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Are Lawsuits an Option?
By Brian Karjala
Many preachers today guarantee that God will provide large financial blessings for the people who donate money ("sow a seed of faith") into their ministries. This is a common promise propagated most dogmatically by many Pentecostal and Charismatic ministers and serves as a bribe tactic for the purpose of keeping their ministries well-funded.
This begs the question: What should be done when people believe and act on the fundraising promises of these ministers but do not receive the financial blessings (or other blessings) they were promised? (And it happens ALL THE TIME to MANY PEOPLE.) Obviously, these unfulfilled promises prove the ministers are not the men and women of God they claim to be. The money ministers are undeserving of the offerings and should return the embezzled money to the donors. But when these greedy preachers refuse to return the money does it then become possible for the people deceived by these charlatans to take legal action in order to recover their "investments"?
This is a question I posed to Rev. Robert Liichow (founder of Discernment Ministry International).
"Has there ever been an instance when an individual or group was successful in winning a lawsuit against a Charismatic ministry? Is it indeed possible for people, who acted according to a minister's claim but did not receive the blessings they were promised, to take that claim (documented by letter, video or audio tape) and file a legal case against the minister who lied to them? Put another way, if a person gives a financial contribution to a ministry with the promise from the ministry that the person will receive something in return, could this 'deal' be considered a legally binding contract?"
This was his answer:
Robert Tilton was sued over 30 times (I think). He prevailed in all the cases, due to the courts' unwillingness to enter into religious interpretations (all the suits were not over Mr. Tilton's claims of financial blessing).
However, I believe that if a televangelist or minister makes SPECIFIC PROMISES (like R.W. Schambach on TBN telling people who gave that within 90 days "God" would double their seed sown or some such nonsense), the listener ACTS on those promises (sends a check based on the stated "promise") and then FAILS to receive the STATED BENEFITS of that PROMISE -- then a FRAUD has been perpetrated and court may well be a recourse.
Benny Hinn has been sued (but settled out of court); this too might be offered to one suing. One man did demand his ($2,000) donation back from TBN and he got it (he wrote the CA Attorney General too).
I think a stronger case is the blatant fraud being perpetrated by several well-known ministries (Marilyn Hickey and Joyce Meyer). They are incorporated with the Feds as a "church". They do not meet the Fed required definition of a church, nor do they meet the biblical standard either. They incorporated this way to HIDE their ASSETS verses other non-profits which must disclose their income. As time and finances permit I hope to pursue them on this ground.
Lastly, you can go to your local Federal Bldg. Go to the IRS department and begin to jump through hoops -- you can get copies of the incorporation papers on any ministry and see how they are set up, who is on their board, etc . . . Go to GuideStar and get what they have on some folks (you'll need it for the IRS records).