On Gene Edward Veith, Veritas Press, and Textbook Plagiarism I


Dr. Gene Edward Veith

Dr. Gene Edward Veith

Dr. Gene Edward Veith is an esteemed emeritus administrator and full-time faculty member at Patrick Henry College (PHC). Dr. Veith is an accomplished writer, who hosts the blog Cranach at Patheos. Before joining PHC, Dr. Veith was the Culture Editor for WORLD Magazine. And in 2009 Dr. Veith joined the Veritas Press Omnibus textbook project as a co-general editor of the last three volumes, alongside Pastor Douglas Wilson of Christ Church, Moscow. However, of the three Omnibus editors, Dr. Veith is the only legitimate scholar with the academic credentials to edit such a massive work, which raises questions about why he would agree to take the job in the first place. Therefore, today & tomorrow I want to consider some of the reasons why Dr. Veith had good cause to decline the offer to place his name next to Doug Wilson’s on the last three Omnibus volumes as a general editor.

1. Dr. Veith knew that Doug Wilson plagiarized
In 2005, while working as the Culture Editor for WORLD Magazine, Dr. Veith wrote an article on ministerial plagiarism called Word for word: More and more pastors lift entire sermons off the internet — but is the practice always wrong? The article included a 387-word vignette that reported the plagiarism in the monograph Southern Slavery As It Was, which Douglas Wilson co-authored and edited:

Southern Slavery: As it Was, a booklet defending slavery as biblically viable, has roused considerable controversy since its release in 1996. Critics of co-authors Douglas Wilson and Steve Wilkins have added to their content-driven charges of racism and shoddy history one more accusation: plagiarism.

The text failed 24 times to attribute word-for-word quotations pulled from the 1974 book Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery by Robert William Fogel and Stanley L. Engerman. University of Washington history professor Tracie McKenzie, who attends a Seattle-area church connected to Mr. Wilson’s Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, easily recognized the stolen sections because he teaches on the work of Mr. Fogel and Mr. Engerman. . . . Mr. Wilson, who edited the booklet. . . . (Doug Wilson and slavery)

Nevertheless, four years after this 2005 WORLD report, Dr. Veith agreed to co-edit the last three volumes of the Omnibus textbooks knowing that his co-general editor — Douglas Wilson — was unfit for the job. To prove the point, ask yourself what would happen if a PHC student turned in an assignment with plagiarism akin to SSAIW to Dr. Veith. According to PHC’s plagiarism policy,1 Dr. Veith would fail him, if not expel him. And I am confident he not would deem the student worthy to edit a project the size of Omnibus. So Dr. Veith had good cause to give Doug Wilson and the Omnibus wide berth. He knew Mr. Wilson had plagiarized in the past.

2. Dr. Veith knew that Doug Wilson is irresponsible & ungodly
As the Culture Editor for WORLD Magazine, Dr. Veith had a front-row seat to the scandal that followed WORLD’s coverage of Mr. Wilson’s plagiarism. Dr. Veith’s daughter, Joanna Veith, wrote a piece for the WORLD Mag Blog titled Wilson-Wilkins booklet: plagiarized and revised.2 In response, Mr. Wilson instigated what he called a “food fight”3 in the comments. In that thread Mr. Wilson partnered with his son-in-law Ben Merkle4 to advance puerile excuses that they hoped would explain away the plagiarism. At one point the two switched computers and email accounts to demonstrate how easily such things can get confused.5 Meanwhile, Mr. Wilson wrote seven blog posts totaling 6,576 words6 on Blog & Mablog as well as a 135-word letter to the editor in response to WORLD’s 387-word report. Then, after the falsehoods and deflections and sleights of hand achieved nothing, and after Mr. Wilson’s followers ran out of edibles to fling in his defense, Steve Wilkins publicly owned the plagiarism as his responsibility. WORLD Magazine published Mr. Wilkins’ admission in a letter to the editor. But Doug Wilson never apologized for the dishonest & irrational stories he posited on the WORLD Mag Blog or on Mablog; he never apologized for his childish behavior; and he never apologized for inciting his followers to emulate him.7 Dr. Gene Edward Veith witnessed Doug Wilson’s unprofessional conduct on the WORLD Mag Blog. He knew firsthand that Mr. Wilson is irresponsible & ungodly. Dr. Veith had good cause to give Doug Wilson and the Omnibus wide berth.

Gog denies plagiarismTomorrow marks six weeks since Rachel Miller uploaded 70+ side-by-side examples of verbatim plagiarized text in the Omnibus textbook series, published by Veritas Press (Douglas Wilson, general editor). Forty-two days have passed and Veritas Press has not made a public statement. Presumably Marlin Detweiler,8 owner of Veritas Press, understands there is no way to spin stolen words in textbooks that purport to offer a Christian worldview. Hence his silence. But Veritas Press has not removed the fraudulent textbooks from the market, which does say something. And Veritas Press authorized Doug Wilson to make a statement on behalf of those involved with the Omnibus, including Dr. Gene Edward Veith. Mr. Wilson added the statement to his Controversy Library.

And so Dr. Gene Edward Veith has come full circle. He agreed to work with a known plagiarist who branded himself irresponsible & ungodly, and now Dr. Veith finds himself in the embarrassing position of having that same ungodly plagiarist deny, on his behalf, that the Omnibus textbooks contain plagiarized material. The world can read this denial on Blog & Mablog. Ironically, Doug Wilson placed it two lines below his denial of plagiarism in Southern Slavery As It Was.

Dr. Gene Edward Veith had good cause to avoid this sinful alliance with Douglas Wilson, which raises the question: Why didn’t he?

1 PHC’s plagiarism policy:

Integrity of Scholarship
The principles of truth and honesty are recognized as absolutely essential in every community of learning. It is expected that these principles will be scrupulously followed in all academic endeavors at Patrick Henry College, including, but not limited to, the preparation of all papers and reports and the taking of examinations. All academic work must be done by the student without unauthorized aid. Any compromise of truth or honesty, including, but not limited to, plagiarism, unauthorized collaboration, violation of guidelines under which the work is to be done, fabrication of data, unauthorized use of computer data, submission of a paper twice for the same course, submission of the same paper for multiple courses, and excessive revision by someone other than the student, may be considered sufficient grounds for suspension or expulsion from the College.

Students may be given a grade of “XF” if it is determined that they have plagiarized or cheated in a course. The “XF” on a transcript indicates that a student violated integrity of scholarship policies. Students who successfully retake a course for which they have received an “XF” will have the “X” removed from their transcripts although the “F” will remain. The “XF” (or “F”) and the grade earned in the retaken course will be used to calculate the grade point average. (2015–2016 Patrick Henry College Catalog, page 35)

2 Note the date of this thread: April 23, 2005. April 2005 is the month that Veritas Press published Omnibus I: Biblical and Classical Civilizations (Eds. Douglas Wilson & Tyler Fischer). WORLD Magazine published its article just six weeks after Mr. Wilson learned that Steven Sitler had raped countless children in at least three different states for the previous seven years.

3 “The worldmagblog food fight apparently continues” (Me and Steve) and “the verbal food fight broke out at worldmagblog.com” (My Relationship With World). By 2005 Doug Wilson had established a pattern of unleashing his followers to defend him whenever someone publicly identifies his sin. These people seldom add light to the conversation; they intend to disrupt, which is why Mr. Wilson called it a “food fight.” This particular “food fight” caused WORLD editor Marvin Olasky to admonish readers in the blog post Be Civil, Folks.

4 This is the same Ben Merkle who plagiarized from Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf: A New Verse Translation (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2000) in his contribution to Omnibus Volume II: Church Fathers Through the Reformation, edited by Douglas Wilson & Tyler Fischer (Lancaster, PA: Veritas Press, 2005). Since then, Ben Merkle earned a D.Phil. from Oxford University and in 2015 he was promoted to president of New St. Andrews College (NSA).

5 See comment #157 for Mr. Wilson’s explanation:

“This really is Doug Wilson, and I know I said I wasn’t going to post anymore. Events overtook me. Anyhow, Ben Merkle, my son-in-law, posted from our computer at our home, and through an unfortunate computer deal, the post that he wrote from here showed up over my name. Anyhow, I would like to take this opportunity to accuse Ben of plagiarism, and demand a full apology.”

6 The seven blog entries are What in the World? More on World, My Relationship With World, Accuracy and Objectivity, Me and Steve, Kick It Up A Notch, and Headed South Again.

7 Mr. Wilson’s followers act on his instruction in these matters. For example, in March 2013, he posted this directive to his followers in The Gospel Coalition’s combox:

“Hi, everyone. I am very mindful that I am commenting here as a guest, but I did want to make one comment about the overall thread, if I might. I have often said that we need to have an adult conversation about these issues. For various reasons, I believe that such a conversation is possible with Thabiti, and for that reason I would like to ask anyone posting here ‘on my behalf’ to work at keeping the voltage down. There are many ways this could go off the rails, and I would rather it didn’t. I would really appreciate it.”

8 Mr. Detweiler is a former professional golfer. He has almost no academic credentials.