- Hank Hanegraaf Lawsuit Against Christian Apologist Thrown Out Of Court
- CRI legal bill for failed lawsuit: quarter of a million dollars
Hanegraaff, the controversial president of the Christian Research Institute, had sued in response to a March, 2005 editorial Alnor posted in his online magazine, The Christian Sentinel, regarding a regarding a fundraising appeal by Hanegraaf.
Bill Alnor has released the following commentary:
April 9, 2007 Statement from William M. Alnor, Ph.D. concerning Hank Hanegraaff and the Christian Research Institute v. William Alnor. (Defamation Action):
The text of the recent ruling concerning my victory in Hank Hanegraaff and the Christian Research Institute v. William Alnor has now been placed on line by the nonprofit organization the California Anti-SLAPP Project. It is available at:
Besides the obvious fact that Hanegraaff, the so called “Bible Answer Man,” and the Christian Research Institute violated clear scriptural admonition against a Christian taking another believer to law (see I Cor. 6), the California Appeals Court has asserted that the Christian Research Institute broke the law in filing the meritless law suit, which was obviously designed to attempt to shut me up or to try to financially sink me.
For background on the case please see my article at http://www.cultlink.com/news/CRIfraud.htm
See also the Religion News Blog piece at http://www.religionnewsblog.com/17614/hank-hanegraaff-bill-alnor
In addition, as my attorneys have pointed out in court filings, on ^six different occasions^ postal authorities asserted that Hanegraaff/CRI were under investigation for the infamous “the Post Office lost our mail” fundraising appeal. An independent investigator also filed a declaration on my behalf giving the name of a postal mail fraud investigator who requested additional information on the case to establish the fact that in addition to Hanegraaff placing the unusual appeal on the Internet, he also physically mailed it out using the U.S. Postal System.
CRI did get a statement from a postal official ^well after my story broke^ that they did not have records at their location of an investigation, but as the court aptly pointed out in the ruling, that letter only referred to the location CRI wrote to –- which was not even in the same Southern California physical jurisdiction where postal authorities were hard at work, trying to unravel the problems with Hanegraaff’s fund raising letter and alleged missing mail. Was this done on purpose to try to deflect my story and later articles in the Los Angeles Times, Orange Country Register and Associated Press? Time will tell.
What law was broken? The Court ruled that Hanegraaff/CRI violated California’s anti-SLAPP legislation that was passed to protect free speech in light of large corporations trying to silence critics by filing frivolous law suits against them. These types of unethical legal actions have increasingly become tools by unscrupulous companies loaded with a lot more money than their critics. These suits are called Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP). Because of the rise in these types of suits, states throughout the U.S. have been passing laws against them due to the chilling effect they had against the First Amendment right of free speech. California’s bipartisan anti-SLAPP legislation was passed in the early 1990s by the state legislature.
Others have noted over the years that if one takes issue with the goings on at CRI under Hanegraaff’s leadership, CRI has attempted to discredit and punish that person – even when that person has correctly blown the whistle. In a case involving former CRI researcher Brad Sparks vs. CRI in the early 1990s, CRI tax documents revealed that CRI had spent almost one half million dollars in attorneys fees and private detectives in trying to bring down Sparks. Eventually CRI paid Sparks a $20,000 settlement in the case. This has also been the case with various others in the past, as was reported by “Ministry Watch.” See:
The article notes:
“Jen Hubbard is not the first employee of Christian Research Institute (CRI) to blow the whistle on suspected wrongdoing. Nor is she the first to lose her job after launching allegations of skullduggery and shenanigans on the Christian discernment ministry for which she worked. She is just one of six of (of a staff of about 50) CRI employees that have been fired or resigned in the past year or so regarding questions about the financial practices of CRI president Hank Hanegraaff and the CRI board’s management of Hanegraaff, according to Christianity Today magazine.
Additionally, over the past several years, employees Brad Sparks, Craig Nelson, Jerry Kissler, Mark Hoover, Craig Hawkins, Michael Buesing, Perry Robinson, Dennis Green, Anthony Horpel and Rob Bowman are just some of the CRI workers that were fired or forced to resign after they allegedly raised questions about the ethical conduct of Hanegraaff, according to news reports.”
See also the “donor alert” issued against CRI that suggests that people consider not giving any money to CRI. It is found at http://www.ministrywatch.com/mw2.1/pdf/MWDA_CRI_Feb04.pdf
Therefore, CRI has been ordered to pay all of my legal bills, which will soon be submitted to Hanegraaff in the near future (and publicized). Thus, some of the offering money given to CRI by unwitting donors will wind up going to the American Civil Liberties Union and the Ross, Dixon and Bell firm who took my case pro bono. I am thankful in particular to Peter Eliasberg of the ACLU, and to Kevin Kieffer (who argued the case) and Becki Kieffer, and also to Jenece Solomon all from the Ross, Dixon and Bell firm. I am thankful to officials at the Pacific Justice Institute and the Christian Legal Society (evangelical Christian legal societies) who advised me behind the scenes with the case and helped open the doors to get the ACLU to accept it. They were prohibited from taking my case in light of the I Cor. 6 admonition against Christians suing other Christians.
Also, the Los Angeles Daily Journal did an article on the case that has recently been placed on line. This is the official newspaper of the Los Angeles Superior Court and the United States Southern District Court. It is here.
There will be much more news coming in the future through various forums concerning the case and its implications. I will also be releasing a more complete statement in the near future about the case, which will be publicized in various forums.
I am also thankful for the consistent support from the Christian Community and my fellow apologists over the case. As a professor of media law, I never had doubt for a minute that I would prevail in the case quite simply because my story was accurate in the first place and I could prove it.
In light of this case, persistent ethical problems (including financial controversies and plagiarism) surrounding CRI/Hanegraaff, along with CRI’s recent support of the Local Church (See Anton Hein’s article “CRI’s Hank Hanegraaff Supports a Cult of Christianity” http://www.apologeticsindex.org/375-hank-hanegraaff-support-the-local-church), I believe it is time for there to be a total public boycott of the ministry of CRI, which could include all Christian leaders and writers who support Hanegraaff, the Bible Answer Man Broadcast and the Christian Research Journal, including its contributing writers. Please write me if you stand with me in this effort and want to assist.
For more information on other controversies CRI/Hanegraaff has been involved with see:
William M. Alnor, Ph.D.
Publisher The Christian Sentinel (www.cultlink.com) Assistant Professor/Director of Journalism California State University, East Bay Hayward, California http://class.csueastbay.edu/communication/William_Alnor.php
RDB partner Kevin Kieffer and associates Becki Kieffer and Jenece Solomon obtained a significant victory for a pro bono client and a published opinion in the California Court of Appeal on California’s Anti-SLAPP statute.
As co-counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union, RDB represented William Alnor, a journalist who runs a “watchdog” Web site reporting on the fundraising and spending practices of various religious organizations. After reporting on what he believed to be the questionable fundraising practices of a large, national religious organization, Alnor was sued by the organization and its president for defamation.
On behalf of Mr. Alnor, RDB filed an Anti-SLAPP motion – a special motion to strike available to those sued for, among other things, exercising their right to free speech. The Court of Appeal reversed an earlier decision and directed the trial court to enter an order granting the motion and dismissing the case.
To read the opinion, click here.