January 27, 2023

The True Story of the Woman Who Sued God… And Won 

Full story of the Penrose, the woman who sued God

A year commonly associated with standing on your mother’s porch, playing guitar until your fingers bleed, and meeting the love of your life at the drive-in.

But while others were enjoying the best days of their lives, Betty Penrose was enduring her own personal tragedy. Penrose, a humble legal secretary from Phoenix, Arizona, was thrust into a unique and horrible situation when her home was struck by lighting by a passing storm in a freak of nature.

Penrose lost everything she owned when her house burned to the ground in the subsequent fire. She cast her eyes to the heavens from the ashes of her broken life and vowed that God would pay for this… somehow.

The Lawsuit Against God

When Betty Penrose’s sympathetic boss, Rusell Tansie — himself a lawyer — heard about the tragedy, he took it upon himself to file a lawsuit on her behalf, against the Almighty himself.

The suit informed God that he was responsible — and I quote — for “The maintenance and operation of the universe, including the weather in and upon the State of Arizona.”

Thus he was responsible for the bolt of lightning that struck and burnt down Ms. Penrose’s house. The lawsuit asked for $75,000 in general damages and $25,000 in punitive damages.

Tansie obviously knew his stuff because he strategically filed the suit in Sonoma, California, rather than Phoenix. Why Sonoma? Well, at a time when counterculture communities were sprouting up all over the country, Sonoma was home to a rather unique Hippie commune. The land on which it stood was originally owned by an unusual character named Louis Gottlieb, who believed in peace and free love but, in a moment of divine inspiration, Gottlieb filed a grant deed to gift his 30-acre ranch to God, transferring the title to the “rightful owner.”

Thus, the Sonoma County Recorder’s office records that on May 6, 1969, The Lord of all Creation came of own a piece of the world he made — 30 acres in Sonoma, California, to be precise.

Tansie reasoned that if God could own land in Sonoma, then God could be sued in Sonoma.

And he was right.

God’s Day in Court

On the date of the trial, the court noted that the defendant — God — did not show up for the hearing, although it did not give specifics on how the court determined that the Omnipresent was not in fact there, as opposed to merely exercising his right to remain silent — as he often does. Neither was God represented by a solicitor to speak on his behalf.

With God apparently absent from his court appearance, Penrose won the case by default and was awarded the $100,000 in damages that she asked for.

Finding and pursuing God for the money proved a far more significant challenge, and it is not known whether Betty Penrose was ever able to extract a single cent from God’s deep pockets.

Now, just in case you think I’m making this whole story up, here is a link to the original article as it was published in the Indianapolis Star:

Can you still sue God?

I found this such an unusual story that I decided to do some research. Is it still possible to sue God, or is the tale of Betty Penrose a strange anomaly? Here is what I found.

Technically, the courts, at least as we know them in the modern, western world, have an open-door policy. Therefore, you can pretty much file a lawsuit against anyone you like, including God. However, that doesn’t mean the court has to accept the case. There are plenty of occasions where such cases have been thrown out.

That aside, there are several unique challenges when it comes to suing God.

Firstly, before you can sue someone in a specific court, the court has to have jurisdiction over that person. This generally means that the person has to reside or have a place of business within the state. Since God “owned land” in California in 1969, Tansie was able to file suit against him. Apart from that, how else do you claim to have jurisdiction over God?

Secondly, you have to serve the defendant with the lawsuit. The server would have to deliver the summons and complaint to God in person. We’ve seen Prince Andrew hiding away in his castle in England to avoid being served a lawsuit in recent times. How much more difficult would it be to serve papers on a God who is both nowhere and everywhere at the same time?

Thirdly, the court has to have a way of enforcing its judgments. Even if the plaintiff wins the lawsuit against God, you can’t exactly arrest him and throw him in jail, and good luck trying to extract payment from him.

Fourthly, Heads of State are immune from legal actions, civil or criminal. And often, they have the power to pardon themselves. That’s why Donald Trump is still a free man, right? Since immunity is for their whole term of office, if there is a God, He’ll be immune forever.

Fifthly, you may be required to mediate with God and His legal representative. Serving notice for examinations for discovery to go over His evidence or pre-trial motions to settle out of court could be challenging. God’s been known to be judgmental, so Heaven help you if He wins!

Finally, perhaps the greatest challenge of all is that to sue someone, you have to prove that they exist — and that is a matter of faith, not a matter of fact.

The final verdict

In the 2001 Billy Connolly film, “The Man Who Sued God,” Connolly sues his insurance company for refusing to honor his claim after his boat was struck by lightning and sank, on the grounds that it is not liable as his fishing boat was destroyed by an act of God.

Connolly argues that the God of the insurance companies’ “Acts of God” does not, in fact, exist. “If God exists, I don’t think he sits around sinking people’s little boats,” he says. “I don’t think he causes earthquakes and landslides . . . If there is a God, surely he is everywhere. He’s in everything. He’s even in this courtroom.”

“He’s in the sea; he’s in a lobster, he’s in a line of Robert Burns, he’s in a woman’s thigh, the soft anvil of creation. He’s in the face. How can I sue these things?” Connolly says.

And still, we try.

In fact, putting God on trial is nothing new. In the Bible, the book of Malachi is more or less set in a courtroom where the Israelites have, ostensibly, placed God on trial for not living up to his end of their covenant.

Malachi opens with the Almighty on the witness stand, making a pretty good case that it was the Israelites, not God, who had been negligent in fulfilling the terms of their agreement. At the end of the day, God does not offer excuses and explanations. His testimony ends with the simple statement, “I have loved you and I love you still.”

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