Saturday, April 25, 2009

Here is the latest story regarding this blog and the investigation:

The Times Union article is edited and rewritten a few times before going out, so there are other things that I said that did not make it into the final article and may come out at another time. A few of those things I would like to address here:

1) One thing I stated is that I am still not in full agreement that there was ANY need to "look at" or "verify" my blog. As far as I know, they only verified ownership with the subpoena (though I will always wonder). IF I find out during this process that more than this was done, then I will deal with that appropriately. Right now I can only go by what I am told and the facts that I have looked into. The reason I spoke out and also posted previously is that I do not feel Detective Hinson did more than this, I have a reason for believing that (reasons that I cannot share at this time).
The second reason is that I feel that Detective Hinson was "being thrown under a bus" and the others involved at the church were apparently not going to stand up for him. There are other facts that play into this decision and I feel that FBC has some explaining to do. It was the "pass the buck" scenario from the church admin. all the way from the top - "I didn't have anything to do with this, it was him." then that person says "No it was actually that guy over there" and eventually the trail went all the way down to resting on Hinson's shoulders and that is NOT the truth. He should not lose his job or credibility, face public rage, internal affairs investigation etc. if there is more to the story, don't you agree? I do not feel he abused his power or did favors. I know a few details about this situation and I feel it was his job to investigate based on what he was given, he did not act alone. That is why I did my own research and made my own decision. I could be wrong, but I would rather be wrong after a knowledgeable decision than a hasty one made on emotion.

2) Another thing that wasn't printed in the article is that for the last month I have been on my own "fact finding mission" and have talked to many different people, compared different people's version of the events and statements, talked to Deacon's (hearing FBC side of things), hearing Tom's version of events along with his evidence of things, attempted to meet with Pastor Brunson, John Blount and any others they deemed relevant, talked with my family, evaluated the impact of my involvement, lost sleep, prayed, laid out all of the facts that I learned. I have been very frustrated and bothered by it all, and my spirit is restless about it all. I have tried to make decisions based on what I feel God would have me do vs. how I feel (because I was really angry about this) and not wanting to add fuel to an out of control fire. I feel that the full truth has not yet come out, but I am confident that it will. And I am praying for that to happen as well. I want to know the truth and it is very hard to find it right now because everyone is trying to cover for themselves.

One thing I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt, is that this was not handled correctly - period! Not humanly right, but definitely not spiritually!
God's word is alive and active, it is relevant and applicable to everyday life - it is not only applicable to those we want it to apply to, but for the other side as well. We cannot use scriptures against Tom and his blog, cursing what he is doing and then not do the same for the reaction of the church, the Pastor, the Discipline committee, the Deacons, the police and S.A. office. You cannot single only one person out, the Bible applies to all other than the fact that the State (law enforcement) is not bound by God's law. The church brought the State and law enforcement into this by asking for an investigation, asking for information and receiving it (Tom's name), asking for a tespass warning and issuing it by men at the church and then officially by law enforcement, then the final blow, calling Tom names in the public newspaper. Where is the line drawn that says, "Tom did this and it's wrong in our eyes, but anything that happens from this point is just his punishment and our hands are washed clean..." Who decides that ? Are we now judge and jury? What in the world happened to the rest of the scriptures?

"A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel." Prov. 15:18 "A man finds joy in giving an apt reply and how good is a timely word." (vs.23) "He who listens to a life giving rebuke will be at home among the wise. The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor. (vs. 31-32)
"The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: they will not go unpunished. Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the Lord a man avoids evil. When a man's ways are pleasing to the Lord, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him. Better a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice." (16:5-8)

Many of you want to be angry with Tom Rich for blogging in the first place. Well, go ahead and be angry, but sin not. That is Biblical! All day long you can blame this on Tom, but you will be wrong. Pastor Brunson has many critics, all Pastors do, should he handle it differently than a regular man? Yes, because he has a higher calling and role. He has to handle it with grace and humility and he really should meet with the person at least once before deciding what needs to be done from there. If it is an unreasonable person and he sees no way of reconciling the differences, then certainly tougher choices need to be made, in love, with grace and humility. But if it all comes down to agreeing to disagree and asking the person to handle things differently, then he is showing love and grace and humility. And in the best case scenario the persons fears, problems or qualms are settled in this meeting and restoration happens. No matter the outcome, the Pastor would have tried. Tom could have had his questions answered, his fears or qualms resolved and then the blog would be shut down. Or he may have met with him and discovered that he felt he still needed to keep blogging, but the Pastor's accountability would be covered. The Pastor has to answer for how he handles things just as Tom does. Obviously, we are all accountable as well.

We all are fallible and make mistakes and now there is this mess. The church should have had a meeting with Tom, it shouldn't have been only granted based in their rules and regulations being agreed to (that isn't fair) it should have been gracious, loving and available. If there was a threat on the church or Pastor, then I would be saying something different. The only threat was Tom's words and opinions and that is a constitutional right. We cannot use a separate set of rules for the church and then bring in the government (police and SA) but then say "separation of church and state" it is one or the other. We want separation of church and state for our own religious freedom - if the church isn't careful, we will have more situations like this one and lawsuits and then eventually the gov't. will intercede, little crossovers like this can lead to many things that are not in the churches best interest.

3) With that being said, I do not believe that Toms's name should have been released to the church under these circumstances. There was not enough concern gained during the "investigation" to keep it open, meaning actual criminal behavior, so there was no reason to "warn the church" as the Sheriff states. If they linked Tom to some threatening email, or stalking the Pastors wife, then certainly I can understand where they would need to be aware and warn "watch out for John Doe and call if you see him around" type of thing. But this is not the case! Their own report says such. If this is JSO's usual policy, then it needs to be re evaluated based on this case. After all, look what was done after identifying him to the church. Isn't this exactly why he blogged anonymously in the first place? What if the church didn't agree with me blogging about the crimes of Gilyard? Could they go to the JSO and tell them that things are happening to them and I might be to blame? Would that be reason to investigate me?

Do we really need to involve the authorities on a hunch? Or worse, an emotional decision based on our dislike of someone? After all, the blog was just an opinion, no direct threats, no reason to allege he may be stalking, the stalking supposedly happened long ago anyway, why the sudden concern? It just isn't right. But even if they were fearful, there are certainly many people that should have been on the radar other than just Tom Rich, myself and the BBC.

Unfortunately, there may be further consequences for not doing things God's way.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

JSO Explains Subpoena

I finally have enough facts that give me peace about making a statement. The current news situation here in Jacksonville concerning another blogger,, was of great concern to many of you, as well as myself. I have received some of your concerns and questions regarding our privacy being violated.

For those of you that are not aware of this situation, the watchdog blog is concerning First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, the blogger has been anonymous since he started the blog in August of 2007 and posts about concerns he has within the new administration of his church. I do not attend this church and have not been involved with the blog, however, I did grow up in this church and my parents and many friends are still active members. Another reason I have not commented on the blog. However, watchdog took an interest in the Gilyard situation and has been a poster here, as well as an encourager during my blog. He and his wife have now also become our friends.

First Baptist Church went to a Detective in the Fall of last year citing concerns about the blogger, filed a criminal report stating "an Internet incident with possible criminal overtones"; an investigation was opened on September 29th, 2008. My direct issue is that during this investigation my blog was also "looked into" and a subpoena was requested and subsequently granted. I did not learn of this until recently, early March, I was not notified prior to this. I was shocked, then outraged, then worried about the possible violation of many of you (especially victims and anonymous posters). I made an immediate post on the watchdog blog (March 18th comment) and I then checked my anger and decided to get all of the facts together before stating anything further.

Since this time, I have spoken with Deacon's from First Baptist, I have heard their "side" of the story, I have also spoken with others inside and outside of FBC, I have requested a meeting with Pastor Brunson and those involved (didn't happen), I have spoken with the JSO detectives and those involved, I have reviewed all information from all sources and questioned those things that did not make sense to me, of course I have prayed about it as well. I mapped it all out, verified questionable information, made a timeline....I have extensively researched and done my homework before presenting a response.

Below is what I have learned, verified, and now believe to be the truth as best as I can present it. I certainly could still be wrong and more facts will come I am sure.

I have been assured and also believe that Detective Hinson only looked at my blog from the perspective of ownership and to verify that I was not the watchdog or an alias, that we were not conspiring together in some way - thus he looked at the information on my profile and my IP address and then verified that information with Google/Comcast. Once that was confirmed, I was set aside and no further information was requested or gained. He also promptly closed the investigation into the watchdog after realizing there was nothing criminal or any direct threat to the church. This is what I have been assured of and I have asked some tough questions and also made some accusations regarding my fears and concerns. I have asked extensive questions over the course of this last week and all questions have been answered and some more than once, as I re-questioned some things to clarify. I have not felt they withheld anything and I am shocked that they were as open as they have been, they certainly could have told me they "couldn't comment" and I would have just had to deal with it.

Detective Hinson, in my mind, may have had no choice but to look into this case and I feel he did his job, whether or not the church provided him with credible "concerns/evidence" is another matter and will all come out in the end. I just do not want my readers to be concerned or fearful, and I do not want the finger to be pointed at Detective Hinson as I feel that blame would be inappropriate knowing all that I now know. Trust me, the truth will all come out, much like the Gilyard case, just wait and see.

This statement was released to me today by Sheriff Rutherford:

Thursday, April 22, 2009

I would like to clarify some information that has been reported about a recent Intelligence investigation conducted by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, regarding perceived threats against a local religious congregation.

* Our agency is responsible for investigating any perceived threats and possible criminal activity that is reported to us by a citizen. Our detectives routinely share what they learn in the course of the investigation with the victim or complainant.
* Suspects would not be made aware of this information, if it is gathered in an effort to determine if a threshold of criminality exists and none is found. In this case, the case was closed 11/13/08 with no further action by JSO warranted when no criminal conduct or significant threat to the church was determined to exist.
* In this case, the information about suspicious behavior directed at Pastor Mac Brunson and his home and family was provided to a detective whose normal duty assignment with the JSO is to investigate possible threats against Jacksonville’s religious institutions. He is a member of our Intelligence Unit. He would have investigated this situation had the complaint come from those affiliated with a Mosque, a Synagogue, or any religious organization. This is Detective Hinson’s job as the intelligence point person for the religious community, and other designated critical infrastructure sites in Jacksonville.
* All our religious institutions are a major part of Jacksonville’s critical infrastructure and we remain vigilant in investigating all perceived threats and security issues associated with those institutions. In light of recent violent incidents that have occurred in churches around the country, I think our vigilance is necessary and most appropriate to ensure public safety.
Had another officer received a similar threat or tip or raised a similar concern, Detective Hinson would have ultimately been the officer assigned to investigate. I have no issue with his investigation and there is no conflict of interest because he is affiliated with that particular congregation.
* The fact that the medium used to communicate the messages being investigated was the internet is irrelevant. Investigations are conducted into the sources of anonymous letters, phone calls, and in this day and age websites and emails, any time it is deemed appropriate for public safety. We then look at the contents and sources of internet information regularly, as part of our investigations.
* Ms. Croft’s blog was initially reviewed as a preliminary investigative lead due to the fact that the Croft’s blog site was listed on the fbcwatchdog web site and was unknown to the investigator. Once the blog ownership information was verified by the internet provider and matched the information listed on Ms. Croft’s blog site, Detective Hinson determined that there was no investigative value in Ms. Croft’s blog site.

I hope this information helps clarify for citizens that this was not about “outing” a blogger, but instead was about proactively addressing public safety.

John H. Rutherford, Sheriff
Jacksonville, FL

Please rest assured that we can resume our business and I will diligently seek justice.

Back to the business at hand. Darrell Gilyard's day in court is coming fast, we will cover every bit of the story and keep everyone posted. We are not done yet.