Officials with the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) say they now regret reaching a financial agreement with a former employee seven years ago who threatened to go public with scandalous allegations against the network’s founder.
Forty-one-year-old Lonnie Ford claims that in late 1996 he had a sexual encounter with TBN founder Paul Crouch. Ford was hired by TBN in the early 1990s after meeting Crouch at a ministry-affiliated drug treatment center in Texas. Although Ford had a number of run-ins with the law, TBN repeatedly took him back. However, after Ford was not re-hired after serving a drug-related jail term in 1998, he threatened to sue for wrongful termination and sexual harassment.
However, while some legitimate ministries and teachers (those who adhere to the orthodox teachings and practices of historical Christianity) appear on TBN, the network promotes such an incredible amount of heretical material – including extremist Word-Faith teachings – that it is often referred to as “The Blasphemy Network.”
TBN attorney Colby May says the network reached a $425,000 settlement with Ford, who agreed not to discuss his claim about the alleged sexual encounter with Crouch at a TBN-owned cabin near Lake Arrowhead, California. May says the allegations are false and that Ford has broken the terms of his settlement by attempting to publish a book detailing the alleged encounter.
“He has made a charge that he had a homosexual encounter with Dr. Crouch — and of course that is utterly untrue, utterly false,” May says. “When you’re a public figure in this modern age, people can say almost anything and, quite honestly but sadly, people want to believe the worst.”
The attorney says although the allegations were false, Crouch — who according to May was about 66 at the time — was advised to settle the matter out of the public spotlight. “His natural inclination is to fight like you-know-what at the moment,” he says. “But at the time, there were others who were advising him, and he said, ‘Alright, fine, have it ended.’”
But as the attorney explains, Crouch now realizes that one can never allow such charges to go unrebutted. “You’ve got to fight tooth and tong — and certainly that’s the effort that’s been ongoing now.”
Last year Ford wrote a manuscript about the alleged sexual encounter titled Arrowhead. May says Ford offered to sell the rights to the manuscript to TBN for $10 million. Ford was taken to court where an arbitrator ruled that publication of the book would violate the 1998 settlement.
May points out that ministry funds were never used in any portion of the settlement.