Karen Swallow Prior Calls Out “Egregious Plagiarism” in Tim Clinton’s New Book

Recently, psychology professor Aaron New wrote yet again about what he called plagiarism in a new book by American Association of Christian Counselors owner Tim Clinton and writer Max Davis. He showed that Clinton and Davis lifted sizable verbatim portions of books by George Foreman without placing them in quotes or indenting them to show that they came directly from the other books. In fact, they wove the exact quotes in with their own prose to make it appear they wrote all of the material. In the sections in question, there were quotes from the original books by Foreman that did have citations but they were included in such a way as to make it appear that the only material cited was a quote from the original. In fact, copious material was directly lifted from the original works.

Dr. New published his findings in a series of tweets which I reproduce here:

I showed these tweets, along with the new book’s endnotes, to Karen Swallow Prior, Research Professor of English and Christianity & Culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and asked if she thought this was plagiarism. Her response is in full below:

In 2018 when the rampant and repeated instances of plagiarism by Tim Clinton were covered by Inside Higher Ed, I emailed Tim about it through his website. Because Tim was a fellow faculty member at Liberty University and is a brother in Christ, I thought it was important to reach out to him directly. I never heard back. When Tim later spoke at my church, I communicated my concerns to one of my pastors.

I am disappointed and grieved to see yet another instance of blatant plagiarism in this new book [Take It Back: Reclaiming Biblical Manhood for the Sake of Marriage, Family, and Culture]. The examples of plagiarism I’ve seen in it are so egregious that if they were committed by a student, I would give that student a failing grade for the class. Christians must do and demand better, especially Christian leaders.

The Inside Higher Ed article was published in 2018 and involved similar issues uncovered by Aaron New.

I contacted the publicist and Max Davis but have not received any answer.

Today, Religion News Service published an article about plagiarism among pastors. I wait to see if anyone takes that seriously. I continue to wait to see if anyone in Christian publishing takes any of this seriously. I know academics like Prior, New and me do, but professional Christians apparently do not. Instead, if any questions are asked beyond this blog post, the Christian celebrity culture response will be to trot out a public relations humanoid with excuses and wait for the forgetting to set in.

Tim Clinton’s Co-Author: I Always Check My Sources

Defending himself against charges of academic misconduct last week, American Association of Christian Counselors president and Trump advisor Tim Clinton blamed a former employee for lifting material from other sources for use in articles which carried Clinton’s byline. Even though AACC’s code of ethics discourages ghostwriters, Clinton blamed an employee who functioned in that manner for material in his articles which came from other sources.

One online article by Clinton, “Press On,” (cached)* which contained plagiarized material was first published in the book Ignite Your Faith by Clinton and Max Davis. Because I wanted to find out how the copied content got into “Press On,” I contacted Davis for comment (I also contacted Clinton with no response).

When I contacted Davis, he said he did not have any part in writing the devotional “Press On.” He added that he always checks his sources and “never once in all my years as a writer has this happened” referring to copied content ending up in one of his books.

He also wanted me to know that he was not the fired AACC employee blamed by Clinton for academic misconduct to the Christian Post.

*The same article with the title “Strive to Excel” was once posted on Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk website. It is archived here.


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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)

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)