A blogger critical of First Baptist Church Pastor Mac Brunson wants to know why his Web site was investigated by a police detective who is also a member of the ministerâ€™s security detail.
Thomas A. Rich also wants the Jacksonville Sheriffâ€™s Office to explain what suspected crimes led Detective Robert Hinson to open the probe into his once-anonymous Web site.
Rich also wants to know why Hinson revealed his name to the church despite finding no wrongdoing. Hinson obtained a subpoena from the State Attorneyâ€™s Office requiring Google Inc. to reveal the author of the blog.
Richâ€™s unmasking led to an eventual trespass warning banning the longtime member and his wife from First Baptist, despite the fact that Brunson and a top church administrator conceded the blog never threatened violence.
Rich said he mailed a complaint against Hinson to the Sheriffâ€™s Office on Tuesday. It had not been received as of Wednesday afternoon.
The intelligence detectiveÂ opened the criminal investigation Sept. 29Â into the identity and â€œpossible criminal overtonesâ€ of the blog, fbcjaxwatchdog.blogspot.com.
The Sheriffâ€™s Office and church officials defended the complaint and investigation into Richâ€™s blog, which Hinson concluded Nov. 13.
Undersheriff Frank Mackesy said Hinsonâ€™s role posed no conflict of interest because his duties include handling possible threats against the cityâ€™s large religious institutions.
Rich said he was never contacted by Hinson. He learned of the investigation well after the church notified him Nov. 28 he had been identified as the blogâ€™s author.
Two additional bloggers investigated by Hinson said they were also not contacted. They learned of the probe in middle or late March. Their blogs do not focus on First Baptist.
Mackesy said the three bloggers didnâ€™t need to be contacted because Hinson uncovered nothing criminal.
â€œThe detective hasnâ€™t done anything wrong,â€ he said.
It was also proper for Hinson to provide First Baptistâ€™s leadership with Richâ€™s identity despite finding no criminal evidence, Mackesy said, so it could take whatever internal action it felt necessary for its own safety.
â€œIâ€™d be disappointed in the detective if [he] didnâ€™t do it,â€ he said.
The Rev. John Blount,Â executive pastor of administration, said he contacted Hinson directly regarding increased â€œvitriolâ€ on the blog about the same time mail was stolen from the Brunson home and someone was surreptitiously photographing Brunsonâ€™s wife. Also, someone had contacted vendors lined up for the churchâ€™s annual pastorsâ€™ conference and made critical remarks about Brunson to them, Blount said.
â€œWe became concerned enough to ask law enforcement, ‘Is there the ability to find out where this is coming from?â€™Â â€ Blount said.
Police reports were not filed about the mail and photos, Blount said. The Sept. 29 police report launching the investigation quotes Blount telling police only about â€œan ongoing Internet incident that has possible criminal overtones.â€
At no time was the blogger accused of being behind the other incidents, Blount said.
Rich said he never stole mail, photographed Brunsonâ€™s wife or contacted vendors. Rich said he wonders if those issues were raised simply to obtain a subpoena to uncover the identity of a blogger critical of Brunson.
That was not the case, Blount said. In an age of church shootings and other violence, he said, they simply wanted to determine if any of the events were related.
Brunson said police have interviewed him about the photos and stolen mail. He refused to elaborate.
Rich said he launched his blog in August 2007 â€” more than a year after Brunson became the pastor â€” because he was alarmed by what he described as Brunsonâ€™s â€œabusive preaching,â€Â Â especially during fund-raising campaigns.
The blog has included criticisms of Brunsonâ€™s $300,000 salary, his plan to open a church school, his construction of a â€œlavishâ€ office suite, accepting a $307,000 land gift from church members for his home and putting his wife on the payroll.
Brunson declined to discuss his home and salary but maintained he is one of the lowest-paid mega-church pastors in the Southern Baptist Convention. He said people are welcome to criticize his preaching style and ministry goals, including the school, but usually do so openly, not anonymously.
Richâ€™s letter from the church cited his anonymity and sharp criticism as â€œa violation of Scriptureâ€ and church bylaws. He said the trespass warning came after he refused to appear before a discipline committee without a representative.
But Brunson said Richâ€™s persistent criticism over nearly two years indicates the writer has an â€œobsessive compulsive problemâ€ and is â€œnot very stable at all,â€ Brunson said.
â€œWhat youâ€™re dealing with is a sociopath,â€ Brunson said.
â€œThe imbalance is him refusing to address the concerns of his congregation,â€ Rich said of Brunsonâ€™s comments. Rich said his blog gets about 1,000Â hits a day and that he regularly hears from people who agree with his criticisms but are afraid to come forward.
â€œHeâ€™s been trying to convince his administration that I am some kind of a nut,â€ he said. â€œI am not a nut â€¦ and the things I have raised on the blog are valid concerns.â€
Blount said he had no idea why Hinson looked into two other blogs, tiffanycroft.blogspot.comÂ and newbbcopenforum.blogspot.com.
Mackesy would say only that Hinson was obligated to look at those blogs if he felt it could help the initial investigation.
Jacksonville resident Tiffany Croft said the aim of her blog is to be an online source of information about the accusations against the Rev. Darrell Gilyard,Â the former Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist ChurchÂ pastor accused of sexual misconduct. Gilyard regularly preached at First Baptist in the early 1990s.
Croft said she also plans to file a complaint against Hinson demanding to know why her blog â€” which has never been anonymous â€” was the target of a subpoena to Google.
The Times-Union doesnâ€™t know the identity of the third blogger, critical of Bellevue Baptist ChurchÂ in Memphis.
The subpoena requests that Hinson submitted to the State Attorneyâ€™s Office may have listed the criminal activity the detective wanted to investigate, but those documents were destroyed after 90 days, according to the policy at the time, said Assistant State Attorney Stephen Siegel , who signed the subpoena. The actual subpoenas do not cite a reason for the request.
Rich said he will hire an attorney if necessary to get more information from the church and Sheriffâ€™s Office and to clear his name.
â€œItâ€™s hardball,â€ Rich said of the churchâ€™s tactics in uncovering his identity. â€œItâ€™s hardball religion, is what it is.â€
Yes, it’s a cult. Who wants to take me to court?
A teenager is facing prosecution for using the word “cult” to describe the Church of Scientology.
The unnamed youth was served the summons by City of London police when he took part in a peaceful demonstration opposite the London headquarters of the controversial religion.
Officers confiscated a placard with the word “cult” on it from the youth, who is under 18, and a case file has been sent to the Crown Prosecution Service.
A date has not yet been set for him to appear in court.
The decision to issue the summons has angered human rights activists and support groups for the victims of cults.
The incident happened during a protest against the Church of Scientology on May 10. Demonstrators from the anti-Scientology group, Anonymous, who were outside the church’s Â£23m headquarters near St Paul’s cathedral, were banned by police from describing Scientology as a cult by police because it was “abusive and insulting”.
Writing on an anti-Scientology website, the teenager facing court said: “I brought a sign to the May 10th protest that said: ‘Scientology is not a religion, it is a dangerous cult.’
“‘Within five minutes of arriving I was told by a member of the police that I was not allowed to use that word, and that the final decision would be made by the inspector.”
A policewoman later read him section five of the Public Order Act and “strongly advised” him to remove the sign. The section prohibits signs which have representations or words which are threatening, abusive or insulting.
The teenager refused to back down, quoting a 1984 high court ruling from Mr Justice Latey, in which he described the Church of Scientology as a “cult” which was “corrupt, sinister and dangerous”.
After the exchange, a policewoman handed him a court summons and removed his sign.
On the website he asks for advice on how to fight the charge: “What’s the likelihood I’ll need a lawyer? If I do have to get one, it’ll have to come out of my pocket money.”
Writing on the same website, another anonymous demonstrator said: “We also protested outside another Scientology building in Tottenham Court Road which is policed by a separate force, the Metropolitan police, who have never tried to stop us using the word cult.
“We’re completely peaceful protesters expressing a perfectly valid opinion. This whole thing stinks.”
Â This is is dispicable and should be condemned by everyone, especially by people who call themselves Christians. Those involved should be arrested.
Misleading ‘crisis pregnancy centers’ are appearing across America, aiming to limit or even prevent women from exploring all of their legal health care options.
According to a recent Planned Parenthood email, a 17-year-old girl mistakenly walked into a crisis pregnancy center thinking it was Planned Parenthood, which was next door. “The group took down the girl’s confidential personal information and told her to come back for her appointment, which they said would be in their ‘other office’ (the real Planned Parenthood office nearby).”
When she showed up for her nonexistent appointment, she was met by the police, who had been erroneously tipped that a minor was being forced to abort. The crisis pregnancy center staff followed up this harassment by staking out the girl’s house, phoning her father at work, and even talking to her classmates about her pregnancy, urging them to harass her.
I contacted Jennifer Jorczak of Planned Parenthood of Indiana to verify this story, and while she was unable to provide details out of respect for the patient’s privacy, she confirmed that everything in the initial action alert email was true.
This humiliating and frustrating experience seems, by all accounts, to await more American women in the near future. And the best part? It’s funded by your tax dollars.
Even here in the liberal city of Austin, Texas, the signs are everywhere: “Pregnant? Need help?”