City Harvest founder now accused of plagiarism
He allegedly used copied material in his books and website
By Ted Chen
12 June 2010
Pastor Kong used material from Leadership Bible, written by three Americans. His last website entry notes a lack of care in crediting ‘any source of inspiration’.
Two American authors of a Christian study book have accused City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee of plagiarising their work in his books and website.
Mr. Kong, 46, had been updating his website daily with an inspirational passage which he called the ‘Daily Devotion’, before being called up by the police last Monday to help with investigations into alleged misuse of funds within the church.
A Singaporean blogger spotted that some of the passages in the website were similar to the work of the Americans.
He then sent an e-mail to alert two of the book’s three authors, Professor Sid Buzzell and Dr Kenneth Boa.
Both men told The Straits Times that Mr. Kong had not asked them for permission to use their materials.
However, they would not be pursuing the matter further, as long as he stopped copying without crediting, they said.
‘In the spirit of our book’s notes (which talk about being merciful), we prefer to let the matter go rather than create issues for Mr. Kong,’ said Prof Buzzell, a dean of the school of theology at Colorado Christian University.
‘If he continues to copy the material, we can take it from there.’
Should the plagiarism persist, Prof Buzzell would contact him and ‘threaten him with exposure to his church’, and also ‘seek advice from others who are more legally sophisticated about such things’.
On Mr. Kong’s website, in his last entry in Daily Devotion last Monday, there was a note which said: ‘We could have been more careful to credit any source of inspiration used.’
It added: ‘There was never any intention to give readers the impression that the entire contents were written by me.’
Mr. Kong, who was among 17 people called up by police for investigations, could not be reached for comment. Queries sent to the church since Thursday also went unanswered.
In 2005, Mr. Kong’s daily posts were compiled into two books, volumes one and two of Renewing Your Spiritual Energy In 90 Days. The two books also did not credit the use of outside sources or texts, and claimed copyright belonged solely to him.
The book that Mr. Kong lifted materials from, Leadership Bible, was published 10 years ago and was written by three Americans. It comprises lessons for 52 weeks, using biblical interpretations to train and educate future church leaders.
The third author of the book, Christian writer Bill Perkins, 61, was made aware of the situation only this week by The Straits Times. He said: ‘Plagiarism is wrong, regardless of the motive… It misleads the reader into thinking something about the author that is not true.’
The three authors would still have been in the dark, if not for a Singaporean blogger who gave his name as Tee Kay Hetch.
Mr. Tee first highlighted the plagiarism on his blog, entitled Cheat Grace, on March12. Over nearly three months, he documented similarities between Mr. Kong’s postings and parts of Leadership Bible. In some instances, entire passages of about 400 words had been copied.
Apart from Leadership Bible, the blog also highlighted other works that may have been copied, including content by well-known Christian authors Derek Prince and Neil Anderson.
Mr. Tee stopped posting on his blog on Tuesday, citing threats and possible account hacking as his reasons.
While borrowing the work of other pastors is common in sermons, preachers will often credit their sources, said a cell group leader from another church.
Mr. Robin Thor, 35, managing director of Attributes Publishing, which printed Mr. Kong’s books in 2005, said the uproar was due to a ‘lack of citation’.
The City Harvest Church member added that, at the time of publication, both himself and Mr. Kong were aware that certain portions of the content were not original.
So far, no legal action has been taken against the publishing company, said Mr. Thor. Attributes has ‘made amendments to our soft copy to include the citation’.
While Attributes no longer sells the books online, both volumes are still on sale at major Christian bookstores. Prices range from $15 to $18.90. No more print runs for the books are currently scheduled, but no recall has been made either of books still on the shelves.
Numbers for books in circulation and sales were not available.
City Harvest member Amanda Ng, 25, said: ‘It’s not right to plagiarise… but we always take references from everywhere when studying the Bible.’
Mr. Kong should apologise, the teacher added, and stop selling his books.