Yesterday in the quiet of our home, Jim and I opened a letter from the California Supreme Court which, to my surprise, heralded the news: Simpson’s petition for review was denied. The CA Supreme Court said “no” to Simpson’s attempt to evade accountability by using Religious Defenses to hide the breaches of my Simpson employment contracts.
Wow, it is finished. At least this part of the lawsuit is now over.
To explain: Simpson University’s lawyer bifurcated the case (split it into two parts) in attempt to hide illegalities behind an appeal to Religious Defenses. You see, the first part of the case (which lasted six years) dealt only with the matter of religious freedom. Legal
Question: Does Simpson University have the religious freedom to issue written employment contracts for their own benefit, then freely breach them without being held accountable by the courts?
Answer: The appellate court said “no.”
But alas, the first part of the case actually ended with mixed results:
1. The Court did not hold Simpson accountable for my tort claims. Because the defamation promulgated by Simpson University officials were related to the context of an employment situation in a religious corporation, the court let Simpson off the hook. What this means is that if religious employers in California falsely accuse religious employees, these religious employers can probably get away with it legally. Courts presume “good faith” from religious corporations, even when corruption abounds.
2. Employment contracts, however, still count in religious organizations in California. In my case, the moment of truth came when three appellate justices asked Simpson’s lawyer point-blank if there was “anything religious” about my case. Twice Simpson’s lawyer gave a wordy non-answer, but when the justices pressed him firmly a third time, he said, “No.”
We could feel the Presence of God in the appellate courtroom that day in Sacramento. Eleven of my friends (including my husband Jim) were in the room praying and supporting me as the hearing unfolded. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” I believe God hemmed in Simpson’s lawyer and freed him to speak truth. To witness it was stunning because for all these years, Simpson had been saying that everything about my case was “religious.” (Notice they did not say it was “Christian.”)
I will never forget that turning point. It was September 18, 2018. I came to court without a lawyer, and Simpson’s lawyer came without a client. Not one official from Simpson University bothered to attend the appellate hearing. Like the Willow Creek board during the Hybels’ scandal, the Simpson board leaned entirely upon its secular insurance lawyer.
3. God used this whole ordeal to buffet and shape my character. Providence invited me into a New Testament-like story with Simpson’s secular lawyer coming at me hard, trying to frame me as the loser on account of my commitment to Christ.
What was meant for evil, God used for good.
4. Regarding forgiveness, I forgave my direct abusers long ago. The harder part for me was setting aside the anger that energized me to try in vain to transform Simpson board members, so that they might use their power to govern the university and not be negligent and complicit as they were–and still are.
Reminder: To forgive means “to let go” of hard feelings / not be bitter / do not try to avenge. It means wish your enemies well — indeed, love them — and earnestly pray for them with goodwill. For years I have prayed by name with sincere heart and heartfelt detail for every perpetrator in this saga. Christ commands us to forgive; He does not command us to enable. Forgiveness is not enablement. Sometimes it amounts to enablement to let abuse continue when you are in a position to ask a higher authority to stop it. In my case, it is extremely expensive to ask.
5. Still, as a grieved party at Simpson, I have been entrusted with power to ask the trial court to stop it. I can’t stop the Simpson board myself, much less it insurance company, but the Romans 13 government can stop them all. As a citizen of California, I, like Paul, can appeal to Caesar. (See Acts 25:9-12.)
My prayer is for Simpson University to be reborn. I would like to see a new model of Christian higher education. My hope against hope is for Simpson to have a Saul-Paul conversion. With God, all things are possible.
In closing, I will say that throughout this whole ordeal, I have visited and revisited Revelation 2, a stern, soul-saving warning that helps me to remember my First Love.
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:
The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this:
‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary.
But I have this against you, that you have left your First Love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.
Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’