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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 gossip—it'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! ...

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September 2004

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