Trinity Broadcasting Network
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TBN was founded in the 1960s by Paul Crouch and his monstrously-coiffured wife, Jan. In the 1970s and 1980s, TBN was the perpetual third string in the Christian broadcasting world, behind Jim Bakker's PTL and Pat Robertson's CBN, but after Robertson's sale of CBN's offshoot, The Family Channel, to News Corp. (which later sold it to Disney; Freeform is the network's present-day incarnation[Note 1]) and Bakker's empire imploding in scandal, it has become the leading religious network in the world.
TBN's programming mostly consists of Pentecostal preachers, with a heavy emphasis on Prosperity Gospel and faith healing. As is standard with this type of programming, every obscure phrase of the Bible is examined for some secret hidden meaning, and the possibility that the Bible could be wrong about anything at all is considered heretical.
TBN's lineup of celebrity Christians included actor Efrem Zimbalist Jr., who after first trying the Episcopal Church and then Transcendental Meditation, became a born again Pentecostal Christian due to watching TBN (reportedly originally watching it with his friends for the lulz but then finding its message compelling). Zimbalist Jr. did many of the voiceovers for TBN network identifications and promotional clips, and had a regular show on TBN, reading from the Bible. The rest of the lineup over the years reads like a rogue's gallery: Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Bob Larson, Jack Van Impe, Creflo Dollar, Rod Parsley, and Joel Osteen. During the 1980s, William S. McBirnie, who was also known for his right-wing John Birch Society styled red-baiting radio program "The Voice of Americanism" had a show on TBN.
Truly batshit moments
In 1988, during the brief craze over Edgar Whisenant's 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988 and his prediction the Rapture would be sometime the weekend of September 11-13, TBN preempted their regularly scheduled programming to run prerecorded "what to do in case you just missed the Rapture" programs.
Praise the Lord and Pass the Loot
TBN's ostensible flagship show is Praise the Lord, which airs several times a day, and features a revolving list of expensively-dressed evangelical preachers discussing obscure religious doctrine and relating how following the alleged words of Jesus made them rich. Very little explanation is offered as to why their "flocks" do not yet share in their material wealth, and Jesus' parable about the rich not entering the Kingdom of Heaven is almost completely ignored, except for occasional attempts to explain that Jesus was actually wealthy, and the disciples actually wore "designer robes."
Furthermore, for a show that is supposedly aimed at the "unsaved," there is almost no teaching on basic Christian concepts, doctrine or vocabulary. Indeed, Praise the Lord seems to be aimed at the already converted, who can dream about the day that they are similarly "blessed" with private jets and thousand-dollar ties. The possibility that these preachers' source of wealth is nothing more than money donated by gullible sheep has never been addressed on TBN, and probably never will be.
TBN's real flagship show is the twice-yearly, week-long Praise-a-Thon event; as the name implies, it is a telethon, but very little in the way of actual charity is promoted. Once again, the preachers for these events (including Benny Hinn, Rod Parsley and Jesse Duplantis) are impeccably dressed, and TBN's sets are masterpieces of gaudy ostentation. Despite the obvious show of TBN's wealth, its viewers (many of whom are not financially well off) are exhorted through the entire week that their willingness to pledge money, whether or not they can afford it, is tied directly to their supposed "Reward in Heaven."
The masses of tax-free money sloshing around TBN has even caused family feuds with one of the Crouch's sons ousting the other to become heir apparent of the network. Also, their granddaughter, Brittany Crouch Koper, and her husband were both fired for allegedly embezzling $1.3 million, but they in turn have claimed even greater financial improprieties by Paul and Janice. They say the Crouch's have two vacant homes, one in Texas and one on the former Conway Twitty estate in Tennessee, corporate jets valued at $8 million and $49 million each and have thousand-dollar dinners with fine wines.
According to the New York Times, "the company provides mansions for executives and calls them 'parsonages' to avoid property taxes, and it ordains TBN chauffeurs and sound engineers and performers at the Holy Land Experience theme park, meaning their pay is tax-free.
Carra Crouch lawsuit
On June 18th, 2012, Carra Crouch (the 19-year-old granddaughter of Paul and Jan) filed suit in Orange County, California Superior Court, alleging that TBN covered up her rape by a TBN employee in Atlanta, Georgia when she was 13.
- They still air The 700 Club to this day, as part of their still-binding contract with Robertson and CBN. However, it's confined to off-peak times: 3 AM and 11 PM for the 60-minute show, and 9:30 AM for the 90-minute show. All airings omit Freefrom network branding, and are preceded with disclaimers that the network disagrees with the views of The 700 Club. Freeform's website omits The 700 Club on the shows page, but it can be found on the TV schedule page. Televangelists such as Joseph Prince, James Robison and Joyce Meyer air from 5 AM to 7 AM on weekdays. Given that the modern Freeform has won high marks for its treatment of LGBT characters in its other programming, it's not all that surprising that they seem to want absolutely nothing to do with the show.
- A scholarly dissertation of TBN's programming
- Another Christian website referring to TBN's preachers as "Quacks"
- The Christian website On Doctrine sardonically calls it TBN's "holy grail of fund raising."
- New York Times — Family Battle Offers Look Inside Lavish TV Ministry
- New York Times — Room For Debate: Should Churches Get Tax Breaks?