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Trinity Broadcasting Faces Lawsuits, Complaints

Source: Reposted on 04 September 2012 |
Writer: Tracy Weber | 11 November 1990 |

TUSTIN, Calif. - Wringing a white handkerchief and sobbing, television evangelist Jan Crouch stared into the camera and urged viewers not to believe what "an army of fault-finding demons" was about to reveal.

The tearful plea, recently broadcast nationwide on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (KTBW, Channel 20, in the Seattle-Tacoma area) was extraordinary. It wasn't Crouch's tears that were unusual - the Newport Beach, Calif., woman frequently cries on her "Praise the Lord" talk show. What was startling was her warning that "an army" of critics was about to attack her ministry.

Trinity, founded in Santa Ana, Calif., 17 years ago, is perhaps the biggest success story in the history of religious television. Jan and her husband, Pentecostal preacher Paul F. Crouch, own or control 213 television stations - more than any other private broadcaster in the nation - including stations in Miami; Dallas; Phoenix, Ariz.; and Denver.

Their "Praise the Lord" show airs each weeknight on stations and cable channels worldwide. And so far, the Crouches have emerged unscathed from the scandals that brought down fellow TV evangelists Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart. Donations last year exceeded $50 million.

And yet, after years of broadcasting from Tustin, the multimillion-dollar Trinity empire is coming under attack.

While Jan Crouch never explained who the "demons" were or what they were about to reveal, allegations by former employees and fellow ministers of financial and ethical improprieties are being leveled at the Newport Beach couple.

Paul Crouch's critics, in lawsuits and complaints filed with a national religious-broadcasting organization, accuse him of taking money from donations intended for other preachers on TBN, of ruthlessly seizing control of competing Christian stations, dodging the payment of employee-withholding taxes, ordaining non-Christian employees as ministers for a tax break in lieu of giving them raises and emotionally intimidating anyone who dares stand in the way of "God's anointed," as employees say Crouch calls himself.

The evangelists deny all but one of their critics' charges. Paul Crouch, 56, has acknowledged that in the past he has prayed that

"God would kill anyone or anything attempting to destroy my ministry." -God Kills Those Who Come Against Them-

The Crouches refused repeated requests for an interview for this story.

One of the main charges leveled is contained in a lawsuit filed in September in Orange County (Calif.) Superior Court by Ruth Ward, TBN's former personnel director.

Ward, who supervised the payroll for TBN's 400 employees nationwide, said she, her husband and her son were fired in June after she objected to an alleged TBN scheme to disguise more than 50 regular, full-time employees as outside contractors. The designation, Ward alleges, enabled the network to skirt payment of federal and state payroll and Social Security taxes.

Ward, in a series of meetings with Crouch and network executives that began in August 1989, demanded that the policy be changed, her suit says. Crouch, it adds, refused.

Ward's wrongful-termination suit also alleges that TBN skimmed money from donations intended for other ministers whose shows are broadcast on TBN.

Several complaints filed by fellow ministers and former employees last year with the National Religious Broadcasters, a group that represents more than 1,000 evangelicals nationwide, charge Crouch with being anything but Christian in his treatment of TBN employees and his Christian rivals.

The Rev. Ray Wilson, an NRB board member, contends in a complaint to the NRB that Crouch launched his first station more than 15 years ago by sabotaging a competitor in the area. While managing the Faith Broadcasting Network at a Christian station in Glendale, California, Crouch was secretly building his own competing station nearby, said Wilson, head of a Hemet, California-based missionary group.

The station's owners discovered Crouch had been selling air-time contracts at half the normal rate, knowing the station couldn't operate at the cut-rate prices. When the station raised the rates back to normal, Crouch was able to lure the sponsors to his new station at a lower rate, Wilson said.

When Crouch left, the station discovered its corporate mailing list was missing. Under threat of court action, Crouch's attorney said Crouch accidentally had slipped the list into his briefcase, Wilson said. A short time later, people on the mailing list received fund-raising letters from Crouch on stationery almost identical to the Faith Broadcasting Network, Wilson said.

"He will go on his merry way. He has categorically denied everything," Wilson said in a telephone interview from his mission in Panama.

Other complaints allege that Crouch used Phil Little, a north Hollywood, Calif., private detective, to intimidate staff members and others around the nation.

Little, head of the West Coast Detective Agency, said he does do investigative work for TBN and said he did meet with Wainwright and Kanary. But he said that all the complaints were "outrageous" and "totally untrue. . . ."

"We run TBN like a business. Paul calls me with a problem and says, 'This is what I've heard. Check it out,'" said Little, who said he had never "mistreated" anyone during an investigation.

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