My wife and I returned late from a full day of viewing the 2nd day of a trial in a Harris County district court. Yesterday, she had to suffer through Day 1 on her own. The case was against 4 of the 7 members of the Church of Wells (TX) who were arrested just shy of a year ago for causing a disruption at Lakewood Church (aka, Joel Osteen’s). The charges were for criminal trespass and disrupting a public meeting. BTW, it doesn’t matter what you think of Osteen or Lakewood, what mattered is what these men planned, carried out, and were acquitted of.
The trial was terribly tedious, primarily due to the lengthy meanderings of the two defense attorneys. After Osteen finished his testimony, the State and Defense rested and the jury was dismissed for a break. The Defense then presented a motion to the Judge, requesting a dismissal of the trespassing charge – basically for lack of merit. The Judge agreed and bench-ruled “Not Guilty” for 3 of the 4, and left it to the State to decide if they wanted to continue to pursue the 4th. The State declined, and so the only charge that stood was the disruption.
After the break the jury returned for the closing. The State did a good job, clearly presenting their summary. The Defense brought up to the Jury that they were no longer called upon to present a verdict on the trespass charges, even though the Judge had previous made it clear that this was not going to be openly addressed. They then did their best to softly discredit the testimonies of the Lakewood Security Team which had been present and involved in detaining the defendants on the day of the disruption. That team included both a seasoned Houston Policeman, a Harris County Deputy, as well as the long time Director of Security at the Church.
The Defense’s key argument, however, was to establish doubt as to the INTENT of the defendants. Whereas the Prosecution sought to prove a clear planning and carefully executed disruption of the church service by the men, the Defense claimed that they were actually only there as individuals who felt compelled to share a message that they were passionate about. Although they may have shared it a bit improperly, they had no individual or collective intent to disrupt the meeting. The plea then was made to the jury that whether they might consider their message poorly timed, they certainly should not be “CRIMINALIZED” FOR SIMPLY SHARING A MESSAGE THAT MAY HAVE BEEN CONTRARY TO THAT WHICH THE MAJORITY OF THOSE WHO WERE PRESENT MAY HAVE HELD AT THE TIME.
While I sat and listened to this closing, it seemed absolutely incredulous to imagine that such a ridiculously concocted reimagining of the very simple, clear facts could be believed by anyone. The security videos showed from multiple views that 7 men had positioned themselves around the large sanctuary, and over a period of 20 or so minutes, one man would stand up and begin yelling over the pastor’s attempt to deliver his sermon, calling him a false prophet, a liar and that all in attendance and following him were on their way to Hell. He would be escorted out of the meeting, and then once calm had returned, another would stand, and this was repeated 7 times. By the time the service was concluded, families had become afraid of what might develop, and were streaming out of the building. Both the US and International live streaming of the service was shut down to prevent any escalating concern from remote viewers. CLEARLY, these men had carefully choreographed this scene with the INTENT of disrupting the service.
The effect of the Defense’s homogenizing of the scene and the recasting of the troupe as a little over zealous, yet gentle young men, the Jury returned with the verdict of “Not Guilty” against all 4. Do I fault the Defense Attorneys? They were hired to take the facts and make of them a more palatable story that could sway the jury in favor of their paying clients. Do I fault the Prosecution Team? Not really, they presented the facts in a clear and understandable storyline. Their evidence spoke for itself, and their witnesses corroborated the events as clearly as could be expected.
So, who do I fault? I fault the Defendants. Why? Because they were lying when they pleaded “Not Guilty” to intent to disrupt a public meeting. The facts establish that this was clearly their intent, as well as their prior history of doing similar activities. But, you say,”When defendants plead not guilty, they are not really lying, it is simply the means necessary to secure a day in court”. Consider this, when they hired their Defense, and allowed these two attorneys to speak on their behalf and misrepresent the facts, they were resting in those misrepresentations to clear them of a guilty verdict, which they actually did deserve. What makes these lies truly culpable is that these men are openly, publicly, and proudly broadcasting that their exoneration was by the direct hand and intervention of God, Who was pleased with their actions and now blessing their obedience to His will.
That is the lie that won’t go away. That is the lie that will lead them into further, and more escalated activities. That is the lie that will lead to more aggravated public disturbances. That is the lie that will direct them to your Church to seek out fresh young converts. The verdict of “Not Guilty” is their call to action. It is God’s presumed approval and blessing upon them, “The Remnant”, and is their open invitation to visit your Church and innocently share the message they are passionate about — over the voice your pastor’s message.
No, the issue here is not whether you agree with the Church of Wells, that Pastor Joel Osteen is a false prophet, leading his followers to Hell. The issue is that they believe that they are the sole voice of God on Earth, and that through their efforts, the final Remnant will be gathered before the soon coming great Tribulation and conflagration of the End Times. That means that YOU will only be saved through THEIR message and ministry. Your pastor is false and your church is doomed, and the gospel that you believe is damning, and that your only hope is through the path they offer. That is the issue. They only used Osteen as a launch pad.
Are you interested in knowing more about this group? There are several resources that you can further research, perhaps the most enlightening is: http://exposingthechurchofwells.com . Hold onto your hats, you will be literally blown away by the things you hear and read…