Academic publisher suspends publication of ‘too Christian’ encyclopedia

CNA STAFF, Feb 12, 2009 / 03:37 am (CNA).- The scholarly publisher Blackwell is being accused of censorship for suspending the publication of the “too Christian” Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization and seeking to destroy existing copies pending a full revision of the text. The encyclopedia’s Editor-in-Chief is filing two lawsuits against the company to require the encyclopedia be published without removing its “Christian content, tone and character.”

George Thomas Kurian, Editor-in-Chief of the Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization (ECC), has circulated a letter protesting Blackwell’s actions, which he calls a “looming crisis” in the publication of the work.

According to Kurian, the ECC was completed in 2008 a year ahead of schedule and in four volumes instead of the original three.

“It was edited, copyedited, fact checked, proofread and finally approved by Blackwell’s editorial team,” he wrote, saying the completed work was launched at the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature where it received “high praise.”

Kurian said the EEC was “lauded and praised” by Miami University Prof. Edwin Yamauchi and Notre Dame Prof. Mark Noll.


According to Kurian, they did so “just because there are a dozen references to which they do not subscribe and which ran counter to their philosophy and agenda.”

Kurian said that Carpenter and Harkin want to delete words or passages such as “Antichrist,” “Beloved Disciple,” “Virgin Birth,” “Resurrection,” “Evangelism,” the chronological markers BC/AD, and any reference with an “evangelical tone” or a tone citing the “uniqueness of Christ and Christianity.”

He further claimed that the two objected to historical references to the persecution and massacres of Christians by Muslims, also asking for references favorable to Islam and material denigrating Christianity.

“All these I have refused to do,” Kurian said.

His letter announced a class action suit against Wiley-Blackwell will be filed on behalf of the ECC’s nearly 400 contributors. If successful, the suit will require Wiley-Blackwell to publish the book “as originally approved and printed, without change and without censorship of its Christian content, tone and character.”

Susan Spilka of Blackwell’s parent company John Wiley & Sons, Inc. responded to Kurian’s allegations in a statement, claiming that concern about the content of the ECC had been raised in November 2008 prior to publication. Blackwell stated that the review was prompted by concern for its “leading reputation as a publisher of high quality scholarly content.”
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