Before I tell this portion of the story, I want to reiterate that my intention here is to share in an interesting, educational, motivating way that prompts revival. My desire is to see Christian higher education model what it means to act Christianly.
I also want to say that I support the First Amendment.
But I do not support Simpson University’s argument in court that suggests that the First Amendment of the United States Constitution not only gives religious organizations the religious freedom to select their own “ministers,” but also gives them a license to act licentiously by violating employment contract law.
Consider the situation afresh: In 2009 I was hired by Simpson University (SU) in Redding, California to serve as its dean of A.W. Tozer Theological Seminary. In April 2011, the team I led broke three all-time-high records in 34 years. Highest enrollment. First time ever for the seminary to end financially in the black. It was such a success that the former interim dean dubbed it “a miracle.”
In June 2011, however, I was abruptly fired in person on-the-spot and my employment contract breached repeatedly and illegally by none other than the university president.
What was the Simpson board to do?
- Fire the president and go through all the work of hiring a new leader for the school?
- Require the president to confess and ask everyone to forgive him, then move on?
- Admit that the board itself was inexcusably remiss for allowing the president to break state law?
- Resign from the board en toto as the Willow Creek board recently did?
I know firsthand that Simpson’s board chair at the time had no hope. Slouched in his chair with his hand on his forehead, former Chairman Dyk who was sitting next to me, said with exasperation, “I’m hopeless.”
Hopelessness led the Simpson board yet further into sin.
The Simpson board could have told the president that he had 3 days in which to implement a win-win solution. Likewise, the board could have called me in, along with the faculty president, and other goodwill leaders, including competent consultants, and had all of us together craft a win-win plan.
The Simpson Board, however, supported the president–at the expense of supporting the University.
Simpson’s problems therefore festered. Next thing you know, the new Simpson Board Chair was involved in a shameful cover-up.
As for the faculty, good things happened in that realm. The full Simpson faculty rallied in defense of my Simpson employment contract — because their contracts were so similar to mine. The faculty, moreover, formally decided to conduct an independent investigation. Remarkably, faculty members used their own personal money to hire a lawyer outside of Simpson and its lawyer. The faculty hired competent counsel that they felt they could trust.
Then the Faculty produced a Report, and Paul R. Jones Jr. who served as faculty president, read this Report to the Simpson Board. Not long after that, the Simpson Board reinstated me on November 30, 2011.
One might think that things got better after that, but instead, things got way worse.
Upon my return, I became a walking symbol of the failure of the Simpson Board. Had officials at Simpson been open and admitted their past mistakes, I believe the school could have been healed.
But instead what happened next was that I became aware of shocking aspects of corruption, and once I found out–because a Simpson board member told me–that same board member turned against me.
Here’s the short of it: In late January 2012, the new Simpson board chair (Betty M. Dean) told me and the two male pastors (Tom Mount and Chris Reyes) who served as my protectors that way back in July 2011, when I filed a formal grievance against the university president, the Ad Hoc Grievance Committee of the SU Board had voted 5-0 “to reinstate” me. This came to me and the pastors as a shock. We were dumbfounded because the 2011 board chair, Mr. Dyk, and President McKinney had formally announced over and over again in microphoned meetings to the SU workforce of about 180+ people that the Ad Hoc Grievance Committee of the SU Board had voted 5-0 “to uphold the termination.” In other words, Board Chair Dyk officially had announced the exact opposite of the truth.
So now the truth was out — because Board Chair Betty Dean let us know. (And now we have written evidence of the truth that Board Chair Dyk lied about to me, my boss, and to the workforce at SU.)
In my naivete, I thought truth had triumphed. I thought Betty Dean was going to let the whole campus know what she let Tom, Chris, and I know. But that is not what happened.
What happened instead is that the truth stayed buried until I myself let it be known.
After waiting all the way from late January 2012 through late June 2012 for the Simpson Board to finally tell the truth, and having them instead stonewall me and stonewall students and stonewall various pastors and professors, I decided at last to blow the whistle internally to Simpson University’s top leaders.
Next thing you know, I was illegally fired again in July 2012, this time via email by Associate Provost Dummer, who was not my boss, soon after he got a phone call from Board Chair Betty Dean.
Question: Who can hold the Board Chair accountable?
Answer: The Simpson Board.
So I wrote the board members a letter. Two of them wrote me back: President L.J. McKinney who told me to please contact Simpson’s lawyer. And the denominational president (Christian & Missionary Alliance — C&MA) who told me: “Simpson University” is “subject to its board of trustees, not to the C&MA.”
See why Simpson faculty leaders urged me to file a lawsuit against Simpson?
Before suing, I tried for months in vain to have Matthew 18 conversations with eight different Simpson authority figures. My lawyer in 2012 even asked Shasta County Superior Court to compel the University to apply its own religious grievance policy to my case since Matthew 18:15-18 was part of my contract. But Simpson would not budge.
Question: Why would a religious entity not use its own religious policy?
Answer: Because Simpson’s religious policy has a built-in mechanism that allows for the truth to be made known.
So Simpson refused to engage its policy.
Here’s the tragic irony: When Simpson’s lawyer told the court that Simpson preferred to litigate, Simpson inadvertently said to the court that it has the religious freedom to not use its religious policy.
What do you think, dear reader? Should religious organizations be able to use Religious Defenses to hide their refusal to use their own religious policies?