Why People Fall for the Prosperity Gospel

A word from our president, Pete Evans, about why people fall for the prosperity gospel.

Desperation is a huge motivator.  When you or someone close to you is dying or suffering, it’s natural to want to help in whatever way we can.  Or, when finances become so strapped that you or a person close to you is in anguish, there is a desire to alleviate the suffering.  So if a televangelist comes on television promising that God wants to heal and financially bless individuals, but God requires a gift first—care of the ministry of course; desperate people begin to grasp at straws and take desperate measures. It becomes a sort of heavenly lottery and plays on people’s natural greed as well.  In desperation, people give to the ministry in order to get their invisible lottery ticket and “expect a miracle”.

The televangelists use a twisted and perverted version of one of Jesus’ parables—the parable of the sower and the seed. First, the true meaning of the parable:  Jesus was talking about the seed of Christ in us—about his life in us and how it can be trampled on, choked out, or—best case—nourished.

Next, the perversion of the parable:  the seed is your money; which, planted in the good ground will be multiplied by God via health, healing, or an exponential increase in wealth based on the amount one gives.  To quote Hitler’s despicable propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” I would add, at least until the spell is broken.  The Goebbels quote is often called “The Big Lie”.

Once Upon a Time NRB Promoted Financial Transparency

 

Thirty-five years ago, the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) faced its biggest public relations scandal. Televangelist Jim Bakker resigned from the PTL Television Network after news media revealed hush money was paid to Jessica Hahn so that she wouldn’t reveal his affair.

Bakker’s local newspaper, The Charlotte Observer, tenaciously investigated the flamboyant preacher, revealing details of his extravagant lifestyle.
In 1989, NRB created the Ethics and Financial Integrity Commission (EFICOM) in response to the Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart scandals.

NRB’s attempt at self-regulation was short-lived. EFICOM was shut down in 1993.

Last week Christian media professionals from around the world gathered at the NRB annual convention in Nashville at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.

Trinity Foundation reviewed a list of speakers, sponsors and supporting organizations featured at the convention, discovering two non-profits not filing a Form 990 with the IRS.

The Form 990 itemizes revenues, provides a breakdown of total expenses, and reveals salaries of highest paid officers at non-profit organizations. (Churches, synagogues and mosques are exempt from reporting.)

Dave Kubal, one of the conference speakers, serves as president of Intercessors for America. According to the IRS Tax Exempt Organization Search, Kubal’s organization stopped filing a Form 990 after 2016. Intercessors for America received almost $1 million in donations during the last year it reported to the IRS.

Intercessors for America, is lucky that its tax-exempt status has not been revoked. According to IRS rules, a non-profit should lose its tax-exempt status after not filing a Form 990 for three consecutive years.

The other non-profit failing to file a Form 990 is International Evangelism Outreach. The organization’s president, Eliudi Issangya, participated in NRB’s Great Commission Forum. Because International Evangelism Outreach does not file a Form 990, there is no public reporting of American donations to the Tanzania-based ministry.

If NRB wants its members to be more transparent, it should begin a screening process for convention speakers and participants which checks for publicly available Form 990s or publicly available audited financial statements.

If NRB’s leadership had real discernment, they would be doing everything possible to clean up religious broadcasting. Unfortunately, NRB is unprepared to face the next wave of televangelist scandals.

In fact, there is currently a televangelist under investigation suspected of crimes that would make Bakker’s sins look tame.

Million Dollar Homes Become Status Symbols of Televangelists and Pastors

By Barry Bowen and Pete Evans, Trinity Foundation


(Photo: Former home of faith healer David Turner, from Realtor.com)

Donors, where is the money going?

When a televangelist’s ministry or pastor’s church owns a private jet, you can almost be certain the leader lives in a mansion. That is one of the lessons Trinity Foundation has learned from investigating religious fraud and excess for more than 30 years.

In April 2021 the Houston Chronicle’s Jay Root asked Trinity Foundation for assistance on an article series about church parsonages in Texas. Trinity Foundation compiled a list of megachurches and large media ministries in the state and then searched for parsonages and homes of pastors and ministry leaders.

Meanwhile, the Houston Chronicle examined the state tax code and filed open records requests with county appraisal districts seeking lists of parsonages.

Root’s thorough investigation uncovered startling evidence of pastors living extravagantly: “A months-long Houston Chronicle investigation of ministers’ tax-free residences found no shortage of extravagant homes in high-dollar locales. At least two dozen were worth over $1 million even using the artificially low values that exempt properties typically carry.”

If you are keeping track, that is at least 24 parsonages in Texas worth more than $1 million.

Trinity Foundation also investigated pastor and ministry housing in other states, discovering multi-million dollar homes of several televangelists and pastors who have received little media scrutiny. It’s time to present some of our findings.

Continue reading “Million Dollar Homes Become Status Symbols of Televangelists and Pastors”

Requiring Restitution for Church Criminals

After pleading guilty to a massive crime operation that involved wire fraud and bank fraud, Charles Sebesta was ordered last year to pay back the amount stolen from his church: $11,438,213. Sebesta also received 130 month prison sentence.

A Department of Justice press release explained the crimes: “Having wrested operational and financial control of the Church from its elderly members by 2006, [Sebesta] began a 10-year spree in which he treated the Church and its considerable assets as his own personal piggy bank.”

After becoming chairman of the Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist, of Los Angeles, Sebesta forged check signatures and created a fake company, Sky Blue Environmental, to send payments.

The church refused to excuse the criminal behavior of its chairman and contacted law enforcement. As a result, Sebesta was required to pay restitution. The court ruling mirrored biblical justice which required thieves to pay back their victims. Such justice is often denied when churches and ministries refuse to file charges against pastors and financial secretaries committing financial crimes.

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The Prophecy Business: There’s Money to be Made Lying and Exaggerating God’s Promises

Every January so-called prophets share their prophecies for the New Year, which are then published on the Elijah List, a prophecy news website.

Recently, Charismatic Bible teacher Jan Hamon proclaimed, “I decree this will be my double portion year!”

For 2022, Chuck Pierce prophesied, “I am neutralizing your chromosomes from iniquitous patterns.” Pierce is one of America’s highest paid “prophets” and was compensated $1.2 million for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2020, which shows the prophecy business pays its best known practitioners very well.

When media began reporting Russian President Putin’s plan to invade Ukraine, the so-called prophets exploited the news. Pastor Hank Kunneman claimed that God said, “I’ve been speaking to you, Putin, and you are listening.” Hank, did God tell Putin to attack Ukraine?

Continue reading “The Prophecy Business: There’s Money to be Made Lying and Exaggerating God’s Promises”

Houston Chronicle Investigates Parsonages Tax Exemption Abuses

(Photo: Fort Worth-area based televangelist Kenneth Copeland’s tax-exempt parsonage is located in Newark, Texas, and owned by Eagle Mountain International Church.)

After months of investigating tax loopholes that benefit businesses at the expense of taxpayers for its Unfair Burden article series, the Houston Chronicle turned its attention to church parsonages, which are mostly tax-exempt in Texas.

Key findings:

  • “The state’s most populous counties identified 2,683 parsonages worth about $1 billion, costing other residents who must fund school districts and local governments $16 million every year.”
  • “There is no dollar limit to a parsonage’s tax exemption. At least 28 of the clergy residences were worth more than $1 million.”
  • “Across Texas’ largest counties, the Chronicle identified more than 30 parsonages for which appraisers had granted the 100 percent tax break even though they exceed the law’s 1-acre limit.”

In May, Houston Chronicle investigative reporter Jay Root contacted Trinity Foundation for assistance on the article series. It was a learning experience for all involved.  The main one Trinity Foundation helped with was the fourth in their series, focusing in on Kenneth Copeland’s parsonage and organization.

The Houston Chronicle submitted Open Records requests to Texas county appraisal districts, examined state tax code requirements to be recognized as a parsonage, and interviewed county appraisers after identifying parsonages that violated state law by covering more than one acre of land.

Staff photographers drove across the state taking pictures of parsonages. As a result, the Houston Chronicle has produced some of the best religion news coverage of 2021.

Continue reading “Houston Chronicle Investigates Parsonages Tax Exemption Abuses”

Paula White Promotes Cult Leader Mrs. Moon

On December 5th, televangelist Paula White spoke at a prayer rally in South Korea on behalf of Hak Ja Han (better known as Mrs. Moon or True Mother), the widow of Unification Church founder Sun Myung Moon.

In her opening remarks, White said, “What a great joy and honor it is to be here today giving honor to the distinguished faith leaders and to all those that are serving in capacity of religion and faith and making a tremendous difference. I am honored to participate in this historic interfaith prayer rally for the peaceful reunification of the Korean peninsula. I want to take a moment and honor, as well as encourage, Mother Moon for her great work as a spiritual leader who loves the LORD and seeks to carry out and to comfort the heart of God in all the areas of conflict in the world. She is truly a jewel from God.”

Before White spoke, a water ceremony for peace was held. The Unification Church has been observing this ritual since 1985.

Continue reading “Paula White Promotes Cult Leader Mrs. Moon”

William Neil “Doc” Gallagher, A/K/A the “Money Doctor” Stole Millions, Mostly in God’s Name

 

In November, Fort Worth-based William Gallagher was sentenced to 3 life terms in prison and an additional 30 years, all to be served concurrently.

The 80-year-old Gallagher, who wrote “Jesus Christ, Money Master,” used Christian radio and meetings held in churches to promote his fake investment “Ponzi” schemes.  Gallagher billed himself and his company, Gallagher Financial Group, as financial services experts.  As of this writing, his Linked-In page still claims 11-50 employees.

Ms. Lori Varnell, chief of the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Elder Financial Fraud team, told the BBC News that she wasn’t surprised Doc Gallagher would use Christian radio to dupe his victims.  “Within the Christian community, there’s a high level of trust. Especially here in the Bible Belt,” she said. “Once you start speaking the Christian language, and using their words, their phrases, that will be a tell-tale sign to other Christians that you’re a Christian.”

Gallagher promised unusually high returns of 5% to 8% annually on investments and even provided fake financial statements to present to his investors.  The BBC also reported his scheme amassed $32 million dollars.

Gallagher’s Christianity-cloaked scheme, also known as religious affinity fraud, deceived many trusting elderly investors—mostly between the ages of 62 and 91—and left a wake of financially destroyed victims, bereft of their life’s retirement savings.

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”