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Couple Claims Pastor Planned to Destroy Their Marriage

A new lawsuit claims a pastor at a Phoenix-area megachurch manipulated his parishioner into having sex with him and divorcing her husband, Courthouse News Service reports.

Jody Gallagher says she turned to a pastor, Dale Lee McFarland of Radiant Church in Surprise, after her daughter was allegedly victimized by a youth minister. However, McFarland employed a pretty bizarre approach to counseling, according to the suit.

McFarland allegedly told Gallagher that "he was receiving direction from God," and that God had told him that Gallagher should divorce her husband because he had abandoned her emotionally. McFarland then allegedly instructed her to go home and change the locks, which she did.

Gallagher filed for divorce soon after. Then things took a turn for the weird. McFarland started sending Gallagher "pornographic" messages and got her to send him nude pictures, according to the suit. He expressed his desire to "(expletive) her on his Harley" and described her body in "crude ways and intimate detail," the complaint states.

The two began meeting at motels and even had sex "in the inner sanctum of the pastor's chambers after he arranged for all staff to be absent," the Gallaghers allege.

The couple is seeking $6.6 million for breach of fiduciary duty, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and other claims. Their lawsuit is pending.

Surprisingly, the Gallaghers haven't yet divorced and are receiving counseling elsewhere. Arizona has a no-fault standard for divorce. That means a couple doesn't have to show who was to blame in divorce proceedings. Instead, couple only has to say that their marriage is "irretrievably broken."

However, in Arizona, there's a second type of marriage, called covenant marriages. These marriages are designed to make it harder for couples to get divorced. They require the couple to go through counseling before getting married or divorced.

Couples in a covenant marriage must also show that there are grounds for the divorce. Grounds for divorce include abuse, a felony, abandonment, long periods of separation, or adultery. If the Gallaghers have a covenant marriage, then they shouldn't have any trouble getting a divorce on adultery grounds.

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