The Wartburg Watch is pleased to report that on March 31,2010, United States District Judge Marcia Morales Howard has allowed Tom Rich’s lawsuit to proceed against Assistant Florida State Attorney Stephen Siegel. Her finding in this matter is a positive point in a most distressing First Amendment matter.

She said, “The limited record before the court does not support a finding that Siegel had any legitimate law enforcement interest in issuing the investigatory subpoenas.” Also, she surmised that Siegel’s alleged actions “appear to violate the very essence of the First Amendment.”


TWW covered this story extensively last year. Tomorrow, we will reprint the post, “Subpoena This Blog”, which gives a summation of our concerns regarding this matter. In a nutshell, Tom Rich, a long time member of First Baptist Church, Jacksonville, became concerned when Mac Brunson assumed the pastorate several years ago. He observed Brunson's lavish lifestyle, combined with an authoritarian, “my way or the highway” approach to church members, which was a great departure from the atmosphere of a loving community.  Rich started a blog to express his concerns. He was apprehensive of potential retaliation against his family members who were members of the church; therefore, he decided to blog anonymously.

As Rich began to expose various aspects of Brunson’s lifestyle, Brunson and/or his bodyguard (how many pastors in the United States need a bodyguard?) claimed that Brunson’s mail was being stolen and his wife was being photographed while she was jogging. It is alleged that Brunson asked his bodyguard, who was also a police officer, to discover the blogger's identity. The officer convinced assistant state attorney Stephen Siegel to subpoena records from Comcast and Google in order to unmask the blogger.  They discovered it was a longtime church member named Tom Rich. Once his identity was made known to Brunson and a church administrator, his identity was shared with the large deacon membership of the church.  Then Tom Rich and his wife were barred from ever stepping foot on church property again.

Howard did dismiss Rich’s complaint against Siegel’s supervisor, then-state attorney Angela Corey, who was acting in her official capacity and is thus protected by the 11th Amendment to the Constitution. Tomorrow you will read TWW’s interview of Angela Corey in this matter.

Tom Rich is also suing the police officer and First Baptist Church in this matter. Tom Rich is now involved in the deposition phase of the Siegel suit and is currently unavailable for comment on this issue.

What is particularly chilling is that Siegel’s actions also involved requesting the identity of the anonymous blogger at BBC Open Forum, a site which has been critical of Stephen Gaines, a Memphis pastor and friend of Mac Brunson as well as another blogger. Both of these web sites had followed the situation at First Baptist Church, Jacksonville.

Here is our bottom line. Mac Brunson had a myriad of opportunities to diffuse this situation. Instead, he called Tom Rich a sociopath to a local newspaper reporter. TWW even published a suggestion for a method of reconciliation written by an expert, which Rich published on his site. Here's the link:


Mac Brunson appears to be a big, whiney baby who lacks the ability to be a peacemaker. He could have stopped this process a number of times. Instead, it appears he misused the law to identify his accuser. Instead of forgiving Rich, Brunson threw him out of the church. Would Jesus have handled this situation as FBC Jax leadership did?

TWW is in favor of protecting the First Amendment right of bloggers to write freely and anonymously. To those who think otherwise, imagine this country without the freedom of the press. Protest is near and dear to the hearts of Americans and even Christians. Look at Martin Luther who stood up to the church leaders of his time. He was persecuted and almost executed; yet he started a movement that changed the direction of the church forever.

Today, we believe that hyper-authoritarianism is running rampant in America’s churches. Some pastors are now commanding enormous salaries and living fat cat lifestyles while demanding absolute, no questions asked obedience from their church memberships. TWW stands against this trend and is commited to exposing pastors and churches that abuse their calling.

TWW has had the opportunity to talk with Tom and his wife in the past. They are good and decent folks who love the Lord.  Our thoughts and prayers are with Tom and his family. We pray that Brunson sees the error of his ways, confesses, repents, and reconciles. He certainly is compensated well by his congregation.  Does he ever reflect on who pays him?   Maybe Mac Brunson could go out of his way and try to imitate Jesus and be the first to forgive, or else he is just another fat-cat, ho-hum, in it for the fame and fortune preacher. And we have far too many of those!  May God's will be done in America 's churches…  





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    the article states “They are good and decent folks who love the Lord.” Really?? Tom talks about Macs abuses what about Tom’s harsh comments referring to Debbie Brunson as “Honey” and making fat jokes about the staff. I don’t believe the venomous and cynical remarks of Tom Rich reflect Biblical Christianity. Did Luther approach it this way? Through 5 year old name calling tantrums? Throw it back at you- Would Jesus reply this way. Mr. Rich better pull the beam out of his own eye before he pulls the splinter out of someone else. By the way TWW- you left out the part that Mac requested to meet with Tom to discuss his issues( prior to blogging) and Tom refused. Tom wanted the game to played on his terms. Again….real Biblical Tom.

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    Dan said,
    “what about Tom’s harsh comments referring to Debbie Brunson as “Honey”…”

    Calling someone “Honey” is “harsh”? Wow! That’s news to me… At least he didn’t call her a “sociopath”.

    If Tom Rich had met with Mac Brunson to discuss his complaints, he would have been kicked out of FBC Jax just that much sooner…

    Praying for God’s will to be done in the Florida legal process.

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    You are wrong about what you are saying. Brunson is fully responsible for what happened. If he was the leader who could, in his own words, make so much more money out in the world, then he should be adept at handling someone who disagrees with him. You know, a real leader who says the “buck stops here.” Instead, he seems to be enamored with the almighty buck and wants the buck to be dropped here and leave him alone.

    Brunson could have stopped this in an instant. He chose not to because he appears to be an overpaid, self-absorbed, hyper-authoritiarian pastor who felt he could run roughshod over the First Amendment in order to “take out” Rich.In doing so, he threatened the freedom of other bloggers, such as TWW, to freely speak without fear of harassment of the government.

    Where is the evidence of “stolen mail” and the report to the USPO? This is a federal offense. Who would need to stalk Mrs. Brunson to take pictures of her jogging in her fancy gated community when anyone could take pictures of her all dolled up at church and other functions? She wears very nice clothes, by the way.

    TWW has spent hours studying this situation. We even had an expert on psychology, the law and mediation write a method to resolve this conflict which was published at FBC Jax and is linked in the above article. Brunson’s arrogance will prove to be his undoing.

    Brunson is refusing to follow Biblical guidelines by acting as a leader who actually follows in the ways of our Lord who harshly criticized the Pharisaical leaders and instead demonstrated a sacrificial willingness to take abuse and lay down his life for those who caused the abuse. Brunson IS NOT such a man. He named called himself, calling Rich a “sociopath” IN THE NEWSPAPER!!!!!! which shows his ignorance of common psychological terms and is a very poor demonstration of turning the other cheek.What a witness for the Lord to the watching community!!! What might have happened if he had said something like, “Look, Rich seems upset. I would love to meet with him one on one and resolve this. He is my brother and families have tiffs every now and then. I love him anyway.”

    This response is not in his vocabulary. Instead, he uses the Rambo approach, common to the SBC Mafia types, which is to seek and destroy. Those days are now over. Bloggers are watching and information is out there to be shared. And TWW intends to follow this because we don’t like how some pastors are running the show. Accountability is probably a real surprise to this guy.

    This is a case that has the potential to reach the Supreme Court and it is the opinion of many legal watchers that it will prevail. Brunson is used to the old Paige Patterson style of Baptist and has been richly rewarded in this life-big house, good money, adulation, etc.

    Finally, Smryl’s comments in the pulpit shows the hostile environment at FBC towards other faiths. He is merely reflecting the hostility of Brunson towards others who should be the objects of caring and compassion as demonstrated by Jesus.By the way, did any one in the FBC leadership ever think that God has sent Muslims to their community in order to for FBC to reach out and share the love of Jesus? It appears that FBC is spending a lot of time planning Danube trips and days at the ball park instead of reaching out. And when God provides a group of people that are easily accessible, what does FBC do? Smryl rants about being placed under Muslim rule!!! What a wasted opportunity. So sorry that the Danube trip got taken out by a volcano.

    In case you think I am some sort of liberal, think again. I am a committed Christian who strongly believes in the Creeds and in the authority of the Scriptures. I am shocked at the leadership of this supposed church.

    Dan, this is a huge story with national implications and Brunson could have stopped it a long time ago by showing a little HUMILITY.

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    ” Did Luther approach it this way? ”

    Oh my word. Obviously, you have not read much Luther. he was brutal.

    You mean meet with Brunson on HIS terms. Tom was not allowed to have anyone with him. Tom was wise to not go into a Star Chamber.

    Quite frankly, the blog probably would have died down if Brunson’s ego had not gotten in the way and he misused his position (and the civil authorities) to go after him. Not very wise. Hope you are not following such a person. Follow Christ instead.

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    > … what about Tom’s harsh comments referring to Debbie Brunson as “Honey”…


    See this:


    “Honey” is Deb Brunson’s nickname. Tom was not referring to her as “honey,” rather he was calling her by her nickname, “Honey.” Sheesh.

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    Oh my gosh!!! You are right. I forgot about that. Alert to all readers who are concerned about how Tom Rich addresses the Mrs. Her name is HONEY, honey.And Brunson gets a pass for calling Tom Rich a “sociopath”? In the newspaper yet? What a gracious pastor!!! These two are equal??!!!

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    I’ve read his blog over the years and he has a messiah complex. He has a right to his opinion and to blog about whatever he wants to blog about. However, it has obviously become his mission in life to tear down large churches if he doesn’t agree with the direction they are going in.

    I think Brunson should’ve ignored him and this wouldn’t be such a big deal. He could’ve named his blog any number of things but he chose watchdog. He has appointed himself to a position that no human could ever fulfill. The church belongs to Jesus and contrary to popular belief He doesn’t need our help to protect it.

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    God has always worked with HIs people. If He wanted to do so, He could have run the church without preachers, teachers, etc. He could have converted the world minus missionaries. He could have caused the Reformation without Martin Luther.

    He uses His people to warn others.Tom points out weaknesses in the churches-Ed Young’s jets, Caner’s lies, people who get rich off the people in the church, those who abuse, pedophiles who hide in the church, etc. If God takes care of everything without “needing” His people, then why are there rapists, pedophiles, cultists, abusers, etc in the church? Surely He couldn’t want that? Could it be that His people, including you, are not doing your job?

    Kenneth, God has set up a system that uses His people. He doesn’t “need” us, he uses us.

    By the way, out site is called The Wartburg “Watch.” We keep watch. And we believe that God wants us to do so.Another “messiah complex” perhaps?

    Here is a verse for you to consider.

    Isaiah 62:6
    On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen; all the day and all the night they shall never be silent.

    Kenneth, maybe God made a mistake when He used these watchmen in Isaiah?Couldn’t He have done it all without His people? There are charlatans in the churches. I have personally met a few. TWW joins with Rich and other bloggers to warn the faithful.Maybe you should do so as well.

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    It seems to me that instead of this all being about holding people or Mac Brunson accountable, it is doing great damage to the work of THE LORD. My heart aches as I read all of this mess. Does it really have anything to do with what is right, or who can win? If each of you who are writing all this for the world to see have what would JESUS do?, HE would have said “FATHER forgive them, they no not what they do.” I can not any my wildest imagination see JESUS starting a defamation campaign against Mac Brunson or any other person. JESUS please come quickly…

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    Have you read the Bible thoroughly? God has an uncomfortable habit of putting PERSONAL FAILINGS within the text. There was the icky situation with David, Bathsheba and Uriah. David was such a good king. Why would God want to defame his character?

    Then there was the sexual situation with the guy and mother in law in Corinth. Surely this could have been handled quietly.Good gracious!

    Jesus called the Pharisees snakes, dogs, etc. I guess He wasn’t taught manners when it comes to the clergy.

    God put these incidents down for people to read about for millennia. How does this help the cause for Christ?

    Now, for a little Bible lesson. “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” meant that those who were killing Him had no idea who He was and what role He was about to fulfill.

    Mac Brunson knew full well what he was doing when he went after Tom. It is the intent of this blog to expose those who know full well what they are doing so that they will not harm the cause of Christ.

    Finally, do you know the definition of the word “defame.”

    Fron the online dictionary: “To damage the reputation, character, or good name of by slander or libel.

    Slander:’Oral communication of false statements injurious to a person’s reputation”.

    Libel:”A false publication, as in writing, print, signs, or pictures, that damages a person’s reputation”.

    Please note that the underlying assumption is that something is FALSE. What, pray tell, did Tom and TWW write that is false? You should not throw around legal terminology that is false but I will forgive you because, I assume, you knew not what you did.

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    I deleted one of your comments because it was an exact duplicate of the other. I know that you knew not what you did:)