According to The Virginian Pilot and My Christian Daily, John Blanchard, pastor of Rock Church in Virginia Beach, Va, had protestor Jamie Thomas, 43, handcuffed outside the church and taken before a magistrate last Sunday. He was charged with stalking and disclosing expunged police records — both misdemeanors — and was released on his own recognizance shortly afterward.
Documents provided by Thomas show Blanchard went to a magistrate to file a criminal complaint against him at 1:44 a.m. Sunday. The document said Thomas had come to Blanchard’s “place of work and worship” at least 15 times and had behaved in an intimidating and threatening manner.
Blanchard was one of 17 men arrested in October 2021 during a police sting in Chesterfield County, Va. Police said the men had been communicating with an undercover officer posing as a 17-year-old prostitute and arranged to meet the person at a motel. Each were arrested and charged after they arrived.
While most of the men were fully prosecuted, prosecutors asked to withdraw charges against Blanchard and one other man. Earlier this year, however, Chesterfield County Commonwealth’s Attorney Stacey Davenport announced her office had obtained new evidence against Blanchard and she was referring the case to a special prosecutor from Brunswick County. A judge recently gave the special prosecutor until June 7 to decide whether he plans to seek an indictment of the pastor.
Thomas called the pastor’s claims “bogus.” He said he always stays on a public sidewalk outside the church when he protests, using signs and a bullhorn to get his message across. He routinely records bis protests and posts them to YouTube.
Thomas said he’s only seen Blanchard one time and it was about two weeks ago.
In the video posted Sunday, Thomas can repeatedly be heard saying things like, “Pedophiles don’t belong in churches. They belong in jail.”
Thomas said he sees himself as an “activist for the children” and wants to ensure that people going to Rock Church know about the allegations the pastor has faced. He said he also wants to see Blanchard treated the same as the other men he was charged with during the police sting.
The arrest appears to be part of a pattern and pratice of unwarranted police and judicial deference to clergy who attempt to infringe First Amendment rights by claiming they feel threatened or are being stalked. But the First Amendment does not limit free speech to one Sunday a month, or to speech with which we agree. Nor do one’s constitutional rights evaporate simply because someone asserts they are threatened; there must be a reasonable belief, fact-based, of an imminent threat of harm.
Moreover, we are consistent in our position. That includes supporting persons like Mr. David Duggan
Among those clergy, churches, and denominations that use these tactics:
- Perjuring priest Bob Malm, of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, whose defamation, fabrications, and abuse of the legal system led to the 2015 creation of Anglican Watch.
- Disgraceful Grace Episcopal Church in Alexandria, Va., which provided legal and other support to perjuring priest Bob Malm.
- Corrupt Episcopal bishop Chilton Knudsen, then assisting bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, for her role in trying to shut down conservative church member David Duggan via falsely claiming he was threatening.
- Lying pastor Liam Goligher, of Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia (PCA) who falsely claimed that church member Phil Snyder, was threatening the church.
- St. Gabriel’s Episcopal parish, in Marion MA, and the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, via Bob Malm’s tenure as interim rector of the church.
For the record, the best way to avoid protestors is to behave appropriately in the first place. The ends do not justify the means, and there is no situation in which it is appropriate to exploit the differential in perceived power between clergy and laity to try to shut down criticism. Moreover, it is disrespectful and abusive to misuse the protective order system in this manner.
Anglican Watch calls upon the relevant police departments and courts to immediately stop interfering with First Amendment-protected activity and drop both criminal and civil cases. Moreover, we demand that churches terminate the employment of clergy who have engaged in abuse of the legal system.
We will provide additional coverage of this story as it becomes available.