Update: City of Chattanooga asks court to stop Mosaic event Saturday; judge to hold hearing Friday

Update: City of Chattanooga asks court to stop Mosaic event Saturday; judge to hold hearing Friday

December 28th, 2011 by Cliff Hightower and Beth Burger in News

Mosaic Church pastor Tim Reid speaks Tuesday about shootings that occurred Christmas morning outside of the Mosaic Church.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

POLL: Should Club Fathom be shut down?

RELATED ARTICLE

-- Replay of live coverage of news conference on Chattanooga's Christmas Day shootings

-- Christmas morning shooting

-- Pastor Reid and Mayor Ron Littlefield also had earlier online chats on August 5, 2009. Transcripts can be read here.

UPDATE: Chattanooga city attorneys filed a complaint this morning in Circuit Court to stop Mosaic from holding an event on Saturday.

Assistant city attorney Phil Noblett said Circuit Court Judge Jeff Hollingsworth will have a hearing 9 a.m. Friday to determine whether to padlock the establishment.


City officials expect to file an injunction this morning to close a downtown church after years of violent incidents linked to the location.

"This has continued to be a problem in the downtown area and a danger to those who are using it for whatever purpose. It's a danger to the patrons, and it's a danger to the community at large," Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield said Tuesday.

This promotional flyer was distributed for a Christmas Eve event at Club Fathom.

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

A flyer for a Christmas Eve candlelight service lies on a stage at the Mosaic church.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

About 11:45 p.m. on Christmas Eve, as many as 10 people were shot after Club Fathom, the youth ministry of the Mosaic church, let out 15 minutes before the city's curfew. A Chattanooga police officer who was working security at the time fired back after a teen brandished a gun, according to reports.

City officials said a fight between Crips and Bloods broke out, spilling into the streets about a block away when shots were exchanged.

"We were lucky we didn't have nine or 10 victims killed," said Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd.

"It certainly wasn't a silent night," Littlefield said.

Mosaic pastor Tim Reid said the 400 youths from his church were ambushed by gang members who were waiting outside as the party let out. He said no fights took place inside the building.

"Our youth were the victims in this tragedy," Reid said in a written statement. "Our youth have chosen to walk away from the gang lifestyle but remain in harm's way because of the violence of Chattanooga's current gang members."

Dodd said Club Fathom has been linked to violence for years.

"We have youth ministries all over the city where we don't have crowd fights; we don't have stabbings; we don't have shootings; we don't have these kind of problems," Dodd said. "If it's a church ministry, if it's a youth outreach, apparently, they are doing something wrong, because I can't recall in 25 years of service responding to another church in town and having to break up another fight like this."

In 2006, there were a total of nine assaults reported at the club and six other police calls. In 2007, there were two assaults, one of which included a 14-year-old girl who reported she was raped by an 18-year-old inside Mosaic.

In 2008, there were two assaults. In 2009, there were six assaults, three of which involved shots fired. In 2010, there were two assaults, and this year there were three assaults including this week's shooting.

"When Tim Reid says that it's a safe place, God deliver us from such safe places," Littlefield said. "I think the evidence speaks for itself. This is not a church. This is an insult to churches."

Dodd said Mosaic wasn't acting much like a church on Christmas Eve. Investigators learned the cover charge to enter the party escalated as the night went on, starting at $5 and jumping to $15 by the end of the night.

"That's very similar to a nightclub," he said.

Reid conceded the church did charge a cover.

"A lot of the kids do come in free if they are part of our programs. This is not really a money-making business. When everything is said and done, there's not a lot of money in what we do," he said.

Reid lists Fathom Inc. as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization, according to recent tax records. In 2009, the organization brought in $38,008 in revenue and spent $41,601, according to tax forms. Reid works 20 hours per week and said he does landscaping jobs to make ends meet, tax records show.

That's a stark contrast to 2005 tax records that show Mosaic brought in $119,858.

Reid said bad publicity has made the church lose money. Its youth group also lost out on grants when it was labeled a religious organization, he said. For that reason, Reid chose not to identify Fathom Inc. as a religious organization in state records required for nonprofit groups.

The church rents space from Jim and Beverly Henry. Jim Henry declined to comment Tuesday afternoon.

Reid said there are proper security measures in place at Club Fathom. The church paid for 10 security staff members the night of the shooting, only two of whom were police officers, he said.

With a crowd of about 400, at least eight law enforcement officers were needed for the event, Dodd said

On Christmas Eve, Reid said three youth flashed gang signs and were removed from the building. Youth also were searched before they entered and no alcohol was served, he said.

While Mosaic advertised Christmas carols, the reading of the "Christmas story" and fellowship over Christmas cookies till 2:30 a.m., another flier circulated online promoted the performance of a Chattanooga-based music group, Young Tru Millionaires, which features sex references and profanity in its lyrics.

The online flier advertised a party infused with sex references, including a busty woman decked out in red lingerie and a Santa hat. The party was dubbed a "Smash or Pass" party, a term for hooking up.

"There has been discussion of lewd fliers and postings on social media for our youth group's Christmas party. Sadly, this is true. We cannot control what teenagers do through Twitter, Facebook, MySpace or YouTube," Reid said in the statement. "We do our best to try to stop these but many times they are out of our control."

Upon reading Reid's remarks, Littlefield responded, "If you cannot control what the youth do, perhaps you shouldn't be providing a place for them."

Reid said he sometimes allows secular groups to perform at the venue even if they don't send a Christian message.

"I would definitely say it's bad music. I don't want to preach to the choir. I'm going to take a few liberties with that. That's not for every church and I understand that," he said.

Kim White, CEO for River City Co., a nonprofit focused on growing downtown business, said the business community supports the city's attempts to combat violence and also its dealings with Mosaic.

"We want to make sure it's addressed. The business community is very concerned when we make the [Associated Press] news all across the world, when this is something we don't want to be known for," she said. "The business community is behind it and we want to be a part of solving the bigger issue -- not just this one club."

Contact staff writer Beth Burger at bburger@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6406.