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COLUMN

Happytown

The week where we found more litigious fun in the cotton candy heads of TBN's Crouch family, less fun in Rick Scott's ridiculous budget cuts and a new friend (hopefully) in incoming United Arts CEO Flora Maria Garcia. Also, Jesus wept.

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We had 1,000 reasons to be overjoyed when we learned recently that WMFE terminated its contract to sell its TV station license to a local front for Daystar Communications, a religious broadcasting company from out-of-state. Not only does Orlando have more than its fair share of religious broadcasting on the airwaves right now, it also has more than its fair share of evangelicals seeking ridiculous tax breaksand creating high drama in Jesus' - by all accounts - otherwise good name. Just this week, Trinity Broadcasting Network gave us one more reason to give thanks to the Lord that WMFE's board came to its senses and acknowledged that bringing more God TV to town wasn't really good for the market - nor, Happytown has determined, is it good for our local economy.

In February, a suit was filed in southern California that accused TBN (which operates our very own tax-exempt Holy Land Experience theme park) and its founders, Paul and Jan Crouch, of financial impropriety. The suit - filed by an angry in-law who once borrowed money from the Crouches, somehow incurred their wrath and was then sued by them for allegedly being late on repaying the loan - says the Crouches lived high on the hog using TBN money, buying expensive homes, jet planes, fancy cars and even a $100,000 motor home for the family dogs. It claims that the Crouches hired their granddaughter - Brittany Koper - as TBN's chief financial director in 2011 because “the directors needed somebody within the family that they could trust to keep Trinity Broadcasting's financial skeletonssafely in the closet.” Apparently Koper is not a very good team player and an even worse secret-keeper because she was fired after three months on the job. TBN claimed it was because she and her husband had embezzled from the organization. The suit says that's not true and that Koper is now ready to call her grandparents on their bullshit.

“Mrs. Koper and her husband defied Trinity Broadcasting's directors and senior executives by reporting and refusing to participate in unlawful financial schemes disclosed to Ms. Koper,” the suit says, indicating that TBN hid “more than $50 million in unlawful and reported income distributions to Trinity Broadcasting's directors.”

Why should you, Orlando citizen, care? Because two of the luxury mansions that TBN owns and uses to house its people in the manner to which they've grown accustomed - that is to say, the fat, lavish lifestyle enjoyed by those who appoint themselves emissaries of god - are right here in Windermere, and the Crouches were trying to get Orange County's property appraiserto exempt them from taxes. According to the suit, the Crouches falsely report multiple estates owned by TBN as “church parsonages to avoid income disclosures” and that the Windermere mansions “were purchased by Trinity Broadcasting Florida for the personal useof Paul Crouch Sr. and Janice Crouch.”

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