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Video Credit: Inside Edition (http://www.insideedition.com)
A news report on Inside Edition, aired May 23, 2011 reports TV preachers apparently abusing donations to live lavish lifestyles. One mansion was valued over six million dollars.
They are some of the most popular TV preachers in the United States, who urge the faithful followers to donate generously, saying that in return, the Lord will bring them prosperity. Those who profited were the pastors themselves.
They live like rock stars, with huge mansions, private jets, and fancy cars. Their lifestyles are so lavish, that six of them have been investigated by the U.S. Senate, such as Paula White, who lives in multimillion dollar homes in New York City and Tampa, Florida, as well as Creflo Dollar, getting around in style, flying in private jets to preach around the country. He owns a mansion at an exclusive Atlanta suburb.
Not one of them would agree to an interview regarding their opulent lifestyle, but when it comes to opulence, few religious leaders compare to Kenneth Copeland. To show his house, Inside Edition rented a helicopter so others can see his 18,000 square-foot mansion (located outside Fort Worth, Texas), valued at over six million dollars. It has beautiful water views and comes complete with a boathouse. But that's not all. Copeland is an avid pilot. He has a 20 million dollar Cessna Citation jet. It's the fastest private jet which money can buy. He claimed that he needed it to better serve the Lord. He proudly did a fly-by for his followers after the church bought it.
It was in fact found that Copeland had a fleet of planes registered to the church. He has his very own airport (the Kenneth Copeland airport) located right next to his mansion.
Ole Anthony, president of the Trinity Foundation, a religious watchdog group, says "I think Copeland is unbelievably greedy". The Foundation worked closely with the Senate Committee investigating Copeland and other TV preachers.
"Televangelism alone is at least a two-and-a-half to three billion dollar industry, untaxed, unregulated", says Anthony.
Copeland and his church take in tens of millions a year, through donations and selling books and DVD's to his donors.
When Kristi Parker's mother died of cancer, she said she found diaries that showed her mother sent Copeland most of her life's savings, hoping her faith and donations would heal her deadly disease.
"She sent them a lot of money, a whole lot of money", said Parker.
Guerrero asked Parker, "What do you think of Kenneth Copeland's lifestyle?" "TV doesn't do it justice. Their office furniture is probably worth more than most people's houses. It make you sick." said Parker.
Copeland, like the other preachers investigated by the Senate, refused an interview. Inside Edition caught up with him at an event in North Carolina.
Guerrero asked, "Can you explain to us why you are living such a lifestyle of luxury off of church donations?" An assistant to Copeland said, "We don't have any time for this," and tried to usher Copeland away. At the same time, a hotel employee tried to prevent Inside Edition from recording.
Guerrero continued to try to get answers from Copeland. "Why won't you answer any of our questions? It's a simple question, sir," said Guerrero.
Copeland then agreed to chat and answered, "Yes, and I'm going to give you a simple answer. My lifestyle follows the scripture. We've never asked anyone for money. We give, we believe, we're open."
Guerrero then asked, "Sir, you have a fleet of private jets. Why is that necessary? You're a minister. How many jets do you have?" Copeland answered, "That... is none of your business." He then walked away.
Copeland told Inside Edition that he cooperated with the Senate investigation, but the committee disagreed and said Copeland refused to provide the information it requested for its investigation. According to the committee, only two of the preachers did—Joyce Meyer and Benny Hinn. The committee recommended that the IRS look further into the matter.
- [Aired report]