‘When the wicked perish, there is jubilation’

‘When the wicked perish, there is jubilation’ December 3, 2013

So, then, media tycoon, televangelist and fabulously successful grifter Paul Crouch is dead.

Adelle M. Banks provides the straight-news story for Religion News Service, “Prosperity gospel televangelist Paul Crouch dead at 79“:

Paul Crouch, the religious broadcaster who co-founded Trinity Broadcasting Network and was known for his prosperity gospel messages and lavish lifestyle, died Saturday (Nov. 30). He was 79.

… Crouch and his wife, Jan, started the network in a rented facility in Santa Ana, Calif., in 1973. Now based in Costa Mesa, it grew to include a “family of networks” and became the largest and most-watched Christian broadcast company in the country.

Your basic rags-to-riches story, then, leading to your basic Behind the Music-style tales of debauchery:

When Jim Bakker and another 1980s televangelist, Jimmy Swaggart, both were felled by scandals, Crouch was able to reap the benefits of their losses.

Like them, Crouch also shared in controversy. In 2004, the network denied allegations of his involvement in a homosexual encounter after the Los Angeles Times reported that he reached a $425,000 settlement with a man who made the claims. Three years later, the ministry defended itself after ABC News’ 20/20 reported on luxurious living by the Crouches, including private jets and mansions.

Most recently, Crouch’s ministry has been embroiled in litigation since his granddaughter and former chief financial officer, Brittany Koper, was fired in 2011 after questioning its high-cost personal expenditures. The Times said they included the purchase of a $100,000 motor home for Jan Crouch’s dogs.

Crouch built TBN into a money-making machine, leasing out time on an international network of networks, including “84 satellite channels and over 18,000 television and cable affiliates around the world.” Those other televangelists you see on TV? Most of them are leasing that airtime and paying TBN for the privilege.

But that’s just the legitimate side of Crouch’s business model. The far bigger share of TBN’s revenue comes from viewer donations, as William Lobdell reported for the Los Angeles Times back in 2004:

Much as Ted Turner did for TV news, the Crouches have created a global infrastructure for religious broadcasting. But that is just one element in their success. Another is a doctrine called the “prosperity gospel,” which promises worshipers that God will shower them with material blessings if they sacrifice to spread His word.

This theme — that viewers will be rewarded, even enriched, for donating — pervades TBN programming.

“When you give to God,” Crouch said during a typical appeal for funds, “you’re simply loaning to the Lord and He gives it right on back.”

Though it carries no advertising, the network generates more than $170 million a year in revenue, tax filings show. Viewer contributions account for two-thirds of that money.

Lower-income, rural Americans in the South are among TBN’s most faithful donors. The network says that 70 percent of its contributions are in amounts less than $50.

Those small gifts underwrite a lifestyle that most of the ministry’s supporters can only dream about.

Paul, 70, collects a $403,700 salary as TBN’s chairman and president. Jan, 67, is paid $361,000 as vice president and director of programming. Those are the highest salaries paid by any of the 12 major religious nonprofits whose finances are tracked by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

TBN’s “prayer partners” pay for a variety of perquisites as well.

The Crouches travel the world in a $7.2-million, 19-seat Canadair Turbojet owned by TBN. They drive luxury cars. They have charged expensive dinners and furniture to TBN credit cards.

Thirty ministry-owned homes are at their disposal — including a pair of Newport Beach mansions, a mountain retreat near Lake Arrowhead and a ranch in Texas.

… Overseeing these expenditures is a board of directors that consists of Paul Crouch, Jan Crouch and Paul’s 74-year-old sister, Ruth Brown. Control resides primarily with Paul.

Predatory, corrupt and decadent, yes, but the details get even more baroque:

[Jan] and Paul project the image of a happily married couple. But off the air, they lead separate lives and rarely stay under the same roof, according to former TBN employees and others who have spent time with the couple.

The Crouches also present themselves as thrifty and budget-conscious. During one telethon, Paul said his personal $50,000 donation to TBN had wiped out the family checking account. He often says that he and his wife live in the same Newport Beach tract house they bought 33 years ago for $38,500.

But nowadays, neither of the Crouches uses that home much. Whether in Southern California or on the road, they live in a variety of other TBN-owned homes. In all, the network owns 30 residences in California, Texas, Tennessee and Ohio — all paid for in cash, property records show.

These include two Newport Beach mansions in a gated community overlooking the Pacific. One of them was recently on the market for an asking price of $8 million. A real estate advertisement said it featured “11,000 square feet of opulent European luxury with regulation tennis courts and a rambling terraced hillside orchard with view of the blue Pacific.”

In Costa Mesa, the ministry owns 11 homes in a gated development adjacent to Trinity Christian City International.

In Sky Forest, a resort community in the San Bernardino National Forest, the network owns a four-bedroom, five-bath home.

TBN officials say the real estate purchases were consistent with the network’s charitable mission, because the homes serve as venues for broadcasts and provide lodging for the Crouches and fellow televangelists as they travel across the country.

These 30 residences are “charitable” only in the sense that they were paid by TBN — which is, of course, a tax-deductible “charity” organization. Oh, and TBN has tried — not always successfully — to have many of them designated as “parsonages” because cha-ching!

It’s hard to know what’s more shocking — the vast amount of money the Crouches spent on luxury items, or the chutzpah of their explanations for those indulgent purchases:

Credit card receipts show that in December 1994, TBN bought about 40 items from Cool Springs Antiques in Brentwood, Tenn., including a three-piece wine cabinet for $10,000, a $2,800 candelabrum, a $350 birdbath and a seven-piece bedroom suite that cost $3,995.

At Harris Antiques and Imports in Forth Worth, Texas, TBN spent $32,851 in a single day in 1995. The purchases included two French chests for about $1,900 each, a $1,650 brass planter and a $1,095 bronze urn.

TBN officials said the items were reproductions, not antiques, and were used to furnish studio sets and network-owned houses. They said [a] tanning bed was used to darken the skin of 25 actors cast in TBN stage productions set in Biblical times.

Paul Crouch was a grifter. And he took pleasure in being good at it:

Credit card receipts also offer a glimpse of the Crouches’ dining habits. In Nashville in the mid-1990s, Paul Crouch hosted dinners with TBN employees in a private room of Mario’s, an upscale Italian restaurant, spending $180 or more per person for parties of up to a dozen, the receipts show.

A former top TBN official described heavy consumption of wine and liquor at a dozen such dinners. The ex-official spoke on condition of anonymity, citing a fear of retaliation.

… In separate interviews, [former TBN employee] Whitmore, the former TBN official and a third person who traveled and socialized with ministry leaders said that at the end of a dinner, Paul Crouch would sometimes hold up a TBN credit card and say: “Thank you, little partners!”

Wonder why a former TBN official would still express a “fear of retaliation”? Because Paul Crouch was a viciously litigious man. Consider the story of Sylvia Fleener, who won an out-of-court settlement after the Crouches swiped the plot of her book The Omega Syndrome for their movie The Omega Code. (I saw that movie — Michael York should’ve sued his agent.) Years later, after she sold her house, the new owners sued her for misrepresentation:

John Casoria, TBN’s in-house attorney, served Fleener the papers for this lawsuit in Nashville, Tennessee. A check reveals that TBN paid for the filing of the lawsuit.

That tidbit, remarkably, is from an article on the right-wing Christian Post. Even stranger, that Post article was prompted by Terry Firma’s post at The Friendly Atheist, “Televangelist Paul Crouch Leaves a Dirty Legacy; Evangelical Christians Look the Other Way.” And here’s the really surprising part — the Post’s Barry Bowen mostly agrees with Terry Firma.

Sensitivity is appropriate because family and friends are in mourning. Last year Brittany Crouch Koper, the former chief financial officer for TBN, revealed … that she cared deeply for her grandfather Paul Sr.

I pray that Brittany and her family will be comforted by the Holy Spirit during their time of mourning.

But what about TBN’s critics and victims? How should they respond?

No sense trying to deny that Paul Crouch has left behind many “victims.”

That long list of victims would include Brittany Koper. And her sister.

(Trigger warning: The following involves a discussion of rape and the intimidation of a young rape victim.)

Koper may have cared deeply for her grandfather, but that didn’t stop her from a whistle-blowing lawsuit against TBN where she accused him of “company-paid luxuries that she said appeared to violate the Internal Revenue Service’s ban on ‘excess compensation’ by nonprofit organizations as well as possibly state and federal laws on false bookkeeping and self-dealing.” Paul Crouch responded by treating his granddaughter just like any other whistleblower: He counter-sued, accusing her of embezzlement and generally threatening to use his deep pockets to keep her in court until she was too broke to continue.

That’s from Sarah Posner’s fine tramping down of the dirt, in which she also reminds us of this:

Koper’s sister, Carra Crouch, also sued the network, claiming her family covered up her rape by a TBN employee when she was 13 years old.

The details there are also even worse, as Teri Sforza reported last year for The Orange County Register:

A granddaughter of Trinity Broadcasting Network founders Jan and Paul Crouch filed a lawsuit Monday alleging that she was plied with alcohol and raped by a TBN employee when she was just 13 — and that her family covered up the incident, rather than report it to authorities, to protect TBN’s reputation.

Carra Crouch, now 19, was distraught after the 2006 assault by a 30-year-old man, and told her grandmother what had happened. “Jan (Crouch) became furious and began screaming at Ms. Crouch, a 13-year-old girl, and began telling her ‘it is your fault,'” according to the suit.

Carra Crouch then told John Casoria, TBN’s in-house counsel and her second cousin; he became agitated and told her that he didn’t believe her, it says. “He elaborated by stating he further believed she was already sexually active ‘so it did not really matter’ and he ‘believed she may have propositioned him,’ ” the suit alleges.

“Ms. Crouch, a 13-year-old girl, had not been sexually active and was absolutely devastated about what happened and about how John and Jan responded to her.”

So, then, like I said, Paul Crouch is dead.

“When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices; and when the wicked perish, there is jubilation.” Proverbs 11:10


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  • WingedBeast

    Then, what was the point of referencing your belief that he has a fair judge?

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    How about “Ghost Shark”?

  • Lorehead

    Your interpretation of that is absurd.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Actually, “Democrats are the direct descendants of the KKK” has some basis in fact & history.

    From the Civil War until Nixon in ’72, the Solid South (“Segregation Now! Segregation Fo’evuh!”) was Solid DEMOCRAT — “Dixiecrats” like Strom Thurmond and George Wallace. The most white-supremacist President since Andrew Johnson — Woodrow Wilson, who made Federal Civil Service “Whites Only” by Executive Order and endorsed Birth of a Nation — had a “D” behind his name.

    The reason was a blind one-eighty reaction to losing the Civil War. Lincoln was Republican, so former Confederates HAD to be Democrat. Stick it to the North.

    This division of White Democrats keeping down Black Republicans lasted until the sea change of the Late Sixties, when the combination of LBJ(D) signing the Civil Rights Act and Nixon(R) picking up the disaffected Southern Whites after Wallace’s last hurrah flipped the party alliegances one-eighty.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Probably the latter.
    Always be suspicious of someone who pronounces “Jesus” with two “E”s or “LORD” with two “O”s.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    That’s a GREAT quote!
    What’s the source?

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    And possibly a reaction to a strict “NO MAKEUP” upbringing.

    Notice that Tammy wasn’t prosecuted. The worst thing investigation showed was that she was a somewhat passive type who trusted her husband when she shouldn’t have. Plus coming from a cultural background where “Stand by Your Man” is the expectation.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    “The Little Doll Closet”?
    Do I want to know?

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    And all of them made by Gene Scott.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Like I said above, even Liberace would be embarrassed by such gaudiness.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Ever had deep-fried artichoke hearts?

  • Guest

    Is there a particular reason we shouldn’t call out the evil and oppressive for their sins just because they’re dead?

  • And

    King Murune of Lancre (ruled 709-745) met a terrible fate “Involving a red hot poker, ten pounds of live eels, a three mile stretch of frozen river, a butt of wine, a couple of tulip bulbs, a number of poisoned eardrops, an oyster and a large man with a mallet. King Murune didn’t make friends easily”.

  • WingedBeast

    Then, I repeat the question. What was the point of referencing your belief that he has a fair judge?

  • Victor

    Come, Come Headless Unicorn Guy stop trying to hog Fred’s post by being sarcastic now and get with the program!


    Forgive me but I hate the number “ONE” 66 if YA know what “I” mean? :)

  • Lorehead

    To contrast my own human ignorance and fallibility, which make me unqualified to judge his entire life after reading a single blog post.

    Don’t you have better things to do with your time than troll a progressive Christian blog and complain about moralistic deism?

  • Turcano

    That’s a slight rewording of a quote from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The original context was Circus Circus.

  • Chris

    So basically it’s meant to be descriptive, not prescriptive?

  • ohiolibrarian

    The South was Democratic before the Civil War (the party of Jefferson!) not as a reaction to it.

  • how do Enigma Babylon One World Global Intercontinental Perplexing
    Enpuzzlement Church Of Satanish One Worldistians actually celebrate

    I believe they actually celebrate “Hollidays”.

  • ohiolibrarian

    I’ve always thought that Hell could easily consist of confronting all of the ill one has caused which is not offset by the good one has done. In some cases it could take a long, long, LONG time to do this.

  • P J Evans

    Or wrong numbers. Possibly also calls from one of those sleazy collection agencies that’s trying to get hold of someone using a ten-year-old phone number.

  • P J Evans

    And it’s not a low-rent neighborhood in any sense of the word. There’s a shopping mall on the other side of the freeway that I was in once, many years ago, which has high-end stores. (I remember it because we were trying to find the rest rooms, which were down a corridor, around a couple of corners, down some more corridor, and literally next to a loading dock. It felt like we’d wandered into a SF movie.)

  • No time to look at the others, but ohiolibrarian appears to have the right of it. Of the seven governors of Texas who were elected before 1861, five were Democratic, one was Unionist and one was Independent. Following the end of the war, there were two Republican governors, followed by 97 consecutive years of Democratic governors.

    It’s actually kind of interesting. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Governors_of_Texas

  • Carstonio

    Although I appreciate the spirit behind the joke, it still shares the assumptions behind fundamentalism’s far more hateful stance regarding the afterlife, which is that love is conditional and that some people deserve to suffer for eternity. It works as a joke only because of Crouch’s self-righteous certainty that he deserved heaven.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    I’m not — I’ve been taken for small amounts by con-man types in various fandoms, and learned to read the signs before I got scammed big time.

    However, I have heard horror stories from those who WERE scammed by Televangelists, and have seen a bit of the circus that is TBN.

    Remember, TBN IS CHRIST’S PUBLIC FACE TO A LOT OF THE WORLD, WHERE THEIR BROADCASTS REACH. That should be reason enough to oppose them.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Telling the truth and honoring victims doesn’t fix the wrongs, but it’s better than the alternative. It’s better than pretending that all the people Crouch made suffer never existed.

    Anyone here remember Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card? “Speaking for the Dead” is a funeral/memorial ritual in the novel where the “Speaker” researches all he can about the deceased and makes a public memorial “Speaking” of the deceased’s life. Only caveat: HE MUST SPEAK THE ABSOLUTE TRUTH ABOUT THE DECEASED AND HIS LIFE, NO MATTER WHAT.
    -Makes a much better analogy of The Last Judgment than Jack Chick’s Great White Throne/Divine Dr Mengele making Selections as the cattle cars arrive. “Links! Links! Links!”

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Remember, the Dems were THE majority party (with some minor parties like the Anti-Masons and similar Ross Perot types popping up here and there) for some 30-40 years before the Civil War, North AND South. The Republicans coalesced in the late 1850s as an Anti-Slavery party.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    We have a thousand different ways, in our culture, of letting the privileged off the hook. “You were so young, then.” “You’ve been reborn.” “Yes, Mr. Gingrich, your infidelity was because you were so patriotic… no, I don’t need to know how that could make sense.” “You’re dead now, so we should all be nice, for those people who love you, we wouldn’t want them to feel bad…”

    “Uh, that’s all Under the Blood.” — Mike Warnke

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Six months ago I was staying in the Riviera, across the street from Circus Circus. Occasion was the only My Little Pony convention ever held in Vegas. (And the only one that ever will be after the con heads disappeared on the last day leaving attendees and celebrity guests in the lurch.) “When the going gets weird, The Weird Turn Pro.”

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    You’re not the only one to include that link.

  • WingedBeast

    I don’t get the reference. Help me out, please?

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Was that “shopping mall on the other side of the freeway” South Coast Plaza?
    Local names for some of the OC beach cities in the area:
    Costa Mesa = “Costa Lotta”
    Newport Beach = “New Porsche Beach”
    73 Toll Road = “Rich Guys’ Expressway”
    That gives you some idea of the area.

  • Panda Rosa

    “I’ve never wishes a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.” I guess we can all confess to this at times.
    As for your own life, live, love, respect your fellows is probably the best way to leave good memories, and some people just like to grumble anyway.

  • Alex Harman

    I really love that concept; it’s a pity the author who elaborated it is such a massive right-wing paranoiac homophobic douche bag.

  • Alex Harman

    The Republicans formed as an uneasy coalition of the remnants of the defunct Whig party and disaffected northern abolitionist Democrats — which at the time formed its liberal and conservative wings, respectively. The sequence of events through which the political descendants of the Andrew Jackson/John C. Calhoun southern reactionary wing of the Democratic party became virtually the entirety of the Republican party is quite bizarre when you really look at it.

  • AnonaMiss

    Hey now, what have vultures ever done to you?

  • Alex Harman

    There was nothing tragic about him as far as I can see; if he was tortured by guilt and shame for the wrongs he had done, he gave no public sign of it. All available evidence supports the conclusion that Paul Crouch was a bad man who enjoyed being bad, thought of his villainy as virtue, did extremely well for himself by doing ill to others, and felt satisfied with his success and entitled to everything he scammed from his victims (after all, his prosperity was a blessing from God that he earned by his piety, right?). The appropriate response to the death of such a loathsome individual is “good riddance to bad rubbish.”

  • Alex Harman

    Shorthand for “washed away by the blood of Christ,” maybe? Since it’s Warnke, I would guess that the reason he gave for not turning himself in, confessing, pleading guilty and serving prison time for the murders and other crimes he claims to have committed as a former High Priest of Satan is that all of that was “Under the Blood,” i.e. the evil person he’d been was dead and the new Born-Again Christian Mike Warnke didn’t need to be punished for the (imaginary) crimes of the old Satanist Mike Warnke. “The Laws of God are higher than the laws of man” is a popular excuse for those who think that God’s forgiveness means they should be excused for their crimes here on Earth, as well as for their “sins” after death. (See also the Catholic Church’s traditional handling of sexual predators in the priesthood.)

  • Monala

    I have heard that she became a much more tolerant and open person post-divorce.