BaptistPlanet

Southern Religion

Wrong issue, FBC Jax

Seriously? The First Amendment means the church is above the law?

First Baptist Church of Jacksonville attorneys argue that a fraud, misrepresentation and defamation suit by the formerly anonymous author of FBC Jax Watchdog should be dismissed because ruling “require excessive entanglement [by the courts] in church policies, practices and beliefs.”

That’s the wrong issue.

The core issue is abuse of power to unmask the until-then anonymous author of the blog FBC Jax Watchdog, and subsequent events and statements. The suit by blogger Tom Rich appears to make no allegations with regard to protected “church policies, practices and beliefs.”

Under the circumstances, the “excessive entanglement” argument seems to imply that freedom of religion is somehow attended by a right to immunity by churches from the legal consequences of their actions.

Bad argument/bad idea.

The most important general public issue is the failure of law enforcement officials to meet or attempt to meet readily available ethical and legal standards for unmasking an anonymous blogger.

Anonymity “is sometimes required if one is to both make responsible contributions to public discourse, and also put bread on the family table.” As a result, protecting blogger anonymity is a part of “protecting the discourse itself,” which is at the core of our democracy. Protection of that overarching public interest in anonymity of expression has required a great many legal battles to prevent unmaskings whose palpable goal was to suppress free expression. Not all bloggers survive unscathed.

The general public interest in the protection of anonymous expression should have been addressed in court with regard to FBC Jax Watchdog, not circumvented by way of a criminal investigation which was officially closed without charges or meaningful official report. There is we feel a general public interest in seeing the debate joined in open court not, not dismissed on the basis of the FBC Jacksonville freedom of religion pretext.

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September 18, 2009 - Posted by | Churches, SBC, WWW | , , ,

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