Televangelists are Con Artists Hoping to Scam the Faithful

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We have all, at one point, undoubtedly been exposed to the horde of modern-day religious capitalists who boast some intrinsic sanctity through the medium of late night television. These “televangelists” promise devotees medical miracles, solutions to familial and economic struggles and divine intervention — for a price. For many of us, these “holy” men and women who demand a donation every month in return for prayers are clearly scam artists, and it seems ludicrous that anyone could buy into it. However, some of the most famous televangelists make millions of dollars each year from their deceptions.

Creflo Dollar, a televangelist and leader of the World Changers Church based in Georgia is one example of the pastor/con-artist persona. Dollar recently petitioned members of his church for donations to prove how faithful they are so he could buy a $70 million private jet “in order to fulfill the mission of the ministry.” The 30,000 members delivered, completely playing into what’s known as prosperity theology, or the idea that giving one’s own money to the church will result in the subsequent flourishing of personal wealth.

One aspect of televangelism that makes these con-artists so grossly wealthy is that the money coming in is tax exempt and there is little to no supervision by the IRS or any third party as to how the money is spent. These TV networks and televangelist groups classify themselves as churches, meaning that their finances are kept completely private. The practice of televangelism is nothing more than a business that sells intangible products such as “salvation” and “healing.” Televangelists should be held accountable and monitored like any other corporation.

Paul and Janice Crouch, a televangelist couple (though he is now deceased) and creators of Trinity Broadcasting Network lived in separate his and hers mansions in California but claimed on TV that they had no personal assets, according to a report by Courthouse News. Scam artists like the Crouches freely siphon money out of individuals daily and have never been held accountable for the fraud their business is built upon. We may not have the right to shut them down if they’re conning people through religious fanaticism, but we can at least ensure their profits are being taxed justly for the corporations that they are.

It should be noted, however, that it is not possible to directly audit and alter the content of a televangelist’s sermon. Monitoring televangelist programs is an issue of free speech; these charismatic religious speakers must be afforded the same rights to free speech as every other American. But as an entity deriving profit off of some type of offered service (e.g. customers purchasing tickets for a televangelist event or convention), such programs essentially become a corporation and should be monitored as such economically. In the same way that clothing manufacturers and meat packing factories are given specific protocol to follow regarding employment, working conditions, quality control, etc., televangelist businesses should be monitored in the sense that any profit made should be taxed, and the way the money is spent should be closely supervised, as with any other business.

The fact of the matter is that no matter how much scrutiny society puts these con-artists under, their loyal followers, who are being exploited through their faith, will remain loyal. The mystery behind televangelist programs often involves some form of deception or manipulation of people’s tendencies to believe in something otherworldly over what’s rational. For example, one’s experience being “healed” at such a convention or event leads them to harbor a more positive outlook on life or take on healthier habits that assist them in battling illness.

The reliance upon religion that so many have has become an arena of spiritual connivery. Any attempt to audit televangelists might make them less rich, but they will still be exponentially wealthy. The only way to truly end this trend of religious fraud is to combat all scamming pastor’s well-deserved exercise of free speech with some of our own. Making the truth known in a broader sphere and consistently ousting these individuals for the con artists they are will eventually ensure that their approval ratings plummet and people go back to the old fashioned kind of prayer, the kind that doesn’t require a checkbook.

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