On Saturday, The New York Times ran a story that profiled allegations of financial malfeasance surrounding the Trinity Broadcasting Network and the couple that owns the prosperous network and a religious theme park, Paul and Janice Crouch.
The Times outlines how the Crouch’s network has provided them with a lavish lifestyle, including several multi-million dollar homes and a “The Holy Land Experience” theme park located in Orlando, Florida.
Almost since they started in the 1970s, the couple have been criticized for secrecy about their use of donations, which totaled $93 million in 2010.
Recently, the Crouch’s son, who “ousted” another son to become the heir to the family’s fortune, has become estranged. The Crouch’s granddaughter has publically detailed serious allegations of financial impropriety.
The granddaughter, Brittany Koper, and her husband have been fired by the network, which accused them of stealing $1.3 million to buy real estate and cars and make family loans. “They’re just trying to divert attention from their own crimes,” said Colby May, a lawyer representing TBN. Janice and Paul Crouch declined requests for interviews.
In two pending lawsuits and in her first public interview, Ms. Koper described company-paid luxuries that she said appeared to violate the Internal Revenue Service’s ban on “excess compensation” by nonprofit organizations as well as possibly state and federal laws on false bookkeeping and self-dealing.
The Times details more charges, levied by Koper and confirmed by “two other former TBN employees,” that the Crouch family used tax-exempt funds to purchase lavish dinners, a private jet and “often vacant” homes across the country.
But The Times goes further than outline the alleged financial malfeasance of TBN. They tackle what they call the “gospel of prosperity,” and how the network’s owner’s donation-funded lifestyle has corrupted traditional Christian worship.
“Prosperity theology is a false theology,” said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. Between its message and its reputation for high spending, Mr. Mohler said, “TBN has been a huge embarrassment to evangelical Christianity for decades.”
A tax attorney told The Times that the authorities are likely to take an interest in the Crouch’s financial largess and how they spent their network’s donations on things like dinners, houses and a jet.
In an ironic twist, it was a power play that resulted in the ouster of one of the Crouch’s sons that forced Koper and her husband out of the network that could lead to its downfall.
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