An Anglican priest is being sued for $750,000 by his own church after a man broke his leg during wrestling practice in a parish hall.
Sydney’s Reverend David Smith, a boxer widely known as the “Fighting Father” for taking troubled youths off the streets and teaching them boxing and wrestling, is locked in battle with the Diocese of Sydney.
The legal action began two weeks ago over an incident two years ago when a man aged in his 20s broke his leg in the parish hail. He alleged he tripped on a fixture on the floor and sued his trainer, Con Pappy, and the church. In turn, the church launched its own action against Rev Smith through its insurance company.
The shocked priest has accused the church of acting like “a big corporation” over the matter.
“I don’t understand it. I think it’s got nothing to do with bad feelings against me, it’s just got everything to do with the fact they’re doing what’s legal and judicious,” the Dulwich Hill parish priest told The Sunday Telegraph. “It’s a big machine operating and people get crushed in it. I think that’s true of every big corporation, it’s just that the church Is moving away from what it’s on about. They’ve got their act together in a business sense at the expense of losing their soul.”
Rev Smith denies the claim that the injured man fell over gym equipment. He said the man’s leg was broken during a twisting hold applied by one of the injured man’s relatives. The church then decided to turn on its own and fight the case.
Its insurance company is now making a cross-claim against Rev Smith, 38, through his wife, Angela, who operates a martial arts school at the gym. If the action is successful, the couple would have to declare themselves bankrupt. This would end his priesthood.
“The real problem is if we get bankruptcy I could quite likely lose my ordination,” Rev Smith said.
“It’s a betrayal. I feel betrayed by the church, although I have a lot of support at a personal level.”