When it comes to really bad, really un-Christian behavior, it takes a church. And in this case, not just any church, but Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia.
Readers may recall the saga of Phil Snyder, the former member of Tenth Presbyterian, who spoke out about his concerns over allegations of sexual misconduct, including possible assault of a female church member in the basement of the church. In addition, there are concerns about a former employee of the church, who is alleged to have administered sexualized naked beatings to persons connected with the church.
Instead of taking these matters seriously, however, and recognizing Phil for his courage in speaking out, First Presbyterian appears to have tried to sweep matters under the rug, at one point claiming that they had investigated and found Phil’s concerns to be false. I find the church’s arguments unpersuasive, and strongly believe that Phil is not only largely on point, but that the situation may be far worse than Phil suspects.
All that said, instead of seeking peace, justice, and reconciliation, Tenth Presbyterian, for the second time, is seeking an injunction to prevent Phil from protesting outside the church. True to form for church bullies, the church is doing the usual church routine of claiming that somehow it is threatened by Phil’s protesting and other activities. But a sign is not a threat, and efforts by the church and its attorneys to portray otherwise are shameful and despicable. Nor have I seen anything, from Phil or the church, that suggests that the church or its members actually have been threatened. For example, the church’s lawyers claim that Phil called one person a “liar” and that she felt threatened. All I can say is that clearly none of these knuckleheads have spent any meaningful time in cyberspace. Indeed, if I had a dollar for every time someone on Twitter called someone else a liar, I would be wealthy indeed. And the court system would have collapsed long ago under the weight of so many injunctions.
Moreover, the church’s attorneys no doubt are aware that such an injunction would constitute a prior restraint of First Amendment rights; that is the reason for the church’s inflammatory rhetoric in its pleadings. Moreover, I know Phil, and while I have not personally observed his conduct in Philadelphia, I seriously doubt he claims to be Jesus or believes that to be the case. Any church or pastor that would sign off on such pleadings is, I believe, both un-Christian and unethical, and you can quote me on that.
In short, this is a disgraceful situation in which a church, which is supposed to be a place of healing and reconciliation, attempts to “paper” the other side, and run up attorney’s fees for Phil in an effort to silence him. But I can confidently say that Phil won’t go away any time soon, and that being more than 1,000 from the church won’t in any way slow down the growing public awareness of problems at Tenth Presbyterian. In fact, the church’s actions all but guarantee that social media criticism of the church will ramp up—and given the importance to 20-somethings of social media, you can bet your bottom dollar that the church’s conduct will result in a sharp decline in its fortunes.
Meanwhile, as you look over the church’s outlandish and inflammatory comments, which outside legal pleadings could well be considered defamatory, consider this: The church does not appear to have obtained criminal charges. If Phil is making terroristic threats, why has there been no arrest? And how can a purported expert in active shooters assess Phil’s behavior without meeting him in person? Such ex parte conclusions are at best highly questionable, and would be grounds for professional discipline were a mental health professional to make a diagnosis without meeting Phil. And for the record, I’ve spoken with Phil multiple times, and have never seen any signs of mental illness. I’d point out too that the church already has been shown to have displayed questionable veracity in its claims that Phil has threatened it, as video footage appears to show that this was an utter fabrication on the church’s part. Bearing false witness, anyone?
Lastly, as I have said many times about my former church, folks at Tenth Presbyterian don’t get it. Phil isn’t their problem. Their problem is how they handle conflict, and their lack of personal and professional integrity in how they respond to serious concerns about abusive conduct. In other words, the church’s response to Phil is, itself, abusive, as it attempts to misuse the perceived authority of clergy and church officials.
And to Liam Goligher and elders at Tenth Presbyterian, I have this to say: Your conduct is highly unbecoming, and brings discredit on you, your church, and those affiliated with the church. And you can quote me on that.