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November 24, 2007

Televangelists, Ole Anthony, and the Truth

Congress is looking into the finances of televangelists - that's old news. Ole Anthony, the man in charge of watchdog group Trinity Foundation, is The Man of The Hour. He's interviewed everywhere, quoted by everyone, and is the recognized authority on the financial shortcomings of megapastors.

Maybe Ole needs to investigate himself. And maybe the national news should report the entire story.

Last August the Dallas Observer ran a story on Anthony and his foundation, detailing financial improprieties. The story was updated this week:

Doug Duncan describes Trinity's most egregious financial transgression as defaulting on $42 million in tax-exempt revenue bonds issued in 1998 for the organization's purchase of 13 apartment complexes in Oklahoma City.

Issued by the Oklahoma County Finance Authority, the bonds were available to Trinity because it was a charitable organization with the stated mission of helping the homeless.

"It was a federal project, underwritten by the government," says Duncan. "This is public money being misused."

Doug Duncan is Anthony's former right-hand-man. His wife wrote an exposeof Anthony and the Trinity Foundation several years ago, detailing cult-like behavior in the foundation. At the very least, Ole Anthony bears investigating himself.

I'm not anti-Ole. In fact, I think the investigations he has done have been valuable -- he's holding people accountable, and that's a vital part of any Christian ministry. But it's also important for the watchers to be beyond reproach ("blameless" is the word the Apostle Paul uses in his letter to Titus), and this is exactly why. He's given the millionaire preachers an out -- "He's just as bad as we are! He's a hypocrite!"

He's also jeopardized past investigations, and actually embarrassed Diane Sawyer in one instance. Some evidence that Anthony dug up on Robert Tilton was actually shown to be fake. Tilton lost his suit against Anthony and ABC, but that trial did show that the Trinity investigators used some seriously deceptive practices -- according tot he Observer, one investigator actually regrets his role, and is convinced that many of the charges are unfounded.

And, as the Observer noted a year ago, the media at large is giving Ole a pass. They're ignoring his own financial issues, and his own control issues, so that he can hand them the big fish of TV evangelism. And as long as he keeps it up, they'll keep their end of the deal -- leaving him alone to do whatever he wants to do, blissfully ignoring the problems that their favorite source has.

That's not the role of the media. And I guess it's up to the New Media to do what newspapers and radio used to do -- watch the watchers. So I'm asking the questions that the Dallas Observer received from former Trinity folks:

"How much of members' tithes and offerings and other donations have been spent for Ole Anthony's pain medications for the last 20 years?

"Please provide the credit card statements for all credit cards used by Ole Anthony from 1987 to 2007.

"How much does the foundation pay annually to rent properties from its directors?

"The 2005 tax statement indicates that $40,306 dollars were expended for 'management expenses.' What are these expenses and who received these funds?

"Were the trips, cruises and vacations given to Anthony by ABC News and others ever reported as income?

"The 2005 tax statement indicates approximately $40,000 paid in utilities. Is the foundation using tax-exempt donations to pay utility bills of the homes of its elders and directors?

"When was the last certified audit done of Trinity Foundation?"

Posted by Warren Kelly at November 24, 2007 02:41 PM | TrackBack
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