SPCK Libel Threats Update

Unity at Ministry of Truth has an absolutely masterful post on the British SPCK bookshops saga (I blogged this here), covering a number of questions about the American owners’ business practices, their legal threats against various bloggers (most recently a vicar in Essex), and – very usefully – providing a lot of information about libel law in the USA.

J Mark Brewer, who runs the organisation that owns the bookshops (and who is now seeking bankruptcy proceedings in Houston), believes he and his company should be immune from criticism because both are private: in fact, as Unity points out, Brewer is a subject of public controversy and so in US eyes is a “limited purpose public figure”. This is just one feature of US libel law that we could do with in the UK, where people who choose to involve themselves in public affairs can all too often suppress critical discussion and discourage investigation by waving lawyers around (and if you have a lawyer as a friend or ideological comrade, you don’t need to be rich to do it).

Meanwhile, the Chester Chronicle reports on some upcoming industrial tribunals:

SHOPWORKERS’ union Usdaw is taking four cases to an employment tribunal after staff were fired by e-mail from a Christian bookshop in Chester.

…Chester is just one of several branches affected after the trading arm of Christian charity St Stephen the Great (SSG) was “placed into reorganisation” in the United States Bankruptcy Court.

A new company, ENC Management Company, has been set up to run the bookshops run by Mark and Phil Brewer, the same two Texan brothers who head SSG.

…John Hannett, Usdaw general secretary, said: “It is clear that staff, many of whom have been long standing loyal workers, have been mistreated and many are understandably very upset and concerned.

“We are very concerned at a new company (ENC Management Company) being set up in these circumstances, while our members are losing their jobs.”

One website that Brewer objects to is a page on the UK Christian Bookshops Directory asking the public to make donations and offer assistance to affected booksellers.