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California Appeals Court Rules in Favor of Word for Today


California Appeals Court Rules in Favor of Word for Today

A Must Read for All Those Who Love and Uphold Truth


On June 27, 2016, the Court of Appeal of the State of California (4th Appellate District Division 3) ruled against Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa (CCCM), Brian Brodersen, Roger Wing, Phil Twente, John Jackson, and other CCCM board members in favor of Word for Today and Janette Manderson (Chuck Smith’s daughter) regarding a counter-suit that CCCM had filed against Word for Today.[1]

According to one court document, Word for Today has been involved in a lawsuit against CCCM since 2014 in an effort to reclaim access to Chuck Smith’s “recorded sermons, writings, and other religious materials” that allegedly have been in CCCM’s possession since Chuck Smith’s death in 2013.[2] The June 27th ruling rejected CCCM’s counter-suit which had called Word for Today’s suit a frivolous lawsuit (under the anti-SLAPP statute). The court document states that Word for Today seeks “an injunction enjoining Calvary Chapel from engaging in the unfair and fraudulent business practices.”[3]


In providing an historical background, the court document states that Calvary Chapel hired Chuck Smith as its senior pastor in 1965, upon which he served for 48 years until his death. In approximately 1978, Chuck Smith and his brother, Paul Smith, founded Word for Today, which allowed for the dissemination of Chuck Smith’s sermons, broadcasts, and materials. The June 27th California court document also states:


As part of this cooperative working relationship, Pastor Chuck and Word for Today agreed to allow Calvary Chapel to have access to and use his religious materials during his lifetime. In exchange, Calvary Chapel agreed that Word for Today beneficially owned all rights and interests in Pastor Chuck’s religious materials, Word for Today would have the exclusive right to control and disseminate the materials upon Pastor Chuck’s death, and Calvary Chapel would pay Word for Today for using Pastor Chuck’s religious materials. Calvary Chapel, Word for Today, and Pastor Chuck confirmed his agreement in a signed resolution Calvary Chapel’s board of directors passed and ratified in 1998.[4]


However, according to this same document, CCCM allegedly refused Word for today access to Pastor Smith’s materials immediately following Chuck Smith’s death:


Pastor Chuck, Word for Today, and Calvary Chapel agreed in writing that Calvary Chapel could use the materials during Pastor Chuck’s lifetime, but beneficial ownership at all times remained with Word for Today and Word for Today had the exclusive right to those materials upon Pastor Chuck’s death. . . .when Pastor Chuck died, Calvary Chapel seized control of Pastor Chuck’s religious materials and Word for Today’s office, including the post office box and toll-free telephone number Word for Today had used for more than 20 years to receive donations and orders for Pastor Chuck’s materials. . . . Calvary Chapel essentially put Word for Today out of business by refusing to provide it access to Pastor Chuck’s religious materials, failing to pay for its sale and use of those materials, and holding itself out to the public as the owner of the materials.[5]


Now that the California appeals court has ruled against Brian Brodersen, Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, and other plaintiffs who were trying to have the Word for Today lawsuit thrown out, on August 29, 2016, there will be a “Remittitur issued” (meaning the case will be sent back to the courts to be retried).[6]


The trial hearings in this case are also dealing with a second issue regarding life insurance for Chuck Smith’s widow:


The operative complaint also alleges claims for elder financial abuse and constructive trust on behalf of Pastor Chuck’s wife, Catheryn Smith. These claims allege Calvary Chapel agreed to purchase a life insurance policy on Pastor Chuck’s life and name his wife as the beneficiary. Calvary allegedly did so, but then later changed the policy to designate itself as the beneficiary. Calvary Chapel’s special motion to strike also challenged these causes of action.[7]



[1] The Word for Today, Inc. v. Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa: (a court opinion freely available to the public): “These opinions are known as "unpublished," they generally cannot be cited or relied upon in other cases . . . This does not mean, however, that the contents of these opinions are protected or private information. All opinions posted on this site are public records and may be indexed by internet search engines.”


[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.


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