By Bob Allen
A Christian blogger has reportedly filed an ethics complaint against a lawyer for claiming ownership of online video he says was obtained legally from the federal government.
Jason Smathers, who began the Witnesses Unto Me blog in the Spring of 2009, posted a series of blogs in 2010 questioning claims by popular evangelical speaker Ergun Caner that he grew up overseas and was trained to be an Islamic terrorist before accepting Christ at age 18.
Smathers tracked down legal documents showing that Caner, author of books including Unveiling Islam who told the conversion story in numerous venues including the Southern Baptist Convention, emigrated to the United States with his family at age 2 and grew up in Ohio in custody of his Lutheran mother after his parents’ divorce.
One blog included video of Caner conducting two training sessions on cultural issues for United States Marines in New River, N.C., before they were deployed in 2005. The commanding officer introduced Caner as being born in Istanbul, Turkey.
“I knew nothing about America until I came here when I was 14 years old,” Caner said. “Everything I knew about American culture I learned through American television.” He went on to explain misconceptions of America learned from watching the “Andy Griffith Show,” “The Dukes of Hazzard,” professional wrestling and Chicago Cubs baseball.
While on the one hand longing to be an American, Caner advised: “We are taught from birth, you are the infidel. You are sons of Satan.”
“My madrassa (Muslim school) in Istanbul, Turkey; my madrassa in Cairo, Egypt, there’s no question of what the doctrine of jihad was,” he continued. “It is only when we come to America and hear westernized Islam we hear that ‘Oh, Islam means peace.’”
“I was sworn to jihad,” Caner told the Marines. “At the age of 9 until I was 18 years old and I became a believer in Jesus Christ, I was sworn to jihad. I followed the protocols. I knew the three waves. I understood what you do before you take the death plunge, as we call it. I understand why the guys were in the bars with the hookers the night before the bombing of 9/11, because, ‘Eat drink and be merry; tomorrow we are forgiven.’”
Through a Texas attorney claiming infringement of U.S. copyright laws, Caner claims ownership of the videos in a June 3 letter to Viddler, Inc., the online media company in Bethlehem, Pa., that hosts them.
“Dr. Caner is the exclusive owner of the copyrights in and to the text, artwork, logos, videos and photographs of his public speeches and presentations,” claimed Bartonville, Texas, attorney David Gibbs. “Dr. Caner has not granted permission — nor has he authorized anyone — to post any video or any part of any video in any Viddler presentation. Any unauthorized use of this material infringes upon the exclusive right of the owner, Dr. Caner.”
Smathers said he obtained the video from the Marines and that any attorney practicing in copyright law would know that his client does not own U.S. government work. He accused the lawyer of abusing the law in an attempt to erase past lies, and said he had filed a grievance with the Texas State Bar Association.
Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary removed Caner as dean in 2010, citing “factual statements that are self-contradictory” after an investigation “found discrepancies related to matters such as dates, names and places of residence” in his writings and speeches.
In 2011 Caner became provost and vice president of academic affairs at Arlington Baptist College, a Texas school aligned with the World Baptist Fellowship.
In February, Caner was invited to speak at First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., the same pulpit where he preached a 2001 sermon that launched him to prominence in which he claimed to be “trained to do that which was done on 11 September” but that “Jesus strapped a cross on his back so I wouldn’t have to strap a bomb on my back.”
Caner recently defended himself against criticism on social media with tweets proclaiming: “I will NOT repent for their false accusations, nor sins I did not commit,” and “No need to prove anything. Certainly not u. Again, 3 schools looked at it all. Finding? Exonerated.”
Court documents copied and posted online by Witnesses Unto Me indicate that Caner’s parents were married in Sweden and had lived in Ohio six years by the time Caner was 8. A 1978 divorce decree awarded custody of their three minor children to the mother and visitation rights to the father.
A court order left religious training up to each parent at the times the children were in their control so the offspring might “be better able to make their own choices in the future when they are of sufficient age to make such decisions for themselves.”
In a 1989 will, Caner’s father named two children from a subsequent marriage as beneficiaries and bequeathed Caner and his two brothers each “one copy of the Quran, an Islamic holy book.”