In 2012, Carra Crouch, the granddaughter of Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) founders Paul and Jan Crouch, sued the network for covering up her rape. When she was 13 years old, Carra was raped by a TBN employee. Her grandmother decided not to file criminal charges.
Recently, TBN decided not to file an appeal with the United States Supreme Court, bringing the litigation to an end (finally!!). Carra’s victory in the California Courts of Appeal will stand. Since 2012 TBN has spent millions of dollars on litigation. The network sued Carra’s sister Brittany more than 20 times.
TV producers, radio broadcasters, filmmakers, and journalists are flocking to the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) convention in Nashville for the biggest annual networking event showcasing Christian media professionals.
Attendees can choose from a plethora of workshops and speakers addressing topics ranging from first amendment issues to religious persecution and from marketing to production. Unfortunately, they will NOT hear about two topics the NRB should address:
A growing number of broadcast ministries are rejecting financial transparency. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Grace to You and Ravi Zacharias International Ministries have stopped filing the Form 990 which discloses the pay of its top executives and provides a breakdown of other expenses.
There are an astonishing number of wolves in religious broadcasting, preachers taking advantage of their congregations and viewers for financial gain.
Count Victor Lustig is one of the world’s most extraordinary conmen. Smithsonian Magazine reports, “He used 47 aliases and carried dozens of fake passports. He created a web of lies so thick that even today his true identity remains shrouded in mystery.”
In corporate filings and during trips some televangelists have also used aliases and misspelled names to hide their identity.
Trinity Foundation has become alarmed by the long-term trend of televangelists weaponizing the courts to attack whistleblowers and media. Previously, Trinity Broadcasting Network sued Brittany Crouch Davidson more than 20 times. In a four-year period TBN spent $20 million on legal fees. Trinity Foundation considers this litigation to be poor stewardship of donor funds.
Not surprising to us, executives at The Inspiration Networks and American Center for Law & Justice dominate the top of the list. The Inspiration Networks’ flagship TV channel INSP was previously Jim Bakker’s PTL Channel.
At least 16 ministry executives are compensated $300 per hour.
Excessive compensation is protected by an easily exploited loophole: By using “independent” compensation consultants recommending large salaries and then ministry officers recusing themselves from voting on the recommendations, non-profit religious organizations can legally pay large salaries.
Researchers Todd M. Johnson, Gina A. Zurlo and Peter F. Crossing at The Center for the Study of Global Christianity compiled these statistics. Their ongoing research needs greater media exposure so that global Christianity will be motivated to take action against these financial crimes.
With the amount stolen from churches and ministries, Christians could easily double the amount spent on global missions. Everyone should have the chance to hear the Gospel.
Through best-selling books and excessive compensation, a growing number of pastors are becoming millionaires. Let’s take a look at one of them.
Thirty-one years ago James MacDonald and a small team of believers started Harvest Bible Chapel (HBC). The church grew rapidly and launched new multi-site campuses in the Chicago suburbs. MacDonald also reached a large radio audience after launching his media ministry Walk in the Word.
With assistance from his church and ministry staff, MacDonald became a prolific author. Moody Publishers, LifeWay Press and others published MacDonald’s Bible studies.
HBC fired MacDonald in February 2019 after radio show host Mancow Muller broadcast an audio clip of MacDonald discussing the idea of planting child pornography on Christianity Today President Harold B. Smith’s computer. MacDonald was furious because Christianity Todaypublished an article that didn’t defend him for suing Christians critical of his actions.
The annual National Religious Broadcasters convention attracts thousands of Christians involved in media and vendors looking for new business. On the exhibition floor the Israel Ministry of Tourism and Noseworthy Travel Services promote pilgrimages to Israel.
Such tours have become big money generators for televangelists and smaller ministries.
Televangelist Ed Young Jr. is promoting a tour of biblical sites in Israel. The price starts at $3,419 and that might be a bargain. The cost for a Light of Messiah Ministries trip costs $5500.
During the Grassley inquiry Trinity Foundation notified the Senate Finance Committee that Benny Hinn Ministries Travel and Tours was providing travel services to churches.
Trinity Foundation started monitoring Israeli tours more than a decade ago based on the firm conviction that some profits from such tours should be reported as unrelated business income.
According to a Trinity Foundation informant, Benny Hinn himself allegedly received kickbacks for bringing groups to various Israeli businesses.
In 2018, President Trump issued an executive order creating the Faith and Opportunity Initiative. The executive order noted, “The efforts of faith-based and community organizations are essential to revitalizing communities, and the Federal Government welcomes opportunities to partner with such organizations through innovative, measurable, and outcome-driven initiatives.”
The book is filled with fascinating insights which can explain why fraud is rampant in Fortune 500 companies, government agencies and even religious organizations.
An Institute of Internal Auditors “survey revealed that 49 percent of auditors were told ‘not to perform audit work in high-risk areas,’ while another 32 percent were ‘directed to work in low-risk areas so an executive could investigate or retaliate against another individual.’” In other words, auditors are told to look the other way in many cases and to help employers look for (miniscule?) dirt on disliked employees.
Is it possible ministry auditors such as Stanfield and O’Dell or Chitwood & Chitwood also fail to properly audit “high risk areas”? They represent some of the people we investigate for lavish lifestyles. We have our eyes on you.
One amazing fact in the book is that “tipsters” uncover more fraud than professional auditors and law enforcement combined.
A 2007 “PricewaterhouseCoopers study credited ‘tipsters’ or whistleblowers with uncovering 43 percent of frauds.”
At Trinity Foundation, we have observed multiple cases where courts refused to take a case because evidence was improperly obtained. The New Whistleblower’s Handbook gives practical warnings on how to avoid this pitfall.
“If the whistleblower knows about the existence of supporting evidence, but cannot lawfully obtain that information, the IRS suggests that the whistleblower ‘should describe these documents and identify their location to the best of his or her ability.’” By doing so, “the IRS can lawfully obtain it through a subpoena or other legal means.”
Know the Law
Federal whistleblower laws were mostly written to address fraud committed by government employees, government contractors and publicly traded companies along with environmental issues and occupational safety concerns.
While churches and ministries are generally not covered by these federal laws, there are states laws that protect private employees. Author Stephen Kohn notes, “Some states are better than their federal counterparts, while others can best be described as pathetic.”
Whistleblowers that procrastinate in filing a complaint, may sabotage their attempt to address their concerns or obtain justice.
Kohn writes, “Complying with the statute of limitations is particularly relevant in whistleblower cases. First, some of the limitations periods are very short. The periods are measured in days, not years.”
When Senator Grassley launched an inquiring into alleged tax abuses at six TV ministries, televangelists Kenneth Copeland and Paula White warned former employees to not speak to Senate investigators or they would be in violation of nondisclosure agreements.
The New Whistleblower’s Handbook addresses this issue. “But there is good news concerning restrictive employment agreements. Any employer who requires an employee to sign an agreement not to disclose potential crimes to the government is in violation of numerous laws, including the Securities Exchange Act and the federal obstruction of justice laws.
The New Whistleblower’s Handbook is a timely book for future whistleblowers. We highly recommend it.
Last but not Least, CONTACT US AS EARLY IN THE PROCESS AS POSSIBLE, PLEASE
We have plenty of experience in reporting our findings to the authorities and may be able to help you move your case forward. We have been maintaining people’s confidentiality and privacy for decades–214-827-2625.