Pimpstor Tony Spell launched what he called the #PastorSpellStimulusChallenge, asking gullable Americans to donate their government stimulus checks to evangelists, missionaries and music ministers who he said have not received offerings in over a month. He said he, his wife and his son have all donated their checks, and added that those without a church can donate through his website. How shameful to ask needy Americans to give “the church” their stimulus checks! Shouldn’t their be money left in
“the storehouse” from years and years of tithes and offerings collected by the church? If “the church” had been appropriating funds properly in years past, it would have enough funds to allocate certain amounts to parishioners in need during this pandemic.
He claims that he is asking “people to hand over their $1,200 stimulus checks, because some evangelists and missionaries don’t receive stimulus money.
“We are challenging you, if you can, give your stimulus package to evangelists and missionaries, who do not get the stimulus package,”.
The challenge comes after Spell repeatedly held large religious services in recent weeks at his Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge. The gatherings defied CDC recommendations and an emergency order by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards that set limits on large gatherings to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“If they close every door in this city, then I will close my doors,” Spell told CNN last month. “But you can’t say the retailers are essential but the church is not. That is a persecution of the faith.”
“Instead of showing the strength and resilience of our community during this difficult time, Mr. Spell has chosen to embarrass us for his own self-promotion,” said Central Police Chief Roger Corcoran said in a statement on March 31.
“Mr. Spell will have his day in court where he will be held responsible for his reckless and irresponsible decisions that endangered the health of his congregation and our community,” Police Chief Corcoran added.
Spell held an Easter Week service after the summons and said about 1,220 people attended, including some who were bused in and others who drove more than 100 miles to be there.
With its early outbreak, Louisiana has had the 9th-most confirmed coronavirus cases in the US. According to the latest tally, over 23,000 people have contracted the virus and 1,267 have died in the state.
CNN’s Daniel Burke contributed to this report, re-edited by Babylon Today
Bobby Blackburn is accused of soliciting two workers and threatening to fire a third if she didn’t take the blame.
A grand jury has indicted a Prestonburg, Kentucky pastor accused of trying to organize a threesome with minors
Pastor Bobby J. Blackburn was indicted on charges of prohibited use of an electronic communication system to procure a minor to commit a sex offense.
His lawyer, Stephen Owens, says news coverage is making the case seem worse than it is. He says Blackburn is accused of trying to solicit 17-year-olds, but “media coverage is making it out to be like they are 9- or 10-year-olds.”
The pastor of the Elevate Church in Prestonsburg owns a Giovanni’s pizza place, which plays Christian music and puts Bible verses on receipts. He’s accused of soliciting two workers and threatening to fire a third if she didn’t take the blame.
“He would send pictures of us or of the children, asking us to look sad. He was saying that white people are so emotional.”
Benin City (Nigeria) (AFP) – In southern Nigeria, an evangelical pastor runs a sprawling camp billed as a refuge for thousands of children who fled the Boko Haram jihadist insurgency in the north.
Solomon Folorunsho, known as Pastor Solomon, says he is on a self-proclaimed mission to help humanity, creating the International Christian Centre for Missions (ICCM).
His camp in Benin City claims to provide accommodation, medical care and education for 4,000 children, “most of them orphans”, as well as 500 widows and missionaries, using funding from local institutions, NGOs and churches abroad.
But witnesses AFP interviewed across Nigeria — children, their relatives, former missionaries and social workers — paint a far darker picture of the pastor and the treatment of those in his care.
“At first he’s very subtle, quiet — like somebody who wouldn’t hurt a fly,” one former church worker said of the charismatic preacher.
“I loved him, I loved his charisma.”
But during months of interviews, witnesses detailed how those living at his 30-hectare (75-acre) facility frequently go hungry and thirsty and endure atrocious hygiene conditions.
All accused the pastor of physical abuse, while some accused him of sexual harassment
Pastor Solomon, aged in his 50s, admits having problems with food and sanitary conditions in the camp but denies any mistreatment.
“There is no bad treatment here. We don’t do abuse,” he told AFP.
“Feeding them is a challenge… but we don’t have anything to hide. We are helping humanity.”
Concerns about the camp have a long history. Three years ago, the UN children’s agency UNICEF sent an assessment team to the site, who filed a report with damning conclusions.
“Pastor Solomon runs this camp as if it is his ‘kingdom’. He controls the movement and actions of every person in the camp through a group of ministers and specially selected children,” the team wrote in the confidential report, seen by AFP.
The UNICEF investigators said what they saw, coupled with interviews with children, caregivers and NGO workers, prompted “strong concerns regarding the possibility that Pastor Solomon may be engaged in sexual activities, or at a minimum, displaying grooming behaviours with girls in the camp”.
Witnesses said that around a dozen young girls work for the pastor as his personal servants and receive preferential treatment.
“A girl who refused to work for him was punished and starved. When he beat you, he wouldn’t stop until you bled seriously,” said Rahila, a 16-year-old girl who left the camp several months ago.
“He had names that he called different girls… He would comment on the size of my butt, and he would say our chests looked like pineapples or stuff like that,” she said.
All the witnesses’ names have been changed to protect their identities.
Other children and adults said that those who upset the preacher were treated brutally.
“I was always hungry, there was never enough food or water. When we complained we got beaten with anything he could lay his hands on,” said 12-year-old Hauwa.
“No one leaves Pastor Solomon without a scar — whether it is psychological or physical,” a former follower told AFP after hesitating at first to talk about his ordeal.
Convincing people to talk about their experiences with Pastor Solomon is a painstaking task. Some have refused to speak out for 20 years.
“Most of the girls were coming from poor homes. They would sleep with him and in exchange he would pay for their school fees,”said a former femalevictim.
She said her going to the authorities about the abuse she experienced and witnessed was out of the question in a country where powerful men are rarely brought to justice.
She was also scared of juju, the traditional black magic widely feared by people in the region.
“I was scared to talk. He uses juju, people told me I would die.”
Evangelical preachers draw fanatical followings across the deeply Christian south of Nigeria. Pastor Solomon’s power stems greatly from his beliefs.
“He says he’s sent by God. To confront him is like confronting God himself,” a former church worker said.
Those who have served under him and lived in the camp say the pastor uses the fear of devil to keep people in line.
On the church’s website, in a short biography entitled “I Saw Jesus” — translated into six languages including Russian and Chinese — he claimed that he was saved from Satan by God himself.
– Foreign evangelical support –
Pastor Solomon’s International Christian Centre for Missions has expanded hugely since he founded it in 1990 with just a dozen young female followers.
In 1992, he set up the first “Home for the Needy”, taking in poor children whose parents entrusted them to his care on the promise of an education.
A former missionary said the pastor would sometimes misrepresent the children as orphans to raise sponsorship in Europe or the United States.
Ten years later, the church had grown to more than 200 branches, with missionaries and preachers working across southern Nigeria and funds coming from evangelical churches abroad.
“He was always browsing the internet to look for church organisations all over the world” to target for donations, the missionary said.
“He would send pictures of us or of the children, asking us to look sad. He was saying that white people are so emotional.”
But it was the Boko Haram jihadist insurgency more than 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) to the north of Benin City that caused a surge in the numbers at the camp.
As the violence displaced millions of people and grabbed global attention in 2013, Pastor Solomon’s group turned its attention to children in the conflict zone of northeastern Nigeria.
“The pastor’s people came (to Maiduguri) and convinced parents to send their children to Benin City where they would have a good education, with free food,” said Rakiya, who allowed five of her six children to go.
“At the camp, parents would be given bags of rice, bus fare, jerrycans of palm oil and the like. So when they returned to Maiduguri they would tell other parents ‘Benin is good’,” she said.
No records are publicly available about how many children were brought from northern Nigeria to the camp.
Pastor Solomon told AFP that the Nigerian army and the intelligence service “have a copy of the register”, but this could not be verified.
UNICEF and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) wanted to set up a program to reunite children from the camp with their families, but were denied access to their identities.
“At this time, camp management has been unable/unwilling to provide this information,” UNICEF said in its report.
UNICEF maintains that it passed on the report to local authorities in 2016 to make themaware of the “concerns”. But nothing appears to have been done.
On the contrary, Pastor Solomon had full support from the then regional governor, Adams Oshiomhole, now head of Nigeria’s ruling party, the All Progressives Congress.
“With the former governor, we once had a good relationship,” Pastor Solomon told AFP. “When parents wanted to get their children back, he would give them money, he would give them a gift.”
Today, while denying any accusations of maltreatment, the pastor admits that the huge influx of children placed a major strain on the camp and that the church struggles for money.
Camp workers have told local media that to feed the estimated 4,000 children and 500 adults at the camp costs hundreds of dollars a day — and that does not include medicine, water, education and clothing.
“We also have a problem with hepatitis, measles, chickenpox and scabies; we don’t have enough accommodation for them, this is a big challenge,” the pastor acknowledged.
Witnesses said that children sleep on mats on the ground in huge hangars without adult supervision, relieving themselves in the forest, complaining of hunger and thirst and not washing, and that many have died in the disease-ridden conditions.
While conditions keep deteriorating at the camp, some European and US evangelical groups still send donations and materials to Nigeria.
The congregation of German pastor Gunther Geipel — who describes Pastor Solomon as a “friend and brother” — is one of them.
Geipel dismisses the allegations against the pastor as “tales” from “jealous people”.
“I cannot imagine that this is true,” he told AFP.
AFP put the allegations against Pastor Solomon and his camp to Edo State minister for social affairs Maria Edeko, who took up her duties several months ago.
She said she had never heard of the UN report or accusations of abuse and poor conditions at the camp but insisted they would be investigated.
She confirmed the authorities did not have access to the camp registry.
“From now on, I can assure you that my ministry will be on top of the situation. We need monitoring,” she said. “It’s our responsibility.”
An alarmingly angry Kenneth Copeland defends his wealth to news reporter.
Televangelist Kenneth Copeland snapped at an Inside Edition reporter in a recent interview about his lavish lifestyle and private-jet use, saying he makes no apologies for the fact that his hypnotized blind followers ministry has made him “a very wealthy man.”
Stephen Johnson portrayed himself to be a selfless missionary helping orphans in Cambodia while in reality he was a sexual predator!
A Coos Bay, Oregon man, who was a Christian missionary running an orphanage in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, was found guilty by a federal jury of six counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place, traveling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and aggravated sexual abuse.
Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams of the District of Oregon, and Special Agent in Charge Loren G. Cannon of the FBI, Portland Division, made the announcement after the verdict was accepted by U.S. District Judge Michael J. McShane of the District of Oregon.
Daniel Stephen Johnson, 40, was charged in December 2014 after serving a one-year sentence in Cambodia for sexually abusing some of the same victims. According to evidence at trial, Johnson was a Christian missionary who traveled between the United States and Cambodia, along with other countries in Southeast Asia. He started an orphanage in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, that housed several Cambodian children. Over a period of years beginning in 2005, Johnson engaged in sexual abuse and attempted to sexually abuse at least nine children who resided at his orphanage. The victims ranged in age from eight to 17-years-old. The sexual abuse continued until December 2013 when Johnson was arrested by the Cambodian National Police. Based on disclosures made by children at the orphanage, Cambodian officials charged Johnson and detained him pending trial. In May 2014, Johnson was convicted by a Cambodian judge of performing indecent acts on one or more children at the orphanage and sentenced to one year in prison. Following his release from prison, Johnson was escorted back to the United States by the FBI. He will be sentenced on Aug. 22 before U.S. District Court Judge Michael J. McShane.
“While Stephen Johnson held himself out as a selfless missionary helping orphans in Cambodia, in reality he exploited that cover to sexually abuse the children entrusted to his care,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Cronan. “Today’s conviction is a testament both to the courage of the victims, who traveled to the United States to provide critical testimony against their abuser, and to the steadfast commitment of our prosecutors and law enforcement partners to seeing that Johnson be held to account for his terrible crimes.”
“The despicable nature of this defendant’s conduct is beyond understanding,” said U.S. Attorney Williams. “Whether you are abusing children in this country or abroad, you will be pursued and held accountable in a court of law. The fact that this defendant abused children under the guise of being a missionary and orphanage operator is appalling.”
“Daniel Johnson’s promises of charity and a better life were nothing more than lies as he dragged these children into his dark world of abuse,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Cannon. “This case should serve as warning to those predators who believe they can hide their crimes – whether here at home or half-a-world-away. We will always stand with the victims, and we will always work to bring justice in their names.”
According to evidence presented at trial, while in custody awaiting trial, Johnson made multiple efforts to tamper with witnesses and obstruct justice. Johnson contacted his victims online, encouraging them to lie and offering money and gifts. One message, sent via his relative’s Facebook account to an adult in Cambodia, discussed visiting a victim’s family and encouraging them to convince the victim to retract their statement, potentially in exchange for $10,000. Another message explains the need for a victim to say they were under duress and “pushed by police” to thumbprint a document.
The FBI investigated the case. Trial Attorney Lauren E. Britsch of the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeffrey S. Sweet and Ravi Sinha of the District of Oregon prosecuted the case with assistance from Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy E. Potter for the District of Oregon. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs also provided assistance in this case.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and CEOS, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.
A White Missionary Man 21, who sexually abused neglected children as young as five in Nairobi is sentenced to 40 years in prison.
Missionary Matthew Lane Durham, 21, was convicted on four counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place. He was sentenced to 40 years in a federal prison and must also pay more than $15,000 in restitution. Durham sexually abused children as young as five while doing missionary work in Nairobi in 2014.
A former missionary from Oklahoma convicted of sexually abusing children at an orphanage in Kenya has been sentenced to 40 years in a federal prison.
U.S. District Judge David L. Russell handed down the sentence on Monday to Matthew Lane Durham, 21, who had faced up to 30 years on each of four counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places. He also ordered Durham to pay restitution of $15,863. Durham showed no emotion when the sentence was issued.
‘These were heinous crimes committed on the most vulnerable victims. He was their worst nightmare come true,’ Russell said. Durham asked the court for mercy prior to the judge’s order.
‘All I wanted was to follow God’s plan for me,’ he told the judge.
Prosecutors alleged Durham targeted orphans while volunteering at the Upendo Children’s Home in Nairobi between April and June 2014. Durham had served as a volunteer since 2012 at the orphanage, which specializes in caring for neglected children.
He also molested several other children and forced others to perform sex acts on him, according to court documents.
In the alleged confession, he detailed forcing one young girl to have sex with him several times. ‘Any time I try to read the Bible or pray, this image comes to my head,’ he allegedly wrote.
Durham’s lawyer Stephen Jones, who has previously defended the likes of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, says Mrs Menja forced a false confession from the Durham with ‘pseudo-tribal psychological voodoo’ and accused her of running a cult out of her orphanage.
He told the Oklahoman newspaper that the criminal complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney was ‘shot through with inaccuracies.’
‘The events that occurred in Kenya the last maybe five six days that Matt was there frankly reveal some sort of pseudo-tribal psychological voodoo practiced on him, including confiscating his passport, false imprisonment, keeping food from him one day, delay in allowing him to depart from the country, misleading his parents,’ Mr Jones told the newspaper.
‘I don’t think Hollywood could make up what happened at this so-called orphanage. We’re on the ground in Kenya now. We’re finding out a lot about these people. This place is right on the outskirts of Nairobi. It’s like some cult over there.’
This was Durham’s third mission trip to the orphanage in recent years and Mrs Menja had previously praised his compassion and eagerness to work with the troubled children at the shelter, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal district court in Oklahoma City.
Durham helped raise money for the orphanage in his Oklahoma hometown, including giving a presentation at the Edmonton Rotary Club.
Mrs Menja and her husband – both Kenyan immigrants who live in Oklahoma – founded Upendo Kids International, a Christian charity, that looks after troubled, unwanted and neglected children in a community on the outskirts of Nairobi. Every year, young Christian missionaries from the United States travel to the orphanage to work with the children.
A 12-member jury convicted Durham in June on seven counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places, but Russell acquitted Durham on three of the charges in January.
The letter reads: ‘I took her to the bathroom and forced her to have sex with me. This has happened on more than one occasion.’ This is one of the horrific confessions that Durham allegedly wrote out.
The same jury cleared Durham of accusations that he planned in advance to abuse the children before he left the United States. Defense attorney Stephen Jones has said Durham plans to appeal his convictions.
Orphanage officials and five of the children traveled from Kenya to testify at the trial. The children, who speak Swahili, testified through an interpreter only after Russell cleared the gallery and closed the courtroom to the public and media.
In a sentencing memorandum, federal prosecutors asked Russell to sentence Durham to 120 years in prison — the maximum punishment he faced. Prosecutors also asked that Durham be placed under supervision for the rest of his life in the event he is ever released from prison.
Excerpts of Durham’s confession were read in court by Assistant U.S. Attorney Don Gifford, including a section pertaining to the alleged assault of a 12-year-old girl
‘The defendant’s offenses were undoubtedly serious. He raped or sexually molested by force or threat four children ranging in ages from 5 years to 14 years — some multiple times — in a span of just 33 days,’ prosecutors wrote in the memo.
Prosecutors also said Durham’s actions have had a chilling effect on the lives of dozens of foreign volunteers in Kenya and elsewhere ‘who must now live under the cloud of suspicion, distrust and apprehension when they volunteer their time, talent and resources for the betterment of children in East Africa and beyond.’
‘There is a real perception among Upendo’s local Kenyan community that more pedophiles lurk among the volunteers, especially the young male volunteers,’ prosecutors said.
Evidence produced by prosecutors included handwritten, signed confessions that Durham gave orphanage officials after he was accused of inappropriate behavior.
Jones has argued that the statements were coerced by orphanage officials who isolated Durham, took his passport and created the allegations to obtain $17,000 from the U.S. government for security cameras.
Defense attorney Stephen Jones has described Durham, who was 19 when he was charged in 2014, as ‘an emotionally vulnerable teenager’ who was struggling with ‘sexual identity and development’ while also being a devout Christian.
Authors note: How could this MONSTER violate these innocent children who were already suffering in an impoverished country but were SAFE from perverts and receive anything less than the death penalty?! These children will be damaged FOR LIFE all because they trusted a white missionary worker who came in the guise of Christianity!!!! He even raped a 5 year old! This is not the first time Christian missionary workers have traveled from the West to African countries only to engage in homosexual activities, paid child sex and rape, many of these sexual violations are not publicized in the news media or reported to the local authorities.
Perverted Pastor Ricardo Strachan and Avo Roker arrested for molesting the same little girl
The step-father of a South Florida teen girl was arrested Saturday after police say he sexually assaulted his 13-year-old step-daughter for a year.
The arrest of Avo Roker was made about a week after 40-year-old “Pastor” Ricardo Strachan was placed behind bars for molesting the same girl. Police say Roker introduced Strachan to the girl at church and that the duo threatened to kill her and conduct voodoo rituals on her family if she told anybody.
“Pastor” Ricardo’s photo on his Go Fund Me Page
Both men were booked into Broward County Jail. Avo Roker was held without bond and Ricardo Strachan, who used to preach at The Prophetic Worshippers International Church, was charged with one count of lewd and lascivious battery on a minor between the ages of 12 and 16 years old and held on a $100,000 bond. According to a police report, Strachen had sex with the girl more than 36 times either in the parking lot of a high school during school hours or at a nearby motel between January to December of 2016.
Strachen is also accused of forcing the teen to steal clothes from her family– items that would ultimately be used in voodoo rituals if she went to the authorities, the report said, noting that he told the girl his wife was an armed police officer.
Documents outlining Roker’s arrest were not immediately available Sunday, Lauderhill police told the Miami Herald. However police say Roker had sex with his step-daughter more than 65 times from December 2015 to December 2016.
Jail records show he’s being held on no bond while Strachen is being held on $100,000 bond.
Pastor Harris placed a permanent ban of membership against the church members…
If members of the Zion Missionary Baptist Church in East Palo Alto, California, hadn’t fought back, their one-time Pastor, Andre Harris, and his wife, Rhona Edgerton-Harris, would have fleeced them of their church building and a home valued at more than $1 million.
Church members explained that when they arrived for services one day in early May 2014, they found a real estate sign on the parsonage next door where the Christian leader and his family had been allowed to live rent free.
A curious church member did some sleuthing at the county recorder’s office and discovered that the deed to the home had been strangely transferred to the pastor and his wife. A for-sale sign also soon appeared on the church property which led alarmed members to demand an explanation from their pastor about a month later.
Pastor Harris, who had renamed the church Born Again Christian Center when he took over leadership of the congregation, responded by handing the protesting members notices of ex-communication — barring them from the church in the name of Jesus.
“Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Born Again Christian Center is informing you because of your inconsistent attendance over the months or years, we have therefore removed you as a member,” Harris wrote in the notice. “You therefore no longer have any rights or privileges to conduct any matter at the said Church. … We are informing you of your removal and permanent ban of membership at Born Again Christian Center.”
The members replied to Harris with a lawsuit alleging several crimes, including attempts to defraud the church. About 10 months later, the church prevailed.
Harris returned the properties to them in a settlement, the terms of which were not disclosed. But Harris and his wife almost got away with it. Zion Missionary Baptist Church members called themselves “blessed” because most perpetrators of fraud in churches are usually never reported.
Research cited by Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, the second largest U.S. provider of property and casualty insurance to Christian churches and related ministries, says reported cases of church financial fraud has been rising by about 6 percent annually and is expected to reach the $60 billion mark by 2025.
The level of reported fraud in churches is dwarfed, however, by the 80 percent of church fraud cases that are estimated to go unreported.
John Montague, a corporate and nonprofit tax law expert and senior associate at leading global international law firm Hogan Lovells, explained in a recent interview with The Christian Post why he believes the best way to abate church fraud is to remove the IRS Form 990 exemption churches currently enjoy. Evidence suggests churches cannot be trusted to regulate themselves, he said.
The IRS Form 990 is the reporting form that many federally tax-exempt organizations must file with the IRS each year. It allows the IRS and the general public to evaluate a nonprofit’s operations, including information on the nonprofit’s mission, programs, and finances. Depending on the filing year and the gross receipts of the organization, a nonprofit might be required to file Forms 990, 990-EZ or 990-N.
In his general assessment of what he is hearing from average churchgoers today, Montague said people are frustrated by not having access to the kind of transparency in churches that a Form 990 can give.
The public could also learn financial details such as how much ECFA President Dan Busby got paid from the organization that year — $193,218 in reported compensation and $42,032 in other income totaling just over $235,000.
“Nearly every conversation I’ve had with members of the laity, people have been interested in the concept of transparency, and frustrated by the general lack of transparency,” explained Montague, who served as a law clerk to The Honorable Thomas B. Wells of the U.S. Tax Court prior to joining Hogan Lovells.
“In churches, I’ve encouraged people to ask questions about the finances of their churches, but I’m not aware of any church that has actually made a move to voluntarily file a 990 or to provide the level of transparency that would result from having to file a 990,” Montague said.
He also explained that among the reasons why Christians aren’t pushing to hold churches more accountable and showing more concern about financial accountability through the IRS Form 990 is a lack of awareness.
“I don’t think most people are aware of the 990. … And even if they are aware of the 990, they are not aware of the exemption that churches have. I’m sure that 99 percent of Christians are totally unaware of that exemption,” Montague said.
“I think there are people, [who might say] ‘look, my responsibility is to give money to the Church and then I leave it up to God as to what happens to it after.’ I think there are those people. I would imagine that they’re probably in the minority but I have no idea.”
In January 2011, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, released a report after a three-year investigation targeting six popular televangelists, including Paula White, Creflo Dollar and Kenneth Copeland.
The report raised questions about their personal use of things such as church-owned airplanes, luxury homes and credit cards. It also expressed concern about the lack of oversight of finances by boards often filled by the televangelists’ relatives and friends.
Grassley, citing the concerns raised by the report, asked Busby in his role as leader of the ECFA to come up with a solution using legislation as a last resort.
“As you consider the issues my staff raised, please remember our discussion in my office when you visited me with other members of ECFA board on March 12, 2009. I stated then that I believe that legislation should be the last resort. However, ideas for reform often inspire informed and thoughtful discussions which, in turn, lead to self-correction and eliminate the need for legislation,” he wrote.
In 1977, after similar concerns were raised about financial impropriety among certain televangelists at the time, then Republican Senator Mark Hatfield, who died in August 2011, warned that Congress would enact legislation if evangelical leaders could not develop a proposal to regulate themselves, according to Montague in The Law and Financial Transparency in Churches: Reconsidering the Form 990.
This resulted in the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and the Christian relief organization World Vision partnering to found the ECFA in 1979 with 115 members. Only one televangelist was listed among that number.
In a March 1979 Washington Post report on the launch of the ECFA, organizers said more than 1,100 evangelical charitable organizations with a combined annual income approaching $1 billion would subscribe to the principles laid down by the organization.
Information from the ECFA’s 2015 990 shows that it currently reviews the data of more than 2,000 Christian charities and churches with more than $23 billion in annual revenue.
Grassley, in his letter to Busby, reminded him of the origin of the ECFA and its role as an alternative to legislated financial oversight for churches.
“ECFA was founded because of a challenge then-Senator Hatfield made in 1977 to Christian groups to be more accountable. He apparently was responding to a scandal in the religious community at that time. The size and diversity of the religious community in the United States has grown tremendously since the ECFA was created. I hope that a discussion of the issues raised by my staff will similarly result in increased accountability while acknowledging this growth and diversity,” Grassley wrote to Busby.
In a report released in December 2012, the commission, which is now inactive, encouraged churches and their leaders to act honorably and asked members of the public who donate money or their time to them to research religious organizations before investing in them.
“Churches and their leaders should not engage in abusive financial activities, nor should they improperly exploit the exemption from filing Form 990, because doing so undermines the credibility of their organizations and the religious community as a whole,” the commission advised.
The commission also recommended that Congress “never pass legislation requiring churches to file Form 990 or any similar information return or form with the federal government.”
“To require such a filing would not only place a substantial and unnecessary burden on churches and the government, it would also raise significant constitutional concerns. New churches should not have registration or notification requirements beyond those that already exist,” the commission said.
Church transparency and the New Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
In May, however, the IRS appeared to take a step toward bucking that advice when it released guidance on the increased scope of what should be taxed as unrelated business income under the newly instituted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
“Because of this new tax, many tax‐exempt employers, including churches, hospitals, charities, and schools will be required to file federal Form 990‐T, and in many cases, state corporate income returns, every year regardless of whether they actually engage in any unrelated business activity. This new tax was purportedly added to the law to put tax‐exempt employers on the same footing as taxable employers with respect to employer‐provided parking,” the ECFA explained in a statement to CP.
While church and financial transparency experts agree that the 990-T would only add minimally to the broader push toward church transparency and accountability, Busby argued that it’s also likely to create various administrative and financial costs for many churches that do not have the means to meet them.
“Working in the church world most of my career, my guess is that prior to this provision, there’s probably only 1 [percent] or 2 percent of churches in America that file form 990-T so we’re really talking about two issues,” Busby said in a June interview with CP.
“We’re talking about a financial issue. We’re gonna have to pay a tax on providing employee parking and two, which may be more important, is the administrative piece of this — to file a return with which they are not familiar. If you can imagine, small churches across America have to file a form 990-T that they’ve never even heard of. And probably they’re gonna need to secure professional advice and pay a professional to file the return, even though the money may not be a significant amount, it’s just a ridiculous provision that was put in the law,” he said.
In July, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention issued a policy brief in support of repealing the new parking tax and earlier this month, bills were introduced in both the House and Senate echoing that recommendation.
“In addition to the new federal requirements, many nonprofits will then be required to file state returns and possibly pay state income tax,” the ERLC stated. “The new regulations create tax liability and increase operations costs for these nonprofits, all because they simply have a parking lot. …
“Taxing nonprofits on basic costs of operating an institution defeats the purpose of nonprofit status, an American tradition for over 100 years.”
The case for IRS oversight of churches
Pete Evans, lead investigator at the Dallas-based Trinity Foundation, which has been tracking religious fraud and helping victims of religious fraud for almost 30 years, told CP that the new requirement is a step in the right direction toward transparency and is a small price to pay compared to the billions being lost in church fraud annually.
“Even if it affects our own church, I would vote yes [to the 990-T provision],” Evans said. You have all these churches now and ministries that are wealthy beyond wealth and some of which have thousands and thousands of acres in the counties that are not on the tax rolls because of various exemptions and they are living like Arabian princes,” Evans noted.
Evans also questioned Busby’s apparent concern for smaller churches in his criticism of the ECFA.
“If you look at the majority of people that ECFA represents, they represent the larger churches because ECFA charges so much money that small churches can’t afford to be members of ECFA. And so I think there is hypocrisy there that on one hand they’re getting a lot of money from the larger ministries, churches and now all of a sudden they are defending the little churches?” he said.
In response to recent questions about the organization’s membership, a spokesperson for the ECFA revealed that only a minority of its currently registered members, 225, are churches.
That’s less than 1 percent of the 250,000 churches registered with the IRS’ Select Check program, according to Holly Ivel, director of Guidestar’s data services. Under this program, the IRS provides official recognition of an organization’s tax-exempt status which assures donors that their contributions are tax deductible.
“Based on how these organizations are coded there’s almost a quarter of a million churches that have chosen to do that (Select Check),” explained Ivel of the program. “So they’ve voluntarily registered, which is great.”
While Ivel, like the ECFA, does not recommend requiring churches to file a Form 990, she did notice from the data in their system that just over 2 percent of the 250,000 churches registered for the Select Check program also filed some variation of the form 990, even though they aren’t required to file it.
“They are not required to file a return but even though they are not required to, about 5,300 have filed an annual return — either an EZ, which is kind of the short form, or a 990. And that’s between 2014 and 2017,” Ivel said.
Some of these filings could be easily searched and viewed on a database available on the IRS website as recently as late June. An update to that page on July 6 now only allows the public to determine deductibility of their contributions. It is unclear why this change was made.
Evans, who agrees with Montague that the evidence against churches show they cannot be trusted with self-regulation, argued that the 990 would be a more powerful safeguard against abuse because of the detailed information it requires. Many churches, he argued, as seen in the number of churches that file Form 990 even though they are not required, would be able to adhere to IRS oversight if there was a requirement to do so.
“Especially for the larger ministries and churches, there needs to be some transparency because they’re not going to do it on their own. Churches, if they are not required to, are typically not going to be transparent on their own and I think a lot of churches would be willing if there was a requirement,” Evans said.
“ECFA does not reveal salary information of their clients and that’s one of the key aspects of transparency that they’re hiding their own clients. They give everybody a seal of approval, this organization is good and above board and yet don’t reveal salary information? What’s up with that?” he asked.
In response, Busby noted in a statement to CP: “There has never been a legal requirement for churches to disclose their salaries. ECFA’s standards start with legal requirements, and in some cases, go beyond the law.”
“… Because of their opacity and the unique nature of religious authority, churches are more likely to foster and shelter malfeasance. Churchgoers are unlikely to challenge leaders because doing so can endanger their position in the religious community, making it imperative that transparency be mandated by outside authorities,” Montague argued.
“Ironically, increased transparency may actually be good for churches because, as studies suggest, it is likely to increase donations and because, by minimizing opportunities for financial improprieties, it may preserve the religious experience of churchgoers. In addition, transparency is consistent with the teaching of many Christian leaders and with the expressed preferences of a large portion of churchgoers.”
Montague said he sent copies of his research to Busby and Grassley.
In a response from Busby to Montague shared with CP, Busby noted in a 2013 letter: “ECFA’s position with respect to Form 990 coincides with the recommendations in the Commission report, i.e., that requiring such a form for churches would constitute unnecessary and constitutionally prohibited excessive entanglement by the government in the affairs of the church.”
The Excessive Entanglement Problem
Some see potential religious freedom issues in additional filing requirements being placed upon churches.
“Although the entanglement created by having church-related institutions file information returns does not seem terribly great, the requirement can be seen as a first step whose ultimate end is full government surveillance of religious institutions. The excessive entanglement test serves as a ‘warning signal’ regarding programs which may appear harmless, but whose ultimate expression would result in a clearly unconstitutional relationship between church and state,” Worthington wrote.In discussing the excessive entanglement concerns, Montague pointed in his study to a well-publicized congressional hearing in 1987 hearing with witnesses from the IRS and the Treasury, as well as notable televangelists including Jerry Falwell and Oral Roberts.
Then Congressman J.J. Pickle, chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight of the House Ways and Means Committee who convened the hearing, noted how Congress and the executive “historically have been reluctant to look very closely at tax issues involving religious organizations” because of their political sensitivity.
Roberts argued that the ECFA, which had been formed as an alternative to legislation, lacked teeth and that it would be better for all organizations to file the Form 990 and submit to external audits.
Gordon Loux, then chairman of the board of the ECFA, also noted that there are “inherent difficulties in self-regulation” as it is limited to those who consent to be regulated. He agreed that the Form 990 is a “minimal requirement that ought to be met by those that are operating in the public service.”
Then Commissioner of the IRS Lawrence Gibbs, who had previously agreed that churches had not been subject to the requirements of filing information returns because of concern about government intrusion into religion, was challenged during the hearing by former Congressman from New York Charles Rangel. An excerpt of their exchange is highlighted below:
Mr. Rangel: Do you see where filing an annual report by churches would be in violation of the constitutional right of separation of church and state?
Mr. Gibbs: I have assumed, perhaps erroneously, that that was the reason—or certainly one of the prominent reasons—for specifically excluding them by statute in 1969.
Mr. Rangel: Well, why did you reach that assumption? You know, it is only a congressional decision. Has any court said that you cannot put limitations on the privilege of tax exemption? We do it in unrelated taxes. We do it in lobbying. We do it in political affairs. We do it in FCC control. What in God’s name could be even remotely considered a violation of the constitutional rights of churches to say that they should file an annual report as to how much money they got and what they did with it?
Several pastors contacted by CP to discuss this story because their churches filed 990 returns referred questions to their treasurer or the individual who prepared them. None of these individuals responded to interview requests.
Montague suggested that some of the churches may have filed the returns in error, not realizing they are exempt from filing.
(Originally written by Leonardo Blair/ Edited by Babylon Today)
The settlement showed that despite agreeing to the financial payouts, the church “has denied and continues to deny all material allegations of negligence and damages in this case.”
Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois reportedly paid $3.5 million in lawsuits over the sex abuse of two developmentally disabled boys.
The evangelical megachurch, which recently saw its entire elders board resign over unrelated accusations that former lead pastor Bill Hybels sexually abused women, made the payments in the lawsuits over several years, court records obtained by The Chicago Tribune show.
One payment of $1.75 million was apparently made in February, while another one of $1.5 million was made last year.
Former Willow Creek volunteer Robert Sobczak Jr., now 24, pled guilty in 2014 of abusing an 8-year-old with special needs at the church, alongside an older boy not connected with the church. A year earlier, he admitted to sexually abusing another disabled boy at the church, believed to have been 9 years old.
Willow Creek said that the experience was “heartbreaking,” and insisted that it has made changes.
“We have worked with law enforcement and security experts to learn how this happened and how we can ensure it never happens again,” the church said, according to FOX 32.
Cook County prosecutors had described in the lawsuits that Sobczak separately took the two boys to an isolated area of the church, where he molested them.
What is more, the document shows that another church worker had raised concerns in January 2013 that Sobczak was “emotionally unhealthy.” The volunteer was allowed to remain with the program, however, and went on to abuse the second victim.
The second victim reportedly suffered “great mental and emotional harm” due to the abuse he suffered, and underwent therapy.
The settlement showed that despite agreeing to the financial payouts, the church “has denied and continues to deny all material allegations of negligence and damages in this case.”
When the child sex abuse charges first came to light back in 2013, the megachurch said in a statement:
“Willow Creek engages in a rigorous screening and training process for all volunteers and staff in our Special Friends Ministry that includes a detailed child protection application process, checking of references, a national background check, cross checking the sex offender registry, and offering training in child protection. Mr. Sobczak had completed and passed this screening process before he began serving with the Special Friends Ministry.”
Heather Larson, who would go on to become Willow Creek’s executive pastor, before resigning this August over the Hybels scandal, insisted back then that church leadership is “very concerned for the child as well as the family.”
“We take rigorous steps to protect our children,” she stated at the time.
Larson, along with Willow Creek’s entire elder board, resigned earlier in August, admitting that they should have believed the multiple women who accused Hybels of sexual misconduct and abuse this year.
The church initially sided with Hybels, who has continued to maintain his innocence in the face of all claims. It later admitted that its founder had “fallen into sin.”
“While Bill Hybels was our founder and pastor, he was human, broken, and self-admittedly sinful. We believe that his sins were beyond what he previously admitted on stage, and certainly we believe that his actions with these women were sinful. We believe he did not receive feedback as well as he gave it, and he resisted the accountability structures we all need,” said in a statement about the issue Missy Rasmussen, one of Willow Creek’s elders.
I began to study more on the teachings of Kofi Danso and was honestly baffled as to how ANYONE would seriously consider him a preacher much less a prophet!
Considering the lies, and deception taking place in Christendom worldwide, I think it wise to thoroughly dissect EVERY so-called “man of God” or “woman of God.” besides, according to Isaiah 8:20
To the law(the books of Genesis,Exodus,Leviticus,Numbers and Deuteronomy) and to the testimony (from the book of Joshua to Malichi) if they speak not according to this word it’s because there is no light in them.
And, Isaiah 28:10 that says “for precept must be upon precept and line upon line” (which means everything must be in line with what has been previously prophesied according to the old testament).
If these “prophets” are truly who they claim to be they shouldn’t have a problem with public scrutiny, Right? I have listened to Kofi Danso who calls himself a prophet and the founder of “Miracle Arena” in Canada. He is from Ghana, West Africa and now lives in Canada. He found fame and acquired his own private jet quickly after his arrival to Canada- his story is one likened to “from rags to riches,” he wasn’t even remotely wealthy or famous when he lived in Ghana, West Africa – as a matter of fact, not too many people even heard of him. I began to really question his authenticity after hearing his messages such as “Secret to the prophetic”
In this video he states that Balaam was a prophet and that his donkey prophesied, he even said that “You need a SPIRITUAL FATHER to prophesy”!
His whole rant about ‘the prophetic” is laughable, and to be honest with you holds a *secret that many Americans listening wont realize which I’ll go into later. ANY person that studies the bible is familiar with the story of Balaam and his donkey.THAT DONKEY DIDN’T PROPHESY as Kofi said he did and Balaam WASNT A PROPHET, he was a SORCERER! I began to study more on the teachings of Kofi Danso and was honestly baffled as to how ANYONE would seriously consider him a preacher much less a prophet! He endorses the likes of Jamal Bryant who has tarnished his own reputation [as so many other “prophets” have] due to infidelity, and endorses other questionable religious leaders such as Benny Hinn, Uebert Angel, Brian Carn and others.
Kofi passionately teaches about spiritual fathers encouraging his followers to have one, and that their lives will be unproductive without one, but the bible teaches to not call ANYONE fatherexcept Him. During his video “The prophetic” he stated that “dreams are not prophecy,” but he seems to contradict himself in this video. And by the way, the bible is full of prophets who prophesied through dreams … And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream Numbers 12:6 and “for God speaks again and again though people do not recognize it, He speaks IN DREAMS, in visions of the night when deep sleep falls on people as the lay in their beds He whispers in their ears and terrifies them with warnings” Job 33:14-16. This man Kofi Danso already has proven himself to be unfit to be anyone’s preacher, teacher or pastor because there are obviously some things that he needs to learn, and he can begin with learning THE BIBLE since this is where Christians base and extract their beliefs. This man obviously has very limited bible knowledge, just listen to him for yourself! There are many people who call themselves “prophets” that gain their ability to “see” by using various types of ju-ju, witchcraft and other dark fetish means to access information. This is common practice in West Africa, South Africa, the Caribbean, and now, the United States and I believe, based on my own observations and knowledge of African ju-ju, that this is how Kofi Danso accesses information allowing him to do what his followers identify as “prophesy.”Danso, and others like him depend on the ignorance of his followers to keep them popular and make you believe that they are hearing from God.
*A “father” by definition in terms of the dark side of “prophesy” in Africa is one who will “teach you the craft”– one who will entrust you with his secret that enables him to know things “prophetically” and share this with you by means of indoctrination and swearing you to secrecy. This is NOT A NEW PRACTICE in Africa, especially in Ghana where even drunkards can “prophecy,” but is something completely unheard of to most people in America which is one reason Westerners are deceived into believing these type people have authentic gifts from God. EVERY preacher,pastor,teacher and prophet that followers Kofi Danso is suspect and most likely are practicing the same type of sorcery (depending on how close they are to him), or want to know what he knows. Don’t be fooled with his boasting of how much he fasts and prays (an authentic spiritual person would never boast about that anyway), fetish workers in Africa have their own reasons for fasting and praying, oftentimes they’re not even praying to the god you think they’re praying to, regardless of the number of times they say “god”. This isn’t anything to be taken lightly because many people are being duped out of their money, and are being used as spiritual targets due to this deception and ignorance and are blindly putting their trust in people who have seduced them into believing that they’ve been “called by God” but in reality are nothing more than magic practitioners!
You must be logged in to post a comment.