Is the Trinity Broadcasting Network A Scam Run by Atheists?

The Trinity Broadcasting Network—commonly known as TBN—was allegedly the brainchild of rogue atheists who set out to create a mockery of the Christian religion back in 1973. Big thrones, heavy make-up, and big hair were just some of the props utilized to create a fantasy (read: satirical) Christian television set, whereby millions of viewers worldwide are beseeched to send their hard-earned (or even non-existent) dollars, fattening the founding Crouch family and other board members.

Or is it?

While this is an incredible claim, similar claims have been made by more than a handful of opponents and watchdog groups. In this example, the Holy Observer —which bills itself as “God’s #1 Source for Christian News”—avers the above-mentioned claims with frightening assertiveness, but no real proof of their claims.

A page on the Holy Observer’s site states:

“For everyone who has ever tuned into the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN)—broadcast on satellite and cable systems across the country—and thought, ‘This can’t be serious,’ it turns out you were right.

“Local and federal law enforcement officials have uncovered an elaborate scheme engineered by an atheist group and aimed at embarrassing the Christian religion; a scheme that has been going on for nearly 30 years.”

The post goes on to state that a “loosely organized faction of Hollywood atheists” founded and perpetuated this scam.

What are missing are the names of the law enforcement agencies, though the site does quote an ostensible law enforcement officer as saying, “We’ve been on this case for years. I mean, come on. Have you ever watched this channel?”  This from a “special federal investigator.” It also mentions a “250-page report,” which begs the question, why isn’t the report linked or referred to by name?

Is TBN a hoax? Maybe so; maybe not.

While the Holy Observer is obviously over-the-top satire, this isn’t the first nor only site to make this claim. A United States Senator even led an inquiry into televangelists several years ago. His objective was stated as ensuring not-for-profits did not unjustly enrich themselves vis-à-vis their tax-exempt status.

And there’s no doubt TBN is profitable. Preaching the good life is good business. Pastors, like the uber-popular Joel Osteen, regularly herd their flocks toward the promise of abundance. Is that a bad thing?

How about controversial pastor Benny Hinn? He basically preaches the same message, but at a cost to viewers: mail in those donations, so he can continue to deliver the gospel. (He also performs miracle crusades worldwide, so maybe he’s worth it?)

TBN enjoys church tax-exempt status, but that is certainly not a crime.

The moral to the story, check your facts before donating to any church or charitable organization.  For resources, start with Charity, which offers reports on exactly how that money is being used in addition to learning all you can about TBN or any other organization.  If you like what you see, then of course you should donate your money as you choose.

Identity theft secrets, guest writer, Sami K. Hartsfield, ACP, is a paralegal in Houston with experience in commercial litigation and tax law. She holds a degree in paralegal studies and a bachelor of science degree in political science. After interning with Texas’ 14th Court of Appeals under Chief Justice Adele Hedges and completing the University of Houston Law Center’s Summer 2008 Prelaw Institute, she is preparing to enter law school this fall. Sami holds a national advanced paralegal certification, and four specialty certifications: Discovery; Trial Practice; Contracts Management; and Social Security Disability Law.  More helpful tax information can be found at her National Tax Law Examiner page.’s report on TBN

TBN press release after 20/20 episode questioned financial motives and lack of transparency.

Trinity Broadcast Network contact info: 2442 Michelle Drive
Tustin, CA
Phone: (714) 832-2950


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