Defamation concerns prompt theology journal to pull paper

HTS Teologiese Studies:Theological StudiesThe editor-in-chief of a theology journal has retracted a paper on South African Christian groups because of “unsubstantiated statements with potential defamation of character.”

The article, published in 2007 in HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies, discusses “demanding Christian religious movements” where the group “isolates itself from the outside world,” and leaders influence their followers to “commit to the high demands of the group under the guise that this is the will and purpose of God,” according to the paper.

The author calls out several groups and leaders by name:

Eugene Houy the leader of the Houy group in Mpumalanga, who claims to be a “prophet” of God and that he receives his messages directly from God…

The paper also talks about Hennie van Niekerk, from the:

Emmanuel Fellowship in Limpopo Province, who also believes that he is a ‘prophet of God’ with a special gift of wisdom to convey messages from God to his followers.

It also mentions to the Alon Christian Fellowship, where female followers are:

subtly convinced not to wear make-up and long hair because it could jeopardise their relationship with God.

And if followers don’t adhere to the fellowship’s busy schedule they are:

viewed as lazy and not worthy to be part of the group.

Unfortunately, the notice doesn’t provide any details about what unsubstantiated statements led to the retraction of “Seemingly harmless new Christian religious movements in South Africa pose serious threats of spiritual abuse”:

This article has been retracted at the request of the Editor-in-Chief.

Reason: The article, after consultation with the author, is retracted on account of unsubstantiated statements with potential defamation of character.

The paper — cited once, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge — includes citations to other works whenever the author mentions any of these names. However, we’ve had trouble tracking down the citations, and some don’t connect to anything on the reference list.

A search for the Alon Fellowship turned up a website for Alon International that describes “a community for the purpose of living and working together in fulfilling God’s will.”

References to Houy don’t appear in anything except other articles written by the paper’s author, Stephan Pretorious.

Pretorious has written several similar papers in theological journals such as, “The ‘love’ that religious cults offer and its effects on members” and “Establishing mutual ground that enables counselling of religious cult victims.” He is listed as a member of the registration administration at the University of South Africa. We tried to contact him but his email address is no longer active. We’ve asked the university to confirm his current or former employment and for more recent contact information.

We’ve also asked the journal’s editor-in-chief Andries van Aarde for more details and the Alon Christian Fellowship if they were aware of the paper. We’ll update with anything we learn.

Hat tip: Rolf Degen

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4 thoughts on “Defamation concerns prompt theology journal to pull paper”

  1. The PDF can still be found floating on the internet, however.

    Curiously, AJOL, which hosts HTS, has some very curious retractions. For example:
    A. Mossie A, Taha H and Tekli Y. Effect of Khat on blood pressure and hear, a community based study. Ethiopian Journal of Health Development 2002;16(3):325-334.
    (duplication + author ban)
    MD. Mokter Hossain, Hon-Ming Lam and Jianhua Zhang. 2015. Physiological response
    of soybean genotypes to water limiting conditions. African Crop Science Journal 23 (3): 227 – 238.
    Forensic Bioinformatics: An innovative technological advancement in the field of Forensic Medicine and Diagnosis
    K Ajay, S Neetu, SS Gaurav
    International Journal of Medicine and Biomedical Research
    Vol 1, No 1 (2012)

    1. Thanks Lee – I got as far as the abstract (the English is pretty garbled). It seems that they are reviewing “Forensic Bioinfomatics” rather than describing a new approach to it (I miss-interpreted the title).
      Thanks again,

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