2 Samuel 16:9,11 - "Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over, I pray thee, and take off his head...let him alone, and let him curse; for the Lord hath bidden him."

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

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

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Search for the Watchdog's Identity

Readers - in this post I'm simply going to give you the facts as I have them regarding what the church and the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office (JSO) and the State Attorney have done to uncover the identity of the owner of Watchdog blog. As you will see, the events and the timing make it seem very likely that the identify of the Watchdog blog was given to the administration of the FBC Jacksonville - after completion of a criminal investigation by the JSO - which was conducted after the church administrator, John Blount, III, called the JSO to report Internet criminal activity.

This post is going to lay out facts as I know them at this point.

Wade Burleson has made a post today that asks some very pointed questions given the facts that I have outlined below.

I will offer no analysis in this post, or assign any motives...just the facts and chronology and documents and video as I have them from facts gathered from discussions with the JSO, the State Attorney's office, and a review of publicly available documents.

Whether you agree with this blog and its contents or whether you think I'm a villain for blogging as I have or if you think I have raised valid points: whichever side you fall on with regard to this blog and me, perhaps, PERHAPS you will find these facts troubling.

But I will let you draw your own conclusions.

Here is what I know:

September 2008: Mac delivers sermons in advance of the Chest of Joash Sunday which was 9/28/08. During September I was very critical of some of his tactics used in his sermons to compel people to give. I was critical especially of Mac's attempt to raise $1,000,000 for necessary repairs of our facilities, including roof repair and chiller replacements. I was critical of how Mac crossed the line from challenging his church to outright criticism and abuse for not meeting his expectations (here, here, and here). I called out Mac for his phony declaration that the churches in Rome were "satellite churches" in a weak attempt to sell us on his satellite concept. I was particularly critical of the arrogant and abusive manner in which Mac demanded we give $1 million in two weeks else we would go into debt. I was critical of the need to raise $1 million when other non-budget expenditures were made earlier in the year that could have been used to repair our facilities. I encouraged people to NOT give money to the special offering, because they have already given the money in the budget and that facility maintenance and repairs are not something for which a special offering should be held. No lies or slander - just hard hitting analysis of Mac's own words with audio and video clips.

9/28/08: Chest of Joash Service - Mac delivers his version of "And the Iron Did Swim". Commitments are collected, special offering is collected. The special offering for the facility repairs is about 1/4 of the amount asked for. Budget committments were not reported by the church but rumors were that they were unusually low.

9/29/09: The Monday AFTER Chest of Joash, at 2:30 pm, Church Administrator John Blount calls the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office to file a complaint about "an on-going Internet incident that has possible criminal overtones". Click here to read the investigation report. The officer that responds to the complaint is JSO Detective Robert A. Hinson, a long-time member of FBC Jax and member of the church security detail.

It has been confirmed that Detective Hinson sent subpoenas to the State Attorney's office for approval to be issued to Google to have Google release the IP addresses and identities of the following Google customers: Sean Lyons, FBC Jax Watchdog, and Tiffany Croft. These subpoenas were approved by of the State Attorney's office and sent to Google.

It has also been confirmed that Detective Hinson issued another subpoena to the State Attorney for approval, to have Comcast release the names of several of the IP addresses provided by Google. The subpoenas are approved by the State Attorney office, and the owner of the FBC Jax Watchdog blog is released by Comcast to Detective Hinson - himself a member of FBC Jacksonville.

The dates of the subpoenas have not been confirmed, nor have copies of the subpoenas been obtained. But the issuance of the subpoenas and confirmation that the identity of the owner of the Watchdog blog WAS released by Comcast to Detective Hinson as a result of the subpoenas is a fact confirmed by at least two separate parties.

11/13/08: Detective Hinson closes his investigation that he opened on 9/29/08, and states in the report: "...this investigation was closed after no criminal activity was discovered on this reported incident." Click here to see copy of the JSO report.

11/28/08: TWO WEEKS after Detective Hinson closes his case, John Blount and Kevin King hand deliver a letter to me, accusing me of owning the blog site, making accusations of multiple sins of being derogatory, divisive, destructive, and demeaning to the ministry of FBC Jacksonville. The letter provides two trespass warning forms, and informs me that my wife and I are "...prohibited from coming on the Church grounds or premises for any reason except the meeting above described" meaning we must first have met with the Discipline Committee of the church. We are sternly warned in the letter that "Any violation of this Notice [trespass warnings] will result in appropriate sanctions."

For this discussion of how the identity of the Watchdog was discovered, the most important portion of this letter from FBC Jacksonville to the owner of the Watchdog blog is this, in the 2nd paragraph:

"You have been positively identified to us, by name and address, as the owner of fbcjaxwatchdog.blogspot.com, a blog site you own, manage and/or control. We know you have authored and/or permitted to be authored the contents thereof for many months."

11/29/08: I have blogged previously about what happened after the letter was delivered. The church discipline committee demanded I meet with them, but the meeting never took place as I requested copies of the bylaws, representation at the meeting, and asked for the basis of the allegations as conditions for the meeting; the committee refused all three requests. The church declared this matter to be "ecclesiastical" in nature although they had full knowledge the church administration (John Blount) had contacted the JSO previously alleging criminal behavior to be associated with the blog.

12/3/08: John Blount and the committee refused entrance to the church to my wife and me, preventing us from watching our daughter sing a solo with her ensemble in church that night unless we agreed to meet with the committee first. See attached letter. Since the committee was not interested in meeting any of our reasonable requests prior to such a meeting, we naturally declined to meet, and thus were told we were not welcomed to come in the doors of our own church to accompany our daughter to watch her sing with her ensemble that night.

12/7/08: At 10:00 am, while most FBC Jax members are in Sunday School, the church executes formal trespass warnings against my wife and I with JSO Officer C.R. Butler. Click here to see this official trespass warning that is on file at the JSO. Notice the reason for the trespass warning being issued against both my wife and I is "church misconduct". My wife, a faithful member and church volunteer for 20 years, who has committed no church misconduct, is banned from the church property for "church misconduct".

12/14/08: My wife did not wish for my children to harmed by this action by our church administration, so she continued to bring the kids to their church youth functions, but because of the trespass warning against her she would drop the kids off and stay in her car and wait for the worship services to be over. She wanted very badly to accompany my daughter to the Travis Cottrell concert and sent Blount an email asking permission to accompany her daughter to the concert - Blount didn't reply until Monday (understandably since it was a Sunday email) so my wife sat in her car waiting for the concert to be over. My wife was banned from her church for doing nothing other than associating with her husband.

2/1/09: In mid-December we began visiting other churches. After visiting a new church for about 5 weeks, and after absolutely no contact from John Blount in over six weeks, we decide to join our new church on 2/1/09. The last communication I had with Blount was around 12/15/08.

2/11/09: Blount calls and emails me to let me know I need to meet with the committee as they will be taking their investigation before the deacons. I asked Blount to leave us alone. Blount said he was "compelled" by the bylaws to inform me the Deacons would be presented the results of the committee's investigation. I was invited to speak before the deacons, I accepted with the condition I would have 15 minutes of uninterrupted time to speak, but Blount emailed me back to tell me my wife would not be allowed to attend, and that I would not be able to speak of the allegations made on this blog. Thus I decided not to speak before the deacons. Blount then rescinded his offer for me to attend. I confirmed his email and clarified the reasons why I was not speaking.

2/23/09: The deacons hold a special meeting to consider the "Deacon's Resolution 2009-1" that condemns me, and contains a false "whereas" statement of fact concerning the terms that we left to join our new church. We did NOT leave FBC Jax after I was told we would be disciplined by the deacons; its quite the opposite. We left the church, and THEN Blount calls to let me know the discipline committee would be disciplining us. According to A.C. Soud, Jr. the deacons unanimously ratify his resolution. Several deacons that were present stated that they were told the blog owner was suspected of committing crimes such as stealing the Brunson's email and/or video taping or taking pictures of Mrs. Brunson, and that there may be an on-going investigation with the State Attorney's office.

2/25/09: Judge A.C. Soud in the business meeting before the service reads the Deacon's Resolution 2009-1, and Chairman of the Deacons Keith Hill calls for a vote from the congregation by asking members to stand (click here to watch video of the resolution recitation by A.C. Soud). The church confirms the resolution by an overwhelming majority. The church has hyperlinked the resolution on the main page of the church website.

2/26/09: I made several attempts to contact John Blount to inquire about the baseless, slanderous accusations made to the deacons about stalking, taking pictures or video of Mrs. Brunson, and stealing of their mail. Blount never returned any phone calls or emails.

Several questions that I have:

1. On what basis did John Blount call the JSO concerning Internet activity with "possible criminal overtones"? Did the timing have anything to do with the Chest of Joash service and the committments and special offerings? Did he call the JSO on his own volition, or was he directed by a superior to make the phone call to allege criminal activity? Was the purpose of this call to truly allege criminal activity, or was it to initiate a process by which the identity of the Watchdog could be obtained?

2. On what basis did Detective Hinson issue subpoenas for the identity of the blog? Are not criminal allegations necessary for such a subpoena? What were they?

3. Why was Detective Hinson, a member of the FBC Jax, the officer assigned to a case investigating a possible criminal matter involving a blog critical of his own pastor? Should not he have recused himself from a criminal investigation involving his own church and his own pastor?

4. Who was it that "positively identified" the blog owner's identity to the six men that signed the November 25th letter? Was it Detective Hinson? If so, and if the detective's investigation found that there was no criminal activity, would not the file be closed and records destroyed and the private records from Comcast destroyed? Is it common practice to release a citizen's private Internet records to an aggrieved party after an investigation is closed and no criminal activity is found?

Those are the questions I have.

Those are the facts as I know them.

Troubling.

Very troubling.

215 comments:

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IT IS WRITTEN said...

Anon 4:12am....My sympathy for the hurt suffered at the hands of frail men....Don't mistake the glory of Christ with the failing of his misguided representatives!!!

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:12 AM: Imperfect man, so totally lost in sin and unable to save himself, IS EXACTLT WHY JESUS CAME TO EARTH, DIED ON THE CROSS, SHED HIS PERFECT BLOOD FOR OUR SINS, ROSE FROM THE DEAD AND WILL COME AGAIN FOR THE REDEEMED. I WOULD ASK YOU NOT TO "LEAVE GOD", BUT ACCEPT JESUS AS YOUR SAVIOR. Man is the problem. I agree with your assessment of "dirty tricks" used in organized religion today. It looks like there are more being run away from churches today, than are being Saved. But these things are of man NOT GOD. And there are REAL CHRISTIANS in the world today that follow the Lord. There are Godly preachers in amongst the charlatans, we just have to find them. Not all preachers and churches are "phony". But I would again ask you to focus on Jesus. HE IS YOUR SALVATION. Keep your eyes on HIM, man will disappoint you every time. John 3:16: Jesus said: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, shold not perish, but have everlasting life". This is a famaliar verse but is absolutely true. The "whosoever" is you, me and anyone that accepts HIM as Savior.

Anonymous said...

"I think that my question would be not why people care, but why people are so invested emotionally in this."

You are using loaded language here, Louis and you know it. FBCJax is just one example of what has happened to our churches in the last 20-30 years with the rise of the mega.

You cannot see it because you are personally invested in the hierarchical business organization you call a church. That means you are also "emotional" about this or you would not be here commenting.

My goal is to get folks questioning every single thing they are taught like the Bereans did. I am hoping and praying they come out of these mind numbing shiny temples of entertainment. And some will. But many won't.

Every single one that comes out asking: What is salvation. And what does it mean to really follow Christ, is doing the right thing if they go to the Word alone and pray for wisdom.

Instead of the chest of Joash to buy new carpet or get out of debt, they can look around them and help those Christians near them who are struggling. This is what the early church did. Some even sold their property, like Barnabus, in Acts 4. That was not to build a building. It was to help feed the believers and send others to spread the Gospel.

We all need to get back to the very basics and question everything. It is not a sin to question what we are doing and why. It is necessary.

Anonymous said...

To Anon March 26, 2009 4:12 AM:
Your "religion" story sounds fake to me. There have been others come here and post the same kind of thing. I think if someone really doesn't care about God, they don't come here and post. They just don't care.

To All:
The Chest of Joash may be a 70 year tradition but to me it is a reason for people to stay away -- or maybe for people who "want to be seen" a good reason to go to the service. I believe it goes against Scripture where we read about the Pharisees giving their money publicly, just so they could be seen! And I think of the visitors who are probably so embarrassed when they are asked to get up and join the march to the chest though they have nothing to give. What a terrible way to treat visitors.

Anonymous said...

Anon:

I agree with you that all Christians should be questioning what they are taught, as the Bereans did.

You personal judgments about me are not correct, but they are you sincere beliefs I am sure.

I have never been to FBC Jax, and I have no burning interest in who pastors there, who doesn't like the pastor, or whether they have a Josiah Chest.

I am interested in the legal issues and church relational issues involved.

What I am concerned about is in on-line discussion (with persons who are not members of FBC Jax or connected to it) how the discussions can turn into real personal name calling or accusations of wrongdoing. The comments are littered with them.

I, for example, was accused of being the type of person who would falsely claim to be a lawyer, but that if I was a lawyer, would be the type of lawyer who would bribe judges to get favors for rich clients.

I think most objective people reading this blog would see those type of judgments as strange. I think they are strange.

That's what I mean by being too emotionally invested.

I can't imagine a scenario under which I would say that about someone I don't even know. And the only reason that I can think an intelligent person would say such a thing is that they are really emotionally invested in a particular view and insisting that others see it the same way.

Many people comment on blogs, and many people disagree about the comments that others write.

But, thankfully, most people don't start down that road that I have described. Those intelligent persons who do must have something going on way deep down that causes them to well up and do that.

I am sure that like all humans, I could end up making judgments like - "you are probably the kind of person who would bribe someone, or kill someone, or steal etc."

If I ever say such a thing, please call to my attention that I have become too emotionally invested and have blown a gasket somewhere along the line.

Thanks.

Louis

Anonymous said...

Regarding the Chest of Joash - it was an idea given to Homer Lindsay, Sr. BY GOD, and USED BY GOD to fund ministry for decades. Lindsay, JR. carried on the tradition, USED BY GOD. Nothing wrong, or cheesy with that.

But Maurilio Amorim and the A-Group and Team Brunson use it as a cash cow means to "raise revenue from giving units" and suddenly the Chest IS cheesy and should not be used anymore. Did Maurilio mention the chest in his seminar at the pastor's conferency on "fundraising in the church?'

No, this is Old Testament, tradition, "living in the past" and is not cutting edge like Maurilio, so it would not be used at all...UNLESS, they thought they could use it to fleece the sheep.

Period. My opinion based on the way these guys operate. A once blessed means for God's people to give, has been PROSTITUTED. Think about it for a few minutes. I am right aren't I boys?

Anonymous said...

Louis posted this on Wade Burleson's blog about FBC Jax and the watchdog.

"Hey:

I have been on vacation for a week and missed this. Without reading any of the comments, I have the following thoughts.

1. SBC Outpost was really good because they posted documents relating to the legal stories they were covering. It would be good if the documents that you obtained and have read (which I assume are public documents?) could be posted and linked to. That way we could read them.

2. Without attempting to answer the specific factual inquiries listed in the numbered questions (because I don't know the answers, the players and would only be guessing), the answer to the bigger question is "yes." Of course, power, position and knowledge can be abused.

3. If there have been a violations of law or ethics relating to law enforcement, the courts and other public offices in Florida are in the best position to look into that and handle it. All they need is a complaintant. It would be helpful if the complaintant had a lawyer.

4. I am not FBC's lawyer, and do not suspect that I would be. However, if I were, the first advice that I would give would be "Don't talk to anyone about this legal matter outside the church leadership." So, I don't expect that you, I or anyone else on this blog who might call the staff or pastors at FBC Jax will receive a return call. I believe that would be the proper way for FBC to handle this. Anything they told to you (or you thought they told you, in the event of miscommunication, which happens in the best of human relationships) could be obtained by taking your deposition, and could be used later. Or you might blog about it.

5. I do not believe that the Matthew passage applies here. I believe that there are criminal or quasi criminal matters at issue that resulted in the issuace of the subpoenas (at least based on what little info I have read, which has only been on this site). I do not believe that the passage in Matthew mandates notifying the target of a subopena for possible criminal or quasi-criminal wrongdoing or having a discussion with him after the subpoena has been issued. I am sure there will be many people on this blog who disagree with me on that, but that's ok.

6. I still haven't see the trespass letter or warning letter, or whatever it's been called, so I don't know what it says either.

Until I have more facts, I cannot condemn the position taken by the church. Apparently it had enough information to convince a court or other state authorities to go further, and the church has voted (I think?) to take action against this member.

I recognize the questions raised are valid questions, but without more information, I cannot get into this any further than that.

Louis"

Anonymous said...

"What I am concerned about is in on-line discussion (with persons who are not members of FBC Jax or connected to it) how the discussions can turn into real personal name calling or accusations of wrongdoing."

Louis, you never say much of anything that is direct or has substance. It is almost always wishy washy platitudes. It might be this or it might be that. You seem very unprincipled for an elder. But in your world that is considered brilliant thinking.

You are on the record over at Wade's blog saying you don't think the legal actions amount to much.

Well, legally they might not. And that is my point about you. You are always concerned with worldly positions, outcomes and pursuits.

It just proves my point about guys who are elders these days. You do not understand what a true biblical elder really is about. You are in good company.

And no, I do not know if you are really a lawyer. Why not name your firm? What is there to hide as you are on the side of the powerful. They would love to have a genuine big shot lawyer hawking for them.

And you do not know if I am a recovering Pharisee or not. And no, I will not name names. I am not going down the road anymore.

Folks can just take it or leave it. I give my opinion on what I saw out there that passes for 'church'.

Just one recovering Pharisee talking to another Pharisee.

Matt

Anonymous said...

Matt:

I already wrote about you in the previous comment and really don't need to add to that.

I do not use my firm's name in private correspondence or private pursuits that are unrelated to my firm's business.

I am not a big shot lawyer.

I note that you describe yourself as a recovering Pharisee.

Louis

michael lukaszewski said...

i wish that single previous comment would be posted at the top of every thread on this site, as well as be featured on the front of the church's website.

how far the situation has come. how sad for all parties. how sad for the cause of Christ.

Lydia said...

I see that Louis has come over here to do the the lawyer schtick he does over at Wade's.

I have been reading Louis since the SBC Outpost days and he is consistent. He is consistently for the powerful and influential.

But beware, watchdog, of actually listening to him. He was always trying to goad the Outpost boys into saying things or doing things that would not serve them well. He is a sly one.

But if you read him for long, you will see he strictly has a world view and that is how he approaches things. No wonder he always sides with the big and powerful.

Anonymous said...

"I note that you describe yourself as a recovering Pharisee."

Louis, Admitting it is one step in the right direction.

Matt

KING0 said...

I dont know what the problem is with FBC, i dont agree with everything that is said on here, but there is the freedom of speech and from what ive seen nothing on hear has been said that instigate criminal activity

Anonymous said...

Has anyone contacted Mr. Vines about all of this?
What about gathering people together who disagree with what has been going on and having a prayer/fasting for the church?

I've been out of the loop for quite a while and have just come across this blog. So forgive me if this has already been done.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 4:12. Sorry that you have been a witness to things that should never occur. Unfortunately, man has a way of hindering the cause of Christ. Don't let people, circumstances, and things get in your way to get saved. Church buildings are that buildings. The real Christians of this world will treat you differently. Remember this...as you progress in life does the Bible teach me about salvation? Did Jesus Christ die in my place? Is the Bible 100% accurate? If you said yes to these questions then you will never be left by God. He will wait you out. The example is the prodigal son. I pray that you will find your way back to Jesus. I also am one that left the church but not Jesus. He will never leave or forsake you like most will do. Have courage...read your Bible and ask God to show Himself to you as I have. He will reveal to you from His Word that He is faithful. God bless you and those like you who have encourtered unkindness, overbearing, and just plain rude behavior from "Church".

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