Theresa Harvard Johnson

SINOFSPIRITUALPLAGIARISMExcerpt From "The Sin of Spiritual Plagiarism"
Copyright 2013 Theresa Harvard Johnson

(Because this is a serious topic among the congregation, this book has been offered as a free resource. You may download it or read it online here.)

The idea here is to fully establish a foundation of what plagiarism looks like in the natural, so that we can build a strong spiritual understanding around it. Our thesis is simple: “Thou shalt not steal.” (KJV Bible)

Let’s take a look at some additional examples of what plagiarism might look like by exploring some real life, extremely public cases:

  • JAYSON BLAIR: One of the most infamous cases of plagiarism over the past decade is the story of a former New York Times reporter by the name of Jayson Blair. He was proven to have plagiarized more than 30 national news stories by inventing fictional quotes and stealing quotes from other news articles or news magazines. Not only did Blair resign, but two editors within the company resigned as well. While this case was indeed an embarrassment for all parties involved, the reputation or “good name” of this man was critically tarnished regardless of the skill and writing ability that landed him the position in the first place. Just putting his name search engines brings up topic after topic on what is being coined the “plagiarism dilemma” (Dan Barry, et al. 2013).
  • STEPHEN GLASS: Another infamous journalist by the name of Stephen Glass is now best known for plagiarizing sources and entire events during his time as a journalist for The New Republic, a renowned liberal magazine (Leung 2009). In the article written by Leung, Glass admitted that he lied for esteem  (Leung 2009) and that his entire life as a journalist was consumed in those lies.

  • KAAVYA VISWANATHAN: Former Harvard University student, Kaavya Viswanathan, was caught plagiarizing book content when her first published novel, “How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life,” made it to a top spot on the New York Times bestseller list (Smith and Rich 2006). It was discovered that portions of the book were copied from a fellow student. Ultimately, the novel was cancelled, the publishing company withdrew their $500,000 publishing contract and faced embarrassed, and Ms. Viswanathan found herself in the midst of a torrential scandal that she is currently being remembered for whenever and wherever plagiarism in academic circles are mentioned.

  • REV. ALVIN O’NEAL: In 2003, Rev. Alvin O’Neal Jackson, a Manhattan, New York pastor, was caught by a member of his congregation plagiarizing the sermons of a fellow minister verbatim Sunday after Sunday (Luo 2006). In an article written by Michael Luo and published in the New York Times, O’Neal went as far as to emphasize the parts of the sermons and add the “uhs and ahas” in the exact same places as the original pastor. His actions left the church he pastored in great turmoil and he ultimately resigned. Some years later, this pastor re-emerges to discuss how this bad decision affected his life. He shared his regret and talked about how God has given him a second chance. This blessed me because this is what SHOULD happen when godly repentance is present.

  • DR. DANNY LOVETT: Dr. Danny Lovett, president of Tennessee Temple University, resigned in 2011 after admitting to plagiarizing pages in a book he wrote (Trevizo 2011). Lovett, who is also a pastor, ended up in a legal situation as a result of his actions. When this book was printed, that situation was still tied up legally.

  • REV. E. GLENN WAGNER: Rev. E. Glenn Wagner, senior pastor of Charlotte's Calvary Church in North Carolina and former minister-at-large with Promise Keepers, confessed to stealing parts of his sermons from other preachers and resigned in 2004 (Chicago Tribune, 2004). Wagner, who oversaw a $39 million complex and a congregation of 3,000 blamed his actions on a battle with depression (Chicago Tribune, 2004).

Each of these instances, and more, can be freely researched online for more insight and information. Some of them dig into the impact these incidents had on the lives and/or business endeavors of all parties involved; and the effects that they are having on the discussion of plagiarism. 

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