GoFundMe Campaign! Seeking Funding for New Investigative Project

Photo: November 30th is National Giving Day. Trinity Foundation joins a host of non-profit organizations raising funds on this day. Please check out our GoFundMe page.

 


(New video about why we investigate televangelists)
Recently we initiated a new project that will captivate national news media, and attempt to send shock waves through America’s church community and beyond.

We want to go for real impact:  The digital equivalent of Luther’s 95 thesis on the Wittenberg Castle Cathedral door.

Trinity Foundation’s new investigative project takes aim at a particular method of fraud used in televangelist fundraising.  We are developing a strategy to expose this fraud so that potential donors won’t be deceived by the dishonest words of religious conmen.

To accomplish this goal, we need to bring new people on board. Trinity Foundation needs to hire an additional investigator or two, but currently we lack the financial means to do so.

Our new personnel would assist in updating our “Governance Project”; will research the assets of televangelists and mega-church pastors; and will research legal strategies for establishing precedent-setting civil and criminal court cases to protect the public from religious fraud.

Our founder, Ole Anthony, called for a 3rd wave of Christianity, but first the church at large needs to be held accountable and re-introduce transparency, accountability, and integrity—something that is sorely lacking in large media ministries and mega-churches.

Our team excels in open-source investigations, digging through online data for possible fraud, money laundering, and self-dealing.  We track ministry and televangelist aircraft and verify ownership.  Preacher Planes—a new Trinity Foundation daily blog on Instagram and Twitter—keeps this in the public’s eye.

We’ve created this GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for the new project and attempt to cover our entire 2022 budget. Please consider financially supporting our investigations.

GoFundMe donors will receive periodic updates about the project and our investigations.

Philippine Televangelist Charged With Sex Trafficking, Operated Church as Business

(Photo: Apollo Quiboloy is identified as the “Appointed Son of God” during a TV broadcast of his Sunday sermon.)

Apollo Quiboloy, the Philippines’ most popular televangelist (1.2 million followers on Facebook), was recently charged with sex trafficking.

The Associated Press reported, “The indictment accuses Quiboloy and others of recruiting women and girls, typically 12 to 25 years old, as ‘pastorals’ who cooked his meals, cleaned his houses, massaged him and traveled with him around the world. Some also had sex with Quiboloy on scheduled “night duty,” including some minors such as a 15-year-old girl, according to the indictment.”

Quiboloy has the support of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and might be found innocent of the charges.

Meanwhile, Quiboloy’s twisted theology and business practices should have served as warning signs, but discernment is lacking in the church today.

Continue reading “Philippine Televangelist Charged With Sex Trafficking, Operated Church as Business”

Religious Leaders More Likely to Die in Plane Crash Than Receive Federal Prosecution

A couple of months ago, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) published the Audit Technique Guide for Religious Organization.

Could this signal the IRS is intending to take stronger action against churches and ministries abusing their tax-exempt status?

For the past 15 years, the IRS rarely audited religious organizations or prosecuted pastors for financial crimes.

Prominent Christian religious leaders are more likely to die in a private plane crash than to be prosecuted for tax evasion.

Since 2014, Bahamas-based televangelist Myles Munroe and Remnant Fellowship Church founder Gwen Shamblin both died when their privately-owned jets crashed. Trinity Foundation has attempted to investigate both Munroe and Shamblin for international money laundering.

During this same time period only one televangelist, Todd Coontz,  was prosecuted and convicted for tax evasion. His ministry’s tax-exempt status has not been revoked.

Continue reading “Religious Leaders More Likely to Die in Plane Crash Than Receive Federal Prosecution”

Just How Broken Is the Bible Translation Industry?

 

By Warren Cole Smith, President of MinistryWatch

OPINION—At a recent meeting of Bible translation organizations in Newport Beach, Calif., one of the speakers stood at the podium and asked the 50 or so leaders there a series of simple questions:  How long does it take to translate the Bible?  And how much does it cost to translate the Bible into a new language?  How many Bible translations have been completed in the past year?  How many will be completed in the coming year?

You’d think these questions would be simple enough to answer.  After all, ask an executive of almost any business on the planet these same questions about his or her business, and that leader will have a ready answer.

But if you ask a leader in the Bible translation industry, the answer you are most likely to get is: “It depends.”  To drive home this point visually, the speaker held up a coffee mug on which he had printed the words “It depends.”  His prop generated some laughter, and a few tight-lipped smiles.

In fairness, that answer – “it depends” — has some truth.  Every project is different.  The people doing the work vary in efficiency and training.  But the same things might be said of virtually every service sector business operating in the world today.  In those industries, it is hard to imagine that “it depends” would long work as an excuse for not knowing or not finding out.

But “it depends” has become part of the culture of the Bible translation industry.  It has helped produce a lack of transparency and accountability that should be a giant red flag to the tens of thousands of donors who give hundreds of millions of dollars to Bible translation organizations every year.

To understand just how big a red flag, we will have to do a little math.

Continue reading “Just How Broken Is the Bible Translation Industry?”

Have You Been Defrauded by a Church or Ministry?

* Have you donated after receiving personalized emails or letters from a televangelist promising to pray for you?

* Has a telemarketer pressured you into donating to a ministry while  claiming that you would receive financial blessing or physical healing if you donate?

* Have you purchased products through a ministry website but never received your order?

Continue reading “Have You Been Defrauded by a Church or Ministry?”

Documentary Explores the Work of Missionary Pilots

Ends of the Earth is a new documentary about Christian missionaries. It tells a captivating story while showing the work of Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) pilots serving in Papua, Indonesia.

Seventy-five years ago, following the end of War War II, pilot Betty Greene formed MAF to take the Gospel to hard-to-reach places. Greene’s missionary vision lives on as MAF serves in 27 countries.

The documentary introduces its audience to Liku, a Bible study teacher from the Wano people group, who has an infectious smile. Filmmakers accompany MAF pilots Joyce Lin and Nathan Fagerlie on their flights. The pilots provide critical support for missionaries Rebecca and Tim Ingles who moved to Indonesia with the goal of taking the Gospel to an unreached people group.

Lin and Fagerlie used small single-engine aircraft to reach remote areas, landing on unpaved runways, bringing medical supplies, food and the Gospel. MAF planes also transport people needing emergency health care.

Villagers slowly build a landing strip with primitive tools. Dirt is moved with wheel barrows rather than bulldozers. When the landing strip is complete, a trip from one village to another will be reduced from days of walking down to a ten minute flight.

The MAF missionaries serve with humility, in stark contrast to America’s televangelists that own private jets. None of the missionaries promote the prosperity gospel. They are motivated by a sincere desire to serve, rather than the accumulation of wealth.

For the amount of money televangelist Kenneth Copeland spent on purchasing Cessna Citation X and Gulfstream G-V jets, MAF could operate a fleet of small planes in Asia, Africa or South America.

Trinity Foundation president Pete Evans found the documentary to be “moving and exciting” and in awe of pilots landing on risky runways.

The documentary’s title comes from a famous Bible verse. Acts 1:8 says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The final night to catch a theatrical screening of the Ends of the Earth is October 21, 2021.  The film will be screened in 700 theaters. Tickets are available through Fathom Events.

MAF is a member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability and publishes an audited financial statement on its website. In 2019, the mission agency’s pilots flew 19,525 hours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paid to Speak: The Speaking Honorarium Business

The church and ministry conference business is back with a vengeance with guest speakers often collecting large speaking honorariums. Many religious organizations refuse to disclose the size of honorarium payments, leaving donors and attendees in the dark as to how the money is being spent.

Reciprocal speaking arrangements (you speak at my event and I speak at yours) abound as speakers seek the spotlight.

After hosting a virtual conference last year due to COVID, attendees flocked to televangelist Bill Winston’s International Faith Conference, which was held in September in Forest Park, Illinois.

Guest speakers included televangelists T.D. Jakes and Kenneth Copeland.  Copeland used his Cessna 750.  Eagle Mountain International Church, also known as Kenneth Copeland Ministries, owns two jets: a Cessna 750 and Gulfstream G-V.

In August, Copeland held his Southwest Believers Convention. Creflo Dollar and Bill Winston, guest speakers, flew to Fort Worth for the event on each of their Gulfstream G-IV jets. If the hosts reimburse travel costs, tens of thousands of dollars are spent on ministry jets.

Speaking Fees

How much do guest speakers cost? The Harvard Business Review provides “a rule of thumb for appropriate pricing”:

$500 – $2,500 for new speakers

$5,000 – $10,000 for a first-time author

$10,000 – $20,000 for authors with several books

$20,000 – $35,000 for authors of best sellers

Celebrities and politicians may cost significantly more. In June, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke at the National Religious Broadcasters’ annual convention. According to booking agency All American Entertainment, Pompeo’s speaking fee is between $100,000 to $200,000.

The National Organization of Professional Athletes and Celebrities reports that comedian Chonda Pierce, a popular speaker at Christian events, has a speaking fee range of $20,000 to $30,000 and Tim Tebow’s speaking fee is $50,000 to $100,000. Tebow was Liberty University’s 2021 commencement speaker. Continue reading “Paid to Speak: The Speaking Honorarium Business”

Pandora Papers Data Leak: Scandalous Catholic Order Discovered to Have $300 Million in Offshore Trusts

The Mexican Catholic religious order Legionaries of Christ (LOC) created financial trusts that are currently holding $300 million in assets following a sex scandal and a 2010 Vatican announcement it would seize the order’s assets, reports the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

Three financial trusts with ties to the LOC were created in New Zealand. Their existence was discovered in a leak of financial records which has been named the Pandora Papers. The trusts invested in residential real estate.

“In statements to ICIJ, the Legion acknowledged it had set up one of the three trusts, but distanced itself from the other two, which held the majority of the funds designated for the Legion.”

When the ICIJ asked the LOC about disclosure of its assets, the ICIJ was told the “religious institutes do not have an obligation to send detailed information to the Vatican regarding their internal financial decisions or organization.”

The ICIJ organized the Pandora Papers project and recruited hundreds of journalists to examine almost 12 million records leaked from 14 offshore services firms. The ICIJ is describing the Pandora Papers as “The largest investigation in journalism history.” Continue reading “Pandora Papers Data Leak: Scandalous Catholic Order Discovered to Have $300 Million in Offshore Trusts”

One Ministry Jet. One Day. Six Flights.

On September 26th, ADSB Exchange tracked televangelist James Robison’s Cessna 560XL jet making six trips. The jet is registered to Zoe Aviation, a shell company owned by LIFE Outreach International.

ADSB Exchange uses Universal Time Coordinated (UTC) rather than an American time zone to determine the date. The first flight, which left from Destin, Florida, began on September 25th UTC.

The jet traveled from Destin to Fort Worth, Texas, then to Centennial, Colorado, then to Fort Worth again, then to Austin, Texas, then Santa Fe, New Mexico, and finally to Eagle, Colorado.

Questions an investigator might ask:

  • Was there a ministry purpose for each flight?
  • If the flights included personal, non-ministry travel, are the trips reported as a fringe benefit and taxed? The Internal Revenue Service has established a tax rate that includes both a terminal fee and a tax based on mileage for such flights.
  • If Zoe Aviation is leasing the jet to other organizations, should LIFE Outreach International report the revenue as unrelated business income and file a Form 990-T to disclose the revenue to the IRS?

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Religious Fraud and Excess in The News: MORE PPP ABUSE…

After we reported in December 2020, Trinity Foundation Investigation: $78.6 Million in Government Guaranteed Loans Given to Televangelists“, more reporters did a lot more digging.  Earlier this year, AP investigators, REESE DUNKLIN and MICHAEL REZENDES, reported that Catholic dioceses around the US requested and received millions in taxpayer aid from COVID emergency Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) funds while maintaining billions in cash and reserves.

In one particular case, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte, NC received over $8 million in relief funds while they had roughly $100 million in cash and short-term investments available.  It’s interesting to note in regards to Catholic’s share of PPP funds that, “Catholic entities amassed at least $3 billion — roughly the same as the combined total of recipients from the other faiths that rounded out the top five, AP found. Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and Jewish faith-based recipients also totaled at least $3 billion.

Catholics account for about a fifth of the U.S. religious population while members of Protestant and Jewish denominations are nearly half, according to the Pew Research Center.”, according to the article. (Read more here)

Trinity Foundation also reported in May 2021 that, in 2020, Trinity Broadcasting of Texas received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) forgivable loan of $3,308,005.  The Texas-based non-profit also reported $30 million in donations, $24 million in revenue from selling airtime, and $17 million of investment income. Their total revenue for the 2019 year was $933,330,134!