sharing your experiences in the face of threats

"Sharing Your Experiences" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

“Sharing Your Experiences” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

Like this cartoon? Buy a print HERE.

Ever since my post, Tony Jones on Mark Driscoll: What Came First, the Thug or the Theology?, there has been an onslaught of opposition from all kinds of corners, but especially from Christian leaders.

I keep trying to explain to people who just don’t seem to get it that I try to provide safe spaces for people to share their experiences. Leaders have the luxury of publishing wide their version of events. Most people don’t. I want to make places where marginalized people can tell their stories.

The problem is when marginalized versions of events conflict with the official, authoritative, popular versions published by those with power. All of a sudden, leaders reveal that they have unlimited resources at their disposal to silence the unofficial, unauthorized, and isolated versions of the marginalized.

Friends of Tony Jones are coming out in full support of him and bringing with them threats of legal action. It is very organized, thorough, and unified. Which makes it suspicious to me. A friend of mine who does management training wrote me yesterday and told me this is what he teaches his students:

“When many people say the same thing in the same way it is usually PR or propaganda – when many people say the same thing in different ways it usually contains some truth.”

I’ve been warned to prepare. I didn’t even say anything! I’m interested in allowing people to share their version of events without censor or censure, more than deciding who is guilty or innocent. I only allowed others to tell their stories. Many people don’t understand this. In fact, I told someone the other day that even if Tony comes out squeaky clean and Julie is thrown into a psychiatric ward, my conscience would be clear because I served my purpose, and that was to allow her to give her version of events that had been silenced for so many years. I am constantly under a great deal of pressure to remove that post, or some comments, or edit some comments. So, not only are the ones who told their stories under threat, but also those who gave them a platform from which they could share them. It is not only risky to share your experiences, but it is dangerous to listen to them and even worse to believe them. I know!

Many people have contacted me about Anti-SLAPP. SLAPP is “strategic lawsuit against public participation”. SLAPP is basically “a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.” They seldom win by the lawsuit itself, but by slowly and patiently wearing out the defendant financially, physically, emotionally, socially, etcetera. Anti-SLAPP is really about protecting freedom of speech. That is, it’s about allowing people to tell their stories, to voice their version of events, and to share their experiences.

I’m not a lawyer and I don’t pretend to be, but I’m told that the problem with defamation lawsuits is that the plaintiff must prove that:

  1. the defendant intentionally lied; and
  2. the defendant did this with malicious intent to destroy the plaintiff.

Apparently these are almost impossible to prove. But it’s not impossible to destroy the defendant by other means.

Many people feel this is a personal vendetta against a certain person. I disagree. This is a grassroots rebellion against the abuses and privileges of power. The philosopher Slavoj Žižek helps put into perspective what I and so many others are doing. This elucidates the massive blind spot those in authority are subject to:

“Our struggle is not against actual corrupt individuals, but against those in power in general, against their authority, against the global order and the ideological mystification which sustains it.”

So I continue to not only be in support of the marginalized and silenced, but intend to continue to provide places where they can find their voice and use it to share their experiences with all who will listen. I applaud the courage it takes the marginalized to raise their voices to be heard.

This blog, nakedpastor, and especially The Lasting Supper are two such places, and I thank you for your support!

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50 Responses

  1. Great posts David.

    Their stance seems to follow this pattern (also seen in the business world).

    1) To ‘other’ any critics by suggesting that they all work from the same motivation.

    2) Create the straw man that this is about ‘divorce’ when most of the comments are about the abuse of power.

    3) To answer their own internal questions rather than those that have been legitimately raised.

    4) To make those with privilege appear to be the ones who are victims. note Brian McLaren saying that we must be careful when the characters of religious leaders are being questioned.

    It seems that reputations matter. So much for leaving the 99 to rescue the 1.

  2. Thanks Alan. And thanks for letting me use your quote about propaganda.

  3. Caris Adel says:

    You’ve been warned to prepare?!?!?!?!

  4. Kathi says:

    I have been following you for many years now, and not to dismiss any of your early work you have done (I have one of your Sophia’s framed and on my wall), but I think that your work and thoughts that have been presented over the past few weeks have been your best. Thank you for continuing to allow people their voice.

    As far as anti-SLAPP, Julie Ann Smith can give you lots of information as she was sued by her former pastor for writing her experiences at his church.

  5. Thanks Kathi. I think it is focus. Julie Ann Smith and I have been speaking. We had a long phone conversation last week. And we’re constantly in touch. Great person and resource!

  6. Lydia says:

    God Bless you, David.

  7. Michaela says:

    Thanks, David, for your great forum and your thought-provoking art work!

    Now be warned: Go out and have a good laugh! Like me. Those guys makin’ the big threats take themselves way too seriously, live a fish bowl where everybody concurs with them (they sound like the types who squash opposition).

    You’re in Canada. And they are going to reach you from the U.S. into Canada precisely…how?

    Pastors who are nationally known in the U.S., including as authors/speakers/bloggers, and are able to do so thanks to the First Amendment are going to silence the First Amendment rights of others. Come again?

  8. Michaela says:

    By the way, because of the threats of litigation that these nationally-known U.S. pastors have made, I have moved in to action very quickly to contact nationally-known First Amendment litigation attorneys, legal groups, and top law schools in case their services are needed.

    (I have worked as a paralegal for famous civil rights attorneys in the U.S., they won hundreds of millions of dollars, the US Supreme Court heard one of their cases a couple of years ago, and they move in to legal action very quickly.)

    I don’t think these nationally known US pastors realize how many First Amendment legal groups would be more than happy to challenge them right back, be splashed across the national media and the internet around the globe, and get a feather in their legal caps, lots of name recognition and media attention.

  9. thanks everyone! and michaela for that info 🙂

  10. Justin Hanvey says:

    Hey David,

    I don’t know what I could do, but if you need help organizing support, or crowdfunding in case of legal fees let me know. I wanna help out any way I can. thank you for doing all you’ve done.

  11. We have a saying in Lancashire (my home county) that was originally attributed to a New Zealand lexicographer who studied in Manchester (lancashire) – so he could well have heard it from some local folk.

    “Don’t let the bastards grind you down’

    I think it is apt here.

  12. I think Rihanna sings something similar.

  13. Tamara Rice says:

    This is insanity. I stand with you. Bloggers are expected to personally squelch accusations of abuse against influential religious leaders? We’re supposed to pick a side, and censor the side we do not choose? Or just censor the side with the least powerful friends? Bullshit.

    I’m angry on your behalf.

  14. Thanks Tamara for seeing the bigger picture.

  15. Patrice says:

    And if anyone wants to, a Gofundme for Julie McMahon is still open.

  16. Michaela says:

    Hi David,

    Just a note that I just heard from two nationally known First Amendment attorneys in the U.S. and told them that nationally known pastor Brian McLaren plans to sue his buddy (pastor) Tony Jones’ ex-wife Julie.

    I told the First Amendment attorneys are working on it and will get back to me during the week. I will contact you via your private email address.

    I have contacted First Amendment attorneys across the U.S., top law schools that deal with First Amendment cases, top First Amendment legal advocacy groups, journalism schools, journalism think tanks and the like and passed on all of this to them for their assistance.

  17. Michaela says:

    @David,

    I also let the First Amendment attorneys in the US know that you are being threatened there in Canada with legal action from these US pastors.

  18. Thanks Michaela. I have received no direct threats yet, but powerful “suggestions”. But I really really do appreciate your efforts!

  19. Bill Kinnon says:

    Another brilliant cartoon, David. And I do love the people who gather at this bright corner of the interwebs.

  20. Michaela says:

    Hi David,
    Well the powerful ‘suggestions’ you got are meant to intimidate and silence, and I am having none of it! Apologies to you there in Canada from the United States. Their conduct is DISGRACEFUL.

    But I will not put up with them doing this. They, after all, have enjoyed their many rights under the First Amendment and they have all exercised those rights freely. They are pretty cheeky to make ‘powerful suggestions’ to anybody.

    So I decided to call their bluff. (Helps having worked for the top civil rights litigators here in the US.)

    I missed most of a sunny day here in Northern California, but it was worth it to contact all of these legal advocates all over the United States about this case!

  21. Gina says:

    I am really angry and heartbroken over this situation, not because I know for a fact who is telling the truth and who is not, but because of how a victim’s narrative was responded to by RHE, NBW, McLaren, and Jones himself. How people want you to edit your own comment section for their comfort. I am so thoroughly disappointed.

    There’s this arrogant notion that, “Of course there’s no abuse here, look at what we’ve done, look at what we teach.” It’s the same mentality that causes ultra conservative sects to think that with their right doctrine and right living they can weed out all moral and social ills. Like The Village by M. Night Shyamalan.

    “We have the right, tight knit, progressively moral community that could not commit these acts because of our progressive morals, so we haven’t.” It’s tautological nonsense.

  22. Regina Phalange says:

    Can anyone provide me with information on how to write about my experience at my former church legally? I’d like to write about why I left.. I’m a ex-pentecostal. No, not the snake charmer kind. I’m okay with the critical backlash from others in the organization, I just want to be smart and not get myself sued. Please help!

  23. It is tautological nonsense Gina!

    Regina: did you follow that link on anti-SLAPP? You are allowed to tell your story. Here’s another post you should read and follow the link to: http://nakedpastor.com/2015/01/infographic-on-the-cycle-of-abuse-against-women-and-how-to-break-it/

  24. esbee says:

    I guess I do not get it…if someone hits you and you say “he hit me” how do they have the right to sue you for telling the truth…guess it is nothing different from when Jesus was on earth- he was accused of all sorts of things. And it was the church leaders of the day that were after Him. Of course, being God, he could have smushed them in a Jerusalem minute but in his wisdom and plan chose not to.

    And these big pooers-that-be- if they were truly Christian they would turn the other cheek and certainly handle the situation much more Christ-like. I guess these are the weeds mentioned in the bible that God says he will separate from the wheat.

    I am wondering about those Christians in communist and islam countries, where they live every day by faith because to mention Jesus would bring the godless authorities down on them….what would they think about here in the USA— where most attacks are from within the church.

    I am glad you have a place for those who need to share.

  25. Michaela says:

    @Regina,

    If you are in the U.S., a good place to start would be the resources at the well-known Electronic Frontier Foundation found here: https://www.eff.org/issues/bloggers/legal

  26. Michaela says:

    @Regina,

    And here’s more information about blogging in the U.S. from the Digital Media Law Project:
    dmlp.org/legal-guide/proving-fault-actual-malice-and-negligence

  27. katewillette says:

    Here’s how I think about this . . . in all of history, this is the first instance in which those *outside* the power structure have a realtime way to be heard. Usually the way this has worked in the past is that someone has had to rise up from ashes and tell the story, or sneak behind the lines and tell the story, or wait 50 years and tell the story. And even then, that story would ONLY get published under certain circumstances. The used up person over in the corner isn’t meant to have a microphone or a book deal, because look what happens if they get one.

    They might exaggerate! They might use inappropriate language! They might be unfair! Never mind that people have already exaggerated, used inappropriate language, and been unfair to them . . . their safety and agency is not seen as nearly as valuable as that of the people still inside the magic circle.

    The underlying idea is that if you’re in the magic circle, where microphones, audiences, and book deals are possible, you must belong there by virtue of your integrity and authority. If you’re out, you know, there’s a reason. So it’s not surprising that the people inside this one circle are so outraged and offended . . . what the internet (and David in particular) have done is to challenge the whole idea of a privileged circle — to mess with the very notion that some people deserve to be heard and some deserve to be shut up.

    I’m more than disappointed that even the most creative thinkers among the TJ Support Team are unable to see what’s going on, much less appreciate what’s good about it.

  28. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    “The problem is when marginalized versions of events conflict with the official, authoritative, popular versions published by those with power. All of a sudden, leaders reveal that they have unlimited resources at their disposal to silence the unofficial, unauthorized, and isolated versions of the marginalized.”

    And unlimited $$$$$$$$ for unlimited Lawyers.
    “TITHE! TITHE! TITHE! TITHE! TITHE!”

    “Many people have contacted me about Anti-SLAPP. SLAPP is “strategic lawsuit against public participation”. SLAPP is basically “a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.” They seldom win by the lawsuit itself, but by slowly and patiently wearing out the defendant financially, physically, emotionally, socially, etcetera.”

    The IRS used to be famous for this in the Seventies, taking advantage of “mortmain” — that a self-perpetuating organization can always outlive a mortal individual. It got so bad they finally got slapped down by Congress with strict regulations a few years later. Another example is the reputation of Scientology’s “Fair Game Law”.

  29. Yes Kate Willette! You put in fewer words what I tried to say in a previous post about the privileges of power.
    http://www.nakedpastor.com/2015/01/abuse-and-the-privileges-of-power/

  30. Michaela says:

    “I’m more than disappointed that even the most creative thinkers among the TJ Support Team are unable to see what’s going on, much less appreciate what’s good about it.”
    @KateW

    Spot on!

    I am more than disappointed that the Tony Jones’ support team is unable to appreciate what’s good about the U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment and the rights they use all of the time as pastors/speakers/bloggers/writers and authors but don’t want anyone else to have!

    Pastor Brian McLaren said that he plans to sue his friend Tony Jones’ ex wife, Julie. McLaren said he’s seen an attorney. Really? Then how come McLaren wasn’t told by said attorney that McLaren is a public figure and that his life is open for public discussion?

    And by the way, how come Brian McLaren and Doug Pagitt and others in their group didn’t tell Tony Jones to step down from the ministry for Biblical reasons? First Tony Jones’ family had problems and Jones should have been attending to all of them as the Bible required him to do. Secondly, Jones divorced his wife Julie which makes him Biblically unqualified to serve as a pastoral leader according to the Scripture.)

    Helpful legal resource:
    Digital Media Law Project
    http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/proving-fault-actual-malice-and-negligence

    http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/examples-public-and-private-figures

  31. katewillette says:

    I guess it’s hard to see that your position inside the magic circle isn’t really magic. It’s not about book deals or speaking tours, really.

    It’s about the inferred quality of your work/you that comes with being inside that circle. You must be good to have gotten there . . . and for someone without your credentials to find an audience willing to entertain the possibility that your work/you is/are even slightly fraudulent — that can’t be okay.

    It’s not the book deal that’s at stake, in other words. It’s your image of yourself as someone worthy. The Tony Support Team is beating the drums to say that he is worthy . . . their problem is that they can’t say that without also saying outright (or heavily implying) Julie is crazy and/or a vicious liar.

    What I think they’re missing is that the circle itself is the problem.

  32. Exactly. It’s the big picture!

  33. Shazza tha dazzla says:

    I’m feeling scared for you , David. I’ve been on the receiving end of a SMALL word-of-mouth smear campaign, beginning with family but with leaking into church. I set it in motion by suggesting that we as a family discuss the inappropriate behaviour of a brother in law towards teenage girls in our family over 2 generations – I was one and he had begun to single out my eldest daughter.

    He and my sister began a dogged campaign to have me silenced and neutralised, and they’ve maintained their hatred for 10 years now. They mustered Christian support for their cause by suggesting I was unforgiving, bitter, negative, angry, divisive and manipulative. Works like a charm on people who don’t think for themselves!

    I can only imagine how taxing it must be for ‘high profile’ people to begin a similar campaign. I applaud you David for not backing down to their bullying. I thank you sincerely for caring about those of us who have had our voices stolen by the ‘sanctified’ bullys. I wish you and your wife and family all the strength and support you can possibly take on board.

  34. Michaela says:

    Hi David,
    Just a note that even though I am in California, I have contacted top Canadian free speech legal experts about what this US group is doing to you and the you’ve been ‘warned’ part.
    Now that US group has caught the attention of top US and Canadian legal experts in free speech.

    Take care! And have a good laugh! I so enjoy your blog and your cartoons.

    And again, those guys in the US – Tony Jones and his friends – owe you an apology! But since they won’t ‘man-up’, I a woman will do it: My deepest apologies for their reprehensible, unprofessional, immature, threatening behavior. (They who have benefitted from the U.S.’ First Amendment as nationally-known pastors/writers/authors/speakers/bloggers should be the last ones to be telling anybody else to be quiet. They have some kinda nerve! I spent my entire weekend on these legal contacts in the US and Canada.)

  35. oh wow you guys are amazing! thanks so much.

  36. Caryn LeMur says:

    Hi Shazza: I am not a lawyer; nor giving you legal advice. However, I see no harm in pointing you in the right direction for education. I do recommend the Digital Law links, given above.

    As I currently understand, you would want to understand ‘opinion’, ‘defamation’, and these three concepts: ‘a true statement’ vs a ‘false statement’, a public person (there appear to be different types), and acting with ‘malice’.

    With that basic education, you can then speak to a lawyer, if you wish, using their language and definitions.

    Otherwise, it is easy to get lost in the first telephone call.

    And yes, there are smear campaigns done in the name of family and/or church. In my opinion, it is abuse.

    There is also a phenomenon of being the ‘scapegoat’ of the family, whereby you will be blamed for all the family failures no matter how successful you are in life. This happens to a number of LBGT born into ‘church-institutional’ families. Sadly, most of the LGBT finally just make a clean break with the family, and walk away from their parents (or siblings) for life. After all, a life well lived for self and others is not only ‘the best revenge’, but it is also the mark of the Samaritan that pleased God more than the Priest and Levite that walked on the other side.

    And of course, there are valid differences of opinion. And hopefully, adult recognition that adults do not have to agree with each other’s opinions, decisions, or life-styles.

    Hugs. I hear you.

  37. You’re always so helpful Caryn. Thank you.

  38. Shazza tha dazzla says:

    Thank you Caryn! I appreciate your insights and I’m touched that you took the time to address my story.

    It’s good to be among friends.

  39. Erik says:

    If I can help in any way at all, please let me know immediately.

  40. Gary says:

    Well it seems to me that their actions towards you have proven him to be the bully so many have accused him of being. Ironic isn’t it…that he uses bullying tactics in his defense against being labeled a bully and seems totally oblivious to it. Frankly I think these childish threats of legal action are funny as hell all things considered.

  41. Wayne Borean says:

    David,

    I’d suggest going to Popehat. Log into their forums, and explain the situation. They often find help for cases like this, and they will also write about it, spreading the word.

    Wayne

  42. Michaela says:

    @David,

    Just a friendly update from California that I have now spent my fifth day working on contacting all of the big free speech legal advocates in Canada and the United States (and those important organizations in Europe as well) about this story and the entire issue of Free Speech (which these public figure pastors in the U.S. who are nationally known want to silence).

    I also contacted the legal organizations for cartoonists. And I’ve contacted the media.

    I will not have your Canadian legal rights silenced by these bullies in America; nor our American legal rights under the First Amendment. No, no, no, no.

    And the game is on!!

  43. Michaela says:

    “ February 3, 2015 at 9:27 am

    Well it seems to me that their actions towards you have proven him to be the bully so many have accused him of being. Ironic isn’t it…that he uses bullying tactics in his defense against being labeled a bully and seems totally oblivious to it. Frankly I think these childish threats of legal action are funny as hell all things considered.” – Gary

    Yes, the threats of litigation are truly childish. Over at The Wartburg Watch (in North Carolina) which has been covering this story posters by the name of XianAttorney and Beth have been making all kinds of posts in favor of nationally known pastor Brian McLaren (pastor/author/speaker/blogger/writer) in his defense and that of Tony Jones, and many insinuations against Jones ex-wife Julie.

    It’s all a public relations campaign. They are working for the other side. And they have been inflamed by my actions and full of put downs.

    Look it, if Brian McLaren had legal grounds to sue Julie McMahon (Tony Jones’ ex-wife) for libel/defamation, etc. it would already be filed at the court and she would be served with a summons and complaint.

    The fact that they’re trolling The Wartburg Watch tells me that they know his case is not legally viable.
    Attorneys don’t waste that kind of time. (And I’ve worked in law for years.)

  44. You’re so helpful and encouraging Michaela.

  45. Michaela says:

    @NP David Hayward,

    You are so welcome! I can’t draw a single thing. But we all have our gifts and talents. And mine is researching and contacting people. But I have worked for the winning-est civil rights attorneys in the United States and considered to be among the top ten, perhaps even the top five winning-est attorneys in US history. And honestly, I don’t back down.

    Over at The Wartburg Watch (in North Carolina) who are covering this story, trollers XianAttorney and Beth (who obviously are working for Brian McLaren and Tony Jones given all of their posts and public relations put downs of Julie and anybody who comes to her defense or any legal defense (i.e. me) are making posts right and left. Hired hands as we say in the Old West.

    Too bad.

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