• FBI won't 'confirm nor deny' if it's opened investigation into pastor who wished death on comedian

    By: Lorena Inclan , Action News Jax

    Updated:

    JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A Baptist pastor from Jacksonville, Adam Fannin, is at the center of a viral tweet after his anti-Semitic sermon was tweeted by comedian Sarah Silverman.

    In it, he wishes death on Silverman, a well-known comedian and actor.

    According to the current pastor of his former church, Stedfast Baptist Church, Fannin was fired six months ago but it's unclear why.

    Action News Jax tried to reach out to Fannin, but the church he now runs, Law of Liberty Baptist Church, was closed Friday when we went by.

    We called and left a message but are still waiting to hear back.

    The video has now been viewed more than three million times.

    Silverman tweeted it Thursday saying, "If I get murdered, start here." In another tweet, she said, "he is going to get me killed."

    It's unclear when the video was made, but in it Fannin can be heard speaking negatively about Jewish people before wishing death upon Silverman.

    "I pray that God would give her an untimely death and it would be evident that it's at the hand of God," said Fannin.

    In his remarks, he references a comedy special from 2005 where Silverman jokes about killing Jesus. She has since called the jokes from that special ‘problematic'.

    She says the pastor was triggered by a meme where someone put a photo of her with a quote from the joke. Silverman said the meme was taken out of context and was disingenuous.

    The Federal Bureau of Investigation is aware of the video, but in an email a spokesperson told Action News Jax that they "cannot confirm nor deny the existence or status of an investigation."

    The current pastor of Stedfast Baptist Church, Jonathan Shelley, made a video of his own Friday in response to Silverman.

    He speaks for more than six minutes and toward the end says this:

    "Even though Adam Fannin, you know the broken clock is right twice a day, I'm not going to sit here and excuse his railing, but he is right that Sarah Silverman is wicked, it is right that she's blasphemous," said Shelley.

     We showed Fannin's viral video to Action News Jax Law & Safety expert Dale Carson.


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    "Well I mean, that is free speech and it's also freedom of religion," said Carson.

    Carson said that while his words are disturbing and xenophobic, they're not illegal.

    "He is not calling for the direct killing of this individual, he is simply hoping that his god will kill that person," said Carson.

    But Silverman believes that his words could incite violence.

    "Certainly, they could but there's a balance between something that directly incites violence," said Carson.

    We reached out to Rabbi Jonathan Lubliner of the Jacksonville Jewish Center, he sent Action News Jax this statement:

    "The First Amendment protected comedian Sarah Silverman's foolish remarks 14 years ago – which she apologized for later -- even as they protect Pastor Fannin's hateful rhetoric about Silverman, Jews, and Judaism today. 

    "Yet our commitment as Americans to free speech does not absolve us from the responsibility to choose our words carefully.  As Proverbs teaches – a biblical book both Jews and Christians consider sacred – "There is blunt talk like sword-thrusts, but the speech of the wise is healing." (Proverbs 12:18) 

    "Fashioned in the divine image, just as God once created the world with words, so, we, create the world around us with the words we use. Anger or restraint, peace or violence, love or hate – I know the path I would have my words embrace. I believe the vast majority of American clergy of any and all faiths would choose the same."

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