First Baptist Seeks to Dismiss Blogger's Suit
Interesting paragraph from the story, my emphasis:
"Ruling on whether church officials properly or improperly barred blogger Tom Rich and his wife from the premises or made defamatory statements about him would 'require excessive entanglement in church policies, practices and beliefs' on the part of the court, the Sept. 9 motion states."
Very interesting, and not surprising. However, the lawsuit doesn't have anything to do with church policies and practices, and doesn't really have anything to do with them barring us from FBC Jax. It has to do with the circumstances surrounding a criminal investigation being opened by the JSO resulting in subpoenas, and for defamatory statements made by Brunson to the newspaper about my mental health.
I would make one response to Brumley's article, where he says:
"From August 2007 to fall 2008, Rich published an anonymous blog critical of First Baptist Pastor Mac Brunson, slamming everything from his preaching and administrative style to decisions to open a church school and satellite campus...."
I would characterize the issues raised on the blog as these:
- Brunson's accepting of a $307,00 land gift from a wealthy church donor just weeks after arriving in Jacksonville, and then airing a commercial for the relatives of that donor in the middle of a sermon. I have asked Brunson to disclose this gift to the congregation, and explain it to the church congregation, and how this is acceptable in light of his own pastor's guidebook recommending pastors to not accept large gifts or live in executive homes;
- the change of church bylaws in December 2007 significantly changing the governance of the church, without anyone in church leadership explaining what these changes were, and why they were made. Changes including forming a discplinary committee, adding a clause that members forfeit their rights to bring legal action against the church, and removal of a clause that allows the church membership to call for a special business meeting. This blog has called for the leadership to explain these changes to the congregation.
- Jim Smyrl's inflammatory comments about Catholics - calling them a "cult" on the church blog, and from the pulpit, referring to Catholic priests as "cult leaders", and calling for FBC Jax members to confront their Catholic friends with the "truth" that they are "living a lie" (someone please call Sean Hannity so he can stop living his lie);
- the selling of "promotions packages" to Christian ministries to raise money during the Pastor's Conference - requiring ministries to pay $750 to put a display table up in the church, and charging up to $12,000 to ministries to purchase "ads" on the image screens and for the privilege of mentioning their ministry from the pulpit. The church is doing it once again this year, for the 2010 Pastor's Conference, even going so far as trying to sell the privilege of putting someone's name or ministry on bottled water or conference bags for $1000.
- outrageous fund-raising efforts by Brunson where he demanded his congregation to "give a million in two weeks" for "emergency" facility repairs, most of which were not emergencies...demanding the people give the million dollars under threat that their decades long tradition of being debt free would be broken.
- using the church website to advertise non-church functions like next year's "Trip Down the Danube with Mac and Debbie Brunson", an expensive luxury river cruise for the very rich;
- bullying and boorish behavior by Brunson in the pulpit, including: calling FBC Jax a "hotbed of legalism", praising God his congregants didn't get a raise, expressing hope that FEMA doesn't help Jacksonville if a hurricane hits, declaring God to be the direct cause of 9/11 and our economic collapse to punish Americans, and accusing those who disagree with him on the doctrine of tithing to be "doing the work of Satan". Too many examples of Brunson's poor pulpit behavior to even list here, but have been documented on the blog, and that citizens of Jacksonville have witnessed in the church broadcasts on TV-12.