Rev. Schuller takes stand in Crystal Cathedral bankruptcy case
The Rev. Robert H. Schuller, founder of Crystal Cathedral, took the witness stand Wednesday in Bankruptcy Court and testified he never gave up ownership of written materials and other creative works.
Schuller, 86, is trying to collect millions from the ministry he launched from a drive-in movie theater 57 years ago.
"I never gave up ownership for any of my written materials," said Schuller, 86, of his work with the Crystal Cathedral and its flagship television program, the "Hour of Power."
Schuller said he remained a "goodwill ambassador" to the Crystal Cathedral and still was chairman of its board of directors. He testified he did not recall ever signing an agreement that promised he and his wife would be paid for the use of their creative works.
But Schuller and his wife, Arvella, resigned from the Crystal Cathedral in a split from its board of directors this year and he no longer serves on the board or acts as a goodwill ambassador. And the agreement is the basis of some of his monetary claims against the Garden Grove church.
The church filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2010, citing $50 million in debt. The trial centers on claims that the family has made over the ministry's usage of their work and has stalled the closing of the bankruptcy.
Though Schuller, his wife, his daughter and son-in-law are alleging the ministry owes them money for unpaid contracts, copyright infringement and intellectual property violations, Schuller also said in court he did not know that some of his teachings had been offered freely over the Internet and that he had given "implied consent" for the ministry to use his work.
Neither Schuller nor his wife could recall specific details of arrangements they made with the ministry. In court filings, Schuller said when the ministry began, it was "small and things were handled quite informally."
Schuller's daughter, Carol Schuller Milner, said outside the courtroom her mother and father used to conduct deals "with a handshake," and her father rarely kept track of specifics.
Milner said right before the ministry filed for bankruptcy, she was working out a process to streamline how the ministry would continue to use the Schullers' work.
"The Schullers always owned their materials and everybody knew it," she said.
-- Nicole Santa Cruz
Photo: Rev. Robert H. Schuller, pictured at Crystal Cathedral in 2010, testified Wednesday in Bankruptcy Court. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times