How to recognize a pervert

Unfortunately, there is no simple way to determine who is a pervert.  I’m talking about the kind of perverts who sexually assault other people. They don’t come from any given ethnic or socioeconomic background and they rarely look like a creep. Indeed, the most successful perverts are masters at disguise and deceit.

These people are predators, who work hard to appear normal, and may be considered “pillars of the community.” They present such a façade that other people—potential victims and potential critics alike—cannot believe they would do this.

The pervert could look like a sweet old man with twinkly blue eyes, the kind one would expect to be a beloved grandfather. He is likely to be generally friendly, and extend courtesy or kindness to others—but that is a ruse, to throw off both the predator’s potential victim and those who might support the victim if she or he speaks up about the assault.

I know about this kind of evil person first-hand, through the sexual abuse I endured as a child. When I went into recovery in 1997, I learned that I was not alone, that it was not my fault, that these disgusting people molest anyone they can, and that they studiously position themselves for access to as many potential victims as possible. These perverts carefully scope out their prey and plan their assault with precision, so they can take advantage and strike when their target is most vulnerable.

Through years of recovery and reading, followed by being an active writer and speaker on the topic of childhood sexual abuse, I thought I had come to know the predator’s mind well enough to identify predatory behavior and avoid becoming a target again. But I was wrong.

I know that the common pedophile is skilled at confusing his potential victim with kindness, in order to disarm his prey—and to deflect off any blowback with, “I was just being nice.”  I thought that, as an aware adult, I would be able to discern good touch from bad touch, friendly person from creep. But I was wrong.

A seemingly kind old man, whom I met on a sailing weekend in 2011, gave me advice, helped me learn some new things, and otherwise displayed friendly behavior—which turned out to be the key to his plan. Rodney’s goal was to gain my trust so he could violate me.

This many years later, I recognize that part of the molester’s twisted pleasure comes from his ability to deceive his target into trusting him, the setting of his stage where he will act out his perversion. His deceitfulness itself is a turn on for him, a kind of one-sided foreplay. As is his ability to instantly turn from “nice guy” into pervert when the opportunity is at hand. He gets his rocks off by building trust that he can violate along with his victim’s bodily integrity. How deeply sick!

Near the end of that sailing weekend, I sustained a significant injury that required care. The skipper of the boat did not concern himself with his injured crew, but the nice old man offered to help me find the closest urgent care facility and said he would stay to make sure I was OK. How kind! When I was finished there, Rodney* offered to take me to dinner because it was after 9 p.m. and we had not eaten. How thoughtful! We had a nice dinner and interesting conversation. How refreshing! After that, Rodney said he wanted to follow me home, to make sure I got home OK. Again, how thoughtful! Finally, arriving at my house around midnight, Rodney offered to help bring in my bags, since my injury caused me some difficulty with this. How helpful! This nice old man with twinkly blue eyes had been so kind to me that, I was thoroughly taken aback when I hugged him good-bye and he touched me in an inappropriate manner, committing a sexual assault.

I was exhausted, in pain and my guard was down, so I did not react strongly. Just as he had planned and expected. I stepped back and gave him a serious warning look, said, “You. Need. To. Leave. Now.” which sent Rodney on his way. Later, I told a friend that, “I wish I had slapped the hell out of him.”

In the following days, the old man perp kept trying to engage me by email, as if nothing had happened. I let days pass before I answered one of Rodney’s emails, including the warning, “I assure you that, should you ever again touch me in any inappropriate manner, you will wish you had not.” As I expected, he has not attempted to contact me since. Rodney didn’t even respond to the email I sent to notify him that I had provided in this post his 15 minutes of fame. Sexual predators are often bullies, who, when confronted, scuttle back into their dark holes. Temporarily. Until they spot another potential target.

This predator’s method of operation is that of the classic child molester, so I am certain that this “kind old man” has assaulted many other women and girls—and perhaps boys and men, too—and likely in much, much worse ways.

Some may wonder why I did not report Rodney’s sexual assault against me. I didn’t call the police because I well know that we live in a rape culture. As Clementine Ford noted in The Sydney Morning Herald, a rape culture is one in which “the impact and reality of sexual violence is minimised while the perpetrators of it are supported by a complex system built on flawed human beliefs, mythologies about gender, and good old fashioned misogyny.” We women, and girls, are expected to accept that sexual assault and rape are “just part of life,” that “boys will be boys,” that we somehow deserved to be assaulted or raped because we wore the wrong clothes, went to the wrong place, stayed out too late, or, whatever excuse can take the blame off the pervert. Our society will, as Ford noted, “bend over backwards to defend and diminish culpability of perpetrators, despite recognising the reality of their predatory and violent actions.”

Ford’s article points out that “someone who makes the choice to rape or sexually assault someone isn’t acting out of character – rather, they are expressing a central part of their character,” and with that thought in mind, I wish I had responded differently to “the kind old man’s” sexual assault against me. For the sake of Rodney’s past victims, and for that of his future targets, I do wish I had slapped the hell out of him.

© 2011, 2017 Shay Seaborne. All rights reserved.

*Rodney is the pervert’s real name. I use it to publicly call him out for his disgusting and perverted sexual predation.

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That time the Coast Guard rescued us

coasties and crewSo therrre I wuzzz*,  unaware of what would soon begin as I stood my 4 a.m.- 8 a.m. watch aboard a 42’ catamaran that was 24’ wide. Two fellow crew, our skipper and I were charged to deliver the boat from St. Thomas, United States Virgin Islands to the owners in Annapolis, Maryland.

Our last glimpse of land had been seven days before, when Puerto Rico became a smudge of light that faded off our stern as I completed my evening watch at 8 p.m. Since then, we had made it through one crew member’s day of serious seasickness, my own sudden and brief surprise bout with mal de mer, and adjusted to life at sea, including this boat’s unusually loud creaks and groans as it bucked and whomped through the ocean waves.

By then we had learned that the privately owned former charter boat had a number of minor and moderate issues–most of which were little more than annoyance–but we didn’t yet know it had some serious problems, too. Our crew of four had quickly discovered that the boat lacks sufficient handholds, because it was a trial to make it across her wide spaces, or to even stand in the galley as the boat bumped and twisted over the 5-to-8-foot ocean waves. Due to the lurching, I needed to time my effort with the movements of the boat to climb onto my bunk.

We had learned that the hatches and port light in my cabin leaked. I had stowed my sea bag in the shower and later found it had been soaked by the leaking hatch. My sleeping bag had become damp from the leaking hatch over the bunk. I noticed a smear of silicone along the aft edge, which means the owners had tried to fix it, which means they knew it leaks. The fan in my bunk also didn’t work, so I had to dry my bag in the saloon. I had begun to bunk there, too, on wet days and nights, to avoid dampening my bag and gear again. Also, we found out that for the giant “patio roof” on the boat, there is little protection from rain, and, that there was no place to hang wet foul weather gear, either, and we had four sets of them.

We also knew that three of the four the heads (toilets) had faulty valves that let the wastewater return to the bowls, from which it would sometimes slosh out. Some of their hose connections also leaked into the boat.

On Day 4, a block on the traveler broke. In the middle of the night. In the rain. This meant our skipper, Dave, had to go atop the boat, in the dark, in the rain, waaaay out in the ocean, on a boat that lacks handholds, to rig safety lines that would allow us to keep control of the boom even if the other traveler block also failed. The rain had intensified while Dave readied to go up. It became a torrent while he climbed across the cabin top and onto the rooftop. The danger was due mostly to the lack of handholds on the boat; there was nothing to tie into or even hold onto. If he fell, he could be badly injured before falling into that immense sea. Of course, we would execute the Man Overboard maneuver, but a sailor in the water is instantly at great risk from hypothermia and difficult visibility in high seas.

As Dave’s spotter, all I could see were the bottoms of his feet and a couple of reflective patches on his gear. It was almost as nerve wracking for me as it was for him. About the time our skipper came down off the rooftop the rain had suddenly stopped.

On Day 7, as we had alternately motored and sailed according to the wind’s dictation, I was doused by sea water while down below. In a cabin, where it is supposed to be dry. We were about 250 miles off Savannah, Georgia when I went to the fore starboard berth. Just then, a wave hit the bulkhead and came through the fixed window as if it were open. I was suddenly soaked from the hip down, and seawater crept across a wide swath of the cabin sole. I proclaimed, “This is one leaky-ass boat!”

The morning of the first big disaster, on Day 8, the boat was sailing at about 7 knots on a starboard beam reach, under mostly cloudy skies, with wind from the south southeast at 12 knots. I was alone at the helm while my three mateys slept as the sky began to lighten. Just after 6 a.m., when we were about 150 miles offshore, I heard a faint pop, then watched, incredulous and helpless, as the sail quickly flitted down, dousing itself mostly into the sail bag along the boom. The main halyard parted about two feet below the masthead. I ran below to tell skipper Dave and he told me to wake Beth and Bob. I got to open their cabin door and yell “All hands on deck! All hands on deck!” and then tell them that the main had come down. The surprised and uncomprehending expressions on their faces were hilarious. I wish I had thought to video that.

Dave had no choice but to risk going forward and up to the patio roof again to pack the clew of the sail into the bag at the foot. Once safely back on deck, Dave also rigged an alternate lead from the jib clew which improved its trim and acted like a preventer. We sailed downwind on a run under the headsail only at about 5 knots in 12-knot wind on mild seas. Our course was 324, aiming us at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. During my off watch I devised a recipe for skillet granola bars, made up with the limited ingredients found in the galley: rolled oats, eggs, sugar, nuts, and the cinnamon I brought.

That night, just after my watch ended at 8 p.m., a huge wave broke over the boat and water poured in the latchless aft port hatch into the head. Bob used the last dry towel to clean it up. Shortly after this, I went to my bunk to sleep. About two hours later, I woke up as the bow plowed into a wave. I heard the sound of plastic Jerry cans zipping back and forth across the deck over my head, and water gushing into the shower in my berth. I thought I imagined a faint smell of diesel but I was wrong. One or more of the Jerry cans was leaking. The diesel fuel mixed with the seawater that poured into the port aft and forward heads. My berth smelled like diesel so I tried to sleep in the saloon. Even with the challenges we faced so far, I was unaware that on the following morning the scene would turn increasingly more urgent.

As I took my watch at 4 a.m. on day 9, we motored with the Genny in wind from the SSW at 25 knots while we bounced along at about 7.5 knots. I was wearing foul weather bibs and jacket because there was a lot of spray, and waves sometimes even crashed into the cockpit. The sky gradually lightened to reveal heavy clouds. The wind rose to 30-33 knots, so I called Dave up to help furl the jib.

Our little catamaran climbed waves higher than the boat as we motored against heavy seas, making little headway as we tried to cross the Gulf Stream. I was hungry when I came off watch, but conditions were too rough for cooking, so I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for Beth and me, the other crew member who was awake and hungry.

Around 10:45 a.m. the skipper called a strategy meeting, because we were not making progress due to current, windage, or both. Our team agreed to partially unfurl jib and try higher RPMs. That made the boat bounce a bit more, but we were making headway and the autopilot was not blowing out like it had been. A couple of hours later, Bob was on watch when he pointed out several small black dolphins cavorting the big waves around our boat. It seemed to me they were a sign of hope in our deteriorating situation.

I took a decent nap before going back on watch. During that time the temperature dropped more than 10 degrees Fahrenheit. I put on my wool long johns and Gill base layer top on under my foulies. Wind speed had dropped and the waves were smaller, but we were still bouncing around. The Jerry cans were somewhat more secure since some of them had fallen into the trampoline between the two hulls. The improperly wired bilge pump alarm sounded off every 10 minutes or so with the volume of water we were taking on through the seriously leaky hatches.

So, therrre I wuzz, at the start of my evening watch, with wind from the South-Southeast at 21-23 knots. Big swells pushed on our port quarter. The boat speed was about 8 knots. All was well, despite loss of the mainsail. Less than 15 minutes later, the port engine suddenly quit and the engine alarm sounded.

I turned the engine off at the panel. Bob and Beth left their port aft berth and came topsides. They said the engine had made an awful grinding noise before it quit. Bob went in the engine hole to check it out and said it seemed the port sail drive failed.

With the wind SSW at 23 knots on relatively calm seas, we could motorsail at 7 knots on a beam reach under our single sail and single engine, but we could be in serious trouble when those ideal conditions changed, as they surely would.

Dinner was late that night, about 40 minutes after my night watch ended, so nearly 9 p.m. While we ate, the wind shifted to the nose (directly on the front of the boat). This caused the jib to flog, so Bob and I furled it. But without the jib’s stabilizing effect, the the autopilot couldn’t hold on. Instead, it let the boat spin around, so we had to hand steer, which takes a lot more energy. When I got off watch, we were about 35 miles from the mouth the Chesapeake Bay, moving at only 5 knots. I figured that meant we would get into the bay around dawn, and I expected to feel elated when the floating cocktail lounge of a boat was tied to a dock.

With waves breaking on the bow and leaking into my bunk, I tried to sleep in the saloon, but calls on the VHF radio intruded. I heard various bridge-to-bridge communication and the USCG weather advisory for thunderstorms. As I drifted to sleep I heard Dave quietly call a Pan-Pan, to notify the United States Coast Guard and vessels in the area of our state of urgency with no immediate danger. He gave them info about our boat, crew, and situation, so they would have it in advance in case our safety was in danger. Though I knew we were at risk, I figured there was nothing I could do about it by staying awake, and it was best that I try to rest when I could, so I would save energy for when the time came to rally.

I slept fitfully from about 9 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. and woke to cold and rain. Since I was wide awake, and Bob was cold, I relieved him early so he could go to bed. Dave and I had to douse the Genny as we turned to head toward the entrance to the bay, because the wind was then too far forward. Again, I had to steer by hand since the autopilot couldn’t handle the pressure without the Genny. Steering was difficult as we motored through the blackness at about 3 knots in winds around 30 knots and gusts up to 40 knots, blowing almost on the nose. Any time the wind caught the starboard fore quarter, she swung left almost uncontrollably. We were closer to the Bay and Little Creek, but progress was slow. I hoped we could make it.

The rigorous conditions required that we shift from regular watches to relieving each other from the cold. I became chilled by about 4 a.m., so skipper Dave roused Bob and Beth. I nestled in my sleeping bag with hot tea in the saloon. The tipping point came about an hour later. The wind continued to howl and throw up spray. Bob was trying to steer, but with one engine out and no sail, we were only going in circles. Our options were to call for aid or blow southeast to Bermuda. Skipper Dave called Towboat US. They took about 40 minutes to decide whether they were coming. Around 5:30 a.m. they informed our skipper that the wind was too much for them and they could not help us. Dave called the United States Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads, which he had previously informed of our situation, and soon they were on the way. I got out of my sleeping bag, slipped into my foulies and PFD, and went to my cabin. There I considered what few things I most needed to keep in case we had to abandon ship, and tucked into the pockets of my foul weather gear.

The pre-dawn sky lightened to a strange color green as we saw the lights from the USCG 45’ cutter coming toward us in the distance. I felt a mix of apprehension and relief, as I did not know what would happen, but felt I could trust our Coasties to keep us safe, even though a rescue is also humiliating to a sailor. Using a heaving line, the young Coasties sent over a bridle, which Bob attached to the two forward most cleats on our boat, one on the bow of each hull, to keep the boat pointed ahead for the tow. The Coasties let out the tow line a long way before cleating it off. Their boat was hardly more than a dot in the water ahead.

Unfortunately, the combination of howling wind, rough sea, and the 42’ catamaran’s great windage were almost too much for the 45’ USCG cutter, which was towing us at about 3.5 knots. The voyage to safe harbor was arduous and frigid. Our crew had to hand steer, which was chilling and exhausting in those conditions. The helmsman had to wrestle with the wheel to keep the boat in line with the tow rope, and deal with constant cold salt spray hitting him or her in the face so hard that it stung the cheeks and sent chilled fingers of water down the necks of our foul weather gear. Therefore, Bob, Beth and I took short turns at the helm, each relieving another when the helmsman was chilled.

When I went off watch, I hung up my foulies and warmed up by making a second batch of the skillet granola bars. This time I left out the milk for a less cake-like product, and with Bob’s encouragement, increased the sugar. Okay, I doubled the sugar.

Once inside Little Creek, the Coasties had us shift lines so they could tie along side us to bring us to the dock at Cobb’s Marina, where skipper Dave had called ahead to make arrangements. The USCG had sent two additional crew to meet us at the dock, with fenders to loan us overnight. The Coasties also conducted a safety inspection and completed the paperwork. Their BM2 (Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class) asked skipper Dave when he had retired from the Coast Guard, a complimentary assumption the Coastie made, based on Dave’s crisp radio procedure, how well he had organized his crew, and that we were always right where they needed us to be.

I brought out the skillet granola bars, still warm, and shared them with the Coasties, who gave their approval and quickly ate them up with pleasure. The catamaran travail continued the following day, but that is for another story.

* "So therrre I wuzzz" is the proper way to begin a true sea story. 


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To those who think they envy my life

“If you can’t handle pain you can’t be a sailor.” – Shay Seaborne

Off Cape Hatteras

Periodically, people tell me that they envy the life I lead, but those who think they envy the sailor’s life rarely want to live it. Rather, from a safe distance, they envy the romantic image, the idea of freedom in the beauty of nature.

The romatic dreamers don’t consider that nature can be the greatest foe, and that life in a small vessel in the immense ocean is inherently dangerous. Much less, do they consider the constant demands of life at sea: environmental fatigue, frequent lack of sleep, lack of customary hygiene, work in the wee hours, always on call, life in close quarters with and relying on others you may not even know, lack of privacy and space, working through heat, cold, wind, sun, rain, salt spray, sleeplessness, and sea sickness, enduring tedium, terror, frequently sore muscles, blisters, and bruises, and constantly striving to stave off the serious threat of dehydration.

The sailor’s life also lacks certainty; she often doesn’t know where she will be or even sleep in the weeks ahead. In addition, a sailor must haul around with her all that she owns, which means she may have to sleep with it in her bunk, or worry about where to leave it ashore.

Timeless moments of exhiliration and sheer joy wrapped in discomfort, pain, uncertainty, and danger, that is the real sailor’s life. Want it?

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The day I sailed a patio lounge chair

The day I sailed a patio lounge chair, six years ago, I was recovering from the flu and enjoying the unseasonably warm day by resting outdoors. I tried to nap in the sun, but the wind kept calling me to play. Ensconced in the patio lounge chair, I let the breeze take me to the river in my mind. I felt the gusts lifting the boat as she cut through gurgling water on a port tack across the wide Potomac. And I felt such joy! I vowed that “tomorrow, weather willing, I will go down to the dock, if only to sit aboard a gently rocking boat.”

Since I was a kid, I wanted “to run away and sail tall ships.” In more recent years my chant became, “I wish I could go off sailing.” About 10 years ago, when someone asked me if I wanted to run a political campaign or run for office, from out of my mouth flew, “Neither! I want to jump aboard a wooden ship, sail around the world, ride my bike through every port, and get paid to write about it.” I covered my mouth and wondered aloud, “Where did that come from?” and later realized it was my heart’s desire.

The lounge chair on my patio and my vivid imagination were my “boat,” my escape from reality. At the time, my reality was harsh. I was a single parent with two dependant children, sole signatory on a deeply underwater mortgage, owner of a home that needed constant repair, and an unemployed job-seeker for 10 months (with 16 weeks still ahead) when jobs disappeared during the Great Recession. In the next four years, the challenges I faced would change, but they did not become easier. Indeed, some of the new hardships would nearly break me.

When my unemployment ended after 14 months, it was with a job that became increasingly unsuitable as my employer faced numerous legal and personal challenges, and took out her frustration on me. She knew I was stuck between her hardness and the rock of an abysmal economy, and she took advantage of that to pile on the work and broaden her abuse.

During those years of dreadful challenges, I often said, “I want to walk out of this house, close the door behind me, and never come back.” I held fast to my sailing dream through the tumult of that period. I used photos of gorgeous schooners under sail as my computer desktop photo, said “yes” to every sailing opportunity I could (including the patio lounge chair), built a “Best Songs for Seafarers” folder of music on Spotify and listened to it constantly, planned a 2-week tall ship vacation in the Exumas, and kept reminding myself that one day I would leave that horrible job and awful commute forever.

Soon, I will fly to St. Thomas, board a private luxury yacht, and help sail the boat to the owners in Annapolis. If luck is with me, I will spend the summer crewing aboard a historic wooden ship. Or, with a different kind of luck, I might find another opportunity, which seems to happen one way or another.

Six years ago, My Whole New Life was “just a dream.” But it was a dream I kept alive, by feeding it bits of anything that would sustain it. Today my sailing life is a dream I have been living for 18 months, and My Old Life has diminished off the stern, the fading memory of a nightmare from long ago.

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Homeschooling as a UU Journey

Delivered August 8, 2004
at Accotink Unitarian Universalist Church, Burke, VA

Take a moment to think on a time, maybe not too long ago, when you were excited about learning something that interests you—perhaps a new hobby or a craft, a class here at AUUC, or even when you were reading a book you couldn’t put down. How did that feel, that unbridled enthusiasm, that thirst for knowledge and the joy of pursuing it?

Chances are you felt that way not because someone told you “it’s time to learn this, now,” but because at that moment, in that time and place, that knowledge resonated with some inner part of you that was ready to receive and absorb. And chances are, you came away feeling enriched, empowered, and energized.

Such wholehearted, unbridled education doesn’t often happen in an orchestrated setting, for no one—not even the learner—can predict when the soul’s ear will hear the call to learn.

Now imagine for a moment that you grew up always free to respond to your heart’s yearning for truth and knowledge, whenever you felt the spark of desire to learn. Imagine, too, that your educational experience affirmed your inherent worth and dignity, and helped you feel accepted for your unique personhood, as it fostered your acceptance of others. And what if all of your learning was guided by your conscience, and took place in a diverse, creative, collaborative, community setting where you had a say? How would your life be different now? How would you be different?

The scenario you just pictured is borne out in real lives, across the county. What you imagined is UU homeschooling.

Oh, yes, you know the stereotype of homeschoolers: ultra-conservative sorts, somber with religiosity, “sheltering” their children from the evils of “secular humanism” and, perhaps, beating and/or starving the children between Bible verse memorizations. But homeschooling’s diversity is reflected in the make up of our own statewide organization, The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers. VaHomeschoolers’members hail from varied backgrounds, observe a wide variety of faiths, and utilize a broad spectrum of homeschool methods. Each has the opportunity to participate in the democratic process through an annual member survey and by voting in the board elections.

Although Unitarian Universalism supports and encourages diversity, many UU congregations have difficulty accepting homeschoolers among their members. Perhaps because of the assumption that we are “anti-school.” But choosing to take on the responsibility of educating our own children does not make us anti-school any more than one’s choosing not to visit a park makes a person against public parks. We realize that supporting the education of all children benefits the entire community and we can support public education even when homeschooling.

Home educators have a remarkable community, which offers tremendous support for those who dare step outside the entrenched social norm of institutional education. For instance, there are over 450 families on just one of several national UU homeschool e-mail lists. And our new AUUC homeschool group provides localized, face-to-face, real life support. Although we have met only a few times, this group is already creating a fellowship for liberal homeschoolers in the area.

The educational goals I had for my daughters were deeper than academic success. Although I was raised Unitarian Universalist, it was only after about 9 years of homeschooling that I was able to identify my homeschooling as a UU journey. Indeed, until I began to write this homily in 2004, I hadn’t paused to isolate the UU from the rest of our lives. But once I started thinking in that mode, I realized that UU principles were part of the essence of my family’s educational path and life, inextricable from the fabric of our days, as natural, desirable and necessary to our lives as water.

Homeschooling helped my family grow together, as we became increasingly respectful of ourselves and others, developed our compassion, found and spoke our truths, worked toward acceptance, developed conscience, participated in the larger community, and sharpened our environmental awareness and sense of social responsibility.

Homeschooling firmly anchored my family’s rhythms in the “shared meals, unstructured activities, intergenerational gatherings, [and] just hanging out” that, as David Whitford wrote in UU World, are essential to family life. Thanks to our educational choice, we have the luxury of much time together, and the ability to create what Steven Covey calls “a beautiful family culture.”

Many home educated children have grown up to fashion for themselves a handmade life, including or instead of college, creating their own definitions of success. One researcher wrote that homeschooled children have “the chance to think about who they would like to be and to work at becoming that person,” and that “they had found ways to resist” cultural pressures and “follow another, self-selected path.”

Most of today’s homeschoolers have experienced public school education firsthand, and their dissatisfaction with it probably plays a role in their choosing another experience for their children. But for many of us, homeschooling is also an extension of a parenting style that includes enjoying our children and wanting to be a major part of their educational experience. We love learning with them. Home education has also offered me an opportunity to re-educate myself, to follow my own path in the search for truth and meaning.

Often, we meet parents who are supportive of the idea of homeschooling, but who believe they could “never have the patience.” But I see how homeschooling has given me the opportunity to become a better mother. Parenting my children in this intensive way gives me extra incentive to develop my patience muscle, learn to use my “pause button,” and to lead the family forward in functionality—to be more loving, kind, forgiving, compassionate, peaceful and just. Rather than passively accepting the status quo, we are proactively using what we learn to form our own beliefs, define our own culture, and formulate our own ideas. Homeschooling has made our lives more meaningful.

By strongly connecting me to my children, homeschooling links me more vigorously to the larger world, inviting me to help make it a better place for my daughters. It encourages me to actively live my spiritual beliefs.

Brain research shows that human beings learn best through hands-on activities and one-to-one interaction. Homeschooling allows a great deal of both, every day. Children of UU homeschoolers are living in the real world, with connections to many kinds of people, involvement in the community, and practical, real-life experience. To my daughters, learning is a natural process and an inner urge. They are the driving force of their education, determining virtually everything they learn, including religion. My daughters’ UU RE is as inextricable from the rest of their education as the rest of their education is inextricable from life. UU principles are not just learned; they are experienced through hands-on encounters that are relative to their lives.

Collaboration is frequent among homeschoolers. We often pool resources, work cooperatively, and find creative solutions. We must construct whatever it is that fills our children’s needs: theatre troupes, French clubs, science fairs, sports teams, etc., and we model the innovative and cooperative spirit.

These group endeavors also provide true socialization, which I define as the ability to get along with people of differing ages and backgrounds. Homeschooled children are socialized not by other unsocialized people, but by their parents, who have the benefit of experience and a more advanced socialization. For over a decade, my children have closely watched how my friends and I support and nurture each other, how—homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers alike—we have handled our disagreements and misunderstandings, and the work that long-term friendships call for.

Being that we have to lobby our own cause, homeschoolers are also often politically active, and we include our children’s contributions, making them generally much more aware and involved citizens than their public- or private school counterparts. Last fall, my kids and I spent some time helping with three local political campaigns, and, being that the girls always accompany me in the booth on Election Day, they are well aware of the importance of voting.

Unitarian Universalist homeschooling is part of our commitment to living the tradition of a liberal democratic faith. We trust our inner voices, and the guiding spirit within our children. We affirm our children’s right to make decisions about their lives and education. We strongly believe that raising loving, peaceful, ethical people contributes to a just and loving culture. I smile when I picture the positive effect as increasing numbers of our homeschooled UU children grow up and draw upon their inner riches as they give generously to their communities—and to the world.

© 2004, Shay Seaborne. All rights reserved.

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Fingerprints on the land

Flowers that bloomed in my gardenRalph Waldo Emerson was right in his assertion that success includes, “To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch…”

Last year as I winnowed my belongings when I downsized to “two bags and a smile,” I came across some papers and photos to return to my ex-husband. I dropped them off while he was at work, leaving them on the back stoop, for protection from sun and potential rain. This meant I had to walk through the backyard, which used to be my beautiful 1/4 acre permaculture garden, lush with fruit trees, cane fruits, berries, herbs, 10 raised vegetable beds, and laden with a diverse variety of perennial flowers. Sadly, little of it remains.

After our daughters and I moved out, my ex-husband cut down the Asian pear and one of the apple trees. He also removed the trellis with the hardy kiwi fruit, killed the passion vines, the huge wisteria that sheltered generations of robin nests, and nearly all of the flowers. He removed the clothesline, with its a trellis on one end, supporting a red climbing rose that is no longer. The sandbox is also gone. It had been full of perfect sandy clay loam soil after I turned it into a garden bed when the kids had outgrown the sand. The beds of bulbs and perennials are mowed down. The yard is nearly as empty as it was when we bought the house in 1991, the landscape hardly more than a plain of grass.

The morning after revisiting what was once my garden, I woke thinking about that piece of land and realized that while there I hadn’t even thought to take a picture of it in its current state. I wanted to remember it as the beautiful and magical place where pink cherry blossoms floated in a copper birdbath, tiny box turtles hatched, rabbits gave birth, robins multiplied, and children played among the flowers.

I also reflected on the great quantity of perennials I had given away in advance of moving. I hosted quite a few Subversive Garden Convergences, in which friends and total strangers took divisions of lilies, roses, daisies, echinacea, verbena, lily of the valley, hardy orchid, German- Dutch- and Japanese iris, columbine, winter jasmine, forsythia, daffodil, saffron crocus, and more! These are spread from Fredericksburg to West Virginia and all over northern Virginia. I remembered how those free perennial garden digs introduced gardeners to each other, preserved and propagated long loved plants, and even garnered me a few new friends.

I recalled that, as I had planted and tended the spacious yard, I saw evidence of its impact on local biodiversity. The rabbit population boomed, which brought hawks and owls to the neighborhood. Other birds came in, too, as well as snakes, turtles, dragonflies, butterflies, and bees and more beneficial insects.

I then thought of a garden I knew in my early years, owned and tended by a keeper named Dr. Culpepper. I remember him as an old man whose legs were slow and thick with elephantiasis, but who knew his flowers and talked about them as others speak of friends. Sometimes my mother would take us there to buy daffodils to share at church. I remember how I loved to explore the winding paths through his woods, and the delight of coming upon a patch of dahlias, camellias, kalmia, or other bright flowers. Dr. Culpepper had wanted his property to become a home for seniors after he died. It is that now, for low income elderly, and the name is Culpepper Garden. When my girls were little, I took them to Culpepper Garden one day, and found the old man’s fingerprints on the land. Out in the woods, away from the high rise building, the garden paths still wound, and the flowers bloomed as they had in my youth.

My ex-husband’s destruction of my garden was motivated by his need for simplicity, as well as to spite me and erase my mark on the property. But even in the barren lawn, I could see the outlines of the raised beds that I had carefully tended for 17 years, as I grew organic food to feed my family, so we could manage on one blue-collar paycheck. Interestingly, my ex had not mowed the alleyway behind the back fence, so it is grown rampant with day lilies, hibiscus, iris, and primrose. One of the dominant species in the alleyway is the elderberry that I planted from cuttings I made when the children were small. It seems that no matter how long I am gone from there, some fingerprint of mine will remain on that land.

A garden can be a metaphor for most things in life; we plant and tend, and time changes everything in the end. But we can keep the beautiful memories, can’t we?

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Star of wonder

A concept I came across in recovery from childhood abuse and trauma is that of going back to one’s childhood, to meet the child you were, and give her a gift with some words to go with it. Tell her the things that you wish she had known, that you wish someone, anyone, had told you back when you were suffering so deeply, silently, desperately, and alone.

Abused children often feel terribly alone, even if they have siblings who are also being terrorized by the people who are supposed to love and protect them the most. The experience of abuse is so profoundly personal and wounding that it makes the child feel like an alien on her own planet. As well, the family system and the system of our culture serve to further separate the child from the truth of her abuse experience and the harm it did her.

The abusive family culture’s prime directive is to perpetuate itself. It does not allow deviation. It prohibits the expression of the individual self, in thought, word, and need. The abusive family clearly prohibits the child from having her own feelings, her own needs, and even her own thoughts. She is relegated to a role that was assigned to her perhaps at birth, and maybe even before she was born. Her assigned role is designed to keep the system stable at all costs.

This cost is heaviest on the child but also on her parents and the society at large. Abusive families raise generations of children who are disconnected from their feelings, from being able to express themselves, or even to know what is going on within themselves. Often times the only example of emotion that expressed by their elders is anger, and very likely, rage. Rage that is often misplaced upon the children, taken out on their tender bodies and their impressionable minds.

When I recently found a little glow-in-the-dark star, I wished I could give it to the little girl I once was. I wanted to give her something she could hold onto through her whole life, that would give her strength and hope where none was to be seen. If I could take this glow-in-the-dark star back in time to a little girl who was maybe six years old, I would give it to her as a secret present. The good kind of secret, the kind that made her happy. Not the types of secrets that her family culture pressed upon her, the ones that were cruel.

I would show young me how the glow-in-the-dark star works. When exposed to light, even just a little bit, the star takes the light into itself and holds onto it tightly. When dark times come, the little star emits a light that shines into the world. This is the star’s own unique light, that it creates itself. It can create this light in part due to the light that it received from something else or someone else. Even in the briefest encounter with light, that star can draw the light into itself and use it to shine when the world goes dark.

I would tell that little girl who was me to keep the star in a safe place and to show it the light every day. To look at its light in the dark of every night, and remember that she, too, has a star of light inside her, a star of wonder. A star that has the amazing ability to take in light from any source and use it to reflect her own magical light back out into the world in the darkest nights and days of her life. I would tell her to always remember this even if she happened to lose the glow-in-the-dark star, or somebody mean took it or threw it away. I would tell her that the star inside her will never leave her, and nobody can ever touch it, hurt it, or make it stop doing what it was made to do. I would tell her that her star of wonder was made to shine its own unique light that gives something precious back to the world.

I would tell her, “Spend as much time as possible with nice people who are kind, and let them help you. Ask them to help you, because you deserve help and kindness. You know inside you the little voice that says ‘this is wrong!’ When somebody is mean to you, find somebody who kindles your star and ask them to help you.”

If I could go back in time, I would give that little girl the idea that she is special in her own way, has her own light to share with the world, and one day she would find that no matter what kinds of bad things happened in her life, her light would shine brighter and brighter, until it was a brilliant and fierce light of strength and kindness, compassion, justice, and integrity. It was always inside her and she just needs to remember.

If I could, I would give a glowing star of wonder to every child of earth.

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This ain’t no bro joke

A recently created meme on Facebook asks “If American women are outraged at Trump’s use of naughty words, who in the hell bought 80 million copies of 50 Shades of Grey?” This equates the choice to read erotica with deserving to be sexually assaulted.

Calling Donald Trump’s words “naughty” is a way to minimize the nature of the crime of sexual assault. Grabbing a woman’s genitals is no bro joke. It is not harmless fun, and it isn’t “locker room talk,” or “what men do,” or what women deserve. It is sexual assault. If you still can’t understand why American women are outraged by Trump’s behavior toward women, I will tell you.

We are outraged because we have been sexually assaulted by men who think they have a right to grab our pussies, feel our breasts, or squeeze our buttocks just because they have the urge.

We are outraged because our friends, sisters, mothers, and daughters have also been sexually assaulted by men who think they have the right to invade our bodies at whim and will.

We are outraged that Trump is a sexual predator who objectifies and degrades women and girls, and gets away with it because he is “a star.” We are outraged that so many seem to have little problem with that, and even minimize and justify it.

We are outraged because our “justice” system allows convicted sexual abusers and rapists like Brock Turner receive greatly reduced sentences because they are White, or athletes, and therefore a judge doesn’t want “a few minutes of pleasure” to ruin their lives, even though they ruined the lives of the people they violated in a most personal and damaging manner.

We are outraged because one in four American girls and one in seven American boys are sexually assaulted or raped before age 18.

We are outraged because one out of every six American women is subjected to rape or attempted rape in her lifetime.

We are outraged because most of us will be sexually assaulted at least once in our lifetime.

We are outraged because an American is sexually assaulted every two minutes.

We are outraged that so many people, male and female, make light of sexual assault and rape and downplay the effect it has on the victims, when 70% of rape or sexual assault victims experience moderate to severe distress, a larger percentage than for any other violent crime.

We are outraged because there is too little help for victims of sexual assault and rape. We are left to figure out for ourselves how to recover as best we can, or, most often, to suffer alone and in silence.

We are outraged because the dominant culture is a rape culture, which validates, promotes, and humorizes sexual abuse while condemning those who dare to speak up.

We are outraged because too many of us live in fear of being sexually assaulted or raped by strangers, and by the men we know.

We are outraged that the suffering of sexual assault and rape victims is minimized and dismissed.

We are outraged that after we are assaulted or raped, the police and courts treat us as if *we* are the criminals.

We are outraged that our friends and family members ask us questions like “Why did you let him…?”

We are outraged that the shame of sexual violence is too often put on the victim, instead of the criminal.

We are outraged because sexual assault and rape are such pervasive crimes that if they were caused by a virus, they would be considered an epidemic, and yet, few resources are dedicated to stopping these crimes or helping victims recover.

We are outraged that the lives of too many of our sisters, mothers, aunts, grandmothers, friends, and colleagues are forever affected by violent crimes rooted in the concept that males have the privilege to do whatever harm they want to female bodies.

We are outraged that the world is nearly silent regarding male-on-male rape, and too many of our brothers, fathers, uncles, grandfathers, friends, and colleagues are forever affected by violent crimes rooted in the concept that males have the privilege to do whatever harm they want to other male bodies.

We are outraged by the pervasiveness of the attitude that women are here for men to grab and rape as they please, and if we don’t like it we are humorless and frigid bitches. These men expect us to hush up and let them take whatever they want from us, even our own bodies. A lot of people–male and female–are currently defending that mentality, which means they agree that women should submit to male sexual assaults and pretend it’s alright.

We are outraged because too many people try to dismiss our outrage by characterizing it as unreasonable when outrage is the only reasonable response.

We are outraged that men are largely silent on the issue of sexual assault and rape. They decline to speak up about objectification of women and continue to laugh at bro jokes, cartoons, and stories that degrade us.

I have seen some men speak against this, but not many. Apparently, a lot of them are silent because it’s more important to avoid breaking the bro love by calling a rapist a rapist and a sexual predator a sexual predator than to acknowledge the real and horrific impact of rape and other sexual predation. As our fathers, brothers, sons, friends, and coworkers, men should be outraged, too.


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The truth about Cheryl

What do Christian pharisees do when their target, a single mother and successful businesswoman, will not shrink in fear of their highly abusive demands and submit to their delusional self-appointed authority? They collude to defame her and deprive her of the livelihood that supports her family. This time, they picked the wrong target, because Cheryl did not go away quietly like prior victims; she chose to fight. This is a detailed synopsis of the landmark Sherman Anti-Trust case, Seelhoff v. Welch. 

In early 1994, Cheryl Lindsey was the mother of nine children, owner of a successful family business, and a rising star in the Christian homeschool speaking circuit. Her name was widely recognized and her talks attracted large audiences. Cheryl’s publishing and speaking provided sole support for her family. Her magazine had 15,000 subscribers, and tapes of her speaking engagements made substantial money for convention hosts. Another prominent Christian homeschooling publisher, Mary Pride, had offered to pay Cheryl Lindsey to substitute Gentle Spirit as a way to satisfy Pride’s subscriber obligations for her failing newsletter, “Help for Growing Families.”

Through a religious discussion folder on the Internet, Cheryl began an ongoing conversation with Rick Seelhoff, a computer programmer in Minnesota. The details of her relationship with Rick, and of the dissolution of her long-troubled marriage were about to be used against her by some of the Christian homeschool movement’s most influential and well-known leaders, in a collaborative attempt to drive her from the marketplace. The defendants asserted that the motivation for their actions was biblical scripture, and their goals were “restoration of the family” and fulfilling responsibility.

Michael Boutot, Sue Welch, Mary Pride and Gregg Harris were not Cheryl’s mentors, confidants, friends, spiritual advisors or superiors; they knew her little more than by name. Still, each chose to join a campaign that used personal information against Cheryl’s business. Exerted on a lesser spirit, that might have resulted in disaster. But Cheryl chose to fight.

In March of 1994, Cheryl’s husband, Claude, moved away due to intensifying marital problems. He left Washington State and was living in Louisiana. The following month, Cheryl met Rick Seelhoff face to face at a workshop in Dallas, where she was a speaker. About two weeks later Cheryl confessed to her pastor about the new relationship.

Pastor Joe Williams of Calvary Chapel of Tacoma, and his wife, Irene, were long-time, close friends of Cheryl and Claude. They heard Cheryl’s confession, and her fear that Claude might become violent when he learned of it. The pastor told Cheryl that she should cut off her relationship with Rick Seelhoff. Cheryl withdrew from the church and did not attend any services thereafter.

During the month of May, Rick moved to the Key Peninsula, to live near Cheryl. On May 31, Cheryl’s estranged husband returned temporarily. He stayed with the Williamses, who were aware of Claude’s anger problems and the anti-harassment order Cheryl obtained against him. Claude returned to Louisiana permanently on June 21, indicating to the Williamses, Cheryl, and the children, that he had no interest in reconciling the marriage. Cheryl decided to file for divorce.

On June 17, 1994, Cheryl and Rick departed for the Christian Home Educators of Ohio convention, where Cheryl had a speaking engagement. CHEO had asked for her keynote address, “Titus 2, Living in a Feminist Age.”

“Titus 2” refers to a biblical passage that Cheryl had long quoted in her publication. It advises women to be “keepers at home…and obedient to their own husbands.” But Cheryl’s life had moved away from alignment with those conditions. She had been writing a monthly magazine exhorting women to submit to and obey their husbands, as she had done through twenty years of marriage, until two months prior. That very obedience and submission had helped create an abusive situation for Cheryl and her children.

In addition to the keynote address, Cheryl was scheduled to give six workshops at the convention. Although she had reservations about delivering her talks under the circumstances, the Gentle Spirit publisher had agreed to speak over a year prior, and Cheryl felt obligated because she knew that many people would be flying in to hear her. On the way to the CHEO convention, Cheryl and Rick spent a few days at Rick’s mother’s house in Minnesota, and received counseling from Rick’s pastor.

During the convention, held June 23-25, Cheryl’s estranged husband phoned Gregg Harris, then the owner of Christian Life Workshops (CLW) and later a columnist at and owner of Noble Publishing. Cheryl had previously spoken at CLW’s homeschooling conferences.

Claude, who had received the notice of divorce on the eve of the CHEO conference, told Harris that Cheryl was having an affair with Rick, and asked him to look for evidence in case Rick was at the conference. Harris said he needed verification, asked for the pastor’s number, and called the Williamses to confirm. He agreed to watch Cheryl, and reported that he didn’t see her with anyone likely to be Rick.

The witnesses’ conflicting court testimony makes unclear the order of who called whom, but reveals the defendants’ choosing to insert themselves into Cheryl’s personal life. Court records indicate that Welch and Harris spoke to each other; that both initiated talk of church discipline with Cheryl’s former pastor; each asked whether Williams would exercise discipline; and that the Williamses had never publicly disciplined any church member in their 10-11 years at Calvary Chapel Tacoma.

To confirm suspicions about Cheryl, Harris deceived Rick into disclosing that he had been at the conference. He obtained Rick’s phone number and called. When Rick answered, Harris asked if he might have lost a credit card at the hotel in Columbus, Ohio, which was the hotel where Cheryl had stayed. When Rick said “yes,” Harris made a remark about it being taken care of and hung up the phone.

Harris then notified Pastor Williams, because “the pastor’s responsibility is to watch for the souls of their congregation.” Harris also informed Welch so she could keep The Teaching Home from “being used in this scandal.” Harris also gave Pastor Williams’ number to Welch.

This was not the first time the publisher of The Teaching Home had a worry about Cheryl. A year prior to the CHEO convention she phoned its Executive Director, Michael Boutot, after learning that Cheryl’s family is biracial. Welch felt that Cheryl had purposely hidden this, and the public deserved to know that she was in an interracial marriage.

Boutot sensed Welch was asking him to participate in making it an issue, and he was disturbed because he felt the information was irrelevant. When he voiced his opinion, Welch dropped the issue with him.

The publisher of The Teaching Home also expressed her concern to Cheryl, telling the speaker that if she did not disclose that her family was biracial, Cheryl’s workshops would not be listed in Welch’s magazine. Cheryl consulted her attorney and replied with a letter. The Gentle Spirit publisher told Welch “it is not appropriate to concern oneself with the color of skin of the people with you are doing business with.”

Welch responded with a letter saying she had a change of heart and would be glad to list Cheryl’s speaking engagements. Welch’s testimony on the topic differs. She said she had “absolutely no problem with an interracial marriage,” but was simply passing along the concerns of people who sponsor the conferences.

To verify the latest information on Cheryl, Welch contacted the Williamses and introduced herself as the owner of The Teaching Home magazine. She said she needed to confirm some information regarding Cheryl before informing CHEO’s Executive Director, Michael Boutot. When Welch asked whether the Williamses were going to exercise discipline against Cheryl, Joe replied that he would.

While the Gentle Spirit publisher was en route to the conference, the pastor’s wife contacted Cheryl’s family with an urgent request to speak with Cheryl. When Cheryl returned Irene’s call, the pastor’s wife said she was considering informing CHEO about the relationship Cheryl had with Rick.

Cheryl told Irene she had no right to interfere, especially since Cheryl was no longer connected to the church in any way. Cheryl also spoke with the pastor, who did not agree with his wife and believed it was not right to deliver such an ultimatum. Irene decided to obey her husband, but she didn’t need to tell CHEO; Boutot found out from another source.

On July 1, 1994, after Cheryl had returned to Washington from Ohio, Sue Welch called to give Boutot information on Cheryl’s personal life. He felt it necessary to document the matter, should the need arise for him to refer to the discussions. Welch played an audio recording of Irene Williams reading the letter of church discipline, gave Boutot the pastor’s number and informed him that Christian Life Workshop owner, Harris, was also aware of matters.

Soon after speaking to Welch, Boutot called the Williamses. They corroborated what Welch had said and affirmed a need to proceed with the church discipline. The Williamses said they would fax him a copy of the letter, and gave him Claude’s number in Louisiana, so Boutot could call to further confirm the information.

According to Joe Williams, CHEO Executive Director Boutot had called in an irate condition, questioned Williams’ spiritual authority, and castigated him for “letting” Cheryl speak when he knew she was involved with another man. He wanted to know why Williams didn’t call to warn CHEO. Had Boutot known Cheryl was involved with another man, he would have recommended to the Board of Directors that she not be allowed to speak on any of her topics, even “Living a Simple Life,” or “Cooking a Hundred Meals in a Day.” Boutot believed any topic Cheryl spoke on would have focused on her family, therefore he would have excluded her entirely.

At the trial, Boutot said he did not remember criticizing Williams. The CHEO’s former Executive Director’s memory often failed him during testimony, and he frequently responded to questions with “I don’t recall,” or “I can’t confirm or deny that.”

Pastor Williams also spoke with Boutot and Welch about demanding proofs of repentance. If Cheryl did not show she was repentant, the Williamses would exercise “discipline,” meaning they would expose her to the church, in order to bring her “into obedience in the Lord and back into the fold.” According to Williams, Boutot came up with the idea of requiring from Cheryl some “proofs of repentance,” and presented the list of demands.

Initially, the Williamses planned only to read the letter of exposure to the congregation at Calvary Chapel, about 40-50 adult members. But when Boutot and Harris told him that Rick was in the same room with Cheryl, Joe Williams felt betrayed, because he believed she had repented. After speaking with the Christian homeschool leaders, Williams decided to present his letter to a wider audience.

Sue Welch said she didn’t recall whether she had been involved in wording the letter of discipline, although her phone notes contain some language identical with the letter attributed to Joe and Irene Williams. The publisher of The Teaching Home seemed to be confused in her testimony and the plaintiff’s attorneys moved to publish her deposition. Numerous times she responded to questions with statements like, “I don’t have memory of that right now, but I am certain it could have.”

Pastor Williams was afraid of a lawsuit and wanted to ensure his exposure letter didn’t contain anything that could cause trouble for him. Sue Welch also worried about the legality of the group’s actions, especially concerning the effect on Cheryl’s business. She put the Williamses in touch with her lawyer, Michael Farris. Farris was president of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), Legal Editor of The Teaching Home, and Executive Producer at Pastor Williams testified that he read the letter to Farris, who gave his approval.

Farris suggested Welch should notify people in a letter that came from Cheryl’s former pastor. Welch requested a cover letter from the Williamses, saying the pastor and his wife were asking for the publisher’s help in notifying Christian Homeschool Organization (CHO) leaders of the personal information on Cheryl.

CHO was a group of state organizations that had a working agreement with Welch. The publisher of The Teaching Home thought it important to notify the CHO state leaders, who might consider Cheryl as a speaker.

Welch created a “packet” of information consisting of the letter from the Williamses, a photocopy of the June 27th Tacoma News Tribune which indicated Cheryl’s divorce filing, and the cover letter from the Williamses. That letter includes the sentence, “We request Sue Welch of ‘The Teaching Home’ magazine to facilitate for us the notification of Christian State Homeschool Organization Leaders of this information regarding our local church discipline of Cheryl Lindsey.” Circulating the packet, Welch expected, would cause her associated Christian homeschooling organizations to cancel any speaking engagements Cheryl had arranged with them, and they would not invite her to speak “at least for some time.”

The publisher of The Teaching Home said she had nothing to do with the writing of the church discipline letter – only the cover letter, which she wanted to come from the minister so she could distance herself because “it was a church matter.” Welch admitted that she also “did not want to have to answer any questions.”

The timing is not clear, but at some point, Sue Welch discussed with Boutot that she was prepared to replace Gentle Spirit with The Teaching Home. Welch also spoke to Boutot about the amount of money in the Gentle Spirit bank account and informed the CHEO Executive Director that “GS was to be no more.”

Harris, Welch and Boutot all requested copies of the letter of exposure, and the Williamses complied. Irene and Joe had decided to notify “the Body of Christ,” meaning all Christians, believing it was their moral obligation because Cheryl was a “public figure.”

Cheryl had almost no knowledge of what had transpired while she was out of town. Back home, she stopped by the Williams house to pick up some of her children’s belongings left behind when they visited their father. The Williamses confronted Cheryl, telling her they knew she had been with Rick during the convention and they had spoken to the two Christian homeschool leaders, Welch and Harris.

The Williamses presented her with the “proofs of repentance.” They told Cheryl that she should “step down from public ministry,” refrain from public speaking, not spend time alone, give up her beeper and her personal P.O. box, stop publishing Gentle Spirit, stop answering her phone, turn over the contents of her business and personal bank accounts to a third party, agree to not defend herself, fire her attorneys, withdraw the restraining orders she had obtained to protect her family and business, and replace Gentle Spirit with The Teaching Home magazine.

The pastor and his wife told Cheryl that they would expose her to the church if she did not perform the “proofs.” Cheryl was surprised, because she was no longer a part of the church, and she would not agree, as a single parent of nine, to refrain from answering her phone, or to give up the business that supported her family.

The day after the confrontation, Cheryl heard that the letter of discipline would be read to the congregation, and she requested that Irene read it over the phone. Desperate to keep it from going further, Cheryl wrote a letter dated June 29, 1994, addressed to Welch, Harris, the Williamses, and others. She pleaded for their understanding and asked them not to expose her to the homeschooling community. She faxed it to them but learned that Welch, Sharon Grimes, and Jonathon Lindvall had already begun to inform conference hosts and Cheryl’s engagements with them would be cancelled. Cheryl believes the behavior and demands were “extremely destructive and not consistent with Christian love.” She thinks they were justifying it like “people who bomb abortion clinics believe that they do it also out of love.”

Cheryl was flabbergasted when Sue Welch told her Jonathon Lindvall – owner of the Bold Christian Living ministry – had cancelled her talks. He had not arranged her speaking engagements, he wasn’t sponsoring any of the conferences, and he had no connection with Gentle Spirit other than selling them at his conferences.

Cheryl’s appointment as women’s keynote speaker at the Loving Education At Home (LEAH) conference was terminated, as was an engagement at a conference in southern California. Harris canceled her appearance at his Atlanta conference, and a tentative speaking engagement in Missouri was also crossed out.

Once Welch put out the word, Cheryl never again received an invitation to speak at any state conferences or to have a table at any of them, although she had annually for many years prior.

On July 3, 1994, Cheryl’s former pastor read the “letter of discipline” to the congregation at Calvary Chapel’s Sunday morning service. The letter stated that Cheryl had “been involved in an ongoing adulterous relationship with lying,” there had been no evidence of her “willingness to reconcile with Claude,” and Cheryl had filed for divorce outside of scriptural grounds. Yet, Claude had already expressed to Williams his lack of interest in reconciliation. Cheryl was aware she had been publicly excommunicated at the church that morning by Joe and Irene Williams, her closest friends. She felt as if she were “under siege.”

Illustrating the depth of the Williamses lack of good judgment and receipt of wise counsel is the deposition testimony of Pastor Chuck Smith, leader of the 300-plus Calvary Chapel churches. Smith has a church of over 10,000 people, has been a pastor 30 years and has never gone to the “third step” of church discipline, public exposure. Smith stated that a pastor’s breach of confidentiality is a serious matter, one he would consider “foolish” and “naive.” Pastor Joe Williams had not asked Smith for advice before going forward with his version of discipline.

The evening of July 3rd, Cheryl received a call from Michael Boutot of CHEO. Despite Cheryl telling him that she had left the church in April, Boutot presented her with a list of “agreements,” steps he wanted her to take in order to prove her compliance with the “church” discipline. The “agreements” – two of which were Boutot’s ideas – were that Cheryl would: return the honorarium from the CHEO conference (which she had already suggested, although attendees had expressed complete satisfaction with her presentations); write a letter to Rick Seelhoff, breaking off the relationship and present a draft copy to Boutot for his prior approval; dismiss the divorce proceedings and agree to counseling out of state; and call Boutot the following day at 6 p.m.

Boutot’s call was completely unexpected. It was the first Cheryl knew that the CHEO Chairman had been involved. She listened to the list of “agreements” in absolute horror, totally numb. Cheryl felt angry and shocked, and as she recounted, “I knew I was up against something huge and I was all alone.”

Boutot told Cheryl that if she didn’t comply with his proofs – and if she was truly a Christian – he expected her untimely death, and that if she did not pass away in that fashion, it would indicate she is not a true believer, and she would be turned over to Satan.

Boutot’s testimony is that Cheryl agreed to the “proofs.” Cheryl believes the CHEO Executive Director construed her terror as acquiescence. She agreed only to return the honorarium and to try to write the letter to Rick. Cheryl indicated she would try to meet Boutot’s other proofs, but she was not pleased about the idea of leaving her children to fly to Iowa for counseling with her estranged husband, Claude, and said she never indicated she would turn over her bank accounts to anyone.

That night Boutot kept late hours. Around midnight he received a call from Bold Christian Living’s Jonathan Lindvall, who suggested finding someone to “escort Rick out.” Lindvall told Boutot he would call Welch, to let her know that Cheryl was “agreeing with these conditions.”

At 12:30 a.m., Boutot received a call from Cheryl’s son, stating that his mother had been out alone for two and a half hours that morning, that Cheryl said she was being coerced, and she wanted to divorce Claude and marry Rick. Two hours later, Boutot called one of Cheryl’s sons while attempting to verify some information. Then he phoned Joe Williams. During the trial Boutot testified that he did not remember the exact reason, except it had to do with his desire “to get the Lindsey family back together.”

When presented with his phone notes Boutot said that one of the Williamses had suggested further “fruits” or proofs of repentance, and that Cheryl should prepare a letter of apology – to Williams, the church, Harris, Welch, Boutot, Lindvall, and Claude, plus the Gentle Spirit subscribers – and fax this to Boutot for his approval before sending it. Cheryl wrote the required letter to Rick, but couldn’t go through with it. She felt trapped and blackmailed, as though she had no choice.

The evening of July 5, 1994, Boutot spoke to Irene Williams, who had spoken to HSLDA’s Michael Farris and Sue Welch of The Teaching Home. Although Boutot did not appear to remember specifics in the courtroom, the CHEO chairman’s phone notes from that evening hint at what transpired between the Williamses and the Christian homeschool leaders. Boutot’s notes include these phrases: “Ideally letter needs to come from Cheryl… Letter to leaders (also subscribers), include: Under church discipline; specify sins (lying and adultery); decline all speaking, et cetera; potential replace Gentle Spirit with The Teaching Home. Michael Farris is agreeing with direction. Would rather letter publicizing be letter from Cheryl versus others. Letter needs to be reviewed by me… Cheryl needs to advise advertisers and columnists so they don’t continue to write. Feels I need to call Dr. Dobson, Focus on the Family, as they have been promoting and endorsing.”

Later that evening, Boutot wanted to check on Cheryl, but she would not answer the phone or reply to his messages on her answering machine. Attempting to track down Cheryl, Boutot left a message on her parents’ answering machine. He also called Jonathan Lindvall, Irene, and Cheryl’s son, Roland Lindsey, to let them know Cheryl was making herself unavailable. When the CHEO Chairman got through by circumventing the answering machine, Cheryl refused to talk with him. Her mother called Boutot, accused him of “trying to ruin Cheryl’s life,” told him that her daughter would not cooperate any more, and that Cheryl wanted him to leave her alone.

At that, the CHEO Executive Director “removed himself from the situation,” because it was evident that Cheryl had changed her mind. He felt he was in a position to try to lead her to restoration of the family and there was nothing left to do. Boutot advised Roland Lindsey, Jonathan Lindvall, Cheryl’s estranged husband and Pastor Joe Williams to remove themselves and “turn [her] over to Satan.”

The next phase of the campaign against Cheryl began on July 14, 1994, when Sue Welch contacted Christian homeschool publisher Mary Pride. Welch knew Pride was a direct competitor with Cheryl because of her expiring magazine, Help for Growing Families. Welch also was aware of Pride’s online presence.

Mary Pride was not a member of the Christian state organizations, so Welch had no working contract duty to inform her. Pride testified that Welch contacted her, even though the two hadn’t communicated about anything having to do with homeschooling or the back-to-the-home movement or homeschooling industries for a long time.

Welch’s fax to Pride included a handwritten note, along with the exposure letter packet. Pride asked her employee, David Ayers, to investigate Cheryl with an eye for a potential expose.  Ayers had never seen an article on anyone’s personal life in Pride’s publications before. In his testimony, Ayers was sure the expose was Pride’s idea. But court transcripts show Pride had repeatedly made a point of not remembering who originated the idea.

Ayers said Pride told him the reason for the expose was to make sure the people in the homeschooling community and the whole circle of Christianity were not deceived, “to eliminate rumors with cold, hard, fact.” Ayers felt the issue had aired enough and no one was being deceived. He also felt a small company like Pride’s could not handle the potential liabilities, and was afraid a lawsuit would result.

Ayers sent Pride a memo saying he was refusing, and she acquiesced. The day she received Welch’s fax, Pride was due to take her final issue of Help to the printer. The newsletter hadn’t been a big moneymaker, and Pride planned to let it die because Gentle Spirit had met the needs of the target audience. If Gentle Spirit was gone, she felt there would be a very important gap, which her magazine could fill.

Pride sent out her summer 1994 newsletter, disclosing the “horrifying” information about Cheryl’s divorce, conjecturing about the future dependability of Gentle Spirit, and asking readers to commit to renewing subscriptions. Explaining her vision, Pride wrote, “It had always been my dream to make Help a national newsstand magazine, capable of competing with the secular humanist titles on their own turf…Will you support me in making Help a viable magazine that cannot only fill the gaping void left by Gentle Spirit, but perhaps finally get a Christian point of view into the family magazine marketplace?”

Pride told Ayers to look at Gentle Spirit for potential advertisers that might sustain Help. According to Ayers, the publisher wrote a letter, putting Ayers’ name on it, giving him the title “advertising sales manager,” and mailed them on July 26, 1994. Ayers believed it was unfair; he felt there was an “attack side to it.” He told Pride he didn’t want to work on it and she let it rest.

Mary Pride also began an Internet campaign, using the information about Cheryl’s personal life as a starting point for the revitalization of Help.

On July 20, 1994, Karen Faye posted a message titled, “The Truth About Cheryl,” on AOL in the Gentle Spirit folder and on CompuServe and Prodigy. Karen Faye was a big fan of Help for Growing Families. She and Pride had posted back and forth on a variety of topics. In her testimony, Pride said she “cannot confirm or deny” that she may have sent Karen Faye a post in response to the rumors about Gentle Spirit and Cheryl. She disclosed she had informed Karen Faye about the pastor’s letter and divorce filing. Pride admitted she probably sent the message to Karen Faye before “The Truth About Cheryl” was posted, and that she was probably the first person to share this information with Karen Faye.

“The Truth About Cheryl” was “almost word for word” the letter of exposure from Calvary Chapel. It also encouraged readers to contact Cheryl’s former pastor. In response, some people posted thanks and others said it didn’t belong online.

Virginia Hunt, a long-time and daily user of the AOL boards, said she had not seen Pride post in that folder any time previously, but once the announcement was presented, the Practical Homeschooling editor began to make her presence known. Pride’s posts thanked the original poster and chastised the people who thought it was the wrong place for such information, saying it was important to expose, to tell the truth so people know.

Four days after “The Truth About Cheryl” appeared, Pride proclaimed she was starting a new folder entitled “Help for Growing Families,” which she announced in the Gentle Spirit folder. Hunt said that topics in the Help folder were much the same as in the Gentle Spirit folder before it had been “derailed by the announcement of Cheryl’s sin.”

Illustrating Pride’s influence on Christian homeschooling is the testimony of Pride’s employee, David Ayers: “in The Way Home, Mary had strongly encouraged women to have as many children as God sent, not to use birth control… [and] she had letters… from women that had stopped using birth control because of her book.”

On August 12, 1994, Pride created a folder to publicize and discuss “divorce and re-marriage.” The topics were “Cheryl and Rick and their relationship, and whether it was legitimate or whether it wasn’t. Whether or not they should be able to be divorced… the biblical basis of divorce and remarriage,” Virginia Hunt said.

Pride called for people to stop associating with Cheryl, and for her to discontinue publishing Gentle Spirit. She made these posts “all over AOL,” said Hunt. She even sent out e-mails to individuals, telling them to “Please look at the message I just posted about Gentle Spirit.” In her posts, Pride went as far as to compare “remarried persons” to child molesters and serial murderers, concluding that, if one could forgive divorce and remarriage, “you should be willing to have a child molester run the nursery and a serial murderer stand there with a knife in his hand slicing the bread for the fellowship meal.”

Pride’s new “divorce and remarriage” folder received about 200 posts per day. At one point, it received over 1,500 in a day. It was by far the most active folder on AOL.

Like AOL, Prodigy had a folder devoted to the rumors behind the news, and posts from AOL were copied verbatim to Prodigy. When Rick asked Prodigy’s board monitor to remove the inflammatory posts, the entire folder was permanently deleted. Rick didn’t find any similar folders on CompuServe, but he overlooked the Christian section of that server.

AOL board monitors let the discourse continue, but indicated they were watching it closely. A good number of posts were pulled, especially in the first weeks. The monitor frequently added warning messages aimed at those who were “flaming,” using inflammatory language and derogatory terms, like “harlot” and “whore.”

Because of Welch’s circulation of the information packets to homeschooling leaders and state organizations, and Pride’s Internet campaign, Cheryl soon began to receive an avalanche of messages. The Gentle Spirit fax machine and answering machine worked overtime, receiving a tremendous amount of messages. Rick said the fax paper “would just roll across the floor and the floor was covered in…paper…The phone machine was filled up…there [were] 50 messages in there, the light blinking. And every one of those…said ‘we heard, what are you doing? What’s wrong? How dare you?'”

During the month of July, five Christian publications carried news of Cheryl’s personal life. The Gentle Spirit columnists quit, and many of the advertisers withdrew their ads and asked for refunds. The phone was ringing constantly, the fax machine churning, and an onslaught of subscription cancellations ensued.

In September 1994 Pride made a final attempt to resurrect her deceased Help newsletter. Although Pride testified that she had hired David Ayers to conduct research and assist with advertising, Ayers says he understood his job was research director, to research educational issues and help with Practical Homeschooling. Very soon he found himself doing work he hadn’t expected. Pride had told Ayers that Help would be out of publication by the time he began employment, but she was trying to re-start the newsletter and wanted Ayers to assist with finding advertisers.

Initially Pride testified that neither she or anybody on her behalf undertook an investigation to find out if the Gentle Spirit advertisers would be interested in advertising in Help, even claiming she would be surprised to learn that Ayers called advertisers, asking them to switch to Help. But when confronted with a document titled “Notes for speaking with Potential advertisers – H.E.L.P.” Pride admitted she had asked Ayers to produce such a document. The first line reads “For those considering shifting to Help from Gentle Spirit.” The last paragraph includes: “We are presenting Help…specifically as an alternative to Gentle Spirit…Our readers are similar to GS’s.”

Ayers vividly remembered speaking with one advertiser from Gentle Spirit, Phil Lancaster, publisher of Patriarch magazine. Ayers believed “it was a big deal because [Pride] and Phil didn’t speak to each other.”

Despite her efforts, the editor of Help couldn’t drum up enough interest from subscribers or advertisers. The summer 1994 issue was the last. According to David Ayers’ testimony, around the third week of September, Pride revived the idea of printing an expose on Cheryl in her Practical Homeschooling magazine.

As part of the piece, Pride wanted Ayers to interview Cheryl and Rick, using a list of queries she provided, Ayers stated. But Ayers felt the interview questions were too personal; he couldn’t imagine sitting down and asking such things. [Ayers, 820] Ayers testified that if Pride ordered him to go forward he would have to resign. Ultimately, even though he had relocated his family upon accepting the job, Ayers did resign.

Pride’s deposition states that she did not pursue the expose because she had decided that she did not want to “get involved in heavy journalistic types of pieces.” The publisher of Practical Homeschooling said she had not been sure if it was a good idea to present such an article, but admitted she had been willing to pay Ayers to investigate. Again Pride made a point of not remembering where the expose idea originated. Her words conflicted with Welch’s testimony as well as with Ayers’.

Much of Pride’s recollection was weak on the day she testified. The publisher of Practical Homeschooling said she hadn’t asked Ayers to call Gentle Spirit advertisers or to put together an article on Cheryl. Pride’s testimony changed when Duffy, the plaintiff’s attorney, presented her with Exhibit 156, an email to her from David Ayers, which refers to just such an article.

The Internet message boards continued to be overrun with messages related to Cheryl and her private life. Cheryl received an enormous amount of phone calls and letters, referring to the letter of discipline she thought had only been read to the local church. It was evident that it had been circulated nationally.

Despite professional counseling, Cheryl was depressed, and cried constantly. She tried to defend herself, and planned to put out an issue of Gentle Spirit, but it was impossible for her to write.

In January 1995, Sue Welch published a notice about Cheryl in her State Leader’s Memo. The notice wrongly announced that Cheryl’s divorce was final–it would not be for another eight months–and “she is planning to marry the man who was involved in sin with her.” The column also asserted that Cheryl lied about putting out Gentle Spirit, and she was “misrepresenting her [former] husband.” It ended by asking readers to pray that people “are protected from her false teachings.”

The State Leader’s Memo announced the information in a column titled “We Wish We Didn’t Have to Tell You, But You May Need to Know…” which details the shortcomings of other people as well, such as one who was “active in speaking against HSLDA and homeschool leaders.”

In February 1995, Cheryl published an issue of Gentle Spirit. In it, she told her version of the events, and offered subscribers the option of receiving the remainder of their subscriptions in back issues, which were very popular. Cheryl received a lot of emotional support from readers who were angry about what happened to her. They understood she had opposition from key leaders in the Christian homeschooling industry. She received some financial assistance, but not enough to sustain publishing. She also continued to receive plenty of hate mail. Cheryl would not publish another issue of Gentle Spirit for over four years.

As soon as the February 1995 issue came out, one of Cheryl’s competitors, Mary Pride of Practical Homeschooling, came online and demanded that she refund instead of publish. Still, many of Cheryl’s readers chose the back-issue offer.

The March/April 1995 issue of Patriarch magazine devoted 1/3 of its pages to a piece titled “An Open Letter to Cheryl Lindsey.” The author and publisher, Phil Lancaster, a pastor, claimed he had been “charged to correct the errant and warn against them.” Lancaster’s “letter” said that even if Cheryl’s allegations about Claude’s abuses were true, divorce is not warranted, and he reminded her that “women are called to…not give in to the natural fears of following a sinful man.”

Another possible motivation for Lancaster’s “Open Letter” is revealed by its text. He urged Cheryl to return to her church and her estranged husband, and to stop defending herself. The Patriarch publisher described Cheryl’s influence as greater “in the lives of many women than their pastors or elders…you are a leader/teacher among women.” And continued by expressing his fear that, because of Cheryl’s example “many women who also have hard marriages will feel justified to make ungodly choices like divorce.”

Cheryl’s divorce was final on August 30, 1995. She and Rick Seelhoff married six days later. Realizing the heavy criticisms and publicity would prevent her from generating enough business to support publication of her magazine for some time, Cheryl decided the next best thing was to publish online. According to documents on file at the Pierce County Superior Court, on October 10, 1995, she announced Gentle Spirit Online.

Less than two weeks later, Mary Pride announced her new magazine, Big Happy Family.  She promised the first issue would be out within two weeks; but it was not mailed out until the following April. The debut magazine appeared similar to Gentle Spirit; the topics were quite alike, the unusual frequency was the same and the price was very similar. During her testimony, Pride explained that the subject matter of her new magazine include birth and babies, money management, recipes, midwifery, plus a letters section. Like Gentle Spirit, Big Happy Family might address homeschooling, but was not specifically dedicated to the issue.

With the start of Gentle Spirit Online, the firestorms on the Internet were rekindled. Cheryl received heavy criticism and threats for daring to publish on the Web.

In late October of 1995, Sue Welch heard rumor that Cheryl was speaking somewhere on the East Coast. The Teaching Home’s editor launched an investigation to find out if Cheryl had the audacity, as Welch’s phone notes label it, to speak after 14 months had passed. Welch’s notes reveal she contacted several people and spoke to Cheryl’s former pastor before learning that the rumor was false.

In November 1996, visitors to the Practical Homeschool folder on AOL were urged to report Cheryl to the Fraud Investigations unit of the US Postmaster’s office. Six months later, in May of 1997, Cheryl filed suit against Calvary Chapel of Tacoma, Joe and Irene Williams, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, The Teaching Home and Sue Welch, Gregg Harris, Christian Home Educators of Ohio and its Chairman Michael Boutot, and Bill and Mary Pride, alleging a number of causes of action, among them defamation, outrage, interference with commerce, and violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act of the United States. Suddenly, the harassment stopped.

Michael Boutot, Calvary Costa Mesa, and Gregg Harris settled in March of 1998, well before the trial began. Mary Pride settled in August of 1998, just prior to the trial. The court convened on August 14, 1998. A no-nonsense judge chastised lawyers for both sides. He repeatedly reprimanded one of the defense attorneys to stop bringing up Biblical law, reminding him that the court was not ruled by that text, and he denied testimony from the defense’s expert witness on Christian religion. Judge Burgess also excluded two Plaintiff’s witnesses: Mark Hegener of Home Education Magazine, and homeschooling author Dr. Raymond Moore. Both would have presented testimony relating that Sue Welch and others had been previously involved in similar smear campaigns. The intent was to show that the actions against Cheryl weren’t about church discipline or restoring a marriage; it had happened before. The judge ruled that such testimony would be peripheral to the issues between Cheryl and Sue Welch. Judge Burgess also excluded testimony of Cheryl’s therapist, who would have testified on the effects the public exposure had on Cheryl’s ability to function in her business.

It is significant that every defense witness–other than the paid financial expert–offered a portion of trial testimony that contradicted his or her deposition. Of course, this questions the credibility of a witness’s testimony. Closing arguments by Barbara Duffy, the Plaintiff’s attorney, maintained that in the Christian homeschool industry, “the stark facts about a divorce and an extramarital relationship can be economically devastating. Sue Welch knew that. And with that knowledge she undertook a strategic course of spreading this into the marketplace…she could simply have taken that notice of Gentle Spirit magazine workshops out of her publication, but Sue Welch wanted Cheryl out of the marketplace. She told her that in her letters. And she was successful.”

During his closing arguments, defense counsel Rudy Lachenmeier invoked the name of the 1950’s demagogue Joe McCarthy, and contended “There’s only one conspiracy here…to be a good Christian. And that’s not a violation of the Sherman Act.”

However, as reiterated throughout the trial, Judge Burgess’ opinion were to the contrary. The judge stated, “A claim of good motives, like a claim of ignorance of the law, cannot justify or excuse a violation of federal antitrust laws.”

The jury was charged with considering eight days of complicated and conflicting testimony and determining whether Sue Welch – the only defendant choosing not to settle out of court – was guilty of violating the Sherman Antitrust Act. The judge instructed the jurors that the plaintiff had the burden of proving: there existed an agreement, conspiracy or combination among two or more persons AND that it specifically intended to harm or restrain competition AND that one or more of the defendants’ acts assisted an agreement, conspiracy or combination AND the defendants’ acts did cause injury to competition. The plaintiff had to prove each proposition; if any were not proven, verdict would be for the defendants.

Judge Burgess told the jury that “The law does not define which [trade] restraints are reasonable and which are not. It is for you to decide whether the evidence in this case shows an unreasonable restraint.”

On September 9, 1998, the unanimous jury returned a verdict saying the defendants Welch entered into an illegal conspiracy in restraint of trade in violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, that damages were caused and determined the damages to Cheryl’s business were in the amount of $445,000. In antitrust actions, awards are automatically trebled, so Cheryl was entitled to receive in excess of 1.3 million dollars from Sue Welch. In addition, she was entitled to recover her attorneys’ fees and costs. Subsequently, Welch and Cheryl settled for an undisclosed amount.

Antitrust suits are ordinary events, but, according to Barbara Duffy, the plaintiff’s attorney, what made the Gentle Spirit case unusual was the use of personal information, particularly obtained through a breach of pastoral confidentiality, for a competitive advantage. The defendants worked in a market where such disclosure of information would likely be devastating.

In May of 1999, for the first time in over four years, Cheryl published Gentle Spirit. The magazine no longer carried its previous reference to “Titus 2” in each issue. Although it was still concerned with simple living, self-reliance, community and homeschooling, the flavor was more accepting of the diversity of humanity and spirituality.

The Gentle Spirit subscriber base never recovered from the damage wreaked by the conspiracy against its publisher. Attempting to trace subscribers and fulfill their subscriptions cost Cheryl and Rick thousands of dollars. Some of those subscribers responded with rage and demanded that publication stop. Yet, the hubbub also sparked the interest of new subscribers. Cheryl and Rick were very hopeful, but not sure the renewed venture would thrive.

The inside cover of the foremost issue of the “new” Gentle Spirit presented a letter from Rick and Cheryl, in which they described some of their beliefs: “all human beings are treasures…one size never fits all in matters of the heart, mind and spirit…we reject violence and coercion on all levels…we also reject the abuse of power…We have changed our minds many times about what it means to ‘live Christianly’…other people should likewise be afforded plenty of room to grow and to change and seek the Lord in their own ways.”

When that issue of Gentle Spirit reached subscribers, the Internet blaze rekindled. The participants discussed every snippet of information revealed, and debated whether the defendants’ actions were justified by scripture, or if they simply broke the law and should publicly apologize. The publisher of Gentle Spirit stayed away from the Internet debates and  wondered if she would ever recover from the trauma she endured, which stole her trust and faith in human beings.

Throughout her difficulties Cheryl continued to enjoy the support of many of her former subscribers and a few faithful Christian friends. However, the most help came from unexpected quarters – “liberal Christians” and “worldly” people. Cheryl said,”It is ironic that those whom conservative Christians typically warn against, out of fear they might draw Christians away from the Lord, turned out to be instrumental in my healing. They were often more compassionate and faithful and loving by far than many of the Christians who had cautioned me against associating with such people.”

The original Complaint for Damages was filed in June 1997. In April of 1999, Cheryl settled with the Williamses and Calvary Chapel of Tacoma on the remaining, pending state claims, which brought the litigation to an end.

Although she was wary of further attacks, Cheryl’s life broadened, allowing for “enjoyment of things I had forbidden myself for many years, thinking they were of their very nature off-limits for a Christian–music, books, movies, theater, art, food, a glass of wine…whatever clothes I wanted to wear.”

Now, more than 20 years after these events began, Cheryl’s children are all adults, and so are four of her grandchildren. She is at peace and is proud of the good and satisfying life she has made for herself. Cheryl still occasionally receives orders for back issues of Gentle Spirit magazine and is happy to fulfill them. She remains excommunicated by the homeschoolers on the Religious Right who originally orchestrated her excommunication.

© 1999, 2016 Shay Seaborne. All Rights Reserved. 



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Heart like a feather

When my kids were little, I took them to visit a special museum exhibition on ancient Egypt. We learned was that Egyptians believed that only those, who have a heart that weighs no more than a feather, can enter heaven. That means this is what those people strove for, lightheartedness. To have a light heart means one looks on the bright side, laughs easily, forgives others, behaves with integrity, and atones for mistakes.
I have long said that heaven and hell are right here on earth; they are our choices for what we make of our lives. Now I combine this with what the ancient Egyptians believed, and the result is that those, whose hearts weigh no more than a feather–because they look on the bright side, laugh easily, forgive others, behave with integrity, and atone for mistakes–can live in heaven right here on earth.
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