A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon we’re talking about real money.
The Trinity Foundation noted that for 2015 alone it’s estimated that international religious fraud will exceed donations to global missions. “The researchers estimate 2015 missions funding at $45 billion, with religious fraud projected to exceed that at $50 billion, a huge jump over last year’s $39 billion,” stated the foundation.
Unfortunately, the Trinity Foundation (TTF) more or less shares its name with Trinity Broadcasting, the televangelism network founded by smarmy shyster Paul Crouch. To be clear, TTF is on the other end of the scale. The Dallas-based group, itself founded on Christian principles, is a time-tested religious-fraud watchdog that has brought down fraudulent TV preachers such as Robert Tilton (and not for excessive flatulence).
According to Friday’s article about TTF in the Christian Post,
… the foundation has decided to expand its investigations worldwide.
The plans are gestational and a bit vague, but I hope they come to fruition:
“We are still in the process of reaching out to various foreign nationals in different countries around the world and permanent residents here in the U.S. who return to their homeland from time to time,” said [TTF’s Pete] Evans. “The actual numbers of investigators within our international force is still fluid and growing — less than a dozen so far, but representing every continent except Antarctica.”
Evans also told CP that they’re “still establishing guidelines for our international investigation procedures.” … “At this point in our ‘deputizing’ process, it’s unclear whether or not any of them will have to obtain private investigations licenses in their respective countries.”
The Trinity Foundation has to overcome many obstacles in battling religious fraud, including these two:
• There are no ministry or church standards organizations.
Other than mainline denominations that police themselves, there are no ministry, church, synagogue, or mosque standards organizations that provide accountability or prevent fraud. The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) is no longer a standard of reliability.
• The IRS is not investigating religious organizations or churches.
After a 2009 court decision overturned a particular church audit for not following the prescribed channels of authority, the IRS temporarily halted all church investigations. As far as we know, the IRS has not investigated any churches for the last 5 years — even the most fraudulent.
Deborah Bortner, the former president of the North American Securities Administrators Association, thinks combating religious fraud ought to be a priority:
“I’ve been a securities regulator for 20 years, and I’ve seen more money stolen in the name of God than in any other way.”
P.S.: In fairness, the Trinity Foundation has had its share of publicity headaches. Founder Ole Anthony was the subject of an eye-popping 2006 exposé in the Dallas Observer that more or less painted the group as a cult of personality centered around Anthony. The story contained allegations that TTF, during the Tilton investigation, had played fast and loose with the facts; that Anthony “exercised extreme control over his followers’ lives, demanding they shun apostates who left the fold”; and that he exerted a creepy influence over his followers’ sex lives, imposing restrictions on them that he didn’t follow himself.
(Image via the Wittenburg Door)