Televangelist Court Cases to Watch in 2020

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.

Here are eight court cases we are monitoring in 2020.

Guatemalan televangelist and megachurch pastor, Carlos Enrique Luna Lam, better known as Cash Luna, sued Univision last year after the TV network reported Luna received money from drug trafficker “Queen of the South” Marllory Chacón.  Judge Daryl Trawick tossed out the lawsuit, claiming it violated Florida’s anti-SLAPP law.

Judge Trawick wrote, “Because amendment to the Complaint would be futile given the analysis set forth above–including the deliberate and extensive nature of defendants’ [Univision] investigation, the judicial findings of Herrera Bernal’s competency, and the existence of corroborating sources–it is dismissed with prejudice and without leave to amend.”

In November, Luna filed an appeal in the Florida Third District Court of Appeal. Luna is seeking an unspecified amount of damages.

In another libel case, James MacDonald, former pastor of megachurch Harvest Bible Chapel (HBC), has sued radio host Mancow Muller in Cook County Circuit Court. According to the lawsuit, Muller “falsely charged MacDonald with having committed the offense of battery, with being a serial sexual abuser of women, and with conduct showing a lack of integrity as a pastor.”

Journalist Julie Roys reports, “This is the second defamation lawsuit MacDonald has filed in just over a year. In October 2018, MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel sued the authors of The Elephant’s Debt blog, their wives, and me for defamation. MacDonald and Harvest dropped the suit last January after a court ruled that documents subpoenaed in the case could be made public.”

In addition to the two defamation suits,  MacDonald also filed a case against the church with the Institute for Christian Conciliation. MacDonald claims he is owed the assets of the ministry Walk in the Word. Instead of judge or jury deciding the case, arbitrators will render a decision.

In January 2019, televangelist Todd Coontz was sentenced to five years in prison for committing tax evasion.  Coontz appealed the court ruling and it has been stuck in limbo at the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. No date has been set for hearing the case.

In December 2019, the California Supreme Court rejected Trinity Broadcasting Network’s appeal  following a lower court decision which found the network guilty of covering up the rape of Carra Crouch by a TBN employee.  According to Carra’s attorney David Keesling, “TBN is now down to its last option which is to file a writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court. The filing deadline is March 11, 2020.”

Benny Hinn’s World Healing Center Church was sued in 2018 in federal court for breach of contract. In the lawsuit, filed in Mail America Communications alleges it is owed $2,993,221.74 for breach of contract.

John Gray, pastor of Relentless Church in Greenville, South Carolina, has recently been sued twice. Richard Hayes, the former Chief Financial Officer and Director of Special Projects of Relentless Church, sued the pastor and church in Greenville County’s 13th Judicial Court for $75571.84 in uncollected compensation, unpaid vacation time and unpaid salary increase.

Meanwhile, Redemption, owner of the property where Relentless Church meets, has sued in the same court to have Gray and his organization evicted for allegedly failing to make all mortgage debt payments current.