What's Up at ORU?

A scandal is brewing at Oral Roberts University. The founder's son, now president of ORU, is accused of financial misconduct.

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.

His wife 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 cellphones 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." MORE

The ORU web site has statements from Roberts and the ORU board chairman. It will be interesting to how this develops. Usually these sort of accusations are easily proven, or disproven, with financial records. If it is just a matter of lavish spending then there may not be anything illegal. It certainly sounds inappropriate, though.

Coincidentally, just this week David Kuo had an interesting story on his blog:

One friend of mine in Texas recently inquired to see if a prominent preacher could speak at her conference. The minister’s assistant faxed back a list of requirements that had to be met in order to book a speaking engagement. The demands included:
- a five-figure honorarium
- a $10,000 gasoline deposit for the private plane
- a manicurist and hairstylist for the speaker
- a suite in a five-star hotel
- a luxury car from the airport to the hotel (2004 model or newer)
- room-temperature Perrier

While ministers should obviously be paid fairly for their efforts, I have to wonder about the sincerity of a "preacher" who insists on such luxuries. Spreading the message of Christ is its own reward. This sort of this is apparently not that unusual among the "celebrity" evangelical and fundamentalist preachers. Steven Taylor at Poliblog had this to say about the ORU situation:

The whole thing has the feel of sultanistic dictators and their families, like the Somozas in Nicaragua or the Duvaliers in Haiti, wherein the leader runs a situation (a university or country) like it is their own personal piggy bank while all the while pretending like they are serving some greater good.

Of course, the fact that Oral Roberts thought it was a good idea to name the university after himself in the first place underscores that perhaps he wasn’t as interested in glorifying God as he claimed.

Sad to say, I can't disagree too much.

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