What is there to say about televangelism that hasn't already been said in countless documentaries and depositions? If you're looking for a scandal-plagued celebrity, you'd do just fine perusing the ranks of televangelists, as evidenced by these unholy examples.
In 1974, Jim Bakker and his then-wife Tammy Faye started the Praise The Lord Television Network, an evangelical Christian cable channel dedicated to spreading the good word and securing donations. In 1978, the Bakkers opened Heritage USA, a Christian theme park with waterslides, a 500-room hotel, and the staple of all amusement parks: tax exemption. Things were chugging along smoothly, so much so that the decision was made to build a luxury hotel tower. But skyscraper money doesn't just grow on trees, so 165,000 people each donated $1,000 to the building's construction in exchange for a lifelong annual three-night stay.
The Internal Revenue Service found this more than a little shady, leading to intense financial scrutiny of PTL Ministries. Furthermore, there was extra pressure on Bakker because he and another preacher allegedly assaulted church secretary Jessica Hahn and then paid her $279,000 in hush money. In the end, PTL collapsed and Heritage USA closed down, with those $1,000 donors receiving a whopping $6.54 refund. Bakker spent less than a decade in prison, and he can now be seen on his new program, The Jim Bakker Show, where he sells end-of-days kits with his second wife Lori Beth.
Watch the video for more about Televangelists Who Are Anything But Holy!
Jim Bakker | 0:15
Jimmy Swaggart | 1:30
Jesse Duplantis | 2:40
Robert Tilton | 3:33