Former TBN Employee Alleges Gay Tryst With Paul Crouch
How big a televangelist scandal?
How big a televangelist scandal?
When Rick Jones, an ordained minister and former cop, heard his boss talking about another minister's homosexual activity with an employee, he "got up and walked away," the Los Angeles Times reported on its front page yesterday. "I didn't want to hear gossip."
But his boss was televangelist Benny Hinn, a staple on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. And Hinn was talking about TBN founder and president Paul Crouch. And Los Angeles Times reports that it's no longer just gossipit's a tale of attempted extortion, litigation, and tragedy.
For all the details, you'll have to read William Lobdell's extensively reported, 1,900-word article. But here are a few observations.
First, extortion seems like the only word to describe what Enoch Lonnie Ford, the former TBN employee who says he and Crouch had extramarital sex in 1996, attempted. Crouch paid him a $425,000 settlement in 1998 after Ford accused the global network of wrongful termination. Key to the settlement, of course, was a secrecy agreement. Last April, however, Ford handed Crouch an autobiographical manuscript detailing his claims of a sexual encounter. The Times reports:
Ford's lawyer later told ministry officials that they could keep the work out of public view by buying the rights. After some discussion, he suggested that $10 million might be a reasonable price. Ford's attorney, Eugene Zech, said [TBN attorney Dennis G. Brewer Sr.] called him the next business day [after Ford gave Crouch the manuscript]. In court papers, Zech said that Brewer asked "if Ford might be willing to accept $1 million in exchange for the manuscript." Zech said in the court filing that he suggested $10 million.
$10 million! Simon & Schuster paid Hillary Clinton only $8 million for her memoir, Living History. GE chairman Jack Welch got $7 million for Straight from the Gut. That number isn't about a bookit's about keeping Ford's story "out of the public view"something Crouch had already paid $425,000 expressly to do.
TBN yesterday issued a statement explaining the settlement. It says, in part:
In an effort to address this matter in 1997, Dr. Crouch sought the advice and counsel of some trusted advisers, attorneys and spiritual leaders. The consensus viewpoint was that it would be better for TBN and Dr. Crouch to reach a financial settlement rather than to fight the accuser in court. This course of action was deemed less expensive and would avoid the bad publicity, time and effort that it would take to fight the false claims. Dr. Crouch reluctantly agreed to this advice with the understanding that the accuser would go away and leave both he and TBN alone forever. The importance of the settlement does not rest on the money paid, but rather on Dr. Crouch's vehement denial of the allegations made against him as well as the agreement of the accuser to keep confidential and refrain from repeating his false claims and accusations. Most importantly, at no time were ministry funds used in any portion of this settlement.
Second, it's clear that this story isn't yet to the level of the Jim Bakker or Jimmy Swaggart scandals of the 1980s. Both of those men were accused of breaking the lawBakker for fraud related to time-shares, and Swaggart for prostitution. If the Crouch story is true (and the Times reports much evidence that it may be), the TBN head is guilty of having consensual sex with an employee. That's immoral and unethical, but not criminalespecially in post-Monica America.
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