Awana will not file a lawsuit against The Babylon Bee over a Donald Trump-related satire story that the national evangelical youth ministry and child evangelism nonprofit allegedly threatened legal action over.
On June 2, the popular Christian satire site published a fictional story titled “Trump Shows Off Completed Awana Vest,” which included a doctored photo of the president wearing a red Awana Sparks vest "complete with awards for Bible memory."
Babylon Bee CEO Seth Dillon posted to Twitter last Wednesday telling followers that the chief communications officer at Awana was “threatening to sue us if we don't take [the story] down.”
“The claim is that this article is ‘beyond satire’ — whatever that means — and contains offensive material (an image of the president of the United States),” he tweeted.
The chief communications officer at @Awana is threatening to sue us if we don't take this down. The claim is that this article is "beyond satire" — whatever that means — and contains offensive material (an image of the president of the United States).https://t.co/ZyySjIhoE4— Seth Dillon (@SethDillon) June 3, 2020
But in a statement emailed to The Christian Post on Monday, Awana CCO Michael Handler explained that Awana was not planning to sue the satire site.
“Awana has always been and will be about reaching kids with the gospel and discipleship. We are committed to this mission,” stated Handler. “Awana is not pursuing a lawsuit against the Babylon Bee. Our prayer is that all children and youth around the world would come to know, love, and serve the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Handler added that he and his organization wanted "to stay singularly committed to that mission without distraction."
According to Dillon, Awana threatened The Babylon Bee with legal action over the Trump piece, with the satire site head posting a link on Twitter showing a different reaction by Awana to a Babylon Bee piece from 2018.
“Always appreciate an entertaining #Awana feature from @TheBabylonBee!” tweeted the Awana Twitter account back in September 2018 in response to the satire article “Man Denied Entrance To Heaven Due To Spotty Awana Credentials.”
In comments to CP given before Awana said they would not sue, Dillon believed that the legal threat was “silly and self-defeating for a number of reasons.”
“First, the article is funny and lighthearted; it doesn't even come close to casting Awana in a negative light. What it amounts to, if anything, is free advertising for them,” said Dillon.
“Second, it isn't ‘beyond satire,’ as they described it. It's just satire, and satire enjoys substantial protection under the law. Finally, by demanding we take the article down or face legal action, they actually drew more attention to it.”
Dillon also told CP that he believed the threatening of legal action was Awana's way of trying “to appear ‘woke.’”
“[Awana feels] our article, despite being satirical, somehow undermines their credibility as social justice advocates,” he continued. “But I think it's their response to the article, not the article itself, that's damaging their brand and public image.”
Awana holds weekly events in thousands of churches worldwide. The organization was headed by its longtime leader and co-founder Art Rorheim, who passed away in 2018. He co-founded what would later become Awana in 1941 at the North Side Gospel Center in Chicago with senior pastor Lance Latham.
In the past, The Babylon Bee has received criticism from the fact-checking website Snopes, which has accused the satire site of “fanning the flames of controversy.”