by Andy Hanson

Readers, I asked Beatrice Neff to reflect on the Whistleblower and the Corporation series and your responses before posting Part 4. I am in her debt.   Andy

I applaud Andrew Hanson and Adventist Today for taking on the controversial story of Patricia Moleski, the whistleblower who is going up against Adventist Health Systems (AHS). My comment from the beginning was, you will get plenty of cautionary advice from well-meaning people around you warning you that your personal/professional reputation may take a broadside hit due to politics within the Adventist hierarchy. My hat goes off to you for your courage, tenacity, and fearless mindset as you go forward. The conversation has been lively (review the comments from Part 1,2,3 to receive the full impact from all angles). To quote Jack Hoehn on another blog: “We are explaining our thoughts, bringing up possible stumbling blocks or deal breakers.  We nibble around the edges of ideas, we stick a toe in water. We pull back in fear or step out to see where the current of thought might take us.” No one involved in the conversation has been timid:  rather, bold, edgy, condescending, prompt rebuttals, idealistic. This is an important story to see through to its end – this dialog can move forward in a productive way as we methodically peel the onion. It is through this type of open conversation that we can understand one another better and learn from our differences.

This is a modern day David and Goliath scenario. AHS (defendant), a 32 billion dollar corporation with 50,000 employees, 41 medical institutions throughout several states. Patricia Moleski (plaintiff), her house was allegedly invaded, car set on fire, computer tapped, fired from her job for being a whistleblower and now living in poverty. Her YouTube interview came across as compelling – she is you and me. When you realize the minimal staff position she had, the overwhelming story, the high position the medical organization has in the community, the judges that might have a conflict of interest, it would be so easy to let it disappear without any one person standing up for what is right – and see this through to the finish line. What I mean by right is that everyone, no matter how small, deserves to have due process in the judicial system.  II Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind (self discipline).  This is what is called for.

Attorney comments on the blog predicted attorneys should be racing to offer assistance on a contingency basis if there was any credibility to her claims. The fact that Patricia is currently acting as her own attorney caused further skepticism. One person sent this information to Spectrum’s blog to encourage more dialog, publicity, and action. It was considered to be “Old News – if it had been worth investigating, it would have been done years ago”. The lawsuit was filed in 2010. Several people on the blog asked, “Did AT just find out about this? Why was it not reported two years ago?”

However, we all remember Erin Brockovich, an unemployed single mother who became a legal assistant and almost single-handedly brought down a California power plant, accused of polluting water supply and causing cancer and death to many. Erin became a strong, tough, spirited environmental activist who took a stand to do what was right. She had a terrible time retaining an attorney and badgered the one she finally retained. 1996 – the largest direct action lawsuit of its kind – $333 million dollars with 600 people who had been tragically affected by death of family.

Another case comes to my mind. Several families in Woburn, MA (suburb of Boston) made a formal complaint of toxic water pollution (1984 Book and Movie – A Civil Action). It took years to retain a law firm. Partners of the prosecutor discouraged him from taking the case, saying that it was hopeless and they would be financially and emotionally bankrupt – but for moral and ethical principles they took the case. Opposing high-power defense attorneys hired by corporate giants resulted in a battle to the finish. Victims’ families were awarded monetarily and the corporation was forced to clean up – the nation’s most expensive clean-up in US history. One of the victims of this tragedy was a friend of mine.

It is at the core of our SDA culture to be protective of our own and especially when there are questions regarding our church leaders and the medical right arm of the church. We immediately deny, without interest in getting further information for enlightenment. We think it is so outrageous, it must not be true.  But we are all human; no organization should be above scrutiny, questioning or reproach. As one person commented, “Having been around for a while, I have seen enough to learn that the Adventist System can do weird things and mistreat people. I sure can’t say either way about this case, but I would never take the denomination’s side just because I am also an Adventist.”

In 2004 an SDA pastor (salary $22,000/year) brought his 5-year-old son, who was dying of a brain tumor, to Florida Hospital emergency department. They were refused care because they didn’t have insurance. After a class action lawsuit was filed and after his father sat before Congress, the hospital became interested, offering free care and an ocean cruise. A belated apology was issued to the family at the GC.

We are aware of prior GC president Robert Folkenburg engaging three exclusive law firms, spending over $6 million dollars of tithe monies over a seven-year period, to keep evidence from going to trial. This litigation is not dragging up old business. It is essential to evaluate historical incidents to prevent making the same mistakes. The definition of insanity is to “repeat the same thing over and over and expect a different outcome.” As Maya Angelo has said “When we know better, we do better.”

We can no longer be quick to say, “because it is a religious organization and the right arm of the SDA World Church, it must be right.” Let this be a teachable moment and may we have the courage to stray from the status quo. If there is a flaw, there is “more shame in hiding the truth than in admitting the mistake.” My hope is that we can strive together toward greater honesty, integrity, and clarity.