Liberty University Issues Statement Clarifying that it “is Not Involved in any Cooperative Venture with Benny Hinn”

From the Liberty University News Service:

Liberty University is not partnering with Benny Hinn. Liberty transferred the operations of Liberty Home Bible Institute, a non-accredited biblical studies certificate program, to Mr. Dan Reber in 2011. Mr. Reber was granted certain licensing rights to use Liberty’s name because the Liberty name was deeply imbedded in LHBI course materials. Earlier, in 2009, Liberty engaged a company of Reber’s, Internet Marketing and Communications, LLC, to market Liberty Home Bible Institute and the Institute of Biblical Studies, another non-accredited biblical studies certificate program. Liberty University has maintained ownership of both programs. It is our understanding that Dan Reber or his company is working with Benny Hinn but Liberty University is not aware of the extent of the relationship or the terms. A review of the relevant contracts demonstrates that any such cooperative venture, branding initiative or partnership with Benny Hinn regarding these Liberty University properties violates the terms of its agreements with Mr. Reber and Internet Marketing and Communications, LLC. Liberty University has placed them on notice of this breach and is taking steps to stop the unauthorized use of its intellectual properties and trademarks. It is true that a senior administrator of Liberty University appeared on a Benny Hinn program where a certificate program was promoted, but no other Liberty officials had prior notice of the planned broadcast. The administrator appeared after he was misinformed regarding the extent of Mr. Reber’s contract rights. Again, Liberty University is not involved in any cooperative venture with Benny Hinn.

*More answers to questions on the issue are listed below.

Provost’s statement, 4/4/14:

As the Liberty University Official who appeared on the Benny Hinn TV show I offer the following in order to explain why and what actually occurred.

The reason why I appeared on Pastor Hinn’s show was because of my understanding that small church pastors in multiple countries are facing government takeovers of their churches and the loss of their own rights as pastors.  It was explained to me that there are literally thousands of pastors and churches in imminent danger.

Mr. Reber’s contribution to the project would have provided pastors with at least a modicum of Bible education and a diploma certifying same and Pastor Benny Hinn’s contribution would have been to ordain those pastors through his worldwide church, thus providing a double shield of protection against government takeover.

Because of the urgency of the request and the assurances by Mr. Reber that he had been authorized since 2009 by Liberty University to sell Liberty University Institute of Biblical Studies courses via Benny Hinn Ministries, I agreed without hesitation to appear on the Benny Hinn TV show with the understanding that I would have the opportunity to confirm what I believed at that time to be true: That Liberty University does grant college credit for Institute of Biblical Studies courses successfully completed.

What I failed to anticipate was that what I actually said would be lost beneath the weight of the gravely wrong assumption that I was announcing a partnership between Liberty and Benny Hinn. And I further relied on Pastor Hinn’s personal assurance that no public pronouncements would be made without my approval — which approvals I never gave, orally or in writing.

Today I was informed by Liberty University’s attorney that Mr. Reber apparently does not have the authority to market LUIBS courses on Benny Hinn’s program. But I want to go on the record that I still believe today that Mr. Reber sincerely believed he had such authority when he asked me for my help. And I believe that Dan Reber’s motivation was to provide Bible education to pastors in desperate need of such education.

It is my sincere prayer that the mistake I made in attempting to generate desperately needed help for pastors around the globe will not result in further hardship for those pastors and further distractions for Liberty University and its mission.

Dr. Ronald S. Godwin
Provost, Liberty University

Liberty University released the following statement on Thursday, April 3:

Liberty University is not partnering with Benny Hinn. Liberty transferred the operations of Liberty Home Bible Institute, a non-accredited biblical studies certificate program, to Mr. Dan Reber a number of years ago. It is our understanding that LHBI’s new operators are working with Benny Hinn but LHBI is no longer operated by Liberty University. Mr. Reber was granted certain licensing rights to use Liberty’s name because the Liberty name was deeply imbedded in LHBI course materials. He was also required to obtain permission from Liberty University for any changes in marketing of the courses and Liberty University is investigating to determine whether this new marketing approach violates the terms of its agreement with Mr. Reber.

More questions on the issue:

1. What is Liberty University’s relationship with Mr. Dan Reber?
Dan Reber is a longtime donor to Liberty University. Personally and through his companies, he has provided various services to Liberty University over the years, especially in the area of direct marketing.

2. What is Liberty University’s relationship with Mr. Reber’s Liberty Bible Institute?
We are not aware of Mr. Reber having a Liberty Bible Institute.  One of his companies markets courses for Liberty University’s Liberty Home Bible Institute and our Institute of Biblical Studies, two non-accredited biblical studies certificate programs offered by Liberty University’s Center for Professional and Continuing Education.  In 2011, Mr. Reber took on additional responsibilities to operate the Liberty Home Bible Institute on behalf of Liberty University but was not authorized to make changes in the program without the consent of Liberty University. Please note that courses from the Institute of Biblical Studies, not Liberty Home Bible Institute, were being promoted on Benny Hinn’s program.
3. Does Mr. Reber’s Institute operate from Liberty University’s campus or other property? 
Dr. Ron Godwin was mistaken when he stated on television that Liberty’s Institute of Biblical Studies was operated by Mr. Reber. It is owned and operated by Liberty University on Liberty’s campus. By contract, the Liberty Home Bible Institute, a program not mentioned on Hinn’s program, has been operated by Mr. Reber at a location outside the campus of Liberty University, within the County of Bedford, Virginia, since August of 2011.
4. Does Liberty University provide any resources to Mr. Reber’s Institute?
Yes, Liberty provides resources to Mr. Reber in connection with his operation of the LHBI (again, the program not mentioned in the Hinn video). Examples include the rights to reproduce program materials, computerized scoring equipment, presence on Liberty University’s website, letterhead, email redirection, telephone redirection, completion certificates and certain other benefits to graduates of the program.
5. Dr. Ronald Godwin, identified by Liberty University as its senior vice president for academic affairs/provost, says Mr. Reber’s Institute program, though a “separate entity,” is “recognized and endorsed by Liberty University.”  
Again, Dr. Godwin was mistaken.  The Institute of Biblical Studies is not separate but LHBI is separately operated by Mr. Reber.  Both programs are Liberty University programs.  Those who successfully complete the program are eligible for college credit on the same basis as other certificate program graduates.  LHBI graduates must still meet the criteria for admission to any program to which they seek admission and completion of IBS or LBHI is not, in and of itself, a guarantee of admission or of academic credit.  Our public statement issued yesterday only referenced LHBI.  Liberty officials were able to review the 2009 and 2011 contracts and the Hinn video today and, for the first time, realized that IBS courses were being sold on the video, not LHBI courses.
Is it a fact that Liberty University recognizes and endorses Mr. Reber’s Bible Institute program? And to what degree is the recognition and endorsement, if that is the case?  See above.
6. Was Mr. Godwin operating as a Liberty University representative in his endorsement of Mr. Reber’s partnership with Benny Hinn? 
No.  His communications were not authorized and were contrary to the terms of Liberty University’s contracts with Mr. Reber and his company.  Dr. Godwin says that he was advised that Mr. Reber had the contractual right to sell IBS courses and says that he asked Benny Hinn not to air the program until he returned to Virginia and confirmed that Liberty had granted Reber the rights to sell the courses.
7. Does Liberty University plan to pursue any legal course of action?  
Liberty University is putting the parties on notice of its rights and requesting actions inconsistent with its contract, trademark and intellectual property rights be stopped and rectified.

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