Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church facing lawsuit over ‘illegal activity’


CHARLESTON, SC – A former employee of Emanuel AME Church, Althea Latham, claims she saw illegal activity going on at the church, and when she spoke out about it, she was fired.

In June 2015, nine people were shot and killed during a Bible study inside Mother Emanuel. The accused shooter, Dylann Roof, will stand for federal trial on November 7th. Since the shooting happened, donations have poured into the church from around the country and it’s those donations that one former employee says is the basis of a lawsuit.

Latham was the Secretary of Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was killed during the shooting at Emanuel AME Church. She says she was wrongfully fired after speaking up about illegal activity. In the lawsuit, Latham says following the shooting, she worked as a coordinator facilitating communications with law enforcement, media, and the public. This included helping with the influx of mail, much of which was donations for the church and victims’ families. The lawsuit claims members of the church were opening mail addressed to the victims’ families, which is against the law, and also not allocating the donations appropriately.

Latham spoke up about both concerns, and was soon fired with no explanation. Rev. Norvell Goff, the pastor of Emanuel AME at the time, fired Latham by having the church’s kitchen manager hand her the termination letter. Goff is being sued along with the church as a whole. Rev. Eric Manning is the current pastor of Emanuel AME and has been for about five months.

Manning says, “When you are assigned to a church you have to work through some of the past challenges and try to do the best in projecting where you are going to go forward, so we just handle it and try to do the right thing.”

He says, since he took over, all donations are being handled carefully.

Manning says, “I do believe in being open and transparent. Open and honest with everything that we do regarding finances.”

But he says this lawsuit is coming at an especially challenging time for his church.

Manning says, “It’s really painful because we are trying to prepare for leading a congregation through a particular season that we have never seen before.”

And that’s the upcoming trial of Dylann Roof.

Manning says, “The trial is of course my priority, but I have to learn how to juggle both of them and that is something I think the Lord will give me the wisdom and insight to do.”

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