Black megachurch frauds

In the US, crooks are drawn to religion like flies to honey. The combination of not having to pay taxes or even open up their books for close scrutiny, combined with a population that is both needy and highly gullible, provides an irresistible attraction for frauds and conmen.

When I drive through the poor black neighborhoods of Cleveland, the most depressing sight is the prevalence of storefront churches and payday lenders. While some of the small churches may be providing some benefits in terms of providing a sense of community for a struggling population, the bigger black megachurch pastors are ripping off their parishioners in the same grand style as white megachurch pastors, except that they are usually exploiting very poor people out of money they desperately need for the basics of life, by preaching to them the ‘Gospel of Prosperity’ where they are told that if they give to the church their god will give them more in return. These pastors are scum. (For more about them see here and here.)

There is apparently a new documentary called Black Church, Inc. documenting these abuses. Here’s the trailer.


  1. moarscienceplz says

    For most of my life, my family was in a financial condition that varied from “we need to be careful with money” to “I’m sorry son, but your college fund had to be cleaned out to pay bills”. During that whole time, my father made sure that 10% of his income ALWAYS went to the church. Yeah, Jesus has been a big source of joy and comfort in my life. /sarcasm

  2. AnotherAnonymouse says

    I’ve lost a formerly good friend, a single mom of 3 (her ex was only good at running up the bills, and now that he’s her ex, his support checks all magically get lost in the mail but at least she’s no longer responsible for the debts he runs up on who-knows-what). How did I lose her? She joined a megachurch. Now every spare moment is spent doing something for the church (as in physical maintenance and leading a women’s study group and a children’s study group). I’m also pretty sure she’s tithing, too, because she an the kids need clothes and she’s been talking about their peanut-butter-sandwich dinners (and she’s not joking). Before the church she wasn’t rich, but they were eating real meals. Even worse, she used to be level-headed, but now she spouts talking points like, “The slaves in the bible were simply employees!”. I’m at a loss as to what she thinks she’s getting from this church, which is sucking her drier than her ex ever did.

  3. Ed says

    It makes me sick how churches demand a set percentage of every member’s money no matter what the circumstances.

    In beautiful contrast the atheist-friendly Unitarian Universalist church I’m in has a detailed set of pledge guidelines for people depending on their means and lifestyle.

    A. The percentage of one’s income they ASK. FOR, not demand depends on how much money you have. The same percent is obviously a greater burden to those who have less.

    B. They ask the member to consider how much a part of their lives they want the church to be, how much of their identity is defined by it, how active they are in it. They openly expect and ask for less support from someone who wants a nice place to go a few times a year than someone who is deeply committed.

    C. They recognize things like illness, debt, having a lot of dependents, etc. as legitimate reasons to give less.

    They’re actually doing fairly well financially.

    Incidentally, if you have conservative Christian friends or relatives caught up in the tithe scam and suffering, ask them to at least consider the theory that the tithe was a tax in ancient Israel for the maintenance of the temple and its priests and sacrificial activities, not a timeless moral principle about how much everyone everywhere should give to their religious group.

  4. lorn says

    Down here in Florida I can drive 20 miles through a rural area and count 8 churches, and it isn’t just the churches and the generous acreage of land they sit on, each has a house and its land that is included as parsonage. None of this property is taxed in any way. Which means that when the bill comes due for keeping the county going everyone still on the tax roles pays more.

    I found it unfair that police direct traffic and investigate vandalism, the fire department rolled up in good time and put out a church when it caught fire, the church benefits from roads and sewers and county health services, but they don’t contribute a nickel.

    And then you get to the direct effects of the church. The poor families that can’t afford heart and asthma medication but always give over 10% or more. Or the frequent accounts of horn dog pastors who use their position to have sex with any female in the congregation. Or how nobody dares call them out because it would bring shame to the church and the congregation. How deacons strong arm anyone threatening the businesslike shearing the fucking of the flock.

  5. jimmyfromchicago says

    The post reminds me of this case of a pastor in Cicero who lived high on the hog and owned two Mercedes, a Jaguar and a Bentley. (I take that back: One of the Mercedes and the Bentley belonged to Jesus.) Not just content with ripping his parishioners off, he also used the poorer women at this church as part of a scheme to defraud a State of Illinois program intended to help struggling parents pay for child care. Utter parasites.

  6. Pen says

    Stories like this actually make me a bit glad we have a state supported church. Yes, we have to support them through our taxes regardless of our religion, but we’re mostly supporting the architectural heritage of the country, which I would want to do anyway. And in the meantime, it leaves them with no excuse whatsoever for extorting money from people.

  7. dean says

    I remember my grandmother watching only two things on television, from the time I can remember, in the mid sixties to when she died in 1974. One was the Detroit Tigers -- she always sat in her chair with a scorebook, keeping score, well into her 90s.

    The other was any Billy Graham television special. I don’t know how or why she got hooked on him, but she was. And every time I was there when one was on my grandfather, at least once, would look up over the top of the newspaper he was reading and say

    “You know, Billy Graham reminds me of all the religious folk who went to Hawaii to do good and ended up doing very well.”

    He would then lower his head and go back to “reading”, no doubt with a huge grin, while my grandmother fumed. I guess that’s the benefit 65+ years of marriage brings a man.

    My point: my grandfather’s quote seems to apply to the current crop of megachurch ministers just as well as it did to Graham.


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