You know the story. Rich was critical of various things about the church, blogged anonymously about it, and angered the church leaders. The church played hardball with him, filing complaints with the Sheriff’s department, though Rich’s identity was still not known.
Let Jonathan Turley a nationally known lawyer who is frequently seen on national media outlets describe it:
We have discussed the situation regarding the anonymous blogger who complained about the salary and perks of Pastor Mac Brunson, here. Detective Robert Hinson of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office got a subpoena and forced Google to reveal the blogger’s identity. Hinson also worked for the church as part of the pastor’s security detail.
The anonymous blogger, identified as Thomas A. Rich, filed a federal law suit claiming the government violated church-state separation and his free speech rights. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office wisely decided to settle the case. Rich will get $50,000.
The Sheriff’s department has settled with Rich, paid him a modest sum of money, and agreed to meet to discuss their policies and what might be done to avoid future problems. Rich comments
I can't tell you how extremely satisfying it is to know that the end result of a very painful process such as this lawsuit and the long, arduous discovery process will ultimately result in positive changes to improve the ethics and conflict of interest policies at JSO. We have full confidence that Sheriff Rutherford is committed to making these changes, and as I said I will provide updates in the future as things move forward.I ask, what are the chances that FBCJax will respond positively as well and meet with Rich to discuss how such things can be avoided in the future. I’d say that the chances are about the same as pigs flying. Rich still has a lawsuit active against the church.
I ask again, what would have been the outcome of all this if Brunson and FBCJax had said, early on, “Come on in, Tom, and ask any questions you wish. I’ll answer as best I can. FBCJax is your church. You may not like my answers but you have a right to ask and I’ll respond. If we don't agree and you feel strongly about it, you may be happier in another church. We will wish you well. But, I'd at least like to have a chance to see your questions answered so you can make a decision.”
FBCJax would have avoided a lawsuit, avoided looking so inept, ham-handed, and harsh in this thing. But then, they would have had to have been open and transparent, not an easy thing for a megachurch to do.
They made their choice. Others can judge if it was wise, prudent, or Christian.
I have never met Tom Rich but have communicated with him a good bit. I don't buy all of his stuff. I don't agree with some of his actions. I don't share some of his views with respect to church life. But I think he had a right to ask and have his questions answered by his own church and I don't think he deserved the treatment he got at the hands of his Christian brethren at FBC Jax.