The religious con game

Religion seems to attract some of the biggest exploiters and it is not hard to see why. The absurd tax exemptions given to religious organizations, coupled with the reluctance of the IRS to strictly enforce the rules because of the privileged position religion has in society, has resulted in one racket after another coming to light.

TBN (Trinity Broadcast Network) is one such organization whose leaders led lavish lifestyles that their followers supported.

The prosperity gospel preached by Paul and Janice Crouch, who built a single station into the world’s largest Christian television network, has worked out well for them.

Mr. and Mrs. Crouch have his-and-her mansions one street apart in a gated community here, provided by the network using viewer donations and tax-free earnings. But Mrs. Crouch, 74, rarely sleeps in the $5.6 million house with tennis court and pool. She mostly lives in a large company house near Orlando, Fla., where she runs a side business, the Holy Land Experience theme park. Mr. Crouch, 78, has an adjacent home there too, but rarely visits. Its occupant is often a security guard who doubles as Mrs. Crouch’s chauffeur.

Ms. Koper and the two other former TBN employees also said that dozens of staff members, including Ms. Koper, chauffeurs, sound engineers and others had been ordained as ministers by TBN. This allowed the network to avoid paying Social Security taxes on their salaries and made it easier to justify providing family members with rent-free houses, sometimes called “parsonages,” she said.

The extent of their shenanigans has come to light as a result of a falling out within the family.

Of course, the big puzzle is why although these people keep getting exposed over and over again as living extravagant lifestyles, people keep supporting tem. The main reason that these people succeed is because there are so many idiots who are willing to give money to anyone who says that god speaks to and through them.


  1. says

    I once attended a service at Evangelical Free Church, a megachurch in Fullerton, California, and in the sermon, the head pastor mentioned how he just had a party with 80 people in his home, and in the same sermon, also begged the congregation to make sure they increased their donations for the rest of the year. It’s amazing how gleefully he just rubbed their noses in it, yet correctly believed that he could keep up the charade.

  2. raven says

    They also have lots of private jet airplanes.

    A $100,000 dog house. This is really inexpensive though. If I had their income stream, my cats would get a lot more than that.

    I don’t have a problem with this or any of the other con rackets of the fundies. Money spent on fine wines, jet planes, doghouses, mansions, lawyers, and whatnot is money not spent trying to take over and destroy the USA.

    So if any fundies are reading, send the Crouches some money. They have to pay their lawyers and that isn’t going to be cheap.

  3. says

    I happen to live rather close to Rod Parsley, of the World Harvest Church (southeast of Columbus, OH). He just happens to own a $1,000,000 estate. And his parents also just happen to own a $1,000,000 estate right next door.

    I wonder how that happened?

    Here’s the Google satellite view.

    I’m afraid they are forced to share the pond.

  4. raven says

    Parsley, the Crouches, Hagee, Osteen, and all the rest are small fish.

    Pat Robertson is reputed to be a billionaire. He recently claimed that it was because god loved him.

  5. Sunny says

    Considering how lucrative the evangelical business is, it is a wonder that more such entrepreneurs are not in the business. What is the constraint to entry? Perhaps I do not know about them.

    The article reminded of the time when I first moved to the US and stayed with a family whose TV was permanently set to TBN. I am still traumatized by Ms. Crouch.

  6. kagekiri says

    The constraint to entry is being scummy enough to do it while still remaining outwardly charismatic enough to fool your targets.

    Not many liars can pull off a con of this magnitude without realizing they’re utter scumbags. So it probably also requires immense self-righteous self-delusion or unadulterated sociopathy.

  7. Sarah says

    “The main reason that these people succeed is because there are so many idiots who are willing to give money to anyone who says that god speaks to and through them.

    Really? That’s your answer? Why give to those people and not all the other people who say God speaks through them?

    Really if your answer is “because ‘the enemy’ are stupid” to anything, you’re most likely a fanatic and an idiot without any theory of mind or usefulness to the cause.

    Retire already.

  8. raven says

    Sarah being confused:

    Really? That’s your answer? Why give to those people and not all the other people who say God speaks through them?

    Those idiots do give money to lots of people who claim they hear voices in their head, called by them “god”.

    You didn’t even read the thread. A lot of TV evangelists are very rich, tens of millions of dollars, mansions, private jets, $100,000 doghouses, the best lawyers money can buy, and anything they else want to buy.

    Those are decidely second tier. Pat Robertson is reputed to be a billionaire.

    As to why some are rich and some super rich, who knows. Some of it depends on what they do with that money. Pat Robertson has long standing ties to some vicious African dictators involved in resource hijacking. His buddy Charles Taylor was involved with the conflict diamonds trade and recently convicted of crimes against humanity in the Hague. He also owns a lot of TV properties.

  9. raven says

    Why give to those people and not all the other people who say God speaks through them?

    Millions of people claim to hear voices in their heads and call it god. The problem is: the voices all say completely different things. The vast majority of them aren’t even xians worldwide!!! To give one example, Al Qaeda, the homicidal maniacs who kill a lot of people, 90% of whom are Moslems, get their funding from their religious fans.

    Studies have shown that god is a sockpuppet. Your god hates what you hate and wants you to have what you want.

    Not having done an exhausting study on religious conpeople (I already have a job and a conscience to boot), I’m just reasoning it out here.

    1. People send money to those who mirror their hates and believe what they already believe. The Crouches, Al Qaeda, the Mormons, the Catholic church, Scientology, etc..

    2. People send money to those greedy and sociopathic enough to go after it. Most of us have moral values that make us get educations and real jobs, rather than scamming the credulous.

    People naturally fall into tribes and follow leaders. People send money to the Crouches, Robertson, or Hagee for the same reason 900 people drank poisoned kookaide in Guyana and died because the Reverend Jim Jones (an Assembly of God minister) told them to.

  10. raven says

    Really if your answer is “because ‘the enemy’ are stupid” to anything, you’re most likely a fanatic and an idiot without any theory of mind or usefulness to the cause.

    Oh insults. You sound upset.

    Check your bank balance. Send most of it to the Crouches if it makes you happy. It’s a free country.

    The Crouches are in legal trouble right now and have bills to pay. Lawyers cost a lot and they could really use the money.

  11. Parse says

    Do you realize how expensive an ethicectomy is? It’s an elective surgery, and none of the HMOs cover it.

  12. raven says

    Too bad Sarah has left the planet. She is missing a great opportunity to donate some more money to do the will of god. This guy also promises to make you rich, the prosperity gospel.

    Better hurry though. The SEC is after him and he may end up indicted and in jail.

    Ephren Taylor Accused of $11 Million Christian Ponzi Scheme by SEC

    By STEVE OSUNSAMI and KATIE HINMAN | ABC News – 5 hrs ago

    Ephren Taylor stepped into the pulpit with the ease of preacher’s son, taking the microphone at the New Birth Baptist Church in Atlanta, where the powerful pastor Eddie Long was introducing him to the Sunday morning crowd.

    “Everything he says is based on the word of God,” Long pledged to the members of his megachurch. But Taylor wasn’t a visiting minister.

    He was a financial adviser, one who claimed to have made his first million before he turned 18. And he promised he could do the same for his fellow Christians. continues

    Although $11 million is small change in that world. Any halfway competent conperson xian minister should be able to scam 50 to 1 billion USD.

  13. Robster says

    The whole friggin’ lot of religion is a complete fraud. Nonsense wrapped as truth, sold to silly people that, it appears, are happy to buy anything and support lots of evil people.

  14. Kim Bennett says

    People are intelligent. It’s the individual person that can be an idiot. The belief in God is a good thing but when people like Jim Bakker, Pat Robertson and the others preach the love of God and make millions in the process make me sick. They’re simple con men and con women. I’ve went to churches and the preacher gave the sermon and he asked the members for their tithes three times in the service. They obeyed and payed. Also, the tent revivals that go on with the faith healers that give their same speeches and get paid. I talked to a faith healer and I said that he had a good thing with the religious services. He told me that you’d be amazed at how many people fall for the faith healing con. He has a few of the people who are his partners wear disguises and act like they have a serious injury to be healed. The people who attend are amazed at the healing power of Christ and he’s making thousands with each performance. Bravo.

  15. Kim Bennett says

    To be a con you’ve got to be intelligent, experienced and devious. Look online for sites that give you the equipment and information you’re looking for. Like the following items…
    Lock picks and instructions
    Fake degrees and birth certificates
    How to apply disguise makeup for different characters (corrective, young or old)

    Let your mind go nuts with the possibilities of what you’re looking for. You will be amazed at what you find.

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