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As Hobby Lobby made its case to the Supreme Court, arguing that its business is sufficiently Christian to be exempt from Obamacare's contraceptive mandate, another business was arguing its evangelical bona fides, too.
WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, the evangelical division of Penguin Random House (PRH), is one of the world's leading Christian publishers. Its backlist includes David Platt's Radical, John Piper's Desiring God, and Stephen Arterburn's Every Man's Battle. But it has resigned its membership in the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) rather than submit to an ethics review over God and the Gay Christian—a book it didn't actually publish.
The book, in which Matthew Vines argues that same-gender sex is not sinful, was published by Convergent Books. A 16-month-old PRH line, Convergent describes itself as "for progressive and mainline Christians who demand an open, inclusive, and culturally engaged exploration of faith."
In a letter to board members, NRB president Jerry Johnson said WaterBrook Multnomah employees worked on the Convergent book, noting that Stephen Cobb is chief publishing executive for both groups. Cobb also oversees Image, PRH's Catholic imprint. All three divisions share offices in Colorado Springs, away from PRH's Manhattan headquarters.
"This issue comes down to NRB members producing unbiblical material, regardless of the label under which they do it," Johnson said. "I asked them to reconsider and end the practice of having Christian workers from their publishing house work on Convergent projects. They declined."
In a statement published before the NRB letter, Cobb said no employees were forced to work on the book, and that a few took him up on his offer to abstain.
The point of imprints is to identify unique brands and styles to buyers, but boundaries within publishing houses are often blurred, said Lynn Garrett, senior religion editor for Publishers ...