Religion, affluence and power have been interconnected for millennia. From antiquity, pilgrimage sites, religious relics and people’s donations have been a holy cash cow. Well intentioned people usually feed this calf to monstrous proportions only to be eaten by the ones that called it holy. This regrettable group of unholy cash grabbers are the worst examples of using religion for ungodly gain.
OK, granted this isn’t a person, but an entity, an organization if you will, but I had a moral obligation to add them to this list. Scientology is the most money based religion at the moment as the follower of the belief system essentially needs to pay a subscription fee. After a certain amount is collected, the devotee is promoted to a higher rank. The uppermost tier costs only $256,000. That’s a pretty reasonable price to reveal the meaning of life, and give you the ability to speak with plants.
If a snake-oil salesman blasted himself into the future, his methods would probably be a bit more ethical than Popoff’s. A German American televangelist, he claimed to be able to hear God and administer healing to members of his parish. More like he heard the voice of his wife through an earpiece telling him the ailment of the ‘randomly’ chosen member to be healed. How did she know what ailed the parishioner you ask? Well, every infirmed member of the church was interviewed. Oh and they were also planted there with the express intention to be chosen and ‘healed’. After being investigated his popularity declined to the point that Popoff was forced to declare bankruptcy, but at the height of his almighty healing he was being blessed with a 4 million dollar paycheck every year.
Tammy Faye Messner
The dubiously overdone televangelist with hair way too big has actually been in the scandal spotlight twice. OK, granted the first time it was because of her husband’s non-healing touching of a follower that was paid almost $300,000 to keep her hymn singing mouth shut. The second scandal, however, is hilarious. A construction company owned by a family friend of Tammy Faye and her first husband charged their ministry $300,000, which the couple used as the aforementioned hush money. Tammy Faye then married said family friend when her first husband was imprisoned. Then he was imprisoned (the second husband) because of the falsified paperwork
The creator of the Trinity network (that Tammy Faye had her show on) was accused by non-other than her granddaughter of the misuse of $50 million worth of charitable assets. The best part of this holy family toss-up? Of that stately sum of money, $100,000 was claimed to be used for a luxury mobile home for Crouch’s pooches. This trailer was so extravagant that it would make even the most jaded Hollywood starlet proclaim monotonically: ‘that’s hot’. A few other religious necessities that the couple splurged on in the name of the Lord was a $5 million jet and a baker’s dozen (that’s thirteen for the non-pastry counting) worth of mansions. I going to assume tons of wigs too, I mean look at this lady.
Another member of the televangelist elite Tilton was the head of an $80 million a year ministry. It seems that he took the epigraph ‘in God we trust’ a little too literally, as this holy money hoarder came under scrutiny multiple times during the late 80s and early 90s. Tilton even had the audacity to sue ABC for libel following an investigation that revealed that the minister misappropriated funds intended for charity.
Do you know any other cases of unscrupulous attempts at profiteering from scripture? Please add to the list in the comment section below.