Type to search

Church Politics

Court Rules Missouri Lacks Jurisdiction to Rule in Jim Bakker Constitutional Rights Case

The Eighth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court ruling that stated Missouri did not have proper jurisdiction to hear televangelist Jim Bakker’s constitutional rights case against the Arkansas attorney general and three California prosecutors although his businesses are located within the state. 

The suit listed Bakker as well as his Stone County, Missouri-based Morningside Church and Morningside Church Productions as plaintiffs and Leslie Rutledge, attorney general for the State of Arkansas; Kimberly R. H. Lewis, district attorney for the County of Merced, California; Tori Verber Salazar, district attorney for the County of San Joaquin, California; and Mike Feuer, city attorney for the City of Los Angeles, as defendants.

The case claimed the defendants violated the Bakker’s First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights while investigating claims made on Bakker’s television program that a colloidal silver product could cure some types of coronaviruses.

The appeals court ruled that although Bakker, his church, and Morningside Church Productions, the company that produces the Jim Bakker Show, are headquartered in Stone County, the defendants did not have the “minimum contacts” with the state necessary for Missouri to have jurisdiction over the case, upholding an earlier ruling by U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Missouri.

The opinion said the defendant’s connection with the state where a lawsuit is filed must “be more than random, fortuitous, or attenuated” and must permit the defendant to reasonably anticipate being able to be present in court. 

The case stemmed from the advertising of “Silver Solution” on jimbakkershow.com as a potential cure for coronaviruses after a guest on the show, naturopathic doctor Sherrill Sellman, claimed on a Feb. 12 episode that it had been shown to eliminate a strain of the virus “within 12 hours.”

Access to MinistryWatch content is free.  However, we hope you will support our work with your prayers and financial gifts.  To make a donation, click here.

Following the claims, the Missouri Attorney General’s Office filed a suit against Bakker and Morningside Church Productions in March 2020, followed by similar suits in Arkansas and California and a warning from the New York attorney general.

Bakker asked the Missouri court to dismiss the charges, denying he made the claim. 

His attorney, former Gov. Jay Nixon, called the lawsuit an assault on Bakker’s religious freedom and said he was being “unfairly targeted by those who want to crush his ministry and force his Christian television program off the air.”

 “The video recording of The Jim Bakker Show clearly shows the allegations are false. Bakker did not claim or state that Silver Solution was a cure for COVID-19,” Nixon said.

Nixon said Bakker had immediately complied with orders to stop offering Silver Solution on his show and ministry website.

In June, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced that his office had obtained a $156,000 consent judgment against Bakker and Morningside Church Productions, which in part required the return of $90,000 to the state’s consumers who purchased “Silver Solution” between Feb. 12, 2020 and March 10, 2020.

Under the judgment, Bakker is not allowed to sell or advertise the product as a way to diagnose, prevent, mitigate, treat or cure any disease or illness.

Anne Stych

Anne Stych is a writer in Charlotte, North Carolina.