The Politician Who Sued God

iStock/tzahiV
iStock/tzahiV

In 2007, Nebraska state senator Ernie Chambers sued God. As KETV Omaha reported at the time, Chambers’s lawsuit sought “a permanent injunction ordering God to cease certain harmful activities and the making of terroristic threats.”

According to the mortal plaintiff, the immortal defendant had caused “fearsome floods, egregious earthquakes, horrendous hurricanes, terrifying tornadoes, pestilential plagues, ferocious famines, devastating droughts, genocidal wars, birth defects, and the like” [PDF]. Chambers claimed he had tried to alert God of the impending lawsuit by shouting, “Come out, come out, wherever you are,” but the attempt failed to get the deity’s attention. Chambers further claimed that he had jurisdiction to sue the Almighty, since, “being Omnipresent, [He] is personally present in Douglas County."

The lawsuit was absurd, but that was the point. The deliberation came in the midst of a controversial sexual assault case in which a district judge had barred the plaintiff, a Nebraska woman, from using the words rape or victim during trial. After two mistrials, the accuser sued the judge for violating her rights to free speech—but a federal judge deemed that lawsuit legally “frivolous” (that is, without merit). This came in the wake of a Nebraska statute that further restricted such frivolous lawsuits.

For Chambers, this appears to have been a flashpoint. By suing God, he hoped to make a political statement: That a court should be required to hear a case, no matter how frivolous it might be. “The Constitution requires that the courthouse doors be open,” he said, “so you cannot prohibit the filing of suits. Anyone can sue anyone they choose, even God.”

It wasn’t the first—or last—time somebody had sued a supernatural being. In 1971, a Pennsylvania inmate named Gerald Mayo sued “Satan and his servants” because they had “placed deliberate obstacles in plaintiff’s path and caused his downfall.” In 2007, a Romanian murderer attempted to sue God for “not protecting him from the Devil’s influence,” Eric Grundhauser wrote in Atlas Obscura. Both cases were dismissed.

In August 2008, Chambers and God got their day in court, with Douglas County District Court judge Marlon Polk presiding and “an empty table reserved for God and God’s attorney,” according to the Associated Press. In a four-page decision, Polk dismissed the lawsuit because God’s home address was unlisted. Since the deity could not be properly summoned, the case could not move forward.

Chambers saw this coming. Since God is omniscient, Chambers argued, He doesn’t need to be served because He already knows it’s coming. Judge Polk, however, didn’t budge. “Given that this court finds that there can never be service effectuated on the named defendant this action will be dismissed with prejudice,” he wrote.

It should be noted that Chambers has a history of using absurdity to make broader political points. In his opposition to the state’s Concealed Handgun Permit Act [PDF], Chambers once offered an amendment suggesting a formula that claimed to help determine the maximum number of pistols a person could carry: It involved “multiplying the size of the licensee’s right shoe by three-times the girth of the licensee’s waist after a full meal, measured and certified by a professional tailor” [PDF].

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What Is the Electoral College?

YouTube // CGP Grey
YouTube // CGP Grey

The Electoral College is a process used in the United States to elect our president. It was established in Article II of the U.S. Constitution.

It was created to address a series of technical and political problems that were present in the early days of our democracy—most notably, the issues of slow communications (it took tremendous time and effort to get vote tallies back to Washington from distant states) and of suffrage (the idea of a pure popular vote was a hard sell when you had Southern states containing large populations of enslaved African Americans and unenfranchised women). But we've been doing this national election thing for a couple hundred years, the suffrage issue is sorted out, and we have good telecommunications—so why do we still have the Electoral College? In a word: Federalism. In a few more words: The framers of our Constitution deliberately set up an indirect democracy.

There are lots of interesting arguments for and against the system. In the below video, YouTube educator C.G.P. Grey explains the issues inherent in the Electoral College. Take a look, and consider the question: Is this system really fair?