Matthew 7:15 (NIV) “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.

Matthew 24:11: (NIV) “…and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.”

2 Timothy 2:23 - 25 (NIV) - 23Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. 24 A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. 25 Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth.

Friday, April 5, 2013

"Hey Haters" - An Analysis of Steven Furtick's Volunteer Confidentiality Agreement - Don't Criticize, or You Agree to a Restraining Order

"I acknowledge that my breach of any of the restrictive covenants in this Agreement will result in irreparable damage to the Church. Therefore, in the event of any breach or threatened breach by me, I agree that the Church shall be entitled to an injunction from a court of competent jurisdiction enjoining me from committing any violation or threatened violation of this Agreement. I further agree that the Church shall not be required to post a bond to obtain such an injunction. All remedies available to the Church by reason of a breach by me of this Agreement are cumulative, none is exclusive, and all remedies may be exercised concurrently or consecutively at the Church’s option."  Concluding paragraph of contract volunteers must sign at Steven Furtick's church.
Note from the WD:  I don't ordinarily write such long posts, but I wanted to write this post for the benefit of Elevation Church members so they know what great peril they are in if they sign the document about which this article is written.
Hey Haters!!!  Steven "Hey Haters" Furtick and his Elevation Church have taken us to a new low in church manipulation:  Furtick's church volunteers must agree not to disclose any information about the church pertaining to finances, member contact information, and "church research and development activities" (church "R and D"? Are you kidding me?) - or the church may seek a restraining order issued by a judge to prevent you from talking about the church.

Thanks to the Wartburg Watch post last night, this brazen attempt at manipulation of their members by Elevation Church is now out in the open for all to see - click here to take a gander at the actual agreement. This document's exposure on the blogosphere hopefully will be another example of a church thinking they will abusively squelch dissent behind the scenes with no one knowing; not realizing their attempts may backfire when light is shone on their scheme (by us "haters"), giving people a glimpse of just how rotten and full of themselves the leadership is.

This goes well beyond just manipulation of members. By asking volunteers to sign this document puts well-meaning members of Elevation Church at great legal peril. If the church perceives a member is violating any terms of this document by publicly criticizing the church over finances - or even publicly disclosing abuse within the walls of the church - the church will consider them to have done "irreparable damage" to "the Church", and the church will seek a court injunction against the member.

Members of Elevation Church who might sign this or have already signed this agreement, I cannot urge you strongly enough: do NOT sign this, and if you have, send in writing a request rescinding your agreement to all terms of the agreement.

Members, do you know what this means when you sign this document and thereby agree that Furtick's church "shall be entitled to an injunction" against you? This means if Furtick and Friends believe you've talked bad about the church, or shared financial information about the church - or even raised allegations of abuse in the church rightly or wrongly - you have agreed that the church is entitled to have a judge issue a restraining order against you to silence you. And if you breach this restraining order and don't comply, you will be held in contempt of court.

The church can go to a judge with this document, and will show it and say that this member agreed NOT to release "confidential information", and make the case to the judge that you AGREED to have the judge issue a restraining order against you. Then if you violate it, you can be arrested for being in contempt of court.

Below are three arguments explaining why this is dangerous for you to sign this document, and how signing this document may require you at some point to violate your own Christian teachings and principles or be in great legal jeopardy - and how this is all designed to silence the "haters" - that is people who publicly criticize pastors like Steven Furtick.:

Getting an Injunction from a Judge Against You
This document is basically saying if the church believes you are disclosing information that THEY think is harmful to the church, that YOU agree to have a judge issue an injunction - which really is a temporary restraining order to stop you from doing what they perceive to be harmful to them. And it is not just that you HAVE disclosed information harmful to them, but if they BELIEVE YOU WILL IN THE FUTURE.

For example, if you are found to criticize the church publicly, say on a blog or Facebook like Chris Tynes did at Prestonwood - for any reason you deem worthy of criticism - Furtick and friends they may then believe you will disclose other "confidential information" like financial information such as salaries or budgets or future plans of the church.  They may also assume that you will use your contacts at the church to spread your "gossip". They will then go to the judge and show the judge that you agreed to have the restraining order issued against you to silence you against further spread of "confidential information".

Notice the agreement does define what is "confidential information" that you are not to share, but their definition includes the "...but is not limited to" phase - so basically confidential information would mean any non-publicly available information they think would be harmful. This could be information at a business meeting, a personal conversation you have with another member or pastor, etc.

If you contest this restraining order because you don't want to have a judge order you to be silent, then you will have to hire a lawyer and go to a hearing in a court to argue your side.

If you lose and the restraining order is issued and you don't comply with the judge's restraining order as a matter of conscience, you may be held in contempt of court and arrested and imprisoned.

Sounds so much like the New Testament church in Acts, doesn't it? This is a complete reversal of New Testament church activity: instead of Christians being persecuted for speaking the truth, the church (Furtick's church) is now attempting to be the persecutor of believers who may in the future dare to speak the truth about their church.

Church Disagreements or Church Abuse
Suppose you believe the church is acting abusively toward someone and you have made every attempt to raise the issue with church leadership privately to no avail- or if you fear going to them privately  - and you attempt to blog about what is going on in the church to warn others. Or maybe you just have a disagreement over how money is spent or even a theological disagreement.

If the information you share is "confidential" as in not publicly available - then they can go to the court and argue for an injunction that you agreed to when you signed the agreement.

Notice that the agreement states about the injunction:
"I further agree that the Church shall not be required to post a bond to obtain such an injunction."
Under normal circumstances a party seeking a judge to issue an injunction or restraining order to have someone stop doing something deemed harmful to the plaintiff, the plaintiff must put up a "bond" of some value in case the injunction is found to have been wrongly issued and brings harms to the defendant!  Makes perfect sense to keep organizations from seeking injunctions left and right. But the church is attempting to make this so one-sided that they don't want to have to put up their precious money to back up their claim that you are harming them. Who does such crap, and ask people who are offering to volunteer their time to agree to it?

Has any employer - let alone a non-profit for which you are trying to volunteer your time - asked you to sign such one-sided legal nonsense? What are they afraid of? What is so precious and secret over at Elevation Church that they must ask all employees and volunteers to sign this?

I can tell you: this is the sign of a cult. They are trying to silence you and intimidate you from publicly criticizing them. It is no secret how much Furtick and friends despise the "haters" who criticize their God-anointed efforts to save the world.

Give as Little Information as Possible

Elevation members, this might be the worst part, where they do tell you that you are allowed to disclose information about the church if required by law. 
"However, this provision shall not preclude me...from any disclosure required by law or court order, so long as I provide the Church immediate written notice of any potential disclosure pursuant to this subsection and take all reasonable and lawful steps to limit the extent of such disclosure."
 "Gee, thanks Steven, I'm glad you are allowing me the freedom to tell the truth to the police and other law authorities if I'm questioned about the church!!"

But look at that statement. They are requiring employees and volunteers to provide written notification of any "potential disclosure" when required by law or court order!  Are you kidding? I have to FIRST tell the church before I talk to the authorities? What rubbish!!

And why must I take "all reasonable and lawful steps to limit the extent of such disclosure?"

That is just crazy. Imagine there is an investigation of child abuse at the church, and a detective wants to interview you about it. By law, you must tell the truth to the detective. But are you first to notify Steven and friends before disclosing confidential information? And why must you limit the extent of the disclosure?

Anyways, this story is just another example of how these mega churches are too big for their britches. They want total devotion by the members, they want 10% minimum of your income (or God will curse you), and they want you to limit the disclosure of any information that might cast the organization in a negative light. They want you to sign a document forfeiting your legal rights to publicly criticize them. They want you to believe they are the single most important organization on the face of the earth, the one that is truly doing God's will. They require the head man to be viewed as being "the man of God" sent by God, appointed by God, and anointed by God, to tell you what the holy book says. They require you to admit that disclosure of information about what is going on within the organization regarding finances and strategy plans is to cause irreparable damage to the organization.

That my friends, is the stuff cults are made out of.....but even David Koresh and James Jones weren't so stupid as to put it all in writing and make people sign it. This is not a Confidentiality Agreement - it is more of a "Drink the Kool Aid Commitment" that I hope no volunteer will ever sign.

I've talked to a lawyer about this agreement, and he says it wouldn't likely stand up in court anyways. It is just an attempt to chill free speech. The church wants its members to know they have given their rights to talk freely over to their church, plain and simple.

So Elevation members, throw put this confidentiality agreement where it belongs - in the trash can. Tell them to run their background check on you, but that you will sign no such confidentiality agreement. You are signing up to volunteer your precious hours to your church, not guard America's nuclear launch codes. And Elevation employees who must sign this as a condition to maintain your employment, I feel sorry for you. In the real world, no one would ever ask you to sign something so one-sided as a condition for employment.

And watch Steven's "Hey Hater's" performance one more time, and you'll see the heart from which such a document is spawned:


Anonymous said...

He seems very angry and negative as he preaches against those who are angry and negative.

Jacquelyn Weaver said...

After reading your post and your links, I think that Stepen Furtick has managed to Elevate Gossip to a wonderful virtue, in my opinion.

jlogan said...

"However, this provision shall not preclude me...from any disclosure required by law or court order, so long as I provide the Church immediate written notice of any potential disclosure pursuant to this subsection and take all reasonable and lawful steps to limit the extent of such disclosure."

Of all the scary parts of that agreement, that is the scariest. The insistence of church leadership to believe that they have the right to interfere or intervene in an investigation by legal authorities.

Debbie Kaufman said...

There is a contact section on the Elevation website. I utilized it and wrote what I thought of this so called Confidentiality Agreement.

Mark said...

Sounds like Furtick has lots to hide and lots to worry about. Wonder what about?

Ronnie said...

Wow! What do they have to hide?
The new church covenants are also required to be signed by many in the institutional religious system, and one day you could be sued just for leaving a "church". Listen to the message called "A WARNING TO GOD'S PEOPLE" by clicking here:

scroll down to the bottom of the page and listen.

Anonymous said...

Too funny, only problem for this idiot is the "confidentiality agreement" is totally unenforceable. It's just a "clever" stunt attempting to intimidate people. Problems one with this contract 1) There is no consideration, 2) the waiving of the bond requirement, LOL so know little stevie is going to dictate to the court changes in procedures determined by State statues. 3) there is no judge anywhere within the United States that would enforce this contract( by the way, when you see the word contract replaced by agreement it is a dead give away that there is a void of consideration)and therefore there is no CONTRACT.

Even confidentiality agreements used to sell multi-million dollar businesses are never affirmed by the courts. Franchise "agreements" often contain them and are rarely enforceable.

The patriot Act contain procedures for the Federal Government to demand information with a National Security Letter that forbids you to speak about the matter under the penalty of ten years in Federal prison. Recently several people blew that threat off and spoke publicly about the entire matter in which the letter they were served with dealt with. The justice department threatened, bullied and asserted they would prosecute to the full extent of the law. " This gentleman will be imprisoned for this violation of NATIONAL SECURITY", screamed a high level Justice department official. Then they declined to prosecute, the fact is the entire law passed by the thugs we have in elected national office violates the first amendment. Several federal judges have already said they would strike it down and a certain "liberal supreme court justice" recently stated that it violates the first amendment and congress has no Right to invalidate the 1st amendment.

Anonymous said...

This Confidentiality Agreement reminds me of something Paul Washer said once:

False teachers are God's judgement on people that don't want God but in the name of religion plan on getting everything their carnal heart desires. Thats why a (insert name of false teacher here) is raised up. Those people that sit under him are not victims of him, he is the judgement of God upon them because they want exactly what he wants and IT'S NOT GOD!

From Paul Washers sermon available here:

Anonymous said...

It's not that this "class" of preacher has something to hide - though some of them might. It's more that they are just plain thin skinned, to acutely immature degree.

The only thing crazier than this ridiculous "agreement" is that someone would be foolish enough to sign it.

Neil said...

What a creepy church and creepy video. He doesn't seem very loving, and he doesn't appear to like people disagreeing with him.

Princess said...

I don't agree with Washer here. Wolves in Sheep's clothing don't usually reveal their teeth right away. Paul said that after his death these would come in and not spare the flock. Some grow up in these cultic groups and don't know any different; others are brainwashed and believe that to not submit to a leader is to rebel against God. Yes, many believe the lie because they have not received the love of the truth.

Anonymous said...

Don't hate me for my opinion but I interpreted the statement to mean they were attempting to prevent someone(volunteer) from disclosing personal private information that might damage the safety or integrity of church members or the church itself. At least with regard to member contact information and financials. On the research and development part, I think that may be to protect what (his) church considers to be (their) intellectual property.
At work,(generally) we (collectively) don't discuss our salaries... for a reason. We don't distribute confidential contact information (in the interest of safety and privacy) and I would not care for my intellectual property to be carelessly distributed without my knowledge either (copyright laws). It's just my 2 cents on the matter. Take it or leave it. Thanks for not hating a different viewpoint on the matter.

Traveler said...

This is the new church folks. Jesus told us this would be happening. I had the same thing happen to me about 6 years ago in a church in Southern California called In His Presence. I told them I wasn't going to sign their RIDICULOUS contract and they said, "Okay" no problem. I ended up leaving the church anyway shortly there after realizing they were JUDE 1:11 all over and over again. Anyway, BEST ADVICE IS FROM SOLA SISTERS: RUN FOR THE DOORS, DO NOT WALK, TO GET OUTTA THERE.
and as Anonymous said:") there is no judge anywhere within the United States that would enforce this contract( by the way, when you see the word contract replaced by agreement it is a dead give away that there is a void of consideration)and therefore there is no CONTRACT.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Scientology-like tactics

Debbie Kaufman said...

Princess: I agree with you.

Anonymous said...

It's one thing to not disclose salaries at a place of business in the corporate world, but in a church, there should not be anything 'private' in regards to finances. They are non profit. These are donations from church attendees/members. They should be held accountable. There should not be anything 'to hide' anyways if a church is doing things right anyways, correct?

Creating something like this makes one wonder what are they wanting to keep so secretive? And that they need "a warning" before someone goes public so they can get "their stories straight" before confronted?

Where there is smoke...

Anonymous said...

How come nothing about Joel Osteen's announcement--or did I miss it?

Anonymous said...

"or did I miss it?"

Miss what?
April Fool's Day.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me the greater issue is the lack of preaching the deep truths of Scripture, and the contract is just a symptom that provides a glimpse into the heart.

I believe the Holy Spirit will bring the true believers out from among them where they can hear the deep and hard truths of Scripture taught that their hearts long for from a pastor who has labored over studying the Word and rightly divides it.

Paul said...

I acknowledge that my breach of any of the restrictive covenants in this Agreement will result in irreparable damage to the Church.

I guess we're talking about a different church than the one Jesus was talking about.

"...on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
-- Matt. 16:18

Wileman said...

I think Rob Bell should sue THIS guy for stealing his video making abilities! LOL
Oh, I'm sorry... was that too skeptical of me?

J.D. Heil said...

This is nothing to worry about. Every mega-church has something like this, including ours. In full disclosure, here it is:

Anonymous said...

To J.D. Heil and your Mars Mountain church maybe it belongs on Mars, and you won't need a confidentiality agreement signed by any other life forms that might say something about your church.

Anonymous said...

Dear FBCJ:

That last bigoted comment about Jews somehow slipped past your moderator's scrutiny. It should be deleted for obvious reasons. Thanks.

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

To the Anon who sent me the post regarding the racist comment, thanks, I have deleted it here...

New BBC Open Forum said...

April 11th anon,

Did you actually read the Mars Mountain confidentiality agreement? The honesty is refreshing!

Hint: It's satire. Or parody. One of those two.

kelly summers said...

Jesus loves Steven Furtick. Just like He loves you. Just like He loves me.

melissa said...

Interesting. I wonder if I'm the only one commenting on here that actually has attended Elevation and have been employed by another Mega-church? Yes, all large churches have confidentiality agreements. Unfortunately, with the large amounts of money, staff, and members, churches have found it necessary to operate more like businesses M-F than the new testament churches. It's a constant challenge to reach the masses yet minister to individual. Elevation is a true Mega-church. Pastor Steven is a gifted teacher and his creative staff doesn't need to "rip off" anyone. I've never seen such creativity week after week. Is it perfect? No. Will I ever have a personal relationship with my pastor? No. However, does it reach thousands? Yes. When is the last time you were in an Easter weekend service where over 2,000 accepted Christ? not all come back to Elevation, but all leave there with there with Jesus!

melissa said...

I wonder if I am the only person commenting here that has actually attended Elevation? I used to be employed by another Mega church before attending Elevation and can vouch to the fact that all large churches have confidentiality agreements. Unfortunately, with the volume of money, employees and members, these churches have to be run somewhat like a business. When I left the church I worked at, I vowed to never attend another Mega-church. I longed for a church much like my small town church I grew up in - the type where the pastor knew your name and stopped by for coffee. However, as a mother of 2 teens, they begged us to try Elevation. When I saw my teens raise their hands and praising God the first time we attended the church and witnessed 2,000 people come to Christ over Easter weekend, I realized that Elevation and Pastor Steven is doing something right. There is no cult-like atmosphere. People come and go at their own will. There is no need for his creative team to "rip off" anyone's video either as I'm amazed every week at the creativity that goes into each service to reach every person there in some capacity. Pastor Steven may never come to my house for coffee, but he did lead my 13 year old son to Christ at summer camp last year. That's enough for this believer.

Anonymous said...

melissa: "all large churches have confidentiality agreements."

You be drinkin' some strong Kool-Aid sister.

Anonymous said...

..Love it! Thanks so much for bringing this to Light.

Kathy said...

Why do they swing the camera to view his ring on his finger every so often? I tried to get a good picture of the ring at 120 but I couldn't get it really clear. Maybe some one with good equiptment could if they are interested. Kathy said...

So nice blogger

Anonymous said...

I honestly felt disgusted after watching his video. it's basically a personal rant against pple who criticise him, and trying to use the Holy Spirit and other Christian words to sound like what he's doing is right. terrible.

Anonymous said...

So, basically what you are saying is that there's no justice in America. Maybe after signing the so called contract, you can't disclose any information, but does that mean that you cant defend yourself in court?
Maybe it is something you can't do in public, but I'm quite sure you have the right to be heard in court and let your voice to be heard. So, I think there is only one hater here and it is not necessarily Mr Furtick.

Anonymous said...

Anything in the world can be viewed positive or negative depending upon the interpretation of the reader. Have you ever read some of the legal terminology at your workplace? On your taxes? On your mortgage? Student loans? Or how about any of the "user agreements" you agree to on any social media site? It's a million times worse then this. What about the HIPAA laws and privacy practice agreement that you're asked to sign at any place you get medical treatment (including counseling)? We have to not be so quick to judge another's intentions and interpret what they meant by something unless the something has actually happened and you're comparing it to a specific situation (i.e. they sued so-n-so because she saw reported blah blah blah) Has it ever occurred to anyone that a church is also obligated to protect its self from the nasty people in this world? There are people who specifically go places to start trouble ESPECIALLY at large ministries. Consider this, If church leadership is in a meeting and decides to financially assist a member who is fleeing domestic violence and a board member reveals this to the other party involved and jeopardizes the safety of the victim who came to leadership confidentially, shouldn't there be a policy in place to protect the member and church in the event something like this or similar happens? We need to remember we live in a fallen world. We live in a world where most churches now have to have a "safe church" policy in the event someone walks in the front door and starts shooting. So why is it so hard to digest that churches also need to cover their members and the integrity of their ministry in other areas as well, especially the parts that qualify them for a federal non-profit status which they are obligated to report to the IRS?