Does Nintendo have a case against certain churches?

nintendo versus defamation

In a previous entry, I discussed whether or not the Pokemon franchise encourages witchcraft. It doesn’t, of course. But that’s not stopping various churches from taking the opportunity to win media attention for themselves by accusing it falsely.

While such churches may experience some short-term monetary gain from their false accusations, I believe that there’s too much potential in their actions for them to backfire.

There are two major reasons why I think this, and this entry examines them.

For one thing, waging a false accusation is what is referred to in the legal community as defamation. I know that there are plenty of people out there that believe heavily in the freedom of expression. I’m one of them. However, I know well that not every form of expression is protected under the law. Defamation is not a legally-protected form of expression.

To be specific, putting something false and injurious into publication is a form of defamation that is referred to as blasphemous libel.

Before I go much further, I think it’s a good idea to point out that the intent of this article is not to provide legal advice, and that I may be mistaken on some points. A lawyer would be a much more dependable source of information of this kind. I am not a lawyer, even if in some regards I may think like one.

In civil tort law, a person who believes that they’ve been victimized by libel can sue the person that they believe libeled them for compensation for damages. To succeed in doing this, the plaintiff must be able to demonstrate that the defendant is the one that disseminated the lie. In this case, it would be easy, as it would mean providing documentation that the company in question posted the defamatory content to their web space. In the age of screen captures, this is not at all hard to do.

Also, the libelous claim must be false. In this case, the libelous claims are that the Pokemon franchise is demonic and encourages witchcraft. None of the Pokemon games contain even a trace of demonism or witchcraft.

Not only that, it must be demonstrated that the claims would have caused damage. Pokemon is a huge intellectual property with tens of millions of fans, possibly hundreds of millions. Because of how widespread the libelous claims have become, it’s easy to imagine that Nintendo lost millions of dollars in revenue as a result.

Defamation cases usually involve demonstrating that the defendant had the intention of causing harm. However, there are cases where the nature of the lie is so inflammatory that it does not need to be demonstrated how it could cause harm to someone, and that if it could be demonstrated that someone made the statement, their intent to harm is assumed. That is what is referred to as defamation per se. To falsely accuse a game company of promoting witchcraft would very likely fall under defamation per se.

If it seems extraordinary to you that someone can get in trouble for insulting a game company, you may find it interesting that the Anti-Defamation League went after Saudi Arabia for claiming that Pokemon was part of a Zionist plot to undermine Islam.

The second major reason is a scriptural one. The Bible certainly does have something to say about defamation. It soundly condemns it.

For one thing, one of the Ten Commandments is against it. The ninth commandment is as follows:

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
Exodus 20:16

While the act described is specific, Bible scholars generally have an understanding that the commandment applies to all forms of defamation, even going as far as saying that it applies to all forms of dishonesty. The following relates to it:

“You shall not circulate a false report. Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness. You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice.”
Exodus 23:1-2

Furthermore:

These six things the Lord hates,
Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
A proud look,
A lying tongue,
Hands that shed innocent blood,
A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that are swift in running to evil,
A false witness who speaks lies,
And one who sows discord among brethren.
Proverbs 6:16-19

The Psalms speak of slander in more than one place, but this stands out in particular:

He who secretly slanders his neighbor,
Him I will destroy;
The one who has a haughty look and a proud heart,
Him I will not endure.
Psalm 101:5

This Psalm was written by king David. Interestingly, he actually did have a man executed who spread a false report. 2nd Samuel chapter 1 tells us about how an Amalekite attempted to take credit for the death of king Saul. Whether David believed the Amalekite or not makes little difference, since he was either confessing to murder, or telling a lie about the king.

If these churches had spent more time reading the Bible, they’d probably have thought twice before slandering a game company for profit. Having said this, I do recognize that there are plenty more reasons to suspect that these churches don’t actually take the Bible seriously enough to allow it to have an effect on the way that they live or conduct their businesses.

Defamation is a serious offense. If you belong to any church that actively engages in it, you should probably find a different one, fast.

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