Skip to comments.Scandal brewing at Oral Roberts
Posted on 10/06/2007 3:43:11 PM PDT by NYer
TULSA, Okla. - Twenty years ago, televangelist Oral Roberts said he was reading a spy novel when God appeared to him and told him to raise $8 million for Roberts' university, or else he would be "called home."
Now, his son, Oral Roberts University President Richard Roberts, says God is speaking again, telling him to deny lurid allegations in a lawsuit that threatens to engulf this 44-year-old Bible Belt college in scandal.
Richard Roberts is accused of illegal involvement in a local political campaign and lavish spending at donors' expense, including numerous home remodeling projects, use of the university jet for his daughter's senior trip to the Bahamas, and a red Mercedes convertible and a Lexus SUV for his wife, Lindsay.
She is accused of dropping tens of thousands of dollars on clothes, awarding nonacademic scholarships to friends of her children and sending scores of text messages on university-issued cell phones to people described in the lawsuit as "underage males."
At a chapel service this week on the 5,300-student campus known for its 60-foot-tall bronze sculpture of praying hands, Roberts said God told him: "We live in a litigious society. Anyone can get mad and file a lawsuit against another person whether they have a legitimate case or not. This lawsuit ... is about intimidation, blackmail and extortion."
San Antonio televangelist John Hagee, a member of the ORU board of regents, said the university's executive board "is conducting a full and thorough investigation."
Colleagues fear for the reputation of the university and the future of the Roberts' ministry, which grew from Southern tent revivals to one of the most successful evangelical empires in the country, hauling in tens of millions of dollars in contributions a year. The university reported nearly $76 million in revenue in 2005, according to the IRS.
Oral Roberts is 89 and lives in California. He holds the title of chancellor, but the university describes him as semi-retired, and his son presides over day-to-day operations on the campus, which had a modern, space-age design when it was built in the early 1960s but now looks dated, like Disney's Tomorrowland.
Cornell Cross II, a senior from Burlington, Vt., said he is looking to transfer to another school because the scandal has "severely devalued and hurt the reputation of my degree."
"We have asked and asked and asked to see the finances of our school and what they're doing with our money, and we've been told no," said, Cross who is majoring in government. "Now we know why. As a student, I'm not going to stand for it any longer."
The allegations are contained in a lawsuit filed Tuesday by three former professors. They sued ORU and Roberts, alleging they were wrongfully dismissed after reporting the school's involvement in a local political race.
Richard Roberts, according to the suit, asked a professor in 2005 to use his students and university resources to aid a county commissioner's bid for Tulsa mayor. Such involvement would violate state and federal law because of the university's nonprofit status. Up to 50 students are alleged to have worked on the campaign.
The professors also said their dismissals came after they turned over to the board of regents a copy of a report documenting moral and ethical lapses on the part of Roberts and his family. The internal document was prepared by Stephanie Cantese, Richard Roberts' sister-in-law, according to the lawsuit.
An ORU student repairing Cantese's laptop discovered the document and later provided a copy to one of the professors.
It details dozens of alleged instances of misconduct. Among them:
• A longtime maintenance employee was fired so that an underage male friend of Mrs. Roberts could have his position.
• Mrs. Roberts who is a member of the board of regents and is referred to as ORU's "first lady" on the university's Web site frequently had cell-phone bills of more than $800 per month, with hundreds of text messages sent between 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. to "underage males who had been provided phones at university expense."
• The university jet was used to take one daughter and several friends on a senior trip to Orlando, Fla., and the Bahamas. The $29,411 trip was billed to the ministry as an "evangelistic function of the president."
• Mrs. Roberts spent more than $39,000 at one Chico's clothing store alone in less than a year, and had other accounts in Texas and California. She also repeatedly said, "As long as I wear it once on TV, we can charge it off." The document cites inconsistencies in clothing purchases and actual usage on TV.
• Mrs. Roberts was given a white Lexus SUV and a red Mercedes convertible by ministry donors.
• University and ministry employees are regularly summoned to the Roberts' home to do the daughters' homework.
• The university and ministry maintain a stable of horses for exclusive use by the Roberts' children.
• The Roberts' home has been remodeled 11 times in the past 14 years.
Tim Brooker, one of the professors who sued, said he fears for the university's survival if certain changes aren't made.
"All over that campus, there are signs up that say, `And God said, build me a university, build it on my authority, and build it on the Holy Spirit,'" Brooker said. "Unfortunately, ownership has shifted."
"When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some [say that thou art] John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed [it] unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ." - Matthew 16:13-20
Hold on a cotton pickin' minute -- he's not quoted in the remainder of the article as saying "God told me to..." Is this an attempt at humor on the part of the reporter, an ill-advised snide remark, or is this version of the article incomplete?
the campus, which had a modern, space-age design when it was built in the early 1960s but now looks dated, like Disney's Tomorrowland.
That's cool. Concept cars always look cooler than what actually is produced. When people dreamed of what vehicles would look like in the 21st century, they didn't look like the aerodynamic things that look like melting sticks of butter we see on the road today.
I think the reporter took some license with that.
Lindsay, you got some splainin to do.
Exactly...Jesus was referring to Himself, or He could have been carring a picture of Paul...
Peter's Jewish church didn't attract all that much attention and Jesus commissioned Paul to bring the church to the Gentiles...
If Jesus was not the 'rock', which He clearly was, then the rock had to have been Paul...
I assume Jesus had a perfect command of the English language...Why would Jesus say 'YOU' when referring to Peter and then 'THIS' when referring to the rock if He was calling Peter the rock??? That's torturing the English language which seems to be in pretty good shape in the rest of the Bible...
That sounds like the governor of Texas - “If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it’s good enough for the schoolchildren of Texas!”
That reminds me of another saying, in support of the King James — “If the King James Version was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me!” :-)
The text message and under age male-loving Mrs. Roberts.
“If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, its good enough for the schoolchildren of Texas”
Which TX gov said that? Is that an honest quote?
It’s a legitimate quote. IIRC, it was “Ma” Ferguson who uttered those famous words when she vetoed a Bill providing the teaching of foreign languages in Texas schools (and in particular, Spanish).
-that’s alarming. VERY alarming.
Let’s see, if she was a school teacher , would she be guilty?
Well, she used to be a flight attendant and that’s how Richard met her.
Looks like the couple believed they were too big for ethics of the little people... A hard fall’s coming.
"Me for Ma -- and I ain't got a derned thing against Pa!"
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