Progress of Local Church et al v. Harvest House et al

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.

1. Facts about the Pending Litigation
2. Scriptural Basis for Appealing to the Courts
3. Relevant Documents:

4. Questions and Answers about the Litigation
5. Plaintiffs’ Background:

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:

Progress in the Texas Supreme Court

February 9, 2007 Amicus Brief Supporting Motion for Rehearing – Rodney A. Smolla
December 18, 2006 Motion for Rehearing – Texas Supreme Court
December 12, 2006 Statement on the Texas Supreme Court’s Decision
November 30, 2006 The Texas Supreme Court declined to review the case.
October 27, 2006 Reply to Response to Petition for Review Submitted
October 13, 2006 Response to Petition for Review Filed
September 13, 2006 Court Requests Response to Petition for Review
August 2, 2006 Petition for Review supported by five amicus briefs:

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.

For information about the unsolicited, anonymous e-mail message distributed through the Internet in 2003 concerning the Local Church et al v. Harvest House et al litigation, click here.