A little while ago John Oliver did a three part series on Televangelists. These videos humouriously point out the dark side of Televangelists. One point he makes is how some pastors will make a promise of a huge return on an investment of seed money. If the person doesn’t see their return it is brushed off as them not having enough faith. This can have serious consequences.
Because these are church’s they can legally ask for these “investments”. They can then turn around and use the money to buy huge jets, large homes, and it is all tax free. Among the reasons given for having the huge jets is to allow them to communicate with God freely, and so they are protected from the demons on commercial planes.
If they weren’t religious organizations or preachers making the same claims they would be considered frauds at the least.
As John Oliver points out it is incredibly easy to create a church. The IRS has a 14 point criteria they use as a guideline to establish a church or religious organization. He established his chuch after realizing that by complete accident they had already met several of the criteria. He did so free from much worry of an audit. The IRS has only audited 3 churchs in 2013-2014. They conducted none during 2009-2013 according to the Government Accountablity Office.
In the 2011 video Miracles for Sale by Darren Brown he explains much more of the psychology and magic behind how they do their faith healings, how they work up the audience, etc. He also takes a regular man and turns him into a fake faith healer. He shows what happens when they try to set up shop in the US.
The three John Oliver videos and “Miracles for Sale” by Darren Brown are below. The first John Oliver and the Darren Brown special are the most educational. The other two by John Oliver are updates and conclusion of his church.
Part 1: As his show is on HBO it does contain some material not so safe for work or young children.
Darren Brown’s 2011 video is below it also has some swear words: