In the News

Church awarded judgment

‘Jesus Saves’ lawyer will petition court to set amount against ex-pastor

September 3, 2008
By David Hurst for the Altoona Mirror

EBENSBURG – Parishioners of the Route 22 ”Jesus Saves” church were awarded a judgment against their former pastor Tuesday – potentially ending a two-year argument about missing church funds.

Days after both parties were in court concerning the matter, Cambria County Judge Norman A Krumenacker ordered a blank judgment on the Rev. Randy Rugh, saying only that he sided with Chickaree Union Church in a one-paragraph decision.

The congregation’s attorney, Timothy Burns, who had been seeking a $50,000 judgment, now would have to petition the court to set an amount.

But Burns called the judgment justice for the tiny parish, saying he now will have the order transferred to Westmoreland County, where Rugh resides and his nonprofit operates.

”It will follow him – that’s the most important thing,” Burns said. ”If he ever tries to buy property, that judgment will be right there on him. And for it to go away, he’ll have to pay the judgment off.”

Burns could seek clearance to force repayment by executing a sheriff’s sale on his property, but the Ebensburg attorney says the congregation ”is not vindictive” and has not directed him to do so.

”They feel this is justice,” Burns said. ”It has been more than two years since we filed, so this is closure on this whole saga.”

Rugh of New Alexandria served as the parish’s pastor until several years ago, when he tried to close the church, located along busy Route 22.

The parish sued him two years ago, saying Rugh took off with thousands in church collections – money from bank accounts and certificates of deposit.

Rugh maintained he did nothing illegal and as president of the nonprofit, he had a right to withdraw the funds.

He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.