THE URANTIA BOOK SYNERGIST - SPECIAL ISSUE SUMMER 1989
An Analysis of Selected Portions of Urantia Foundation's Declaration of Trust
The URANTIA Foundation was created in 1950 by a Declaration of Trust prepared under the leadership of Dr. William Sadler. Articles II and III of this Declaration of Trust are particularly relevant to this case in that they deal with the Object of the Foundation and the Duties of Trustees:
2.1 PRINCIPAL OBJECT: The object for which this Foundation is created is the promotion, improvement, and expansion among the peoples of the world in the comprehension and understanding of Cosmology and the relation of the planet on which we live to the Universe, of the genesis and destiny of Man and his relation to God, and of the true teachings of Jesus Christ; and for the inculcation and encouragement of the realization and appreciation of the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man - in order to increase and enhance the comfort, happiness and well being of Man, as an individual and as a member of society, through the fostering of a religion, a philosophy, and a cosmology which are commensurate with Man's intellectual and cultural development.
This statement of the Foundation's intended purpose seems to clearly establish a religious purpose and refers to a "religion" which the Foundation has been created to "foster."
2.2 CONCORDANT OBJECTS: The concordant objects for which the Foundation is created are to perpetually preserve inviolate the text of THE URANTIA BOOK and to disseminate the principles, teachings, and doctrines of THE URANTIA BOOK.
In layman's terms, this paragraph means that in order to achieve the primary objective, the Foundation is charged with the responsibility of maintaining a permanent and reliable source of the original, undiluted, unrevised text of The Urantia Book.
Common sense dictates that, although the Foundation holds a copyright on The Urantia Book (the copyright is not an issue in this case), eventually the widespread quotation of the book as well as the interpretation of its contents will be entirely beyond the control of any group of individuals or single organization.
As in the case of the Holy Bible, it is inevitable that The Urantia Book will eventually be, and indeed must be, freely distributed, quoted and interpreted in all corners of the world for many generations to come. The crucial distinction, however, is that the founders of the Urantia Movement had the opportunity and the legal mechanism to establish a perpetual and trustworthy custodian of the original and authentic text of the Urantia Papers, and to create an organization legally obligated to disseminate this information on a continuing basis.
However, the Foundation's Declaration of Trust contains no express provisions that legally operate to require or authorize URANTIA Foundation to establish a policy or means for believers to disseminate The Urantia Book or its teachings; nor to restrict or prohibit the use of the name of the Revelation or our planet, 'Urantia', or Christ Michael's three concentric circles symbol!
It can be safely assumed that the framers of the Foundation's Declaration of Trust were aware that such a task would be impossible once the movement achieved widespread recognition and global proportions, and that there would be no legal means to exercise such authority considering the true nature and origin of The Urantia Book, and the meaning of the word Urantia.
DUTIES OF TRUSTEES
3.1 PRESERVATION OF TEXT OF THE URANTIA BOOK: It shall be the primary duty of the Trustees to perpetually preserve inviolate the text of THE URANTIA BOOK, and the Trustees shall use and employ such means, methods, and facilities and apply and expend as much of the Trust Estate as in the judgment of the Trustees shall be necessary, proper, or appropriate, for the preserving and the safekeeping of copies of the original text of THE URANTIA BOOK, duly authenticated by the Trustees, from loss, damage, or destruction and from alteration, modification, revision, or change in any manner or in any particular.
This clause spells out the specific duties of the Trustees in relation to their responsibility to provide perpetual protection for the "Substantive Trust Estate. (This is defined in Article IV as the plates or other media for the printing and reproduction of the The Urantia Book and not less than three authenticated copies of the original text.) Monies collected by the Foundation are referred to as the "Subservient Trust Estate" which is to be used to carry out the objectives of the Foundation.
3.2 EFFECTING PRINCIPAL OBJECT: It shall be the duty of the Trustees to use and employ such means and methods as they shall from time to time devise and develop and to apply and expend the Trust Estate to promote and effectuate the general purposes set forth in paragraph 2.1.
3.3 PRESERVATION AND CONTROL OF REPRODUCTION OF THE URANTIA BOOK: It shall be the duty of the Trustees to retain absolute and unconditional control of all plates and other media for the printing and reproduction of THE URANTIA BOOK and any translation thereof, to make or cause to be made such additional plates and other media as shall from time to time be required to print and reproduce THE URANTIA BOOK and any translation thereof, to retain the absolute and unconditional control of the possession, custody, use, and disposition of all such plates and other media for the printing and reproduction of THE URANTIA BOOK and translation thereof, and to apply and use the Trust Estate therefore.
3.4 DISSEMINATION OF TEACHINGS OF THE URANTIA BOOK: It shall be the duty of the Trustees to disseminate the teachings and doctrines of THE URANTIA BOOK and to devise, to develop, and to effectuate means and methods for such dissemination, and to apply and use the Trust Estate for the accomplishment of that end.
While the Foundation is clearly charged with the responsibility of publishing The Urantia Book, and disseminating its teachings through whatever means it deems necessary and appropriate, there is no language which legally (or morally) establishes an exclusive right to promote the Book, or the authority to restrict or inhibit the efforts of others within the movement who seek to disseminate the teachings of this wonderful epochal Revelation, particularly in the form of the authentic and official version of The Urantia Book published by URANTIA Foundation.
Good intentions notwithstanding, the Foundation has become embroiled in sometimes costly, and inevitably hopeless efforts in recent years, to control outreach and dissemination of The Urantia Book. The Trustees seek to dictate to believers of The Urantia Book the world over regarding the nature and scope of outreach activities. The Foundation employs lawsuits, or threats thereof, to prevent persons and/or organizations from using the names 'Urantia,' 'Urantian,' or the book title to identify themselves and their work with the Urantia Movement. Such attempts are clearly beyond the scope of the Foundation's legally stated purpose and rightful authority as defined in the Declaration of Trust.
Apparently, the Trustees choose to interpret their duties to mean URANTIA Foundation is obliged to restrict quotation of the text (accurately or otherwise), limit distribution efforts, avoid publicity, trademark key words symbolic of the movement, and police the outreach activities of thousands of readers all over the world who seek to identify with the movement, in order to "perpetually preserve inviolate the text of The Urantia Book".
In the legal sense, however, it is clear that the primary "Duties of [the] Trustees" are in reality defined as, and limited to, the "preserving and the safekeeping of [not less than three] copies of the original text..." and to control the "...possession, custody, use, and disposition...of the plates and other media for the printing and reproduction of The Urantia Book and translation thereof...".
In essence, this only means that the Foundation must not permit any changes in the original authorized version of The Urantia Book which it publishes.
Much to the disappointment of many, and perhaps to the great detriment of our planet, the Trustees of URANTIA Foundation seem to place extremely high priority upon a legalistic preoccupation with policing the expressions and outreach of reader-believers. We believe this has seriously impaired their ability to focus upon the inspiring spiritual mission mandated as their "Principal Object".
An argument offered in support of the Foundation's need for trademarks is the claim that they are necessary to "protect the text inviolate" when the copyright expires in the not-too distant future. Even if the Foundation's trademarks were held to be valid, after the copyright expires, anyone could then reprint the Urantia Papers, making whatever revisions they wish, substituting "Earth" for "Urantia" and publish them under another name such as The New Bible. Again, common sense dictates that the URANTIA Foundation's role in relation to preserving the text, and it is a very important one, is confined to providing a permanent and reliable source of the original, unrevised version of the Revelation.
The Trustees of URANTIA Foundation must come to terms with the fact that they are custodians -- they have no temporal authority other than that which is specifically afforded them in the Foundation's Declaration of Trust (and then only to the extent that such authority is exercised in a manner consistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States). Furthermore, the Urantia Papers are a Revelation bestowed for an entire epoch; they are neither dogma nor are they canons or a coda. There is simply no justification for the Trustees of URANTIA Foundation to believe that they must act as custodians of a religion and to assume any spiritual authority over thousands of disciples of Christ Michael just because these rely on The Urantia Book as their primary source of information and inspiration. How can they justify their continued attempts to deprive earnest students of The Urantia Book from using the name of their religion or the symbol of their Creator Brother Christ Michael of Nebadon? Are the Trustees really supposed, or can they justify by law, to set up and enforce standards for reader-believers' activities that are based merely on their own personal views?
In the simplest terms, the principal object of the foundation is to facilitate mankind's understanding and comprehension of the Gospel of the Kingdom "through the fostering of a religion, a philosophy, and a cosmology," which the Urantia Revelation has provided us; not to systematically interfere with those who have the faith and the courage to do so.
The Trustees must wake up to the realization that their effort to inhibit or control the growth of the Urantia Movement and the activities of its disciples is all too reminiscent of the kind of "ecclesiastical authority" that has for centuries compromised the purpose and effect of the Fourth Epochal Revelation, and has resulted in the rejection of "Christianity" by major segments of the world's population.
A study of Biblical history reveals that the leadership of the early Christian movement made an attempt to maintain usurped authority by withholding the "sacred scriptures" from the public by refusing to allow them to be taught or distributed in a language the common people could understand. Indeed, the first man who had the courage to translate the entire Bible into English, William Tyndale, was burned at the stake for his attempts to make the scriptures available to the people. Ironically, many centuries later, we now find the leadership of the URANTIA Foundation utilizing a legion of highly-paid lawyers to curtail the activities of those who are attempting to follow the clearly defined mandates of Christ Michael and proclaim his new and enlarged Gospel to the people of Urantia.
Indeed, the mere appearance of an emerging human ecclesiastical authority in the Urantia Movement is not only antithetical to the teachings of The Urantia Book but would also operate to undermine or inhibit the ultimate objective of the Fifth Epochal Revelation -- the unification of the world's great religions under the banner of Christ Michael.
In conclusion let it suffice to say, there is in reality no human "authority" in relation to this Revelation. The Urantia Book is now, and always has been, the "exclusive property" of all mankind. Both the teachings of The Urantia Book and the Foundation's Declaration of Trust make it clear that neither the revelators nor the framers of the Declaration of Trust had any intention of placing the URANTIA Foundation in a position of papal-like authority or control over the Jesusonian Christian religion and universe cosmology described in the Urantia Papers in general, the entire Urantia Movement, or the outreach activities of individual Urantians. We can safely place our faith in the Father, Christ Michael and our celestial friends who provided us with this Revelation with the intent of correcting the course of our planet as we, as individual Urantians, commit ourselves to the Father's will and doing our part to facilitate Urantia's ultimate destiny -- the Era of Light and Life.
Are they suing you because of vigorous outreach approach?
We can't really know the motivations of URANTIA Foundation, but it is conceivable that this is so. Certainly others have told us that some Trustees of URANTIA Foundation are upset that we lowered book prices to facilitate outreach. A letter from URANTIA Foundation President Martin Myers to URANTIA Brotherhood President David Elders, dated July 28, 1987, states clearly that book sales are to be de-emphasized. Others have said that some Trustees feel that the word "Center" in our organizational name makes them regard us as competition.
There is definitely a place for a central organization designed to protect the copyright and maintain the integrity of the text of The Urantia Book. It is appropriate for URANTIA Foundation to be dedicated to the dissemination of this book and its teachings, as they are charged in their Declaration of Trust. It follows naturally that as a central organization Urantia Foundation can and should establish guidelines for the important work of dissemination. The question becomes: should the central organization then dictate how any single individual or group responds to these guidelines? This raises the issue of control and the inappropriate use of trademark law or the legal arena to silence, manipulate or control those with differing points of view.
Outreach and dissemination becomes quite personal to the individual reader of The Urantia Book. The questions raised and decisions made can be deeply religious in nature and often become part of our very private and personal dialog with God. Unlike Caligastia, Lucifer, or Adam and Eve, each of us has an indwelling fragment of God perpetually willing to guide and assist in our choices. Established guidelines can be helpful, but the final expression is inevitably personal and unique to each individual or group. Where God is involved there will always be creativity of response and originality of expression. This is true for every life choice or decision you make and every action you take. Isn't this equally true in respect to the work to be done for this Revelation?