5 People Who Sued God
From the moment we click open those wet little marbles we see with for the first time, we have entered a contract we never agreed to: life. Sure, there’s a chance you could end up as an egregiously hot influencer and live a life of sponsored sinful lethargy, but there’s also a good chance that it’s gonna suck. Unfortunately, just as there’s no one to renegotiate the terms of your breathing agreement with, there’s also not really a singular person to look for an apology from when the horrors begin to collect in your brainpan.
You can try, of course. More commonly, through tearful, bedside appeals to the heavens. Occasionally, though, people throughout history have chosen a much more official and legal appeal process. There are a handful of brave, arguably heretical fellows who have attempted to take God themselves to court, like a paperwork-heavy retelling of the story of Job. You’d also probably be surprised how far some of them were able to get.
Here are five people who sued God…
If you watch any law-related television show or just read news surrounding legal decisions, you’re going to be inundated with the word “precedent.” Especially and frequently as related to the idea of “setting a dangerous precedent,” a phrase that’s even leaked into the usage of people like impotent middle managers at a Whole Foods. In the legal sense, this is because every decision has the capability to cause cracks in the foundation of an occupation specifically built of people who are the best in the world at finding tiny, exploitable cracks.
A precedent is where the story of Betty Penrose’s suit against the Almighty starts, with a singer named Lou Gottlieb attempting to dodge fines on a commune he’d set up in California. He tried to transfer the ownership of the land to God themself. Someone infamously hard to contact, much less collect fines from. Seeing that, attorney Russell Tansie saw an opportunity to collect some recompense on behalf of his secretary Betty, whose house had been struck by lightning. If God could own land, he/she/it could also be called to court, he reasoned, and filed a suit to that effect. Unfortunately, Gottlieb’s attempt was thrown out, and so Penrose’s went with it.
Probably the highest-profile, and most extensive legal battles that held the Almighty in its crosshairs, was brought by a man named Ernie Chambers. An important detail here, and one that is likely heavily responsible in even getting the case as far as it did, was that Chambers was not some wackadoo walking in off the street with a chaotic sheaf of “legal documents.” He was a Nebraska State Senator. Through probably a combination of genuine legislative skill and political sway, he eventually did find himself in a courtroom for the case with the coolest title ever: Senator Ernie Chambers vs. God.
Chambers’ complaints covered a common moral and religious quandary, a God that would allow acts of terrorism to exist. An amorphous accusation that likely would have taken years of untangling if anyone involved had expected the case to progress. Instead, the case was quickly dismissed by the judge for what had to be the tongue-in-cheek, but legally correct reason of a failure to notify God of the lawsuit due to lack of a listed address. Chambers then argued that, given the idea of an omniscient God, by definition, God had to have been aware of the lawsuit. In case it’s not clear, Ernie Chambers rules. The lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice, but he’d made the point he’d wanted to, which was that he believed anyone should be able to sue anyone, and that the courts shouldn’t prohibit access to the courts based on these involved.
The same year, a man named Greg Rollins with considerably less clout and public power also decided to attempt to wrangle God into a courtroom. His case, which didn’t make it as far as Chambers’, centered around two specific complaints. The first, unimaginably wide complaint was for all of God’s failings in running the world in a satisfactory way. A morass plucked from a Sunday School Q&A that no legal system in the world would have any interest in taking on.
His second complaint was for God “not making him right,” which, I’m assuming, refers to some genetic unpleasantry he’d been made to endure. Again, it might not be on the scale of global tragedies, but it’s still worth wondering why, in a world of an omniscient creator, clinical depression is doled out so willy-nilly, as if everything wasn’t sad enough.
Launching legal proceedings from jail is already an uphill battle. Even with every i dotted and t crossed, you’re fighting through a pretty substantial wall of immediate doubt. Calling the legal system into question is enough to cause an eye roll, because of course you’re not happy with them. Aiming even higher, at a deity? A fun strategy, but not an effective one.
Nonetheless, that was the road chosen by Pavel Mircea, a convicted murderer in Romania. Given any other context, his specific complaint might be charming, since he was accusing God of breaking a contract: the contract of baptism. According to Pavel, this contract included an agreement of protecting him from the Devil, which wasn’t fulfilled since Satan was able to effectively convince him to kill. Once again, the courts turned to God’s lack of a legal address, though probably with a lot less amusement.
You could just as easily argue that the last case should have chosen Satan as a defendant instead, given the Devil’s more direct involvement. Of course, Lucifer might be a less compelling enemy in court, given his access to the world’s best lawyers. (I kid!) Still, God isn’t the only side of the eternal battle that someone’s attempted to serve. In 1971, a man named Gerald Mayo attempted to sue Satan for, well, his usual tricks.
He specifically claimed, “Satan has on numerous occasions caused plaintiff misery and unwarranted threats, against the will of plaintiff, that Satan has placed deliberate obstacles in his path and has caused plaintiff’s downfall.” Once again, in what seems to be consistently found as the easiest way to quickly bury these cases, the court dismissed on the grounds that they had no ability to contact Satan, or any path to relief for the man.
Eli Yudin is a stand-up comedian in Brooklyn. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @eliyudin and listen to his podcast, What A Time to Be Alive, about the five weirdest news stories of the week, on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever else you get your podcasts.