Corrupt Christian pastors
Kirbyjon Caldwell (left) and Johnathan Wehrle are the latest in a long line of corrupt religious leaders.

Recent revelations have pulled back the curtain on religious leaders' activities, revealing shocking stories of fraud in the church. Instead of spreading the good word, it appears these supposedly-pious holy men were hell-bent on giving grifters and snake-oil salesmen a run for their money.

First up is Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell, a one-time religious advisor to presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Caldwell is facing up to 30 years in prison for dumping $3.5 million of worthless Chinese bonds on unsuspecting investors, who subsequently lost all of their money.

Caldwell successfully convinced them the bonds in question "were safe, risk-free, worth tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars." In reality, they turned out to be "mere collectible memorabilia with no investment value," according to court documents.

Apparently eager to exploit his position as a high-profile pastor, the 64-year-old Caldwell failed to inform investors that the $3.5 million solicited from them would be used to pay off personal credit card balances andmortgages. Last week, federal prosecutors leveled a 13-count indictment on the Houston-area mega church icon. Caldwell's lawyer insists the charges are false and has pledged to fight them.

Ecclesiastical Extravagance

Not one to be outdone in the religious fraud department, Rev. Jonathan Wehrle stands accused of embezzling more than $5 million from his Michigan church and he apparently wasn't shy about showing it off.

A lawsuit representing members of the Catholic Diocese of Lansing claims the pastor spent $45,000 on an indoor swimming pool, $55,000 for stained glass windows and over $134,000 to landscape his personal 10-acre estate in Williamston a mansion that sports 6 bedrooms, 12 bathrooms, and 10 fireplaces.

Rev. Wehrle's mansion
Rev. Wehrle's mansion holds 6 bedrooms, 12 bathrooms, 10 fireplaces, and an indoor pool.

Rev. Wehrle's defense attorney claims the pastor is innocent and only used money from a family inheritance to pay for the work. But checks written from the parish account have matched the expenses in question landing Rev. Wehrle in a sticky situation. Some $2.5 million has already been returned to the diocese, and the pastor has been booted from his lavish home.

Cross made of money Using the Church as Cover

In both cases, it seems these religious men widely admired in their respective communities managed to exploit the faith of their followers while using God and their own reputations as cover. After all, nobody expects the man delivering a sermon on goodness and generosity to be the same one picking your pocket.

But that begs a question: are corrupt religious leaders natural swindlers who seize positions of power in order to profit? Or are they just regular people who become corrupted along the way? Is it possible that the power structures within organized religion are responsible for people turning crooked?

It's a classic chicken-or-egg question, but nonetheless one that traditional faith organizations want to avoid. Either way, the situation reflects poorly on them.

One thing is overwhelmingly clear: every time a respected leader preaching about wholesome religious values gets caught violating those very tenets of faith, it opens the door for accusations of hypocrisy and erodes trust in religious institutions.

 

30 comments

  1. Catherine Ohrin-Greipp, MSW, ADS, OM's Avatar Catherine Ohrin-Greipp, MSW, ADS, OM

    The title of the article certainly expresses what is wrong with men who actually believe they are "holy men" and brainwash others to believe it too. They manipulate spiritually bankrupt people who believe some guy is going to save they sorry, pitiful souls and that they have to pay to be "prayed for." How corrupt religious institutions truly are..beacons of greed, genocide, sexual abuse, misogyny and hate. My question??? Why is it always some man doing this to people? I suspect it is because they subscribe to a belief that the patriarchal societies are superior but they have always been abusive and corrupt. They invented god-a jealous, vengeful, hateful, murderous,racist, evil icon.

    1. Gene's Avatar Gene

      I totally agree with you Catherine. There's alot of women in on this scam too. Remember Tammy Faye Bakker? It's ridiculous how these people are. They hide behind the Jesus robes to justify their hypocrisy & heinous crimes. I still believe in god, but I absolutely cannot blame you if you don't. With all the b.s. going on now & throughout history you make an excellent & very persuasive point.

      1. Catherine Ohrin-Greipp, MSW, ADS, OM's Avatar Catherine Ohrin-Greipp, MSW, ADS, OM

        Yes, I remember Tammy Crybaby Messner, wife of Jim Bakker, but she's been dead since 2007. So what other women are you referring besides Joyce Myers? Would love to know.

      2. Ellis Keyes's Avatar Ellis Keyes

        Jesus is the Antichrist. You cannot forget the torture and murder but must overcome the threat agaist your life. The structure of belief is fraud, anything seems possible, especially the imposible.

  1. Dark Gray's Avatar Dark Gray

    12 bathrooms? Holy s**t!

    1. Catherine Ohrin-Greipp, MSW, ADS, OM's Avatar Catherine Ohrin-Greipp, MSW, ADS, OM

      OMG...LOL!!!!!They need 12 bathrooms because they are so full of it!

  1. John's Avatar John

    Top 15 Richest and most Successful Pastors In the World (We promise that #1 will shock you) October 2, 2017 Administrator ETI - Celebrity Net Worth 0

    Televangelists The business of religion for some can be a very profitable profession to enter. Most people think of that sentence in the spiritual sense, but this article is about the physical worldly dollar.

    It might be argued that the reason why ministers are more likely to make money today is because they utilize more money making opportunities such as writing books, producing movies and speaking engagements.

    Some of which make enough to have private planes (The late Eddie Long) refurbished arenas as churches (Joel Osteen) and flourishing press houses (Rick Warren).

    There will be many who will say that these pastors shouldn’t be making this much money. Before you judge, keep in mind that the average yearly household salary in The Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa is $422, so they could be saying the same about you!

    This article is not to bash anyone, it is written to inspire you to dream bigger. If you are not interested in making money, then that is your choice but here are men and women who inspire others while achieving their dreams.

    1. Kenneth Copeland Kenneth Copeland Net Worth $760 Million Kenneth Copeland is very close to being a Billionaire even though he already claims billion dollar status. He runs Kenneth Copeland Ministries. His ministry’s 1,500-acre campus is a half-hour drive from Fort Worth includes a church, a private airstrip, a hangar for the ministry’s $17.5 million jet and other aircraft, and a $6 million church owned lakefront mansion.

    2. Bishop TD Jakes TD Jakes

    Net Worth $150 Million Bishop Jakes lives in a $1,700,000 mansion, he has been called America’s best preacher and has been featured on the cover of TIME magazine. He is a writer, preacher and movie producer. Thomas Dexter “T. D.” Jakes, Sr. is the bishop/chief pastor of The Potter’s House, a non-denominational American mega church, with 30,000 members, located in Dallas, Texas.

    1. David Oyedepo

    Net Worth $150 Million David Oyedepo is a Nigerian pastor who has a net worth of $150 million. Having enjoyed a reputation as the richest pastor in Nigeria, David Oyedepo is the founder and presiding bishop of Living Faith Church World Wide, aka Winners Chapel, and its affiliated international churches known as Winners Chapel International.

    1. Pat Robertson Pat Robertson

    Net Worth $100 Million Pat Robertson launched the Christian Broadcasting Network in Virginia, and the network is now broadcast in 180 countries. In the late 80s, he ran for President, but was unsuccessful. He runs a number of large companies, including the Christian Coalition, a Christian Right organization that exists to raise monetary and public support for conservative political candidates.

    1. Benny Hinn Benny-Hinn

    Net Worth $42 Million Israeli televangelist, Benny Hinn is best known for his regular “Miracle Crusades” – revival meeting/faith healing summits that are usually held in large stadiums in major cities, which are later broadcast worldwide on his television program, “This Is Your Day”.

    1. Joel Osteen Joel-Osteen

    Net Worth $40 Million Joel Osteen is an author, televangelist, and pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. He took over his father’s role as a pastor and televangelist, despite having very little formal religious training, in 1999. Since then, the Lakewood Church broadcast has grown exponentially and can be seen in 100 different countries.

    1. Creflo Dollar Creflo-Dollar

    Net Worth $27 Million Creflo Dollar brought in his net worth through his ministries. He has assembled a multi-million-dollar ministry to the message that “it is the will of God for you to prosper in every way

    Creflo Dollar has in addition the publisher of CHANGE magazine, a quarterly international publication with nearly 100,000 subscribers and The Max, a bimonthly resource newsletter for ministers and ministry leaders. His books include Understanding God’s Purpose for the Anointing (1992), Claim Your Success Today (2006) and 8 Steps to make the Life You Want (2008). He’s well known for his controversial teachings of Prosperity theology. He has been criticized for his lavish lifestyle as he owns two Rolls-Royces, a private jet, a million dollar home in Atlanta, and a 2.5 million dollar residence in Manhattan. In 2007, U.S. Senator Charles Grassley named him and other evangelists in a financial investigation, mentioning lavish lifestyles and questioning their use of cash gathered from churchgoers and viewers. He has denied any wrong doing. 8. Billy Graham billy-graham

    Net Worth $25 Million Billy Graham is a Southern Baptist who rose to celebrity status as his sermons were broadcast on radio and television stations around the country. In 1950 he founded the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Within a few years the civil rights movement began to sweep the nation. Billy, who had never really thought much about the plight of African Americans was instantly inspired to help the cause. He began refusing to speak or appear at events that were segregated. He joined the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 where he met and befriended Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1957, Billy invited Dr. King to join him during a 16 week Christian event held at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. This 16 week event attracted more than 2.3 million visitors from around the country and helped propel Dr. King and the Civil Rights movement into the mainstream conscience. Billy personally posted bail for Dr. King on several occasions after the MLK had been arrested during demonstrations. Billy Graham was also the official spiritual advisor to several Presidents including Nixon and Eisenhower. It has been estimated that during his lifetime, Billy’s sermons have reached an audience across television and radio of more than 2.2 billion people. He married his wife Ruth in 1943 and they remained together until her death in 2007.

    1. Rick Warren rick-warren

    Net Worth $25 Million Rick Warren founded Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California; it is now the country’s eighth-largest church. Warren is the author of a handful of books, including “The Purpose Driven Church” and “The Purpose Driven Life”. Warren believes in a five-point plan to bring global harmony to Earth; he calls it his “P.E.A.C.E. Plan”. It calls for planting churches, equipping servant leaders, assisting the poor, caring for the sick, and education. He and his wife aim to live on ten percent of their income and donate the rest to charity.

    1. Joyce Meyer joyce meyer

    Net Worth $25 Million Pastor Joyce Meyer net worth: Pastor Joyce Meyer is an American bible teacher, writer, and motivational speaker that has a net worth of $8 million dollars. Pastor Joyce Meyer, also called Pauline Joyce Hutchison, was created in St. Louis, Missouri, and was sexually abused as a child. She became a born-again Christian when she was in elementary school, and became more and more focused on her faith as her home life worsened. Her bible study classes became so popular, that she eventually branched out into broadcasting them on the radio. In 1985, she formed her own ministry, Life in the Term, and her radio show began to air throughout the Midwest. She began airing a weekly television show on WGN TV and BET called “Enjoying Everyday Life” in 1995. She has become an immensely popular public speaker and journeys from engagement to engagement in her private jet. She was #17 on Time Magazine’s list of the “25 Most Influential Evangelicals” in 2005.

    Source: http://www.etinside.com/?p=539

    1. Catherine Ohrin-Greipp, MSW, ADS, OM's Avatar Catherine Ohrin-Greipp, MSW, ADS, OM

      Thanks for the info!!

    2. Norbert Laengrich's Avatar Norbert Laengrich

      Interesting Information, if true. However, this implies that it is ok for ballplayers, actors, business tycoons, newscasters, etc to have millions of net worth, but not honest religious leaders. Several of the above, are not con-artists but respected leaders of large organizations, with the highest ethical standards, e.g. Billy Graham, Rick Warren, Pat Robertson, etc.
      Give me one example of someone outside the religious area who commits to live on 10 percent of their income and give the rest to charity like Rick Warren...BTW most of his income comes from book sales and not the church.

  1. Minister Dorothy's Avatar Minister Dorothy

    This is why so many leave churches or never affiliate with any

  1. Mike's Avatar Mike

    It's what "leaders" of all religions have been doing since they invented religion. Why is everyone so surprised?

    1. Dee Silbaugh's Avatar Dee Silbaugh

      You are so right

  1. Ezekiel's Avatar Ezekiel

    Yes these men need to be punished for there crimes, but the damage they have caused to the church is the ammunition the nonbelievers need. Don't let a few sour apples ruin the whole barrel. The modern day church has been corrupted, but the word of the most high God is still true and sound. That's why we should seek the truth of sound doctrine, because there are so many false teachers.

  1. Rev Ned's Avatar Rev Ned

    Tweetin' Donald's tax return? The heck with that I wanna see Joel Osteen's tax return!

    1. Reverand Raymond Smith's Avatar Reverand Raymond Smith

      I would like to see Vatican City's .and the Roman Catholic Church's tax returns

    2. stone sherrill's Avatar stone sherrill

      well no reason not to also get #45's tax returns

  1. Dee Silbaugh's Avatar Dee Silbaugh

    And remember they are all tax exempt! That really pisses me off and needs to be changed!

    1. SeekerOfTruth's Avatar SeekerOfTruth

      It gets worse: "Here’s How Focus On The Family Convinced The IRS To Call It A Church"

      http://www.rightwingwatch.org/post/heres-how-focus-on-the-family-convinced-the-irs-to-call-it-a-church/

    2. Norbert Laengrich's Avatar Norbert Laengrich

      Dee Silbaugh, you are mistaken. Only the church or ministry organization is tax exempt. Any income taken personally by the preachers is NOT tax exempt and they have the same income tax requirements as everyone else. Also, for each of the ten listed above, there are thousands of pastors who are bi-vocational because the church they pastor doesn't pay a living wage and they must work another job to provide for their families.

  1. Josey Parrill (East,TEXAS)'s Avatar Josey Parrill (East,TEXAS)

    As We Hear the So called Churches are TAX EXEMPT they should only be so on ONE A Church Or School .

  1. Anna Brown's Avatar Anna Brown

    I would like to see the tax laws changed so that each and every “church” needs to have open books and show that its purpose is a benefit. Secular charities need to jump through some hoops to get at tax-free status. Let’s make that universal, for every organization.

    And on top of that, I would like to see property tax reinstated for all charities & churches. Bet we could fund health care and social security for a few years with this type of tax windfall.

  1. DeLeon's Avatar DeLeon

    There is a sucker born every minute and a preacher waiting to take their money. Place your hand over your heart and repeat after me, "God is not out there God is right in here". Qoute by, Dr. Donald Curtis past Head Minister of Unity Church Dallas Tx. in a sermon delivered at Unity of Houston in 1989. Why would I want to make someone else rich in seeking my own spiritual center when if only I would be still and listen I will find it within. I agree with others on the tax scam. Its' the 21 century if they continue not paying taxes they are not the good community benefactor they claim to be. The Romans weren't that bad. Why do people turn away from the church? One big one is they are steeped in dogma and our current society loathes dogma. No we do not seem to learn from our mistakes.

  1. Susan Marie's Avatar Susan Marie

    Not only is the Priest and Minister to blame but also the Congregation. Every Church should have a Parish Counsel that oversees all financing and purchasing as well as the bill. All check and credit cards should need at least 2 signatures. The same goes for all Fraternal Organizations not just the Person that is head of the organization.

    1. Norbert Laengrich's Avatar Norbert Laengrich

      Agree with you 100%! This is why Lone Ranger Churches are often the offending party. If the Pastor has total control of the church finances, it is just asking for corruption.

  1. Jim Reader's Avatar Jim Reader

    For a long time I've been of the opinion that churches (with annual earnings above "x") should be taxed at 50% rate. However, for every dollar they contribute to a (to be established) non-denominational fund to battle social ills In Their Area, their tax burden is reduced by two dollars. So, they can pay half to the government, or contribute a quarter to helping their part of the world, and keep the other quarter. As can be seen, there's a lot to be worked out.

  1. Robert Miller's Avatar Robert Miller

    I dont understand why churches and religious organizations are not taxed. Jesus said to pay taxes... "give unto Cesar, what is Cesars"... You can be rich in this life, as much as you want, but these worldly riches will likely push you away from God. If these guys are not using their riches to help others, they are not following the teachings of Jesus. Jesus warned of how hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. We have all been made SLAVES to the dollar. Capitalism is a failure and the cause of more death and ruthless actions, than any other cause. The United States has killed millions of people since ww2. None were trying to take our freedom, none were to spread democracy. Our nation as a whole has become this ugly, greedy monster. It's going to implode soon.

  1. Sofia A Smith's Avatar Sofia A Smith

    So in other wise God's people supposed to walk looking like they ain't got nothing,while people who are kicking a ball around make millions,you want to go in church and sit on the floor,is that what you are saying God is our father, he owns this world he will not leave his children to go without.if God wants his people to be billion aire he will do so ,David was a king,he was a man after God own heart,you think he was sitting on the floor also job he had a lot wealth,and it was God who bless him, and that only naming a few.thing is the bible say not everyone that say lord, Lord ,will make it in his kingdom, not all pastor are bad.read Matthew 7 down

  1. Juan Alatorre's Avatar Juan Alatorre

    Pastor & Minister: JC Alatorre. Remember God's words .Feed my sheep ,Watch my sheep and Take care of my sheep. That is the will of God .Every witness of our Lord has sworn to practice under this oath the works of our Father in heaven. Love and brotherhood is our mission.Evangelism ,hope and faith for salvation of mankind souls.Give God what is Gods Holly will and Men what is worldly things.

    God Bless you

  1. Mrs B's Avatar Mrs B

    I do not personally know pastor Caldwell but I know several members. I can personally say the church has in place multiple programs for its members and visitors. I have attended several workshops free or dirt cheap pricing. Financial workshops, counseling, education, a hoarde of youth stuff, marriage building stuff, community development stuff, etc. in his case - if allegations are true, I would offer a situation where the money/fame spoiled the person.

  1. Secretary3rd's Avatar Secretary3rd

    Religion is a close to a trillion dollar 501 (c) (3) business per year. With that number you can be a church or protect the ground squirrels organization. There a very few real churches that do not go live on their Sunday worship services. Need a decent sound system, color lights and what would it be without video projection. How many churches are up to rafter in debit. With little over sight on what the money is spent on. It is a little wonder that churches getaway with what they do and the IRS does not pulled more of their status

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