Lourdes Torres, alleged victim in sex abuse scandal with Douglas Phillips of Vision Forum, has filed a lawsuit against Douglas Phillips
The victim in the Doug Phillips sex abuse case has filed a lawsuit and in doing so, has chosen to publicly reveal her identity: Lourdes Torres. She is one brave woman. Go, Lourdes!
UPDATE April 16, 2014. At the end of this post, we’ve added key facts and links to select news reports and blog articles. We plan to continue to grow these lists as opportunity allows.
World Net Daily has the full story and it is a long one with photos and lots of details. In the first link below is the legal complaint:
In the complaint filed in Kendall County District Court in Texas Tuesday morning, Phillips is accused of using a woman named Lourdes Torres, now 29, as “a personal sex object” over a period of five years.
I was alerted on Sunday of another development – that Lourdes Torres (aka Victim) was married Friday evening to a former Boerne Christian Assembly member, Nolan Manteufel.
We first got a glimpse that something was up with this Facebook profile picture which was updated over the weekend:
The lawsuit gets into graphic detail.
***********Trigger alert – Sexual Content************
Here are graphic details in the complaint. Phillips claimed he didn’t know her Biblically. The following paragraph shows that he knew her pretty darn well. Scroll down to the line of asterisks to get beyond the graphic part.
My thoughts and prayers go to the Manteufels as they start their new life together and also as their private life will become very public. This is a very sad situation for all.
UPDATE: I had someone ask where they can send support or gift cards. I would be happy to try to organize this. Nolan or Lourdes or David Gibbs, if you are reading this and can contact me, I think there may be a lot of people who would like to offer support in a more tangible way. ~Julie Anne (spiritualsb@gmail dot com)
Links on the Lourdes Torres-Manteufel Lawsuit
Against Doug Phillips, Vision Forum, Inc., & Vision Forum Ministries
The initial compilation of information on this lawsuit was compiled on April 16-17, 2014, by brad/futuristguy, a blogger who periodically contributes to and comments on Spiritual Sounding Board. He has been as accurate as possible in presenting this information. However, if you identify errors, additions, or information otherwise needing correction or clarification, please either post a comment in this thread or send an email with details to: SpiritualSB@gmail dot com. Concerns will be addressed as quickly as possible. Thank you.
Please note: This post is likely to be updated multiple times daily for at least the first 7 to 10 days after this story broke in the news on April 14, 2014. After that, it may be kept up periodically, or may just serve as an archive of initial responses to the story as it unfolded in that time period.
On Tuesday, April 15, 2014, a civil lawsuit was filed in Bexar County, Texas, on behalf of plaintiff Lourdes Torres-Manteufel. This civil suit names three defendants:
- Douglas Phillips.
- Vision Forum, Inc. (Mr. Phillips’ business enterprise).
- Vision Forum Ministries, Inc. (the religious non-profit entity associated with Mr. Phillips).
The Petition/Complaint of Ms. Torres-Manteufel seeks damages of over $1 million, and requests that this be a jury trial.
Trigger Warning – Be aware that this lawsuit involves numerous issues related to sexual abuse/assault. Official documents, news reports, and blog articles may contain graphic descriptions.
Official Court Documents and Other Statements
April 15, 2014. Petition filed in Bexar County, Texas, by plaintiff Lourdes Torres-Manteufel. This link is to a 30-page PDF of the official complaint plus cover sheet filed by the plaintiff. It was posted by World Net Daily to accompany the WND news story of April 14, 2014, on the lawsuit. Note key details on the cover sheet, and the names of the attorneys for the plaintiff, their firm’s name, and official date of filing on the final page.
April 14, 2014. Response on the lawsuit/news article to World Net Daily from Jason Jakob, attorney for Douglas Phillips, Beall Phillips, and Vision Forum, Inc. This is a 2-page PDF response on behalf of two of the three defendants. It was posted by World Net Daily to accompany their WND news story of April 14, 2014, on the lawsuit.
Plaintiff, Defendants, and Their Legal Counsels
ON THE PLAINTIFF’S SIDE
- The sole plaintiff in this case is Lourdes Torres-Manteufel.
- David C. Gibbs III and Dustin T. Gaines of Gibbs Law Firm (Florida, TX; Washington, D.C.) serve as attorneys for the plaintiff.
Mr. Gibbs is also associated with National Center for Life and Liberty (Flower Mound, TX). He is the attorney who completed the cover sheet for the plaintiff’s Petition.
Together We Overcome: Supporting Lourdes Torres-Manteufel is a Facebook page that was started on April 16, 2014, to encourage the plaintiff in her case and cause.
ON THE DEFENDANTS’ SIDE
- Douglas Phillips. (Mr. Phillips was formerly the President of the board at Vision Forum Ministries.)
- Vision Forum, Inc. (Mr. Phillips’ business enterprise, sometimes abbreviated as VFI).
- Vision Forum Ministries, Inc. (the religious non-profit entity associated with Mr. Phillips, and sometimes abbreviated as VFM).
- Jason J. Jakob of the firm Diaz Jakob Attorneys at Law (San Antonio, TX) is attorney for two defendants: Douglas Phillips and Vision Forum, Inc.
- At this time, the legal representation for Vision Forum Ministries is unknown.
The following are not named as defendants in this lawsuit, but still are important individuals and organizations on the defendants’ side of the issue to note for understanding the reports and resources on this lawsuit:
- Beall Phillips, the wife of Douglas Phillips.
- Boerne Christian Assembly, the church in Waring, Texas, where Mr. Phillips was previously an elder. It is sometimes abbreviated as BCA. Current leadership: Bob Sarratt (elder) and Jeff Horn (provision elder).
- Boerne Christian Assembly.
- San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival (an enterprise of Vision Forum Ministries). This website has been shut down. To explore previous editions of the site, see this internet archives link to SAICFF in the WayBack Machine.
- Vision Forum, Inc. (the business enterprise). This website is mostly in shut-down mode at this time. To explore previous editions of the site, see this internet archives link to VFI in the WayBack Machine. Here is the link to Vision Forum, Inc.’s Facebook page.
- Vision Forum Ministries (the religious non-profit). To explore previous editions of this website, see this internet archives link to VFM in the WayBack Machine.
Key Individuals in the Unfolding Story
The names of the following individuals are likely to be seen in some reports and analysis of the lawsuit. They are listed here along with their main connection to the case. For key details on the roles and/or official positions (past and/or present) that some these people played, see Attempting to Set the Doug Phillips Record Straight: Part 3 – The Timeline.
- Voddie Baucham - friend of Mr. Phillips, and Pastor of Preaching at Grace Family Baptist Church in Spring, Texas.
- Peter Bradrick – former Executive Assistant to Mr. Phillips for Vision Forum.
- Scott Brown – Director at Vision Forum Ministries. He is also Director for the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches and elder at Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, North Carolina.
- Don Hart – Director at Vision Forum Ministries, and general counsel at Vision Forum, Inc.
- Jeff Horn – provisional elder at Boerne Christian Assembly.
- Joe Morecraft – friend of Mr. Phillips, and pastor at Chalcedon Presbyterian Church in Cumming, Georgia.
- Jordan Muela – former Vision Forum staff member.
- Beall Phillips – wife of Douglas Phillips.
- Douglas Phillips – Director and board President/Treasurer at Vision Forum Ministries.
- Howard Phillips – father of Douglas Phillips; Director and board Vice President at Vision Forum Ministries.
- Bob Renaud – former Vision Forum assistant.
- Bob Sarratt – elder at Boerne Christian Assembly.
- Lourdes Torres-Manteufel – the plaintiff in a lawsuit brought against Douglas Phillips; Vision Forum, Inc.; and Vision Forum Ministries.
- Josh Wean – Chief Financial Officer at Vision Forum Ministries.
- Mark Weaver – a friend of Mr. Phillips from college.
- Jim Zes – Director and board Secretary at Vision Forum Ministries.
Relevant Background Issues
This case holds broader significance for the Church in America, in part because the theological profile of Vision Forum represents a highly influential mix of doctrinal beliefs, family and church social practices, and Christendom culture. As the charismatic public persona of Vision Forum, Douglas Phillips has represented and role-modeled the intersection of these multiple movements (and toxic faith problems) listed below.
- The homeschool movement, and the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).
- Patriarchy as a manifestation of the complementarian gender movement.
- Stay-at-home daughters (SAHD).
- The Quiverfull Movement.
- Family Integrated Church (FIC).
- Dominion theology, the Seven Mountains Movement.
- Authoritarianism and hierarchical leadership. (See the “Research and Resource” section.)
- Clergy sexual abuse, sexual abuse in the Church, failure of clergy in mandatory reporting to legal authorities of known/suspected abuse.
- Lack of transparent accountability in some Christian non-profits.
- Spiritual abuse, malignant ministry leadership.
- Misuse of church discipline, shunning, and other forms of social pressure to enforce silence; and spiritual coercion to “reconcile” as a tactic to preempt legitimate confrontation and conflict resolution.
- “Total institutions.” (See the “Research and Resource” section.)
Such topics are addressed in posts, comment threads, and links found here on Spiritual Sounding Board. Check the Category list in the right-hand navigation bar for leads. For an overview of many of these key issues as directly relate to this situation, see: Attempting to Set the Doug Phillips Record Straight: Part 1 – The Puzzle of Control, by Julie Anne Smith. March 16, 2014, Spiritual Sounding Board.
Because of the past organizational interconnectedness of many individuals, agencies, and movements with the ideas and/or ministry with Vision Forum, it is likely that report and analysis articles listed in the media section below will address such issues, and various high-profile individuals and organizations associated with them.
Select Links to News Reports and Blog Posts
The following list represents select links. It is not intended to be comprehensive or complete. Not all national, international, or reposted/reblogged articles are included. Also, some preference is given to (1) in-depth report coverage and analysis, (2) articles from a Christian perspective, especially to consider the range of issues in faith and practice raised in related comment threads, and (3) news coverage in the immediate San Antonio region of Texas where local perspectives are provided.
Please note: Inclusion of a link does not imply endorsement of the perspective or conclusions presented in that article. For the first few days of this kind of breaking news story, it is especially important to capture the broadest possible range of responses to the emergence of the news. Many of the initial reactions will prove themselves to be ill-informed, offensive, and overtly defensive. However, they are still valuable to note now, because the perspectives and comments we find early on very often represent the range of views that will continue on for the duration. If we want to be as constructive as possible, we may need to deconstruct responses that are destructive.
Also, this case represents an intersection of multiple movements within certain wings of the Church, especially in America. Because of the past organizational interconnectedness with the ideas and/or ministry with Vision Forum, it is likely that many of the analysis articles listed here will address such issues as: the homeschool movement, partriarchy and the complementarian movement, stay-at-home daughters, quiverfull movement, clergy sexual abuse, lack of transparent accountability in some Christian non-profits, authoritarianism, “total institutions,” and dominion theology.
APRIL 14, 2014
World Net Daily. Christian giant sued for ‘using nanny as sex object.’ Lawsuit claims religious leader promised to marry young woman after wife dies. This article gives an extensive overview on the history of this situation and the civil suit, based primarily on interviews with Ms. Torres-Manteufel. It gives material on the related homeschooling and patriarchy movements, and also includes links to the copies of the official initial petition court document (30 pages) and a response (2 pages) from the lawyer for two of the defendants, Mr. Phillips and Vision Forum, Inc.
Culture, adventure, stillness. In which Lourdes petitions for a lifeboat, by Katie Botkin.
APRIL 15, 2014
Spiritual Sounding Board. Lourdes Torres, Alleged Victim in the Doug Phillips (Vision Forum) Sex Abuse Scandals Files Lawsuit. An early overview of the breaking news story of the lawsuit.
The Hope Blog. Godspeed, Lourdes Torres! A message of support from Ingrid Schlueter.
A Cry for Justice. Breaking news: Doug Phillips’ victim files lawsuit against Phillips and Vision Forum, by Barbara Roberts.
San Antonio Express-News. Lawsuit claims S.A. religious leader preyed on his kids’ nanny, by Abe Levy. This article is from a local newspaper near where the alleged activities took place.
Love, Joy, Feminism. Two articles – Doug Phillips: The Rest of the Story and Michael Farris, Patriarchy, and Doug Phillips: An Expose by Libby Anne.
Examiner. Duggar family linked to Douglas Phillips lawsuit? Quiverfull lifestyle dissected, by Jodi Jill.
APRIL 16, 2014
Love, Joy, Feminism. Michael Farris Admits He Messed Up, by Libby Anne.
The Daily Beast. Sex Scandal Rocks The Duggars’ Christian Patriarchy Movement, by Amanda Marcotte.
Christian Post. Vision Forum Founder Doug Phillips Accused By Woman of Treating Her Like ‘Personal Sex Object’ in Lawsuit, by Morgan Lee.
Christian Post. Head of the Home School Legal Defense Association Blasts Doug Phillips’ Biblical Patriarchy Practices, by Morgan Lee. Details Michael Farris’ response to the current situation.
World. Legal complaint filed in Vision Forum case. The possibility of a messy trial brings important reminders about Christian clarity, by Jamie Dean.
1200 News Radio WOAI. Local Home Schooling Leader Named in Explosive Lawsuit, by Jim Forsyth. From a San Antonio-area radio station.
Kens 5, San Antonio. Former minister denies allegations that he kept woman as a ‘sex object’, by Joe Conger.
The Wartburg Watch. Doug Phillips’ Alleged Victim Files Lawsuit with Explosive Accusations, by Deb Martin.
The Daily Mail/Mail Online (UK). Leader of Christian ministry followed by the Duggar family from TLC’s 19 Kids And Counting is accused of using teenage girl as ‘personal sex slave’ in $1m lawsuit, by David McCormack.
No Longer Quivering. News: Media Starting to Link Duggar Family to Doug Phillips Finally, by Suzanne Calulu.
APRIL 17, 2014
1200 News Radio WOAI. Prominent Local Pastor Resonds [sic] to Sex Allegations, by Jim Forsyth. Responses by Mr. Phillips’ legal counsel, Jason Jakob, to the allegations and implications of the lawsuit.
Huffington Post Religion. Doug Phillips’ Biblical Patriarchy Scandal Moves to the Courts, by Julie Ingersoll.
Historical Overview Posts
March 29, 2014. Spiritual Sounding Board. Attempting to Set the Doug Phillips Record Straight: Part 3 – The Timeline. This select timeline was compiled by Julie Anne Smith of Spiritual Sounding Board, based on information she gathered over a period of several months, and from a timeline of notes sent to her by a Source with a long-time insider view of Doug Phillips and his ministry. It includes links to key documents/statements, such as the official resignation notice from Vision Forum Ministries, posted by Mr. Phillips, and later clarifications issued by the Vision Forum Ministries board.
Before Ms. Smith published this timeline, it was checked by other sources to ensure that the account was as accurate as possible. This timeline was posted before Doug Phillips’ alleged victim – Lourdes Torres-Manteufel – declared her identity publicly (which she did on April 14, 2014), so she is referred to as “Victim” throughout the timeline, and the Sources will remain unnamed.
Potentially Relevant Legal Information
The following posts give information that may prove relevant in this lawsuit. Check out the links and information for yourself. Also, to avoid unnecessary confusion and unhelpful speculation, please keep in mind that this is a civil suit, not a criminal trial - although it has been suggested that there may possibly be a base for certain kinds of criminal charges. Civil suits use different procedures than do criminal cases. (For instance, in a civil lawsuit, the outcome is based on a “preponderance of evidence,” not on it being “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is the standard in criminal trials.) Also, any edits made to text are noted within [square brackets].
March 23, 2014. Spiritual Sounding Board. Attempting to Set the Doug Phillips Record Straight: Part 2 – The Victim. This post contains links to relevant information on clergy ethics, clergy sexual abuse, and legal information, especially as it relates to the state of Texas where the alleged sexually and spiritually abusive activities took place. Especially important to note is that Mr. Phillips’ role as an elder in Boerne Christian Assembly apparently puts him into a specific role of spiritual authority over Ms. Torres, and thus in a position of power – this uneven power dynamic would mean that this is not a situation involving interactions of a sexual nature between equal and “consenting adults.”
As with the other articles in her three-part series, author Julie Anne Smith states that she wrote “the majority of this article in my own words based on information sent to me and many hours on the phone with a specific person who has had a birds-eye view of Doug Phillips and his ministry for many years. Before publishing, it has then been checked by other sources to ensure that the account is as accurate as possible.” This article was posted before Doug Phillips’ alleged victim – Lourdes Torres-Manteufel – declared her identity publicly (which she did on April 14, 2014), so she is referred to as “Victim” throughout the timeline, and the Sources will remain unnamed.
April 15, 2014@ 1:13 PM, Comment from Amy Smith @watchkeep.
Julie Anne, The law you are referencing is in the [Texas] penal code which defines criminal activity:
Title 5. Offenses against the person.
Chapter 22. Assaultive Offenses.
Sec. 22.011. Sexual assault.
(b) A sexual assault [...] is without the consent of the other person if: [...] 10) the actor is a clergyman who causes the other person to submit or participate by exploiting the other person’s emotional dependency on the clergyman in the clergyman’s professional character as spiritual adviser …
Texas Penal Code 22.011(b)(9): “by exploiting [the patient or former patient's] . . . emotional dependency”; and (b)(10) “by exploiting the other person’s emotional dependency on the clergyman in the clergyman’s professional character as spiritual advisor”
April 16, 2014 @ 1:42 PM, Comment from An Attorney on SSB. ["An Attorney" is a regular commenter on spiritual abuse survivor blogs about legal matters.]
Texas law makes a pastor or similar spiritual leader using his “authority” to have sex (including “almost but not quite sex”, as in this case) with a person in his church, sect, cult, sexual assault. The presumption is a lot like statutory rape.
Two forms are important. One is the person who is incapable of saying yes (due to age or infirmity), i.e., the young and the old, and some with limited intellectual or physical capabilities. The second is someone who is effectively psychologically or emotionally incapable to saying no and making it effective. This includes those being counseled or receiving psychological care, as well as those in the situation of this poor woman.
The crime is a felony, and the convict would have to register as a sex offender.
The civil lawsuit is a different matter and does not preclude a criminal case. The Bexar County District Attorney may be investigating.
There could also be criminal implications of Beale’s behavior as well as that of board members of VFM [Vision Forum Ministries] and VFI [Vision Forum, Inc.], such as witness/victim intimidation, facilitation of the offense, etc.
And I believe the BCA [Boerne Christian Assembly] could be held civilly liable.
BTW, the insurers of VFI, VFM and BCA may or may not pay to defend the suit under the circumstances, but is likely on the hook for some portion of any civil judgment. And DP [Doug Phillips] may have had his own insurance!
Other Research and Resource Pieces
“TOTAL INSTITUTION.”Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates, by Erving Goffman (1961, Anchor Books/Doubleday, ISBN 0385000162). Several commenters on Spiritual Sounding Board have mentioned the relevance of the sociological concept of “total institution” to the systems of control allegedly implemented in and around the situations in this lawsuit. From the book’s back cover:
Asylums is an analysis of life in “total institutions” – closed worlds such as prisons, army training camps, naval vessels, board schools, monasteries, and nursing homes – where the inmates are regimented, surrounded by other inmates, and unable to leave the premises. It describes what these institutions make of the inmate, and what he or she can make of life inside them. … The first essay is a general portrait of life in a total institution. The other three consider special aspects of this existence: the initial effects of institutionalization on the inmate’s previous social relationships; the ways of adapting once in the institution; and the role of the staff in presenting to the inmate the facts of his or her situation.
“PSYCHOLOGICAL TOTALISM” / “AUTHORITARIANISM.” An isolative society need not be a theological “cult” in order to exert mind-control over its members. The driving force can be a philosophy, political paradigm, or whatever is dictated by its charismatic leader(s). The classic study on sociological “cults” of total control over an organization’s or society’s members was also published over 50 years ago, and became a pillar in what has emerged as the discipline of “trauma psychology.” Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of ‘Brainwashing’ in China, by Robert Jay Lifton (1961, 1989, University of North Carolina Press, ISBN 0807842532). For an overview and PDF summary of Dr. Lifton’s eight criteria for identifying an authoritarian organization, see: Lessons from The Hunger Games 5A – Dystopian Dynamics, Totalitarian Tactics, and Lifton’s Criteria for Identifying “Cults,” by Brad Sargent.
How Do We Discern Dystopian Dynamics and Totalitarian Tactics? POST SUMMARY: This post introduces and overviews Robert Jay Lifton’s eight criteria for totalitarian thought reform (“brainwashing”) systems. It also gives some learning exercises for two groups: survivors of spiritual abuse and their personal network, and organizational designers/leaders who want to develop healthy and sustainable ministries. Note: I have split this material into three parts so readers can receive the best benefit from it.
Part 5A prepares our thinking with a review of previous points in the series for discerning an abusive/dystopian system, thoughts on totalitarian tactics from The Hunger Games trilogy, and the “before” part of the learning exercise.
Part 5B summarizes Dr. Lifton’s system for identifying “cults” and how the various elements work together. It then explores the first four of his eight criteria, dealing with: communications, motivations, absolutism, and confession.
Part 5C explores the final four of Dr. Lifton’s eight criteria: ultimate vision, language, ideological conformity, and ostracism. It also gives the “after” part of the learning exercise, and draws out three key issues for putting “brainwashing” into perspective.
If you’d prefer to have a printable copy, I have compiled this three-part mini-series into a PDF on Robert Jay Lifton’s Eight Criteria for Identifying Authoritarian Cults. I reformatted the material so each of his criteria begins on a new page.