The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has filed a suit against a click-bait website, which has more than 2 million likes on Facebook, for using Billy Graham's name and likeness to "lure users" and make money.
The BGEA filed the lawsuit in a federal court against the operator of the website GodToday.com.
The website has no "About Us" link or contact details, and most of its stories use either of the two bylines: "John" or "Hunter." Even on its Facebook page, with 2,354,849 members, the "About" information is missing.
The suit accuses the website of using Rev. Graham's "name, image or likeness" to "lure users," and includes screen shots from Facebook with sponsored ads that use images of Billy Graham alongside text that reads "LIKE if you love Billy Graham," according to wlos.com.
The owner of the website is "clandestine" and identified in court documents as "John Doe," according to wsoctv.com.
"John Doe simply republishes portions of Billy Graham's literary works – some of them more than 40 years old – without authorization from BGEA," the lawsuit says.
One of the stories on the website is titled, "When A Woman Told Joel Osteen That She Was Going To Commit Suicide, He Responded AMAZINGLY."
Almost all stories posted on the website seek to engage readers.
"Do you like Joel Osteen? Or do you think he's too soft? Let us know in the comments!" reads the concluding paragraph of the story on Osteen.
"Unlike Joel Osteen, who recently tried to comfort a woman who was contemplating suicide, one girl did the exact opposite. Her case has the entire nation interested, now," reads another story on the website, and concludes thus: "Should Michelle Carter be held accountable for her actions? Should she go to jail for a long time? SHARE your opinion in the comments!"
The webiste has apparently taken down pictures of Billy Graham after the filing of the lawsuit.
In May, Washington's attorney general announced that the state will be shutting down the controversial pay-for-prayer website, Christian Prayer Center, with the site's organizer being ordered to pay up to $7.75 million in restitution fees.
Christian Prayer Center promised visitors that their prayer requests would be passed on to "thousands" in an Internet-wide prayer circle. "Local churches and small group prayer lists have been a wonderful way to share the blessings of prayer, but these methods are limited in their ability to rally the true power of thousands of voices all praying in agreement. The Internet has enabled us to build a massive congregation to lift your prayer requests to a whole new level," the center's website previously stated.
In 2013, a fake Facebook claiming to be evangelist Joyce Meyer solicited donations toward a "ministry" by scamming Christians looking to support the church and an orphanage.