A former associate pastor at the Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church is suing the church and it's new pastor Bryan Stamper for sexual harassment and for terminating her after she complained to church administrators.
17010 Pomerado Road, Rancho Bernardo
Dawn Neldon was hired in 2008 to serve as a youth minister. After a number of years working for the Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church, Neldon was promoted to a "minister of missions and serving" position inside the church.
In March 2017, the church named Bryan Stamper, a pastor from Texas, as its new head pastor. That same month Neldon and Stamper, along with other church staffers, took a bus to a conference in Irvine, California. During the ride, Stamper sat next to Neldon. He told Neldon about a former parishioner, an older lady, who, according to the complaint, liked to grab "his butt every time he saw her." He said he was happy to give her that little thrill.
The story, in addition to his flirtatious behavior, made Neldon uncomfortable. Later at the conference, Stamper addressed Neldon as "honey, baby, and sweetheart." During the ride home Stamper approached Neldon and compared his body to a "Lamborghini" that "couldn’t be kept in the garage."
According to the complaint, Stamper's comments made Neldon uncomfortable.
The alleged harassment continued. Examples include Stamper asking Neldon to dance with him in front of the entire congregation during his first official sermon, commenting on her clothing, kissing his biceps and calling them "pythons."
In another incident, Stamper ran up to Neldon singing a song from Grease and trying to dance provocatively with her. Neldon would raise her arms in order to avoid touching him.
In May 2017, after numerous other inappropriate interactions, Neldon filed a formal complaint to church administrators. She approached Stamper with her complaint. According to the August 7 lawsuit, Stamper offered a "meager apology" but did nothing to correct the behavior.
In August 2017, Neldon was placed on administrative leave. Days later, after nearly ten years as a youth pastor, she was forced to resign.
Neldon is suing Stamper and the church for sexual harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, and failure to prevent retaliation and harassment.
Neldon's attorney Dan Gilleon says the church needs to be held accountable, "Like many of my female clients, Minister Neldon is working in a male-dominated industry that, in many ways, is no different than other employers who simply refuse to accept that discrimination is illegal in America. It's a shame. You'd think a business that claims moral superiority would behave better. Minister Neldon will pay a price for speaking out, as is the case for many women who blow the whistle. But, true to her word, my client is thinking of the other women out there who might benefit once it finally sinks in for employers that civil rights will be enforced in the courtroom."