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 blatant breaches of my Simpson employment contracts.
Wow, it is finished.
This part of the spiritual battle ended with mixed results:
1. The Court did not hold Simpson accountable for my tort claims. Because the lies told by Simpson officials are related to the context of an employment situation in a religious corporation, the court let Simpson off the hook. What this means, more generally, is that if religious employers in California falsely accuse religious employees, such employers can probably get away with defaming employees even on a microphone speaking to hundreds of people. Courts presume “good faith” from religious corporations, even sometimes when corruption abounds.
2. By contrast, employment contracts still count in religious organizations in California. Unless a religious organization provides a religious reason for firing someone, it will have to honor the terms of its own contracts or else face the possibility of going to court. 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 he dodged the question, but when the justices pressed him firmly yet a third time, he at last confessed and said, “No.”
You 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.
I will never forget that turning point. It was September 18, 2018. I, the plaintiff, came to court without a lawyer, and Simpson’s lawyer came without a client. No official from Simpson bothered to attend the appellate hearing. Just like the Willow Creek board, the Simpson board leaned entirely upon its legal team, thereby letting the lawyers lead the Christian board to act in ways that counter Christianity.
3. God used this whole ordeal to buffet and shape my character. Providence allowed me to be part of a New Testament-like story with Simpson’s secular lawyer coming at me hard, explicitly attacking my faith and trying to frame me as the loser on account of my commitment to Christ. But 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 repeatedly and excessively–ever in vain–to enlighten Simpson board members, so they might use their power to govern the university and not be negligent and complicit as they were. Giving up that anger, resting purely in my hope in God (as opposed to hoping 1% in my own efforts), was downright huge for me, and it was a long time coming.
Reminder: Forgiveness means “let go” of hard feelings; don’t be bitter; don’t 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. I believe it amounts to enablement to let abuse continue when you are in a position to help stop it. As a grieved party, I have been entrusted with power to help stop it.
5. My prayer is for Simpson University to be reborn. I would like to see it reinvented as a model for other Christian schools and entities. 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.’