Sunday, November 19, 2006

Pastors who plagiarize with pride?

Over a year ago, IPBiz had a post on homily aids and issues of pastor plagiarism. On November 18, the Naples Daily News (republishing from the Wall Street Journal) quoted The Rev. Brian Moon:

"Truth is truth, there's no sense reinventing the wheel. If you got something that's a good product, why go out and beat your head against the wall and try to come up with it yourself?"

IPBiz asks: what if this were applied to the contents of patents?

The article continues:

These days, a lot of preachers would agree. The sermon — an oration traditionally expressing the thoughts of the cleric doing the talking — has entered the age of reruns. Topics and transcripts are available on sites like,,, and In the old days, when a preacher wanted to pinch a sermon, he had to consult a book, a magazine or a sermon anthology.

On the pro-plagiarism side: The plagiarism debate grew louder in recent months after a sermon site posted an essay by the Rev. Steve Sjogren titled, "Don't be original, be effective!" Sjogren urged pastors to quit spending time striving for originality and instead, to recite the words of better sermonizers.

IPBiz notes that the slogan "Don't be original, be effective!" is hauntingly familiar to the slogan "Plagiarize with pride," which appeared in the Harvard Business Review in 2004. The whole idea that copyists who effectively market ideas should be rewarded underlies much of the thinking of Jaffe and Lerner, who presented their ideas both in the Harvard Business Review and in a later book by Princeton University Press.

On the other side, Thomas G. Long, a preaching professor at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta is quoted: "To play easy with the truth, to be deceptive about where the ideas come from, is a lie."

The issue of attribution comes up, reminding one of statements made during the George Shultz plagiarism flap at Stanford:

Ministers don't agree about the necessity of attribution. Mark Evans, senior pastor at the Church at Rock Creek in Little Rock, Ark., says he routinely credits "Purpose Driven Life" author Rick Warren from the pulpit. Warren says that's unnecessary. "They are preaching a sermon, not footnoting a term paper," Warren writes in an e-mail.

IPBiz notes that the students at Ohio University didn't think it was necessary to footnote previously-done, well-understood material in their theses, which was merely background to the "sermons" they were delivering. Ohio University has decided otherwise.

[The text in the Naples newspaper came from Suzanne Sataline of The Wall Street Journal.]


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