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Intercessors for America, is lucky that its tax-exempt status has not been revoked.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.