NIAGARA: Bishop Michael Bird sues Canadian Anglican activist blogger David Jenkins
By David W. Virtue
May 1, 2013
The ultra-liberal Anglican Bishop of Niagara, the Rt. Rev. Michael Bird has sued an orthodox Anglican blogger, a layman, alleging that he was libeled 31 times on Anglican Samizdat, a blog by David Jenkins that presents facts and pokes satirical fun at liberal Anglican leaders who depart from "the faith once for all delivered to the saints."
The Bishop of Niagara was one of his targets.
The claim seeks:
* $400,000 in damages plus court and legal costs.
* An interim and permanent injunction to shut down Anglican Samizdat.
* An interim and permanent injunction prohibiting Jenkins from publishing further comments about Michael Bird.
Court documents reveal such blog entries as this:
Eating healthily in the Diocese of Niagara
The Diocese of Niagara wants its parishes to pass a vestry motion to have taxpayers pay for a $100 per month healthy food supplement:
Wrote Jenkins: "Not an unworthy endeavor, I suppose and since the taxpayer is funding the supplement, it leaves members of the diocese free to use their money for the important things in life: the Bishop's Company Annual Fun and Fellowship Golf Tournament.
Or this...published December 12, 2011 entitled "Prophetic Social Justice Making in Cuba" Jenkins posted a photograph of Bird with some colleagues and wrote:
Clerical apparatchiks from the Anglican Church of Canada love visiting Cuba to get new ideas for turning Canada into a haven of egalitarian, anti-capitalist, totalitarian misery.
Here they are enjoying a benefit not extended to Cuba's incarcerated political prisoners: the sun.
From the left (the far left) Archdeacon Michael Pollesel, Archdeacon Paul Feheley, Archbishop Fred Hiltz and Bishop Michael Bird (Shorty to his friends).
Or this: Bishop Michael Bird is forging ahead with the ministry of Prophetic Social Justice by closing churches.
Finally this: Jenkins posted an article concerning global warning which stated that "As climate change alters the temperature of reptile habitats around the globe, tests of one lizard species suggests warmer nests make some reptiles smarter" and commented: You see global warning isn't bad news for everyone. I understand that Bishop Michael Bird can now tie his own shoelaces."
Court documents claim that these quotes and 31 similar blog postings allegedly libeled the bishop.
Jenkins, 66, is a computer I/T specialist and a member of St. Hilda's Anglican parish formerly in the Diocese of Niagara. The evangelical parish left the Anglican Church of Canada over that church's leftward drift on faith and morals and joined the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) under Bishop Donald Harvey, a former Anglican Church of Canada bishop and now Moderator of the ANiC.
Jenkins told VOL that contrary to what one might expect in such circumstances, he did not receive a "cease and desist" letter in advance of the suit and initial negotiations for an early settlement were unsuccessful, even though the complained of statements extend over two years.
"I have filed a statement of defense, the pleadings are now closed and we have commenced the Discovery process," he told VOL.
Disputes with the liberal diocese and its bishop go back to February 19th 2008, when the Diocese of Niagara served St. Hilda's with legal papers with the intention of taking possession of St. Hilda's building and freezing their bank account.
On February 19th 2013, exactly five years to the day, Jenkins was served personally with a statement of claim for defamation of character from the Diocese of Niagara's Bishop Michael Bird.
Canada has a Charter of Rights and Freedoms which guaranties freedom of expression and religion among other things.
Bird is suing for 31 specific blog entries that reveal sheer mockery and satirical humor with some serious accusations, with the most serious one being that Bishop Bird is a heretic.
In a court filed response to the bishop, Jenkins describes many of the online items as humor or satire, saying "no reasonable viewer or reader of the blog postings would be expected to believe that the statements are true."
Jenkins also says he was "exercising his right to freedom of religion and expression" and that online posts are fair comment on a public figure.
Bird's lawsuit attempts to limit Jenkins' freedoms under the Canadian Charter of Rights, the statement of defense says.
It is interesting to note that the lawsuit landed on Jenkins' desk 5 years to the day that St. Hilda's was served, a parish that left the Anglican Church of Canada over that church's leftward swing over faith and morals.
The injunction sought is clearly to shut down, bully and intimidate and thus close down the blog denying Jenkins his right of free speech.
"The posts in dispute were removed a day after I was served", Jenkins told VOL.
At Bird's request, further posts were removed that are not mentioned in the suit - as a gesture of good faith, he told VOL.
"I have never received a cease and desist letter from their lawyer. I have made offers to settle and meet/talk, but they have been rejected."
Jenkins said that a big day his Anglican Samizdat blog gets between 300-400 hits.
Jenkins said in his court defense that when Bird first complained, he removed the postings notwithstanding that they "were not libelous or defamatory to the bishop."
Jenkins has asked the court to throw out the case as it unduly limits his rights under Canada's Charter and is asking for costs and all his legal fees
"My parish is fantastically supportive," he told VOL.
It is very funny, our political realm is full of daily insults from one politician to another, but no one sues, nor would they get away with it. It is considered debate. It seems that some high-level Anglicans believe in the god of relativism, until their own dear little noses are out of joint. Then, instead of examining their conscience, they call in a litigation professional. How Christ-like. Do you think Jesus would have sued Pontius Pilate, given the chance? Can anyone take seriously ever again the much-ballyhooed "dialoguing" of the ACofC? When put to the test by its own authors, it crumbles sadly.
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