W. Eugene Scott, a Pentecostal television preacher with a penchant for the dramatic, successfully rescued the tiny Faith Broadcasting Network (FBN) from financial oblivion. But now the California-based pastor is locked in a battle of his own—with state legal officials over matters of financial disclosure. According to Scott, the outcome of legal proceedings against him could affect the First Amendment freedoms of every church in California. The white-haired preacher sees himself as “fighting everybody’s battle” within the religious community.

Members of Faith Center, a charismatic church in Glendale, called Scott to rescue them financially in Scott late 1975. Their church, with its FBN network of three stations, was over $3.5 million in debt, with assets of only $2 million. In desperation, they turned to Scott, a financial and management consultant in Pentecostal circles. Scott had a record of getting religious organizations out of financial difficulties, and he advised Oral Roberts during the founding of Oral Roberts University.

Scott’s first step was to establish several interlocking corporations—including a travel agency and a publishing company—under the aegis of Wescott Christian Center, a sister church to Faith Center located in Oroville, California. But in the process of getting FBN out of debt, he disputed with legal authorities in California and Connecticut who, he said, were disallowing the normal church tax exemptions for Faith Center. Scott’s problems were complicated by differing state laws, allegedly overzealous government investigators, and reported mismanagement by his predecessors at FBN.

When government officials charged him with the nonpayment of back taxes, ...

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