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Fabricated E-llustrations

A prayer attributed to the memorial service for Oklahoma City bombing victims came by e-mail. Bob Guffey, associate pastor of First Baptist Church of Shreveport, Louisiana, recognized it instead as a prayer from Marian Wright Edelman's Guide My Feet. Though the prayer may have been used at the service, it was written by Edelman and published in a copyrighted book. The e-mail made no mention of that.

Guffey wouldn't have broken the law if he had quoted the poem in a sermon, but the author deserves the proper attribution. And if the message is published or broadcast, the preacher and the church could be violating copyright law. The greater risk is the loss of credibility when someone in the congregation knows you've fallen for spam and preached it as meat.

Guffey's experience demonstrates the best and worst of the Internet. An incredible array of information awaits your fingertips in cyberspace, but a lot of it is untrue.

Some of the e-mails I receive are fascinating, amazing, miraculous—and ...

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