Christian network denies its founder had gay affair

The world's largest Christian broadcasting network responded on Wednesday to recent news articles about its operations and once again denied a claim by a former employee that he had a gay affair with its founder. The Trinity Broadcasting Network issued a press release claiming that articles published by the Los Angeles Times over the past week failed to accurately depict the Costa Mesa, Calif.-based organization in a fair light. "The newspaper's publisher has its own agenda," said TBN spokesperson Colby May. "Its reporting has been selective and subjective."

The strong response from the Christian TV network comes after recent stories by the Times that showed its founder, Paul Crouch and his wife, Jan Crouch, earn more than $750,000 in combined salaries and have an array of luxuries at their disposal, including a TBN-owned jet and 30 homes across the United States. The Orange County-based network collects more than $120 million a year from
viewers in dozens of countries, and it maintains that much of the money helps the needy. In its statement the network defended its financial practices and said long-term contracts and capital projects require extensive cash reserves.

The newspaper also reported that Paul Crouch, 70, has sought repeatedly to prevent a former male employee from going public with allegations of a sexual encounter between them in 1996. Crouch reached a $425,000 settlement in 1998 with the former worker, who threatened to sue over claims that he had been unjustly fired from the network. Crouch later won a closed-door ruling against the employee, Enoch Lonnie Ford, 41, after Ford tried to violate a provision of the settlement that barred him from discussing the alleged encounter, the newspaper said.

Ford, however, told the Times in a story published Wednesday that he believes TBN officials breached the agreement by issuing a statement last week responding to a story about the ministry's attempt to silence him. Ministry attorneys asked a judge to prevent Wednesday's story from running, claiming that a Times reporter "aided and abetted" Ford in violating the court order. Orange County superior court judge John M. Watson rejected TBN's request.

The Times reported that Ford, an openly gay man, claims that in October 1996 Crouch took him to a TBN-owned cabin near Lake Arrowhead, where Ford alleges that the pastor had sex with him. "I did it because I didn't know if this man is going to throw me straight out of that cabin," Ford said. "And I didn't want to lose my job. I was going to be in trouble if I said no." Ford also claimed that Crouch told him the ministry would pay off about $17,000 of his debts. Ford believes Crouch was trying to pay him off. Ministry officials confirmed that the ministry paid at least some of his debts.

The network in its news release said that Ford's claims were "false accusations" made by "a convicted child molester and drug user as part of a wrongful termination claim." Ford has prior convictions, including for cocaine use and having sex with an underage boy.

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