Evangelical Christian  
Publishers Association  

Statement from Living Stream Ministry and the Local Churches

 

Concerning the Decision by the U.S. Supreme Court Not to Review Our Case

ANAHEIM, CA, June 20 - The United States Supreme Court has elected not to grant review of a Texas Court of Appeals decision in the libel case filed by Living Stream Ministry and the local churches v. Harvest House Publishers and the authors of the Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions (ECNR). This brings to an end a legal struggle that began December 14, 2001, when Harvest House Publishers initiated legal action against one of the local churches. The churches and Living Stream Ministry (LSM) responded by filing a suit for libel. The Harvest House suit was dismissed in district court in 2002, while the local churches and LSM's lawsuit continued forward in Texas. There, on three separate occasions two district court judges denied the defendants' attempts to have our case thrown out. However, before the case was ever tried before a jury, the Court of Appeals in Texas overturned the decisions of the lower court, declaring the case was a "religious" dispute, despite ECNR's allegations of secular crimes. The Appeals Court ruled, in essence, that if one party accuses another party with allegations of criminal behavior - but does it in a "religious" context - it cannot be found liable for the damages it caused. This ruling undermines a fundamental protection of the Constitution and has already been criticized by a federal district court in Wisconsin.


Since reviews at the US Supreme Court level are discretionary, their decision to deny review should not be considered as an endorsement of the prior Appeals Court ruling. Neither should it be viewed as a rejection of the central theme of our lawsuit. In fact, there is no court ruling at any level that has substantiated or validated even one word published in ECNR concerning Living Stream Ministry or the local churches. On the contrary, the evidence in the case, including several admissions under oath by the authors of the ECNR, demonstrate that there has never been any factual basis for any of the false, and defaming statements that were the real basis of the lawsuit.


In the past several years, many qualified Christian researchers and theologians have carefully investigated our teachings, practice, and history and have expressed their belief in both our Christian orthodoxy and practice. Among these are Fuller Theological Seminary, Christian Research Institute, Answers in Action, and The Institute for the Study of American Religion.


Many constitutional scholars and religious experts share our concern that the Texas Court of Appeals' decision sets a dangerous precedent and has wrongly precluded a full airing of the real facts at the heart of this litigation. The detrimental effects will not likely be limited to our churches and believers in this country, but may be especially troublesome for those in countries that can be hostile toward the faith-where innocent Christians may suffer as a direct result of this ruling. Even beyond the damage resulting to our ministry, if religious authors and publishers have free reign to use criminal accusations to attack ministries and churches, simply because they disagree with them doctrinally, then all minority Christian groups are in jeopardy.


Living Stream Ministry and the local churches it serves remain committed to the biblical truths represented in our publications and to the oneness of the Body of Christ. We will continue to seek genuine Christian fellowship with a broad spectrum of believers eager to know the truth in love.

FOR INFORMATION CONTACT:

Chris Wilde with Living Stream Ministry
chris@lsm.org (714) 226-1720

Colley Joseph for the local churches
colleyjoseph@gmail.com (405) 833-3233
Main office number: (972) 267-1111