Suit says promises to donors not kept
A former executive with televangelist Morris Cerullo‘s ministry has filed a lawsuit saying he was fired after confronting Cerullo about “unethical and fraudulent fund-raising techniques.”
John Paul Warren’s suit, filed last month in San Diego Superior Court, is the second such lawsuit this year against Cerullo, a 68-year-old San Diego-based evangelist known for his cable network and worldwide crusades. Another former executive sued in March, saying he resigned after confronting Cerullo about unspecified “fund-raising abuses.” Both suits were filed by the same lawyer.
Cerullo, whose ministry says it has trained 1.3 million people around the world in Christian proselytizing, says the claims are completely false. “The Bible teaches us not to take our brothers to court,” Cerullo said. Warren’s suit says Cerullo reneged on a promise to give each $1,500 donor a satellite dish allowing access to the ministry’s Global Prayer Satellite Network. To Warren’s knowledge, none of the donors received a dish, according to the suit.
The lawsuit also accuses Cerullo of hiring Warren for the unstated purpose of gaining access to the confidential 5,000-name donor list that Warren had built up during his 20 years as a minister in Northern California. The lawsuit says Cerullo hired Warren in 1998 with a promise to make him “second in command” and “successor” when Cerullo retired at the end of 2000. Instead, it says, Warren was given a lesser position, and was fired in October 1999 after confronting Cerullo about “several integrity issues.” Warren’s lawyer, Dean Broyles, said Cerullo routinely coaxed money from donors by promising to spend it in certain ways, then didn’t follow through. “Both of my clients were very high up within the organization and they were privy to and personally observed a lot of ethical misconduct within the industry,” Broyles said. “In my humble opinion, that’s why they’re no longer there.”
Broyles’ other client, Harry Turner, accuses Cerullo of taking back his bonus and saying bad things about him after Turner confronted Cerullo about his fund-raising methods.
Turner, who was senior vice president with Morris Cerullo World Evangelism, resigned in December.
Cerullo’s lawyer, Richard Towne, said he could not comment in detail about the allegations, but called both lawsuits “without merit” and “specifically false.”
“The facts of the employment dispute with each one will come out in the course of the case,” he said.
Cerullo-who says his Christian cable network is the second-largest of its kind in the world-ran into controversy this year for placing ads in 80 unsuspecting Jewish newspapers for a made-for-TV movie that turned out to be a pitch to convert to Christianity.
In the ads, the movie, titled “The Rabbi,” had been billed as a film about an Israeli rabbi’s struggle with modernity.
In a telephone interview this week, Cerullo said he could not comment on the two lawsuits other than to say he had done nothing improper and had never before been sued by former employees.
He said he offered to settle the cases through a group of Christian arbitrators but the offer was refused.
“We live in a world where lawsuits are filed for everything and anything in any way, shape or form,” he said.