Thursday, August 30, 2012

Jordan Young Arrested Yet Again and Faith Tabernacle Pastors

There have been two posts here (Buh-Bye Pastor Edwin Young and How Did Pastor Edwin Young Treat Women?)  about Faith Tabernacle Apostolic Church in Junction City, Kansas,  regarding the senior pastor, Edwin Young, who abruptly resigned recently and also his son, Jordan Young, who has been charged with all sorts of sexual abuse crimes against children.  Uncovering sex abuse crimes in a spiritually abusive church is not uncommon.  We have seen examples online with  Sovereign Grace Ministries churches, Independent Fundamental Baptist, Independent Fundamental Bible churches, with Jack Hyles and Jack Schaap of First Baptist Church Hammond, Calvary Chapel churches, etc.

A big red flag in spiritually abusive churches is the authoritarian rule of the pastor.  Over the last couple of weeks, I have been learning more about United Pentecostal Churches (UPC).  Dudley and Young were once UPC pastors, but left a while back and are now Apostolic Pentecostals or Oneness Pentecostals.  Not only do they use extra-Biblical rules in their church, but they view pastors as the "man of God".  These men are placed at the level the Catholic Church would place the Pope.  They believe you cannot be "saved" except through a preacher:  


I believe in the act 2:38 message. I belive the word and that you do have to have a peacher to be saved. Julie go find a home church and stop criticizing. Keep your comments to your self.


I didn't make too many brownie points when I criticized Edwin Young, the "Man of God", who resigned.  Look at this gem of a comment directed at me because I dared to challenge the style of the "anointed preacher".   What do you think - is this a threat?   No lightning bolts have hit me yet.  Evidently, I need to be worried about my soul now because I didn't shut my running mouth (whoa!) about this anointed one: 


AnonymousAugust 20, 2012 2:42 PM
Woman i fear for your soul.. i dont go to that church but i have heard him preach.. and whether u believe it or not he was annointed and i would highly advise you to shut your running mouth being sarcastic that was Gods annointed irreguardless of if he did had wrong u need to keep your mouth shut.. and for the record i am a woman as well not "bashing" you because you are a woman

Here are a couple of comments by a reader identified as "Preacher" discussing his belief that only a preacher can save souls:

PreacherAugust 25, 2012 7:04 PM
1 Corinthians 1:20-23(20) Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?(21) For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
Rom 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Rom 10:14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?................ and how shall they hear without a preacher? 
Rom 10:15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!  

Do you have a better method than God's method for saving souls? 
"it PLEASED GOD by the foolishness of PREACHING to SAVE them that BELIEVE" 
Here is another example of a PREACHER leading someone to Jesus.Acts 8:29-31(29) Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.(30) And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?(31) And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.
How about Acts chapter 2? Did not Jesus himself ordain Peter (a man and a preacher)? Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church....the church was built on a preacher, preaching is what brought the church into existence, and preaching will sustain the church of the Living God!  
After Peter PREACHED, those that HEARD were pricked in their hearts, and said "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" An ANNOINTED PREACHER said, 
Acts 2:38-41(38) Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.(39) For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.(40) And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.(41) Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. 

At spiritualabuse.org, Lois and others are compiling quite a lot of information on this particular church and what has been going on over the years.  We read at the site, "Your pastor is God's gift to you. If you've got questions, the only one you should go to is your pastor, not anyone else, even other ministers."  

The following video features Pastor Nathan Dudley, the new pastor replacing Edwin Young at Faith Tabernacle.  This teaching is common and it looks like Faith Tabernacle will be following a similar path in their teachings.  


Here is a small amount transcribed from the video (from spiritualabause.org).  Pastor Nathan Dudley speaking:

"The only way you're ever going to get to Christ is to follow a man of God. The only way that you're ever going to make it in the rapture is to follow a man of God. Amen! You can't make it without a pastor. You can't be saved without a pastor. You need a pastor and you need to imitate him. You need to be like him. You need to look at your pastor. Take a close look at him. ...Imitate him. Do what he does. In prayer.  In worship. ...He is the one who is responsible for your soul. ...God's going to be with you if you'll do what your pastor does."  

I transcribed a bit more here: 

"Your pastor is God's gift to you.  I said your pastor is God's gift to you.  Amen.  He's God's gift to you.  And OHHHHHHHH if I could just be like my pastor.     I want to be a man of God just like my pastor is.    Praise God.  Amen.  Amen."


In the video, ladies are told to look at the pastor's wife to determine how to dress and families should be dressed like the pastor's family if they have any questions.  


Do you want to hear a pastor say all of the above?  You know you do!  Listen to Nathan Dudley and his theatrics about following and imitating the pastor/Man of  God.  I have to tell you - I had the video playing and you should have seen the expressions on my kids' faces as they heard this pastor (shouting) from a distance.   Perhaps kids are more discerning than we think.








Going back to the sexual abuse topic, I just received word that more nasty fruit has come forth in the Jordan Young case.  Police have filed additional sexual abuse charges.  Again, when we see abuse in the church, we will often find other kinds of abuse that have been covered up.  This abuse has been going on for a number of years.


Junction City Minister Tied To Two More Child Sex Abuse Cases
JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (WIBW) -- A Junction City minister at the center of a church sex scandal has been arrested in connection with two additional cases.
Jordan Young, 25, is facing child molestation charges in four separate cases stemming from an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct at Faith Tabernacle Apostolic Church in Junction City where he had been serving as the music minister.
Young was originally taken into custody at the Junction City Police Department at 11:30 AM on Monday, August 13, 2012.
He was arrested for Aggravated Indecent Liberties With a Child, Attempted Criminal Sodomy and Solicitation of a Child.
He was still in the Geary County Jail on Friday, August 17, 2012 and being held on a $250,000 bond from his first arrest when he was re-arrested for Aggravated Criminal Sodomy, Aggravated Indecent Liberties With a Child and Sexual Solicitation of a Child in connection with a second case involving a second victim. On Thursday, August 30, 2012, police confirmed that Young was arrested in two more cases. In one, he was arrested for Aggravated Criminal Sodomy and Aggravated Indecent Liberties With a Child and in the other, he was arrested for Indecent Liberties With a Child and Criminal Solicitation of a Child.



I've had a lot of traffic at the blog from people searching for the Edwin/Jordan Young story.   Comments left here and in my inbox have expressed confusion from both former and current members.  Even though their church standards  teach that I am a heathen because of my "cut" hair,  some have been bold enough to contact me because of the spiritual and emotional confusion they are going through.  My heart goes out to these folks.  

The subjects we have discussed are connecting emotionally and spiritually with some and causing them to question their teachings - even to question some of their rules on hairstyles and other extra-Biblical teachings.  This is good.  Please pray for clear direction for those who have been displaced by the situation at Faith Tabernacle and for those who are simply questioning what they have been told to believe all of these years.


The ThroughGraceAlone blog is written by a former Faith Tabernacle member who was at Edwin Young's church for nearly 10 years.  Take a look at this experience:


Absolute power corrupts absolutely…
I’ve heard the quote several times recently in regard to the issues at Faith Tabernacle. Why? Because Edwin Young had, or thought he had, that power. If he said it, people believed it. If he said someone was bad, few looked past the accusations to see if there was any basis to them. There were a few times that he even preached that if the preacher said the sky was green, we’d better just believe it, even though we’d always thought it was blue.
Wait. He told us how to dress. He required a weekly fast. He told us to pray and hour a day. We were supposed to ask permission to leave town and miss a service, to date or to marry, to buy a house or a car, to apply for and/or accept a new job. He said no one made us do that and that no one made us stay. But the doctrine of the church said that if we didn’t, we could be thrown out… and that if we left the church, we were “backslid” and headed to hell.

Does God own people or does the pastor?  When you have a pastor who decides all the rules for you and that do not line up with scripture, it's time to take a step back and read the scripture yourself.  When a pastor becomes so prominent in our life that he takes the place of God, we know our priorities are wrong.  No Man of God should ever want to get between God and His people.  Pastors are to help people find God, not get in the middle.  We must not blindly follow pastors, but be good Bereans and test what is said.  I know this goes against a lot of what FT has taught, but testing your leader is scriptural as written in Acts 17:10-12:

10 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews.11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.12 Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.

Although I am not from United Pentecostal-type churches, I want you to know that my message is sent with a whole lot of love and understanding as one who has gone through spiritual abuse.  You have a friend here.  Others, too, would be willing to "hear" your stories and be of support to you.  


Getting out of the Funk

Discussing and thinking about spiritual abuse is heavy.  This wonderful video got me out of the funk this morning.  My youngest boys loved it.  It's only 45 seconds of pure sweetness and well worth the time investment.  Enjoy!


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Spiritual Abuse: Friends Left Behind and Moving Forward







There were people who warned me that my former church was not a healthy place.  They were concerned by what they heard when they listened to recorded sermons.  They were alarmed when they visited the church.  One friend had gone to a high school graduation ceremony for a few homeschool graduates.  The pastor spoke and presented a gospel message.  I cringed upon hearing the message.  She heard it, too.  I didn't find out that it bothered her until several weeks later.  She didn't want to offend me, but finally told me.  This was someone I highly respected.  Listening quietly, I tried to find some truth in what she was saying.  There was truth, but I brushed that aside.  


Another friend had listened to some CDs of sermons.  She, too, did not like what she heard and was worried for us - it written on her face.  


There was one more friend.  This was discussed in an earlier comment: 



One lady nabbed me from our homeschool co-op to talk with her in her van.  We spent about an hour talking.
She was beckoning and pleading with me to really look at what was being preached.  I remember thinking at the time that she was ignorant or maybe making a big deal about nothing.  Parts of what she said was true, but my mind convinced me she was going overboard.  I'm eating my words now.

It's so strange to think back and try to remember what was going through my mind.   There must have been enough good going on in the church that it made me overlook the red flags.  


I told myself was that although I knew my friends meant well, they were not at the same place as me spiritually.  Our family was moving on spiritually.  We were growing and maturing in our faith.  I told myself that their church was stagnant.  They weren't going anywhere.  They were weak Christians.  We wanted pure milk, not watered-down teachings.  Our sermons were refining us.  This was real Christianity, not some easy-believism-type of Christianity where the tough issues of sin were ignored.  There was an element of pride that we were better than them.  I might have even thought that they were wasting my time by trying to talk me out of this church. 


Today, I am friends with only one of the three mentioned earlier.  My response created a division in our relationship, and sadly, we drifted apart.  


There are some questions that I still have to this day:  why did I discount the words from trusted friends - friends who had good discernment?  Why did I not listen to the warning in my own heart?  These are difficult questions.  I feel pain when I think of these losses.  These answers may never come.  



When the wicked are in authority, sin flourishes, 
but the godly will live to see their downfall.   
Proverbs 29:16

There was another aspect with friends/family who did not attend the church that affected our relationships.  We felt obligated to be at all church meetings.  I felt guilty when I was at at a family gathering and having fun because I was "supposed" to be at church.  I wondered what I was missing at church and felt that by not being there, I was less spiritual or they would think we were not taking our Christianity seriously or were backsliding.  I felt guilty for not being there and so it was difficult to fully enjoy the family gathering.  If I stayed at church instead of going to a family event, I felt guilty for missing the family event.  When my son started singing in the choir at the local high school and the concerts conflicted with the Wednesday evening service . . . . more guilt.   I was the choir accompanist, too, but I still felt guilt.  There was no way to escape the guilt.  Pastor Ken touched on this subject earlier and nailed it for me:  

Ken  July 17, 2012 12:37 PM  As for the guilt, it's a double-bind, really.  I was horribly guilty for mistreating my parents, siblings, old-friends who hadn't "seen the light" as I had, etc., (still apologizing to this day!), but also, I was constantly dealing with a nagging guilt for being/seeming less committed to this new, "serious" church that I'd joined, and was gradually giving away more of my life to, piece by piece, friend by friend, dollar by dollar.  I felt guilty for being at my families' events/parties, etc., and guilty for NOT being at them!  Ug.  I'm flash-backing...going to go on a walk and thank God for saving me, once again and again!  


So, where do we go from here?  We lost relationships because of attempting to meet the church obligations.  Should we go back to them and apologize?  She we try to resurrect those old relationships or do we simply move on?   


When the godly are in authority, the people rejoice.  
But when the wicked are in power, they groan.  

Proverbs 29:2


Although I did lose relationships, I'm very thankful for the core group of friends who didn't turn their backs on me.  They watched the process from a distance and welcomed me back.  Those are dear, dear friends.  Thankfully, we've been able to discuss what happened and our relationships have been restored.  But it is still sad to think of the time lost - the memories that could have been - - yes, still more grieving.  

Ken ended his comment by sharing this:

This chapter of your "life-book" is dark, strange, full of surprises, wins and losses.  I know it's been pretty dark and challenging and uncertain.  But we DO know the end of the book!  The great Shepherd personally returns for His flock.  Errant teachers are corrected and judged appropriately.  Damaged sheep are finally and forever healed, and the world finally sees Jesus, again!   
Maranatha, Ken

Amen!  This is where we need to focus.  The past is the past.  While there is a loss to grieve, we do need to look ahead to the future and fix our eyes on the author and finisher of our faith.



Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.   Hebrews 12:1-2



photo credit: Brian Auer via photo pin cc

Monday, August 27, 2012

Warning Issued for Eagle Heights Community Church Members


Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
(Ephesians 5:11 ESV)



I recently posted two articles by Eric Starkey and Raymond Ernst.  Here is Eric's story:   Personal Story of Spiritual Abuse by Eric Starkey.  Raymond told his heart-wrenching story of the break up of his precious marriage.  In that story, he chose to go by the name "Paul".  He is no longer concealing his identity and goes by his real name, Raymond Ernst.  If you haven't read Raymond's story, be sure to read it so you can get the full picture:    Can Spiritual Abuse Destroy a Marriage - Paul's Story.  

Some may have discovered in the comment section the connection between these two men.  They both went to the same church.  Although their experiences are quite different, they both came away with the same conclusions regarding their former pastor and spiritual abuse.

In Eric's personal blog articles, he did not reveal the name of his former pastor or church.  He described spiritual abuse, how it has affected him, and discussed his journey of healing in hopes that his experience would help others.  He has since had a change of heart regarding concealing his former church/pastor's identity and has revealed more details.  He should know more details because he was mentored by his former pastor and served on staff as associate pastor.  

Sometimes you get to the point where enough is enough and come to the conclusion that there are more risks than benefits in remaining silent.  Eric got to this point.  Going public is not fun.  It's messy.  It's ugly.  It's painful.  You may lose relationships.  People who had respected you may lose respect.  It can be a lonely place.  Eric feels this issue is too important to not address.  He has chosen to take the very difficult, emotional, and unpaved journey of telling his story to warn others so they don't have to go through what he, Raymond, and others have gone through.  

I do not recommend that everyone publicly disclose the name of their church and pastor as Eric or Raymond or I have done.  In fact, I think it should be done with much prayer, thought, and counsel, and as a last resort.  This is Eric's cry of desperation - a plea - a warning to the people of Eagle Heights Community Church in Hammond, LA and to his former pastor, Kevin Dunn.



Read some of Eric's heart-wrenching words from his blog post:
Why would I share negative opinions about the church that I spent seven years of my life building? Why would I litter my personal blog with information that I know will be perceived by many as extremely negative and damaging to the Church at large? Why would I take the risk of damaging my reputation and losing my voice as a respected minister? Why would I take the drastic step of writing this blog post when I now live 725 miles away from this church? Why not just simply forget about it and get on with my life? WHY??? I have wrestled with those questions repeatedly over the past weeks. But, I have a responsibility. I have a responsibility to warn people. I have a responsibility to share the truth that I know. I have a responsibility to at least try to protect others from what I believe to be a very, very appetizing, yet deceptive and unhealthy environment.

He continues:

Therefore, I do not recommend that anyone become involved with Eagle Heights Community Church for the following reasons:
  • It is my opinion that Eagle Heights Community Church is a spiritually abusive and unhealthy church. I believe Kevin Dunn is a spiritually abusive and an emotionally unhealthy pastor.
And more:

  • I have personally witnessed marriages that have ended and family division that I believe were caused directly and indirectly by Kevin Dunn and his teachings. I find that in these situations, he positions himself as a victim, but he is actually the perpetrator. He “plays” the part of the victim well, but he IS the perpetrator. Those who are the true victims are labeled as rebels, reprobates, troublemakers and cut off from the congregation. The congregation is then told not to fellowship with the “troublemakers.” How convenient? The entire story is never told.  He uses his bully pulpit to tell “his own version.”
*If you attend Eagle Heights Community Church in Hammond, Louisiana or if you are thinking of attending Eagle Heights Community Church in Hammond, Louisiana -you have been warned. The warning buoy has been set out to inform you of dangerous waters.

These are strong words - words from a man who wants to protect people from danger.   Please read Eric's complete story.  It needs to be told.  It needs to be read:  A "Warning Buoy" for the People of Hammond Regarding Eagle Heights Community Church on his blog.  



For the record - - I have looked over Eric's article carefully.  I'm no lawyer, but have a fairly clear idea of what defamation is after recently winning a half a million dollar lawsuit.  I used words like "cult", "creepy", "spiritual abuse" which were labeled as defamatory by my former pastor.   Those words did not meet even the first tier of qualifying for the definition of defamation.  Defamation must meet both tiers to be defamatory: (1) intentionally stating a known falsehood (2) stating with malice or the intent to harm. (These are my words, not the legal definition.)

IMHO, Eric's words are not defamatory - they are his strong opinions and beliefs.  Although Eric's speech may be difficult to read, they express his thoughts and opinions and thus are protected as free speech.  Feel free to read my court documents to see how my words match up against Eric's.  Eric's words are tame compared to mine.  Be sure to check out the 26-page document showing the attorney fees and court costs my former pastor/church will have to pay for filing a frivolous lawsuit.   I hope my lawsuit will deter pastors from making the same mistake as my former pastor.   I pray that pastors who are tempted to sue former members would instead humble themselves before God and submit to other respected church leaders for accountability and some soul-searching. ~ja


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Down to the River to Pray

JA dangling her feet from the boat dock near home.  
I went for a walk with two of my boys by the river near our home and this song came to mind.  I don't know why I haven't done devotions by the river.  The path to the river is only two short blocks away from our home.  Yes, I think it needs to happen.  Have a wonderful Sunday.













"Down To The River To Pray"

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good ol' way
And who shall wear the starry crown?
Good Lord show me the way!

O sisters let's go down
Let's go down, come on down
O sisters let's go down
Down in the river to pray

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good ol' way
And who shall wear the robe & crown?
Good Lord show me the way

O brothers let's go down
Let's go down, come on down
Come on brothers, let's go down
Down in the river to pray

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good ol' way
And who shall wear the starry crown?
Good Lord show me the way

O fathers let's go down
Let's go down, come on down
O fathers let's go down
Down in the river to pray

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good ol' way
And who shall wear the robe and crown?
Good Lord show me the way

O mothers let's go down
Come on down, don't you wanna go down?
Come on mothers, let's go down
Down in the river to pray

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good ol' way
And who shall wear the starry crown?
Good Lord show me the way

O sinners, let's go down
Let's go down, come on down
O sinners, let's go down
Down in the river to pray

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good ol' way
And who shall wear the robe and crown?
Good Lord show me the way






Saturday, August 25, 2012

Who Will Pay for the Defamation Lawsuit Against Former Members?


A man without self-control
is like a city broken into and left without walls.
(Proverbs 25:28 ESV)



My attorney sent me a copy of the court documents submitted for fees.  I expected the fees to be a little higher, but they are still a big chunk of change.

Here is the top portion of the document:




Many people have been wondering how much the pastor/church will have to pay in court costs and legal fees for the this case.  Below is a screen shot of the  document. (If you like legalese, you can read the full 26-page document here.)










For the record - this does not cover any travel/food/lodging expenses, nor does it cover 1-1/2 days off work for Hannah.  I live more than 4 hours away from the courthouse and required an overnight visit for both court dates.  Because we were not required to be in court, our expenses were not covered.   

I want to post some of what I consider to be key parts of the legal document here.  When our story spread through the media, the overwhelming response was, "what in the world?" and "what kind of pastor would do something like that".   People were outraged and rightly so.  Some Christians expressed that they were ashamed of that response and were embarrassed.  In comments on articles on the internet and on my blog, many quoted the verse from the Bible  where Christians should not sue other Christians (1 Corinthians 6), others quoted the verse about turning the other cheek (Matt 5:39), etc.  Both believers and non-believers alike were overwhelmingly shocked and appalled by the idea of suing another  Christian.  They were not only shocked at the lawsuit, but equally appalled by the dollar amount of the lawsuit.   


One of the primary purposes of the anti-SLAPP motion which my attorney filed is to prevent frivolous lawsuits against free and protected speech.  Once an anti-SLAPP motion is filed, it prevents either side from gathering more information or "discovery" (extensive interviews and interrogations, confiscating materials, e-mails, etc,) which can take months, is costly, and can keep the case stuck in the court system for perhaps years.  I was served the subpoena on March 1 and received the judgment on July 26.  Nearly 5 months is a very quick result for a lawsuit (yet at times it felt like eternity and there was an emotional toll on me and the family).



Hopefully, my case will serve as a reminder to those pastors who get worked up from reading negative and emotional responses from their former church members that a lawsuit may not be the best course of action for them financially or otherwise.


Every single attorney who read my subpoena - both local and national - indicated to me sentiments like this:  the lawsuit is ridiculous,  the amount of the lawsuit $500,000 is absurd, and the pastor/church are foolish to waste their time and money on something so frivolous.   Some attorneys even suggested the possibility that any attorney who might take on such case could be brought before his peers for some sort of disciplinary measures for agreeing to take such a case in the first place.   



Here are some standards in Oregon that pertain to the awarding of fees.  I found it quite interesting.  It is pretty clear that the court system does not look favorably on frivolous lawsuits.  The court does consider exorbitant damage amounts, the reasonableness of claims, and diligence in filing legitimate claims.



A. STANDARDS. 
Factors considered in calculating the award of fees are set out at ORS 20.075(1) and (2). The ORS 20.075(1) factors usually are considered to determine whether to award fees at all but also play a role in evaluating the reasonable amount to award when fees are mandated. Those factors are: 
(a) The conduct of the parties in the transactions or occurrences that gave rise to the litigation, including any conduct of a party that was reckless, willful, malicious, in bad faith or illegal.
(b) The objective reasonableness of the claims and defenses asserted by the parties. 
(c) The extent to which an award of attorney fees in the case would deter others from asserting good faith claims or defenses in similar cases. 
(d) The extent to which an award of attorney fees in the case would deter others from asserting meritless claims and defenses. 
(e) The objective reasonableness of the parties and the diligence of the parties and their attorneys during the proceedings. 
(f) The objective reasonableness of the parties and the diligence of the parties in pursuing settlement of the dispute. 
(g) The amount that the court has awarded as a prevailing party fee under ORS 20.190. 
(h) Such other factors as the court may consider appropriate under the circumstances of the case. 

In the original complaint, the pastor/church hand selected alleged defamatory phrases which were taken out of context.  My attorney had to go through each and every phrase, bring the context to the court and explain my point.  This was a very time-consuming and costly effort, but was necessary because if even one phrase was ruled as defamatory, I could lose the case.  Taking those many phrases out of context was not helpful for the plaintiffs whatsoever:  

The "reasonableness" of conduct factors enumerated under ORS 20.075(1)(a), (b), (d) and (e) strongly favor Defendants. Plaintiffs’ Complaint and Amended Complaint alleged an intent to seek punitive damages. All of the 17 claims against Julie Anne Smith and the 4 against Meaghan Varela were based on isolated words and phrases, and all lacked any context or explanation through properly plead innuendo, thus failed to conform to Oregon pleading rules [ORCP 18], indicating a lack of careful consideration prior to filing suit for $500,000.


Here is more from my attorney on how each alleged defamatory phrase needed to be defended:


There were 17 different claims against Julie Anne Smith, 1 against Hannah and 4 against Meaghan Varela. Each statement had to be moved against separately and the basis for the defense set out in detail (religious belief, opinion, opinion based on state facts, etc). The number of claims was the major reason that legal research and individual motions took the amount of time invested. 

Here my attorney discussed Hannah's part of the lawsuit - and how the inclusion of her words as defamatory in the lawsuit were not reasonable:

The single claim against Hannah Smith was not well-taken. It is very unlikely many Oregon attorneys would have thought it reasonable to include this young woman in a suit for $500,000 in damages for her single online comment that the Plaintiffs’ were "no-way Biblical." It is even more unlikely anyone would repeat the same allegation in the Amended Complaint after its weakness should have become evident from the discussion in the Smiths’ motions filed on April 27, 2012. 

After filing the anti-SLAPP motion, the both attorneys for the defendants got word that the Plaintiff's attorney was going to subpoena another former church member for questioning.  As stated in the subpoena, the former church member was supposed to bring all documentation related to our former pastor to the pastor's attorney's office at a specific date/time for questioning.  This did not go over real well, to say the least.  Can you imagine first seeing your friends getting sued and then finding out that you are getting called in for questioning?  Yikes!

This action was completely against the provisions of the anti-SLAPP law.  The plaintiff's attorney needed to be "reminded" of this violation.  My attorney discussed this issue in the motion for fees because that, too, involved additional time and money.

Plaintiffs also served a "notice" of intent to depose other church members not named in the lawsuit on May 3, after the Special Motions had been filed, which was a violation of the automatic stay of discovery [ORS 31.150] arising from the earlier filed Special Motions. The attempt to circumvent the stay was not reasonable. Other litigation conduct by Plaintiffs prolonged litigation and caused additional effort and response by Defense Counsel, discussed more specifically under "hours of effort," pp. 8-17, post.

The total figure I added up was $44,372.55 for defending Hannah, Meaghan and me.  The total amount was approximately $16K for the two defendants who were dismissed early on, so the overall total for all defendants works up to be around $60,000 for the church/pastor to pay (approximately 60 hours of work charged for the dismissed defendants and approximately 108 hours to defend Hannah and me).  


Now the question is:  who will pay?  The pastor or the church?  



One of the most disconcerting aspects of this case for me is realizing the strong possibility that the money to pay this huge bill will most likely come from the tithes and offerings of church congregants.  Will the pastor feel the effects from his pocketbook?  It's ridiculous to use God's money to pay for a man who got his feelings hurt - utterly ridiculous!  Even if what I said on Google or my blog was not true and truly defamatory, most reasonable pastors would know to leave the comments alone - simply ignore them.   



I hope the current church members think carefully about aligning with a pastor who sues and now may use their tithe money to foot the bill of their pastor's foolishness.  



How fitting is today's Proverb.  It's the 25th day of the month, so I'm reading Proverbs 25:


What your eyes have seen
do not hastily bring into court,
for what will you do in the end,
when your neighbor puts you to shame?
(Proverbs 25:7-8 ESV)







Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Working Sheepdog in Training


The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
(Psalm 23:1-3 ESV)



One of the most rewarding benefits of having a blog is the interaction with readers behind the scenes.  Sometimes readers send private notes explaining their comments or share stories.  Sheep-Dog is one of those readers.  He sent me this video and it made me smile.  We'll learn a bit more about Sheep-Dog and his life as a boy who raised sheep in the future, but we'll go with this for now.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Sheep-Dog created a storyline narrative of the video.  Keep in mind that you are reading the words of one who spent many years up close and personal with sheep.  He knows what he is talking about:

Hi, welcome to my story. I’m a Border Collie, AKA sheep dog.  My momma and poppa were both sheep dogs too.  I am now well-trained and know how to do my job.  I love my master and my work.  Someone took some pictures of me when I was a puppy.  I start out cute and cuddly like all pups.  I played with my sibling and then at about 9 weeks my master started to train me.
He is always kind to me and gives me little treats when I do well.  When I got to be 5 months old he took me out to see the sheep.  I had fun!  I chased those sheep and they ran in all directions.
But my master stopped me and petted me and took me back home.  I am embarrassed for you to see me  because that is not how I was supposed to handle the sheep.  I was just a puppy and had more training ahead of me.  I can’t tell you how I was trained.  It is a secret between only me and my master.  But look at me at 9 months.
You can see I have learned a lot since I have matured.  See how I bring the sheep in.  In the video I help the master keep a ewe from running away while he checks her lamb.  Aren’t those little lambs cute?
My job is to keep the sheep together and not let any stray from the flock, and to keep them close to the master.  If he wants them to go in the barn he will stand close to the door and I will gently chase the sheep through the door.  Or maybe he wants them to go through a gate.  Those sheep aren’t too bright, so I help them know where the need to go.  Have you ever seen a sheep do any tricks?  Sheep just don't learn much.
My master says I am a lot like a good pastor.  He says that a good Christian pastor will always point the people to their shepherd (God), and try to keep them in the “flock”.  My master says that a bad pastor will scatter the people just like I scattered the sheep when I was a puppy.  He says pastors need to be trained too.  How about that?    
Now I realize that I may look a little like a wolf, but there is a big difference.  My master feeds me and I never bite a sheep.  Not ever.  The wolf, even though he may be a very distant cousin of mine, is out for a meal.  He will kill the sheep and eat them.  I hope I never run up against a wolf.  They are larger than I am.
Well, I hope you enjoyed watching me at work. I would rather be working with the sheep than anything else.   But it is fun when my master’s grandchildren come over and take me to the woods.  I love to chase the squirrels.  But they run up the trees and make fun of me.  Silly squirrels! But that is just a hobby.  Sheep are my job. I get paid well too.  Food, treats, petting, tummy rubs, and free medical care. 


Sheep-Dog sent me this private note (posted with permission).  I appreciate his perspective.

JA-If you can use any of that, go for it.  It shows the dog's role in herding the sheep. The dog does control the sheep, but in a good way, and for their own good because they are too dumb and helpless to know what to do on their own. 
As I first watched that video, I sat and looked at what has happening, asking myself, "What are these dogs really doing?" I had watched several sheep dog videos by this time. The dogs just seemed to know when to lie down and when to stand, and how to move.  I have to admit my eyes go damp when I realized that the dog is doing what I said above, keeping the flock together and close to the master/shepherd.  
What a beautiful analogy of a good pastor. Maybe we have had it wrong for a long time. Maybe the pastor is not the shepherd, maybe the pastor is (like the dog) an instrument that the Shepherd/Master (God/Jesus) uses to keep the flock together and pointed to HIM. Just food for thought. David didn't say, "The pastor is my shepherd." But he says "The Lord is my shepherd." 









Do not speak in the hearing of a fool,
for he will despise the good sense of your words.
(Proverbs 23:9 ESV)


Apply your heart to instruction
and your ear to words of knowledge.
(Proverbs 23:12 ESV)