The court case resulting in televangelist Todd Coontz’s conviction of tax evasion provides an unusual opportunity to examine the money trail of televangelism. On April 3, 2018, the federal government filed a list of 576 exhibits documenting Coontz’s income and spending.
Televangelists have long reaped extravagant financial benefits by appearing as special guests and hosting programs for religious TV networks. Senator Chuck Grassley attempted to obtain information about this use of donor funds when he launched a public inquiry into the financial practices of six TV ministries in 2007. Grassley asked televangelist Benny Hinn to provide, “A detailed list of all payments, including any honorariums and love offerings, paid to visiting ministers, musicians or guests from years 2004 to present.”
Coontz and Hinn refuse to file a Form 990 with the IRS which publicly discloses how their ministries spend donor funds. Before 2008, Trinity Broadcasting Network disclosed annually how much it spent on honorariums. After the IRS revised the Form 990, this information disappeared. In 2007, TBN spent $1,015,177 on honorariums. Of this amount, $592,743 was spent on speakers soliciting donations.
Fundraising is a lucrative business.
The government exhibits in the Coontz case reveal large payments to Coontz for fundraising appearances and products featured in fundraising appeals.
In 2011, Morris Cerullo World Evangelism paid Coontz $53,472 for hotel, flight accomodations and speaking engagements.
In 2013, Coontz receieved $1500 before his appearance on TBN and then billed the network for an additional $1,500 in travel expenses and $250 for lodging when Coontz appeared on TBN’s Praise-A-Thon.
The government exhibits also reveal payments to Coontz by Angel Christian Television, Associated Christian Television, Benny Hinn Ministries, Cornerstone Television, LeSea Broadcasting, Paula White Ministries and World Harvest Church.
Before bringing criminal charges, the IRS gave Coontz several opportunities to catch up on taxes owed but he failed to do so. On September 30, 2013, the IRS informed Coontz, “You have unpaid taxes for 2011. Amount due: $86,306.53” and in 2014 an IRS letter reported, “You have unpaid taxes for 2012. Amount due: $150,964.91”.
On April 5, 2018, a jury convicted Coontz on seven counts. The televangelist awaits sentencing, but has he learned anything from this? Coontz continues to promote his prosperity gospel message on Twitter: “A Seed Vault in Denmark! All Nations have sent their precious Seeds to this vault in case of nuclear war knowing as long as Seed exists also does a new beginning! You Have Seed Too! Sow it…believe God for Harvests! Genesis 8:22.”
The ancient Proverb is true. “As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.” – Proverbs 26:11
P.S. Here is the list of exhibits in the Coontz case.ToddCoontzCaseExhibits