When Losing, Blame the Media

April 03, 2008

Missouri Baptist Convention interim executive director David Tolliver has a column dealing with the recent legal setbacks for his organization. They not only lost their case against Windermere Baptist Conference Center but now have been hit with a $10 million countersuit from a businessman (both stories, by the way, were first reported on this site). His piece offers quite a look into his perspective, which suggests sadly that he will not be willing to bring the lawsuits to a close and stop wasting ministry money.

Much of the piece is an attack on the Word&Way. He first attacked them for running a story that was "favorable toward Windermere in its coverage of the ruling." Considering that the judge's ruling was favorable to Windermere, then any coverage taking a different angle would be running counter to the judge's decision and thus not accurately reporting on the ruling. It seems that he is actually proving that Word&Way got the story right! He even pointed out the difference in the headlines between the Word&Way and The Pathway stories:

The Word & Way headline was, "Judge rules in Windermere's favor, against Convention." The Pathway said it this way: "MBC will appeal summary judgment order."
Tolliver apparently thinks the latter is more accurate. However, the news of the day was the judge's ruling, not one side's response to it. In fact, they still have not appealed yet because they cannot for thirty days, so that was not the big news. He also attacked the Word&Way for running comments by Dan Bench of Windermere, but failed to note that Word&Way also ran comments by the MBC's attorney Michael Whitehead. It was The Pathway, on the other hand, that only ran the opinion of one side as they quoted Whitehead but not Bench. It does not seem that Tolliver is doing The Pathway any favors by comparing it to the much better reporting of the Word&Way. In fact, The Pathway is specifically named in the new countersuit as it was in my mother's successful suit a few years ago. The Pathway keeps getting the MBC in trouble because of poor reporting. My latest article is out today at Ethics Daily, which is a look at the book written several years ago by The Pathway's editor, Don Hinkle, that defends the Confederate battle flag.

In his tirade, Tolliver declared:
I vehemently disagree with the judge's ruling. Word & Way is wrong. The trial judge ruled in their favor. But, the appeals court has not yet spoken in this matter. I wonder, will Word & Way change their mind, and their words, about the legality of this case if the appellate court rules in our favor?

Huh? He offers no reason why the Word&Way is wrong. He was upset they reported that the judge called Windermere's action legal, but that is what actually happened. They did not say it was legal, but reported that the judge said it was. Just because he disagreed with the judge's decision does not mean that Word&Way got the story wrong. In fact, part of Tolliver's piece is complaining about the fact that they could have won the case if a clause had been added to the incorporating documents. But the judge dealt with that argument, basically saying that ignorance was not a excuse and that he could not retroactively rewrite the documents for them. Tolliver then asserted that a jury would have ruled differently, which suggests he thinks they could have fooled a jury to ignore the laws. Tolliver even tried to put words into the judge's mouth by claiming the judge would agree that the action of Windermere was "immoral." But all of this is why he is upset he lost, but does not disprove the Word&Way article

The whole piece is a discouraging sign that Tolliver and the MBC seem determined to push ahead and continue to waste more time, energy, and ministry money on the lawsuits. He ends his piece urging everyone to "continue to believe in and to obey our Lord." Hopefully, he will realize that means focusing on sharing the love of Jesus instead of fighting legal and political battles for power. And hopefully he will realize that means spending Cooperative Program money on missions and not lawsuits. But instead, he tragically seems determined to push ahead and cry "bias" anytime someone points out the truth.