Posts Tagged ‘Harold Camping’

cover of Culture Wars by Marie Castle(Excerpted from Chapter 7 of Culture Wars: The Threat to Your Family and Your Freedom, by Marie Alena Castle)


Churches fight to keep their tax exemptions and charitable perks—and to get more. The national Citizens for Tax Justice (, founded in 1979, lobbies legislatures to ensure taxes are adequate to maintain social programs. Its coalition members and directors include religious organizations. In Minnesota, it works with the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition ( whose four sponsoring members are the Minnesota Catholic Conference, the Minnesota Council of Churches, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, and the Islamic Center of Minnesota. (JRLC, founded in 1971, was the first interfaith public-interest lobby group in the United States. Since then, groups in other states have formed.)

While JRLC cites the need for fairness and bemoans the plight of the poor, its members never offer to pay any taxes themselves. Yet in 1992 the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition made specific proposals for raising taxes by $649 million on businesses and on higher incomes to fund social programs, with no suggestion that their own tax-free havens be tapped to help achieve what they call a “need for fairness.”12 The JRLC, of course, sings the same tune whenever budget crises arise.13
Many social welfare programs are administered through churches, which contract with the government to provide services or are paid from government sources such as Medicaid and Medicare. In either case, taxpayers, not the churches, pay for these services.

The comfortable financial status of many religious institutions is fairly well known. Despite the Vatican’s well over a billion dollars in losses in court judgments and in out-of-court settlements for shielding pedophile priests, it remains extremely wealthy, not just in its financial investments and property holdings, but in its collection of priceless works of art—a major tourist attraction in Rome. (As of this writing, five U.S. Catholic dioceses—including the dioceses of Tucson and Portland—have declared bankruptcy to avoid paying pedophilia victims in full, and eight other dioceses have filed for bankruptcy for the same reason.) As for Protestants, the media regularly report on the lavish lifestyles of televangelists, as documented by Senator Charles Grassley in his now-aborted campaign to make lavish-spending churches accountable for abusing their tax-exempt status.

In 1977, the Minneapolis Star Tribune ran a multi-part investigative piece that revealed that Billy Graham had millions of tax-exempt dollars deposited in foreign bank accounts, while paying most of his employees minimum wage or less.14 In 1987, the paper reported that Graham’s tax-free profits for 1986 amounted to $3.8 million.15 There is no reason to think the Graham operation, which has ministries in several countries, is any less profitable today. Certainly his organization—now run by his son, Franklin Graham—can afford to pay taxes.

In 2011, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a First Amendment watchdog group, reported the following multi-million-dollar annual budgets for several prominent religious right organizations:

Pat Robertson empire — $412,581,050
Jerry Falwell empire — $400,479,039
Focus on the Family — $130,258,480
Alliance Defense Fund — $30,127,514
American Family Association — $21,408,342
Family Research Council/FRC Action/FRC Action PAC — $14,569,081
Coral Ridge Ministries — $17,263,536
Traditional Values Coalition — $9,888,233
Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention $3,236,000

Then there are the “prosperity gospel” evangelical megachurches—a huge national network inspired by Kenneth Copeland, “The Godfather of the Prosperity Gospel”—all of which have palatial facilities, acres of property, and thousands of members. Most of these churches seem to be prospering nicely. Several were featured prominently in the Minneapolis Star Tribune in September, 2011. One was the Substance Church, with an income that grew from $150,000 in 2004 to $2.5 million in 2010. The church has accomplished this by preaching Bible verses such as Proverbs 11:24-25: “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.” The “evidence” that such giving is rewarded came from occasional reports by churchgoers who gave when it was difficult, then unexpectedly recovered financially, always certain their god was rewarding them, never realizing that it is a mathematical certainty that some of those thousands of donors will prosper financially, getting something they can interpret as a reward.16

One might argue that, even though a religious organization’s financial activities are questionable, donors are free to support the institution regardless. Maybe so, but what if those activities cause considerable harm? We seldom see reports from those who gave and gave and gave, and whose finances worsened as a result. But some of them do surface to shed light on this particular aspect of religious tax-exempt activities.

In 2008, CBS Evening News investigated Kenneth Copeland Ministries (KCM). Highlights of the CBS report included:

It’s a business, it’s a bottom-line business,” said a former ministry employee-who feared being identified. The employee answered hundreds of prayer requests a day, most sent in with donations, before quitting, feeling ‘betrayed’ by Copeland’s gospel of prosperity.

Michael Hoover, who worked for Kenneth Copeland Ministries for five years, quit in 2005 over disagreements with the church. He says he witnessed other employees doing work on behalf of for-profit businesses tied to the Copeland family. “In my viewpoint, I believe that they were using a lot of the ministry’s assets for personal businesses,” he said.

The nonprofit activity and the for-profit activity are so intertwined that you can’t, you can’t separate them,” said Ole Anthony of the Trinity foundation.17

Chuck Gallagher, a “business ethics and fraud prevention expert,” recently commented negatively on the Kenneth Copeland Ministries (KCM) on his web site.18 Gallagher’s site includes comments from visitors. Most said they supported the Copelands, noting that “rappers and thuggish figures” and other high living celebrities make millions and fly corporate jets and nobody investigates them. The fact that those celebrities paid taxes while FCM was tax-exempt and abusing that privilege did not seem to occur to them.

But there were other comments. This one says it all. It’s from a woman who tried to get an accounting of all the money her mother gave to KCM:

Being only human, our quest for health and wealth regrettably does lead some in the wrong direction. Promises and guarantees, made by the Prosperity Gospel ministers give people that have not obtained these blessings on their own a second chance at achieving their goals in life. An important discovery I made while reviewing testimonies revealed that numerous victims had very little knowledge of the Prosperity Gospel’s dark side. These unfortunate victims appear to be [acquainted] with only a small portion of the web of deceit these ministers weave.

Picture yourself being raised in a small country town, with a population of only a few hundred, the closest city [having] only a population of a few thousand. Computers, Internet, cable, satellite TV, and other high tech gadgets are not needed or desired. You are living a simple, solemn life you wouldn’t trade for any amount of cash. After your working day is done, you gladly remove your shoes, kick back in your easy chair, and relax without a care in the world for a while. After flipping on the TV to view the local evening news, you are reminded to give thanks that you don’t have the worries that accompany life outside the safe haven of your home and your community. Religion is your safeguard, your faith is strong, and you have no doubts about the truth behind your sacred beliefs.

This was my life, before KCM. Prosperity Gospel ministers enter the homes of many victims through a 30-minute Sunday morning worship service on a local broadcast station. Growing up in Jigger, Louisiana, truly located in the middle of nowhere, I can testify that we only received on a clear day about three or four channels at most. Warnings of dangers associated with Prosperity Gospel ministries made by critics, ministers, and victims go unheard; therefore, tragically for many, when the realization of this scam is discovered it is already too late. Families have lost their homes, life savings and some even their lives due to the Prosperity Gospel’s misleading doctrines.

Unfortunately, my mother was not one of the lucky ones. Her confidence and faith in this false Gospel ultimately cost her her life. After more than a decade of programming her mind to believe and think the Prosperity Gospel way of life she lost her battle with cancer. By refusing medical attention, she sealed her fate, but the programming she had acquired from Kenneth and Gloria Copeland proved strong all the way to her last breath. A diary she left behind revealed the horrific tale of her life from 1992–2002, the top of each page titled with Kenneth Copeland, Gloria Copeland or BVOV [Believers Voice of Victory—Copeland’s Internet TV “station”]. . . . The use of miraculous healing confessions and newly found wealth testimonies are their sales pitch. Sadly, my mom among many others are proof that their sales pitch works.

When all is said and done, perhaps [it] will be tagged not as the Prosperity Gospel, but the false Gospel.18

Preaching a Prosperity Gospel is not the only way to take advantage of trusting people. For months, in 2011, doomsday was yet again prophesied—this time to occur on May 21st, 2011. It never happened, of course. The “prophet” this time was the Reverend Harold Camping, from Alameda, California.

If such foolishness were treated as just that, we could dismiss it with a few jokes and end-of-the-world parties. But it’s not. Many people take doomsday predictions seriously. Camping’s national promotion through billboards and other media resulted in people inflicting great harm on themselves and others. Some liquidated their assets to donate money to publicize the event, or incurred heavy debt to finance purchases and vacatis in the expectation that they would be gone to Glory on May 22nd, or they quit their jobs; some even killed themselves and/or their loved ones to avoid the post-Rapture Tribulation.

Camping’s tax-exempt organization, Family Stations, a multi-million-dollar radio enterprise, promoted Camping’s doomsday prophesies, and it in turn was supported by donations. But Camping made no personal preparations for being Raptured. And he certainly wasn’t among those who liquidated their assets. This sort of thing happens every time someone promotes a doomsday scenario.19

At the very least, it is difficult to see what justifies preferential tax treatment for Camping.


12. “Deficit: Religious coalition says state should raise taxes and increase spending,” by Dennis J. McGrath, Minneapolis Star Tribune, March 3, 1992.
13. “Legislators, there is no magic number,” (op-ed piece) by Brian Rusche, Minneapolis Star Tribune, June 7, 2011.
14. “Immigration: Faith leaders call for compassion,” (op-ed piece) Minneapolis Star Tribune, April 16, 2011.
15. Minneapolis Star Tribune: “Graham Association won’t reveal finances to avoid rich image,” 6-25-77; “Graham admits Association has secret $22.9 million fund,” 6-27-77; “North Carolina paper says Graham Association worth $23 million,” 6-27-77.
16. “A recession-proof gospel of giving,” by Rose French, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Sept. 24, 2011, p.A1.
17. See
18. “Kenneth Copeland-Godfather of ‘Prosperity Gospel’? Why Not Comply with Grassley?” at
19. “FFRF calls for fraud probe into Rapture campaign,” news release distributed by Freedom From Religion Foundation, June 1, 2011. See