HAR­VEST BI­BLE CHAPEL SAYS IT’S DROP­PING DEFAMA­TION SUIT

Chicago Sun-Times (Sunday) - - TOP NEWS: SUBURBAN BEAT -

Har­vest Bi­ble Chapel

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said it’s drop­ping its defama­tion law­suit against three crit­ics af­ter a Cook County judge Mon­day ruled against the church’s re­quest to keep some doc­u­ments pri­vate.

The church an­nounced the move on its web­site, har­vest­biblechapel.org.

The mes­sage, as­cribed to the Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee of El­ders, said the judge’s de­ci­sion was un­ex­pected. The church had asked in De­cem­ber for dis­cov­ery to be stayed un­til the judge ruled on the de­fen­dants’ mo­tions to dis­miss the case, be­cause the de­fen­dants were pub­lish­ing some of the ma­te­ri­als their lawyers had re­ceived.

Al­ter­na­tively, it asked the court to or­der the ma­te­ri­als be kept tem­po­rar­ily from pub­lic view.

“Re­cent events have made it clear that any fur­ther pri­vate con­tent sub­poe­naed from third and fourth par­ties will likely be pub­li­cized on­line,” the el­ders posted.

“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.”

Har­vest sued Julie Roys of Carol Stream, Ryan and Melinda Ma­honey of Wheaton, and Scott and Sarah Bryant of Geneva in Oc­to­ber. Ryan Ma­honey and Scott Bryant write TheEle­phantsDebt.com web­site, and Roys is a free­lance writer on Chris­tian­ity, a blog­ger and a for­mer ra­dio show host.

Melinda Ma­honey and Sarah Bryant were in­cluded be­cause, the suit said, they pro­vided com­put­ers and in­ter­net ser­vice to The Ele­phant’s Debt.

The suit ac­cused The Ele­phant’s Debt of con­duct­ing an “on­go­ing cam­paign of ha­rass­ment” and pub­lish­ing defam­a­tory state­ments that painted Mac­Don­ald in a false light. It said the pub­li­ca­tion con­sti­tuted com­mer­cial dis­par­age­ment, in­ter­fer­ing in the busi­ness of the church — namely, per­suad­ing peo­ple to be­come faith­ful Chris­tians.

The Ele­phant’s Debt has crit­i­cized the church’s found­ing pas­tor, se­nior pas­tor James S. Mac­Don­ald; his treat­ment of em­ploy­ees and el­ders; its fi­nances; and its re­la­tion­ship with Har­vest Bi­ble Fel­low­ship, an or­ga­ni­za­tion of churches it had founded world­wide. The Ma­honeys and Bryants are for­mer mem­bers. Mac­Don­ald founded the Har­vest Bi­ble in Rolling Mead­ows in 1988.

Mon­day night, Scott Bryant said he was not sur­prised by the rul­ing, “mostly be­cause it (the re­quest) is pre-emp­tive. It is hard to shut down free speech,” He sus­pected Har­vest would quickly drop the suit.

“I am in no way sur­prised at the re­sults,” Ryan Ma­honey said.

—Susan Sarkauskas

DAILY HER­ALD FILE PHOTO, 2015

Last year, Har­vest Bi­ble Chapel sued for­mer mem­bers who crit­i­cized the Rolling Mead­ows-based church.

DAILY HER­ALD FILE PHOTO

The Greene Farm barn near Naperville

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