Featured article #3

wiki:educate-truth (view original)

The short life of LaSierraUniversity.net and its relationship with Educate Truth

The website LaSierraUniversity.net launched on May 23, 2009. [3] That same day LSU contacted their legal counsel regarding trademark infringement with respect to the website's domain name. [21]

Spectrum Magazine described the website in their article "Unraveling a Witch Hunt: La Sierra Under Seige":

On May 23, an anonymously-created website, LaSierraUniversity.net appeared attacking the school for paying biology professors who teach 'naturalistic evolution.' Featuring letters that have been circulating around cyberspace to church leaders as well as responses from La Sierra University President Randal Wisbey, the site documents the latest in a long series of heated clashes over the role of the academy in the mission of the church as well as the intellectual responsibilities of teachers. [3]

LSU's school newspaper "The Criterion" reported on the website in an article titled "The Evolution of a Controversy":

LaSierraUniversity.net served as a platform from which letters and emails regarding the concern of how evolution was being taught at La Sierra University could be viewed on the World Wide Web, and thus available to the global Adventist community. [9]

On June 1, 2009 an "[a]ttorney for Adventist Review iniates contact with lasierrauniversity.net regarding copyright infringement" [21] of an Adventist Review article by Clifford Goldstein. [2] “Attorney for Adventist Review reveals in correspondence with Shane Hilde that LSU is discussing with legal counsel options for dealing with lasierrauniversity.net and infringement issues on corporate identity.” [21]

LaSierraUniversity.net was shut down on June 2. [34] Shane Hilde writes, "The original site, LaSierraUniversity.net, was shut down 9 days after its creation with over 20,000 views." [5] That same day Shane Hilde and a second unnamed person Hilde describes as "a friend who has a great gift for web design and promotion" launched Educate Truth at EducateTruth.com. [2] [5] (However, [21] gives the date of the launch of EducateTruth.com as June 8, 2009, rather than June 2.)

On June 8, LaSierraUniversity.net was issued a cease and desist letter on behalf of La Sierra University on the grounds that the domain infringes La Sierra University’s trademark. Shane Hilde was copied on the letter. [7] [34]

In a letter to the editor of Spectrum Magazine, Shane Hilde writes:

While LaSierraUniversity.net shared similar content to EducateTruth.com, they were not owned or run by the same people. There has been a misconception that I was the one who created and ran LaSierraUniversity.net. …LSU legal counsel was made aware June 8 that I was not responsible for the creation, purchase, or content of the domain LaSierraUniversity.net." [34]

Hilde's letter to the editor was to clarify a statement by LSU President Randal Wisbey in an interview in Spectrum Magazine, Fall 2009, in which he said:

"Our General Counsel did write to the individual associated with the website, noting that they did not have permission to use the university's name, and the name of the website was soon changed. As of this time, no legal action has been taken by La Sierra University." [22]

Hilde recalls the genesis of Educate Truth in a September 1, 2010 article on Educate Truth titled "Educate Truth’s purpose and goals":

When I read David Asscherick’s letter over a year ago, I was thrilled that finally someone had spoken up. It was around that time I discovered a website called LaSierraUniversity.net. The website ran along the same lines as Educate Truth, and I became an avid commenter. About a month after the website had been up, it was shut down by GoDaddy.com because the owner could not be contacted in regard to an article that had been republished without permission from Adventist Review. The webmaster contacted me and asked if I wanted to continue the website. At first I said no and deferred him to Sean Pitman. Sean and I were thinking we weren’t very web savvy, but in the end I decided I would continue the website but with a different name. [35]

Educate Truth

Currently the website lists Shane Hilde as the webmaster and editor and Sean Pitman as the moderator and contributor.

Content and activism

Educate Truth's content is primarily about the LSU controversy over origins and is directed at criticism of LSU's teaching of origins and criticism of LSU's response to the controversy. The Spectrum blog describes the content of Educate Truth:

Educate Truth is an agglomeration of news bits, opinion pieces, and leaked personal correspondence. It also features a petition entitled “Petition to Our Seventh-day Adventist Church Leadership.” [10]

One of the first pieces of content on Educate Truth was Hilde's online petition, launched the same day as Educate Truth and directed at Randal Wisbey, Ricardo Graham, Don Schneider, and Jan Paulsen to be delivered to Wisbey on November 2 and to the LSU board on November 8, seeking 10,000 signatures. [5] [26] [5]

A few days after launching, Educate Truth published LSU biology student Louie Bishop's "testimony" criticizing the teaching of origins at LSU. [6] Bishop would leak classroom materials to Educate Truth (see the Louie Bishop article). [32]

Around November 10, Bishop along with Shane Hilde of Educate Truth organized a prayer vigil on campus in anticipation of an upcoming meeting of LSU’s board. [27] “The planned vigil also coincided with La Sierra University's college visitation day, when several hundred high school students visited campus to learn about the university's programs.” [28] The prayer vigil was canceled at the request of LSU board chair Ricardo Graham. [27]

Stance of firing/forced resignations of LSU faculty

Some understand Educate Truth as pushing for the firing of LSU faculty members. Jared Wright, for example, writes in the Spectrum blog article "Educate Truth and Consequences" published September 10, 2009, "Clearly, Shane Hilde and those allied with the Educate Truth website intend to stop at nothing short of forcing the firing of La Sierra University faculty members." [10] He continues:

If those affiliated with Educate Truth are able to influence La Sierra’s board of trustees in forcing the resignation of professors, it would radically impact the school, Adventist higher education, and the church as a whole.

Educate Truth's current "purpose and goals" page says:

We often get accused or asked if we’re trying to get people fired. The answer is no. If the professors are unwilling to represent the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s beliefs without pushing their own contrary beliefs, then we don’t see any other alternative but to ask them to resign. It is not our responsibility how the problem is dealt with. We have no desire to lead a campaign to take away someone’s job. It may be the fruit of this controversy, but it is not our goal. [35]

(Educate Truth had similar statement on its "faq" page very early in its existence. [2])

Hilde has made numerous statements about the firing of faculty at LSU. A September 1, 2009, article in the non Adventist trade journal Inside Higher Education reports:

“For me it just comes down to employee misrepresenting an employer,” Hilde told Inside Higher Ed. “Someone employed for Pepsi is not going to retain their job promoting Coca-Cola. It’s pretty black and white.” [25]

On November 6, 2009, The Press-Enterprise, a non Adventist newspaper local to Inland Southern California, published a story about Hilde's online petition, saying:

The petition does not call for the dismissal of the three La Sierra biology professors who are at the center of the controversy. But Hilde said "that ultimately is what happens in these situations."

"I would blame the administration for hiring people like this," he said. [26]

In a February 19, 2010 comment on Educate Truth, and again in an April 1, 2010 comment on the Spectrum blog, he writes:

If LSU administration doesn’t start providing support for these students by giving them the classes they’re paying for and creating an environment supportive of their beliefs without derision and professors who know and understand the evidence for creation then these professors should be fired for their non-complience in the above areas. [31] [31]

Sean Pitman has likewise commented on removing LSU faculty. Responding on May 23, 2010, to Southwestern Adventist University geology professor Dr. Art Chadwick’s proposal to removing several biology faculty and most of the School of Religion faculty, Pitman writes, “If [the Adventist church] does truly respect these beliefs as pillars of ‘present truth’, then it really has no choice but to follow Chadwick’s advice. Having the foxes manage the chicken house is no way to keep your chickens for very long.”. [33]

Controversies and legal questions

Several of Educate Truth's activities have been controversial or have been alleged to break the law.

Wisbey "outraged"

In the fall of 2009, LSU posted a video as part of their "Important Reasons to Study Biology at La Sierra University" web page featuring fourth year Biomedical Science Major Ramona Bahnam describing her experience of LSU's biology department. Bahnam's video testimony contradicts Educate Truth's claims at length. [23] On November 20, 2009, Shane Hilde posted an article titled "La Sierra's Misleading PR Campaign" on Educate Truth calling the video "propaganda" and questioning the credibility of Bahnam's testimony. [16] The same day Dr. Wisbey privately sent "Educate Truth a memo, expressing he was 'outraged' Educate Truth had 'attack[ed]' one of La Sierra’s students." [17] A week later Hilde posted another article on Educate Truth publicly responding to Wisbey's letter, saying, "We assume the students attending LSU are innocent. Our concern is with the LSU leadership who would think to take advantage of innocent students, like Ramona Bahnam, to promote LSU with a PR video that is very misleading at best. … We think it's a shame LSU is using innocent and/or naive students in misleading and deliberately deceptive PR advertisements." [17]

Cerna's paper and emails

In the spring semester of 2009, LSU student Carlos Cerna, unhappy with a "C" grade he received on his senior biology capstone paper, had an email exchange with his professors. Claiming he was the victim of anti-creationist bias, he leaked his private communication with his professors to Educate Truth along with his capstone paper, and Educate Truth published it all. After Cerna graduated it was discovered that portions of his paper were plagiarized. [10] See Carlos Cerna's article for the full story.

Leaked classroom materials

Several classroom materials including class slides and syllabi (at least some of which was leaked by Louie Bishop) were published by Educate Truth. Some have questioned whether distribution of these materials by either the students who leaked them or Educate Truth is in violation of copyright law. [30] [10] In a comment thread on the Spectrum blog discussing videos Educate Truth has published, Hilde writes,

Unless the teacher is doing something illegal or undermines his employer, I don't see any reason class material such as lectures, presentations, etc. should be made public or at least accessable to the public. Especially in light of the current controversy, biology professors should be keen on being transparent as possible. [20]

A description attached to an upload of LSU's cease and desist letter sent to (the host of) LaSierraUniversity.net and copied to Hilde reads:

Visit us online at: www.EducateTruth.com   La Sierra University Board takes legal action against Lasierrauniversity.net for spreading the truth of their teachings of evolution by stating copyright issues. The last time we checked, God gave us everything we have and never placed a copyright. [7]

Secretly recorded video of Dr. Bryan Ness

On October 28, 2010, a theology student at PUC recorded a lecture given by PUC biology professor Bryan Ness [12] without his knowledge or permission. [13] On November 1, 2010, Educate Truth published the video. The video was later removed due to copyright concerns, then an edited version of the video was posted. [12] PUC immediately posted a press release defending Bryan Ness. [14]

Ness commented:

The point is that I have no problem with others seeing the video, I have nothing to hide, it’s just that some discussions are more appropriate for one group than another. I also consider it unethical to post such a video without my permission. [14]

Hilde defended his publishing of the videos in a comment thread on the Spectrum blog article about the videos:

I've asked two non-Adventist lawyers who are unfamiliar with the controversy here (as far as I know) who are familiar with the laws surrounding videoing professors.

Here is what they said:

1. "That is determined by the school policies and the professors agreement to allow it, not the law."- Terry Nelson, Nelson & Lawless

2. "It really will depend upon school policy. Will it be illegal in a criminal world, no but could it be a violation of school policy, possibly." -Robert L. Driessen, The Law Offices of Robert L. Driessen

PUC might have a policy on this. I don't know. It doesn't appear to be a criminal act. The unethical argument doesn't fly either in my opinion. Why would it be wrong to record your professor giving a lecture without his consent, considering its apparently legal? It's essentially public. I haven't heard any defense of why it would be unethical. [20]

On November 9, 2010, Educate Truth posted an article apologizing for posting the video "without apparent warning" and further criticizing PUC and Ness's lecture. The article does not address the ethical or legal concerns raised about recording and distributing the lecture. [15] [14]

Video of LSU lectures

On May 13, 2010, Educate Truth published videos of lectures from LSU's new freshman biology seminar BIOL 111A from November, 2009. The videos include lectures from Dr. John Webster (School of Religion dean), Dr. Warren C. Trenchard (then LSU provost), and Dr. Warren Harvey Johns (of LLU). [18]

Hilde discussed the circumstances under which Educate Truth obtained the videos in a comment thread on the Spectrum blog. [20] According to Hilde, the videos were produced by LSU's media department and were obtained by someone unaffiliated with Educate Truth from the media department who sent the videos anonymously to Educate Truth. Educate Truth did not obtain permission from either LSU or the lecturers in the videos to distribute the video on the web. The Educate Truth page on which the videos appeared contains the following:

Warren C. Trenchard requested that his lecture be removed from Educate Truth. He told Educate Truth that if his lecture was not taken down he would take whatever action necessary to make sure it was. He claimed that it was unethical and illegal to have this video posted without his express permission – permission he was not willing to grant to Educate Truth or even to the one(s) who produced the video. He did not provide additional reasons for his request. [18]

According to Hilde's comments on the Spectrum blog thread, Trenchard claims to not have given LSU permission to film his lecture. Hilde also said he was unaware whether or not the lecturers knew they were being filmed. [20]

 On May 20, 2010, Educate Truth uploaded edited versions of the videos to a video sharing website and posted them on EducateTruth.com. [19] At some point (presumably November 5, 2010, see [20]) even the edited videos were replaced with a note saying, "Video has been temporary pulled until it can be properly edited to meet the requirements of Fair Use Law." [18] However, Educate Truth has never ceased distributing the edited videos via the video sharing website since their upload on May 20, 2010.

Praise and criticism of note

Sean Pitman and David Asscherick cohost 3ABN special

On October 9, 2009, Sean Pitman and David Asscherick cohosted a two hour special on 3ABN callled "The Science of Faith—Seeing God Through His Creation" in which they discussed at length the controversy, letter writing campaign, and EducateTruth.com. Without mentioning La Sierra University by name, they are very critical of the university and its faculty. Asscherick in particular praised Educate Truth and recommended viewers to visit the website to get involved. [11]

Doug Batchelor's Facebook comment

According to [3], Doug Batchelor posted the following to his Facebook page:

Happy Sabbath Friends. Can someone help me with a question? I have been hearing second-hand reports that La Sierra University is openly teaching evolution as a fact. Is this true?
Someone sent me a website that answered most of my questions about La Sierra teaching evolution. We really need to pray for our schools.
Thanks everyone
La Sierra University Evolution vs Creationism - Is it Enlightenment or Apostasy?

Southwestern Adventist University Professor of Geology Dr. Art Chadwick

Dr. Art Chadwick is a frequent commenter on and supporter of Educate Truth. [33] Chadwick has even co-written an article with Sean Pitman for Educate Truth. [35]

Spectrum Magazine / the Spectrum blog

Spectrum Magazine has been consistently critical of Educate Truth. (See references.)

AToday blogger Dr. Ervin Taylor

Professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of California, Riverside, and past executive publisher of Adventist Today Dr. Ervin Taylor has written several articles for AToday critical of Educate Truth. A representative article is his June 29, 2009 article titled “Telling Lies for God On educatetruth.com?”:

Regretfully, the practice of quoting a statement out of context appears to be alive and well on a recently established web site specifically designed to encourage and facilitate direct attacks on a Seventh-day Adventist academic institution, La Sierra University. These attacks are being orchestrated by those who apparently have appointed themselves as supreme arbiters of Adventist orthodoxy. They have affixed a bizarre label on their site: "educatetruth.com." [8]

Former Columbia Union College president Dr. Colin D. Standish

Founder and president of the independent Adventist institute Hartland College and former president of Columbia Union College Dr. Colin D. Standish wrote on Educate Truth:

I call for immediate action by our leaders at all levels of God’s work to assemble a standing committee to establish a top to bottom, thorough investigation of our educational system. … The committee should be commissioned to conduct this investigation using exclusively principles from the Word of God and the inspired writings of the Spirit of Prophecy. Let there be no attempt to dilute the committee by seeking to appoint a range of those with “different views” inconsistent with divine principles. …

The present focus of the protests is limited to one issue only, evolution – creation which is but the tip of the iceberg. The committee should be mandated to investigate all facets of the Seventh-day Adventist educational curriculum, content and practices at all levels of our educational work. This could be the most profitable way to bring revival and reformation to God’s remnant Church. May only godly men and women be appointed to this committee.

(The post has since been removed from Educate Truth but is still available at [4]. See also [8].)

Similar websites and spoofs

Several websites have adopted the *truth moniker after Educate Truth. Writing about the choice of name, Hilde says:

Many have made fun of the “Truth” in the website’s name, but I thought it was quite fitting. I picked the name because it represented what the website would be advocating–the truth, as believed by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. [35]


Louie Bishop set up a website of his own for some time. The website is now offline. See [Bishop | Louie Bishop's] WikiTruth article.


Doug Batchelor's Amazing Facts created a website to support Batchelor's controversial sermon regarding the role of women in the church called womenministrytruth.com.


A website called "Hold Them Accountable (Because Truth Matters)" created by Ang Hnu mimics the tone of Educate Truth. The site reads:

This site and ministry exists to hold Adventist leaders of all stripes "accountable to the highest standards of belief based on a literal understanding of Scripture" as called for by newly elected President Dr Ted Norman Clair Wilson at GC Session 2010. We call on faithful Adventist worldwide to point out persons in positions and organizations of leadership and influence who are undermining the church.


When Educate Truth published an article criticizing PUC professor Dr. Bryan Ness, students at PUC started a website defending Dr. Ness. (Note the D in the URL, educateDtruth.com.)


A spoof website created by "Jobert Racobson".

1. Shane Hilde, Petition to Our Seventh-day Adventist Church Leadership, petition on ipetitions.com, June 2, 2009. http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/sixdaycreation/
2. Shane Hilde, EducateTruth.com’s FAQ from November 5, 2009. Accessible via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. http://web.archive.org/web/20091105160622/http://www.educatetruth.com/frequent-questions-answers/
3. Spectrum Editors, Unraveling a Witchhunt, Spectrum blog, May 29, 2009. http://spectrummagazine.org/blog/2009/05/29/unraveling-witch-hunt-la-sierra-under-seige
4. Colin D. Standish, Evolution Taught in Our Educational Institutions, May 29, 2009. http://clubadventist.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/259431/Evolution_Taught_in_Our_Educat.html
5. Shane Hilde, Petition to Our Seventh-day Adventist Church Leadership, petition on ipetitions.com, June 2, 2009. http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/sixdaycreation/
5. Shane Hilde, EducateTruth.com’s “about” page from June 9, 2009. Accessible via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. http://web.archive.org/web/20090609084512/http://www.educatetruth.com/about/
6. Louie Bishop, LSU Testimony by Louie Bishop, Educate Truth, June 5, 2009. http://www.educatetruth.com/la-sierra-evidence/testimony/lsu-testimony-by-louie-bishop/
7. Edward R. McNicholas, letter to Domains by Proxy, Inc., original document, June 8, 2009. http://www.scribd.com/doc/16231218/La-Sierra-University-Letter
8. Ervin Taylor, Telling Lies for God On educatetruth.com?, AToday, June 29, 2009. http://www.atoday.org/article.php?id=419
9. Nicholas Smith, The Evolution of a Controversy, in The Criterion, fall 2009. http://criterion.lasierra.edu/?p=57
10. Jared Wright, Educate Truth and Consequences: The Assault On La Sierra University Continues, Spectrum blog, September 10, 2009. http://spectrummagazine.org/blog/2009/09/10/educate-truth-and-consequences-assault-la-sierra-university-continues
11. Sean Pitman and David Asscherick, The Science of Faith—Seeing God Through His Creation, 3ABN, October 9, 2009. http://www.viddler.com/explore/Seanpit/videos/18/
12. Educate Truth, PUC Professor: The Noachian Flood was just a local flood?, Educate Truth, November 1, 2009. http://www.educatetruth.com/media/puc-professor-the-noachian-flood-was-just-a-local-flood/
13. Julie Z. Lee, PUC Affirms Creation, November 2, 2010. http://www.puc.edu/news/archives/2010/puc-affirms-creation
14. Alexander Carpenter, UPDATED: Pacific Union College Students Defend Professor from Educate Truth's Anecdotal Attacks, Spectrum blog, November 3, 2010. http://spectrummagazine.org/blog/2010/11/02/updated-pacific-union-college-students-defend-professor-educate-truths-anecdotal-att
15. An apology to PUC, Educate Truth, November 9, 2009. http://www.educatetruth.com/news/an-apology-to-puc/
16. Shane Hilde, La Sierra's Misleading PR Campaign, Educate Truth, November 20, 2009. http://www.educatetruth.com/la-sierra-evidence/la-sierras-misleading-pr-campaign/
17. Shane Hilde, La Sierra “outraged” over Educate Truth article, Educate Truth, November 27, 2009. http://www.educatetruth.com/la-sierra-evidence/la-sierra-outraged-over-educate-truth-article/
18. Videos show LSU undermining church doctrine, EducateTruth, May 13, 2010. http://www.educatetruth.com/la-sierra-evidence/presentations/biology-seminar-111a-class-videos/
19. WikiTruth tries not to link to potentially illegal material.
20. Robert Jacobson, “Antione Roquentin”, and Shane Hilde, in an exchange on the Spectrum blog, September 3, 2010. http://spectrummagazine.org/blog/2010/11/02/updated-pacific-union-college-students-defend-professor-educate-truths-anecdotal-att#comment-70530
21. Creation-Evolution Study Group, Report and Recommendations, original document, February 9, 2011. http://www.lasierra.edu/fileadmin/documents/provost/LSU_Board_Report.pdf
22. Bonnie Dwyer, In the Eye of the Storm, Spectrum Magazine, vol. 37, issue 4, fall 2009.
23. Ramona Bahnam, Reasons to Study Biology: Student Perspective, Fall 2009. http://www.lasierra.edu/index.php?id=1213
24. Shane Hilde, Purpose and Goals, Educate Truth, September 1, 2010. http://www.educatetruth.com/la-sierra-evidence/educate-truths-purpose-and-goals/
25. Jack Stripling, Creating Controversy, Inside Higher Education, September 1, 2009. http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/09/01/evolution
26. David Olson, More than 5,600 people sign petition in favor of creationism, The Press-Enterprise, November 6, 2009. http://www.pe.com/localnews/inland/stories/PE_News_Local_S_lasierra06.47b3990.html
27. Prayer on LSU Campus, on “La Sierra University — My Blog”, November 10, 2009. http://lasierrauniv.tigblog.org/post/1371841
28. Jared Wright, Educate Truth Group To Force LSU Action, Spectrum blog, November 11, 2009. http://spectrummagazine.org/blog/2009/11/11/educate-truth-group-force-lsu-action/
30. Larry Becker, La Sierra University Responds to Adventist Review Article, April 1, 2010. http://www.lasierra.edu/index.php?id=2784
32. Educate Truth staff, Student reveals true intent of LSU’s biology seminar class, Educate Truth, May 11, 2010. http://www.educatetruth.com/la-sierra-evidence/student-reveals-true-intent-of-lsus-biology-seminar-class/
33. Sean Pitman, comment on Educate Truth, May 23, 2010. http://www.educatetruth.com/news/report-on-lsu-constituency-meeting/#comment-12804
34. Shane Hilde, Clarification to Fall Issue, letter to the editor, Spectrum Magazine, vol. 38, issue 1, winter 2010.
35. Purpose and Goals, Educate Truth. http://www.educatetruth.com/purpose-and-goals/
35. Arthur Chadwick and Sean Pitman, The Rise of Theistic Evolutionism – The Salvation of Christianity?, Educate Truth, August 20, 2011. http://www.educatetruth.com/featured/the-rise-of-theistic-evolutionism-the-salvation-of-christianity/
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