Harvest Bible Chapel Drops Defamation Suit

I just heard via Twitter that Harvest Bible Chapel dropped their defamation lawsuit against The Elephant’s Debt bloggers and their wives, and Julie Roys. This came after a judge did not grant a restraint against the publication of material obtained via discovery. Here is HBC’s announcement from the church website.

In October of 2018, we filed a lawsuit asking a civil court to restrict the actions of those attempting to interfere in the life of our church by publicizing false and distorted information about our church, primarily related to the years 2007-2012.

On advice of counsel, we still believe their actions to be illegal. However today the court ruled, contrary to expectation and legal precedent, that it would not stay further discovery while the case is under defendants’ motions to dismiss, nor would it restrict the publicizing of that discovery during the trial process.

Recent events have made it clear that any further private content subpoenaed from third and fourth parties will likely be publicized online. Case law contains many legal precedents related to restricting these actions, yet the court ruled against our motions in both instances.* The result is that even if we filed a motion to reconsider, even if we amended the complaint to exclude private matters sensitive to some third parties, the court appears unwilling to protect our many friends, including those with whom we seek to reconcile. In good conscience we cannot knowingly subject innocent people, in many instances against their will, to a full subpoena process.

Surely the Lord could have caused the court to rule in our favor, as “the lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:33), and “the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes” (Proverbs 21:9). We receive these outcomes as God’s direction and have instructed our legal counsel to drop the suit entirely. With this decision, we can again focus our energies on continued growth in personal and organizational faults we have owned, enduring what is false, and striving to mitigate the damage such attacks bring to our church family and friends.

We remain willing to meet with the defendants for a face-to-face resolution of grievances, and we covet your prayers. 

– The Executive Committee of Elders, Harvest Bible Chapel

*At our request, a court reporter transcribed today’s proceeding, which will be available soon.

A common sense view of this situation is that the bloggers and journalist have free speech rights and the courts are keen on maintaining them. It always seemed odd to me that a church would use the courts to attempt to establish a fact pattern. If the church wants to be transparent, then simply open the books and the minutes and take questions from the press without a defensive posture.


Image: By Esther 5000 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48825134

18 thoughts on “Harvest Bible Chapel Drops Defamation Suit”

  1. As one who was put through a similar ordeal by a couple of litigious ‘church leaders’, I am thrilled to hear that HBC have discovered they are not above the law!

    1. I doubt they have learned anything other than having their dirty laundry aired in public wouldn’t go well for them.

  2. A valuable lesson for other abusive, authoritarian pastors and their enablers. Thank you for this reporting.

    1. The trouble is that lessons are only valuable when people are humble enough to learn them. And it has been my experience that abusive, authoritarian ‘pastors’ are not very teachable…

    2. it’s not really that valuable as someone said above – they have lots more money to do this kind of thing than the critics do to defend themselves against them.

  3. According to Julie Roys, James McDonald announced to his staff last week via phone that he was pulling Walk in the Word off the air and going digital. Why? Traditional media is dying, it’s too expensive, and donations and sales are down because the demographic is aged. Announced just around the time Minnesota Christian Broadcasters Inc. pulled the show.

  4. ” We receive these outcomes as God’s direction…”

    I don’t think that God was in the filing in the first place, contrary to the elders opinion; spiritualizing this lawsuit served no one.

    I hope the folk at The Elephants Debt, Julie Roys and media haven’t been crushed and discouraged.

    1. On the contrary, I think TED and Roys are probably encouraged. Roys may have more material to share.

      1. True, that. One attempted S.L.A.P.P that didn’t silence.

        The Elephants Debt responds to the dropping of the lawsuit with an open letter and are asking for public repentance. They don’t hesitate to outline what those public steps would look like.


        “But barring these public acts of contrition, please understand that your words will not be received as anything other than another cynical ploy to manage your public image.”

        Today, Julie Roys didn’t hesitate to tackle allegations in the lawsuit about her, and she states that more information will be forthcoming.

        “Also obtained through subpoena was a text from James MacDonald concerning the validity of claims that Harvest Bible Chapel knowingly misspent funds from Harvest Bible Fellowship, the church’s former church planting network that MacDonald dissolved in 2017. (I’ll be publishing more on that soon.)”

    2. One would hope (against hope) that the elders might be willing to spend some time in serious reflection and prayer considering why it took a ruling by a court for them to discern God’s direction.

    3. ” We receive these outcomes as God’s direction…”

      Did not they ask him (little h on purpose) in the beginning, what changed?

  5. “However today the court ruled…that it would not stay further discovery”

    Meaning the defendants would be able to request the Church’s internal documents and expose them to the world. Rather than having their internal operations exposed to daylight, they dropped the case to keep their internal workings in the dark.

    1. In a way I wished it would continue for this very thing. I can’t believe they did not count the cost of this before they fired the shot and/or if this action was so important they were not willing to endure the heat. I’m guessing there are things here that will never come out that would simply ruin this church for ever.

      As far as the scriptures in the elders statement… I’m not sure but I think context was not applied when used.

      Enter Ms. Streisand.

      1. The wealthy donors and business owners and CEO’s might not like getting publicly connected to a church in the midst of a scandal.

      2. The purpose was never to win. It was to punish the critics and send a message: mess with us, and we’ll hurt you.

        The critics have already had to spend money & time hiring a lawyer and going to court. Even with the case dropped, they are in the red.

Comments are closed.