Falwell’s Ministry Seeks PTL Contributions
LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) _ The Rev. Jerry Falwell used his Old Time Gospel Hour ministry to prepare letters pleading for contributions to the PTL ministry and billed PTL hundreds of thousands of dollars, his spokesman confirmed.
″In essence we are loaning PTL the money just to get the mailing out the door, and then when money begins to be received, Old Time Gospel Hour will be paid back for cost of postage and materials,″ said Falwell spokesman Mark DeMoss. ″We have done that several times so far.″
He defended the practice as ″just good business,″ saying the Lynchburg mailings are quicker and cheaper than work done at PTL, which is undergoing reorganization in federal bankruptcy court.
DeMoss said the mailings were done in Lynchburg, at cost, because PTL did not have the money for postage and envelopes.
Ray Valentino, who headed the PTL mailroom for 20 months until he was laid off July 17, disputed DeMoss’ statement.
″We knew we could do the mailing cheaper than Falwell,″ Valentino said. ″We were denied that opportunity.″
Bypassing PTL’s direct-mail staff and equipment near Charlotte, N.C., Falwell sometimes used private vendors - including a Lynchburg advertising agency owned by his brother-in-law, Sam K. Pate - to help with the mailings, the Roanoke Times & World-News reported today.
The letters were trucked from Lynchburg to Charlotte, N.C., for mailing so they would bear postmarks from that city.
DeMoss acknowledged that Falwell’s ministry was aided by outside vendors that included Pate in preparing the PTL mailings. He said neither Falwell nor Pate profited from the transactions.
Contacted by telephone at his Lynchburg office, Pate refused to discuss his dealings with Falwell.
DeMoss said concerns about worker loyalty and security of the project were factors in moving the work to Lynchburg.
Valentino responded: ″The people were brothers and sisters in Christ. They were loyal.″
Falwell, an independent Baptist, took over PTL on March 19 at the request of founder Jim Bakker, who resigned amid a sex-and-blackmail scandal. PTL filed for protection under Chapter 11 of federal bankruptcy laws on June 12.
During a July 22 meeting of PTL creditors in Columbia, S.C., Harry Hargrave, PTL’s chief operations officer, said Old Time Gospel Hour had done one mailing for PTL in May at a cost of $240,000.
Hargrave said he could produce documents showing that Old Time Gospel Hour did not profit from any of the transactions, but declined to answered questions about any other mailings.
In another legal dispute, a handicapped teen-ager is suing PTL leaders in an effort to block his family’s eviction from an 11-bedroom house at Heritage USA.
Kevin Whittum, 19, who suffers from a brittle bone disease and heart problems, lives in the house with four members of his family.
When Bakker solicited funds for the house last year, he told viewers it would house the Whittum family and six other handicapped children. However, the house meets building codes only as a single-family dwelling.
The suit filed Friday in York, S.C., asked the Court of Common Pleas to overturn PTL’s demand that Whittum, his two siblings and his adoptive parents, David and Ione Whittum, leave the house by Sept. 10.
The suit says Kevin’s House is entitled to an estimated $3 million contributed specifically to the home and asks for a full accounting.
DeMoss stood by the decision to move the Whittums out of the house. ″It was very sad to see Kevin exploited by the Bakkers, and it is sadder still to see him now exploited by attorneys,″ he said. PTL has offered the Whittums other, less spacious housing at PTL.