Local Church et al v. Harvest House et al–Facts on Litigation

On December 14, 2001, Harvest House Publishers, publisher of the Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions (ECNR), filed a lawsuit against The Church in Fullerton, “aka Living Stream Ministry, and the Local Church.” Television talk show host, John Ankerberg, and John Weldon, co-authors of ECNR, joined Harvest House in this legal action. The lawsuit was undertaken during a period of time in which Living Stream Ministry (LSM) and representatives of the Local Church and various Local Churches were actively pursuing a meaningful dialog with the hope of achieving a peaceful resolution to a conflict that was brought on by Harvest House and the authors’ false statements about Local Church, LSM and the local churches in ECNR.

ECNR demands our attention not simply because it says unkind, or even untrue things about us, but because it promotes religious bigotry of the worst sort, extolling intolerance as a virtue and attempting to collectively demonize all of the groups in the book with which it disagrees. The introduction to the book clearly labels all of the groups in the book as being guilty of the most deplorable, illegal and immoral acts and uses “guilt-by-association” to link a legitimate Christian ministry and thousands of innocent believers with the most vile and contemptible behavior. Its false statements affect our ministry and our relationships with fellow Christians.

Following the inclusion of the Local Church and LSM in ECNR, we wrote six letters over an 11 month period to Harvest House and their authors to point out the errors of ECNR with respect to us, and to ask for an opportunity to meet with them in-person to bring about a peaceful resolution. We also left phone messages for one of the authors of the book to see if we could meet. Each and every request was either turned down or ignored. Instead of agreeing to meet together to resolve the issue in a Christian manner, the publisher responded to our first letter through their attorney. Finally, in response to a request for even more information, we submitted a 23-page letter detailing our concerns.

As we continued to communicate in good faith to bring about dialogue, Harvest House republished the book a third time without our knowledge and initiated their lawsuit in an Oregon court in which they characterized our overtures to meet as Christians as “harassing letters.” This suit was amended twice in an attempt to keep their suit in court, but was finally dismissed with prejudice by the Circuit Court of the State of Oregon.

We tried to avoid filing our claim by giving the publisher and the authors an opportunity to voluntarily extend the statute of limitations in order to work toward an equitable solution. It was during this period, while we were seeking more time for a constructive dialogue to resolve our differences, that Harvest House secretly initiated its lawsuit. Following the filing of their suit and their aggressive refusal to give timely consideration to our appeals, we were left with no other choice but to seek relief through the courts from the libelous content of their book. Shockingly, even after the lawsuit was filed, Harvest House and the authors elected to go forward with a fourth printing of ECNR, utterly disregarding our letters and the lawsuit protesting the false statements in the book.