Thinkin’ Out Loud: TV Evangelists and Garbage Disposal Units

By Lewis Willis

Like many of you, the house I live in has a garbage disposal unit in it. You just throw your scraps in that thing and they are quickly ground up, sent down the drain and the unit is ready for another “mouth full.” It never says, “I’m full – I don’t want any more.” Which, incidentally, reminds me of the preachers you see on television these days. They want their audiences to send money. When the audiences respond, they then want them to send more money. And more, and more, and more, ad infinitum. They never say, “I’m full – I don’t want any more.” Satisfying the insatiable appetites of these greedy religious profiteers is something akin to filling the Grand Canyon with popcorn.

Not long ago I wrote about Jim and Tammy Bakker’s $375,000 Florida condominium which his PTL Club purchased for him. The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer (5/29/83), printed a long front-page article about some more of his extravagance in the acquisition of property. This spiritual disposal unit never has enough. “In January 1981, Bakker asked real estate brokers to find a new home for himself and his wife, Tammy. ” The Observer reported on a “duplex and three properties in Tega Cay that Bakker wanted for his personal use and the security of his family, sources said.” The house he decided he wanted is “among the largest homes in the most expensive area of Tega Cay overlooking Lake Wylie.” The owner offered to sell it to PTL for the minimal sum of $425,000 and Bakker’s PTL representative agreed to the price. However, there is some confusion about what he actually paid for the house. The way the sale was handled has prompted the Internal Revenue Service to look into his affairs.

You see, it appears they were going to state the price at $425,000 but actually pay $340,000. Regarding the difference, “PTL offered (the seller) a letter acknowledging an $85,000 contribution to the ministry. ” Atlanta based IRS spokesman Les Whitmer, commenting on any transaction of this nature, responded, “What we would have here is a sham transaction.” George Davis, a North Carolina Department of Revenue Assistant Director, told the Observer if what they report was so, “I think you’re bordering on individual fraud.”

The article continues, “After the Bakker’s moved in, PTL began buying nearby houses to help secure the area.” They purchased one house for $119,000 and another, Bakker personally tried to buy for $120,000. However, the owner refused to sell to him. PTL purchased a duplex for only $90,000. It would seem to me that the Bakker’s have a lot of property for their “personal use” and that he is doing a good job providing for “the security of his family” for many years to come.

Since January 1981, the Bakker’s, through Heritage Village Church and Missionary Fellowship Incorporated, have purchased a condominium, a new residence, a neighbor’s house and a duplex in the neighborhood for the minimal sum of $1,009,000! This boy is about to become a big preacher! He’s getting right up there with Rex Humbard. Humbard has accumulated $1.4 million worth of property recently and Bakker is hot on his heels, accumulating over one million dollars worth of “personal security.” Jim and Tammy and Rex and Maude Amee are doing rather nicely for themselves, thank you.

On a PTL broadcast (6/13/83) Bakker referred to the Observer article quoted herein. Let me tell you, he doesn’t think very highly of the Charlotte Observer! The paper has exposed so many of his schemes that his operation was investigated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and then by the U.S. Justice Department. Bakker said on his program that if the Observer was to be believed, he was now going to be investigated by the IRS. His speech was designed to elicit from his live audience, as well as his television audience, sympathy for himself as a “poor, persecuted, but humble, preacher of the gospel of Christ.” It appeared he had his audience ready to “take up arms” for him as he told them how the church was being persecuted by the government and how “God’s people are afraid of their government.” It would have been a courageous IRS agent who walked into that meeting. I felt so sorry for Bakker that I decided to write this article to arouse your sympathies for PTL’s destitute president. Why, according to PTL’s financial statement, the ministry only had 1982 receipts of $53 million. I’ve been trying to sell a house down in the, Dallas area for almost three years. I wonder if PTL would like to buy it? Jim and Tammy could stay there while they take their kids to Six Flags or the Wax Museum. I’ll guarantee you it can be bought for no more than $1,009,0001 1 doubt that the guy even has any Texas property. The Bakker’s need to diversify and not “put all their eggs in one basket.” Every well-heeled Evangelist needs property in Texas!

It is important that people not be deceived by these fellows with their pathetic appeals for funds. I was just thinkin’, from the reports in newspapers across the country, the television evangelists’ appeals to I ‘help us save our ministry – send money,” realistically translates into “buy me another house – send more money!”

Guardian of Truth XXVII: 19, p. 585
October 6, 1983