Every time there is a crisis or an African American president, religious frauds crawl out of the woodwork to sell ludicrous crap to their terrified flocks.
The latest example is convicted felon/televangelist Jim Bakker selling Silver Solution as a fake coronavirus cure on his dumb television show. And for as little as $2.50 an ounce! It’s supposedly colloidal silver, although God only knows what else whatever third-rate supplement company Bakker has producing it throws in there. Colloidal silver might literally turn you blue [insert your own Tobias Fünke joke here], but it definitely won’t cure COVID-19, and pretending that it will gets you a cease and desist letter from the New York Attorney General, warnings from the FTC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and sued by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt. As someone who was once sentenced to 45 years in federal prison over various fraud and conspiracy charges before having his sentence reduced to eight years (he ultimately only served about five), I don’t think Jim Bakker should push his luck.
A 2013 study on all aspects of finance related to Christian churches worldwide found that “Ecclesiastical Crime” was projected to account for $37 billion in annual losses. That was nearly six percent of the total amount given to Christian churches worldwide. And that’s just what they found, and classified as actual crimes, in a report authored by scholars at a Christian seminary — pointing to their particular seminary for trying to help, but seminaries in general don’t have the greatest record on determining what is and isn’t a crime.
How do so many of the purportedly pious get away with this? Well, look at IRS PUBLICATION 557 (REV. JANUARY 2020) TAX-EXEMPT STATUS FOR YOUR ORGANIZATION, with all this glorious emphasis right there in the original:
Every organization exempt from federal income tax under section 501(a) must file an except:
- A church, an interchurch organization of local units of a church, a convention or association of churches,
- An integrated auxiliary of a church,
- A church-affiliated organization that is exclusively engaged in managing funds or maintaining retirement programs…
So, inspire confidence by claiming to have the ear of the Almighty, take advantage of believers’ fears to sell them flimflam remedies, and profit, probably all without having to meaningfully report where you got your money or what you are doing with it. Jim Bakker really mucked up the last part by broadcasting this coronavirus fraud on his crappy TV show. But if you just stick to the basics, that’s an enviable business model, as long as you don’t mind selling out everything you supposedly believe in.