Peter Stravinskas is threatening to bring legal action against us. Why? For a single blog article and my reporting that the proposed debate between us was cancelled. You can find the discussion of what happened and how I reported it here. Notice the terrible and libelous things I said there! I said the debate had been “scrubbed.” I said Stravinskas “decided he would not debate.” I noted a number of (false) statements he had made in talking to Chris Arnzen (who contacted him about doing the debate in the first place), including alleging I had “packed” the audience with my supporters, etc. I reported that he was offended by my posting of three YouTube clips from the debate. I reposted one of them, the audience question Stravinskas answered very foolishly. Then I noted that I had offered to send Stravinskas the 2001 debate, as well as an unedited master of the video recording that would be made of the proposed debate.
But then I narrated the real issue here. Stravinskas demanded that he have the right to determine what would, and what would not, be posted on line from the debate. As I said at the time, Peter Stravinskas is the first person in my approximately one hundred moderated, public debates, to make such a demand. No other Roman Catholic has ever made such a demand. No Muslim, Mormon, Oneness Pentecostal, atheist, or liberal, has ever made such a demand. Evidently, Peter Stravinskas is still smarting, badly, over how badly he performed in 2001. In any case, as soon as Chris Arnzen told me of Stravinskas’ demand, I informed Chris that I would send him our regular video contract, which everyone else has found perfectly acceptable. I then wrote an e-mail and sent it to Chris to forward to Stravinskas when he felt it was time to address the final arrangements for the debate. Since Stravinskas is demanding I remove the above referenced blog article (despite the fact that any semi-rational person can recognize that it simply narrates events, and contains nothing even remotely actionable), I here provide the relevant e-mails, so that the public at large, including Roman Catholics, can judge for themselves why it is we have been able to arrange debates in the past with a wide range of Roman Catholic apologists, while only Stravinskas seems to have “issues” (of course, we have had “issues” in the past, but always with Roman Catholics who refused to give us video tapes of debates they had lost). First, here is the e-mail I sent to Chris to forward to Stravinskas on the video issue (my e-mail files show this dated July 20th, 2010):
Dear Father Stravinskas:
I understand you are personally upset at the posting of three portions of our debate from 2001 on YouTube. May I point out that 1) none of these clips were in any way altered; that is, once they start, they run consecutively; 2) all three are far longer than anything one would find on the evening news. The first is 8 minutes and ten seconds long; the second is seven minutes and 45 seconds long, and the last is a single audience question, but still one minute and 42 seconds long. I am uncertain how these videos, containing major portions of the cross-examination period, could be considered “out of context.”
In the agreement that we have used for many years, both sides are provided with an unedited master. We began using this contract the year after our debate due to Barry Lynn attempting to sue us to suppress the video tapes of him losing our debate on whether homosexuality is compatible with Biblical Christianity. In any case, 1) we will gladly send you unedited masters of our 2001 debate if you will provide us with an address, free of charge; 2) you will be provided with an unedited master of the video tapes of the proposed 2010 debate, free of charge; 3) You are free to do with the footage as you see fit. Some of my past debate partners have posted the entirety of the debates on YouTube immediately, others have posted clips, others have posted nothing at all. That is completely up to them. We do not seek to limit your use of the material, as long as it is not materially edited (i.e., the postings are consecutive, without change of audio, removal of relevant portions, etc.). But even here, since both sides have the same footage, such editing would be foolish in the extreme. This has never been an issue.
Finally, we would like to offer to send you the debate I did with Gerry Matatics on Long Island on the Marian dogmas, if you would like to view it prior to our proposed encounter.
Stravinskas’ reply was swift:
From: fr peter stravinskas
Date: July 20, 2010 2:46:08 PM MST
To: christopher arnzen
Subject: RE: St. Anthony’s High School in Huntington
Unacceptable. Sorry. No need to discuss anything.
Reverend Peter M.J. Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D.
Now, both Chris and I interpreted this as a final rejection of the debate. We immediately began making other plans, for, obviously, this is not a negotiable issue. You do not give one side (especially the side that melted down in the last debate) veto rights over the distribution and on-line publication of the debate video. That is the best possible way to make sure no one ever sees what took place. Chris Arnzen replied, and attempted to reason with Stravinskas, but that was a futile effort. His final response was, and I quote, “Well, I guess you’ll have to find another Catholic apologist.”
Now I don’t know about you, but that sounds about as final as it gets, yes? And that is perfectly in line with what I reported on my blog on the evening of July 20th. And with that I figured I had had my last contact with Peter Stravinskas. If he wants to debate, he can find someone who will give in to his over-bearing demands to control the video recordings (even when he is not paying a dime to pay for the recording!). But alas, I was in error.
While in Detroit early last week Chris forwarded me the following lovely note:
Someone has just brought to my attention to James White’s latest sally, in which he says that I backed out of the debate with him. We now see that he plays as loose with the truth as he does with theology. You know very well how false that it is. I would ask you to convey to him my demand that he correct his falsehoods; otherwise, I shall have a lawyer convince him of the need to do so.
Now, notice how Stravinskas has attributed words to me I never said. Re-read the blog article (he himself referenced it in a later e-mail, with the exact same URL, so there is no question of the text under question). I said nothing about Stravinskas “backing out” of a debate. I said the debate was scrubbed, and I explained exactly why: Stravinskas’ irrational demand to control the recordings and what could, and could not, be posted. Notice the insulting tone and personal attacks as well (his recent e-mails on this issue have been full of them).
Let’s make this perfectly clear: the debate was scrubbed because Stravinskas demands treatment that no one else demands. Period. I will not give in to the demands of a man who showed so little respect for the audience, let alone me, in 2001, that he showed up without doing the slightest bit of meaningful preparation. He actually began a debate with a Reformed opponent by talking about…Jimmy Swaggart. He shows next to no understanding of the position he denies, and does not seem to be concerned about it at all. There was a real “priestly arrogance” in his behavior then, and much more so now, when he would seriously threaten legal action for daring to report, accurately, on what took place! But not only does Stravinskas insist he will do so unless I expunge my blog of the above mentioned entry (and would you like to bet this one will be added to the list now, especially since it quotes his own words?), but he told Chris Arnzen just this evening that he is going to write an article for a Catholic newspaper “warning” all Roman Catholics to stay way from debating me, or attending any debates I do! This is the mindset of Peter Stravinskas. (I was informed Stravinskas thinks debating is my primary source of income–which shows not only how little he knows of me, but if that is the case, then his “warning” is meant to be a directly personal attack as well).
So let’s make sure everyone understands: Stravinskas demanded the right to approve anything that would be posted from the video of a debate on the Internet. I refused such an absurd demand. The debate, therefore, was scrubbed. We had not gotten to the final stages of signing an agreement, etc., so there was nothing to “back out” of. Stravinskas has falsely accused me of libeling him by simply reporting that a debate had been “scrubbed.” He has threatened legal action when his own written words in e-mails (posted above) demonstrate that what I said was perfectly accurate. I did not write or assert that Stravinskas had “backed out” of the debate, and even if I had, does he seriously think such a statement is actionable? Truly amazing.
So if Peter Stravinskas wants to “warn” Roman Catholics against debating me, let me add a few items. If you want a debate where your opponent does not study your position nor accurately represent your position, do not debate James White. If you want a debate where the resultant video recordings are not given wide distribution or clips allowed to be posted on YouTube, do not debate James White. Meanwhile, let’s ponder the real reason why Peter Stravinskas wants control over video clip posting of any debates: