Baptist Briefs

Baptist Briefs: Caner suit dismissed

Judge dismisses Caner suit against blogger. A federal judge has dismissed a Georgia Baptist college president’s lawsuit against a blogger who posted video to support allegations that a famous “Jihad to Jesus” testimony is bogus. A U.S. district judge in Fort Worth ruled Jason Smathers, a Southern Baptist pastor in Arizona who blogs at Witnesses Unto Me, was entitled to post government videos he obtained through the jason smathersJason SmathersFreedom of Information Act under the “fair use” doctrine of copyright law. Ergun Caner, president of Brewton-Parker College in Mount Vernon, Ga., filed a lawsuit last summer claiming ownership of two videos Smathers posted of Caner speaking as an expert on Islamic culture in training for U.S. Marines preparing to deploy in 2005. U.S. District Judge Terry Means ruled Caner failed to make a case and Smathers used the material fairly, as copyright law permits, for “purposes such as criticism, comment, (or) news reporting.” The judge determined Smathers’ sole purpose “was to expose the inconsistencies in Dr. Caner’s biography and criticize a public figure.” If the unauthorized reproduction of his lectures caused Caner any financial loss, he continued, it was the result of “legitimate criticism” of his words. Smathers reposted video he obtained in 2010 of Caner telling Marines he came to the United States at age 14 from Turkey and learned everything he knew about America from watching Andy Griffith, Chicago Cubs baseball and championship wrestling on TV. Smathers posted legal documents indicating Caner was in fact born in Sweden, came to America when he was about 3 or 4, and grew up as a normal teenager in a suburb near Columbus, Ohio.

Merger plans collapse for struggling Virginia college. Plans for Virginia Intermont College to merge with a large Florida university have collapsed, leaving the struggling Baptist-affiliated school “financially distressed,” its president said. Earlier this year, the Bristol, Va., college said it had initiated discussions to merge in July with Webber International University, based in Babson Park, Fla. virginia intermont logo200But Virginia Intermont President Clorisa Phillips announced April 15 the two schools “have reached the joint and difficult conclusion that we do not have a viable model for merger.” Within hours of the announcement, the college’s faculty overwhelmingly voted to declare no confidence in Phillips, the Bristol Herald Courier reported. Since then, the school has launched a “teach out plan,” a legally recognized agreement to allow students to complete their academic programs, typically by transferring to other schools. Administrators also announced they will shut down all sports teams. The college’s primary accrediting agency already had placed it on probation because of financial instability, but the agency agreed to leave the school’s accreditation in place until July 1, which will allow students to complete the current semester and a summer session, which concludes June 27. Virginia Intermont has struggled with financial viability since at least 2007. Last fall, the school reported 378 students, a 35 percent enrollment decline since 2010.

CBF to name new global missions coordinator. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship will introduce its new coordinator of global missions during an April 30 news conference. Jim Smith has served as interim coordinator of global missions since Rob Nash left CBF for Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology to be professor of missions and world religions and associate dean. Nash led CBF global missions from 2006 until June 2012. Linda Jones, missions coordinator for CBF of North Carolina, chairs a 12-member search committee formed in October to help select the new global missions coordinator.

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