Former Vision Forum leader Douglas Phillips resigned from his ministry last year, but it looks like the once-popular leader in the "biblical patriarchy" and Christian homeschooling movement isn't out of trouble yet. On Tuesday, one of his former followers sued him for "inappropriate, unwanted, and immoral sexual acts."
Last October, Phillips closed his own ministry after admitting to a "lengthy" extramarital affair. At the time, however, he said that he and his unnamed paramour "did not 'know' each other in a Biblical sense," but that the relationship "was nevertheless inappropriately romantic and affectionate." Lourdes Torres, who brought the suit against Phillips, says that she is the woman to whom the Christian leader is referring. Her allegations contradict Phillips's characterization of the relationship as consensual.
Patriarchy leaders like Phillips believe that women fall under the dominion of men, specifically their husbands. In the family structure advocated by Phillips's Vision Forum, the man is the spiritual and hierarchical leader of the family, to whom his wife and children are expected to defer. It's an idea practiced by, among other families, the Duggars, along with many other large "Quiverfull" Christian families — Phillips himself has eight children with his wife. That meant coming forward with her allegations was a loaded option for Torres. The lawsuit explains that " Ms. Torres would have felt compelled to submit to Douglas Phillips," but that "the purity culture would have meant at the same time, her submission made her ‘damaged goods’ in her eyes, the eyes of her family, and her community" Torres's suit continues:
Douglas Phillips used Ms. Torres—against her wishes and over her objections—as a personal sex object. Douglas Phillips repeatedly groped, rubbed, and touched Ms. Torres’s crotch, breasts, and other areas of her body; rubbed his penis on her; masturbated on her; forced her to watch him masturbate on her; and ejaculated upon her. This perverse and offensive conduct repeatedly took place over the course of several years."
The allegations against Phillips get rather graphic:
Douglas Phillips entered Ms. Torres’s bedroom and without her consent began touching her breasts, stomach, back, neck, and waist. Phillips then began to masturbate and ejaculated on her. Ms. Torres asked Phillips to stop and broke down crying. Despite Ms. Torres’s repeated requests for Phillips to stop masturbating and ejaculating on her, Phillips proceeded to return and repeat this perverse and offensive conduct. Each night that Phillips returned, Ms. Torres requested that he stop. Defendant blatantly disregarded her requests but continued to masturbate and ejaculate on her each night.
Phillips also told Torres that his wife "would die shortly and enable him to marry Ms. Torres." Torres met Phillips when she was just 15 years old, in 1999, as Slate noted. She eventually moved in to his family home, living and working with Phillips and his family. By then, Phillips was "the pastor of her church, her boss, her landlord, and the controller of all aspects of her life," the lawsuit says.
According to the suit, Torres and her family informed Phillips's Boerne Christian Fellowship Church of his alleged conduct in January of last year, and then cut off contact with the Phillips family and Vision Forum. In October, around the time Phillips shuttered Vision Forum, Torres says she received the following email from his wife, Beall, essentially warning her to keep quiet:
During the last ten weeks, and ultimately for the last nine months, you have been lighting bombs all across the country. Right now, you may have a perception of peace, but what you don't know is that these bombs are about to explode in a manner that will change all of our lives forever. It will affect your life, your marriage prospects . . . your parents . . . and thousands of other people. It is far worse than you imagine. The VFM board has encouraged me to let you know about these and to work with you to give you an opportunity to stop impending destruction.
Torres is suing Phillips himself, along with both the now-defunct ministry wing of Vision Forum and a for-profit company with an almost identical name for an unspecified amount of damages. In October, Phillips indicated that he would retain control of the for-profit company after closing his ministry. But in December he seemingly changed his mind and shut down the for-profit business, too.
The Vision Forum scandal is actually one of two major crises plaguing the leaders of the Christian patriarchy movement in recent months: Bill Gothard resigned earlier this year from the Institute in Basic Life Principles after at least 34 women accused him of making unwanted sexual advances.
The full lawsuit is below: