Forbid Them Not: The Hidden Children and the Internet Theologians

Forbid Them Not: The Hidden Children and the Internet Theologians September 21, 2018

Forbid Them Not, pp. 225-237

This chapter consists of two halves. In the first, Deanna fends off the visit of a social worker. In the second, Cooper, racked with guilt over the situation with Jody, logs into Sally’s chat room under an assumed name. I’m going to try to quote only briefly through this chapter because much of it is really, really boring. An editor would have used a lot of ink on this chapter.

First, we get the same old strange car pulling up the Thomases driveway setup. Oh noes! Deanna sends Layton to see who it is, and Layton reports that it’s Nora Stoddard—“the one who visited here after she came to my Sunday school class”—and that she has “some other woman” with her. Egads!

The pair comes to the door. Deanna cracks it.

“Mrs. Thomas, we need to come in. I am the social worker assigned to monitor your family. It is just routine after there has been a supervisory order entered by the court in a juvenile matter. We just want to check on Layton and the other children to see how the adjustments are going.”

“Well, Miss Donner, I have no intention of letting you in my house.”

“I am afraid you have no choice. This is a requirement.”

Deanna locks the door and calls Cooper, telling his secretary that it’s an emergency. Cooper comes out of a meeting with clients to take Deanna’s frantic call.

To a certain extent, this feels like a classic example of just what Farris urges all Home School Legal Defense Association members to do—if a social worker shows up at your door, keep them waiting on the porch and call HSLDA immediately to get a lawyer on the line. Never, never, never let a social worker enter your house—at least, that’s HSLDA’s line.

And lo and behold, Cooper tells Deanna to hand the phone to Ms. Donner, and he successfully tells her off. She and Ms. Stoddard leave without either seeing or speaking to Layton. This is exactly the scenario my parents prepped for—we had our HSLDA membership ID and phone number inside a kitchen cupboard. If a social worker ever came calling, we would close the door, call HSLDA, get a lawyer on the line, and hand the phone to the social worker. And then she would leave.

Of course, there’s more going on here. For one thing, there appears to have been a stunning lack of communication—it does not appear that Deanna or Cooper or anyone else was told that there would be a social worker assigned to the case—and as Cooper points out, Nora’s presence makes the visit anything but “routine.” Unless I am very much mistaken, any social worker assigned to the case ought to have been included in the judge’s order at the end of the last hearing. It wasn’t.

Ms. Donner and Nora leave after Cooper tells them that he’s going to contact Judge Holman to “resolve this for us.” Cooper argues that the case isn’t routine because there has been no actual finding of abuse or neglect, and he’s right about that. This also seems like the kind of shenanigan that would make Judge Holman really upset. Nora has miscalculated badly.

There’s another piece here too. When Deanna asked Cooper’s secretary to call him out of a meeting to talk to her, she explained the situation as follows:

“Tell him that Nora Stoddard is here at my house with a Loudoun County social worker, and they are demanding that I let them in my house and …” Her voice started to break. “They want to question my children.”

Deanna violated the court order against spanking and she knows it. If Ms. Donner were to question Layton, he would either have to lie or tell her about being spanked. Deanna would be in serious trouble. If Deanna cannot be trusted not to violate a direct court order, it is entirely possible that Layton might be removed from her custody. She put herself in this situation.

In other words, Deanna isn’t stonewalling the social worker merely because she’s concerned about her family’s privacy, or even because Judge Holman almost certainly hasn’t signed off on this visit. She’s stonewalling the social worker because she’s actively hiding things. She’s stonewalling the social worker at least partly because she doesn’t want the social worker to know that she’s violating the judge’s court order in the case and engaging in forbidden disciplinary practices.

Is Farris aware of the messages he is sending? That it’s ok to stonewall social workers and keep them from talking to your kids, even if you’re violating the judge’s court order and literally hiding something? Farris probably doesn’t have a problem with this message—he would likely say that child protective services can’t be trusted to distinguish between godly discipline and abuse (as he seems to think is the case here). Still, I think we need to be clear about what is going on here.

Astoundingly, Deanna does not mention to Cooper that she spanked Layton. This would seem to be pertinent information. She does ask something else, though.

“Is there any reason we have to stay here?” Deanna asked.

“No, what did you have in mind?”

“My parents have been pestering me to bring the children for a visit for a few days since school is out. I don’t think I have done a good job of honoring my father and mother. I believe i should go to Richmond for a few days and remedy my error.”

Cooper laughed. “It is always a good idea to honor one’s father and mother. Have a nice time in Richmond. Make sure that you give your number to Nancy before you leave.”

I don’t think this counts as running from social workers exactly, and I can understand where Deanna is coming from—she’s had enough strangers coming up her driveway for quite some time, and a change of scene would likely do them all good.

That said, WTF is with the thing about honoring her father and mother? Deanna doesn’t need a justification to take the kids to visit their grandparents. And if she thinks she does need a justification to leave and offers this justification if someone from the court asks why she and the kids left home, she’s going to sound really really weird.

Scene change!

Cooper has something of his own that he’s not telling—all the stuff about Jody, including Jody’s note about the emails. He should call Peter and ask for advice. Peter would tell him to tell his clients already. But Cooper doesn’t call Peter. Instead, he logs into Sally’s chatroom late at night, unable to sleep.

He thought that Rocky was a good alias for a guy named Stone, but plain old Rocky was already taken as a screen name, so he kept trying variations until he got something he could use.

About two minutes later, he hit the “enter” button and the screen read:

You are entering the News Room as RockyofVA.

Part of me wonders if identifying with the state, so soon after being hailed as a celebrity on this very chat site, everyone knowing he was from Virginia—and also using an alias so related to his own last name—might be risky. But then, these people are living life, not reading a book, so they’ll probably never make any connection between someone being from VA, and the case.

Either way, he’s in.

He realizes the News Room is empty, so he goes to the Mars Hill room instead. Oh, Mars Hill.

Mars Hill Church was still young at this point—long before Driscoll’s rapid rise to prominence and quick fall—so I’m going to assume that this is a reference to the hill where Paul preached a famous sermon. Whatever it’s meant to reference, RockyofVA enters to find the chatroom deep in a debate over “once saved always saved.”

RevBill: So those who believe in OSAS are clearly in the better position if you take that passage seriously.

Wesleyan: Yeah, if you just look at THAT passage, perhaps. But what about the verses I mentioned a minute ago?

Spare me.

Several other chatters start making fun of those engaged in serious debate—“I think the real issue is addiction to chat rooms”—and Firemomma shares a cute anecdote about her three-year-old:

Firemomma: He crawled up in my lap and said: Mama, why do you have a flat lap but Grandma’s lap is fluffy?

That is not a cute thing your kid said. That is a humble brag.

When no one responds to her story, Firemomma gets annoyed.

Firemomma: Did anyone see what my three year old said? No one replied. Is this thing working tonight?

Notreally: We saw it, fire, we just thought it was so precious that to recognize the brilliance of your three year old with a mere LOL or even a ROFL would be like saying, “Nice picture” in front of the Mona Lisa. True brilliance needs more than faint praise.

Firemomma: Are you joking, Notreally?”

Notreally: not really.

This also happens:

RevBill: Don’t any of you ever want to discuss anything serious? Have all Americans had their brains turn to mush? All I see is this jabber and jokes unless my friend, Weslyan and I mix it up on eternal security.

Angelic: I like serious discussions, even though I am in Canada.

This whole section really is that bad. 

Several users ask Cooper why he’s up so late in VA, and that transitions into an interest in what is keeping him from sleeping, which becomes a request for him to tell them what’s bothering him, so that they can help him talk it through.

RockyinVA: Well, I am having trouble sleeping because I am basically afraid and guilty.

Cool.

RockyinVA: I guess I can say this much … I did something I shouldn’t have done … I feel guilty about it.

Firemomma: Have you confessed it?

RockyinVA: Thousands of times, it seems.

To who?

Cooper hasn’t told anyone. When he says he’s confessed he means he’s confessed it to God. In prayer. Silently. No one knows. And that’s the problem, because his clients need to know. They need to know both that their email might be compromised and that their lawyer might be compromised. Strike that—is. Their lawyer is compromised.

RockyinVA: I don’t want you all to think I have done something horrible. By the world’s standards I didn’t do anything bad. But I should have known better.

WTF? Cooper, you did something bad. You invited a key player on the other side of a lawsuit you’re involved in on a carriage ride, in New York City in the dark, you offered her your coat, put your arm around her, and kissed her. And then you failed to tell your clients. Frankly, that’s the real problem—Cooper made a mistake asking Jody on the carriage ride, but the kiss was her idea, he can’t be blamed for that. However, he should have gone to his clients right afterwards and told them what happened. And he didn’t. Instead, he hid it. He’s keeping very pertinent information from them.

Cooper seems to have entirely forgotten about the ethical issues involved here.

RockyinVA: Oh, this is so hard. I will just tell you. I kissed someone I shouldn’t have kissed. That’s it. But I learned something from her that I need to tell someone else about. I can’t really do what I need to do because of all this. There, there is my whole dirty laundry out in front of you all.

Is there any reason he can’t tell his clients about the note, without telling them about New York City? Don’t get me wrong—he should tell them about New York City. But they all noticed how friendly Jody was being toward Cooper at the hearing and during the depositions, he could just tell them she handed him this note during the television interview, which is true.

Katie_host: What was wrong with kissing her? Are either of you married?

RockyinVA: Goodness, no. I wouldn’t have done that.

He’ll totally kiss the woman on the other side of the lawsuit he is representing his clients in, but he would never kiss a married woman! Interesting priorities.

Notreally: If you don’t want to say, don’t, but why was it wrong to kiss her if you are both single?

RockyinVA: It is real complicated. I can’t tell you any more details. I just can’t. But I would appreciate your prayers.

What in the world?

Let’s hash this out. Cooper says that he kissed someone he shouldn’t have, but did nothing wrong by the world’s standards. This makes it sound like he does not think there is any ethical problem with what he did. That presumably makes it a moral problem—kissing someone he isn’t married to. But here, he does not disagree with Notreally’s statement that if two people are single, there is nothing wrong with kissing. And that would suggest that that Cooper doesn’t see a moral problem with what he did.

What is going on here?!

Cooper, you are one messed up dude and you need help. Get off the case, call those people who wanted to do it for free, and take a vacation to clear your head. Then go back to taking regular local cases, and keep your hands off the opposition.

Anyway, Notreally quotes a bunch of scripture at Cooper and then basically tells him that he’s forgiven, and that he needs to do the thing he believes he has to do, even if that means what he did will come out—in other words, he needs to tell his clients about Jody’s notes, and about their email maybe being compromised.

Notreally: If Satan is telling you that you can’t do what you need to do because someone might find out and that would be embarrassing to you because you are a Christian, just do what you need to do and don’t listen to Satan’s lies. If God wants it to come out publicly, it will be for your good. But either way, just respond to your clear duties and let God worry about what the consequences are.

Good grief! You can see the problems with how Cooper has explained the issue! If what happened with Jody comes out it won’t be embarrassing to Cooper because he is a Christian, it will be embarrassing to Cooper because he crossed an ethical line. Could one be debarred for becoming involved with the opposition and failing to tell one’s clients? And Cooper clearly is involved—otherwise he wouldn’t have any problem sharing Jody’s note! What a mess—and all of his own making.

RockyinVA: Thanks again, all of you. I still need your prayers. But I have a good idea of what I need to do. It was good to see you guys again. Goodnight.

Katie_host: Goodnight, Rocky. Blessings.

Firemomma: Nite, Rocky.

Saddlepal: We’ll pray, Rocky.

Angelic: I’ll pray in Canada, Rocky.

RockyinVA leaves.

FiddlersPapa: Again? Did he say good to see you again? Anyone else ever see him before?

Firemomma: Not me.

Cyrllic: Not me.

Anxious4Jesus: Me either.

Angelic: I’ve never seen him, but I’m from Canada so I’m not here all the time.

Good gracious, Angelic. We know. 

Cooper decides he’ll call Peter in the morning and have it all out. And I know I said that’s what he should do, but I do want to point out that he’s still delaying talking to his clients. He needs to do that too, regardless of what Peter says.

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