David E. Taylor of Joshua Media Ministries International in St. Louis knows that there’s an easy life ahead for the morally bankrupt.
First, you start a non-profit ministry. Next, you tell your congregation that Jesus visits you personally, He made you an “apostle,” and He gave you the powers to introduce others to Him — literally. Soon the cash will start to roll in as desperate, gullible people vie for preferential treatment. And before you know it, you’ll be living in a $2.8 million mansion, driving a Bentley, wearing Louis Vuitton, and taking luxury vacations that nobody in the church dares to question! Piece of cake.
Unless you get caught. Don’t get caught. Because then you might be under investigation for financial corruption.
The video of “Apostle” Taylor’s seven-hour deposition in a Michigan court shows a visibly nervous man chewing his bottom lip, pretending to be confused by the attorney’s questions and making pitiful excuses for his frivolous purchases.
Often in his evasive responses, he tells the attorney to direct the question to his fellow board member Michelle Brannon, who seems to know everything that he does not (which is basically everything).
For example, he doesn’t know who Brooklyn Mitchell is… even though Mitchell was listed as a dependent on his tax returns.
Attorney: On your 2012 tax return… who’s Brooklyn Mitchell?
Taylor: Brooklyn? I don’t know.
Attorney: You don’t remember who Brooklyn Mitchell is?
Taylor: No, mm-uh.
Attorney: You have no idea?
Attorney: Never heard of that person?
Taylor: No. Brooklyn Mitchell? Nope.
Attorney: On your 2012 tax return you claimed Brooklyn Mitchell as a dependent through an exemption.
And among the expenditures in question, there’s a $2.8 million dollar property in St. Louis that is listed as an asset on J.M.M.I.’s tax forms. When asked what the property is used for, after slipping up and referring to it as a “home,” Taylor insists it’s a “residential center.”
Taylor: … It is a, really, it’s a gathering place for our ministry. Where I bring in different leaders and also the staff that we have as a place of, um, you know, maybe, um, resort and teaching… A resort where we teach and train.
Taylor also claims he doesn’t know the address of — let’s call it what it is — the mansion:
Attorney: But you don’t know the address?
Taylor: No, it’s too recent for me.
Attorney: When you say it’s recent, when did that start?
Taylor: Uh, maybe a year, two… something like that. I just don’t know, so.
I guess it’s understandable that you don’t know where you live (or, ahem, send your staff for training) when you have members of your congregation who work as full-time volunteer chauffeurs, driving you all over town in your fleet of luxury vehicles.
Oh right. He has luxury vehicles, too.
The garage inventory includes a BMW, Mercedes, Bentley, and a Range Rover — the first two are registered to J.M.M.I. for the use of “high profile guests.” A $50,000 ticket was even paid to Limoland in order to chop the Mercedes into a stretch limo. Again: for the “hospitality” of “guests.”
When it comes to dressing an apostle, you’ll need something a notch above potato sack, but not quite a diamond-encrusted robe. So how about $6,000 at Louis Vuitton, $3,500 at Versace, $1,700 at Monsieur Clothing, and other designer threads totaling $30,000 over a two-year period?
Taylor defends himself by saying he has to buy his belts at these high-end stores because “they are better quality” and “have a better TV appearance.”
Attorney: So you don’t see that there’s any problem when you’re ministering to the poor, the sick, the needy, to be appearing in Louis Vuitton and Versace?
Taylor: Well, that ain’t something I purchase all the time…
Attorney: Well, it looks like you did several times in, uh…
Taylor: I’m a very frugal person when it comes to this. I go to the right places to get a lot of suits, and if I get some from those places, you don’t see that in that bill.
Attorney: I don’t see Macy’s.
Taylor: No, you don’t see that because Macy’s don’t have the kind of suits that I wear.
Taylor also claims he sweats a lot on stage and needs frequent changes of suits. Though I’d probably sweat a lot, too, if I were stealing from the poor in front of God’s face.
One woman in particular who has been left nearly homeless by J.M.M.I. is Deborah Frazier, who donated $1.2 million after cashing in her 401k valued at $600,000 and taking the equity from her home which she previously owned outright. Frazier, who was court-ordered to stop giving money to J.M.M.I. and taking her children to services, is now losing her home and owes the IRS a considerable amount in taxes from the 401k withdrawal. However, she felt compelled to give more and the ministry happily took her wire transfer.
In the deposition, Taylor was asked if he would consider giving her back some of that money so that she may try to put her life back together again:
Taylor: I would love to do that if we have the money. Presently we don’t.
I’m just throwing this out there, but maybe she can stay in the mansion that she half-paid for…
Toward the end of the deposition, the attorney brought up unrelated charges regarding allegations that Taylor had aggressively disciplined his teenage daughter, Destiny, who no longer lived with him. He’s accused of beating her with a belt after she skipped school. (The prosecutor doesn’t ask in the video clip, but I feel there may have been a missed opportunity to point out that he allegedly beat his child using, perhaps, a $5,000 Louis Vuitton belt.)
All of that took place in November of 2014 and February of 2015.
But in a video posted by Taylor on Christmas Day, you see the damage control start to set in. It’s like Taylor knows his deposition video is making the rounds on the Internet. What starts out as a festive holiday wish in front of a Christmas tree, reminding viewers that Jesus is the reason for the season, slowly morphs into a panicked pleading for his congregation to not judge him for blowing their money on bling.
Taylor: … I also want to say thank you to all my supporters who have been so loving, and the support has been so overwhelming through this trial that a lot of you have seen. That deposition, those tapes, those videos, that was released out on me to attack my character. That was spliced and diced. And they didn’t tell you everything. They didn’t show you everything, all the information. So, you know, per our legal team, I can’t say too much about it right now, but I want you to know that I would never mishandle God’s money at all. And, uh, I would never misuse God’s resources.
My heart is to expand the kingdom of God. And that’s what we’re doing. So thank you for being patient. We’ll also be coming out with a statement to let you know the facts of everything. So if you will be patient and not rush to judgment, I would appreciate that.
So until next time, I come back to you, I just want to say “Merry Christmas.” And I’m so excited because I know when an attack like this come, God has something so great for the year 2016. It’s gonna be amazing. And what’s gonna happen for you is gonna be amazing. God bless you. And Merry Christmas.
All while festive, joyous music plays in the background.
Personally, I get chills watching anthropomorphized pond scum force a smile while telling me he’s done nothing wrong.
But knowing how these things work, the majority of his congregation probably won’t even flinch. They’ll just send him even more money for his legal defense. Because that’s how Christian Persecution works, even when it’s a Christian leader who’s the problem.
By the way, that statement from his church is now up on Facebook:
… The videos being circulated have been edited to mislead. The videos actually show Apostle Taylor testifying as a third-party witness in a divorce lawsuit. One of the divorcing parties had made donations to the church, and Apostle Taylor was required to testify about it.
Right. None of this was ever about him. Even though all the questions in that video were directed at him… The more important question is how many of his followers will actually believe this.