15 Responses to Statement by Brian McLaren [January 29, 2015]

On This Page:

  • Potential Legal Issues
  • Responses Evaluating the Statement by Brian McLaren

INTRODUCTION. On Thursday, January 29, 2015, Brian McLaren posted a 3-page Statement. It was published by the WhyTony Scribd site, which contains multiple statements in support of Tony Jones. His Statement is also available on that site as a download. This page is designed to give responses of support and of critique to Brian McLaren’s Statement.

UPDATE: On February 21, Tony Jones and others had their statements removed from the Scribd site. However, Brian McLaren’s document has been preserved here. Links for the other likewise removed WhyTony Scribd site documents can be found in this post by Brother Maynard/Subversive Influence, on Tony Jones & Narrative Control.

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Potential Legal Issues

Because Brian McLaren’s Statement indicates he is pursuing legal action, that brings up multiple potential legal issues. Presumably, this means he intends to file a defamation lawsuit against “this woman” (Julie McMahon). I am not a lawyer, but I have done research on relevant issues in defamation/harassment lawsuits and try to convey my understanding in layperson’s language. There are at least four key issues that come to mind here, based on previous work I have done in tracking the defamation lawsuit filed by Charles O’Neal and Beaverton Grace Bible Church against Julie Anne Smith and others.

To the best of my knowledge, all of these have variations that depend on state laws. For overviews of the first three issues, see my post on Spiritual Abuse Legal/Media Research. For the fourth issue on third-party witnesses, see this comment from Mirele on a Wartburg Watch post about the potential Brian McLaren lawsuit. Mirele had a lawsuit experience involving Scientology. [Update: I’m adding a fifth issue, that of “limited public figure.” More links on all of these issues to be added.] On the overall realities of what this kind of lawsuit could look like, see the multiple comments by Michaela on this Wartburg Watch post. Michaela has a background in paralegal work. And watch for additional input from others on that thread who ask or answer questions about legal concerns.

1. The threshold of evidence in a civil suit is “preponderance of evidence,” which is lower than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” required in a criminal trial.

2. In the discovery process, evidence that has been destroyed (whether unintentionally or purposely) or is withheld from the opposing side may fall under “spoliation of evidence” statutes.

3. If the lawsuit filed is seen as an attempt to silence someone from using their right to free speech, it may be considered a SLAPP suit (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) and defendants may be able to file an anti-SLAPP suit to stop the discovery process and receive expedited processing through the court system.

4. Third-party witnesses are those who may have knowledge of a situation but are neither plaintiffs nor defendants. Given the many online comments of various sides in the Emergent situation, that could involve numerous people.

5. When a celebrity, or someone known well enough to be considered a “public figure” files a libel lawsuit, the standards are more stringent. That person and their actions, words, and opinions are circulated in public forums, and so they are assumed to be objects of people’s free speech. So, it takes them more to show defamation than it would for a “private person.”

Note: The legal issues in this potential lawsuit are complex, so please understand that this section as informational – not authoritative counsel. So, if you have legal concerns, seek out certified legal help. I am trying to provide a framework of concepts and issues I’ve seen come up in my research work, and will continue updating here as I get additional information and perspectives from people with experience (like Julie Anne Smith) and/or expertise (those with legal training). 

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Responses Evaluating

the Statement by Brian McLaren

Breaking: Transition Statement for Why Christian? 2015, by Dee Parsons (The Wartburg Watch, January 27, 2015). This post contains some comments in response to the new of Brian McLaren’s Statement, following a notice posted about his Statement.

Brian McLaren to Take Legal Action Against *This Woman*, by Dee Parsons (The Wartburg Watch, January 30, 2015). This post gives a quote from the Statement that focuses on Brian McLaren’s pursuit of legal action against said woman and reasons for it.

A Response to Brian McLaren’s Statement, by R.L. Stollar (Overturning Tables, January 30, 2015). Although Brian McLaren’s Statement does not directly name Julie McMahon, it seems impossible to consider that “this woman” he identifies generically could be anyone else. So, I will use her name. He characterizes Julie McMahon as suicidal, and goes on to say he has attempted reconciliation and been declined. Ryan Stollar’s post in response talks in some detail about suicidal ideation, and other concerns related to the Emergent situation.

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