Sunday, May 27, 2018

Alex Malarkey, "The Boy Who Didn't Come Came Back from Heaven," is suing Tyndale House

Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?
Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?
Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?
If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.
I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?
But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers.
Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?
Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren.
I Corinthians 6:1-8

I hope this situation gets resolved before it gets to court. Neither side looks very good so far, and it's unlikely that it will end well. I wonder how long it will be before Heaven is for Real, the alleged visit to Heaven of Colton Burpo, is similarly revealed to be untrue, despite it being believed by some people who should know better. As reported by Kyle Swenson of The Washington Post, April 13, 2018 (links in original):

On Nov. 14, 2004, as 6-year-old Alex Malarkey drove home with his father Kevin in rural Ohio, a left turn nearly took his life. As Kevin turned the car it collided with another vehicle, and the boy’s skull became completely detached from his spinal cord.

But Alex did not die — and that’s the central fact behind a long-running controversy that has now led to a lawsuit.

Two months after the crash, Alex emerged from a coma as a quadriplegic. The injured boy also began telling family and friends about traveling to heaven and meeting Jesus and Satan.

In July 2010, Kevin and Alex Malarkey penned an account of the boy’s religious experience, “The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven.” The book was published by Tyndale House, a publisher of Christian books. It went on to reportedly move more than 1 million copies and spent months on the New York Times bestseller’s list. The book was part of a bumper crop of similarly geared narratives — tales of near-death experiences and brushes with the Almighty published by religious imprints.

Then it all fell apart. In January 2015, Alex, now paralyzed from the neck down, admitted he had fabricated the story.

“I did not die,” he wrote in a blog post. “I did not go to Heaven. I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention.”

The admission created a firestorm within the worlds of evangelical faith and Christian publishing. The controversy was revived this week when Alex — now 20 years old and living off Social Security — filed a lawsuit against Tyndale House in Illinois’s DuPage County, where the publisher is located. The complaint alleges Kevin Malarkey was the main actor behind the fabrication.

“Kevin Malarkey … concocted a story that, during the time Alex was in a coma, he had gone to Heaven, communicated with God the Father, Jesus, angels, and the devil, and then returned,” the complaint says. “Kevin Malarkey sold the concocted story, allegedly about Alex’s life and what Alex allegedly experienced, to one of the largest Christian publishers in the country.”

Alex has also not received any of the revenue related to his story, the lawsuit alleges.

When reached for comment, a Tyndale House representative told The Washington Post the publisher had just learned of the lawsuit on Tuesday and planned to release a response on Wednesday.

After the publication of “The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven,” behind the scenes of the tremendous success, Alex’s distaste for the project was building. According to a 2015 report by the Guardian, Alex’s mother Beth had begun posting on a personal blog (now taken down) about inaccuracies in the book since at least 2011. The paper also cited emails showing the family had also told the publisher.

“Alex’s name and identity are being used against his wishes. … How can this be going on???” Beth wrote in April 2014 blog, The Washington Post reported at the time. “Great question. … How did it get this far? … another great question.”

Following Alex’s blog post recanting his story, Tyndale House decided to “take the book and related ancillary products out of print,” a company spokesman told the Post.

“For the past couple of years we have known that Beth Malarkey, Kevin’s wife and Alex’s mother, was unhappy with the book and believed it contained inaccuracies,” another Tyndale representative told The Post. “On more than one occasion we asked for a meeting with Kevin, Beth, Alex and their agent to discuss and correct any inaccuracies, but Beth would not agree to such a meeting.”

According to his new lawsuit against the company, the legal action is a way of finally settling the matter.

“Now that he is an adult, Alex desires to have his name completely disassociated from the book and seeks a permanent injunction against Tyndale House requiring it to do everything within reason to disassociate his name from the book,” the complaint states. “Alex is not affiliated with the book. Alex is not connected to the book. Alex wants and has no association with the book.”

The lawsuit reaffirms that Alex’s holy sojourn was fantasy. “The portrayal of Alex’s near-death experience contained in the book is entirely false, because Alex remembers absolutely nothing from the time he was in a coma. The core of the story is entirely false.”

But the complaint also alleges Tyndale House has not cooperated with Alex as he tries to solve the complicated legacy behind the book. Only Kevin Malarkey signed a publishing agreement for the book. This January, Alex’s attorneys wrote to Tyndale House asking for an “accounting of all revenue earned from, all expenses associated with, and all disbursements made in association with the publication of and sale of the book.”

The publisher, however, only agreed to do so if Alex agreed the publishing agreement was “in effect and binding,” the lawsuit says.

“Alex has never been permitted to read the contract, nor to review any accountings provided under the contract, he refuses to acknowledge that the contract ‘is in effect and binding,’ now that he has reached the age of majority,” the suit states.

Alex is suing the publisher on the grounds of defamation, financial exploitation, and publicity placing a person in a false light, among others.

“Despite the fact that Tyndale House has made millions of dollars off Alex’s identity and an alleged autobiographical story of his life, Tyndale House paid Alex, a paralyzed young man, nothing,” the lawsuit states.

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