U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Local Church Lawsuit against Harvest House

Eugene, Oregon — June 20, 2007 — On June 18, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court brought an end to The Local Church’s six-year, $136 million legal battle against Harvest House Publishers and authors John Ankerberg and John Weldon.

The Local Church was appealing a January 2006 Texas appellate court ruling in favor of Harvest House. After the appellate decision, The Local Church requested a rehearing, which was denied. The Texas Supreme Court also rejected the case twice.

The Local Church complained that the Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions defamed them by accusing them (and all the other groups in the book) of crimes such as murder, rape, and drug smuggling.

See Also

Background of this case, including recent developments in which Hank Hanegraaff, the controversial president of the Christian Research Institute, came out in support of the Local Church — to the bewilderment of Christian apologists and countercult experts.

The Texas appellate court ruled that “nothing in the book singles out The [Local] Church as having committed [those actions].” The U.S. Supreme Court’s denial of The Local Church’s petition means the Texas appellate ruling is upheld.

Harvest House and its authors have issued a corporate statement that comments on several key underlying issues of this case.

Shelby Sharpe, lead attorney for Harvest House and its authors, stated, “The Texas appellate court correctly applied well-established law to the facts of this case in reaching its decision. The position taken by The Local Church would have created a totally subjective standard for interpreting written or spoken language a standard that would have threatened all media communications.”

“We wrote our book to ‘speak the truth in love’ from a Christian perspective,” said authors Ankerberg and Weldon. “No matter what has transpired the past six years, we continue to pray for and care about the members of The Local Church. We encourage them to be spiritually discerning by comparing their leaders’ teachings to those of the Bible.”

“We are grateful beyond words,” said Harvest House president Bob Hawkins, Jr., “to those many individuals, organizations, and associations who understood this case and its significance, and who stood with us by offering their legal support, encouragement, and especially their prayers through this very long and arduous battle. Beyond all this, we are especially thankful to God for His faithfulness.”

Texas Supreme Court Rules Again in Local Church v. Harvest House Case

On February 16, 2007, the Texas Supreme Court denied a petition for rehearing that was submitted by the Local Church and Living Stream Ministry in their $136 million defamation lawsuit against Harvest House Publishers and authors John Ankerberg and John Weldon.

The purpose of the Local Church’s petition for rehearing was to urge the Texas Supreme Court to reconsider an earlier denial issued on December 1, 2006. In both petitions, the Local Church took issue with a Texas Court of Appeals (First District) opinion which ruled that Ankerberg and Weldon’s book Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions did not defame the Local Church.

See Also

Background of this case, including recent developments in which Hank Hanegraaff, the controversial president of the Christian Research Institute, came out in support of the Local Church — to the bewilderment of Christian apologists and countercult experts.

The two rulings from the Texas Supreme Court firmly uphold the opinion written by the Texas Court of Appeals, which declared that the allegedly libelous statements in the Encyclopedia are not “of and concerning” the Local Church, and therefore “are not actionable.”

“With this ruling handed down by the Texas Supreme Court,” says Bob Hawkins, Jr., president of Harvest House Publishers, “we, as well as authors John Ankerberg and John Weldon, want to express our deep gratitude to so many who have stood by us throughout this arduous legal battle over the right to responsibly speak the truth in love. God has taught us all a great deal as we have depended upon Him every step of the way. May He receive all the glory for this victory and vindication.”

Leading Evangelical Scholars Call On Local Churches/Living Stream Ministry to Renounce Doctrines, Legal Attacks

More than 60 evangelical Christian scholars and ministry leaders from seven nations have signed an unprecedented open letter asking the leadership of the Local churches and Living Stream Ministry to withdraw unorthodox statements by their founder, Witness Lee. The letter also calls on the movement’s leaders to renounce their decades-long practice of using lawsuits and threatened litigation to respond to criticism and settle disputes with Christian organizations and individuals. [Read more...]

Local Church: Texas Supreme Court Denies Petition for Review of Defamation Lawsuit

On December 1, 2006, the Texas Supreme Court denied review of the Local Church and Living Stream Ministry’s $136 million libel lawsuit against Harvest House Publishers and authors John Ankerberg and John Weldon. At issue in the case was the book Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions (ECNR), which The Local Church claimed was defamatory of them. [Read more...]

Publishers urge Texas Supreme Court not to hear libel claims

Led by the Association of American Publishers (AAP), a coalition of groups representing publishers, booksellers and librarians have filed a brief urging the Texas Supreme Court not to review a ruling by the Texas Court of Appeals in Houston, an intermediate appellate court, which granted summary judgment to Harvest House Publishers in a libel action brought by a group called The Local Church. The brief characterizes the ruling by the Texas Court of Appeals as correct in all respects. [Read more...]