Last summer, six men were arrested after they began to heckle Lakewood Church pastor Joel Osteen during a sermon, calling him a “liar.” Each had theological issues with Osteen’s message. Their disruption reportedly frightened many in attendance, and Osteen told the court he “could sense hostility in their tone.”
All of them were removed from the service by security.
This week at a criminal trial in Texas, charges of trespassing were dismissed for four of the men and they were found not guilty of "disrupting a meeting or procession." (Charges against the other two are still pending).
The case is an interesting one, because the six sermon-interrupters aren’t just trouble-makers—they were raising theological concerns. But, the hecklers themselves are members of an extremely controversial Texas church.
Though one of the hecklers called Osteen a “false prophet,” many say they are the ones who are leaders of a dangerous cult.
Each of the men are from a small, extremely controversial congregation known as the Church of Wells, which many say is a fundamentalist cult. In addition to regularly engaging in intentionally confrontational street preaching, they’ve also been accused of brainwashing young women into cutting ties with their families to join their one “true” church.
Back in March, some former members of Seattle’s Mars Hill Church filed a lawsuit against founding pastor Driscoll and one of the church’s leaders, John Turner. This suit basically alleged that the church misused funds—and practically operated something like a crime syndicate, with money shifting hands and purposes all under the table. The lawsuit called on Driscoll and Mars Hill leaders to reveal how the church used tithe monies.
If the Court decides to dismiss the civil RICO complaint against (fellow defendant John Sutton) Turner with prejudice, it should do the same for the remaining civil RICO defendant, Driscoll. The failure to prosecute applies to both parties. The plaintiffs were put on notice about their obligation to serve process in a general sense when Turner contacted the plaintiffs directly. That notice reminded the plaintiffs that they must serve all plaintiffs, not just one plaintiff.
In case you're unfamiliar with the long Driscoll saga—or don't know what to think about it—we’ve covered it in detail. Discuss