Making criticism criminal

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Making criticism criminal

Postby William Thornton » Fri Mar 20, 2009 8:18 am

The sad saga of FBCJax continues to unfold, the latest being revelations that church staff, following criticism on a blog, filed a complaint with legal authorities alleging possible criminal activities. The complaint was investigated by a detective who was a FBCJax church member. Part of the investigation involved supoenas, approved by the state's attorney, to Google. The complaint was later dismissed.

The whole mess is recounted here.

The critical blogger has an ally in Burelson, who blogs about the whole thing here.

I believe FBCJax is in for some grief on this one and this tale is likely to be the defining case study in how not to handle criticism. This is ugly.
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Re: Making criticism criminal

Postby Dave Roberts » Fri Mar 20, 2009 9:40 am

What a sad, sad mess! It sounds as though the manipulation of the legal process might have consequences if the state wishes to investigate. There are several legal lines crossed in the use of subpoenas for internal church business.
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Re: Making criticism criminal

Postby Steve Wilcox » Fri Mar 20, 2009 1:29 pm

William Thornton wrote:I believe FBCJax is in for some grief on this one and this tale is likely to be the defining case study in how not to handle criticism. This is ugly.


Yeah, I think you are right.

It is also a case study on how NOT to give criticism, ask questions or express concerns.

One thing about this whole conflict, I do see the need for transparency in a congregationally run church. I do see the need in all churches but I understand some are run in a more elder or bishop manner.

I also see the need for those of us in the church to be willing to go to people and ask questions either face to face or a signed letter/email. I think it is important because we will usually tone down our concerns so as not to be so abrasive but still make our point.
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Re: Making criticism criminal

Postby Steve Wilcox » Fri Mar 20, 2009 2:43 pm

Sorry Timothy I wasn't clear on that comment, I should have put other denominations in there, such as Presbyterian or Catholic.
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Re: Making criticism criminal

Postby Sandy » Fri Mar 20, 2009 5:26 pm

Timothy Bonney wrote:
Steve Wilcox wrote:
I do see the need in all churches but I understand some are run in a more elder or bishop manner.


If they are, then why are they calling themselves "Baptists?" Congregational polity is a huge part of what it means to be a Baptist. If the church is really run by the Pastor and staff than the church really isn't following traditional historic Baptist polity.


I'm not sure I'd completely agree with that. Independent and autonomous churches, with regard to their relationship to a denominational body in a voluntary way, determined by the congregation, rather than in an ecclesiastical way through leadership is traditional, historic Baptist polity, but I don't think everyone under the Baptist banner has necessarily been "congregational" with regard to local church governance. Some of our Baptist brethren have been elder led (or deacon led as the case may be) historically. And I think one of the reasons FBC Jax, and other megachurches under the Baptist banner, are now having so much trouble with this is that there is a struggle between "pastor is the master" megachurch governing philosophy ("I got you to this point so it is my church now!") and old-line congregational thinkers. FBC Jax is not the only Baptist megachurch struggling with leadership issues surrounding a new pastor who has come into someone else's kingdom to sit on the throne.
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Re: Making criticism criminal

Postby TimR2 » Sat Mar 21, 2009 5:07 am

Dave Roberts wrote:What a sad, sad mess! It sounds as though the manipulation of the legal process might have consequences if the state wishes to investigate. There are several legal lines crossed in the use of subpoenas for internal church business.


Dave; I am no lawyer or legal expert, and you may be, so I will pose a statement and question to you. It seems to me that I remember from some minor legal proceeding I was involved with, that intent was a huge factor. You state there was a manipulation of the legal process. However, I believe intent is the only thing the state of Florida will be able to investigate. If someone filed a petition that a possible criminal activity had taken place then their intention is called into question. I believe the law will rest on the question; was it the petitioner's intention that a criminal action was taken toward the staff? If the petitioner believed that his wife was being stalked by the owner of the blog then I believe that constitutes an intention of criminal activity.

Of course, as I said, I am no lawyer or legal eagle but if you are one I will concede to you.
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Re: Making criticism criminal

Postby Dave Roberts » Sat Mar 21, 2009 8:08 am

TimR2 wrote:
Dave Roberts wrote:What a sad, sad mess! It sounds as though the manipulation of the legal process might have consequences if the state wishes to investigate. There are several legal lines crossed in the use of subpoenas for internal church business.


Dave; I am no lawyer or legal expert, and you may be, so I will pose a statement and question to you. It seems to me that I remember from some minor legal proceeding I was involved with, that intent was a huge factor. You state there was a manipulation of the legal process. However, I believe intent is the only thing the state of Florida will be able to investigate. If someone filed a petition that a possible criminal activity had taken place then their intention is called into question. I believe the law will rest on the question; was it the petitioner's intention that a criminal action was taken toward the staff? If the petitioner believed that his wife was being stalked by the owner of the blog then I believe that constitutes an intention of criminal activity.

Of course, as I said, I am no lawyer or legal eagle but if you are one I will concede to you.


I'm no legal expert either, especially on Florida, which has its own unique quirks. I do know that as the child of a law enforcement officer it is imperative that officers not investigate issues in which they are personally involved. The officer who was a member should have immediately had the case assigned to someone else outside the church structure. The stalking charge wouild not merit the subpoenas for records from Google and from ISPs, IMHO. That would be more likely to produce a stakeout on the person believed being stalked.
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Re: Making criticism criminal

Postby Haruo » Sat Mar 21, 2009 1:19 pm

Dave Roberts wrote:I'm no legal expert either, especially on Florida, which has its own unique quirks. I do know that as the child of a law enforcement officer it is imperative that officers not investigate issues in which they are personally involved. The officer who was a member should have immediately had the case assigned to someone else outside the church structure. The stalking charge wouild not merit the subpoenas for records from Google and from ISPs, IMHO. That would be more likely to produce a stakeout on the person believed being stalked.

Well, as the legal beagle of the pack (worked in a law firm for 3 years and my brother is a partner in a prestigious one) I certainly concur in the opinion that an investigator on behalf of the state should never have a stake in a case such as appears here, it just shouts conflict of interest, and unless the suspected stalking was supposed to be occurring in virtual reality, subpoenaing Google and ISPs would be far afield from the legitimate scope of the thing. The blogging itself is at most a civil matter, at worst libel, in whose investigation the state ought not to be involved.

Has it made it into the secular press (what's left of it*) yet?

Haruo

*The oldest business in Seattle, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, went off the presses this past week.
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Re: Making criticism criminal

Postby Chris » Sat Mar 21, 2009 3:55 pm

Dave Roberts wrote: The officer who was a member should have immediately had the case assigned to someone else outside the church structure.


Why do I suspect that he asked to be put on this case?
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Re: Making criticism criminal

Postby Sandy » Sat Mar 21, 2009 9:54 pm

In most of these blogger vs pastor cases, the issues are related more to the financial dealings and perks accorded to the pastor by the church than they are over theology or Biblical fidelity. It is a set of problems that, while not unique to a megachurch, are certainly exaggerated in one. The pastor's salary, perks that are given, and his ability to make money outside of the church due to his profile as its pastor all seem to be contributing to the frustration. Even though a large congregation generates a lot of money, that doesn't mean the pastor is entitled to a larger share of it, especially when it is given sacrificially.

The appearance of bloggers venting their frustration may be due in part to the fact that the church isn't following Biblical principle in resolving the difficulties. Either the pastors and their entourage don't want to, because they do not want their income stream threatened or their leadership called into question, or the bloggers don't know any better. Either way, something is wrong.

Bringing in the civil court system, which is another violation of Biblical principle, is just further evidence that the level of maturity and discipleship in these churches is pretty low. Obviously, the pastors and churches are choosing to air their controversy in public, ignore Biblical instruction in resolving issues and ignore Biblical instruction while seeking out the civil court system to resolve the problem.

The general attitude of the courts toward churches and their institutions so far has been to back away and not interfere in what they refer to as "ecclesiastical" decisions, but if their dockets keep filling up with lawsuits to settle church issues, that might change. I find it quite ironic that some of those who have been associated with the "conservative resurgence" in the SBC are being so unbiblical in their approach to church conflict that involves their hands on the checkbook. Or is it all that ironic?
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Re: Making criticism criminal

Postby David A. Johnson » Thu Apr 02, 2009 6:27 pm

Have you seen the latest from FBC Jacksonville?

http://fbcjaxwatchdog.blogspot.com/2009/03/subpoenas-unmasking-baptist-bloggers.html

They issued subpoenas to Google to identify bloggers who aren't members of FBC Jax. What is this about? :?
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Re: Making criticism criminal

Postby Chris » Thu Apr 02, 2009 10:58 pm

Detective Hinson stepped over a line. He should be investigated, and, disciplined, if it is found that he disregarded policy.
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Re: Making criticism criminal

Postby William Thornton » Fri Apr 03, 2009 6:08 am

Welcome to the forum, David A. Johnson.

I take it you have followed this for some time, as have I.

No doubt there will be further developments on this in the future.
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