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Old 12th April 2009, 10:23 AM   #1
Questioninggeller
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Law enforcement exposes blogger for pastor after revealing salary

A member of the Jacksonville sheriff's office, who also worked for First Baptist Jacksonville, via subpoena got google to reveal the name of a blogger and then exposed it to the public. The blogger was then banned from the church.

The crime?

The blogger posted First Baptist Jacksonville Pastor's Mac Brunson salary ($300,000) and other benefits. No threats, no harassment, no libel. Just facts about the church's money.


Here's the story clipped for emphasis:

Quote:
Unmasked blogger blames First Baptist, Sheriff's Office
A subpoena is used to obtain critic's identity from Google

By Jeff Brumley Story
Florida Times-Union
Friday, Apr. 10, 2009


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.

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.

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.

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.

Rich said he mailed a complaint against Hinson to the Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday. It had not been received as of Wednesday afternoon.

The intelligence detective opened the criminal investigation Sept. 29 into the identity and “possible criminal overtones” of the blog, fbcjaxwatchdog.blogspot.com.
...
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.

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.

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.
...
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.

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.
...
Blount said he had no idea why Hinson looked into two other blogs, tiffanycroft.blogspot.com 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, the former Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church 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 — 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.

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.
...
Full article: Florida Times-Union

Visit the blog: http://fbcjaxwatchdog.blogspot.com

And the pastor said "he is one of the lowest-paid mega-church pastors"...

Last edited by Questioninggeller; 12th April 2009 at 10:26 AM.
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Old 12th April 2009, 11:27 AM   #2
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$300k a year? To spout ************ all day long? Dammit, I've been doing that for free my whole life! How do I get in on this?
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Old 13th April 2009, 05:58 AM   #3
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Sounds rife with impropriety. In order to subpoena the identity of the blogger, would this detective not have to provide probable cause of some offense?
Sounds like any judge or prosecutor would have been hard-pressed to find any....
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Old 13th April 2009, 10:07 AM   #4
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This doesn't look good...
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Old 13th April 2009, 10:54 AM   #5
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Aside from the fact that this gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "Bully Pulpit," all that I can come up with is this piece of advice for the blogger:

If you might suffer adverse consequences for the "wrong" people looking at what your posts, then don't post anything that would offend them (or expose their hypocrisy) - especially on a website that can easily determine or divulge your identity.
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Old 13th April 2009, 11:01 AM   #6
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Why isn't this guy an ex -officer?? This is a blatant abuse of his badge. If no threats were being made, then there is no reason for him to pull a subpoena. I hope these guys contact the ACLU for legal support. We have a constitutional right to privacy in our persons and papers unless a valid search warrant is obtained -- what possible reason could there be for getting this information?

I wonder if the quoted Undersheriff is also a member of the church?



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Old 13th April 2009, 11:03 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Miss_Kitt View Post
Why isn't this guy an ex -officer?? This is a blatant abuse of his badge. If no threats were being made, then there is no reason for him to pull a subpoena. I hope these guys contact the ACLU for legal support. We have a constitutional right to privacy in our persons and papers unless a valid search warrant is obtained -- what possible reason could there be for getting this information?
Doesn't this work both ways then? Aren't matters of salary and personal finance covered under the same restrictions?

Not arguing, just asking.
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Old 13th April 2009, 11:12 AM   #8
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The officer cited "possible illegal activities" in his subpeona request. Those are the magic words for getting anything subpeona'ed under the Patriot Act.
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Old 13th April 2009, 11:32 AM   #9
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Waidda godsdamn minit!
Aren't subpeona's issued or requested by DA's and/or Lawyers to guarantee appearance of a witness at a hearing? How and why was a Deputy Sheriff granted a subpeona?
A search warrent also requires a bit more substantiation than appears to be the case here...
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Old 13th April 2009, 11:48 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by rwguinn View Post
Waidda godsdamn minit!
Aren't subpeona's issued or requested by DA's and/or Lawyers to guarantee appearance of a witness at a hearing? How and why was a Deputy Sheriff granted a subpeona?
A search warrent also requires a bit more substantiation than appears to be the case here...
If I understand the law correctly:

1) A search warrant allows court officials and/or law-enforcement officers to enter a location and search it for evidence.

2) A subpeona orders the recipient to deliver evidence to a law-enforcement officer or court official.

Would someone please correct me if I'm wrong?
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Old 13th April 2009, 12:41 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by RobRoy View Post
Doesn't this work both ways then? Aren't matters of salary and personal finance covered under the same restrictions?

Not arguing, just asking.
It's about who's doing the revealing, and how they got the information. This detective got the information, apparently, as part of a criminal investigation. Having found no wrongdoing on the part of the blogger, he should not be allowed to disclose the otherwise confidential information he got as part of the investigation. On the other hand, a blogger's not a detective (at least this blogger isn't); he's just a blogger. Assuming he didn't do anything wrong in getting the information, there's nothing at all wrong with disclosing the information. You get to tell what you know, unless there's something special about you that means you can't. With the detective, there was. With the blogger, there wasn't.

On a completely non-legal note, I think the people who pay your salary have a right to know how much you're making. Normal working people don't get to hide their salaries from their employers, and I don't see why pastors should be any different. I'm not saying they should be legally required to disclose, and I do think they should be allowed to use the legal protections of their privacy that exist. I just think they should voluntarily forgo that, as a simple matter of respect and decency. If there's nothing wrong with taking in $300k for what you do, disclose it. If there is something wrong with it, take a pay cut.
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Old 14th April 2009, 04:28 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Bikewer View Post
Sounds rife with impropriety. In order to subpoena the identity of the blogger, would this detective not have to provide probable cause of some offense?
Sounds like any judge or prosecutor would have been hard-pressed to find any....
Naa, you just need to know the right church members.
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Old 14th April 2009, 04:30 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Fnord View Post
Aside from the fact that this gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "Bully Pulpit," all that I can come up with is this piece of advice for the blogger:

If you might suffer adverse consequences for the "wrong" people looking at what your posts, then don't post anything that would offend them (or expose their hypocrisy) - especially on a website that can easily determine or divulge your identity.
It wasn't easily determined though, it was a subpoena that got it. I guess you have to expect church member to abuse their authority though.

No one expects that Baptist Inquisistion.
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Old 14th April 2009, 04:32 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by rwguinn View Post
Waidda godsdamn minit!
Aren't subpeona's issued or requested by DA's and/or Lawyers to guarantee appearance of a witness at a hearing? How and why was a Deputy Sheriff granted a subpeona?
A search warrent also requires a bit more substantiation than appears to be the case here...
Because you can subpeona records, as in this case.
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Old 14th April 2009, 05:48 AM   #15
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Not addressing this to anyone in particular, but at the thread in general: subpoena.
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Old 14th April 2009, 06:02 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by linusrichard View Post
Not addressing this to anyone in particular, but at the thread in general: subpoena.
Unless you happen to be under some flowers.
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Old 14th April 2009, 06:15 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by JenseitsDavon View Post
$300k a year? To spout ************ all day long? Dammit, I've been doing that for free my whole life! How do I get in on this?
First of all, get rid of that troublesome "conscience" thing...
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Old 14th April 2009, 06:58 AM   #18
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This is depressing on so many levels. $300,000 p.a! Like, wow. Just, wow. I shall have to become a US preacher it seems. The church of England last time i looked paid about $22,000 for the same job. So a US preacher makes 13 times as much? WTF?

cj
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Old 14th April 2009, 07:23 AM   #19
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Does anyone know whether the investigator actually went to a judge to get the subpoena? Or is there some loophole (like in the Patriot Act) that lets a law enforcement official issue a subpoena by himself?

I'd like to know what "possible illegal activities" were being considered, and who did the considering. I mean, it's possible that I'm engaging in illegal activities right now, as far as this investigator knows. Does this post give him the power to demand that the JREF hand over my identity?
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Old 14th April 2009, 07:26 AM   #20
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At least here, If I walked into the county prosecutor's office and wanted a subpoena or search warrant for "possible illegal activity" I'd be rather abruptly shown the door.

"Probable cause" indicates that there is some evidence of illegal activity.
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Old 14th April 2009, 07:35 AM   #21
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No wonder the churches have such effective lobbies! The best that money can buy!
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Old 14th April 2009, 08:12 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by Bikewer View Post
At least here, If I walked into the county prosecutor's office and wanted a subpoena or search warrant for "possible illegal activity" I'd be rather abruptly shown the door.

"Probable cause" indicates that there is some evidence of illegal activity.
.
"Probable Cause" for a cop covers more legal ground than "Probable Cause" for Joe Citizen. If Joe sees a drug deal go down and reports it to the cops, they're likely to not do much more than question the usual suspects (who will deny everything, even when caught in the act), turn them loose, and wait until Joe's bullet-riddled corpse shows up at the coroner's office before starting a full criminal investigation.

If a cop sees the same drug deal go down, those involved would be arrested on the spot, unless they would rather commit "Suicide by Cop."

A mere accusation is not "Probable Cause" for a criminal investigation, unless it is a cop that makes it and not a private citizen.

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Old 14th April 2009, 08:16 AM   #23
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This pastor has really offended me, SO I want to get Scriptural on his ass.

James 5:1-6.
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. ...Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and with you have withheld, cries out against you; and the outcry of the harvesters has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.

Luke 6:24. "But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full."

Luke 16:19-25. "Now there was a certain rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, gaily living in splendor every day. And a certain poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table; besides, even the dogs would come and lick his sores.
Now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. And in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom.
And he cried out and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue; for I am in agony in this flame.'
But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony...'"

Acts 4:32-35. And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles' feet; and they would be distributed to each, as any had need.
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Old 14th April 2009, 08:32 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by cj.23 View Post
This is depressing on so many levels. $300,000 p.a! Like, wow. Just, wow. I shall have to become a US preacher it seems. The church of England last time i looked paid about $22,000 for the same job. So a US preacher makes 13 times as much? WTF?

cj
Now he probably has 13 times the number of members attending his church as most in the CoE though.
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Old 14th April 2009, 08:41 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by cj.23 View Post
This pastor has really offended me, SO I want to get Scriptural on his ass.

James 5:1-6. Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. ...Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and with you have withheld, cries out against you; and the outcry of the harvesters has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.

Luke 6:24. "But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full."

Luke 16:19-25. "Now there was a certain rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, gaily living in splendor every day. And a certain poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table; besides, even the dogs would come and lick his sores.
Now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. And in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom.
And he cried out and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue; for I am in agony in this flame.'
But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony...'"

Acts 4:32-35. And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles' feet; and they would be distributed to each, as any had need.
Understand your dislike for the guy, but your quotes only serve to trouble me more.

In brief, people can be douchbags, but does that mean an eternally tormenting punishment?
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Old 14th April 2009, 08:47 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by linusrichard View Post
It's about who's doing the revealing, and how they got the information. This detective got the information, apparently, as part of a criminal investigation. Having found no wrongdoing on the part of the blogger, he should not be allowed to disclose the otherwise confidential information he got as part of the investigation.
Yes, but my question is in regards to the original release of the information on the part of the blogger. That's not legal, is it?
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Old 14th April 2009, 08:57 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by joobz View Post
Understand your dislike for the guy, but your quotes only serve to trouble me more.

In brief, people can be douchbags, but does that mean an eternally tormenting punishment?
Well keep in mind the douchbag in question is a preacher at a southern baptist mega church...
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Old 14th April 2009, 09:50 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by joobz View Post
Understand your dislike for the guy, but your quotes only serve to trouble me more.

In brief, people can be douchbags, but does that mean an eternally tormenting punishment?
It's a parable not literal, and quite probably not. Can't we create a higher magnitude infinity of time for douchebags like this?

cj x
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Old 14th April 2009, 10:24 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by cj.23 View Post
This pastor has really offended me, SO I want to get Scriptural on his ass.
Summarized by: "Any pastor who owns more than two pairs of shoes is a hypocrite."
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Old 14th April 2009, 10:41 AM   #30
cj.23
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Originally Posted by CurtC View Post
Summarized by: "Any pastor who owns more than two pairs of shoes is a hypocrite."
Yep, in essence.

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Old 14th April 2009, 10:53 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by cj.23 View Post
Yep, in essence.

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What about boots, do you count them as well? And flops or slippers?

And if he/she only had two pair of shoes, but a dozen silk suits, where does he/she stand then?
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Old 14th April 2009, 10:59 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by CurtC View Post
Summarized by: "Any pastor who owns more than two pairs of shoes is a hypocrite."
Actually, I have no problem with that summary.
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Old 14th April 2009, 10:59 AM   #33
cj.23
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Originally Posted by RobRoy View Post
What about boots, do you count them as well? And flops or slippers?

And if he/she only had two pair of shoes, but a dozen silk suits, where does he/she stand then?
Out of my sight?

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Old 14th April 2009, 11:42 AM   #34
ponderingturtle
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Originally Posted by CurtC View Post
Summarized by: "Any pastor who owns more than two pairs of shoes is a hypocrite."
Hey if we were talking TV preachers it could be private jets instead of shoes.
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Old 20th April 2009, 01:12 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by Bikewer View Post
Sounds rife with impropriety. In order to subpoena the identity of the blogger, would this detective not have to provide probable cause of some offense? Sounds like any judge or prosecutor would have been hard-pressed to find any....
Ah. But some dude making $300 large would be able to convince the judge or prosecutor that he (the dude) was in great danger. N'est-ce pas?.
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Old 20th April 2009, 01:18 PM   #36
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cj23 quotes: "James 5:1-6. Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. ...Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and with you have withheld, cries out against you; and the outcry of the harvesters has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter."

CJ23, that raises an interesting question. Could the church membership be convinced that by making this pastor rich, they are depriving him of an eternal reward? Maybe the Christian thing to do would be to drop his salary to, say, $10,000 per annum? In a spirit of loving concern?

What would Jesus do?

Last edited by babbits; 20th April 2009 at 01:21 PM.
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Old 20th April 2009, 01:43 PM   #37
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I'd say most US pastors are middle-middle class or thereabouts. $25-$50,000 range.
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Old 20th April 2009, 07:13 PM   #38
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The case is closed and the Sheriff's Office said everything way okay. The Florida Times-Union editorial board wrote:

Quote:
JSO and First Baptist: Troubling issues
Florida Times-Union
Thursday, Apr. 16, 2009

The case, now closed, involving a police investigation of a blogger and First Baptist Church raises serious issues.

First, there is a perception that one of Jacksonville's most influential institutions used its influence with the Sheriff's Office against a man who had been criticizing it. This raises free speech issues.

Second, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office has ethics rules that allows an investigator who works on the security detail of the church he attends to conduct the investigation.
...
But there are several factors that raise troubling concerns:

Weak link to criminal activity: The church was concerned about stolen mail and photos taken of the pastor's wife. But linking them to a critical blogger seemed a stretch. While the blogger's posts were critical, they did not appear to justify a police investigation.

As Rutherford wrote in his statement, the investigation was shut down because "no criminal conduct or significant threat to the church was determined to exist."

Beef up JSO's ethics code: The code forbids officers from investigating matters involving their families, JSO spokeswoman Lauri-Ellen Smith told the Times-Union, but permits probes involving friends, neighbors and churches.

Conflicts could arise in any area in which officers have close personal involvement. That could include businesses, schools, outside activities, and, especially, their places of worship. In this case, the investigating officer had both a religious and business relationship.

The Sheriff's Office should reexamine its ethics code, perhaps in concert with the city's ethics office, to prevent similar situations from happening.
...
Full article: Florida Times-Union
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Old 21st April 2009, 07:08 AM   #39
ponderingturtle
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Originally Posted by Questioninggeller View Post
The case is closed and the Sheriff's Office said everything way okay. The Florida Times-Union editorial board wrote:



Full article: Florida Times-Union
Ah good, the police looked into their impropieties and found that they did everything right. Reminds me of the group Sara Palin appointed to investigate her clearing her of any wrong doing.
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Old 21st April 2009, 08:42 PM   #40
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I still don't understand how they got the blog service provider to hand over the info. Did they simply knuckle-under to a police request? I would think they would require a court subpoena.

Do service providers give this kind of info to the police? That's scary.
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