By Bob Allen
The former head of Liberty University’s seminary, demoted in 2010 after publicity over a “Jihad to Jesus” testimony that he used with evangelical audiences after 9/11, has sued two bloggers for posting video of him making claims about his personal life later revealed to be untrue.
Ergun Caner, now provost and vice president of academic affairs at Arlington Baptist College, in Arlington, Texas, filed a lawsuit June 18 in U.S. District Court North Texas District in Fort Worth claiming copyright infringement for reproducing, uploading and maintaining his videos without permission.
The complaint filed by Bartonville, Texas, attorney David Gibbs cites Jonathan Autry of Lynchburg, Va., who posted 34 videos of Caner on his YouTube account. YouTube removed the videos after Caner filed a takedown notice pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Signed into law by President Clinton in 1998, the act made certain technical amendments to U.S. law to provide appropriate references and links to U.S. treaties. It also added two new prohibitions in Title 17 of the U.S. Code, one on circumvention of technological measures used by copyright owners to protect their works.
The complaint also names Jason Smathers, pastor of Golden Shores Baptist Church in Topock, Ariz., a small Southern Baptist congregation founded in 1974. Smathers posted two videos on his blog, Witnesses Unto Me, that showed Caner training Marines about Islamic culture in 2005.
Caner claims ownership of the videos, which he says are part of a series he titled, “Top Ten Things You Need to Know About Islam” that he delivered at the military’s invitation and for which he was paid as an independent contractor.
Caner claims both defendants “willfully and purposefully infringed” on his copyright claims and tried to circumvent his ownership claim by reposting video after it was blocked or pointing viewers to access on another site.
Caner petitioned U.S. District Judge Terry Means to assert his ownership of the videos and to prohibit Autry and Smathers from unauthorized reproduction or broadcasting of any of Caner’s copyrighted works. He also seeks compensation for legal expenses.
The disputed videos were among a number of blog and media reports alleging inconsistencies, exaggeration and fabrication in Caner’s talks and writings claiming he was trained as a terrorist while growing up overseas, and that he intended to carry out a terrorist attack on the United States before his conversion to Christianity at age 18.
Contradictory legal documents indicated that in reality Caner grew up in an Ohio suburb where his family moved when he was 2, and was raised by a Lutheran mother after she and his Muslim father divorced.
After an investigation, Liberty Seminary found Caner guilty of making “factual statements that are self-contradictory.” While not disputing the claim that Caner is a former Muslim, the investigation found “discrepancies related to matters such as dates, names and places of residence” in his writings and speeches.