These pages provide information concerning the defamation action involving the Local Church (an unincorporated association), Living Stream Ministry, and a number of local churches (plaintiffs) and Harvest House Publishers, John Ankerberg and John Weldon (defendants) concerning the book “Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions.” Legal action was taken only after several attempts had been made to get the authors and publisher to sit down with the plaintiffs as brothers in Christ to discuss the plaintiffs’ concerns. The purpose of these pages is to inform the public of the facts leading up to the lawsuit, the facts of the lawsuit itself, and surrounding relevant issues. We have included background information on the plaintiffs (the local churches, Living Stream Ministry and The Local Church) for the benefit of those who are not familiar with them.
Please note that the lawsuit concerned defamation, not theology. It was focused upon unsupported and unsupportable accusations of crimes and misdeeds; it did not involve teachings or doctrines, which are not in the purview of the courts. A simple reading of the complaint will verify this fact.
Progress of Local Church et al v. Harvest House et al:
Progress in the U.S. Supreme Court
|June 28, 2007
Statement on the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court not to review the case
A letter to our friends
A letter to the saints in the Lord’s recovery
|June 18, 2007
||The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case.
|June 7, 2007
||Petition for Writ of Certiorari (May 16, 2007) supported by five amicus briefs:
- Hank Hanegraaff/Christian Research Institute, Gretchen Passantino/Answers in Action, John Morehead/Neighboring Faiths Project and Dr. Ruth Tucker on the meaning of “cult,” the intersection of the Establishment Clause and the law of defamation, and the misapplication of the Establishment Clause by the Appeals Court. (filed May 31, 2007)
- Publishers, Broadcasters and Religious Organizations on the legal rights of religious organizations in harmony with the Establishment Clause and the adverse effects of the Appeals Court ruling on religious freedom. (filed June 5, 2007)
- International Experts on the adverse impact of the Appeals Court decision on religious freedom in countries that rely on the secular definition of “cult.” (filed May 29, 2007)
- Prominent Scholars on the word “cult” and defamatory meaning, the secular meaning of “cult,” and the improper application of the “ecclesiastical abstention” by the Appeals Court. (filed May 29, 2007)
Progress in the Texas Supreme Court
Progress in the Court of Appeals
|May 15, 2006
||Motion for Rehearing Denied
|February 16, 2006
||Appellees’ Motion for Rehearing of the Court’s January 5, 2006 Judgment filed with the Texas Court of Appeals
|January 5, 2006
||The Texas Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s decision denying Defendants’ motion for summary judgment. See our Statement regarding the court’s decision.
|October 27, 2005
||The Texas Court of Appeals (First District) heard oral arguments on the Defendants’ appeal of the District Court’s denial of their Motion for Summary Judgment (see Brief of Appellees).
|September 15, 2004
||Brief of Appellees (Local Church et al) filed
|July 6, 2004
||Brief of Appellants (Harvest House et al) filed
|June 21, 2004
||Appellant’s Notice of Incomplete Record and Fourth Motion for Extension of Time
|May 25, 2004
||Appellant’s Notice of Incomplete Record and Third Motion for Extension of Time
|May 4, 2004
||Appellant’s Notice of Incomplete Record and Second Motion for Extension of Time
|April 5, 2004
||First Motion for Extension of Time to File Appellant’s Brief
|March 24, 2004
||Docketing Statement (indicating intention to file accelerated appeal of District Court’s summary judgment decision); the original due date for the Brief of Appellants is April 14, 2004
Progress in the District Court
|April 2, 2004
||Order overruling Defendants’ objections to summary judgment evidence. This evidence included: “Local Church” chapters drafted two years after the first printing of ECNR, as well as other affidavits and deposition testimony. The unpublished chapters admit: “The Local Church … is unique among the groups in this encyclopedia. It is not a cult in the negative sense of the term, nor do the characteristics of cults in the Introduction generally apply to them.”
|April 2, 2004
||Order denying Defendants’ motion to stay (delay) discovery during Defendants’ appeal based on his ruling in the March 31, 2004, telephone hearing.
|March 31, 2004
||In a telephone hearing Judge Kent Sullivan denied Defendants’ motion to strike all of Plaintiffs’ experts, based on Defendants’ unwillingness to affirm or deny the truth or falsity of the charges in the book regarding the Plaintiffs. Judge Sullivan ruled that all ten of the Plaintiffs’ expert witnesses may testify.
|March 19, 2004
||Living Stream Ministry and Local Churches Respond to Harvest House Corporate Statement on Recent Court Ruling.
|March 17, 2004
||Harvest House, John Ankerberg and John Weldon filed a notice to appeal the denial of their summary judgment motion.
|March 9, 2004
||Order denying Harvest House, Ankerberg and Weldon’s Second Motion for Summary Judgment.
|October 15, 2003
||Defendants filed their Second Motion for Summary Judgment
|July 1, 2003
||Defendants’ notice appealing their Summary Judgment being denied and motion requesting a stay of discovery were both withdrawn by defendants.
|June 20, 2003
||Press Release dated June 20, 2003, concerning denial of Harvest House, Ankerberg, and Weldon’s Motion for Summary Judgment.
|June 13, 2003
||Order denying Harvest House, Ankerberg and Weldon’s motion for summary judgment and lifting the stay on discovery.
|February 4, 2003
||Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment
|December 16, 2002
||Order Granting Plaintiffs’ Motion To Compel Production Of Documents
|December 16, 2002
||Order Denying Defendants’ Motion for Protective Order and for Limitation of Discovery
|August 12, 2002
||Order Denying Defendants’ Motion for Partial Summary Judgment
|July 2, 2002
||Defendants file Motion for a Partial Summary Judgment
|December 31, 2001
||The Local Church, Living Stream Ministry, and 97 individual local churches file suit against Harvest House Publishers, John Ankerberg and John Weldon in the Houston District Court over Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions
Disposition of Harvest House Publishers’ Oregon Lawsuit:
|March 15, 2002
||Harvest House’s Oregon lawsuit is dismissed.
|December 14, 2001
||Harvest House Publishers files suit against The Church in Fullerton Corporation in Oregon Circuit Court seeking a Declaratory Judgment that Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions is not defamatory as to the local churches.