Alleged “Illegal Use” of UCG Logo

Peter Eddington of UCG’s Media and Communications Services posted today about the “Illegal Use of United Church of God Name and Logo” on “anonymously prepared letters that are critical of the Council of Elders”, obviously referring to the 3 New GCE Documents posted on the AC website.  I thought it odd at the time that they would use the logo at the top of the letters, and it would seem odder if the authors didn’t know that UCG wants to protect its “brand”.  There was a special emphasis on branding a couple of years ago, and it isn’t a far fetch to realize that unauthorized use of the logo would be confronted.

Eddington wrote:

It remains a sad mystery as to how anonymous writings can hope to possess any degree of credibility, particularly when these writings also illegally use the Church’s letterhead (name and logo or seal) as a prop for legitimacy.

If this were isolated, I would fully appreciate and endorse UCG’s stance on this.  However, given the current circumstances and environment, it really does seem like more legal maneuvering and heavy-handedness.  I have to wonder if this falls under realm of “brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers.”  If it does not now, then will it?

At the same token, I want to state again that I’m not fond of anonymous tactics, either.  Yet, given the current environment of retribution, it’s not a far stretch to understand why someone might do it.  All I can say is that they might want to reconsider if anonymity really provides an effective solution or not.

On the other hand, does retribution against members really work?  Something that some elders do not seem to understand is that we, the members, willingly come to services.  The members willingly tithe.  The members willingly offer prayers for the Church (not just an organization, but the entire Church).  The members willingly volunteer rather than seek monetary gain.

I stress the word willingly.  God did not to my knowledge arm wrestle anyone into repentance, baptism and conversion.

I sometimes point out the similarities between corporations and churches as far as leadership goes, but that fact that individuals within the organization are mostly volunteers without pay is one major difference between the two.  As such, a volunteer can expect to un-volunteer at the drop of a hat and not face financial loss.  The motivations are different, and thus good leadership will recognize that and act accordingly.

Or, at least it should.

Can you imagine if a food bank told a volunteer, “I’m sorry, but you’ll no longer be able to come here and volunteer.  In fact, the time and money you’ve donated to this organization no longer matter”?  Can you imagine how that would feel?  Can you imagine the morale of the other volunteers?

Why is it that a church organization seems to believe it can get away with more than another charitable organization?

Why is it that church members will settle for less?


  1. SafeTmanEd says…

    I looked at it another way John. I didn't realize that only official correspondence from the home office could use the letterhead. They are credentialed elders of the organization; why can't they use the letterhead. They did not confuse me into thinking they were speaking for the home office or COE, as was indicated in the response above.

    And the letters are not really all that anonymous. They are signed. They were written in a collaborative effort and all the folks at the bottom agree! How is that anonymous? Does it really matter which person wrote them if they all agree and sign on?

  2. @SafeTmanEd: I'll confess I was talking about "anonymous" postings and what-not in general in much of what I wrote, and that was probably confusing. However, the letters themselves, at least as posted on the AC site, are unsigned. That's a low-level form of anonymity, and I think that is what Peter Eddington is referring to.

    I will admit I was thinking at the time, "Hmmmm. Does this mean that GCE correspondence can legally use the UCG logo?" Morally, perhaps so. Legally, well that might be another matter.

    You are right that there is no confusion. However, the legal cases I am aware of (standard disclaimer: IANAL) have sometimes been filed regardless of whether or not there was confusion.

    For example, Facebook is now in the process of trademarking the word "Face". They have even went after Lamebook, a parody site, for infringing on their trademark. No, none of this makes sense, but this is what companies do.

  3. The difference is that they are not authorized to speak for the organization. In fact they are speaking against it. If I took a bunch of my employer's letterhead and sent correspondance to my fellow employees and customer's slamming the company I suspect I would be fired immediately. When they take the logo they are attempting to take on the mantle of the organization, otherwise why use a logo. It's not just legal maneuvering. UCG has every right and in fact a legal obligation to keep it from misuse, especially by those who obviously want to no longer be part of it.

  4. @Anonymous: Again, I said, "If this were isolated, I would fully appreciate and endorse UCG’s stance on this." However, this is coming from a group of people with a history of using legal maneuvers in favor of spiritual ones.

  5. SafeTmanEd says…

    "I will admit I was thinking at the time, "Hmmmm. Does this mean that GCE correspondence can legally use the UCG logo?" Morally, perhaps so. Legally, well that might be another matter."

    Maybe I'm wrong, but they are members of that corporation. They are authorized to use the letterhead of the company just as I am authorized to use the letterhead of my company.

    The facebook example I understand because in that case you have a non-aligned entity using a trademark of another company for profit.

    Oh well, in any case the whole thing has come down to petty disputes about the kind of paper something is written on?? Amusing to say the least!

  6. "The difference is that they are not authorized to speak for the organization."

    SafeTmanEd says…

    OK, last post because this is really not worth arguing about….

    …but they ARE authorized to speak for the organization. They are still credentialed elders. They may not be saying what the home office wants, but the "organization" in not just a group of 12 people sitting in Cincinnati.

    OK…I'm done!

  7. If an elder in his official capacity as an "elder in good standing" writes a letter to his congregation:
    1. Does he have the right to put it on an official letterhead? (My understanding is yes, but I could be wrong)
    2. Is that letter implied to have:
    a) Come from HO? (uhm, no)
    b) Need to be vetted by HO? (I would assume no, but I could be wrong)

    Given that the letter came from members of the GCE addressed to the wider UCG membership, I don't personally see anything wrong with that. If it was addressed to public in general, then yes, maybe there is an issue, as I would assume official, public notices need to come from HO.

    I am not quite sure how anonymous the authors are, its one or more of those listed in the open letter. Pick a name… 😉 No surprise though that who they actually are, cannot be DIRECTLY pinpointed, given the heavy handedness of the current administration in dealing with dissent.

  8. I am assuming that all the elders have business cards and stationary printed up with their name and the Church's logo on it as they are representatives of the church. I also assumed that this letter was written to other elders as well as Dennis Luker. I don't see why legally they couldn't write a letter to other elders or members of the organization they represented as long as the logo was not altered in any way. Maybe I assume too much…

  9. Interesting attempt to discredit and side step the issues presented in the letters. Those who submitted these letters did so as members of the GCE, that is plainly stated in the cover letter. As I understand they are officials of UCG,IA or are the only officials of UCG,IA the Council? Weren't these letters posted in the GCE forum as a communication to the other officials of UCG,IA, the membership of the GCE?

    Actions are always better indicators of where someone really stands and what they stand for than words. Are the individuals in Chile whose Sabbath conduct was contrary to the official doctrinal teachings at this time of UCG,IA members in good standing with the present UCG group in Latin America?

    I would expect it is the spiritual duty of the director of the Latin American region, Mr. Luker and the Council, to deal with violations of the Sabbath based on the official teachings of UCG,IA.

    If they remain as members in good standing with this Council, why? Is it possible that the members of this Council agreed with the withdrawn Sabbath letter? Are there other "white papers" now in waiting? Oh I forgot, they will need to go through a "doctrinal" committee, but who will be on that committee?

  10. Just to add my previous comment (which i noticed hasn't been approved yet ;), Would the true authors of the letters Dennis Luker has put his name to, please stand up!

    If the UCG Administration is really that concerned about the authors identity, i think they need to demonstrate that principle themselves.

  11. If you write a memo to the management of your company criticizing or otherwise correcting the statements of management, and it is on the company letterhead, you are not misappropriating the intellectual property of your company. And yes… I am a lawyer.

  12. @Regan: If it was the comment I think you're referring to, then it got missed last night. Sorry.

    @Anonymous, whose comment really was rejected: I told you before, NO EMAIL ADDRESSES.

  13. The new doctrinal committee is Bob Berendt, Chairman, Roy Holladay and Victor Kubik

  14. There was a special emphasis on branding a couple of years ago….

    Wow — whatever happened to that effort?

    Sadly, UCG risks becoming "branded" in many eyes for other things. Maybe the new logo should be a rope, for tugs-o-(ahem)peace.