This short collection is not intended to be comprehensive, and unfortunately this particular breed is no endangered list. So, please feel free to add more examples in the comments section.
Televangelist Jim Bakker founded The PTL ("Praise The Lord") Club and preached on television with his wife, Tammy Faye. A sex scandal forced his resignation. Later, he was convicted of fraud and conspiring to commit fraud charges for crimes committed while leading PTL. He served about five years of his 18-year federal prison sentence before being released on parole.
Darlene Bishop is co-pastor of the Solid Rock Church in Ohio. She also hosts the inspirational TV program "Sisters," which she says is broadcast in 200 countries. In 2006, the grown children of her late brother sued Bishop, claiming she convinced him not to seek medical treatment for throat cancer. He died, and the suit alleged she, as executrix, mishandled his estate. Bishop has called the allegations "lies." She did admit in a deposition, however, that she had never been diagnosed by a doctor with breast cancer, despite her claims that God cured her of the disease.
Paul Crouch, left, is chairman and president of TBN, the Trinity Broadcasting Network, which broadcasts religious programming to an estimated 100 million people around the world. He is pictured here with television faith healer Benny Hinn. In 2004, published reports said that in 1998 TBN had paid a $425 thousand settlement to a male former employee to resolve a sexual harassment allegation against Crouch. The network called the accuser a "liar" and said it paid the money to avoid a lengthy lawsuit.
Richard Dortch was right at Jim Bakker's side throughout the heyday of The PTL Club. He often hosted its daily television program. Later, he pleaded guilty to charges related to fraud that occurred while Bakker ran the PTL Club ministry in the 1980s. Dortch now advises people how to avoid the behavior that got him into trouble. He also hosts a nightly TV program, "You And Me -- America's Prayer Meeting."
He was once proclaimed one of the most influential evangelicals in America. But in November 2006, after a former male prostitute alleged Pastor Ted Haggard had regularly engaged in sex with him, Haggard was removed from his position as pastor of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo. He also lost his leadership position in the powerful National Association of Evangelicals. At first Haggard denied the allegations but later admitted to "sexual immorality." He entered a three-month period of intense religious counseling, after which one of the pastors involved declared Haggard to be "completely heterosexual."
Billy James Hargis (1925-2004) is regarded as one of the original members of the Christian Right movement that emerged in the late 20th Century. He preached against communism, liberals and segregation, among other things, on his Christian Crusade's radio and TV programs. Hargis fell from the national spotlight in the early 1970s when he was accused of sexual impropriety with students at a college he had founded. He denied the allegations, but left the school and moved to southwest Missouri to continue his ministry, albeit to much smaller audiences.
Kent Hovind, founder of the Creation Science Evangelism Ministry, became well known for his advocacy on radio, television and the Internet of "Young Earth" creationism. It teaches, among other things, that humans and dinosaurs roamed the earth simultaneously. In 2004, Hovind was interviewed by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen on his HBO "Da Ali G Show." Hovind was convicted of a number of federal tax offenses and was sentenced to ten years in federal prison.
Aimee Semple McPherson (1890-1944) was, arguably, America's first evangelist superstar. She was also the first evangelist superstar to get caught up in controversy. She traveled the country preaching the gospel before huge audiences, generating widespread newspaper coverage. She founded the "International Church of the Foursquare Gospel," which had public service as a main principle. She had a radio program in the late 1920s and '30s. In 1926, however, McPherson disappeared for several weeks, at the same time a man with whom she was rumored to be having an affair vanished. McPherson later claimed she had been kidnapped, although that could never be proven. Then, in 1944, she died of an accidental overdose of prescription barbiturates.
Arnold Murray, pastor of Shepherd's Chapel in Gravette, Ark., denies he is racist. But he has generated controversy for his view that Jews are children of Satan. He appears on a daily television program that he broadcasts via satellite. His detractors have widely distributed a videotape which purports to show Murray pulling a gun on someone who yelled "blasphemy!" during a sermon. The picture, however, goes dark before any gun is seen.
Televangelist Peter Popoff uses infomercials to sell his "Magic Spring Water," which he claims can cure physical and monetary ills. He was a wildly successful faith healer until 1987, when skeptic James Randi produced evidence suggesting Popoff was a fraud during an appearance on "The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson."
Randall Radic wasn't really a "televangelist" until after he was arrested and charged with selling his church in Ripon, Calif., along with a house the church owned, and then keeping the money. Then he was on TV quite a lot. Radic got a plea bargain and accompanying light sentence when he agreed to testify against a cellmate who confessed to murder. Radic later signed a book deal to write his life story.
Don Stewart uses infomercials to instruct people how to cope with their health and financial problems. His answer is "Prosperity Prayer Handkerchiefs." Stewart distributes them for free, but the accompanying instructions tell people to send money to Stewart to ensure the handkerchiefs work. For this, Stewart has become the subject of criticism from those who do not believe in the healing powers of his handkerchief.
Pentecostal preacher Jimmy Swaggart was a wildly popular televangelist in the 1970s and '80s, until he was photographed with a prostitute in 1988. His resulting "I Have Sinned..." sermon was quite powerful, but did not prevent his being defrocked by the Assemblies of God Church. The last time Swaggart made headlines was 2004, when he criticized same-sex marriage by saying, "I've never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry. And I'm gonna be blunt and plain. If one ever looks at me like that, I'm gonna kill him and tell God he died." Swaggart is the cousin of singers Jerry Lee Lewis and Mickey Gilley.
Jim Whittington, who presently hosts "The World Deliverance Telecast," formerly headed an organization called Fountain of Life Ministries. He spent ten years in prison after being convicted of defrauding a woman, Valeria Lust, out of nearly $850 thousand while he appeared on television for Fountain of Life. At sentencing, the judge told Whittington: "You've picked the last flake of flesh from the carcass of the widow you defrauded."
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Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)