Film Fraud: A Phillips Family Tradition?

sudan_the_hidden_holocaustIt would seem that Doug Phillips isn’t the only member of his family who has a penchant for perpetrating film frauds. I received an email from a very credible source. The content of that email is truly shocking, and I’ve confirmed from additional sources that the story is in fact true.

I’ve also been informed that no one to date has been willing to publicly tell the story, while also naming names, because of the likelihood of a lawsuit by the perpetrator. In fact, the perpetrator has already threatened litigation before about this, so the concerns appear to be well justified.

Ministry Watchman isn’t exactly thrilled over the prospect of being sued either. However, given the serious nature of the story we can’t in good conscience just ignore it.

Dear Mr. Barnes,

Thank you for agreeing to keep my name confidential. As I explained, you are free to use any of the contents of this email as a source for your own reporting, or you can just reproduce it as is without my name. I am interested that the truth be told, but at this stage in my life a lawsuit is more excitement than I need.

I have had friendships with several South African Reformed missionaries who have been active throughout Africa for many years. These men are highly respected. They have had a dramatic and positive impact in many African countries, often working behind the scenes in some of the most dangerous places that a missionary could ever expect to work in. In fact it’s rare that you’d ever find a missionary willing to go right into the middle of a war torn country.

I have supported the work of these brave missionaries and am personally familiar with some of the daring feats they have accomplished in difficult and hostile environments. One of the countries in which these missionaries have had a profound impact is Sudan, where millions of Christians have been murdered, enslaved, raped, starved to death, or had their limbs hacked off by Marxist Muslims.

The martyrdom of so many Sudanese Christians with so little outcry around the world is one of the great tragedies of modern times. I believe that God is especially pleased that these missionary friends have worked hard to help when so many have turned their backs. One of their greatest contributions is the tenacity with which they’ve worked to expose this Islamic genocide against millions of Christians and give it worldwide attention.

Much of this good work has been done through a ministry called Frontline Fellowship. The name itself is revealing. Frontline Fellowship and its missionaries have often put themselves literally on the very front lines of some the world’s hottest hot spots. The founder of Frontline Fellowship, Rev. Peter Hammond, has written several outstanding books, including Faith Under Fire In Sudan. Frontline Fellowship has also produced videos about missions work in some of the most challenging and dangerous nations in the world. I know Rev. Hammond to be a very courageous, yet exceedingly humble, man who does not seek glory or honor for himself but rather seeks to honor God alone.

Another book that Rev. Peter Hammond has written is Character Assassins (coauthored by Rev. Brian Abshire). In it Rev. Hammond recounts many instances of men who have come to the mission field seeking a name for themselves as much as, or more than, seeking to honor the name of Jesus Christ. According to Peter Hammond this is an all-too-common problem. However, Rev. Hammond is exceedingly gracious by not naming names in that book.

One significant story featured in Character Assassins is on pages 38-39. It bears repeating here because it will be of particular interest to your readers:

Africa’s Forgotten War

When I first started working in Sudan and writing and speaking about the persecution of Christians in Southern Sudan and the Nuba Mountains, there were very few Christian ministries involved there. Most Christians were not aware that the largest country in Africa was involved in the longest war still raging, with the oldest community of Christians in Africa suffering some of the worst persecution in the world today. Through hundreds of radio and TV programmes, scores of articles and the publication of the Faith Under Fire In Sudan book, the news blackout on the colossal conflict in Sudan started to be lifted.

As we exposed and publicised the Scorched Earth Tactics, systematic terror bombings of civilian targets and research of the slave trade in Sudan numerous ministries began to get interested in this neglected field. Some lifted whole articles and photographs from our mission and presented them to their supporters as their own. One individual even launched his own ministry based on a video documentary on Sudan which we had helped a Christian film ministry to produce. On his website he claimed to have led the mission trip, on which he was just a guest with no specific responsibilities. Even the tons of Bibles which we had organised for almost a year he claimed had been provided by his ministry which hadn’t even been in existence at that stage.

Endangering Christians

Even more serious than the false claims and plagiarism on his website, he obtained a copy of the broadcast master of the video before we had checked it, and began circulating and selling a version of the video which included numerous factual errors and serious security breaches. When I had agreed to take the film producer into Sudan, it was on the basis of a written agreement that I would have the opportunity to correct any factual errors or security breaches which could endanger the churches and mission bases — before the film was released.

In the wake of the premature release of this uncorrected version, every location of our mission activity in the South, identified in the video, was repeatedly bombed. This included the hospital, cathedral, school, mission base, and chaplains’ training centre. In fact, I was leading an Evangelism Explosion training team at just one of those locations when we were bombed on Sunday morning at the church.

The community which included the Frontline Fellowship mission base, high school and chapel was bombed ten times. The Samaritans Purse Hospital and the Cathedral at Lui was also bombed ten times. Yet, repeated attempts to persuade the individual to delete the security breaches from his version of the video were unsuccessful. Instead, he started to threaten legal action against both the film producer and ourselves for using what he now considered his video.

“God will bring every deed into judgement, including, every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” Ecclesiastes 12:14

brad_phillipsRev. Hammond didn’t name names in this book. I wish he had, because the wicked deeds perpetrated against Frontline Fellowship were perpetrated by real men with real names. The name of the man who “obtained a copy of the broadcast master of the video” is Bradford L. Phillips. Rev. Hammond’s use of the word “obtained” is his only too gracious way of saying that Brad Phillips “stole” the video master.

Brad Phillips is the founder of The Persecution Project Foundation. Your readers might be interested in knowing that one of the founding board members of Persecution Project is Matthew Chancey. Your readers will be even more interested to know that Brad Phillips is the younger brother of Doug Phillips and the son of Howard Phillips.

I was reminded of Rev. Hammond’s book and its report of Brad Phillips’ actions when I read your intriguing story exposing Doug Phillips’ Raising the Allosaur video fraud. It appears that Brad Phillips isn’t the only member of the Phillips family to have some history of using other men’s work for his own claims of success, even where personally making relatively little contribution. Even worse is the fact that this is done in the name of “Christian ministry.”

Rev. Hammond was only too kind (and also concerned about being sued by Brad Phillips) to go into all the gory details in his book. The fact is that the situation with Brad Phillips was even worse than is indicated by Rev. Hammond’s abbreviated description, which itself is bad enough. I’m familiar with some of the details that Peter Hammond left out, and I’d like to share them with you. If Brad Phillips were to have ever repented publicly or even privately of what he did then exposing him would be unnecessary. But to my knowledge Brad Phillips and Persecution Project Foundation have never repented to anyone for their misdeeds.

In 1998 [HB’s note: this also happens to be about the same time Doug Phillips launched Vision Forum], Brad Phillips sought to form an alliance with Peter Hammond, and he requested to go with Hammond on one of his numerous mission trips to Sudan. By that point Hammond had already been in Sudan something like 35 times, whereas Brad Phillips had just only the year before formed his Persecution Project. Phillips was a young and ambitious new missionary with little practical experience who sought to gain some notoriety for himself and raise funds quickly.

Knowing of Brad Phillips’ lack of personal qualifications and lack of missionary field experience, the Frontline team warned him repeatedly that conditions in Sudan were some of the harshest in the world. Not only would they be going into war zones, but the risks of dying or being permanently injured just due to environmental issues are extremely high. The temperatures in Sudan are extreme, disease is rampant, and the bugs and parasites are like nothing any American has ever experienced.

While willing to foster a cooperative working relationship between Frontline Fellowship and Phillips’ newly formed Persecution Project Foundation, Rev. Hammond thought it ill advised for the young and inexperienced Brad Phillips to personally make the trip. Phillips would not be dissuaded, however, and insisted on coming.

The trip to Southern Sudan took place in November 1998. Brad Phillips accompanied Peter Hammond and several other Frontline Fellowship missionaries, along with Pat Matrisciana, the founder of Jeremiah Films and a close personal friend of Peter Hammond. The inspiration for the video came from Peter Hammond’s book Faith Under Fire In Sudan, as even Brad Phillips has freely admitted. According to all who were present, Brad Phillips did not hold up well at all under the harsh conditions, making the work of the trip considerably more difficult for everyone else.

Pat Matrisciana, however, held up well under the grueling conditions and personally shot virtually all of the hundreds of hours of video. After several weeks in the field, Matrisciana returned to his Hemet, California headquarters to begin the tedious work of editing down the video footage into a compelling one hour documentary video. As I understand it, Caryl Matrisciana, Pat’s wife, herself also a very accomplished video production person, also played a significant role in the editing, writing, and producing of Sudan, the Hidden Holocaust.

Brad Phillips, though lacking any video production skills, insisted on joining the Matriscianas at their Hemet video production facilities. Phillips had hardly been an asset in Sudan, so attempts were made to dissuade Brad Phillips from going to Jeremiah Films. However, once again Phillips would hear none of it. After a number of days of intense editing work by the Matriscianas and other Jeremiah Films staff, Brad Phillips was made aware that the video was “nearing completion.” What remained was to forward a copy to Rev. Hammond for his review and instructions for the last and final editing.

The reason Hammond needed to review the film was to ensure that none of the video footage could be used for intelligence purposes by the Islamic Sudanese government in their efforts to exterminate Christian opposition. Frontline Fellowship is well known to the Islamic Khartoum government, and Peter Hammond is especially hated by that government. He is, quite literally, a marked man. So Hammond regarded it as foregone conclusion that the Sudanese government would be one of the first to order a copy of the video as soon as it became available, and he wanted to ensure that purchase would be of no use to them.

Brad Phillips had been personally apprised of Hammond’s intelligence concerns while in the field, and he was told of it several times subsequently. Any footage that Matrisciana had shot of churches, hospitals, schools, and supply depots would have to be carefully edited so as to not make their location apparent and make them easy targets for the Islamic Khartoum government. Brad Phillips was well aware of the long history of the brutal Khartoum government, and the fact that for years they had engaged in a ruthless campaign of forced “Islamic conversion” and the imposition of Sharia through murder, rape, amputations, slavery and forced “relocations” to “peace camps” where they would be starved to death. Even crucifixions of numerous Christians have occurred. Millions of Sudanese have suffered genocide at the hands of the Muslims, so Hammond’s caution was well justified.

However, immediately prior to Matrisciana being able to forward a copy of the edited video to Hammond, a master of the video disappeared from Matrisciana’s Hemet ranch. Brad Phillips disappeared from the ranch at the very same time. Matrisciana and Hammond were subsequently able to track down Phillips and contact him by phone in his Virginia office. He acknowledged taking the video but made no apologies. He intended to begin selling it immediately without additional editing. By this point, Hammond had viewed a master of the video himself and knew that additional editing was required. He pleaded with Phillips to not release the video in its unfinished state. He explained that as soon as the video fell into the hands of the Sudanese government it would provide a wealth of intelligence. Hammond feared that a fresh round of bombing campaigns would result.

Matrisciana and Hammond were unable to persuade Phillips to return the film, even when they told him, “Please, you don’t have to steal the film. We’re even willing to just give you the film if that’s what it takes. But don’t put it into distribution. Lives are at stake.”

But Phillips refused to heed their warnings, and not long after they discovered that Phillips had a strong personal financial stake in selling the video immediately, despite their warnings. Phillips had brokered a major “deal” with a highly respected Reformed television evangelist, who had ordered thousands of copies of the video in advance and was expecting delivery. I do not know if this buyer would have permitted a delay in delivery or not, but either way, Phillips did not turn over the master for the final edits and proceeded to sell copies without those edits.

Unfortunately, Hammond’s fearful predictions came true. Not long after Phillips began selling his unedited version of the video, every single church, hospital, school and supply depot shown in the video came under heavy bombardment by artillery, helicopter gunships and bomber planes. In fact every single structure that was shown in the video was totally destroyed in a matter of weeks. It became only too apparent that the Khartoum government was working directly off “intelligence” acquired from Phillips’ stolen video.

But the destruction is actually far more horrific than just buildings. From all accounts, at a minimum hundreds of Christians died as a direct result of Brad Phillips’ theft and premature release of Sudan, the Hidden Holocaust. Brad Phillips managed to gain a name for himself in the U.S. among a number of big-name evangelicals as a so-called champion of the cause of the persecuted Sudanese Christians. Since then Persecution Project has grown into an actual supporter of the relief and evangelism work in Sudan. But it was done at a terribly high cost, and it was done by Brad Phillips taking credit for things he had little if any part in.

In Touch Mission, the U.S.-based sister organization to Frontline Fellowship, sells the final edited and “intelligence-safe” version of Sudan, The Hidden Holocaust. Jeremiah Films likewise offers the safe version of Sudan, the Hidden Holocaust. Interestingly enough though, Persecution Project no longer sells its stolen version of the video (sounds a lot like the disappearance of Raising The Allosaur, doesn’t it?). But the horrendous damage and loss of life has already been done, so it makes little difference at this point that Brad Phillips no longer sells it, other than maybe Phillips is hoping that by taking it off the shelf it will lessen the likelihood of his public exposure.

For Peter Hammond and Pat Matrisciana the issue was never about the money, and the many hundreds of thousands of dollars that Brad Phillips made off his stolen video. Their concern was for the safety of the Sudanese people. Needless to say, however, the many hundreds of thousands of dollars that Brad Phillips acquired through theft and sale of the pre-release version of the video could have been put to good use by the men who actually deserved the credit; and who deserves the credit is very obvious from the film itself. While Hammond and his Frontline Fellowship missionaries appear in many scenes in the difficult Sudan field conditions, the only scene that Brad Phillips appears in is a very brief view of him talking from behind the desk of his air conditioned office in Virginia.

Brad Phillips built his “ministry” and gained a name for himself on the backs of honorable men that he ripped off. Reading your expose about Doug Phillips and his own video fraud was like a deja vu experience. It appears as if film fraud is a Phillips family tradition. But Doug Phillips at least comes out looking not quite as bad as his little brother in that hundreds of Christians haven’t died because of his video fraud.

I hope that you will use what I have written above for a story and that Ministry Watchman will publicize it. Certainly, Ministry Watchman has shown more courage than any other Christian news site I have seen in doing the hard but vital work of, as you put it, “exposing the evil deeds of darkness.” It’s unfortunate that there even has to be a Ministry Watchman at all and that there are such dark deeds to expose in Christian ministries. But that is the world we live in, and I appreciate your work to take off our rose-colored glasses.

I also hope that the publicity of a story will move Brad Phillips’ conscience to repentance. He cannot now undo what was done. He can’t bring back from the grave the hundreds of Christians who died. But public confession and repentance would be good for him and for the church. Until such time, however, those who would support Christians in Sudan should consider working through other organizations besides Persecution Project.

After receiving the above email, I contacted Persecution Project Foundation and asked to speak with Brad Phillips about these allegations. I was told that Mr. Phillips was unavailable. However, the man that I spoke with (he refused to identify himself by name) said that he was very familiar with the allegations and had heard them before. He said, “It’s all just a big misunderstanding.”

I asked how I could contact Brad Phillips to clarify the “misunderstanding,” and he replied, “Mr. Phillips is out of the country and will be unavailable for some time.” He would not provide me with an email address or any other means of contacting Phillips directly. I asked why the video was no longer being sold by Persecution Project Foundation. The Persecution Project staff member replied that, “The war in Sudan is over. They’ve signed a peace treaty. The video doesn’t serve a purpose anymore.”

“Doesn’t serve a purpose?” I asked. “Your own web site still talks about the video and says, ‘This shocking documentary reveals the unknown struggle of the African Christian tribes of central and southern Sudan who are presently engaged in a life-and-death battle against radical Moslem invaders from the north. Africa’s longest war has enslaved and killed millions of Sudanese Christians, specifically targeted because of their faith.’ Even if Christians weren’t still be persecuted in Sudan, and I think you know that’s not true, that video would still serve an important purpose by informing people of one of the greatest holocausts of the 20th and 21st centuries. How can you say it serves no useful purpose?”

The man wouldn’t respond, so I continued.

“So you’re telling me that because there’s a peace treaty that means that the Christians in Sudan aren’t being persecuted anymore? Anyone who’s been following what’s been going on in Sudan knows that’s completely untrue. Peace treaties in Sudan aren’t any more meaningful than peace treaties between the Israelis and Palestinians. I don’t understand how you can say something like this. I thought your organization cared about what was going on in Sudan. None of this sounds right. Please, just tell me the real reason you don’t offer the Sudan video anymore. Is it because the allegations that Brad Phillips stole the video master is true?”

The man said he couldn’t answer that question, but he suggested that I write a letter expressing my concerns to Brad Phillips.

Well, Mr. Phillips, since you have evaded for seven years making any public statement to explain these serious allegations against you, and since you’re engaged in an obvious cover up, and worse yet since you’ve allegedly threatened to sue anyone who has openly challenged you for your alleged theft, and since you are using your Persecution Project Foundation staff members to brush this all aside as just a little “misunderstanding,” and since you’re apparently instructing your staff to refuse to supply direct contact information for you, please consider this article to be the equivalent of my writing you a letter. I make it public because you made your version of the Sudan video public, and I would welcome a public reply.