawsuit is seeking general and special damages exceeding $3.35 million and other relief. 

The attorneys representing Franklin have claimed the case is “meritless.” 

“To the extent there was an agreement, we’ve satisfied our obligation to Mr. Evans by donating $1.2 million to his charity, when the original pledge was to make a $1 million donation,” said Andrew Brettler, one of the attorneys representing Franklin. 

Brettler said Franklin has donated millions of dollars to other organizations in Israel that support similar efforts that benefit Holocaust survivors. 

“We’re still scratching our heads as to where Evans could come up with these allegations, considering that we not only made good on our pledge for $1 million, we gave 20% more than that to his organization,” Brettler said. 

In a motion to dismiss the case in September, Franklin’s attorneys claimed the suit was an effort to “damage Pastor Franklin’s impeccable reputation by falsely claiming he committed fraud through donating over ($1 million) in net funds raised from a voluntary fundraising campaign to aid Holocaust survivors instead of the gross funds raised.” 

“Remarkably, (Evans’) complaint does not allege that the parties agreed that Pastor Franklin’s ministry would donate the gross funds raised through the campaign,” according to the motion to dismiss. “This essential provision from the purported contract, like so many others, is missing from the complaint. Such glaring omissions expose (the) plaintiffs’ claims as baseless. There was no contract, no fraud, but rather an unenforceable ‘agreement to collaborate’ in helping Holocaust survivors.” 

Attorneys for Evans and Churches United with Israel forwarded The Times’ call for comment to the lead counsel, who did not return the call Friday, Oct. 30. 

 

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