Un-FAIR Competition

Surprisingly, I haven’t seen any B’nacle commentary on the suit filed against FAIR and one of its officers for “cybersquatting.” Here’s the first line of the SL Trib story: “A Salt Lake City organization that is critical of the LDS Church filed suit Monday accusing a pro-Mormon foundation of trademark infringement and unfair competition.” The plaintiff is the Utah Lighthouse Ministry, a favorite target of LDS apologetics organizations. This little episode seems like a nice illustration of how apologetic zeal tends to displace a normal sense of right and wrong. (Aren’t we fortunate that never happens to us?)

Now I know what all you web voyeurs really want to see: the disputed sites whose addresses appear in the SL Trib article which, it turns out, are no longer active. But nothing on the Web ever really goes away! Below are links to cached copies of the disputed sites. Note how the title bar for these pages (the blue bar on the very top of the screen) displays “Utah Lighthouse Ministry.”

Internet time machines can be so much fun!


  1. There’s been plenty of discussion on the fairboard.

    And you, like the Tanners, are casting your net too broadly. FAIR is not behind the acquiring of alternate addresses. Allen Wyatt did so independantly.

    Second, my limited understanding of cybersquatting is that it usually involves selling the domain to the person who “should” have it ta greatly inflated prices, and Allen’s not doing that.

    You seem to paint “apologist” and those engaged in apologetics (in this and other posts) very negatively. It might surprise you to know who participates on the internal FAIR list and who has expressed appreciation for what FAIR does. For example, check out the list of “apologists” presenting at the FAIR conference this year.

    Davis Bitton, Richard Bushman, Blake Ostler, Boyd Peterson…

  2. Steve Evans says:

    I’m not the one who’s being defensive, YOU’RE the one who’s being defensive…

    Easy there Ben. It wasn’t a swipe at FAIR in the post, and painting our painting as negative ain’t exactly so. Trust me — we know more about FAIR that you give us credit for. Your comment is a little, well, unFAIR.

  3. Ben, I think you’re responding to an attack I didn’t make.

  4. All right, so I’m a sensitive soul :)

    But this- ” This little episode seems like a nice illustration of how apologetic zeal tends to displace a normal sense of right and wrong” – sounds condescendingly like “here’s yet another illustration of apologists being mean and misguided,” as if that were the norm. Hence, I provided a list of people involved with FAIR who do not fit the stereotype.

    I do think that, um, certain authors have tended to be, in my view, unfairly hostile to FARMS and FAIR in posts here and elsewhere.

  5. There was at least one link to this issue posted at T&S or somewhere else prominent. But perhaps it deserves more discussion and not just a link. Personally I find it funny, since the Tanners grabbed bookofmormon.com for themselves.

  6. Why are the sites no longer active? Has there been some progress in court? Or does Allen Wyatt believe his actions just don’t stand up when exposed to the light of day?

    As far a cybersquatting, it doesn’t bother me in the least. From a philosophical point of view, I think that web addresses should be treated like street addresses rather than like a sign. This precludes any kind of problem in the absense of trademark infringment (and even in that case, quite often).

  7. Ben,

    Just so you know you’re not loopy. I read the post as being somewhat negative towards FAIR. I noticed the same passage you did, and got the same vibe from it. I mean, if implying that someone is losing a sense of right and wrong does not constitute an attack, what exactly would? A car bomb?

  8. If Dave was swiping at FAIR, it was well deserved in this case. Why on earth would anyone do this, under the name of FAIR or otherwise. If the situation were reversed, I have no doubt members would be all over the Tanners.

    Or perhaps people think it was ok when http://www.mormon.com was a porn site?

  9. In this case, the term “apologetics” referred to the activities of people at both ends of the spectrum, both people who zealously attack and those who zealously defend the Church.

  10. Dave,

    If that was your intention, you must understand why one might have been led to believe otherwise. Especially considering the fact that neither the context of your remarks nor the definition of apologetics support your claim of your intended use of the word.

  11. Well, ex-cuuuse me! The focus of the post was not “did Dave slight the sacred apologetic organizations of the Church.” Note: FAIR is NOT an official organization of the Church and it certainly isn’t sacred! Look, I’m not going to give a list of definitions along with every post to spare the uber-faithful a carefully executed spasm of righteous indignation everytime they drop in. I read plenty of posts at T&S and M* that *could* be misunderstood, but I give them a generous reading, not a forced offensive one, and make productive and friendly comments (which doesn’t mean always agreeing, of course) rather than engage in online henpecking. If I wanted to offend people and say nasty things, I could certainly do so, but I don’t. If you simply cannot resist the urge to vent your spleen about my phrasing or the tone of my post, then send me an email and I’ll happily respond. If someone has a point, I go back and edit my post rather than give offense.

    If you really think I was singling out LDS apologetics groups for a slight while somehow exempting Christian apologists who target the Church, the proper response would be: “Dave, you really ought to include Christian apologists in your critique; the Tanners do say some pretty harsh things from time to time.” Then I respond with something like, “yes, I certainly agree, and I was trying to say that in my original post.” And we all get along nicely.

    Ben: I did not paint FAIR negatively, they just made themselves look foolish (through their president) and I talked about it. Briefly. In fairly restrained terms.

    Frank, ditto, I think the negativity came from the regrettable conduct and statements noted in the article (which were silly, not serious, I think we all recognize). And I really don’t care if you get mildly odd vibes from my ten-line post. I suppose you think your car bomb remark is a reasonable comparison rather than a remark calculated to give offense or bad vibes?

    Eric, no I don’t really have to spend time worrying about how you or others find creative ways to misunderstand fairly clear statements or strain at verbal gnats.

  12. FWIW, I didn’t see anything unfair about your post, Dave. The reaction on this thread surprises me.

    FYI: a copy of the complaint can be read here.

  13. “I did not paint FAIR negatively, they just made themselves look foolish (through their president)”

    But a) FAIR wasn’t technically involved in acquiring the websites, so there is no “they”
    b) Allen is not the president.

    “If Dave was swiping at FAIR, it was well deserved in this case.” Just my point. We should be swiping at Allen instead, since FAIR was not behind it :)

    From the complaint (thanks Justin), it appears FAIR is being sued because its president was aware of Allen’s actions. tT also claims that they made extra money off the redirection, something I find unlikely. Someone looking to buy stuff from the Tanners is unlikely to buy stuff from FAIR.

  14. a random John says:

    Perhaps a prisoner exchange can be arranged? http://www.bookofmormon.com for http://www.utahlighthouseministry.com?

    In any case, this seems like a disengenuous way of engaging in debate. Probably on the level of interrupting a fondue party!

  15. John H: Or perhaps people think it was ok when http://www.mormon.com was a porn site?

    Was http://www.mormon.com actually ever a porn site? More than being OK with it, I’d think that this was damned funny, if it were. I once heard someone say that nobody needs Christ more than porn addicts. Perhaps the reverse is also true; i.e., nobody needs porn like Christ addicts.

    A random John: In any case, this seems like a disengenuous way of engaging in debate. Probably on the level of interrupting a fondue party!

    True. I wonder if the there is legal ground to go after Lou midgely for recently showing up unannounced at Lighthouse Ministries and rudely interrupted George Smith having fondue with the Tanners. (Really, RJ, I can’t believe that you beat me to the fondue punch! I’m must be getting old.)

  16. a random John says:


    Lou is my great-uncle, and I am always looking for an excuse to mention fondue before you do. It is rare that I beat you.

    As for http://www.mormon.com (or was it .org?) being a porn site, at some point there were some offensive pictures up at that site, but it was more in the spirit of a really bad circa 1996 personal homepage.

  17. Frank McIntyre says:


    I am fine with your post. I disagreed with you and Steve in #2 and #3 that claimed that Ben S. was wildly overreacting to think the post was contra-FAIR. I don’t think he was over-reacting. I think you were attacking FAIR. My car bomb comment was clearly attacking you and Steve’s comments 2 and 3. Just as implying that someone is losing the ability to differentiate right ans wrong is clearly an attack on that person (or group).

    If you are annoyed by any of that, I will be happy to take you on in a duel. I suggest we use my son’s two lightsabers. One is half the length of the other, but that’s okay because I can shoot lightning out of my fingertips.

  18. PEOPLE! The simple fact that he took them was to attack the Tanners. anything else is self delusion. Now is it legal. souns iffy, but the law is still vague on the finer details.

    Remember the Stake president out west that was caught in a child sting. Everyone described him as a stake president, even though none of the acts involved the church. He was a representative of the church.
    So if this guy is a representative of FAIR, a site I have never been to, then it is fair to describe this as FAIR individuals involved.

    Illegal or not. It is not good sportmanship and looks bad on all of the people at FAIR. He should either back down to protect FAIR, or dis-associate himself with FAIR if this is an action he did on his own.

    But it is bad game.

  19. Does it make a difference that this is not Allen Wyatt’s first time to grab a domain name or two just because the ends (creating problems for folks Wyatt perceives as anti-Mormon) justify the means (questionable tactics that make him look snarky)? Anyone remember Grant Palmer support websites?

  20. I thought the original post was a bit critical of FAIR- but not entirely unjustly.

    As I understood the anti squatting laws- it was to prevent people from registering a domain and then selling it to the company of that name.
    That said- I don’t think that registering a domain name associated for a site you are making in opposition to someone or some organization using that persons name is really a big deal.
    Is gwbush.com okay?
    What about lds-mormon.com?

    Whether or not it is legal- is it wrong? If I were to say- make a critical parody of another popular huge blog then went and put that critical site at the address times&seasons.org is that ok? I obviously would make it that url so people might stumble across it while looking for the actual blog.

    I personally think that would be just fine as long as it is clear that the site is not masquerading as the one it is criticizing and it is clear it is another site entirely.

    So, a website called http://www.lovinit.com could be one critical of McDonalds environmental impact- wallyworld.com could be one critical of Wal-Mart. But neither one could claim to actually be McDonalds or Wal-Mart’s actual site.

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