Pensacola Christian College: Taking Alumni To Court Over Domain Name

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Pensacola Christian College is back in the news again and once again they’re not doing themselves any favors on the PR front. To completely understand the $100,000 lawsuit that the college has filed against former student Pete Gage over his ownership of the domain name pensacolachristiancollege.com we must first go back all the way to 1996 and a non-approved newsletter named The Student Voice. It’s quite a story.

Back in those early Internet days, PCC had just begun to issue e-mail accounts so that students could stay in touch with friends and family back home. What they didn’t count on was the subversive nature of the uncontrolled flow of information that comes when you let people freely communicate. This is, after all, the college that has in its handbook that 150 demerits (enough to get a student immediately expelled) would be issued to any student who participates in an “unauthorized petition [or] newsletter.” It was in this environment that a couple of alumni began to e-mail current students with The Student Voice publication, which asked hard questions directly challenging the college’s authority.

What ensued was a full-on assault from the college administration. E-mail privileges were taken away from all students. Students who were then in attendance recall being told that visiting the website of the Student Voice or reading the newsletter would result in expulsion. The authors were called bitter and rebellious, people who simply wanted to hurt the college and by extension wanted to harm the cause of Christ. In short the administration did everything possible to suppress free speech, free thought, and any and all forms of dissent on campus. Those who have attended there (as I did) know that’s just business as usual at PCC.

In what I suspect was a gesture of defiance, Pete Gage, one of the Student Voice founders registered the domain name penscolachristiancollege.com and made it the home of the newsletter archives and and active discussion forum. In 2001, the college responded by filing a complaint with the National Arbitration Forum which claimed that Gage had set up this website “primarily for the purpose of disrupting Complainant’s business, since at the web site to which the domain name resolves, Respondent has posted information critical of Complainant’s rules and policies.” But after considering the case, the panel found that the Student Voice “has rights and legitimate interests in respect of the domain name at issue” and dismissed the case.

Under normal circumstances that would have been the end of it. After a few years went by the Student Voice website stopped getting a large amount of traffic and the forums were shut down, leaving only the archives for people to view. Pete even offered PCC the option to buy back the domain name for the price of $75,000 either paid to him or the charity of his choice. They declined. And so the site sat gathering Internet dust until this week when PCC launched another suit against Gage for $100,000 in damages claiming that he was using the website “for the purpose of misleading and confusing the public about its association with PCC, and trading on the goodwill, reputation and fame of PCC.” The irony is that this legal action from a school that teaches that it is a sin for Christians to sue each other in court. It’s obvious that they’re just dripping with goodwill.

The truth is that this suit is not about reclaiming a trademark. Anybody who has seen the project costs for the campus buildings can reasonably assume that people who will spend 54 million dollars on a new auditorium can probably afford 75 grand to reclaim a domain name, especially if that money is going to charity. What this entire case is about can be summed up in the word “revenge.” Pensacola Christian College hates people who flout its authority — and I do not use that word lightly. The insult given by someone daring to start a newsletter that they did not approve has to be answered by and they will not rest until they have broken the will of anybody who would dare to oppose them.

The rest of this story remains to be written. As fundamentalism follows its slow slide into oblivion the anger felt by those who cannot understand why their attendance numbers are dropping and their influence is declining will no doubt continue to projected outward against those who point out their flaws. It would be far too hard to look within and see that their biggest problem is not a domain name but rather the despots who rule that institution with an iron hand. I fear that realization will come far too late.

Update 1:It appears that Peter Gage has chosen not to fight the lawsuit and has instead given the domain name pensacolachristiancollege.com to PCC. However, the Student Voice still lives on in the archives.

281 thoughts on “Pensacola Christian College: Taking Alumni To Court Over Domain Name”

  1. Darrel, thanks for curating the materials of the SV. I remember this as it was my first semester at PCC. This whole clamp-down fiasco should have made me cut and run. It threw up huge red flags however: at that point in my life I was forced to attend the college and I forced myself to “give it a chance” because people who I was indoctrinated to believe were more “spiritually mature” lead me to believe God had a plan for my life. And PCC was a part of my “character building”.
    I remember upon first arriving to the campus we had access to email – this did not last long due to this “underground” news letter.
    Since it was 1996 mobile phone tech was not as affordable or accessible so this isolated the student even more.
    There was also zero internet access but we figured a way around the phone lines with a piece of hardware you could buy at radio shack that allowed you to access dial up. We had to use this sparingly however so we wouldn’t raise any suspicion. Looking back now it was a prison camp. I do cherish some memories and a lot of the great friends I made: this does not excuse the authoritarian cult iron fist wielded by the administration under the guise of “Christian” religion. ❗ 😕

  2. I also was a student at PCC. I transferred to another Christian college after attending PCC for 2 and a half years. I was in awe after leaving PCC and immediately attending the other college. I found I had so much freedom at my new school. I no longer felt watched. That was an eerie feeling at PCC. The Holy Spirit was stifled on that campus. The truth sets us free, and any school that is afraid of their students taking any initiative and acting or thinking for themselves, well that ought to be a HUGE RED FLAG!! I felt like PCC was so consumed with “looking right” so much more than love, grace and where the heart really is. Sad to say that many of the kids I knew at PCC who grew up in really strict independent Baptist homes, are now a mess. I keep up with many of them on facebook, and now that the school and mom and dad can no longer control them, many have gone wild and their hearts really don’t seem to be about loving Jesus and others. Breaks my heart, but I guess that is what the spirit of religion can produce. Praise Jesus that He saw fit to rescue me out of that kind of bondage. I am now a “charasmatic Christian,” and PCC taught us that those kind of people were in the wrong. Well, I am happy to say that I am living in truth and freedom today. Thank you for putting this information on your website. I hope we can have some sort of forum online to keep informing people who want to know what PCC is really like.

  3. Of course, any “Christian” college is, by definition, NOT a “college” but a “re-education center” not dissimilar to Gitmo – either you believe EXACTLY what we do or we beat you until you do.

    There is only one true solution. Shut down the campus permanently, and send the brainwashers/teachers to their own re-education “therapy.”

    Christians are dangerous. They want to kill the planet to bring about the Rupture, and ALL their politicians/Tea Party clones are actively working to ensure the demise of the US. These are traitors and dogmatically-controlled bigots, with NO place in contemporary society. Let them go back to the fifteenth century when people of their persuasion were appreciated – and those that were not were forced to…

  4. I know this will probably not be read as time has marched on and readers are on other subjects, but I was away on a business trip and I still want to put in my $0.02 worth

    1. I went to PCC from 1985 to 1991 when I graduated and went on staff for a year. I was a “special work-loan” student. My first year I received a total of 7 demerits in the two semesters. My worst semesters I got 49. I had good grades and worked hard to conform.

    2. Upon arrival (a transfer from UCLA) I was told that if I were from California, I needed to get saved. I was put on special watch because of my suspicious origins.

    3. Because of my work-loan position, I was told that I could not leave unless I paid everything I owed the second I left. I felt trapped and helpless.

    4. The worst thing that happened in my years there was that a suite-mate accused me and a friend of being lesbians because she was giving me a back rub with my shirt off. I was called out of class with a green slip of doom to the deans office and questioned for hours. I would not admit to being a lesbian, because I was not one. How do you prove that you are not a lesbian? Do I grab some passing preacher boy and make him take me on the dean’s desk?

    Unable to get either of us to confess to a lie, we were socialed from each other for the remainder of our time in college. Two years. We could not sit near each other, talk to each other, phone or write each other — on or off campus, even during vacation breaks. If we were caught communicating (because this would somehow prove we were lesbians) we would both be expelled. Stupidly, I accepted the conditions because I really believed that I could not leave because of my work-loan job. For two years I missed one of my best friends because I did not have the guts to stand up to the petty demigods of PCC.

    After a year on staff (required by my work-loan agreement) I got a job offer back in California. I accepted the job in June and wrote out my notice to the administration that I would be leaving in August, to give them time to find a replacement and let me train them.

    Again I was pulled into the administration offices for another hours long session on how I was sinning and breaking the will of God for my life, that I had promised to work for 2 years (original contract said 1-2 and they did not have me sign a different one upon graduation). I was told I would have to pay my balance right then and there or ELSE.

    You know what. It finally occurred to me to say or else what? I was told then that I had five minutes to clean out my desk and 3 days to vacate my apartment. I did pay off my bill, but over time.

    They threaten and intimidate. And when I posted on the Student Voice, we were told by them that we were hiding behind secret names. So I put my name out there with my student ID number so they wouldn’t confuse me with someone else. Elizabeth Armstrong 60972. I remember that number like it was tattooed on my forearm.

    So they pulled their other “OR ELSE” and removed my name from the alumni site.Ohh, scary. Whatever will I do?

    My only other “complaint” the one I put on the Student Voice, is how they lie to incoming students about accreditation. They told us that it was never a problem in transferring and showed us a long list of real colleges and universities that took their students. When I went back to school to become a librarian, I applied to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champange. I only got in “provisionally” because I had rocking GRE scores and some impressive letters of recommendations. And now PCC is using this to show other students how I got in with their transcripts. Bull Paties! It had nothing to do with PCC. In fact I almost lost a job with the state because PCC wasn’t accredited. They lie. They always have and they always will.

    There. I feel better now.

      1. I prefer “cow patties” because of this song:
        Yippee yay a Cow Patty
        Yippee yay a Cow Patty
        She rode in to town to find the man who killed her daddy
        Yippee yay a Cow Patty!
        😆 :mrgreen:

    1. Dear Liz et. al.

      Threat/manipulation/punishment strategy breathes unbelief. Am I the only one to smell it?

      Christian Socialist

      1. I am not sure what it breathes, but it has bad breath.
        Sadly, I really thought that if I obeyed these ridiculous restrictions that they would change their minds and lift them. They should have either accepted that we were innocent of the charges or shipped both of us.

        I am glad that one day I opened my eyes and saw the truth.

    2. I just came across this site by accident. Reading Liz Armstrong’s entry I’m shocked, and surprised that a lawsuit hasn’t been filed against the school. Liz, I hope you have been able to recover from the trauma of your experience. I could feel your sadness at being separated from your friend.

      1. true i’m not in college yet, but i went 2 PCA which is right next 2 PCC both of them are horror and these people who work at that place need to stop brainwashing kids. and at the college, not every boy and girl are going to have you-know-what

  5. at PCA they made me go to the principl’s because i was failing math and i wasn’t allowed to participate in recess they treated me like a kindergartener and i wasn’t!

    1. You guys are pure babies. If you’re failing anywhere, you generally have restrictions. Shut up your sad-life story. It’s irrelevant. The fact is they still have a waiting list to get into the school.

      1. I have never heard of a waiting list. There are fewer students than were there during my time in the 80’s. They accepted pretty much everyone. What on earth are you talking about?

      2. BTW, I am an elementary teacher in a good Christian school. When we have students who are failing, we help them…. Work with them. We don’t shame them the way they did at PCA. We help students succeed and allow them the outlets they need (recess) to cope.

      3. Well, I don’t care because my 3rd grade teacher called me an idiotic weirdo and treated me like bullshit, so go suck a plum.

      4. Well, I don’t care because my 3rd grade teacher treated me like bullshit and called me an idiotic weirdo. Now I go to a public school, and I get C’s instead of F’s so you are a baby thinking you can mess with a person who was bullied and intimidated by everyone there so go suck a plum in a corner.

      5. Joe Smith with his “loving” attitude either obviously works for PCC in some way or is obviously brainwashed by their type. No thank you Joe, those of us who survived PCC don’t need your treatment!

  6. Wow, and you call yourselves Christians… Don’t you know what the Bible says regarding problems with fellow Christians? It says in Matthew 18:15 to deal with it privately, not to go on a website and argue in front of the whole internet without their knowledge or them being able to defend themselves! I am torn and apalled when I see Christians bashing PCC because it shows that Christians are bitter and not doing as God commands them to do. You want them to accept your certain stances on your faith yet you can’t accept theres? Do you see your hypocracy. If you really hated it that much, you didn’t have to go; and now that you did go just get over it if you really didn’t like it that much. MOVE ON! Are there stances on how a Christian should act wrong? No, they’re not. Do I agree with every stance the college takes? No, I do not. Yet, I do respect their stances and their caution because it is mostly doctrinally correct.
    And now for this “suit.” PCC did file to get the website due to cybersquatting, but they did not file the lawsuit. The firm that filed the suit did so without PCC’s concent. They were working on getting the website and when the guy asked for $75,000 for it the firm then filed the suit. President Shoemaker found out when he was called by the Pensacola News Journal regarding the situation. The suit was dropped, the firm was fired, and the situation was resolved. Dr. Shoemaker then offered to pay the $75,000 for the website as a compensation for all the problems with the firm. The student refused the offer and gave the website to PCC anyway. Get your facts strait please.

    1. 1. Not everyone here claims to be “Christian”.
      2. PCC reps can come here and defend the institution if they are so directed. I’m pretty sure Mr Dow wouldn’t object to an official PCC post.
      3. If I see a person or business (and let’s face it, PCC is a business) doing wrong, I am morally obligated to warn others — whether I’m Christian or not.
      4. The lawsuit is a public matter, not a private one. If PCC doesn’t want public input on its business, then its matters should be conducted privately.
      5. How do you know the site owner refused the $75,000? Where is your proof?

    2. “Their doctrine is mostly correct” – that nullifies everything you said. They are hardly correct and could only said to be following fundamentalist false teaching. Sorry pal but you are the one who is completely wrong about your little judgement. Besides the Mathew 18 reference you are trying to call on to shore up your false righteousness is a misapplication at best.
      Scrub your intellect of fundamentalism.

    3. 1. PCC can’t be considered a “brother or sister,” it’s an institution. It’s very personhood is a legal fiction. Criticizing an institution (bashing is a locution I dislike, since it prejudges the worth of the criticism) cannot be covered by Mt 18:15, which doesn’t speak to disagreement as much as the witness of blatant sin.
      2. I’m sure PCC is welcome to respond here to the criticisms.
      3. There’s no hypocrisy apparent here. Darrell has made it clear that he doesn’t agree with PCC’s handling of students, but I don’t see him expecting anything from PCC.
      4. Saying that PCC did not file the lawsuit is misleading – the apparent filer is Pensacola Christian College, Inc., and several news sources reported that the College had filed.
      5. The suit was dropped due to settlement. I’m unwilling to do a Lexis/Nexis search to find out what settlement is part of the record, if any.
      6. Calling it cybersquatting is inaccurate and possibly actionable, since the rights to the domain were awarded to Gage by the appropriate arbitration authority.

  7. Thank you for all the information. I have been researching this college for my seventeen year old son. After reading all of the comments, you couldn’t pay me to send him there. I have also warned numerous others to stay away! God bless you!

  8. As I read these comments I chuckle to myself, because I went to Catholic school all my life—and all the complaining (about Baptists, or fundies) that I hear on these type forums are exactly the same genre of complaining that I hear from current/former Catholics about their school experiences. No kidding.
    It would be far more convincing to me if the complainer(s) would take even a tiny bit of responsibility for the events that they are sharing. In each case, it is: “the fault of the _________. But not me.” Can that really be accurate?
    What conspiratorial nexus must exist between the baptists and the catholics that all their school children are so very traumatized and unhappy? I haven’t even checked out all the unhappy Jewish and Muslim kids—I wonder what they complain about?!
    It is most likely, that they all grow up and congregate around the watercoolers of America and find something to blame their bosses about—no doubt.
    Carry on.

  9. No comment on the content? Oh well. I love catholics and baptists and hebrews and muslims—but I don’t buy all the excuses to complain. Or respond with negative replys.

    1. I have no great compulsion to rehash my answers with you. Your basic contention is “you’re a bunch of complainers who complain because you’re complainers!”

      I could give you case after case and story after story of real abuse and real problems and serious miscarriages of justice but I don’t think you would care to be honest.

      He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.

      1. Not necessary to rehash, and I understand the reality of inequity in the world—please don’t think that I’m trying to diminish that. But there also should be a balance. There are always two sides, but on these forums, sadly, you only hear the loud, negative side. You have to admit, it becomes a side show.
        I too have been seriously wronged in my life and I have learned to do two things: First, seek justice through legitimate means. Second, give it to God (He will render perfect justice).
        “Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless” (Philippians 2:14-15)
        I will pray for you Darrell.

        1. Oh, you’re the guy.

          So you’re saying that children who are brought up in Fundystan are to blame because they, as say, first-graders, should’ve gotten out of the system? Yeah.

          If you don’t like us or understand us, why are you here commenting? Aren’t there lost souls you need to save?

          I’ll pray for you, Tom. You need to lose the blinders of Fundystan and come to the dark side. We have cookies. And booze.

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