Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Death of an Old Fraud

Morris Cerullo
Christian fraud Morris Cerullo is ‘alive and well’ in the arms of Jesus | Barry Duke

The self-aggrandizing, avaricious old faith-healing fraud, Morris Cerullo has died - unless you believe Christian Post reporter, John Whittle, that is. He has announced that Cerullo is alive and well and living with Jesus.

Apart from a brief mention of 'some controversy' over allegations of tax evasion by filing false income reports on three consecutive years (dismissed by a district judge on a technicality because ther grand jury which indicted him had not been told that a donor’s intent is key to determining whether money given to religious ministers is subject to tax), there is no mention in Christian Post of the unethical and ruthless way way he amassed a fortune by exploiting gullible and desperate sick people.

Nor are his fake claims of miracle cure mentioned, or the fact that people who believed they had been cured and stopped taking their medication later died. One such was 25-year-old Audrey Reynolds who stopped taking her anti-epilepsy medication after being 'cured' by Cerullo during one of his "crusades" in London in 1992.

Audrey was one of 80,000 people who attended Cerullo's 8-day money-making scam at Earls Court Exhibition Centre where she told the audience and Cerullo that she believed his healing messages had cured her. Six days later she had a fit in her bath and drowned. her blood was found to have only 2.2mg/litre of the drug she should have been taking, when it should have been 7.2mg/litre to control her fits. The coroner, Sir Montague Levine, returning a verdict of accidental death, said:

It is a tragedy that she went to this meeting and thought she was cured of everything. Sadly, it led to her death.

Two weeks later Cerullo hit out at the verdict with:

I think it was a mischaracterisation, a total injustice. I think conclusions were drawn too quickly. The coroner did not have evidence of the attitude of the person’s mind and he decided what he thought of the matter.

He went on to claim that he had received 746 testimonies from people saying they had been cured of various ailments after attending the rally.

On hearing that he planned another money-making "crusade" to UK, Audrey's mother said:

Cerullo is a dangerous man but I can’t stop him, much as I’d like to. His shows are all about money. I remember when my daughter went there all those years ago looking for hope, believing something might happen. I didn’t go. I watched it on TV and saw there were people with buckets collecting money throughout the event. They are all in it for the money.

No doubt, Cerullo thought that was a mischaracterisation too, despite the evidence of his considerable wealth and other money-making ventures.

Another of his fake cures was four-year-old Natalia Barned who was suffering from cancer. After touching her, Cerullo announced she had been cured. She dies 2 months later.

Cerullo's money-making schemes took off when he bought convicted felon, Jim Bakker's Christian TV channel for $7 million and renamed it The Inspiration Networks. It began soliciting donations in 1999 and by 2008, was making $40 million a year from donations.

In 2000, Cerullo was sued twice by employees of San Diego-based MCWE claiming they had been fired after raising concerns about "unethical and fraudulent fundraising techniques". The case was dismissed on the grounds that it involved employment at a religious organisation, and that state involvement would violate constitutional rights. The lawsuit had claimed that Cerullo's unethical and fraudulent scams had paid for a 1,000 square ft mansion in the exclusive San Diego community of Rancho Santa Fe, and a jet with a gold-plated interior.

By 2009, Cerullo's son and Chief Executive of the network, could afford to built a $4 million, 11,000 square ft lakefront home in an exclusive neighbourhood.

In 1996, MCWE was withdrawn from the UK's Evangelical Alliance after the Advertising Standards Authority upheld four complaints against his false claims that he could miraculously cure the sick and disabled.

In 1991, Britain suspended the licence of a satellite station for broadcasting Victory with Morris Cerullo and agreed to reinstate it only after the station agreed to precede the broadcast with the disclaimer:

Morris Cerullo World Evangelism cannot substantiate the claims made by those participants featured in this programme.

And the advice that all sick people should seek medical attention.

In 1992, Cerulow was reportedly expelled from India following a near riot at one of his 'faith-healing' shows. According to The San Diego Union Tribune:

Cerullo worked a crowd of 30,000 – many of them sick – into a frenzy for two hours and then pronounced them cured, prompting many in the crowd to call him a cheat.

$190 million Legacy International Center
Last December, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Cerullo had opened a $190 million, tacky, Bible-themed Legacy International Center, which he claimed was the result of a vision sent by God.

An intriguing high-tech mash-up of religious-themed attractions, museum-quality exhibits, meeting space, and luxury lodging... including mural-lined catacombs, an interactive world globe, the dome theater, and a 126-room hotel.

It's clear from his statement to the San Diego Union-Tribune that Cerullo saw this complex as a tribute to himself:

I’m 88 years of age, and my time on this earth may not be very long. I wanted to leave something that would be of value and speak to the principles I’ve upheld for the past 70 years. All I can tell you is that everybody is welcome at the Legacy center. We can’t draw any lines of demarcation. It’s like saying Jesus didn’t die for the Muslims. He died for the world. Our job is to love everybody and to love them sincerely but not hypocritically.

That assurance of inclusivity is hard to believe, given Cerullo's history of preaching against the LGBTQ community and his advocacy of "Gay conversion therapy" which is illegal in California.

Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, immediate past president of the LGBT organization, San Diego Democrats for Equality, and current chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party told The San Diego Union-Tribune:

This is a legacy project to honor Dr. Cerullo’s history, and that history is tainted by the fact that his ministry has promoted gay conversion therapy, which is illegal in California and is dangerous and harmful. It will be up to the owners and operators of this complex to demonstrate that they are inclusive of the LGBT community, and if they demonstrate that, I’m sure it will be a welcome addition to the community.

These parasites live off the superstitions of people brought up to believe in magic and miracles and magic sky men and do all they can to promote and promulgate these superstitions to a credulous population conditioned to believe that magic can achieve what medical science can't and that people who sell these cures are to be revered and rewarded, when prison and public shaming as frauds and shysters would be more appropriate.

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