Article Summary:

An amicus brief filed with the Texas Supreme Court signed by scholars in the fields of religion and the social sciences arguing that the Court of Appeals had failed its obligation to balance First Amendment rights against the social values underlying defamation law.

Amicus Brief from Prominent Religion and Social Science Scholars (Texas Supreme Court)

Several prominent religious scholars in the fields of religious studies and the social sciences submitted an amicus brief calling on the Texas Supreme Court to review the Texas Court of Appeals ruling in The Local Church et al v. Harvest House et al. The brief argued that the appeals court decision failed to properly balance First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech against the social values underlying defamation law in ruling that wrongfully calling a group a cult was merely a matter of religious belief, when the book in question—Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions—attributed criminal and other evil behaviors to such groups. The brief was signed by:

  • Rodney Stark, Ph.D., Author, Co-Director, Institute for Studies of Religion and University Professor of the Social Sciences, Baylor University;
  • Derek H. Davis, J.D., Ph.D., Dean of the Graduate School at University of Mary Hardin-Baylor;
  • Edwin S. Gaustad, Ph.D., Author, Professor Emeritus of History and Religious Studies, University of California-Riverside; and
  • James M. Dunn, Ph.D., Author, Visiting Professor of Christianity and Public Policy at Wake Forest Divinity School, Former Executive Director of Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs.
  • J. Gordon Melton, Ph.D., Founder and Director of Institute for the Study of American Religion, Santa Barbara, California;
  • H. Newton Malony, Ph.D., Author, Senior Professor of Psychology, Department of Clinical Psychology, at Fuller Theological Seminary;
  • Stuart A. Wright, Ph.D., Author, Professor of Sociology and Assistant Director for Research and Sponsored Programs Administration, Lamar University;
  • Rev. Jerry Smith, CEO of Latham Springs Baptist Encampment;
  • Ronald B. Flowers, Ph.D., Author, Professor Emeritus of Religion at Texas Christian University;
  • William L. Pitts, Ph.D., Author, Professor of History of Christianity and Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Religion, Baylor University;
  • Mark G. Toulouse, Ph.D., Author, Professor of American Religious History at Brite Divinity School, Texas Christian University;

Amicus Brief from Prominent Scholars (Texas Supreme Court)

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