Family Battle Offers Look Inside Lavish TV Ministry [Excerpts]
For 39 years, the Trinity Broadcasting Network has urged viewers to give generously and reap the Lord’s bounty in return.
The prosperity gospel preached by Paul and Janice Crouch, who built a single station into the world’s largest Christian television network, has worked out well for them.
Mr. and Mrs. Crouch have his-and-her mansions one street apart in a gated community here, provided by the network using viewer donations and tax-free earnings. But Mrs. Crouch, 74, rarely sleeps in the $5.6 million house with tennis court and pool. She mostly lives in a large company house near Orlando, Fla., where she runs a side business, the Holy Land Experience theme park. Mr. Crouch, 78, has an adjacent home there too, but rarely visits. Its occupant is often a security guard who doubles as Mrs. Crouch’s chauffeur.
The twin sets of luxury homes only hint at the high living enjoyed by the Crouches, inspirational television personalities whose multitudes of stations and satellite signals reach millions of worshipers across the globe. Almost since they started in the 1970s, the couple have been criticized for secrecy about their use of donations, which totaled $93 million in 2010.
Now, after an upheaval with Shakespearean echoes, one son in this first family of televangelism has ousted the other to become the heir apparent. A granddaughter, who was in charge of TBN’s finances, has gone public with the most detailed allegations of financial improprieties yet, which TBN has denied, saying its practices were audited and legal.
The granddaughter, Brittany Koper, and her husband have been fired by the network, which accused them of stealing $1.3 million to buy real estate and cars and make family loans. “They’re just trying to divert attention from their own crimes,” said Colby May, a lawyer representing TBN. Janice and Paul Crouch declined requests for interviews.Mr. May, the lawyer, offered a broad defense of TBN and the Crouches. He said that TBN had indeed ordained hundreds of people who felt a true “ministerial call” and that performers at Holy Land Experience, for example, were “ministers playing roles.”
He said that all contracts with the film company that Matthew Crouch led until mid-2010, Gener8Xion Entertainment, had been at “arm’s length” and provided good value to TBN.
Mr. May added that TBN owned so many homes because traveling employees and guests used them. He said that the remodeled house, in the Lifestyles complex in Costa Mesa, was not occupied, but used as a set for youth television programs, with the Transformers serving as props. Matthew Crouch, through the company spokesman, declined an interview request. But Gilbert J. Luft, president of the Lifestyles Homeowners Association in Costa Mesa, said that the sons were familiar residents and that the association does not permit filming there.
Extolling TBN’s prominence and programs, Mr. May said the spending that some call opulent “is necessary to convey the ministry’s position of accomplishment.”
(Exckholm, "Family Battle Offers Look Inside Lavish TV Ministry," New York Times Online, 5/4/12).