Tim Clinton: Who You Gonna Blame? Ghostwriters!

On Wednesday, I documented that 59% of a 2005 column with American Association of Christian Counselors president Tim Clinton’s byline in Christian Counseling Today came from op-eds by Chuck Colson and Pete DuPont. When asked by the Christian Post about the matter, Clinton through his spokesman Jimmy Queen again blamed a former employee for lifting the material.

For the president of the AACC, this defense seems like a leap out of the frying pan into the fire. Blaming the ghostwriter lets Clinton maintain his “zero tolerance for plagiarism” but creates another conflict with his own code of ethics. Enter AACC code of ethics 1-880-c:

1-880-c: Avoiding Ghost Writers
Christian counselors shall resist use of ghostwriters, where the name of a prominent leader-author is attached to work substantially or wholly written by someone else. Authors give due authorship credit to anyone who has substantially contributed to the published text. Order of authorship should typically reflect the level of substantive contribution to a work.

Nearly 60% of Clinton’s column came from material we now know he did not write himself. He may have rearranged a few sentences but most of it was taken verbatim from op-eds Chuck Colson and Pete DuPont. Thus, even if Clinton didn’t know where that material came from, he knew it didn’t come from him. Mr. Plagiarizing Ghostwriter should have gotten first author credit if the AACC code of ethics is a guide.

Other Problems with the Defense

Clinton’s column, “Judicial Tyranny and the Loss of Self-Government” contains personal elements clearly intended to communicate that he is speaking in the first person. He begins with a personal anecdote involving his children. He wrote, “I don’t often write about political matters” leading the reader to believe that the words to come are his words about political matters.

In the middle of the two borrowed sections of text, he or someone inserts a connecting paragraph. Then at the end, it is Clinton writing again about a CounselAlert sent out in April 2005 on the issue of voting rules for judicial appointments. Only Clinton knows what he knew. However, if the situation is actually about ghostwriting, then I wonder what happens now?

The issue of ghostwriting came up in a big way for evangelicals during the demise of Mars Hill Church when Mark Driscoll’s “content management system” came into public view. No doubt many big name Christian authors use them. However, the AACC took a stand and said Christian counselors don’t do it. Now we learn that apparently at least one of them does and has done so for years.

What now?

Check a side-by-side comparison of Clinton’s “Judicial Tyranny and the Loss of Self-Government” and the op-eds by Colson and DuPont.

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(In the image, Tim Clinton is above Donald Trump’s head, to the right of V.P. Pence, Image: Johnnie Moore’s Twitter feed)