Sunday, April 26, 2009
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Some current and past discussions taking place in the blogosphere on FBC Jax Watchdog:
On this blog:We want to minister to everybody...
Florida Times-Union:Mark Woods > First Baptist blogger case where it should be: In judge's hands
Jeff Brumley > Blogger sues after Jacksonville cops out him to First Baptist
Woman accepts her blog's role in church investigation
Jax News >Readers respond to detective's investigation of critical blogger
Jeff Brumley > FBC blogger feels privacy was violated: Law enforcement says his privacy rights weren't violated, but there are concerns about the investigation.
Mark Woods > Church's use of power is troubling.
Television coverage:First Coast News > Internet Blog on First Baptist Church Causes Stir
Tiffany Croft's blog:
Here is the latest story regarding this blog and the investigation
JSO Explains Subpoena
Stop Baptist Predators:Go Dog Go!
Baptist Life Forums:
Wade Burleson's blog:
From around the world:Anonymous Blogger Messes with Church... Church messes back...
Business Week > FBC blogger feels privacy was violated: Law enforcement says his privacy rights weren't violated, but there are concerns about the investigation. [The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville]JONATHAN TURLEY > Baptist Church Accused of Using Florida Detective to Uncover and Identify Critical Blogger
The Backbencher > Abuse of Pulpit
And of course the FBC Jax Watchdog blog itself.
* Recently added
Thanks to "Thy Peace" for this exhaustive list!
New links will continue to be added periodically.
Thursday, April 09, 2009
Unmasked blogger blames First Baptist, Sheriff's Office
A subpoena is used to obtain critic's identity from Google
By JEFF BRUMLEY
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 minister's security detail.
* Can you say "conflict of interest"?
Thomas A. Rich also wants the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office to explain what suspected crimes led Detective Robert Hinson to open the probe into his once-anonymous Web site.
* I would like to know that, too, since the URL for this blog was on one of those subpoenas!
Rich also wants to know why Hinson revealed his name to the church despite finding no wrongdoing. Hinson obtained a subpoena from the State Attorney's Office requiring Google Inc. to reveal the author of the blog.
* Actually, it resulted in Google providing an IP address and the e-mail address the blog was registered under. Then Comcast was subpoenaed to find out the identity of the Watchdog. I'm pretty sure the same information was obtained for this blog and Tiffany Croft's blog. Whether our respective ISPs were subpoenaed is unknown.
Rich'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.
* So why the trespass orders??? Could it be to intimidate the Watchdog?
Rich said he mailed a complaint against Hinson to the Sheriff's Office on Tuesday. It had not been received as of Wednesday afternoon.
* It will be interesting to see their response, if any.
The intelligence detective opened the criminal investigation Sept. 29 into the identity and "possible criminal overtones" of the blog, fbcjaxwatchdog.blogspot.com.
* And approximately 18 days after subpoenaing Google for FBC Jax Watchdog's records, they subpoenaed Google for records for Tiffany Croft (who has always blogged using her real name), the NBBCOF, and an e-mail address for SLyons45. The latter two were on the same subpoena which indicates to me for some reason there might have been some connection between the two in their minds.
My only connection to Watchdog is that he contacted me when he started his blog in 2007, and we've corresponded since. I have stored some of his documents on my server. Bellevue Baptist is similar to FBC Jax in that both had new pastors come in and basically immediately begin to hijack the churches. It's not about music or the color of the carpet as many would have you think. It's about openness, transparency, truthfulness, and integrity, all characteristics that seem to be sorely lacking in both Mac Brunson and Steve Gaines.
The Sheriff's Office and church officials defended the complaint and investigation into Rich's blog, which Hinson concluded Nov. 13.
* How can you defend the indefensible? Can you say "corruption"?
Undersheriff Frank Mackesy said Hinson's role posed no conflict of interest because his duties include handling possible threats against the city's large religious institutions.
* Can you say "crock"?
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 blog's author.
* I learned that Google was subpoenaed for my information (namely the "owner" of the NBBCOF blog) when Watchdog contacted me on March 25th.
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.
* No, I was never contacted, nor did this blog ever focus on FBC Jax. There have been two articles (until now) out of the 165+ articles published in the last 2 1/2 years that had anything to do with FBC Jax, and those simply rehashed things from the FBC Jax Watchdog blog.
Mackesy said the three bloggers didn't need to be contacted because Hinson uncovered nothing criminal. "The detective hasn't done anything wrong," he said.
* I was never contacted by JSO. However, I would just like to know what "crime" I was accused of for them to have reason to subpoena my personal information in the first place. I have never set foot inside the state of Florida, much less inside FBC Jax, the address given on the complaint as the location of said "suspected criminal activity."
It was also proper for Hinson to provide First Baptist's leadership with Rich's identity despite finding no criminal evidence, Mackesy said, so it could take whatever internal action it felt necessary for its own safety.
"I'd be disappointed in the detective if [he] didn't do it," he said.
* Okay, so let me get this straight. The JSO finds NO evidence of any criminal activity, but yet they thought it was appropriate to reveal Watchdog's personal information to FBC Jax's "leadership" so they could take whatever action necessary for their "safety." What "internal action" did they think was deemed necessary at that point? Trespass orders against the man and his wife? Why not go all the way and issue three little trespass orders against their children? Why did the announcement and reading of the infamous "whereas" resolution
The Rev. John Blount, executive pastor of administration, said he contacted Hinson directly regarding increased "vitriol" on the blog about the same time mail was stolen from the Brunson home and someone was surreptitiously photographing Brunson's wife. Also, someone had contacted vendors lined up for the church's annual pastors' conference and made critical remarks about Brunson to them, Blount said.
* Last I heard, "vitriol" (an exaggeration at best) on a blog isn't "criminal." As for mail being stolen "from the Brunson home," a Google maps search of the Brunsons' address shows there are no curbside mailboxes. Rather, there is a cluster of mailboxes at the end of the street which I would guess probably includes the Brunsons' mailbox. It's impossible to tell from the low-resolution street view photo, but often in communities with these types of mailboxes, they will be numbered say, 1 through 40 rather than with the owners' names or addresses. It would be interesting to know if that's the case in the Brunsons' neighborhood. If it is, how would anyone but the USPS and perhaps some of their neighbors know which box is theirs?
"We became concerned enough to ask law enforcement, 'Is there the ability to find out where this is coming from?'" 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 "an ongoing Internet incident that has possible criminal overtones."
* As I have stated, I've never set foot in the state of Florida, much less Jacksonville. How (or much more importantly, why) would I ever be suspected of any of these activities? What "internet incident" involving me (or Watchdog or Tiffany Croft) has "possible criminal overtones"?
At no time was the blogger accused of being behind the other incidents, Blount said.
* Oh, really? According to Watchdog's multiple sources, at the February 23rd deacons' meeting John Blount told the deacons that Thomas Rich was the person suspected of stealing the Brunsons' mail and stalking Deb Brunson.
Rich said he never stole mail, photographed Brunson'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.
* Ya think? I believe Mr. Rich when he says he did not contact any of the vendors. But I learned just this morning that at least one person did. Someone I know personally states that s/he sent e-mail messages to at least some of the sponsors and featured exhibitors listed on the Pastors' Conference website. This person merely suggested they go to the FBC Jax Watchdog site, read it for themselves, and make up their own minds. I can't think this person was the only one who did so. According to my source, four sponsors/exhibitors did drop out, including the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Whether this particular person's message had anything to do with their decisions is unknown, but if four silver, gold, or platinum sponsors dropped out, that represented a nice chunk of change.
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.
* I thought Mr. Blount just said "at no time was the blogger accused of being behind the other incidents."
Then why did they target him, his wife, Tiffany Croft, and me?
Brunson said police have interviewed him about the photos and stolen mail. He refused to elaborate.
* I bet. No doubt "police" = Robert Hinson. Why, if any man who's worth his salt even suspected someone was stalking his wife, would he not file a police report? If someone is stealing your mail, get a mailbox with a lock on it. And as someone in the comment stream observed, stealing mail is a federal offense, not something the local police would investigate. The USPS has its own investigators for that sort of thing.
Rich said he launched his blog in August 2007 — more than a year after Brunson became the pastor — because he was alarmed by what he described as Brunson's "abusive preaching," especially during fund-raising campaigns.
* Funny how "beauty shop gossip" could be deemed important enough to need to "shut 'em down." Could it be that the reason giving is down is because of the economy and people leaving the church because of Mac? Nahhh... it couldn't be!
The blog has included criticisms of Brunson's $300,000 salary, his plan to open a church school, his construction of a "lavish" office suite, accepting a $307,000 land gift from church members for his home and putting his wife on the payroll.
* He put his 22-year-old son on the payroll, too. I don't think he even has a title, nor is anyone really sure what his job entails.
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.
* I suppose that depends on how one defines "mega-church," but I doubt Mac has any idea how his salary compares to those of other "mega-church" pastors. After all, this information is a highly guarded secret in most of these organizations, known only to a handful of rich, powerful men. Do these guys sit around at their conferences and the convention or when they preach at each others' churches (for big $$$ while being paid by their own churches -- i.e. double dipping) and compare their salaries and perks?
In a December 7, 2008 interview Brunson claims "he doesn't make anywhere near the $300,000 annual salary the blogger claims." The key word there is "salary." Does anyone believe that with his salary plus his housing (tax exempt, BTW) and car and other "allowances" and perks that Mac Brunson makes nowhere near $300,000? Of course, as Watchdog observed, maybe his salary isn't "anywhere near $300,000." Remember "nowhere near" could cover amounts much greater than $300,000 as well. Kind of like Bill Clinton arguing what the meaning of the word "is" is. Factor in Honey's salary (what does she do again?), and then Trey's, plus book sales and speaking fees, and I would conservatively guess the Brunson Gang is making close to seven figures in salaries, allowances, and perks.
Rich's letter from the church cited his anonymity and sharp criticism as "a violation of Scripture" and church bylaws. He said the trespass warning came after he refused to appear before a discipline committee without a representative.
* Errr... so anonymity and criticism are "a violation of Scripture"? Can anyone point me to that particular passage of Scripture?
But Brunson said Rich's persistent criticism over nearly two years indicates the writer has an "obsessive compulsive problem" and is "not very stable at all," Brunson said.
"What you're dealing with is a sociopath," Brunson said.
* I think this statement speaks much more about Brunson's own mental state than that of the Watchdog.
"The imbalance is him refusing to address the concerns of his congregation," Rich said of Brunson's comments. Rich said his blog gets about 1,000 hits a day and that he regularly hears from people who agree with his criticisms but are afraid to come forward.
* I've heard the same from Bellevue members (mostly former members). It's all about money and power, and if they even perceive a threat to either, they will try to destroy you.
"He's been trying to convince his administration that I am some kind of a nut," he said. "I am not a nut... and the things I have raised on the blog are valid concerns."
Blount said he had no idea why Hinson looked into two other blogs, tiffanycroft.blogspot.com and newbbcopenforum.blogspot.com.
* Was Hinson acting on his own, or was someone pulling his strings? Ask yourself, who at FBC Jax would most like to see Tiffany Croft's blog and the NBBCOF shut down? It makes no sense unless someone was simply on a phishing expedition to reveal the identity of Watchdog and me. As for Tiffany Croft, what possible motive could there be except to intimidate her? She's always blogged using her real name! While she doesn't seem to have been particularly critical of Brunson, she has been critical of FBC Jax and Jerry Vines for allowing Darrell Gilyard to preach at FBC Jax and for Vines preaching at Gilyard's church after Gilyard's long, sordid past became public knowledge. She has also been critical of Paige Patterson for covering for Gilyard, and we know Brunson and Patterson are buddies. Mac Brunson reportedly approached Ms. Croft's father, who is a member of FBC Jax, and pressured him to get her to take down her blog. It's my understanding Brunson now contends he's "not familiar" with Ms. Croft's blog.
Mackesy would say only that Hinson was obligated to look at those blogs if he felt it could help the initial investigation.
* Which brings us back to the question of why Tiffany or I would be included in the investigation at all.
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, the former Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church pastor accused of sexual misconduct. Gilyard regularly preached at First Baptist in the early 1990s.
* Which is likely why she was targeted. Criticism of Jerry Vines and FBC Jax. Brunson and Vines were witnessed high-fiving each other over the "evils" of anonymous e-mails. No doubt neither of them wanted any attention over their direct or indirect association with Darrell Gilyard.
Croft said she also plans to file a complaint against Hinson demanding to know why her blog — which has never been anonymous — was the target of a subpoena to Google.
The Times-Union doesn't know the identity of the third blogger, critical of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis.
* I'm not convinced FBC Jax does either.
The subpoena requests that Hinson submitted to the State Attorney'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 Sheriff's Office and to clear his name.
* Those fellas at FBC Jax may have opened a big can of worms with this one. "It's hardball," Rich said of the church's tactics in uncovering his identity. "It's hardball religion, is what it is."
* That's exactly what it is. Mac & Co. have stepped in it big time. As Rush Limbaugh says, "You put a bag of excrement in front of Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid, and they're gonna step in it." Seems like there are some guys in Jacksonville who need to be checking the bottoms of their shoes right now, too.
The only reason I can think of that anyone at FBC Jax would go after my personal information is that the name of the site where I store files is newbbc.accura.net. Most of the files on that site are public. Therefore, from the names alone, one could reach the logical conclusion that the NBBCOF blog and the newbbc.accura.net site are somehow related. I'm thinking when they noticed some of Watchdog's files were stored on my server, perhaps they thought we were connected, perhaps even that the same person hosted both blogs.
If you look at the subpoenas, they first went after Watchdog's information. Then about 18 days later they went after SLyons45, the NBBCOF, and Tiffany Croft's information. The SLyons45 address was apparently the one Watchdog used to register his blog. What also makes me think they somehow connected us was that the SLyons45 address and the NBBCOF appear on the same subpoena. The request for Tiffany Croft's information was on a separate subpoena.
Therefore, I don't know if Steve and Mac are on good terms or not, but they both often complain that they're "victims" of "lies, slander, and gossip." All people are asking for is some measure of accountability and integrity, and all they're met with is brick walls and silence. Or in the case of Steve and Mac, sheep-beating sermons (especially when funds are needed) and tactics (at least in Mac's case) to "shut 'em down" at all costs. If Steve and Mac are on the same page, perhaps Mac was getting the information for Steve. (Steve's "go to" guy who does a lot of his dirty work is Administrative Pastor, David Coombs.) I would think, however, if Steve had wanted to find out who I am he could have done so a long time ago. I don't for one second think this blog is that big a "threat" to him.
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
RECENT ANNOUNCEMENT FROM the VUE's website...
MAKING AN IMPACT ON YOUR CAMPUS - meet at the VUE at 1:15 or at the BCM at 1:30.
Sometimes its (sic) easier to share what we believe with people in other cities and other countries, however God put you exactly where you are to share with those people around you. If we truly love people, God will change their hearts. We will meet up with students at the BCM and together go out onto campus and share with students. Let God change your life & increase your faith by joining with us!
Is this what they're teaching the youth at Bellevue now?