Ergun Caner

Ergun Caner Loses 'Fair Use' Lawsuit In Failed Attempt To Silence Critics

Ergun Caner has lost his lawsuit against a blogger who criticized the Religious Right figure as a fraud, with a federal judge ruling last week that Caner’s case had no merit.

After the September 11 attacks, Caner built a career around his purported conversion from Islamic extremism to Christianity, but his testimony was later exposed as fictitious. Not only did he completely fabricate details about his background — including facts about his birthplace, upbringing, and his family — but he also spoke gibberish during his speeches, which he claimed was Arabic.

Caner led Liberty University’s theological seminary at the time but the university cut ties with him following the revelations and he now heads Brewton-Parker College, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

A federal judge dismissed Caner’s lawsuit, a thinly veiled attempt to shut down criticism, against blogger Jason Smathers, as the Associated Baptist Press reports today:

Ergun Caner, president of Brewton-Parker College in Mount Vernon, Ga., filed a lawsuit last summer claiming ownership of two videos that 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, however, said Caner failed to make a case and that Smathers used the material fairly, as copyright law permits, for “purposes such as criticism, comment, [or] news reporting.”

“His sole purpose was to expose the inconsistencies in Dr. Caner’s biography and criticize a public figure,” the judge determined. If the unauthorized reproduction of his lectures caused Caner any financial loss, he continued, it was the result of “legitimate criticism” of his words.

The misuse of video “takedown notices” — the same method employed by another Religious Right activist who tried to shut down Right Wing Watch’s YouTube page — was one of the focuses of the trial. As the judge notes in his ruling [PDF], the blogger’s actions are protected as fair use.

In 2013, Dr. Caner filed a “takedown notice” with Viddler.com, claiming that the videos were posted without authorization and in violation of his copyright. Smathers challenged the removal of the videos, which ultimately resulted in the present lawsuit by Dr. Caner, alleging copyright infringement in violation of 17 U.S.C. §§ 106,506.



Smathers claims that he posted he videos featuring Dr. Caner as a religiously based criticism of a public figure and, thus, his posting constituted fair use.

The Court notes that Dr. Caner has apparently conceded this issue since he has offered no argument in his response with respect to Smathers’s assertion of fair use.



Dr. Caner’s concession notwithstanding, the facts of this case support the application of fair use.

The affirmative defense of fair use is codified at 17 U.S.C. § 107 and provides that “the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies . . . , for purposes such as criticism, comment, [or] news reporting . . . , is not an infringement of copyright.”



All of Dr. Caner’s claims of copyright infringement against Smathers are hereby DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

Disgraced Former Liberty Dean Ergun Caner Gets New Job, Seeks To Silence Critics

If you were the trustee of a troubled college fighting to keep its accreditation, would you hire as your new president someone who was forced out of a previous academic post for lying about his past? That’s what the trustees of Brewton-Parker College in Georgia have just done; the college announced this week that it has hired Ergun Caner to be its new president. 

Caner is the former dean of the seminary at Liberty University who was removed from that job in 2010 when the school could no longer ignore the evidence that the Jihadi-to-Jesus life story Caner had been peddling since the 9/11 attacks turned out to be a pack of lies. (Caner said, for example, that he was raised in Turkey and trained as an America-hating jihadist; in reality he was born in Sweden and moved to the U.S. as a very young child.)

It’s not as if the Brewton-Parker trustees were unaware of Caner’s controversial past. A press release from the college quoted an unnamed trustee saying, “We didn't consider Dr. Caner in spite of the attacks; we elected him because of them. He has endured relentless and pagan attacks like a warrior. We need a warrior as our next president.”

The mind reels. Caner’s most relentless critics are not “pagan” but born-again evangelicals who take great offense at Caner’s lying to fellow Christians from church pulpits. It’s hard to see how Caner’s hiring is evidence, as outgoing president Mike Simoneux claims, of the school’s “decision to honor Jesus Christ in every area.”

In fact, the timing of the announcement is a bit awkward for Caner and the college, because it comes just days after the filing of a detailed motion in a legal suit being brought by Caner against some of his critics.

Let’s backtrack just a bit. The most devastating weapon in the arsenal of Caner’s critics has been Caner’s own demonstrably dishonest words, captured in this digital age for everyone to see. Caner, who has taken a bullying, blustering approach to his critics, set out this summer to purge the online evidence of his lying.  In May this year, he had 34 videos that critics had posted online taken down from YouTube by filing copyright claims under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. (Sound familiar?) In June, he filed a lawsuit  against Jonathan Autry and Jason Smathers, claiming they had “willfully and purposefully infringed” on his copyright.

Among Caner’s claims is that Smathers and Autry (operating separately) violated his copyright by posting video of speeches Caner gave to U.S. Marines in 2005 training sessions. They had obtained video of the speeches by filing Freedom of Information Act requests with the Marine Corps. Then they posted the videos online so that others could see and hear Caner’s claims firsthand and judge whether they were taking his remarks out of context. The videos showed Caner misrepresenting his past in order to bolster his credentials as an expert on Islamic terrorism.

It’s easy to understand why Caner would like to cleanse the public record of his lying to Marines. But a description of the case on Smathers’ website makes it sound like Caner wants to go beyond silencing his critics to punishing or destroying them. Smathers writes that even though Autry took down Caner’s videos, and offered to sign a non-disparagement agreement, he faced escalating demands that he could not afford to meet. Says Autry, “Dr. Caner has continued with the lawsuit for apparently no reason other than to seek attorney fees that I cannot afford to pay.” In a sworn statement, Autry says Caner demanded that Autry’s wife and three young children also sign non-disparagement agreements, and that Caner threatened to bankrupt him by following up his copyright suit with a defamation claim.

Just before Thanksgiving, attorneys for Smathers and Autry filed a motion to dismiss the charges; their filing is worth reading. It provides documentation of Caner’s duplicity as well as a sense of the flimsiness of his legal claims. The attorneys conclude that “Dr. Caner’s motive is simply to lock the videos away so that no one can expose his dishonesty.” Among the assertions in the motion:

  • Caner made his speeches to the Marines as a government contractor; therefore the government, and not Caner, owns the lectures.
  • It is a longstanding principal of Freedom of Information Act law that “a release to one is a release to all.”  Since the USMC released the video of Caner’s speech, it is available to every member of the public.
  • Caner’s copyright claims are bogus because he has not shown that he has copyright to the videos in question. The videos were posted online in 2010; he now claims that his applications are pending.

The attorneys also note, “It is a crime to falsely represent the truth on a copyright application.”

Caner has also gone after another persistent critic, James White of Alpha & Omega Ministries. When Caner was at Arlington Baptist College, White says, the school tried to get a local church to cancel a presentation White gave about Caner’s “many fraudulent claims,” and charged White with criminal trespass when a former student distributed flyers on campus about his upcoming speech. (White wasn’t even in the state at the time; the charges were dropped.) White is basically begging Caner to sue him, saying he would love to depose Caner, his colleagues, and his family about the claims he made repeatedly over the years.

Brewton-Parker’s trustees are not the only people willing to overlook Caner’s dishonesty. Arlington Baptist College made Caner provost after his demotion at Liberty. And in May this year Caner was invited to address the Family Research Council’s “Watchmen on the Wall” conference for pastors.

White seems personally offended by Caner’s behavior, saying it is a sin for Caner to sue Christian pastors to “suppress the truth about his own lies.” Autry is also personally troubled by Caner’s behavior; he says he attended college and seminary at Liberty while Caner was the seminary’s dean.

But the trustees at Brewton-Parker College see something else in Caner. Trustee Bucky Kennedy said in the school's press release that Caner’s “character and love for God are admirable and inspirational.”

It makes one wonder what Brewton-Parker teaches its students about the definition of “character.”

Ergun Caner Trying to Cleanse His Online Record

Ergun Caner was once the high-profile head of Liberty University’s seminary but was demoted in 2010 after bloggers and journalists poked holes in the dramatic Jihadi-to-Jesus life story Caner had peddled after 9-11. Arabic-speaking bloggers charged that he was actually speaking gibberish when lapsing into “Arabic.” In 2011 he left Liberty to become provost at Arlington Baptist College. And, as RWW reported earlier this year, he was invited to address the Family Research Council’s 2013 “Watchmen on the Walls” conference for pastors, a sign perhaps that he’d like to rebuild his public presence in the Religious Right.

Part of Caner’s rebuilding strategy seems to be cleansing the Internet of evidence that was used to reveal discrepancies between his actual life and the public persona he had created.  According to Associated Baptist Press (ABP), Caner filed a federal lawsuit earlier this month suing Jonathan Autry and Jason Smathers, who had posted videos produced by Caner and claiming they violated his copyright.

Writes ABP’s Bob Allen:

The disputed videos were among a number of blog and media reports alleging inconsistencies, exaggeration and fabrication in Caner’s talks and writings claiming he was trained as a terrorist while growing up overseas, and that he intended to carry out a terrorist attack on the United States before his conversion to Christianity at age 18.

Contradictory legal documents indicated that in reality Caner grew up in an Ohio suburb where his family moved when he was 2, and was raised by a Lutheran mother after she and his Muslim father divorced.

Allen reports that Caner is asking the judge to forbid Autry and Smathers from posting any of his copyrighted videos, and is also seeking legal fees.

Ted Cruz, Archbishop Lori Will Address FRC's 'Watchmen' Pastors

The Family Research Council’s Watchmen on the Wall conference is an annual gathering for pastors and other church leaders to hear from a panoply of right-wing speakers and get motivated to “transform America.” Our coverage of last year’s event highlights speakers’ attacks on evolution, secularism, Islam, LGBT people, and other tools of Satan.

This year’s conference, which takes place in Washington DC May 22-24, has been promoted by FRC for months.  In April, FRC sent an excited alert that Sen. Ted Cruz, a Tea Party and Religious Right favorite who is reportedly mulling a 2016 presidential bid, had confirmed.

Based on other confirmed speakers, it seems likely that there will be two major themes to this year’s gathering: 1) religious liberty in America is under attack by Obama and his gay allies; and 2) only the church – led by uncompromising fired up pastors – can save freedom and America.

A notable addition to the cast of conservative evangelicals is William Lori, Archbishop of the Diocese of Baltimore and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. Lori has led the bishops’ attack on the Obama administration’s proposed regulations requiring insurance coverage of contraception.  Lori, who believes that “aggressive secularity” is “becoming the established ‘religion’ in our country today,” will be right at home with his friends at the Family Research Council. A typical FRC Action mailing from Tony Perkins earlier this year said President Obama is out to “crush freedom.” The same letter warns about “death panels” under Obamacare, which Perkins calls “the tip of the tyranny-iceberg.”

Also entertaining the Watchmen will be Rep. James Lankford, who earlier this year blamed gun violence on “welfare moms” overmedicating their kids with psychiatric drugs because they “want to get additional benefits.”  At FRC’s Values Voter Summit in September, Lankford said of the dispute over contraception coverage, “this is not a war on women, this is a war on people of faith.” 

Also confirmed is Ergun Caner, who lost his position at Liberty University after Muslim and Christian bloggers, and then journalists, began to expose the falsehoods in the Jihadi-to-Jesus life story that Caner had used to make a name for himself in the post-9/11 evangelical universe. Caner will probably echo his remarks at the 2009 Values Voter Summit, where his message to Christians who were not being outspoken enough on the issues of the day: “You need to preach, teach, and reach, or just shut up and get out of our way.”

Anti-gay activist Harry Jackson is quick to invoke Satan and other demonic powers as the forces behind the gay rights movement, which he portrays as an enemy of religious freedom. He has charged that a “radical” gay element is trying to “close down every church in America.” In fact, one of his columns was titled,” Why do Gays Hate Religious Freedom?”  Jackson’s apocalyptic anti-Obama rhetoric did not convince many Black Christians to vote against Obama, but Jackson thinks they’ll be sorry. God, he says, will “take out” those who chose “race over grace.” Jackson is a long-time FRC ally; he and Perkins co-authored Personal Faith, Public Policy, which calls Supreme Court rulings on church-state issues “assaults” on Christianity.

Jim Garlow, a California pastor who led church backing for Prop 8 in California and was then tapped by Newt Gingrich to run one of his political groups, had warned before the election that an Obama reelection would destroy the country.  During an FRC post-election special Garlow said that Christians should expect massive persecution from the government.  At last year’s Watchmen on the Wall conference, Garlow spoke at a press conference attacking President Obama’s use of religious language to describe his support for marriage equality. Evoking the words of a colonial preacher, Garlow said, “if necessary, here we die.” In an FRC DVD promoting Watchmen on the Wall, Garlow says an FRC-produced video was crucial to the Prop 8 win.

Richard Land is retiring in October after 25 years as head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty commission; he was dogged by controversy during the past year over plagiarism charges and racially inflammatory remarks he made regarding the Trayvon Martin killing.  Land has charged that the only reason the Obama administration proposed regulations on contraception coverage was to "set the precedent of ramming this down our throats and forcing us to surrender our First amendment freedom of religion." Land says God will unleash judgment on America for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

Watchmen will also hear from Jacob Aranza, whose 1983 book Backward Masking Unmasked warned that rock music was encoded with satanic messages that would entice teens into drug use and abnormal sexual behavior. Aranza says he burned “hundreds of thousands” of albums in those days. More recently, Aranza was an endorser of Rick Perry’s “Awakening” and participated in Religious Right strategy sessions convened by James Robison to try to prevent Obama’s re-election. In 2011, Aranza and Perkins appeared together on Robison’s television show, and Aranza gushed about Perkin’s work to mobilize pastors:

Tony Perkins is one of the great heroes in America today. He is a hero because it is unseen. He is uniting and equipping the most important people in America, and that's the pastors in America. If the local church is the hope of the world then pastors are the hope of the local church. Tony Perkins exists to encourage them and to equip them and to empower them. He's taking regular pastors -- the average church in America, James, as you know is less than 200 people; 80% of the churches in America are 200 or less -- and he is taking men like that and he is turning them into absolute heroes, just like pastors in Maine who are literally changing the moral fiber of an entire state because he has equipped them and empowered them and told them they're the people that are supposed to be the hedge of builders, and he is encouraging them to do just that.…I believe that as you speak you are literally trumpeting a sound that is encouraging pastors across America and families across America that are Christians to unite together to see God once again bring spiritual awakening to our nation.

JC Church is one of FRC’s pastor leaders “networking churches in Ohio to answer the call on moral issues.”  His 3 Cord Alliance, which is affiliated with FRC, teaches pastors “how to bring sound scripturally based influence and change to your community.” Church has been praised by Phil Burress of Citizens for Community Values: “I believe that if all the pastors in Ohio were like Pastor Church, we would have an army that Satan could not stop. He understands that America is led by the pulpit and we count on him to unite fellow pastors and their congregations to be the salt and light we so desperately need in the world today.”

Jack Hibbs is a California-based preacher who also pushed Prop 8; in 2011 he helped lead an unsuccessful effort to overturn the state’s SB 48, which he charged would lead to public schools indoctrinating students.  In a video urging pastors to get involved, he said it is not enough to teach and preach the word of God, pastors needed to be “culture changers for Christ.” Leading into the 2012 election Hibbs was outspoken about the fact that Christians should vote for Romney over Obama. In a radio show the day after the 2012 elections, He says he was on the phone with Tony Perkins on election night and they had both believed that the outcome was up to the church: “The answer wouldn’t be determined in the White House or the statehouse….the answer for righteousness or unrighteousness, for light or for darkness, for liberty or tyranny, would be decided by the pastors.” Given the way things turned out, Hibbs says “I believe the responsibility, the outcome, and the fallout falls into the hands of the pulpits of America’s pastors who did not speak up….” Hibbs also echoes Mitt Romney’s infamous “47 percent” remarks: “those who are looking for handouts, they don’t want to work, they want the government to give things to them, overwhelmingly voted for Barack Obama.” Hibbs said he was disappointed but not discouraged, because “God’s on the throne” and therefore “God has appointed him to be our president for God’s purposes – OK that means God has got some pretty gnarly purposes coming for America.”

There’s a special role at the conference for FRC’s executive vice president, retired Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin.  Boykin retired from the military after being reprimanded by then-President Bush for making speeches depicting the war on terrorism as a Christian holy war against Islam. FRC hired Boykin last year after he was disinvited from speaking at West Point after faculty and cadets objected.  Boykin and his Religious Right allies portrayed his mythical martyrdom as an attack on freedom of speech and religion. At last year’s Values Voter Summit, Boykin invoked Marx, Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler in denouncing what he said is an effort to move Americans away from belief in a sovereign God.  He says everything President Obama is doing is right out of the” Communist Manifesto.”

Perkins seems to be counting on Boykin to strong-arm pastors at the conference into making a concrete commitment to political activism. In an insert in a packet mailed to pastors, Perkins says Boykin will offer the “concluding challenge” – and he insists that pastors book their flights home no earlier than 4pm so that they can stay.  “During the Briefing, we will share details of the strategic plan the Lord is using to bring revival and renewal in communities around the nation through the engagement of pastors. At the end, we have a ‘call to decision’ or ‘invitation’ sort of like many of you do in a worship service. Just as you want those attending your worship service to stay and respond, we would respectfully ask the same of you.” Perkins has some leverage – FRC picks up most of the tab for one pastor from each church.

FRC launched Watchmen on the Wall in 2004. A 2010 promotional DVD said the group was up to 14,000 pastors; it said Perkins’ goal was to have 40,000 Watchmen pastors by 2015. Pastors who sign up get access to regular briefings, model sermons, and other toolkits for mobilizing their congregations and communities.  The same promotional video contains a clip of “historian” David Barton quoting 19th Century preacher Charles Finney saying, in effect, that if the country is going to hell, it’s pastors’ fault.  The notion that America can only be saved by more aggressive preachers is a recurring theme at Religious Right gatherings, including Liberty Counsel’s recent Awakening conference.

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