Church votes to remove controversial pastor after learning of addiction to prescription meds

JD Hall faces DUI, gun charges as well as bankruptcy proceedings

By: - June 27, 2022 6:57 pm

A screenshot capture of a forum Pastor JD Hall used to promote an event in Great Falls one day after Judge Elizabeth Best made a ruling in a libel case involving Hall.

The controversial minister of a Sidney church who garnered headlines touring the state, appearing alongside conservative politicians and railing against a number of issues, including critical race theory and LGBTQ rights, has been “disqualified” as the pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church.

A statement by the Fellowship Baptist Church released Monday afternoon explains: “During the several days following an incident that took place on Sunday, June 5, it came to the attention of church leadership that our lead pastor, Jordan Hall, had fallen into a dependency upon prescription alprazolam (Xanax), characterized by use that exceeded his prescribed dosage.”

He resigned as the pastor on June 8 “under the assumption that he had become disqualified from eldership as detailed in 1 Timothy 3.” In the Bible, 1 Timothy 3 says elders should remain sober.

In a subsequent business meeting, the church body voted to accept his resignation as pastor and elder at Fellowship Baptist Church. However, it said that his resignation and the undetailed incident were different than a traffic stop on May 11, which resulted in Hall being arrested and charged with DUI.

Hall pleaded not guilty to the charges from the May 11 incident.

“Due to the testimony of Pastor Hall regarding a known vitamin deficiency that he insisted was to blame for his lack of coordination, the church unanimously voted to reject his resignation, believing that the situation did not disqualify him from the pastorate,” the statement released on the church’s website said. “If the church had been aware at that point of Mr. Hall’s prescription drug abuse, the decision regarding his tendered resignation would likely have been different. However, we believe that we acted appropriately given the information we had at the time.”

After the May 11 arrest and charge, the church mandated that Hall submit to a minimum three-month sabbatical to address his physical health. The statement also said the church reserved the right to revisit the resignation pending the results of the toxicology report, which it said was still unknown.

In addition to the DUI charges, Hall also faced charges for carrying a concealed weapon, stemming from that same May 11 arrest.

Hall has been removed from the church’s website.

And, it’s also unclear what the future holds for the Montana Daily Gazette, a publication that served as Hall’s secular mouthpiece. Hall was simultaneously publisher of the site and pastor of the congregation. During his initial sabbatical, Hall also appeared to have stepped aside from the Montana Daily Gazette, an online publication he started, and was at the focus of several lawsuits.

Hall had originally gained notoriety when he published an article he wrote, which claimed that a transgender Native American lobbyist had attacked a conservative state senator over a bill about transgender athletes. Adrian Jawort, the lobbyist, filed a libel lawsuit, saying that Hall and the Montana Daily Gazette had misidentified her. The case appeared headed for trial when Hall filed for bankruptcy the day before a scheduled district court hearing.

Hall eventually settled with Jawort, allowing her to place a $250,000 claim in the bankruptcy process, although it remains unclear whether Hall’s estate will be valued at enough for Jawort to see any money from it. Hall also retracted the article, issuing a public apology.

During the bankruptcy process, another organization, the Whitefish Federal Credit Union, filed a notice in bankruptcy court, asking it to not set aside any future legal claims it had against Hall and the Montana Daily Gazette, signaling a prelude to a libel lawsuit. The credit union claimed that Hall had run a series of false stories about it on the Daily Gazette’s website.

Two weeks ago, Hall and the Daily Gazette removed nearly a dozen stories and archived audio recordings from a radio program in which Daily Gazette staff member and guests claimed wrongdoing by the financial institution. Unlike the case with Jawort, which included an apology as well as a retraction, the articles involving Whitefish Credit Union were simply removed.

“Hall and his family are now being ministered to by church leadership,” the statement said. “Through the application of church discipline as prescribed in Matthew 18, we are exhorting him to seek professional treatment and work toward the restoration of his mind and body, and the reconciliation of his relationships with God and family.”

For the full statement, click here.

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Darrell Ehrlick
Darrell Ehrlick

Darrell Ehrlick is the editor-in-chief of the Daily Montanan, after leading his native state’s largest paper, The Billings Gazette. He is an award-winning journalist, author, historian and teacher, whose career has taken him to North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Utah, and Wyoming. With Darrell at the helm, the Gazette staff took Montana’s top newspaper award six times in seven years. Darrell's books include writing the historical chapters of “Billings Memories” Volumes I-III, and “It Happened in Minnesota.” He has taught journalism at Winona State University and Montana State University-Billings, and has served on the student publications board of the University of Wyoming.