Raymond Gonzalez claims a Ridgewood church, described as cult-like by some former followers, allegedly advocates doomsday prophesies, forced abortions and tax fraud, though he’s bound to silence under a non-disclosure agreement.
He signed it in early 2012, under the belief he would be "transported into heaven during the apocalypse" later that year, and "would no longer be living in a human body on earth," according to a Superior Court lawsuit.
Now, the ex-member of the World Mission Society Church of God is suing to have the agreement dissolved in court, alleging that followers who did not sign were told they “would be punished by God and sent to a fiery hell,” the lawsuit states.
"The purported agreement constitutes nothing more than a spiritual promise, not a legally enforceable contract," according to the suit.
Gonzalez's attorney said he seeks release from the agreement so he can speak freely about the church and provide testimony in other cases against it.
Attorneys for the church and Gonzalez gave oral arguments during a March 29 hearing in Hackensack. A judge is expected to issue a summary judgement in the coming weeks.
The church's legal counsel claims the agreement was necessary to protect the personal information of church-goers.
But Peter Skolnik, Gonzalez’s attorney, called the contract unconscionable and vastly overreaching.
“It prohibits Gonzales from saying anything about the church to anyone, forever,” he said. “What on earth are they trying to hide?”
Corey LaBrutto, an attorney for the church, argued that Gonzalez helped draft the agreement himself.
“It seeks to protect information that Mr. Gonzalez is already required to keep confidential,” LaBrutto said in arguments before the court on March 29.
Skolnik responded that the contract was drafted by amateurs.
“He was not a lawyer,” Skolnik said of his client. “I submit that it really does not matter how much he was involved.”
The church’s attorney could not be reached for further comment.