From the Statement of Decision of the Superior Court of the State of California in and for the County of Alameda
- Uncontested Trial
Although the trail was uncontested because the defendants chose not to participate, the legal record contained thousands of pages of sworn deposition testimony of the defendants.
This matter came on regularly for trial and was heard as an uncontested matter as to the defendant Neil T. Duddy, because of his failure to appear, and was heard as a default matter as to the defendant Schwengeler-Verlag for its failure to file a responsive pleading to the plaintiffs’ First Amended and First Supplemental Complaint. (p. 1:17-22)
- Quality Evidence Presented by Local Churches
The local churches (plaintiffs) presented competent and reliable evidence that was substantiated by independent evidence from qualified experts witnesses. The Court had the complete opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses.
Although the trial was uncontested, the Court feels that the plaintiffs have presented competent and reliable evidence, and the Court was very impressed with the stature and quality of the witnesses presented. Moreover, the Court was provided with a complete opportunity to question and cross examine the witnesses in order to ascertain the truth as the Court should do in a case involving First Amendment rights, regardless of whether the defendants appear or not. There was nothing that the Court wanted to see or to ask that was not provided. Furthermore, the evidence on behalf of the plaintiffs was substantiated by independent evidence from qualified expert witnesses. (pp. 1:22—2:7)
- The God-Men Found Libelous
Accordingly, the Court finds that the manuscript by Neil. T. Duddy entitled The God-Men (Exhibit 1) disseminated (published) in the United States, the book Die Sonderlehre des Witness Lee Und Seiner Ortsgemeinde published by Schwengeler- Verlag (Exhibit 3) disseminated (published) in Europe, and the book The God-Men, An Inquiry Into Witness Lee and the Local Church by Neil T. Duddy and the SCP published by Inter-Varsity Press (Exhibit 5) disseminated (published) in the United States and England, are in all major respects false, defamatory and unprivileged, and, therefore, libelous. (California Civil Code §45) (p. 2:7-17)
- Fourteen Accusations Found “False and Defamatory”
- Witness Lee is a cult leader and the local churches are a cult.
- The local churches engage in deceptive recruiting practices.
- Witness Lee controls the local churches.
- The local churches engage in brainwashing.
- The local church leaders control members’ lives.
- Witness Lee and the local church leaders isolate members from society.
- The local church elders have created a power structure.
- Witness Lee and the local churches encourage immorality.
- Local church members are “moral dwarfs.”
- The local churches publicly humiliate members.
- The local churches lack forthrightness in self-representation.
- The local churches use fear tactics in order to keep members.
- The local churches persecute people who leave.
- Witness Lee and the local churches are guilty of financial mismanagement.
- The above false statements were intended
All of the defendants intended to convey to the readers all of the false statements set forth above or recklessly disregarded the false and defamatory meanings that would be conveyed to the readers. (p. 24:7-10)
- The above false statements were defamatory
All of the false statements set forth above were defamatory in that the same convey to the readers that the plaintiffs Witness Lee and William Freeman are leaders of a “cult,” and the Church in Anaheim is such a “cult”. (p. 24:7-10)
- Compensatory Damages Awarded
- “Actual Malice”
The plaintiffs indicated at the outset of this trial and hearing that they intended to establish “actual malice” and the Court is satisfied that they have done so. The evidence indicated that in almost all instances where the defendants purported to quote from Witness Lee’s statements they did in fact distort and take out of context such statements by Witness Lee in order to arrive at a predetermined result or conclusion. (p. 28:1-7)
- Defendants’ Intent to Destroy
The defendants intended to destroy the ministries of Witness Lee, William Freeman, and the local churches because they had lost members to the local churches and perceived themselves to be in competition with the local churches on college campuses in preaching the gospel. The author told the publisher that The God-Men “may contribute to the Local Churches’ demise.”
The Court also finds that the defendants’ conduct in publishing the books and manuscript referred to above was intended to vex, annoy, and injure the plaintiffs and to destroy the ministries of all three plaintiffs.
This is supported by evidence that SCP, Duddy’s employer, and co-author, had a long standing animosity against the Local Church dating back to the early 1970s and the loss of some of its members. This was confirmed by James Miller and Jack Sparks, co- founder of SCP. (Sparks, p. 16) Dr. Melton testified that SCP came out second best in these confrontations. (Tr. pp. 48-49) In addition, documentary and deposition testimony disclosed that Inter-Varsity perceived itself to be in a competitive relationship with the Local Churches on college campuses in preaching the Gospel and because of the loss of its members to the Local Churches (Sire, Vol. 4, pp. 47-48, 58-59; Vol. 5, p. 228; Ex. 85 (Former Ex. 381.240) and therefore, solicited the aid of Duddy and SCP in expanding SCP’s prior publication, The God- Men I, so as to add the so-called “sociological” section which contained most of the defamatory statements referred to above (Ex. 85 (Former Ex. 383.4)). In responding to their solicitation, Duddy presented to Inter-Varsity a “sales pitch” that the book “may contribute to the Local Churches’ demise.” (Ex. 38) (pp. 28:25—29:21)
- Punitive Damages Awarded
|Church in Anaheim||3,000,000.00|
|Church in Anaheim||1,000,000.00|
|Summary of Damages|
|Total compensatory damages||$8,500,000.00|
|Total punitive damages||3,400,000.00|