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Trinity Broadcasting Faces Lawsuits, Complaints

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Crouch's longest dispute involves a seven-year legal battle with the Rev. Keith Houser over a New York-area Christian TV station. The dispute is scheduled to be heard in court in New York on Jan. 2.

Houser, the founder and one-time director of the station, said

Crouch "virtually started a hostile takeover"

of the station by dividing the board of directors while the station was financially vulnerable.

Richard Gay, TBN's attorney in the case, said Houser's charges were "outrageous. People can claim anything they want."

Hollaine "Holly" Allen, a former public-affairs director for TBN's station in Tacoma, Wash., compared TBN in her complaint "to a Southern plantation of pre-Civil War days. The Crouches are the master and mistress who move the slaves (employees) in and out at will, upon the slightest whim."

Allen and other former employees maintain that Crouch regularly rewarded station managers and other top employees by ordaining them ministers - regardless of their qualifications for the position. As head of an organization legally determined to be a church, Crouch is allowed to ordain ministers.

Once the employees become ministers, the employees are able to write off their housing costs as expenses for a parsonage, according to the IRS.

Ward, TBN's former personnel director, said in an interview that almost all of TBN's 17 station managers were ordained by Crouch as ministers.

"They ordained everyone," said Marvin L. Martin, who produced "Praise the Lord" for more than eight years. 'My kids laughed at me - the Most Rev. Martin.'"

Martin, in a complaint filed with the NRB, accused Crouch of praying that God would kill one of his opponents. Crouch later admitted doing so. Martin, a Garden Grove, Calif., resident, said he left TBN in 1981 after accusing the Crouches of running the network like their personal piggy bank.

"They think they're above rebuke. It's like, 'You've touched God's anointed and now you're going to get it,'" Martin said.

Martin and others say Crouch, who resigned as an Assemblies of God minister more than 15 years ago, made himself a free agent - responsible to neither a denomination nor any other established organization that would have membership requirements.

They say they also tried to iron out their differences with Crouch in Christian arbitration, as recommended by the NRB Ethics Committee and the Bible. They say Crouch refused their requests.

Crouch pulled TBN out of National Religious Broadcasters in January after refusing to join its Ethics and Financial Integrity Commission, a mandatory membership requirement. He said the NRB penalizes family-run ministries.

Crouch wrote in TBN's January newsletter that he withdrew from

"man-made organizations" because of "lying, trumped up charges aimed at the heart of your TBN. . . . Satan ranted, raged and roared against TBN, as well as Jan and me personally."

In the past, the televangelist has said, "There is not a shred of truth" to the formal complaints. In TBN's July newsletter, Crouch said he "answered every charge with sworn affadavits and documented evidence from the files of the FCC and other government offices."

NRB officials said they did not have the staff or the financial resources to investigate all the complaints, but they considered the complaints "of a serious nature." The NRB's inability to investigate did not "represent an exoneration by the NRB," officials said.

"The NRB thing is a witch hunt," said Little, TBN's detective and spokesman. "As long as Paul and Jan keep caring about people the way they do, no matter who takes shots at them, it's ultimately not going to hurt them."

But Richard Bott, the former chairman of the NRB ethics committee, said the NRB wasn't the one pointing fingers.

"The NRB has accused him of nothing. Those who have complained are his own employees and former management people - and the chorus seems to be growing," Bott said. "It appears he wants the perception of accountability without the reality."

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