TV Preacher Uses Ministry Assets For High Living, Says Paper

A California TV preacher whose network airs some of the most prominent figures\n on the Religious Right has been accused of using donations from supporters\n to finance a lavish lifestyle that includes 30 homes, fancy cars and a private\n jet.

Paul Crouch, founder of Trinity Broad­casting Network (TBN), became the\n focus of a Los Angeles Times investigation in September after a former\n employee accused him of sexual misconduct.

Enoch Lonnie Ford says he met Crouch at a TBN drug rehabilitation facility\n in 1991 and later went to work for the ministry. He alleges that in 1996 he\n had a sexual encounter with Crouch at a TBN-owned cabin.

Crouch denies the charges. In 1998, Ford threatened to sue TBN, and Crouch\n agreed to pay him $425,000 as part of a settlement.

In the course of examining Ford’s allegations, the Times took\n an in-depth look at TBN and the lifestyles of Paul Crouch and his wife, Jan,\n who run the ministry.

Although the Crouches’ Pentecostal ministry is not as political as\n some religious broadcasts, TBN has become a distribution point for much Religious\n Right propaganda. Due to the network’s phenomenal popularity – it\n claims 5 million viewers daily – other, more politically active TV preachers\n and far-right leaders pay TBN to air their programs.

TBN’s current roster includes Pat Robertson’s “700 Club,” Jay\n Sekulow’s “ACLJ This Week,” D. James Kennedy’s “Coral\n Ridge Hour,” Joyce Meyer’s “Enjoying Everyday Life,” and\n John Hagee’s “John Hagee Today.” In addition, a number of\n Southern Baptist clergy who are deeply involved in conservative politics air\n programs on TBN, among them Charles Stanley and Adrian Rogers.

The Times pieces, written by William Lobdell, outlined Crouch’s\n use of the “prosperity gospel” – the assertion that donating\n to TBN will cause God to bless the donor and bring untold riches.

Observed Lobdell, “Crouch has used a doctrine called the ‘prosperity\n gospel’ to underwrite a worldwide broadcasting network and a life of\n luxury for himself and his wife.”

TBN, the story notes, pays Paul Crouch $403,700 a year and Jan Crouch $361,000.\n The ministry owns 30 homes around the country that are at the disposal of the\n Crouches. They travel around the nation in their own $7.2-million jet.

TBN homes include two mansions in Newport Beach, Calif., overlooking the\n ocean. One of the houses was put on the market recently for $8 million. The\n ministry also owns 11 homes in a gated community near Trinity City International\n in Costa Mesa, Calif., as well as a four-bedroom, five-bath house in a resort\n in the San Bernardino Forest and nine houses on 66 acres of property near a\n ranch in Colleyville, Texas.

The Times reported that TBN officials claim that a Christian drug\n treatment program uses the Texas property, but local officials say there is\n no permit for such an operation, and former employees report that it left town\n years ago.

Ex-employees say the Crouches have expensive tastes and decorate their homes\n with rare antiques. Ministry credit card receipts from 1994 show that TBN purchased\n 40 items from an antique store in Brentwood, Tenn., in a single day, among\n them a $10,000 wine cabinet and a seven-piece bedroom suite for $3,995. In\n 1995, TBN purchased nearly $33,000 in antiques at a store in Fort Worth in\n one day.

Despite the Crouches’ constant ap­peals for money, TBN is, in fact,\n flush with cash. Its surpluses average $60 million per year, and its 2002 financial\n report shows assets of $583 million.

The Times profiled several low-income viewers who regularly send\n money to TBN. While some became disillusioned with the ministry after failing\n to receive financial windfalls, other still support TBN. One California woman\n told the paper she sends TBN $70 per month from an $820 disability check.

“They have more money than they need,” Howard “Rusty” Leonard\n of the group Wall Watchers, a Christian ministry based in Charlotte, N.C.,\n that helps believers make decisions about donating funds, told the Times. “There’s\n nothing like this. It’s over the top.”

Ole E. Anthony, founder of the Trinity Foundation in Dallas, a Christian\n group that is often critical of the excesses of TV preachers, concurred.

“The people on TBN are living the lifestyle of fabulous wealth on the\n backs of the poorest and most desperate people in our society,” Anthony\n said. “People have lost faith in God because they believe they weren’t\n worthy after not receiving their financial blessing.”