In 1987, Congress held hearings to examine government oversight or the lack thereof for religious institutions. The hearing was spurred on by allegations of fraud involving televangelist Jim Bakker and PTL.
Pastor D. James Kennedy meekly told Congress, “I would think that if a person is going to give money to something, that they have … a responsibility to learn where it is going.”
Donor Responsibility. It is an important concept. Christians should check out televangelists before sending them checks or making donations by phone. Besides examining a preacher’s theology, donors should determine if giving to them is good stewardship.
Trinity Broadcasting Network, America’s largest religious TV network, is amassing huge legal expenses. The network has spent more than $20 million on attorneys’ fees since 2012.
Attorneys for the network have filed numerous lawsuits against Brittany Crouch, the granddaughter of network founders Paul and Jan Crouch. TBN accused Crouch and Michael Koper,her now ex-husband, of stealing documents and money from the network.
On August 29, 2012, The Orange County Register reported, “Court records show six lawsuits against the Kopers by Trinity in Orange County Superior Court, U.S. District Court and New York state courts, each involving myriad actions.”
Since then, the number of lawsuits has multiplied. When Brittany filed for bankruptcy, TBN used the occasion to file another suit.
Brittany’s sister Carra is also embroiled in litigation with TBN. Carra accused the network of covering up her rape when she was 13 years old. The jury decided on Carra’s behalf but TBN says it will appeal.
Even before the intense family conflict, TBN was racking up huge legal expenses.
A review of TBN 990s by The Christian Sentinel shows that TBN spent more than $40 million settling lawsuits from 1998 to 2006. Then TBN stopped listing a line for “settlement expenses” on their 990s. These expenses are probably hidden behind the vague description “other expenses” or not reported at all.
TBN legal expenses, according to Form 990s filed with the IRS:
Settlement expenses reported in TBN 990s:
2006 – $120,007
2005 – $16,000
2004 – $12,000
2003 – $2,342
2002 – $1,700
2001 – $511,514
1999 – $29,286,235
1998 – $12,000,000
Screenshot of PACER Case Locator showing lawsuits filed in federal courts involving Brittany Crouch:
Special note: TBN’s official corporate name is Trinity Christian Center of Santa Ana and this is the name that appears in court filings. PACER also reveals that International Christian Broadcasting, an affiliate of TBN, sued Brittany. A review of International Christian Broadcasting 990s shows that this non-profit has spent zero dollars in attorneys fees from 2012 to 2015 while suing Brittany.