National Public Radio's news program All Things Considered is investigating televangelists for using their church status to avoid public disclosure of assets and other financial information.
Unlike regular non-profit organizations in the United States, churches are exempt from filing the Form 990 for financial disclosure with the IRS. Unless a church's articles of incorporation or bylaws require public disclosure of finances, the church leadership can keep this information a secret. This means donors often lack access to information about how their donations are spent.
Reporter John Burnett with the assistance of televangelist watchdog Trinity Foundation obtained financial documents for Daystar Television, the television ministry of Marcus and Joni Lamb's "church" Word of God Fellowship. These financial reports were from a 2011 lawsuit involving Daystar.
One financial number in the news report vastly understated the financial assets of America's largest televangelism organizations.
NPR reported, "The top three religious broadcasters — Christian Broadcast Network, Trinity Broadcasting Network and Daystar Television — are worth more than $750 million dollars combined, according to available records."
Actually the assets of these three networks are worth almost twice that amount.
Trinity Christian Center of Santa Ana (which does business as TBN) and its related tax-exempt organations have more than $1 billion in assets.
Here is a breakdown of assets according to the most recent 990s available from Guidestar.
- Trinity Christian Center of Santa Ana: $845,832,015
- Community Educational Television: $9,265,906
- Holy Land Experience Ministries: $70,163,784
- International Christian Broadcasting: $3,016,839
- Jacksonville Educators Broadcasting: $3,897,274
- JW Bethany: $13,145,783
- San Antonio Community Educational TV: $1,601,738
- Trinity Broadcasting of Arizona: $3,296,710
- Trinity Broadcasting of Florida: $67,392,913
- Trinity Broadcasting of Indiana: $2,939,884
- Trinity Broadcasting of New York: $4,654,033
- Trinity Broadcasting of Oklahoma City: $2,482,119
- Trinity Broadcasting of Texas: $17,735,883
- Trinity Broadcasting of Washington: $2,076,144
Known TBN related assets: $1,047,501,025.
This doesn't include the assets of TBN affiliate Trinity Christian Center of San Marcos which is registered as a church and doesn't file a Form 990. Also it doesn't include TBN's foreign affiliates.
CBN's total assets: $190,937,096
Daystar's total assets: $233,253,872