ORU: Prosperity Gospel

Oral Roberts University

More than 5,000 students attend the university. Popular degree programs include business, communications and Christian ministry. The campus architecture is a unique addition to area, dotting south Tulsa’s cityscape with modernistic, gold-tinged buildings that include the 24-hour-a-day Prayer Tower from which Richard Roberts regularly hosts “The Hour of Healing” televangelism program. ORU is described as a “Christian ministry” in its tax filing and students are asked, but not required, to sign an honor code pledging not to lie, steal, curse, cheat, take illegal drugs, drink alcohol or engage in “unscriptural” sex acts — including homosexuality.

News report on ORU.

Income and expenses

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Of the nearly $76 million in revenue reported on ORU’s 2004 tax filing, $43,757,150 came from tuition. Contributions totaled $11,923,657, including about $5.3 million in government grants, mainly Title IV money. ORU sets the guidelines for determining each student’s financial need. About $78 million was spent running the university, including more than $16 million for scholarships and fellowships.

• Assets: $165.8 million

• Revenue: $75.9 million

• Expenses: $78.2 million


ORU’s 2004 tax filing said Richard Roberts worked an average of 40 hours a week and was paid $225,961. Richard Roberts’ expense account and other expenses totaled $41,311. His father worked an average of five hours a week and made $72,502.

The highest-paid administrator was Vice President of Finance David Ellsworth ($162,398), who also made $24,072 in 2005 as treasurer for the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association, according to the association’s tax filing.

ORU is tied to a number of for-profit business ventures. Some are directly related to operations of the university and others are not. Subsidiaries listed on the tax return are:

• Golden Eagle Communications — Established to operate a satellite system.

• Mabee Center Productions — Produced TV programs but now is “substantially inactive.”

• March Development Co. — Inactive. Established for real estate investment.

• ORM Service — A management service.

• Tower Realty Group — Manages the operations of CityPlex, a group of three office towers. The largest one is a 60-story building that once housed the ministry’s City of Faith Hospital.

• University Broadcasting — Operates Channel 53, which broadcasts TV shows including those featuring Richard and Lindsay Roberts.

• University Healthcare — Inactive. Established to provide medical services.

• August Promotions — Promotes events at the university’s Mabee Center.

Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association

The flagship of its founder’s ministry produces daily and weekly television programs, reaching an estimated 800,000 viewers a week, according to its 2005 tax filing. It also distributes magazines, books and other literature and sent return correspondence to all who mailed in prayer requests. Also, it held crusades and seminars in the Unites States and abroad “to enable Oral Roberts, Richard Roberts and associates to interact on a personal level with those wishing to attend service of faith and healing,” its tax filing states.

Income and expenses

The evangelistic group raised more than $12.4 million in 2005 through contributions, plus $226,096 in the sale of books, tapes and videos. The association reported about $14.3 million in total expenses, including $4.1 million in wages, $3.2 million in “media time” and $1.1 million in postage and shipping, for a 2005 deficit of more than $1.5 million.

Contributions rose from $10.5 million in 2001 to $14.1 million in 2004 before falling in 2005.


Lindsay Roberts, the executive vice president, was paid $77,018 in 2005 by the evangelistic association and $119,800 by its for-profit subsidiary, Traco Advertising. Chief Executive Officer Richard Roberts was paid a total of $105,617, devoting an average of 25 hours a week. Oral Roberts, a trustee, received $83,505 in 2005 for an average 10-hour work week.


The ministry’s highest-paid contractors were a printing company ($264,215), two airplane maintenance companies ($146,165 total) and an auditing firm ($54,455).


The evangelistic association owns one company, Traco Advertising, which reported a little over $3 million in total 2005 income.

ORU Alumni Foundation

Promotes relations with ORU alumni and solicits donations from them. Fundraising has, for the most part, declined in recent years, according to the tax filing.

• Assets: $1.2 million

• Revenue: $777,723

• Expenses: $835,154

ORU Educational Fellowship

Creates networking opportunities and support services for Christian common schools and Bible schools. Of the $381,938 spent in 2005, about $305,500 covered the cost of sending students and teachers to competitions and conferences. The fellowship also paid ORU $94,633 for food and catering services.

• Assets: $136,721

• Revenue: $385,096

• Expenses: $381,938

A lawsuit filed earlier this month alleges that Richard Roberts required ORU professors and students to work on the 2006 mayoral campaign of Randi Miller, a Republican Tulsa County commissioner. Such an arrangement would jeopardize ORU’s tax-exempt status.

One professor, Tim Brooker, claims he was fired after delivering to his bosses to regents a “Scandal Vulnerability AssessmentPDF file” prepared by Lindsay Roberts’ sister, Stephanie Cantees. Her job was to report weekly to Richard Roberts what was being said in the community about the Roberts family.

Attorney Gary Richardson, who represents three professors who claim they were either fired or resigned under duress, said the Scandal Vulnerability Assessment was taken from Cantees’ computer. It contains these allegations:

• Lindsay Roberts was photographed in her car late at night with an underage male 29 times.

• Lindsay Roberts personally awarded 13 scholarships to friends of her children, two of whom were academically ineligible for entrance. She also is alleged to have demanded the firing of an ORU employee who suggested those two students receive only contingent admission.

• The university pays for the Robertses’ lavish housing costs, including 11 remodelings in 14 years, and a 2,000-square-foot closet for Lindsay Roberts’ wardrobe.

• University and ministry employees routinely are summoned to the president’s home to do the homework of the Robertses’ three daughters.

• One daughter vandalized the athletic department and removed equipment from the athletic department.

• ORU was billed $29,411 for the cost of a senior trip to Florida for one daughter and her friends.

• ORU owns an airplane used mainly for personal trips.

• The university pays all costs of a horse stable used exclusively by the Roberts children.

Richard Roberts said in a prepared statement that the allegations are untrue and “have struck a terrible blow in my heart.”

“The untrue allegations of sexual misconduct by my wife have hurt the most. It has broken her heart and the hearts of my children,” he said.

The Board of Regents at ORU is a mix of professionals from around the country. But the majority are heads of large ministries with a presence on either Trinity Broadcasting Network or Daystar Television Network.

Many, like Oral, Richard and Lindsay Roberts, are self-professed faith-healers and teach the Word of Faith or Prosperity Gospel.

Among them are:

Benny Hinn: faith-healer and crusader with daily television program. The official name of the organization is the World Outreach Church, Inc., but does business as Benny Hinn Ministries. Testified in federal court that he was involved in a Ponzi scheme and subsequently returned money he had obtained. His ministry currently carries a transparency grade of “F” by the nonprofit ministry watchdog Web site ministrywatch.org.

Kenneth Copeland: A former pilot for Oral Roberts, Copeland began his ministry more than 30 years ago. For the last 25 years he has published The Believer’s Voice of Victory magazine. Since 1989 he has hosted Believer’s Voice of Victory. Came under fire for using a ministry plane in 2006 for vacation. His ministry currently carries an “F” grade by ministrywatch.org.

Creflo Dollar: Host of “Changing Your World” broadcast can be seen and heard in more than 150 countries. According to a New York Times article, he owns two Rolls Royces, multiple private jets, a $2.5 million apartment in Manhattan and a mansion in Atlanta. His ministry’s transparency grade by ministrywatch.org is “F.”

John Hagee: His ministries encompasses a number of organizations, including TV and radio broadcasting, production and organized teaching cruises and trips. According to 2005 IRS filing, his salary from Global Evangelism TV was $900,000. His ministry’s transparency grade by ministrywatch.org is “F.”

• George Pearsons: Co-pastor of Eagle Mountain International Church in Newark, Texas, with his wife Terri, who is daughter of Kenneth Copeland. Eagle Mountain is, according to a Copeland fundraising Web site, also known as Kenneth Copeland Ministries.

• Jesse Duplantis: Awarded an honorary Doctorate of Divinity degree from Oral Roberts University in 1999. He is founder of Jesse Duplantis Ministries, Voice Of The Covenant magazine and a widely distributed TV ministry.

• Billy Joe Daugherty: Founder and pastor of Victory Christian Center Inc. He also is the founder of Victory Christian School, Victory Bible Institute and Victory World Missions Training Center. There are more than 200 Victory Bible Institutes in 59 countries around the world. Victory Christian Center is not required to file a form 990 with the IRS because it is designated as a church.

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