A Christian writer has filed a $40 million lawsuit against religious broadcasters Paul and Jan Crouch and their Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), among others. Sylvia Fleener, 53, of Union, W.Va., claims that The Omega Code, the 1999 apocalyptic movie, was originally her story. Fleener's attorney described her as an interdenominational Christian minister severely ill with scleroderma, which causes hardening of the organs. According to a statement from her attorney, Daniel Quisenberry of Kirtland & Packard, his firm began legal action because Fleener felt convicted by God to speak out. Quisenberry's firm filed the lawsuit on July 11 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. The lawsuit says Fleener presented TBN officials with a manuscript titled The Omega Syndrome in 1996, hoping TBN would produce a film from it.

Fleener received no response but was surprised when TBN released The Omega Code last year. The complaint alleges 38 similarities between characters and plot devices in the two works. Both feature the Bible as the source of coded information on the end times. Both have a lead character who is initially good but ends up as the Antichrist. And in both, racists seek to kill Jews.

Quisenberry says Fleener was a 20-year supporter of TBN and had confidence in its TV ministry. He adds that TBN officials ignored Fleener's comments when she brought the similarities to their attention.

Colby May of Washington, D.C., an attorney for TBN and Crouch, denied Fleener's claims. "In this instance, there is simply no truth to the claim that Trinity and anybody associated with The Omega Code infringed on anybody's copyright or intellectual property, and certainly not Mrs. Fleener's," May told CT.

"A writer knows when [her] material has been taken," Quisenberry told CT in response.

Progress of the complaint is uncertain.

Quisenberry wants to depose Fleener very soon. "She would rather spend the rest of her days on this earth with family and friends close to her," he says. "Instead, she got this big fight thrown in her lap."

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