Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Can I take your coat?

Matthew 5:40 says 
“And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.”
Mr Chris McGrath, who describes himself as a Christian, recently sued Amazon, Richard Dawkins, The Dawkins' Foundation and Vaughan Jones, an internet blogger. I wonder if McGrath assumed these defendants would apply the same principle? That he hoped that if you sue any man at the law to take away his coat, he would also let you have his cloak?

The case is very strange. The statements McGrath complains about seem, to me, innocuous. Even assuming the statements are incorrect, it would have been far simpler to refute them, rather than go for litigation. In addition, McGrath appears to have gone to great lengths to be offended. For example, after being called a "creationist" he attempted (unsuccessfully) to convince the Court that 'creationists' were by definition malicious liars, fascists, homophobes, anti-western and a danger to the education of children.

The disagreement started when McGrath used the Amazon customer review section for Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow's book The Grand Design, to promote his own book "The Attempted Murder of God". However, McGrath has since claimed that his book was a parody and the positive reviews he wrote himself (using various pseudonyms), were  'satirical art'.

Vaughan Jones discovered McGrath's ruse and called him on it, which led to the dispute. A dispute, which resulted in McGrath originally submitting 61 pages of claims against the defendants. Ultimately, the Court threw out all but six allegations, which have the potential to be defamatory but which may also have a good substantive defence.

To me, the most interesting aspect to this case are the allegations the Court had no problem with. In fact, the Court was happy that either McGrath had admitted or a valid defence could be provided for the following.
McGrath is an unethical, intellectually dishonest fraud who improperly sought to gain commercial advantage for himself by piggy-backing on the work of a disabled person. His company was failing financially and his conduct could fairly be described as desperate, sick and depraved.
Compared to these damning indictments the remaining allegations are trivial. Despite this, McGrath has indicated a willingness to continue with the litigation. Even if the Court found in his favour and there was no counter claim, I doubt any resulting damages would even cover his train fare home.

Personally, I would have recommended that McGrath read 1 Corinthians before embarking on any  litigation. Translation (The Message):
"And how dare you take each other to court! When you think you have been wronged, does it make any sense to go before a court that knows nothing of God's ways instead of a family of Christians? The day is coming when the world is going to stand before a jury made up of followers of Jesus. If someday you are going to rule on the world's fate, wouldn't it be a good idea to practice on some of these smaller cases? Why, we're even going to judge angels! So why not these everyday affairs? As these disagreements and wrongs surface, why would you ever entrust them to the judgement of people you don't trust in any other way?

I say this as bluntly as I can to wake you up to the stupidity of what you're doing. Is it possible that there isn't one level headed person among you who can make fair decisions when disagreements and disputes come up? I don't believe it. And here you are taking each other to court before people who don't even believe in God! How can they render justice if they don't believe in the God of justice?

These court cases are an ugly blot on your community. Wouldn't it be far better to just take it, to let yourselves be wronged and forget it? All you're doing is providing fuel for more wrong, more injustice, bringing more hurt to the people of your own spiritual family"

This link will take you to the Court Decision.

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