The end of another career in televangelism appears imminent.

Robert G. Tilton has lost most of his church and television audience since a 1991 expose by ABC-TV’s “Prime Time Live.” On August 16, Tilton, 47, filed for divorce from his wife of 25 years. And next month, a $50 million lawsuit against the televangelist is scheduled for trial.

In connection with the lawsuit, Tilton is prepared to be jailed in order to protect the confidential names of his church members, says his attorney, J. C. Joyce.

Joyce says Tilton is refusing to release the names, addresses, and amounts of offerings given by members of his Word of Faith World Outreach Center Church in Farmers Branch, Texas. Norma Smith, 51, of Dallas, has filed a $50 million lawsuit, seeking the medical records of those who have claimed to be healed on Tilton’s “Success ’N Life” program. Smith accuses Tilton of causing her “intentional infliction of emotional distress” for mailings sent to her husband, Tommie, after his death. One letter promised an imminent “miracle day” for her deceased husband, the other requested he pay a pledge he allegedly made in December 1990—two months after he died.

Joyce says all dead Americans receive mail—from county tax bills to sweepstakes entry forms. He says there was no intention to harm Smith, because the church only corresponds with those who ask for help.

A state court of appeals, the Texas Supreme Court, and the U.S. Supreme Court all have declined to intervene in the dispute. Joyce, who has successfully delayed a state contempt of court ruling against Tilton, by claiming the judge is biased against his client, is surprised at a perceived lack of support from the Christian community. “The church is sticking its head in the sand, but it had ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.

Tags:
Issue: