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Church and Law Notebook

I benefit from always having my iPad with me except when I lose it. I guess that’s what Captain Obvious would say. I now have lost 2 iPads by the usual forgetfulness. I left one on top of my car roof and drove off. The other got mistakenly thrown out at a gas station. while on a trip (at least that’s how I think that I lost them)

I say that I benefit because I can always save or bookmark things quickly and come back to them for blog ideas. Sometimes, I realize that I have items that have been with me for a while. So, here’s from the “notebook”.

This  blog is basically a collection of things that you might classify as church humor or might hear as a joke from the pulpit. I know what you are thinking, “how is this in a legal blog?”. My reply, “if you classify it from the notebook… anything goes!”.

The church decided that it needed to call a meeting to vote on some church business. The deacons got into a heated discussion over buying a chandelier for the church. So, one man stood and formally made the motion by saying, “I move that we buy a chandelier for the church”. Then, a second man stood and seconded the motion.

     One of the members then stood to address the motion. He said the following, “I’d like to speak against this motion. First, no one knows how to spell it to even order it. Second, no one knows how to play it. Third and most importantly… what this church really needs is some lights.” Boom!

And here are the pic o’s…


And this would be considered dating advice?


I suppose she might answer something like, “That is quite a Revelation… and I guess that’s a signal for my Exodus”.

Richmond is Saving History

Writer Brandy Brubaker of Richmond BizSense recently wrote about the Historic Richmond Foundation and its decision to bring history back to life in the restoration of a 200-year-old church. The article is titled Saving History Does Not Come Cheap.Monumental church

The Monumental Church has significance to the community because it was originally constructed as a symbol of hope from a terrible disaster.  On December 26, 1811, a fire destroyed the Richmond Theatre where hundreds were inside for a play. Nearly 600 people had packed the theater for a triple-bill benefit for the theatrical company.(Richmond Times-Dispatch) As the curtain rose on the second act, a candle on a chandelier brushed against the backing of the stage scenery.

The flames spread and one of the actors raced to the front of the stage and shouted, “The house is on fire”. A later Supreme Court opinion written by Oliver Wendall Holmes noted that such an exclamation, when not true; is not a form of protected free speech. In this instance, it also led to people being crushed in a mob-like exit.

As the fire grew, it didn’t take long for the sap-filled pine roof to catch fire. As patrons rushed to escape, the rising flames and poor design of the building, coupled with the heavy smoke; made it difficult to escape.   At least 72 people died including the governor of Virginia, George W. Smith and U.S. Senator Abraham B. Venable who had been named President of the Bank of Virginia.

On that fateful night, it was difficult to determine who had died in the fire. Everything was so burned beyond recognition. Officers went door to door to try to determine who had not come home from the night before, in an attempt to ascertain all the victims. The remains of the fire victims were buried together in a crypt underneath the church.

Then Chief Justice of the Virginia Supreme Court, John Marshall, led a campaign to build a church on the site as a tribute to the victims. Architech Robert Mills, who formerly studied under Thomas Jefferson, was hired to design the church. He would later be hired to design the Washington Monument.

The church was built and held its first service on May 4, 1814. The church counted Chief Justice Marshall and Edgar Allan Poe among its members.

Over the years, the church fell in disrepair. It also sustained tremendous water damage. It was deeded to the Medical College of Virginia which later turned it over to Historic Richmond. Several years ago, the Foundation conducted an ultasound on the brick crypt and determined that there are still two boxes which are believed to contain the remains of the fire victims.

The Foundation then made significant repairs and the church is now used as a popular wedding venue. There are still remaining repairs to be done that include such things as landscaping, roofing and painting. A marble monument at the church bears the names of those who died in the fire.

The newspaper story attached also details acts of heroism which led to the majority of attendees escaping the fire, despite the single narrow staircase to the box seats; as well as only having three exits from the building. The front door also opened inward which contributed to the difficulties of escape. Now, fire and building codes would never allow such design and construction.

DID YOU KNOW that the fear of vegetables is called lachanophobia? It is estimated that approximately 30% of Americans report real symptoms at the mere mention of certain vegetables that include nausea and shortness of breath.

And for pic o’ day:


Joyce Meyer Lawsuit

     Next week, I am headed to our South Carolina office. When there, I seem to notice an inordinate amount of TV preachers on their local cable system. One that I see is the Joyce Meyer ministry, broadcasting from their Missouri location.

     This past week, I saw an article in the St Louis Post-Dispatch that discusses a lawsuit that was brought against the ministry. It deals with the issues of responsibility and notice.

     A wrongful death suit was filed against Joyce Meyer Ministries involving the murder of a family. Christopher Coleman was the ministry’s security chief. According to past records, he had spent at least six months plotting to kill his family, while creating an alibi as though some deranged phantom killer was responsible.

     The bodies of his wife and two sons were found in their Illinois home on May 5, 2009. Two years later, Coleman now stands convicted of three counts of first degree murder.

     The mother and brother of Coleman’s wife filed suit against the ministry, claiming that it should have known that Coleman was sending written threats and that the wife should have been warned of possible danger. The suit also alleges that the ministry had prior notice because of the knowledge of the personal conduct of the security chief, which included that the ministry should have gotten involved regarding a policy on divorce.  

     After suit was filed, lawyers for the ministry answered that the lawsuit failed to cite any evidence that the ministry was at fault. Based on the argument of the lawsuit pleadings, the Judge dismissed the suit but granted the plaintiffs thirty days to refile the suit for more specific allegations of notice and causation.

     The plaintiffs intend to refile the suit. Then, they will attempt to do discovery to prove that the ministry turned a blind eye to what was going on. 

     I have included a photograph of Meyers headed to the Courthouse. A difference in her demeanor from the ministry website photograph that I have attached. 

     (Meyer headed to Courthouse)

      This lawsuit also reminded me a little of the Jenny Jones show lawsuit in 1999, where the jury returned a verdict of 25 million relating to the murder of Scott Amadure. The verdict was later overturned on appeal. Story Here  

 I feel like we need to take a long elevator ride away from those stories. Now, I turn to our regular feature. For pic 0′ day, because the Indianapolis Colts lost on Sunday; I am posting mood appropriately:

The Fork of Responsibility

     Yogi Berra said, “When you come to a fork in the road, Take it!” Responsibility is that fork, and I remember facing it as a four-year-old.

     At age four, I could wake up in the morning and look out at all the farm animals. My parents had put their home right on my grandfather’s farm. I could stare right out at the cows and they would stare right back.

      My other grandfather was the minister of a church, which was about 15 miles from where we lived. For a kid, those miles seemed to stretch on forever. I got tired of seeing the same signs over and over and I had run out of games to play with my own imagination. I footnote that drive up and back, because I wanted to use that as a possible excuse in my story of responsibility.

     As far back as I can remember, I used to sing in church. I’m not so sure that my voice was worthy because I sang by letter; I “let- er” fly.  I now know that loudness is not a substitute for tone. 

     On some Sunday afternoons, my parents would take me to the “convalescent home” to sing for the residents. Being loud was welcome. I guess it also gave me a false confidence because everyone was so encouraging.

     My grandmother was my piano player. I think that I had seen someone on TV get up and nod; so I would always stand, place my songbook on the lectern, and nod. She would start to play and off we went.

     Normally, my grandmother and I would practice. I don’t have a clear memory of how many times that I sang in church but one instance stands out very clearly. “Grammy” and I had gone over a couple of different songs, as solo possibilities. “We” decided on the song that I was going to sing, but I decided that I didn’t need to practice.

     During the service, it was my time to stand and sing. I stood like some maestro and nodded to my grandmother to begin to play. She started to play the song and I began to sing. Somewhere along the first few bars, I realized that she was playing a different song… than I was singing.

     I cannot exactly remember what was going through my head. I just know that I decided “to give it a go”. I tried to cram the words of the song that I was singing, into the melody of the other song that my grandmother was now playing. I suppose that it sounded like trying to sing the words of “God Bless America” to the “The Star Spangled Banner”.

     At some point, it became clear to everyone in the church that this was not going to work. For some, it probably bordered on comedy. For me, confusion led to realization; which then became embarrassment and ultimately a bit of fear. My grandmother immediately started over and began playing the song that I was trying to sing. We finished and I hustled down from the platform, probably determined to live in the woods and hide among the cows in the pasture.

     After the service, my grandmother explained to the family that it was all her fault. She had just played the wrong song. At that point, I could have just said nothing. My grandmother was that type of lady who was always trying to stand in the way of blame for my wrongs. I can remember several times that she tried to do that for me.

     Many times in my jury closings, I will mention the story of George Washington and the cherry tree. How he admitted to his father that he had chopped it down. Well, this singing moment was my cherry tree. I couldn’t let my grandmother take the blame.

     I wanted to blame the long drive as the reason that we had not practiced. The real reason that I did not practice was my false confidence and the fact that I didn’t enjoy practicing. I had to admit that it was my fault. I was at that fork in the road in taking responsibility.

     In my law practice, it is very rare to see a defendant  who accepts responsibility. Defense attorneys rarely file answers that admit fault. It requires acknowledgement of wrong. It’s hard to say that I am at fault and I accept the consequences.

     “If I was going to act irresponsibly, the least I could do was be responsible for it”. (Danny Wallace “Yes Man”)      

     Pic o’ day gives us the choice:



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