Article Summary:

Harvest House claimed that its use of The Chicago Manual of Style discharged its responsibility to use “acceptable editorial standards” in publishing the Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions. The Chicago Manual, however, focuses on stylistic and not substantive issues and cannot be used to justify shirking editorial norms in publishing a book that makes false and defamatory accusations.

Does Harvest House Have Acceptable Editorial Standards?

Harvest House claims the Local Church “completely misrepresented Harvest House by failing to acknowledge the company does indeed abide by fixed and acceptable editorial standards.”1 Take another look at the quote Harvest House chose to dispute:

None of the 12 current or former Harvest House employees deposed in the course of discovery identified any specific policy or practice that could have any bearing upon the substance of pre-publication manuscripts [emphasis added].2

In fact, the statement the Local Church made was true. Harvest House employees repeatedly testified that the company had no set policy requiring fact checking,3 substantive editing,4 or on vetting potentially libelous material with an attorney.5

The Harvest House response cited in their defense the use of The Chicago Manual of Style. Consider the following:

  1. The Chicago Manual of Style defines style (and hence its scope) as: “Rules of uniformity in matters of punctuation, capitalization, word division, spelling, and other details of expression, many of which may vary according to custom.”6
  2. Further evidence that The Chicago Manual of Style does not address substantive editing can be found in the definition of the word “editor” in the context of the book: “The word editor in these pages means copyeditor.”7 According to Barbara Gordon, Harvest House project editor, a copyeditor is “in charge of grammar and punctuation and spelling.”8

That Harvest House relies on The Chicago Manual of Style does nothing to fulfill its obligation as a signatory of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) “General Principles and Practices for ECPA Members”:

As members of ECPA, we will seek to document all sources and validate all research.9

In fact, Harvest House does not seek to document sources other than Bible references or to validate their authors’ research.

Harvest House’s citation of The Chicago Manual of Style does not discharge their responsibility for accuracy in a book which is not part of their gift book/romance novel line of books, but instead is a book filled with charges alleging criminality, perverse immorality, and socially aberrant behavior which they themselves tout as a fact-filled reference book.


1“Harvest House and Authors Address Newest Allegations from The Local Church and Living Stream Ministry,”

2Plaintiffs Response to Defendants’ Second Motion for Summary Judgment,” p. 17. (This is a 6.6 MB file.) Note: Harvest House’s Web site posting identifies the wrong document as the source of this quote.

3Deposition of Elizabeth Fletcher, March 25, 2003, p. 113; Deposition of Robert C. Hawkins, Jr., September 25, 2003, p. 232-233.

4Deposition of LaRae Weikert, August 19, 2003, p. 77.

5Deposition of Fletcher, March 25, 2003, pp. 172-173; Deposition of Barbara Gordon, November 3, 2003, pp. 36-37; Deposition of Robert C. Hawkins, Jr., September 25, 2003, pp. 234-235; Deposition of Carolyn McCready, November 7, 2003, p. 12; Deposition of Steven J. Miller, November 6, 2003, pp. 72-73.

6The Chicago Manual of Style, 14th Edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), p. 885.

7Ibid., p. 49.

8Deposition of Barbara Gordon, November 3, 2003, p. 5.

9“General Principles and Practices for ECPA Members,”

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