Friday, April 10, 2009

Anonymous Blogger Outed

In my local paper this morning I found an article that intrigues me. It is the case of a blogger and a very powerful local institution.

Let me give you the back story before I relate the event. The very powerful local institution that I am speaking of is a local Baptist church. The church is perhaps the largest in the community and very conservative, and additionally, it has long been charged by members of the community that the church holds undue sway over the political process in the city. I once even heard someone comment that the mayor and city council made no major decision unless they first consulted the church. But that’s just insinuation. Let me get to the story at hand.

It seems that a long-time member became more than a bit perturbed with the church’s new pastor. In the main, he was upset by the pastor’s preaching style as well as his $300,000 per year salary. What did he do? He set up a blog, an anonymous blog, to voice his criticism. The emphasis is on the word anonymous.

Well anyway, it seems that after a while the church and its pastor took umbrage at this faithful servant’s criticism and turned to a member of the pastor’s security detail. Incidentally, this member of the pastor’s security detail also happened to be a detective with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office who, citing “an ongoing Internet incident that has possible criminal overtones," initiated an investigation. Google was subpoenaed and asked to provide all available information about the blogger in question as well as two other bloggers.

Off course the charges were unsubstantiated, but in the meantime, the name of the blogger was turned over to the church, and the blogger was effectively excommunicated.

There appears to be wrong-doing on so many levels, mainly the abuse of power as well as the suppression of the right of free speech. But what I am most struck by is the church’s reaction to dissension. It immediately took steps to stamp it out. Is this a conservative trait? I can recall the Bush administrations ongoing attempts to squelch dissent by any means necessary.

James Baldwin once wrote something to the effect that if a person loved something, not only was it that person’s right to offer criticism should that entity be in danger of harming itself, it was that person’s duty.

At this time, the blogger in question has filled a grievance with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Department, but no new information has emerged. I’ll keep you posted.


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