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Benny Hinn Ministries removes Web ads tied to Liberty University

Benny Hinn Ministries removes Web ads tied to Liberty University

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Numerous references to a supposed partnership between Benny Hinn Ministries and Liberty University have been removed from the Benny Hinn Ministries website.

After being alerted that the evangelist was claiming to have a partnership with LU, school officials issued Benny Hinn Ministries a cease-and-desist order April 4 citing its unauthorized use of the university’s trademark and intellectual property.

The falsely-advertised partnership would have allowed students of the World Healing Fellowship & Liberty University Institute of Biblical Studies to receive a diploma from the Lynchburg-based university founded by the late Jerry Falwell Sr. in 1971. Liberty regularly polices its trademark.

Benny Hinn Ministries has taken steps consistent with the demands of the university, but Liberty University General Counsel David Corry said officials continue to discuss how to resolve the dispute. The university will take steps to have the video “Liberty University Promotes 'Faith Healer' Benny Hinn” removed from YouTube. On Wednesday, Corry said the university was unaware of the video but they would pursue removal “because it has false information in it. It’s inaccurate.”

On the video, originally part of a Benny Hinn Ministries television broadcast, Hinn appears with Ron Godwin, Liberty University provost and senior vice president of academic affairs, and Dan Reber, a Forest businessman.

Reber was in charge of operations of the Liberty Home Bible Institute, a non-accredited biblical studies certificate program, by Liberty University in 2011. Corry refers to Reber as “a longtime donor to Liberty University” and one who has “provided various services to Liberty University over the years, especially in the area of direct marketing.” Reber, founder of Mail America Communications Inc. in Forest, does the marketing for the courses offered by Liberty University’s Liberty Home Bible Institute, and the Institute of Biblical Studies.

The two non-accredited biblical studies certificate programs are offered by Liberty University’s Center for Professional and Continuing Education.

Although LU put Reber in charge of operating the Liberty Home Bible Institute — on behalf of the university — in 2011, he was not given authority change the program without LU’s consent, according to university officials.

“It is our understanding that Liberty Home Bible Institute’s new operators are working with Benny Hinn but LHBI is no longer operated by Liberty University,” the university said in a statement.

“Mr. Reber was granted certain licensing rights to use Liberty’s name because the Liberty name was deeply imbedded in LHBI course materials” but a review of contracts shows the new branding is a violation of the agreement, the university said in the release.

Reber did not respond to numerous calls seeking comment.

The confusion was compounded by the appearance of Godwin on the television broadcast with Benny Hinn and Reber. A video of the broadcast still was available on YouTube as of Wednesday evening. It disappeared from Hinn’s website at some point Wednesday. Hinn didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Corry acknowledged Godwin’s appearance on the video, but said prior to taping Godwin had been “misinformed regarding the extent of Mr. Reber’s contract rights” and he was “mistaken when he stated on television that Liberty’s Institute of Biblical Studies was operated by Mr. Reber.”

Corry said the Liberty Institute of Biblical Studies is owned and operated by Liberty University on Liberty’s campus.

The Liberty Home Bible Institute has been operated by Reber at a location outside the LU campus since August 2011.

Corry said the video in which Godwin appears was taped in California. Godwin went to the taping at the invitation of Reber, a close personal friend, and did not make the trip on a university plane.

Corry said no other Liberty officials had knowledge of the broadcast.

“Again, Liberty University is not involved in any cooperative venture with Benny Hinn,” Corry said in a news release.

Although there have been reports LU desired a partnership, then disavowed it after receiving complaints, Corry said “that is false.”

“This whole thing came as a complete surprise to everyone at Liberty University, except for Ron Godwin.”

Contact Amy Trent at (434) 385-5543 or atrent@newsadvance.com. Find her on Twitter: @amylynnetrent.

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