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Monday, May 4, 2015

Reverend Creflo Dollar: Show Me The Money

     There are people named Hunter who don't hunt, Fishers who don't fish, and Barbers who don't cut hair. Then there's Reverend Creflo Dollar, a TV preacher who worships money. Now that's a name that fits.

The Money Ministry

     In 1986, Dollar started Creflo Dollar Ministries which today has four parking lot churches in Georgia and one in New York City, Los Angeles, Indianapolis, Washington, D.C., Dallas, and Houston. The 50-year-old televangelist and his wife Taffi are co-pastors of a megachurch in the Atlanta suburb of College Park. Called World Changers Church International, it's housed in the World Dome, a building that's big enough to hold a 8,500-seat sanctuary.

     Creflo and Taffi, the parents of five children, live in a Fayette County mansion in the metro Atlanta area. Noted for his pinstriped suits and charismatic, TV-friendly sermons, Reverend Dollar preaches that prosperity is good, and that God will bless the faithful with earthly riches. If this is gospel, Reverend Dollar and Taffi have been extremely faithful.

     The preacher isn't paid a church salary but derives enormous wealth from his real estate and horse breeding investments. He's authored 30 books and charges as much as $100,000 to give one of his uplifting, motivational speeches. (While he's no Bill or Hilary Clinton in this regard, one-hundred grant per speech puts him in rare company. I once charged $500 for a talk and felt like I had robbed a bank.)

     In 2007, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley launched an investigation of Creflo Dollar and five other wealthy megachurch televangelists to determine if these preachers were using church-owned airplanes, luxury homes, and credit cards for their personal use. In 2010, at the conclusion of the Senate inquiry, investigators found no criminal wrongdoing. Senator Grassley, however, expressed concern regarding the lack of financial oversight at these huge, money-making ministries.

The Assault

     On the home front, things were not going so well for the prosperity evangelist. At one in the morning on Friday, June 8, 2012, Pastor Dollar's 15-year-old daughter called 911 to report a domestic disturbance. Upon the arrival of the Fayette County Sheriff's deputies, Pastor Dollar's daughter said she and her father had been arguing over whether she should go to a party. According to the police report, he choked her, threw her to the floor, punched her, and hit her with his shoe. The deputies noticed fresh scratches on the girl's neck. Pastor Dollar told the officers that his daughter "became very disrespectful," causing him to "restrain" her.

     The deputies slapped on the handcuffs, and hauled the preacher to the Fayette County Jail. Charged with the misdemeanor offenses of simple battery and cruelty to a child, Reverend Dollar made bail later that morning.

     The next day, Creflo Dollar's attorney, Nikki Bonner, released a statement from the pastor that read: "As a father I love my children and I always have their best interest at heart at all times, and I would never use my hand to ever cause bodily harm to my children." According to the lawyer, the pastor intended to preach to his flock this Sunday.

     On Sunday, June 10, 2012, Reverend Dollar told his congregation at the World Changers Church International that he had not punched or choked his daughter. He referred to the police report as a source of "exaggeration and sensationalism." Speaking from the pulpit, he said, "I will say this emphatically: I should not have been arrested. I want you all to hear personally from me that all is well in the Dollar household." The preacher said the mark on his daughter's neck had been there for ten years, caused by a skin condition. As he spoke, members of the congregation applauded and nodded their heads in approval.

     In the disputed police report, Dollar's 19-year-old daughter supposedly told a deputy that her father grabbed her sister's shoulders and slapped her in the face, then choked her for about 5 seconds. According to this family witness, the 15-year-old tried to break free, but did not fight back. When the pastor allegedly threw her to the floor, the older girl ran to get their mother.

    On January 25, 2013, a Fayette County prosecutor, after the pastor had completed an anger management program, dropped the assault and child abuse charges.

Flying High

     In 2014, Reverend Dollar launched a worldwide campaign to raise $65 million for the purchase of a Gulfstream G-650 luxury jet that accommodates 18 passengers and a crew of four. Equipped with a pair of Rolls-Royce engines, the aircraft can fly from New York to Los Angeles in less than five hours.

     In a March 2015 video soliciting donations from his "friends from around the world," the preacher lamented the fact he needed to replace his 1984 Gulfstream jet. Recently, because the 31-year-old plane had become too dangerous to fly, the pastor and his staff had been reduced to flying commercial. 

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