Alex Malarkey, the American boy who disavowed his bestselling account of meeting Jesus after an accident, has launched a lawsuit against the book’s Christian specialist publisher. While the publisher has “made millions of dollars”, the suit alleges, it has “paid Alex, a paralysed young man, nothing”.
The car accident that almost killed Malarkey happened in 2004 in Ohio, when he was six years old. Two months later he woke up from a coma to find himself paralysed from the neck down. He and his father, Kevin, a Christian therapist, wrote The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven together. According to Chicago’s Tyndale House, the firm that brought the book out in 2010, Malarkey wrote of “the angels that took him through the gates of heaven itself. Of the unearthly music that sounded just ‘terrible’ to a six-year-old. And, most amazing of all … Of meeting and talking to Jesus.”
But when he was 16, Malarkey revealed on his blog that he had made it all up. “I did not die. I did not go to heaven,” he said. “When I made the claims, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough.”
Tyndale House pulled the book, which had already sold a reported one million copies, saying in a statement that it was “saddened to learn [Alex is] now saying that he made up the story of dying and going to heaven”.
Malarkey, who is now 20, filed a lawsuit against the publisher earlier this week, claiming his father “concoct[ed] a story that, during the time Alex was in a coma, he had gone to Heaven, communicated with God the Father, Jesus, angels, and the devil, and then returned”, and alleging that while Tyndale House has “made millions of dollars off Alex’s identity and an alleged autobiographical story of his life, [it has] paid Alex, a paralysed young man, nothing”.
Stating that Malarkey “survives on Social Security payments and support from his mother” and that the two “are on the verge of being homeless”, the lawsuit, which was obtained by the Washington Post, sues the publisher on counts including “publicity placing person in false light”, defamation, financial exploitation of a person with a disability and appropriation of name. It asks for damages at least equal to the profits from the sale of the book, as well as punitive damages, and a permanent injunction against Tyndale House asking it to take “all steps reasonably possible” to disassociate his name from the book.
“Alex remembers absolutely nothing from the time he was in a coma. The core of the story is entirely false,” alleges the lawsuit, adding that Alex, who is a Christian, was placed “in the highly offensive position of either having to lie and claim that the story is true or having to fight back against Tyndale House … to let the truth be known”. When the book was published, it adds, Malarkey was only 12 years old.
In a statement, the publisher said it was a “terribly unfortunate situation which deeply saddens all of us at Tyndale”.
“Despite the claims in Alex Malarkey’s lawsuit,” the statement continued, “Tyndale House paid all royalties that were due under the terms of our contract on his book … Tyndale took the book out of print in 2015 when Alex said that he had fabricated the entire story. Any books still available from online vendors are from third party sellers.”