Category Archives: Religion

The New, Improved, More Salacious ORU Litigation

As reported here, three former professors of Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma are suing for wrongful termination. The Tulsa World newspaper has your ultimate online one-stop shopping source for news and information on the case, including a pdf of the plaintiffs’ recently filed Second Amended Petition (click on “The revised lawsuit” link).

Lindsay Roberts, spouse of ORU president Richard Roberts and something of a real-life Betty Bowers, isn’t named as a defendant. However, she figures prominently nonetheless.

Attached to the new petition is report at least partially authored by Stephanie Cantees, Roberts’ sister-in-law and his “community and government liason,” whatever that means. According to the report:

Lindsay Roberts, Richard Roberts’ wife, spent the night in an ORU guest house with an underage male nine times, was photographed 29 times in her car with an underage male after midnight and after minors’ curfew, visited Victory Christian School with an underage male 81 times in 2004, smoked with an underage male at her house and repeatedly moved her “male 16-year-old friend” into her family’s house.

Hubba hubba! Seems the godly Mrs. Roberts is enamored of schoolboy penis.

One new averment in the amended petition alleges that the defendants, which now include the university’s board of regents, allowed a “‘convicted sexual deviant unrestricted access to the students of the university’ as a ‘mentor’ hired by Richard Roberts to work with students.”

Both Lindsay and the university recently issued written denials. Lindsay’s reads in part:

“I live my life in a morally upright manner and throughout my marriage have never, ever engaged in any sexual behavior with any man outside of my marriage as the accusations imply,” Roberts said in her statement.

“Allegations against me in a lawsuit yesterday are not true. They sicken me to my soul,” she said.

It’s not every day you see a non-party to a lawsuit issuing written public denials. Stay tuned. This one promises a high degree of entertainment.

H/T – Illusory Tenant (“MILF for Jesus”)

UPDATE: The allegations made in the plaintiffs’ petition are so completely baseless and untrue that Richard Roberts is taking an “indefinite leave of absence” from ORU.

If that weren’t entertaining enough, here’s a seven-minute video of Richard’s daddy and old-school televangelist money grubber Oral Roberts blabbering disjointedly about the evils of homosexuality and godliness of cock-into-cooter heterosexual intercourse.

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The Fruit Never Falls Far From the Tree

Remember Oral “Send me $8 million or the Lord will kill me” Roberts, founder of Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma? Oral’s still around, but he’s well into his dotage and has long since turned over day-to-day operation of ORU to his son Richard.

Three former ORU professors are suing the university for wrongful termination. The case centers on allegations that Richard Roberts compelled professors and students to do work for the spectacularly unsuccessful 2006 campaign of Tulsa mayoral candidate Randi Miller, then take one for the team during an Internal Revenue Service investigation by denying that Roberts and the university ordered the campaign work.

The complaint also alleges some less-than-seemly financial shenanigans on the part of Roberts and his wife, Lindsay, “including: 11 remodels of their university home, $800/month cell phone bills, horses for their children and scholarships for their friends, all on the school’s dime.” The firings allegedly happened after the professors questioned some of the shadier expenditures.

As with his father before him, Richard Roberts is apparently favored of the Lord and has a direct communications pipeline to the throne room in heaven. Jesus has spoken about the lawsuit, saying:

The president of Oral Roberts University responded Wednesday to a lawsuit filed against him and the private Christian school, saying God spoke to him and told him to say the suit was about “blackmail and extortion.”

“Here’s what he told me to say to you,” Roberts told students and faculty at his weekly chapel. “’We live in a litigious society. Anyone can get mad and file a lawsuit against another person whether they have a legitimate case or not.

“’This lawsuit … is not about wrongful termination. It is about intimidation, blackmail and extortion,”’ he said.

If the reports are complete, neither Jesus nor Roberts is actually denying that the complained-of misconduct took place; they’re only questioning the motives of the plaintiffs and their counsel.

MORE – 10/11/07: Illusory Tenant offers more information regarding the monstrous fraud that it Lindsay Roberts, along with some typically first-rate commentary, right here.

Another Christian “Equal Access” Lawsuit

Two court reporters for the San Diego County, California Superior Court have sued their employer, alleging that the court violated their state and federal constitutional rights by refusing to let them use an empty courtroom or jury room for their weekly Bible study group meetings.

The complaint (pdf, 14 pages) is available here courtesy of Advocates for Faith and Freedom, one of those Christian right advocacy law firms. The complaint lists Frank Manion of the American Center for Law and Justice as co-counsel. I have no love for the ACLJ, but Manion is a first-class lawyer and the plaintiffs will no doubt get superb representation.

The averments and causes of action asserting in the complaint are standard for cases such as this, but Paragraph 13 stands out in a pretty big way. After describing how the study group met in empty jury rooms over lunch hour from 2000 to April 2006, the drafter says, “The Bible study has not reconvened in any jury or court room since.” That’s one big, honking negative pregnant right there.

Christian Newswire’s all-spin report on the case is available here. The level to which the persecution bar has fallen never ceases to amaze.

Tip of the hat to Professor Howard Friedman, who in 1991 bravely undertook the Herculean task of teaching my idiot neophyte self the ins and outs of constitutional law, for reporting the story.

The Religion Clauses and State Law Evidentiary Privileges

Here’s something you don’t see every day: a criminal defendant arguing that the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment require expanding the scope of a state law evidentiary privilege. The case is Varner v. Stovall (pdf, 7 pages), decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Janniss Varner tried to kill her abusive boyfriend in 1995 by hiring a hit man. The attempt failed, but a couple of years later the boyfriend was shot to death. The cops searched his apartment and found Varner’s journals, in which she admitted trying to have him killed a couple of years earlier, disclosed the identity of the clown she hired, and expressed her ongoing desire to have her boyfriend killed. Her journal entries were often titled “Dear God” and included various and sundry prayer-like statements.

She was tried and convicted in a Michigan state court of assault with intent to commit murder in connection with the 1995 attack. (Apparently, she wasn’t charged in connection with the actual murder.) The court of appeals affirmed the conviction and the Michigan Supreme Court denied review.

With her state law remedies exhausted, Varner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Her primary argument was that the journals should have been excluded from evidence at trial under the clergy-penitent privilege. She didn’t argue that Michigan’s privilege statute actually applied to the journal — it clearly applies only to communications between “members of the clergy and members of their respective churches” — but instead claimed that the Religion Clauses required judicial expansion of the privilege to cover the journal entries.

Varner’s argument, as described by the Sixth Circuit, went like this:

Step one: Michigan has created an evidentiary privilege for religious communications. Step two: the privilege applies only to religions that encourage their members to communicate with God through an intermediary. Step three: this limitation discriminates among religions because it disfavors belief systems in which individuals communicate directly with God. Step four: the solution to this First Amendment problem is not to strike the privilege (which would not benefit Varner) but to extend it to all religions, including those that do not use intermediaries, and thus to extend the privilege to any journal entry that might be construed as a prayer to God.

In essence, the defendant was claiming that the privilege as codified unconstitutionally favors religions that advocate using human intercessors over those that advocate going to The Lawd directly.

As Bertrand Russell wrote of the Ontological Argument for the existence of God, “it is easier to feel convinced that it must be fallacious than to find out precisely where the fallacy lies.” So it is with Varner’s argument, at least on my admittedly high-speed, low-altitude pass.

The court disposed of the argument by saying that the privilege statute treats all religions the same in that no one’s journal entries are protected. Regardless of whether or not you belong to an intercession-based religion, your private, “my eyes only” writings are fair game in court. Well, yeah, but doesn’t that bring us right back to where we began? The counterargument seems to be eating its own tail.

In any event, the Court got an assist from a 1996 federal law called the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. That law significantly altered federal habeas corpus practice by prescribing that a state prisoner’s habeas petition can be granted only if the state court’s rulings during the petitioner’s trial were “contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1). Right or wrong, the state courts that rejected Varner’s privilege argument certainly didn’t act “contrary to” or “unreasonabl[y] appl[y]” any “clearly established” Supreme Court precedent.

The opinion also includes an interesting discussion of a second constitutional argument, namely that the state trial court denied Varner her due process rights by failing to allow her to present expert evidence on battered women syndrome.

To sum up, the opinion has a good beat and you can dance to it. I give it a 6.5.

Settlement Reached in San Diego Priest Sexual Abuse Cases

The months-old court-ordered mediation of over 120 sex abuse lawsuits filed against the Diocese of San Diego has ended in a settlement. A total of $198.1 million will be divided among the claimants, and the church will release certain internal documents about its own dealings with known abusive priests.

Orders from the bankruptcy judge in which she (1) threatened to dismiss the Diocese’s Chapter 11 case in its entirety and (2) remanding the first forty-four cases back to state court for trial no doubt helped move things along. The SCD entry discussing those orders is here.

Biblical Literalist Slap Fight

Broomfield, Colorado — north of Denver and southeast of Boulder — has a population of just over 45,000. That relatively small band of residents is served by close to fifty churches. If those numbers show nothing else, they show that folks ’round these here parts take their Christianity pretty goddamn seriously.

The Broomfield Enterprise is a free newspaper that gets delivered to every residence in town whether we want it or not. Not surprisingly, the local rag includes a weekly faith column. Equally unsurprisingly, the column focuses pretty much exclusively on Christianity. Christians are rather fond of talking about our “Judeo-Christian” heritage, but the “Judeo” part gets lost in the shuffle pretty quickly when push comes to shove.

A week ago the Enterprise ran a column in which regular contributor Bob Rudland had the temerity to say Jesus never claimed to be the Messiah. Bad move, Bob.

Yesterday the Enterprise publishes two rather scathing rebukes in its LTTE section. Greg Smith of Christ Community Church (we’re not told whether Mr. Smith is the pastor or just a church member) accused Ruland of “sophomoric biblical illiteracy” regarding the “historical Jesus.”

That’s right, folks; the New Testament is a work of history, despite all the known errors the total absence of corroboration from any contemporaneous source. Ya heard it here first.

The author also trots out that hoary old chestnut, C.S. Lewis’ Liar/Lunatic/Lord false trilemma. A group of godless heathen savages have fun with that bit of nonsense here.

The second letter writer, one Charles P. Woodruff, is fond of rhetorical excess. According to him, Mr. Rudland’s faith column “immerses the reader in new age and Marxist thought” and “regularly tortures scripture to conform to his world view.” Mr. Woodruff suggests that we embrace an “objective starting point” in our search for the truth:

“For God so loved the world, that he sent his one and only son, so that whoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life.” — John 3:16

Apparently, appearance in print is Mr. Woodruff’s pole star for objectivity. Trouble is, the quoted statement has no more claim to “objective truth” by virtue of appearing in a venerated text than a statement from the Bhagavad Gita or — horror of horrors — the Koran.

But hey, if that’s the test, allow me to propose an alternative starting point in our search for “objective” truth:

“He sure knew how to drive his hog.” — Tom Clancy, The Hunt for Red October

At the end of his vitriol laden screed Mr. Woodruff advises, “Please don’t take this too seriously[.]” No problem, Chuck. I haven’t taken religion seriously since age ten or so.

In any event, it’s quite clear that we have a schism under way in our sleepy little town and that at least one recent contributor to the local paper is a heretic. I suggest a three-way, winner-take-all cage match to the death involving Messrs. Rudland, Smith and Woodruff. The winner is obviously favored of God and gets to dictate the One True Faith, at least within the bounds of the City and County of Broomfield.