Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Lawsuit Accuses Doug Phillips of Sexual Assault

In October 2013, Doug Phillips resigned from his position as president of Vision Forum Ministries over a "lengthy, inappropriate relationship with a woman". In his online statement, Phillips claimed that while he did not "know" the woman "in a Biblical sense", the relationship was still "inappropriately romantic and affectionate". Vision Forum discontinued operations shortly thereafter.

At the time, little information was available on the nature of his sexual misconduct or the identity of the woman in question. Now, a shocking article and a lawsuit have brought more information to light.

According to an April 15th article in WND (trigger warning), a woman named Lourdes Torres Manteufel recently filed a complaint against Phillips in Kendall County District Court in Texas. Torres, now 29, helped care for Phillips' children, assisted with the Phillips' farm, and accompanied the family on trips around the U.S., the article states. Torres claims that Doug Phillips gave her "special attention" starting in 2007, including compliments and money. After she moved into the Phillips' home, Doug Phillips sexually assaulted her, despite her tearful pleas for him to stop, according to her lawsuit. Phillips promised her that his wife would die soon and that he would marry her, Torres claims.

The suit insists that Phillips manipulated Torres into helping him in his business endeavors from 2008 to 2012, during which unwanted sexual contact continued. Torres said that she stopped working alongside Phillips and attending his congregation in late 2012. An attorney for Phillips insists that any intimacy between Torres and Phillips was consensual, WND reports.

In a copy of the civil case complaint obtained by WND (trigger warning), Torres seeks monetary damages for sexual battery, assault, fraud, and intentional infliction of emotional distress that Phillips allegedly perpetrated against her. Her complaint paints a picture of Phillips' "unregulated community" as an insular circle of people convinced that "they are engaged in a cosmic war". The complaint explains that Torres would have had difficulty extricating herself from Phillips' influence due to "limited access to outside support as she came to see her situation as abusive".

"Douglas Phillips created a sociological environment that operated as a “total institution.” The total institution concept is used to describe an environment where a person is exclusively surrounded by a large number of similarly situated people. In other words, people within a total institution work together, worship together, spend leisure and recreational time together, and even dwell together. Thus, a person within a total institution is cut off from the normal world entirely. As a closed and tightly knit unit of people, total institutions lead an enclosed and uniquely administered round of life that is peculiar to its own characteristics and beliefs ... Phillips carefully, intentionally, and effectively closed off all access to outside intervention and support necessary for her to challenge him."
The complaint also casts Phillips' Christian Patriarchy subculture as profoundly misogynist, stating that it "teaches that men are, and should be, in absolute control of women", who exist for "producing children, caring for the men, and rearing the children". Female submission to male authority is understood as "the natural and God-given order", a belief that would have given Phillips great control over his household. Torres was effectively groomed by these attitudes to such an extent that she could not give meaningful consent to Phillips' sexual overtures, the complaint argues.

According to the complaint, women in the movement are scapegoated and blamed for men's inappropriate behavior (sound familiar?), a strategy that undermines their self-esteem and drives them deeper into submission. It observes that Christian Patriarchy ideology is toxic, contributing to the mistreatment of women and girls in the Christian Patriarchy subculture. "The attitudes that produce these ideas are what leads to physical, mental, verbal, spiritual, and sexual abuse of both women and daughters within the patriarchal movement," it says.

These sexual assault accusation are serious charges that must be taken seriously by the legal system. The lawsuit has dealt another black eye to the Christian Patriarchy movement, and its response to the lawsuit will be telling. At the very least, Torres' lawsuit corroborates what observers have been saying about the Christian Patriarchy movement for years: its misogynist ideology denigrates women and girls, and its insularity makes it difficult for females to escape.

Christian Patriarchy insularity is intended to keep families safe from "the world". Home churches, homeschooling, and social networks comprised of other fundamentalist Christians are intended to protect believers from "the world", which is imagined as a dangerous, corrupting influence. Insularity is not the same thing as safety, and it will not protect communities from dangers within their midst. To boot, it can make it even more difficult for victims and concerned bystanders to reach out for help or escape. Let's hope that the Torres suit helps Christian Patriarchy adherents realize this.

Phillips' innocence or guilt is ultimately for the courts to decide. Still, I find it ironic that a man who trumpeted his faith's alleged protection of women now finds himself accused of victimizing a young woman. Will this lawsuit shine light on ugly corners of the Christian Patriarchy movement? Will mainstream society finally scrutinize this hidden, patriarchal subculture? Will members of the Christian Patriarchy movement finally start to ask themselves difficult questions?

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Spiritual Sounding Board: Lourdes Torres, Alleged Victim in the Doug Phillips (Vision Forum) Sex Abuse Scandals Files Lawsuit

Love, Joy, Feminism: Doug Phillips: The Rest of the Story

Right Wing Watch: Religious Right Leader Sued For Sexual Battery, Treating Young Follower Like A 'Personal Sex Object'

The Daily Beast: Sex Scandal Rocks the Duggars' Christian Patriarchy Movement

Together We Overcome: Supporting Lourdes Torres Manteufel


  1. If it helps. The Christian Post has only caught on to this story.


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