*Updated 10 January 2013 to reflect updates made to Dr. Duncan’s blog as explained here.
Dr. James Duncan is an Associate Professor of Communication at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Several years ago, Duncan took to his blog, Pajama Pages to reflect upon and offer some concerns about a local church, namely Perry Noble’s Newspring Church. This criticism of the megachurch sparked a reaction of indignation from several of Newspring’s staff, which in turn led to a period of harassment toward Duncan and his family.
This harassment and subsequent smearing of Duncan’s name and reputation included such things as a Newspring employee creating a fake Twitter account attributed to Dr. Duncan that shared perverse and profane posts and sending a forged letter of resignation to Duncan’s employer. Perhaps the most grievous of offenses was the alleged deliberate sabotage of the adoption efforts of Dr. Duncan and his family.
All of these offenses can be read about in more detail at Duncan’s blog, in the 5 December 2009 post, “Holy rage at the ‘Spring.” Dr. Duncan also appeared on the radio show, Fighting for the Faith in December 2009 to discuss these acts of atrocity and to share his story.
Dr. Duncan responded to these acts of intimidation by filing a lawsuit against Perry Noble and Newspring Church in 2010. In September 2012, the case reached a settlement, and Duncan is returning to his blog to share what details he is allowed. In his first post of 2013, Duncan provides a link to a 27-page PDF of 804 harassing tweets that were sent and read by many members and employees of Newspring Church.
Now that the case has been settled, Duncan is at liberty to share some, though not all, of the details surrounding this debacle. In beginning to tell this story, Duncan writes:
We sued the parties for negligence, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, assault (Maxwell only), civil conspiracy, unfair trade practices, and negligent hiring, training and supervision. We alleged that Perry Noble and other NewSpring leaders were aware of the harassment from early on and did nothing to stop it; though they deny those complaints. Source
The ‘Maxwell’ to which Duncan refers is Josh Maxwell, who at the time of the harassment was employed as a security guard at Newspring. Duncan briefly shares some of the “a few highlights of what we found through publicly available information,” concluding the list with the following:
Noble and NewSpring’s official defense was that the whole harassment campaign was my and my wife’s fault. Their argument was that we should have known that criticizing NewSpring would cause bad things to happen to us, so we were really just asking for it. That’s not an argument you’d expect from a local church, but I assume they believe it, otherwise I’d have to believe that they perjured themselves. Here’s the relevant section from their defense:
Plaintiffs [my wife and I] were negligent, willful, wanton, and reckless in one (1) or more of the following particulars.
In engaging in a pattern of behavior and course of conduct intended to intimidate, harass, and otherwise damage New Spring and the Defendants [Noble, NewSpring and the two other pastors] professionally; Knowingly and intentionally publishing misleading and/or false statements concerning New Spring and these Defendants; and In failing to exercise a degree of care of prudence a reasonable person would have exercised under the same or similar circumstance.
The Plaintiff’s negligence, willfulness, wantonness, and recklessness was more than 50% of the direct and proximate cause of the alleged damages complained of.
James Duncan then deduces,
This is chilling. They are saying–in a signed, public legal document–that it is imprudent and dangerous to criticize Perry Noble. Source
Dr. Duncan plans to share more information regarding the outcome of this lawsuit on his blog in the coming weeks. To CRN’s knowledge, neither Newspring nor Perry Noble have addressed this issue since the settlement, though the church did provide a statement to its members in December of 2009 when the situation reached its climax. Newspring’s 2009 statement noticeably and unsurprisingly contradicts the claims of Dr. Duncan.
According to Dr. Duncan, he and his family have not yet received an apology from Perry Noble or Newspring Church.
CRN first was made aware of these developments by the FBC Jax Watchdog blog.