Fast cars, private jets, and multi-million-dollar condos. Does that sound like your average preacher spreading the good word at your local Church on Sunday? More like Donald Trump on a Tuesday. Televangelists are no ordinary preachers. No monastic lifestyle for these High Holy Rollers. Many have succumbed to the allure of fame, fortune and profiting off of others’ weaknesses for their own personal gain. “Money is the root of all evil,” as the saying goes. From miraculous healing hoaxes to unbelievably extravagant purchases, some televangelists seem to have their priorities all mixed up. Whatever happened to idea “To give is better than to receive?” Hmmm… The items on this list highlight moments where greed has twisted traditional religious values, turning them into an opportunity for profit margins at the expense of others. “We need some more Holy Water. Head on down to Aisle 5 at Costco!” One assistant working for a prominent televangelist expands on this detail. Several other accounts by those working close to televangelists have exposed the surprising tactics being used to dupe the public.
Uncover the 15 shocking practices by popular televangelists across the United States as we explore 15 Things Televangelists Don’t Want You To Know. From questionable spending habits to unethical healing practices, the wheelings and dealings of these television personalities leave a lot of unanswered questions for true believers, who keep the faith no matter what types of scandal appears in their pews.
15. Setting Up A Church Is Disturbingly Easy
Remember when Joey on Friends decides to become a minister for the heck of it by getting his certificate on the Internet and then officiates Monica and Chandler’s wedding? It’s kind of like that. Again, comedian John Oliver in his sweeping coverage on televangelists exposes the truth about setting up a church as “distszurbingly easy.” Apparently, the only needed steps to successfully set up your church are as follows: 1) Outline Your Church Mission Statement, 2) Pick A Name, 3) Select Directors, 4) Prepare & File Certificate Of Formation, 5) Draft By-Laws, 6) Apply For EIN, and 7) Obtain Federal Tax-Exempt Status With The IRS, which is ultimately the whole point for a lot of these so-called “churches.” No taxes = more money for them.
While we see the benefits for churches across the nation to earn tax-free status, it is surprising that any person with a heartbeat and a business plan can set up a church with the intention of well, whatever he or she wants. Welcome to the “Church of Cheese,” where we celebrate the wonders of cheese in its many forms. That’ll be five hundred dollars.
14. “The Prosperity Gospel” Reaches Deep Into Believers’ Pockets
If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. “The Prosperity Gospel” preys on the notion that if you just donate a bit (or a lot) of your money to T-H-I-S-N-U-M-B-E-R here, then all your woes and worries will be instantaneously removed. Compare it to the idea of tithing. Sure, giving some of your money to the Church’s donation plate as it’s being passed around during Church service is a common practice many Christians have grown very accustomed to. In fact, putting a dollar in the donation plate as a youngin’ can feel downright adult, which can be pretty fun; however, the televangelists utilizing the idea of “The Prosperity Gospel” convert the idea of donations into a sneaky ploy to earn thousands, if not millions, of dollars from unsuspecting believers.
Like a religious QVC channel, some televangelists commandeer a television station for their own purposes: to make as much money as humanly possible. As described on John Oliver’s thorough exposé on the subject, “‘The Prosperity Gospel’ argues that wealth is a sign of God’s favor, and donations will result in wealth coming back to you. The idea takes the form of ‘seed faith’ – that donations are seeds that you will one day get to harvest.” Whatever they’re planting, these televangelists sure seem to have harvested a forest of massive Oak trees.
13. Finances Are Often Spent On Extravagant Luxury Items
We all hope that our donations going to kids with candy bars are really going to sports team uniforms or that the poor child pictured at the liquor store with all the slots for the quarters is really seeing some of that George Washington coinage; but, that’s not the case with these televangelists who claim to receive seed money for the sowing of future wealth for their patrons. If they were really investing in the future of their believers, they might go buy some stocks or bonds and then give them a fiscal return on their investment.
In a shocking account of some televangelists’ finances, it was revealed that spending from church donations went toward: 1) A 50-million-dollar jet, 2) 13 mansions, and 3) $100 thousand spent on a mobile home for dogs. That’s a lot of dough to spend on doggy digs.
12. The Churches Are Scamming The IRS
As mentioned before, one of the biggest perks of setting up a church with the intention of money-making is the fact that the IRS cannot tax the enterprise as it is seen in the federal view as a non-profit entity. All of the donations being made to the individual churches are considered charitable acts, which can also not be taxed by the IRS. Less money for the government equals more money for the people seeking to expand their religious empire.
US News describes the tax-exempt policy in great detail, relating it to some not-for-profit colleges, intending to benefit from similar federal tax dollars; however, churches have a much greater chance of going under the radar than their educational counterparts, which is pretty sad considering the intense desire to receive education in this country. What’s most disappointing about these charitable donations is that the end result of the spending is largely unaccounted for, until just recently, as these stories of misappropriated funds have begun to be uncovered.
11. Many Leaders Have Been Involved In “Intimate” Scandals
It’s sad to say that yes, even the one’s who preach against it are subject to the beguiling nature of temptation and wayward thinking. In this entry, the reason this particular revelation is so shocking is due to the nature of the body of people who speak out against crimes of lust and unsanctioned passion. Given the traditional values of many preachers, it is astonishing to discover that even a man of the cloth can find himself without his skivvies in a predicament of a lower nature.
Bob Larson of television fame was caught arm-in-arm with his secretary heading into a Disney Yacht Club Hotel in Florida. Another famous preacher, Bob Coy, who is married with two teenage children, was discovered to have had extra-marital affairs and an intensive “p*rn habit.” It’s hard to take these guys seriously when they don’t exactly practice what they preach.
10. This Televangelist Owns A $3.5 Million Dollar Trump Condo
Pretty nice digs, huh? Donald Trump is no stranger to classy lifestyle living. His condos are no different. Too bad the money for the 3.5 million dollar condo on this list came from the pockets of unsuspecting religious patrons of the church of “Without Walls International.” Sure looks like there’s walls in this condo. Pretty nice ones, too. After an inquiry made by the Senate Finance Committee investigated spending habits of this church, the organization discovered some startling truths.
Televangelist Paula White was shown to have purchased a $3.5 million dollar Trump condo in addition to a private plane for her husband along with several additional high-priced properties. From a 2011 audit, it was found that the church took in an estimated 150 million dollars between the years of 2004 and 2006, resulting in some very high-end spending on the part of church leaders. Looks like that ‘seed money’ really paid off.
9. Some “Miracle Water” Comes From Costco
One assistant working for televangelist Peter Popoff shares his dirty secrets regarding items of healing like Holy Water, renamed “Miracle Water” by this salesman. Crystal Sanchez, who used to work for Popoff as a “donation processor,” describes her experience as surprising, “as she quickly discovered how much of a scam this all was.” She later went on to write a book about her experience, sharing odd details about the televangelist and his schemes to get rich quick.
8. Many Miracle Claims Are A Complete Hoax
With promises of overnight healing and miraculous sightings, many televangelists claim access to supernatural powers of a Divine right. Needless to say, many of these claims are untrue or unproven, as exposed by many of those working close to the charlatan preachers.
Benny Hinn, currently under investigation by the Senate, has made undocumented claims that he has “seen people get healed from crippling diseases” and has even “seen a dead man get resurrected.” All this occurred while he was earning $200 million a year, flying in his own jet, and staying in hotel rooms costing in the thousands per night. Another preacher, Kerney Thomas makes claims that his red handkerchief is the “point of contact between himself, God, and whoever is seeking prayer,” going so far as to call it the “Red blood of Jesus Handkerchief.” Wonder if he’s managed to mass-produce those yet.
7. Televangelists Are Charging For Personal Healing
Charging people for prayers isn’t exactly an act of altruistic servitude as described in the Bible. We’re pretty sure there’s no 800 number that will send you to the front of the line to receive God’s blessing; but leave it to greed to mess with the ancient practice of prayer and turn it into a massive commercial enterprise. Prayer, which costs absolutely nothing to perform, except some concentration, willingness, and time, is being charged for by the minute.
Televangelist Peter Popoff claimed that he was “a healer and a prophet from God,” which allegedly entitled him to charge for his services. In truth, it was exposed that his divine prophecies and knowledge of audience members were coming to him through an earpiece in which his wife communicated inside knowledge acquired about the audience members.
6. Most Victims Of Scams Are Poor Working Class People
Sadly, most of the people being scammed (and many people in America) live in what is considered poverty. With barely enough money to buy groceries, a lot of people of extraordinary faith are plunking down their hard-earned cash to buy-in to this religious scheme of taking money from unsuspecting strangers. In the name of religion, some televangelists prey on the trusting nature of viewers by offering them huge cash rewards in exchange for an act of donation. This ‘seed money’ is intended to created future wealth for their donators, which most of the time, never pans out.
Most people of evangelical faith do not believe in this “Prosperity Gospel,” but for those who do, the idea of buying in is similar to a faith lottery. Just like the actual lottery, the largest number of people who participate, approximately 61%, are in the poorest 1/5th of the population. These televangelists take it a step further, claiming that being poor is a testament to your “lack of faith.” If you would just give more money (to them), you might be richer.
5. The System Works Like A Pyramid Scheme
The way these church infrastructures are set up closely mirrors the pyramid scheme of the Church of Scientology. Basically by getting 501 (c)(3) status (a fancy tax term), the church is exempt from any tax-inducing headaches that might cut back on profits and give back to the tax-paying citizens supporting its existence. The people who are higher up on the pyramid, of course, make more money.
Similar to the financial model of a multi-level marketing scheme, the more you buy in, the more faith and healing you are said to receive. Additionally, the more money you spend, the more you will earn. Who is paying you on the return? God, of course. The church holds onto its money, affording the people at the top lavish expenses such as jewelry, homes and automobiles, while those sending in the money to pay for those extravagances might receive a mass-produced ‘thank you’ letter, or some water in a plastic bottle from Costco.
4. Most Healing Products Are A Sham
As mentioned before, Peter Popoff’s “Miracle Water” did not come directly from foothills of Southern Russian; and the jury is still out on Kerney Thomas’ “Red Blood of Jesus Handkerchief.” Other preachers on popular television shows reaching into the pockets of hopeful viewers promote shoddy products that are not exactly what they seem.
Nigerian minister T.B. Joshua promotes his product of “New Anointing Water,” by claiming its healing properties have the power to heal all kinds of maladies including “demonic possession.” Countless testimonials (commercials) support his claims that this water will help you “breakthrough through the medium of anointing water.” Unfortunately, the veracity of these testimonials remains unfounded and unproven. In one of the most astonishing claims of healing, Todd Bentley kicked a woman with cancer in the face, asserting that his healing was achieved through violence.
3. Many Televangelists Are In The Top 1%
Receiving donations in the millions on the regular, these televangelists have grown accustomed to fancy living. Private jets, multi-million-dollar mansions and outlandish vacations are all common practices among these shady televangelists sweeping the nation with their cash-grabbing schemes.
The Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), the world’s largest Christian television channel network, is one of the biggest culprits (and earners) among the group. The network, which is seen on every continent except Antarctica twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, rakes in up to 92 million dollars in donations annually earning up to 175 million dollars in tax-free revenue. Another culprit, Creflo Dollar (name sound a little suspicious?), runs the World Changers Church from which he has earned lots of spending dollars for his own personal gain. A private jet, a 53-acre estate, and a Rolls Royce are just some of the assets this televangelist has acquired thanks to his loyal, generous television viewers.
2. Preacher Ole Anthony Is Working To Expose The Truth
One preacher attempting to expose the disingenuous nature of these mega-churches and televangelists is Ole Anthony, a legend in some sectors of the Church community. In 1991, he went undercover with a hidden camera in order to show the world the real dealings of some shady church enterprises. Much to the dismay of televangelist Robert Tilton, Ole exposed the alarming reality of Tilton’s business dealings within his church. Allegedly, Tilton’s mail-in money operation was earning him approximately $380,000 a day. At his pinnacle, he was receiving more than $80 million annually.
Since then, Ole has maintained his focus pursuing the bad guys, attempting to out preachers who are in it for no good. During a sit-down with Diane Sawyer, it was shown that the prayer requests were being dumped directly into the trash. A member of a small Church of his own founding, Ole, at the age of sixty-nine, continues his pursuit of truth in the face of opposition.
1. Politics Play A Big Role In Keeping This Machine Running
We’d all like to believe that the separation between Church and State is firmly held in the hearts and minds of our trusted leaders; however, when it comes to casting votes, it’s no surprise that the media and organized religion play a big part in electing our officials. Republican President Donald Trump made it no secret that his support of televangelists was made in an effort to “keep his momentum from ebbing” in some states during his campaign. With a massive media machine at his disposal, Trump is no stranger to making headlines. Who better to team up with than powerful Christian televangelists with a strong following? Especially when you’re courting the so-called “fly-over” states.
Televangelists Gloria and Kenneth Copeland attended a private two-and-a-half hour meeting at Trump Towers during his campaign, along with Jan Crouch, one of the founders of the Trinity Broadcasting Network. Trump isn’t the first politician to court televangelists in spreading the word of a political gospel. George Bush Sr. and George H. W. Bush were both privy to the blessings of televangelists like Copeland, a self-proclaimed “billionaire in the kingdom of God.” Looks like he’s not the only one.
Sources: thedailybeast, usnews, ibtimes, gawker, christianpost, dailymail,