Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Fighting for Will

Our cultural landscape in the United States of America is sometimes bewildering. Are we in good shape or is America going to Hell in a handbasket? The question is so vast and the data so variegated as to make daunting the task of giving a simple answer.

Nowhere is our culture's complexity more pronounced in my mind than as it regards the health of religious liberty in the United States of America. On the one hand, our multicultural society fares much better than its predecessors in handling some forms of religious liberty. A Mormon is receiving serious consideration as a candidate for the highest elected office in the land! A Muslim congressman was sworn in on the Qur'an. Significant conflict still ripples out from the government's invasion and occupation of the realm of education, but otherwise we've made great strides in providing equal access to our nation's liberties for people of all faiths.

On the other hand, an alarming intolerance for biblical Christianity rears its ugly head every in our government every so often…just enough to raise some serious concerns.

Jim and Linda Dawkins came to First Baptist Church of Farmersville not too long ago. Gregarious and passionate about their faith, these two quickly engaged themselves into the fabric of our congregation. Jim is Linda's second husband—her first husband, Gene Vallow, ended their marriage after he renounced his former profession of faith in Jesus Christ, departing orthodox Christianity. He had been very faithful and active in church throughout his courtship and engagement with Linda. His repudiation of our Lord was a complete shock for her.

Having previously been a very active Christian, Linda's ex knew all of the intricate doctrines of the Christian faith, and he determined to try to use them against her in the battle for the custody of their son, Will. He alleged that a Christian upbringing would turn Will against him because it would teach that Gene is destined for Hell. A Dallas-area court agreed, awarding sole custody to Gene simply because Linda believes the Bible and wants the freedom to teach it to her son.

Linda has a website and a blog. I hope that you'll visit Fighting for Will (and the Fighting for Will blog here) and offer her your encouragement. Her religious liberty has been violated at the hands of the state, and not over some trivial matter, but by abducting her son from her. I'm praying that God will raise up some modern day Williams or Leland to right this injustice.


Les Puryear said...


I am shocked at this situation. Typically, the court errs on the side of the mother in these sort of cases. Were her Christian beliefs the only issue raised or were there other concerns? Is there any chance of an appeal?

Wow, I'm just beside myself about this. Jim, Linda, and Will are in my prayers.


Bart Barber said...


Frankly, my immediate (internal) reaction months ago when Jim and Linda opened their hearts to their pastor was to think, "Yeah, this is YOUR side of the story…there MUST be more to it than this." Everyone has that reaction at first.

Since then, I've seen actual court documents. Since then, I've heard the opinion of other social workers who have concluded that Linda's faith is basically the sole issue. Since then, I've learned that there are other people lodging essentially the same complaint against the same judge.

I'm convinced.

Linda does continue to pursue this matter in court, and I continue to pray that God would do whatever is necessary to rectify this situation (knowing the gravity of such a prayer).

Trey Atkins said...


Thanks for sharing this. I have linked your story on my blog and used it to launch into a long planned series on justice and ministry. Please keep us informed as this unfolds.

Trey Atkins
IMB - Croatia

Anonymous said...


Absolutely amazing!

I have been teaching a seminar at my church about sharing the gospel with atheists. I have been reading some modern day atheists (Dawkins, Hitchens, etc), and they truly believe that it is child abuse for a parent to abuse their children by brain washing them with religion. Some atheists have stated that it should be a legal reason for removing children from parents. While I just attributed this to wacky authors exercising free speech, Linda's story illustrates that their way of thinking is beginning to take hold in the legal system. Wow! Totally, jaw droppingly shocked!

There are several ministries that defend religious liberty in the courts. Have any of them been contacted about this violation of her constitutional rights?

Todd Pylant

joerstewart said...

Here's the money quote:

The mother’s view of events based on her belief system appears to be imbedded (in the child) and she may benefit from extensive therapy to assist her to develop tolerance, forgiveness and establish appropriate boundaries with the child and the ability to co-parent with the father.

This is in the court document. All I can say is rejoice and be glad because great is your reward in heaven.

Alan Cross said...

This is truly horrible, Bart. Thank you for making us aware of this. This decision must be appealled. The precedent is the most dangerous thing I have yet heard. Has their family contacted any Christian legal organizations? Please keep us informed. This is possibly the worst religious liberty abuse that I have yet heard of - it makes not being able to put a nativity scene in the town square look like nothing.

I will pray today.

Bart Barber said...

Linda is pursuing every possible remedy. Many of the groups that defend religious liberty will tell you that they are specialists in constitutional law, not family law. There seems to be a reluctance to get into the middle of a divorce and a custody situation.

Thank you for your prayers. Linda's site gives you the ability to contact her. If you have any ideas for what she could do, feel free to let her know.

Anonymous said...

Minister Barber:

Gene Vallow and his wife are active members of Unity Church of Dallas and have been for the last 4years. Gene is not, nor has he ever been, an aethiest.

The Court did not take away the child, the mother gave him up.

Additionally, if you did indeed read the court documents, and the reports from the parent facilitator and family services, you would see that the "recommendation" to change guardianship was not based at all on any religious teachings but because the mother was involving the child with alienation tactics which in turn harms the child emotionally.

If the mother had not agreed with the report, she certainly should have not agreed to give up guardianship and she should have gone through with the Trial, which she did not. Who knows what the outcome would have been had she done so.

Additionally, had you read all the documents, you would have seen that the Judge did not rule to take the child away, the Judge simply put into an Order what the parents had agreed to among themselves.

It will be a shame should you find yourself in a defamation/slander/libel suit with your comments about the father's relgious beliefs.

Bart Barber said...

Dear Mr (Mrs?) Anonymous,

Indeed, an increased risk of frivolous lawsuits is one of the prices that one pays for having the courage to put one's name alongside one's words.

Bart Barber said...

But, always interested in accuracy here at PGBB, I have modified the wording of the post. If it still remains unacceptable to the Vallows, I have access to a great lawyer and plenty of money.

Anonymous said...

Minister Barber,

I'm sure your veiled threat about a great lawyer and plenty of money is well-received amongst your twisted psuedo-Christian congregation, but in my church it is considered antagonistic and ignorant. I have to say that I know Gene Vallow, and he is the most doting parent and one of the most loving and caring human beings I've ever had the pleasure of encountering in my life. If you read Linda's blog, she associates Gene's post-court embrace as 'rape'. In fact, knowing this man as I do, I know it was a gesture of sorrow for her pain, and a demonstration of his ability to put aside his own pain to comfort her in what he understood was a great loss. Linda's twisted reality and mental instability causing her cult-like extremism and misinterpretation of what should be a beautiful and pure faith is the reason I see that her situation is what it is. What this woman needs is counseling to help her through was is clearly a complete inability to live in reality.

Anonymous said...

P.S., I too feel like the courts failed to an that they would give even one minute of contact with a child to this psycho! Seriously, shame on all of you who read her blog and don't see how distorted this person's views are!!

Bart Barber said...


You said: "It will be a shame should you find yourself in a defamation/slander/libel suit with your comments about the father's relgious beliefs." (Or was it you? How would anyone know, with your unwillingness to take responsibility for your own words?)

Now, who was threatening whom? Obviously, my reference to legal counsel was purely defensive. Go bully someone else; you don't frighten me.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't the same anonymous...I was the last two. I choose not to use my name on a public forum for the safety and protection of my own family...I never use my name online, that is not a reflection of my unwillingness to own up to my views. Again, I posted the previous two posts, not the one you're referencing. However, if you still feel my posts are 'bullying', that is surely your perogative.

Anonymous said...

(same anonymous this time)
Bart, by the way, I've read many of your posts and appreciate your position, and truly respect your knowledge of Christ and His teachings. You're clearly blessed with great intelligence and insight. I was just personally overcome by what I saw as the many unfair and untrue views of others regarding a situation I happen to know a lot about, and my instinct, and I believe (hope!) rightly so was to defend a kind, sweet man that I know well. My intention was to present a counterpoint in addition to my personal, though admittedly heated, views of Linda. I have seen the pain this person has gone through and hope the grace of God is bestowed upon her - please know no disrespect or bullying was intended!

JoeR said...

Any updates on this story? The link above doesn't work, and the blog link takes me to a page that says it's been removed (?) I was wondering what had happened!