A defamation lawsuit filed by Hank Hanegraaff against Christian apologist Bill Alnor has been thrown out of court.
In January, 2005, Alnor posted an editorial in his online magazine, The Christian Sentinel, regarding a fundraising appeal by Hanegraaf – the controversial President of the Christian Research Institute.
Hanegraaff’s memo, archived here, read:
Dear Friend of CRI,
I never imagined having to send an urgent memo like this to you.
A bizarre error by the U.S. Post Office has cost the Christian Research Institute and Bible Answer Man broadcast an unknown amount of income — at a time when we could least afford it.
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Taking a break?
We don’t know how much we lost, but we know it was substantial –perhaps in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Here’s what happened . . .
Over the last three months, a time when our ministry receives 17 percent of its yearly income from supporters, newly hired U.S. Post Office employees in Rancho Santa Margarita accidentally routed CRI envelopes with contributions and requests for materials to the wrong post office box. To make matters worse, the business to whom the envelopes were sent threw many of the envelopes into the trash!
Only by God’s grace did we discover this error before more damage was done. Praise God for His intervention!
Our local U.S. Post Office has accepted full responsibility for this error and has fixed the problem. You can be assured that all mail is now being handled correctly! We bear them no ill will and believe this was an honest mistake by novice postal employees. But much has been lost.
– Source: A Letter From Hank, archived by archive.org
The letter further stated that CRI had set up a “special hotline,” and encouraged people to call to see whether their “gift or product order ever arrived.”
An appeal for a “sacrificial gift” was also made “to help CRI and the Bible Answer Man broadcast keep ministering at the high-impact level to which we are committed.”
Given the controversies surrounding Hank Hanegraaff, including having been chastised for his ministry’s financial practices, it was no susprise that someone would look in to Hanegraaff’s “Urgent Memo.”
Bill Alnor is one of many former CRI employees who are critical of Hanegraaff. In his online magazine Alnor wrote:
[T]he officer in charge at the post office where CRI receives its mail by maintaining PO Box 7000, disputes Hanegraaff’s allegation. The officer in charge, who identified himself as “Gus,” claims it never happened, and referred the incident to the United States Postal Service’s Inspector General’s Office, which has begun looking into the case. Three other Rancho Santa Margarita postal employees contacted over the next several days also said it never happened.
A mail fraud report was filed in connection with the case.
“We have no record of any misdelivery complaints involving The Christian Research Institute and PO Box 7000 or of any missing mail and incidents of that nature,” said “Gus” who also identified himself as the acting postmaster at the facility.
In the letter Hanegraaff, who is a popular author and broadcaster of “The Bible Answer Man Broadcast” heard internationally, also claimed to have set up a special 1-800 hotline at CRI to help deal with the problem. However, the phone number Hanegraaff provided in the letter was not a hotline at all, The Christian Sentinel has learned. More later.
Further, the Post Office said CRI never complained to them about the alleged diversion of letters to another box and they had nothing in their file about the supposed incidents. Officials at the San Juan Capistrano Post Office where CRI used to maintain a PO Box prior to the ministry’s move the Rancho Santa Margarita, also said no CRI mail was misdelivered from their end as well.
Yet, Hanegraaff’s letter, which used the alleged incidents as an emergency fundraising appeal, claims that the Rancho Santa Margarita post office “has accepted full responsibility for this error and has fixed the problem.”
– Source: Alleged CRI – Hanegraaff Mail Fraud Case Going Nowhere — For Now
Alnor announced the dismissal of the lawsuit on an apologetics resources mailing list, stating:
In a USPS document submitted to the court that recounted a later postal investigation of the case, only on *one day* was just *one tray* of CRI’s mail accidentaly delivered to a nearby company with a similar routing number, and that tray was *immediately returned to CRI.* There was never any three month diversion of CRI’s mail to the OnTarget company, and no evidence was presented that any of it was thrown away.
– Source: Message posted to AR-talk
Alnor will address the dismissal of the lawsuit against him on his website.
Truth and justice do matter
Question for the “Bible Answer Man”: Should Christians take fellow Christians to court? What does the Bible say?
An April 2005 web-only article at ChristianityToday.com shows what Hank Hanegraaff believes:
On why CRI is taking a fellow believer to court, Hanegraaff told CT that Christians should never do so in an arbitrary fashion, but, “At some point, you have to say, ‘Enough is enough.’ Truth and justice do matter.”
GotQuestions.org has a Biblical answer
Apologetics Index research resources on the Christian Research Institute and the controversies surrounding its president.
The original Bible Answer Man, Walter Martin. All the answers. None of the controversies.