Brown to Coppedge, 94-03-12


Saturday, March 12, 1994


David Coppedge
19635 Green Mountain Drive
Newhall, CA 91321
                                                                                      March 12, 1994
Dear David,
You will see in my letter of December 23, 1993 to Steve Austin and Henry Morris why you are
receiving this letter. They chose you from a list I proposed of six people in the Los Angeles area
whom I believed we all knew and respected. We are asking you to select a person to make a ruling
on a major disagreement described in the enclosed letters. If you cannot do this, then it will be my
turn to ask someone else from that list to select the judge.
The choice of judge is yours alone to make. We are not asking you to make a ruling yourself. I
would hope the person you select is a mature Christian who has had no dealings with me or ICR,
and who will doggedly seek the truth in this controversy. The judge needs to be a strong person
who will check details and statements and finally make a ruling on the facts. Hopefully the judge will
have such "a track record." Perhaps he or she would be willing to largely volunteer their time.
Morris and Austin may not want to subject themselves to the charges I am making, and therefore
may not respond to the judge's questions and requests as I hereby commit to do. If so, I (not CSC)
will pay for all of the judge's expenses, up to $1000. Enclosed are two personal checks for $250 and
$750. You can immediately endorse $250 over to the judge you select so the process can begin. If
Morris and Austin decide to participate fully, then they should jointly send you like amounts and you
should again give $250 to the judge "up front." After the ruling, the judge can access costs to the
three of us in a manner he or she feels is fair. Some of us will get a refund. Other than handling the
money, David, your involvement ends with the selection of a judge.
Of course, you may show candidates any or all of this letter. It is probably best that they not see the
enclosed correspondence until they agree to rule on the matter. Matthew 18:15-17 explains why the
ruling is necessary. The ruling will be a relatively quick and easy end to this long ordeal.
The Charges
My first charge is that Steve Austin has made false and damaging statements, saying that I took
some of his material on the Grand Canyon. Dr. and Mrs. Doug Block personally heard Austin say
this after a presentation he gave Sunday evening, November 3, 1990 at The People's Church in
Beloit, Wisconsin. Others were standing around listening to an obviously angry Austin. The Blocks
live at 2301 Harlem Crest Road, Rockford, Illinois, 61111. Their phone number is (815) 877-1574. I
have no idea how often Austin has made similar accusations or how often others have repeated
them. I have heard such stories from others, but the sources either did not hear the statements
directly from Austin or they were not willing to tell others what they heard. When I privately asked
Austin about this by phone, he denied ever making such statements. Furthermore, he said he never
felt that I had taken anything of his. (This is significant, since Austin might have forgotten what he
said, but he probably would not forget how he felt.) Austin repeated some of this in his letter of June
21, 1993. I believe anyone who reads the enclosed correspondence will see why the statements I
am alleging have serious consequences beyond me personally, and why I can no longer ignore
these false accusations as I did for several years.
The second charge I am making is that in the Institute for Creation Research Grand Canyon Field
Study Tour Guidebooks for 1989 and 1990, Austin has plagiarized—from (a) me, (b) Ed Holroyd, and
(c) many other researchers. Austin may try to contest (a) and (b). However I believe that if the
judge asks him directly, Austin will admit that he and ICR took copyrighted material from Grand
Canyon researchers, incorporated that material (including art work) into these books without the
author's permission, copyrighted that material as belonging to ICR, and then ICR received money for
a trip including this book. Austin admitted this to me on the phone. If he denies this copyright
infringement to the judge, then I will take the time to go through the reams of material on the Grand
Canyon in my library and document specific cases. I will also go into his other writings, one of which
he said last summer he would send me but has not.
I also believe that he will now admit making the false accusations to the Blocks. Again, he has
admitted as much in a recent phone call on February 16, 1994. Asking Austin these questions may
simplify matters considerably and allow us to focus on charges 2a and 2b.
There is a third charge. Henry Morris has steadfastly denied that plagiarism has occurred within ICR.
His attempts to "sweep it under the rug," misstate the problem, or minimize it are obvious. I had
hoped he would "root the problem out," sensitize his people to its seriousness since it is stealing,
and then resolve that it not happen again. This would strengthen ICR and the creation movement.
These things do unfortunately happen, and I have never intended to publicly chastise anyone
because of it. I simply wanted them to admit the mistakes and take reasonable steps to prevent it
from recurring. I have always been able to accept a sincere admission of error, forget the matter,
and then "press ahead." In my military career, this happened frequently.
In Morris' last letter to me, he reversed himself again on how he would handle this third charge that
Harold Slusher, in Age of the Cosmos, plagiarized. On July 9, 1993, three weeks after first seeing
the evidence and denying that Slusher had plagiarized, he wrote to me that ICR would remove
Slusher's book from its inventory. Two months later I bought the book from ICR by phone, thereby
learning that Morris had not done what said he would. In Morris' last letter (January 20, 1994), he
reverts back to his first position, claiming that Slusher published
    "a standard derivation. Almost certainly, the author you felt compelled to defend [Stacey] got
    it from somewhere else himself. All textbooks do this sort of thing, as far as standard
    derivations are concerned. Surely you know this."
I therefore want to lay this matter in front of the Christian judge. Does Slusher's book contain
plagiarized material? I think this plagiarism would be obvious to any high school student. Slusher
took almost all of the exact words in sequence (not just equations or derivations) from two pages in
Stacey's book published eleven years earlier in Australia. Morris needs to hear this from someone
he has agreed can rule on our controversy. The judge can easily resolve this by examining the two
writings. If Morris honestly thinks the derivation is standard, then he should produce a third author's
work showing such startling similarity.
Let me take this opportunity to correct several other misstatements Morris made on this subject in
one paragraph of his last letter.
    a. Morris wrote me on June 22, 1993 that "We have never planned to reprint any of them
       [Slusher's books, that would include Age of the Cosmos]." Therefore, Morris misstated
       matters when he wrote me, "Merely to placate you, however, I agreed that we would not
       reprint or promote the book any more . . . ." Besides this misstatement, the phrase "Merely to
       placate you" sounds a bit emotional.
  b. ICR could ethically reprint the book if it wished, but it should remove the plagiarized section.
      It could also write Stacey, apologize, and place a brief errata sheet in each copy sold. Simple.
   c. I tried unsuccessfully to reach Slusher last July. However, the burden for answering the
      charge falls on ICR, since I presume ICR derives all income from the book.
   d. No, all textbooks don't "do this sort of thing," and honest writers certainly don't.
   e. Morris' claim that I, "felt compelled to defend" Stacey is silly. Stacey is not under attack.
What is the judge to do?
The judge only needs to tell us in a brief letter whether the charges are correct and whether any
misrepresentations have been made by Austin, Morris, or me. For charge two, there will be three
answers. Therefore, the judge might conclude on these three charges: (1) yes, (2) yes, no, yes, and
(3) yes. This can be done anyway he or she thinks best. No lengthy justification of the ruling is
necessary. The judge will not access penalties other than costs to pay for expenses up to $1000.
Nor should the judge be concerned with remedies, rules of evidence, jurisdiction, appeals, or
attempts at reconciliation. (Reconciliation would be desirable after the facts are thoroughly
established and the rulings made.) Matthew 18:15-17 governs, and Austin, Morris, and I have
agreed that the judge is acting as the church's representative to decide this matter. As you can see
from those verses, it is not required that Austin and Morris participate and cooperate. However, I
sincerely hope they do.
To help you and the judge visualize the process, David, here are some possible ways for the judge
to proceed. Read (and reread) the enclosed correspondence between Austin, Morris, and me. The
issues will become clearer with each reading. Compile a list of questions to ask us and others by
letter or phone. Ask us for all relevant material. One key question whose early answer will help me
know what additional information to present is, With which of the five charges or subcharges do
Austin and Morris agree? The judge can seek help from anyone—in our presence or not. Austin or I
could probably answer any geological question the judge had, and Morris or I could probably
answer other technical questions—all without too much disagreement. Decide whether the three of
us and the judge should meet for face-to-face questioning. If so, state when and where. Notify us
by letter how the judge wishes to proceed.
Arbitration vs. a Judgment
I have delayed writing to you, David, for several reasons. The Los Angeles earthquake occurred on
January 17, 1994. I knew from your phone call to me (after Austin had called you) that you and your
home were hit hard by the quake. It might take many weeks before you could take on the task of
finding a judge. I also needed several weeks to decide how we could properly resolve this messy
matter. Let me review.
On August 19, 1993, I suggested that Morris, Austin, and I put our disagreement in the hands of a
neutral Christian arbitrator so we could get a quick and quiet decision. They ignored this suggestion
for several months, so I notified them that I would begin showing the file of our correspondence to a
few people who had asked me related questions or who had a "need-to-know."
Further delays occurred, because Morris and Austin proposed arbitrators who were obviously not
neutral. First, was Emmett Williams with whom ICR has had many dealings—many more than I.
Then on November 24, 1993, Austin proposed lawyer Stephen E. Hurst. Morris and Austin did not
tell me that Hurst has been on ICR's mailing list for years, was a close friend of a lawyer who was
employed by ICR for many years, and once legally represented ICR. Why then did Morris write on
December 30, 1993, ". . . the last arbitrator I suggested, Steven Hurst, was a person not known by
either Steve or me, but one who was recommended to us . . ."? While this may be technically true, it
is certainly misleading and raises ethical issues. (I appreciate Hurst's honesty by initiating a phone
call to me on February 16, 1994 and declaring his connections with ICR.) Of course, it would be
inappropriate for Williams or Hurst to serve as a judge even though they had the highest of
intentions and integrity.
Then Morris and Austin said they would go to arbitration if charges 2b and 2c were dropped and my
other charges were reworded slightly. Since we were talking in terms of arbitration, I can see how
they mistakenly felt they had some say in what the arbitrator was to decide. I should have been
clearer when I suggested arbitration. Matthew 18, however, does not give them that option; it clearly
says that I am to bring the charges to the church. Since Morris, Austin, and I have now agreed how
we can decide who will act for the church, our disagreement can be quickly resolved. Morris' letter
of January 20, 1994 now shows that he was never willing to go to arbitration (which by definition is
binding), even though he said he was. The remedy I was seeking was a simple apology and
corrective steps. Morris wrote, "Even if an arbitrator should decide in your favor, we still could not do
this, because it [an apology] would not be the truth."
Why We Need a Clear, Well-Studied Ruling
Most people who have commented on our file of correspondence, have concurred with my actions.
However, a few have told me that they think ICR has learned a lesson, so I should "back off" before
the evolutionist community learns of this. Although I have many pressing projects and do not enjoy
bringing these problems to Morris' and Austin's attention, there are important reasons why I must.
    1. Christ told us to. He was quite specific on how we should respond to perceived sin among
       brothers. The unpleasantness of the task or the hope that "a lesson has been learned" was
       not a factor in His instructions. I explained in my letter of December 23, 1993 why the Body of
       Christ needs this feedback system and why its absence produces disease—what I call
       "Christian leprosy." Books could be written about wrongs, observed but ignored by Christians,
       that have grown to staggering proportions. Speaking of books, the Bible would be much
       thinner if its Author had removed all unseemly behavior by believers so that nonbelievers
       would not learn of it.
    2. I should be made to prove my case. Raising charges is a serious matter, and anyone who
       does should know that false charges will likely be exposed. If this does not happen with
       enough frequency (in any community), false accusations will become rampant. The 85 words
       in Matthew handles this contingency beautifully. Morris and Austin should want to test my
       case in a quiet, closed-door setting before a neutral Christian judge.
    3. Plagiarism (or even the failure to be diligent in attribution) within the relatively small creationist
       community is more serious than most people realize. This is especially true when the person
       or organization stealing the ideas has a vastly greater means for disseminating them. Those
       who are aware of the thefts become more guarded in the free exchange of their ideas or
       research projects. I have often been asked questions whose answers would involve
       explaining some unusual and important research. Before answering, I have wondered
       whether I should be candid, knowing that ICR might hear of it, claim it as their own, and then
       publicize it so widely that I would have to be quiet about it.
       Worse yet is the situation where one is answering research related questions before many
       people. Not one in a thousand in the audience would suspect that a Christian organization
       might steal ideas or do a poor job of attributing them. The speaker only has a second or two
       to decide how to respond. He has a responsibility to inform the public. However, the open
       exchange of research ideas and discoveries before they are published is risky, because one
       unsuspecting person in your audience might talk to someone who later decides he thought of
       it. If you are candid, you might wonder for years whether a plagiarizer got hold of it. When
       you do not open up, you often come across as secretive, noncommunicative, or not abreast of
     the subject. Dealing with classified material in the military was much less difficult. Plagiarism
      within the creationist camp stifles the fruitful exchange of ideas among us.
   4. Morris' last letter made it clear how ICR intends to describe our disagreement in the future,
      perhaps for decades. "[Brown] has rejected our last--and final--offer of arbitration." Brown is
      unusually sensitive and makes vague, baseless, false, and slanderous accusations that are
      harmful ICR and "the cause of Christ." Brown's motives are "at least perplexing." Morris may
      believe he will get away with this because he has the biggest "bullhorn." Reputations that
      others tarnish are hard to restore, especially in my work—most especially when the tarnisher
      has a wider audience. If the judge makes a clear and complete ruling can we forestall
      (a) further escalation and (b) the confusion that time and fuzzy memories will bring. I am
      very optimistic.
David, I hope you will convey to the judge why resolving this disagreement is important. At its roots,
this is a case of sloppy attribution procedures followed by attempts to defend ICR by all means.
However, the damage has spread, so it is not a minor issue as Morris and Austin have frequently
claimed. Nor am I "out to get ICR" as Austin told you in his phone call. I want ICR to be as
successful as possible, and have continuously promoted ICR, their work, and their books.
Thank you for taking the time to consider this. It is sad that this problem has arisen, especially when
there is so much on which Morris, Austin, and I agree. I have often wondered how much more could
have been accomplished if trust and open communications had existed these last 14 years. It is
quite likely that with your help, David, healing may occur. But first, we need five yes-no decisions. I
hope you can find a qualified judge.
Walter T. Brown, Jr.
cc: Henry Morris and Steve Austin
   Brown to Austin; June 18, 1993
   Austin to Brown; June 21, 1993
   Morris to Brown; June 22, 1993
   Brown's report to Austin and Morris; July 6, 1993 (amended, November 9, 1993)
   Morris to Brown; July 9, 1993
   Austin to Brown; dated July 11, 1993 but delivered August 16, 1993
   Brown to Austin; August 19, 1993
   Morris to Brown; September 9, 1993
   Brown to Austin (Austin/Brown Exchange); September 20, 1993 (amended, November 9, 1993)
   Brown to Morris; September 21, 1993
   Morris to Brown; October 5, 1993
   Brown to Morris; October 12, 1993
   Morris to Brown; November 3, 1993
   Brown to Morris; November 10, 1993
   Austin to Brown; November 24, 1993
   Brown to Austin and Morris; December 23, 1993
   Morris to Brown; December 30, 1993
   Brown to Morris; January 14, 1994
   Morris to Brown; January 20, 1994
   Two checks from Walt Brown to David Coppedge for $250 and $750