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It's uncertain when, or if, the Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization will reach bookstore shelves, but the delayed release of the four-volume work fueled debate about possible suppression of Christian academics by secular publishers.

Scholarly publisher Wiley-Blackwell's decision to withdraw the encyclopedia after it was printed and debuted at the annual meetings of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature in November ignited the controversy.

Project editor George T. Kurian e-mailed the encyclopedia's nearly 400 contributors in February and called the decision "probably the first instance of mass book-burning in the 21st century." According to Kurian, president of the Encyclopedia Society and editor of 60 reference works, the encyclopedia was delayed because four critics called it "too Christian, too orthodox, too anti-secular, and too anti-Muslim, and not politically correct enough for being used in universities."

Kurian said changes requested by Wiley — including the removal of terms such as b.c./a.d., Virgin Birth, and Resurrection — were "the most blatant form of censorship in the history of religious publishing."

Wiley said a lapse in the project's editorial process was revealed after some contributors and editors raised concerns about the encyclopedia's content. After the book was printed, the publishing company learned the editorial board Kurian selected had not reviewed the work. The delay was made to give the board time to review it.

The publishing company said it erred in not being aware of Kurian's "shortcut" in the editorial process.

"It is indeed unfortunate that the content review by the editorial board is taking place late, but that does not negate the need to do so to ...

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February 2009

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