Nashville - Evangelist Jimmy Swaggart and his publisher are accused in a lawsuit of stealing a deceased minister's writings and passing them off as his work.
The heirs of the Rev. Finis Jennings Dake and Dake Publishing Inc. also are suing Jimmy Swaggart Ministries, other Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based religious groups associated with Swaggart, and Wolgemuth & Hyatt Publishers Inc. of Brentwood, Tennessee. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Nashville, accuses the defendants of copyright infringement and plagiarism.
The lawsuit says Swaggart took large portions of Dake's works and published them as his own. In some instances, Swaggart acknowledged Dake's authorship but didn't seek a license to use the passages, the suit contends. Dake wrote a series of books and treatises for more than five decades beginning in the 1930s, including an annotated Bible and "God's Plan for Man.''
The lawsuit, filed May 29, says Swaggart and his publisher had "wrongfully taken and used plaintiff's proprietary works for their own benefit and profit.'' Dake Publishing, based in the Atlanta suburb of Lawrenceville, Georgia, seeks damages, an order to stop the alleged infringement, and a share of profits Swaggart made from the writings.
Officials with Jimmy Swaggart Ministries couldn't immediately be reached for comment. The lawsuit includes a copy of what it says is an October 1998 letter Swaggart wrote to a Dake publishing official that said, "My appreciation for the work and ministry of Dr. Dake knows no bounds.''
"I believe that he made some of the greatest contributions to the work of God, and especially, as it concerns the 20th century,'' Swaggart wrote, according to the lawsuit.
More than 2 million copies of Dake's writings have been published, said Dake Publishing lawyer Harry Ray. Dake was born in 1902 and died in 1987, according to the publishing company's Web site. "He is well-known, particularly among other ministers in the evangelical field, such as Jimmy Swaggart,'' Ray said.