The story so far.
Roughly a week ago, cartoonist and blogger Dave Walker took down 75 posts from his Cartoon Church blog. The posts detailed the story of SPCK, particularly the troubled last couple of years, the takeover by the Society of St. Stephen the Great (SSG), and the problems which have happened since. He did this because SSG had issued a 'Cease and Desist' order, and threatened Dave with libel if he did not comply by noon on Tuesday 22nd July - about 3-4 hours notice.
Myself and a few other bloggers picked up on this, concerned that Dave was being put under undue pressure, and that the SPCK story detailed on his blog might be lost.
So we've done several things:
1. Dave's posts have been retrieved from the Google cache, and reposted in various sites on the internet. This site archives all the Dave Walker posts, as do the Defend Dave Walker site, and a 'Save the SPCK' archive, two of several set up in the last 7 days as a result of the SSG threat.
2. A We Support Dave Walker group has been set up on Facebook, to show our solidarity with Dave. It has nearly 300 members at time of writing, including Bishops, Cathedral staff, booksellers, prominent bloggers, and a couple of journalists for national newspapers. There are also members from the US, Australia and Africa, as well as many in the UK. Please join it if you support Dave.
3. A couple of sites are keeping a running record of links to the story. Matt Wardman has been the engine room for much of this, with a list of people blogging on the story here (52 at last count, though this is rising all the time), a summary of the story so far , and daily updates on the story. Meanwhile This website is trying to keep track of all the links to the story in the blogosphere. As an indicator, this blog has had about 1,000 more visitors then normal over the last 6 days, as people have followed the story. And there are dozens of us.
4. The bullying of Dave Walker has prompted some bloggers to look more deeply into the current court cases involving SSG, including their attempts to be declared bankrupt in Texas (being disputed), and a queue of creditors and former employees in the UK seeking settlement. Ministry of Truth has done lots of digging, and the comments there are worth a look too. If the idea was to prevent reporting of the ongoing SPCK saga on the internet, it has failed spectacularly.
5. ASBO Jesus has done some very clever and hard-hitting cartoons. Or you can get a disguise kit here to prevent you being hit with a C&D yourself.
Other sources for the SPCK story are still live (at the moment), including the SPCK/SSG blog, and archives from the Church Times, and The Bookseller (search term 'spck').
Dave continues to maintain a dignified silence. Either that or he's too busy partying with the Bishops at the Lambeth conference.
There are several ongoing issues:
1. The threats against Dave Walker have not yet been withdrawn, and they should be, so that all 75 posts can be reposted and the public reporting of the SPCK story continues.
2. Libel threats being made to other blogs - it is highly likely that this is happening, though the wording of the threats themselves probably prevents people saying they've been threatened. One blogger has already concluded this is all a bluff, and gone on record as having been C&D'd.
3. The bankruptcy case involving SSG in the USA, and the irregularities found in their paperwork. There are a nest of other issues too: whether a UK organisation can be declared bankrupt in the US, why they are seeking this through a court several thousand miles away from most of their creditors, as well as some questions over payments and finance.
4. The USDAW action against SSG on behalf of 15 former employees. To quote from the USDAW General Secretary
It is clear that staff, many of whom have been long standing loyal workers, have been mistreated and many are understandably very upset and concerned. We are very concerned at a new company (ENC Management Company) being set up in these circumstances, while our members are losing their jobs. These loyal staff are being given misleading information about these US bankruptcy proceedings and the effects this may have on their rights to take legal action in the UK. Our fear is that the Brewers’ actions may be an attempt to move assets away from the business and out of the reach of our members with legitimate claims.
“We will carry on as before with the claims against the Brewers who are accumulating wealth whilst riding roughshod over hard working employees. We will continue to assist all our members affected by this messy situation and work to rectify it as soon as possible.”
What's really sad about this is that SSG is a Christian charity, and here are unions and all sorts of other people involved in something that should have been sorted out amicably. The Anglican Communion take note: this is how messy it gets if you give up on acting lovingly.
If you want to do something, blog about this, write to a church newspaper, join the Facebook group, and write to Mark Brewer, asking him politely to identify precisely what he had a problem with on Dave's site, and could he please contact Dave to withdraw the C&D order. The address is
7 Tufton Street
The SSG website has other contact details, including a phone number. If it does liquidate, there are several churches which is has acquired as well as the SPCK chain, and goodness knows what will happen to them.