John Oliver Does a Searing Exposé of Wealthy Televangelists

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Televangelists. They’re kind of like slinkies: whenever you hear them mentioned, your first reaction is always, “they still exist?”But whereas a slinky is fairly harmless and shouldn’t cost more than five bucks, a televangelist could cost you your life savings, and call it a “seed.” That’s what John Oliver revealed in another great exposé during the latest Last Week Tonight.

Oliver showed clips of televangelists from networks such as Trinity, Daystar, and The Inspiration that have to be seen to be believed. They show pastor Creflo Dollar — aptly named — asking for donations to buy a $65 million plane; even more grossly, pastor Mike Murdock openly boasts to his congregation of “buying a jet, then buying another one three times it’s size. Cash.”

All pastors use the same language to discuss donations, likening them to a “seed,” and that the more “seeds” you plant, the likelier your “harvest” yield is to be big. It’s the middle ages being reenacted by TV crooks.

Obviously, the story would be a lot funnier if there weren’t actual people having their lives ruined by making these donations. An interview is shown with the daughter of a cancer patient who gave thousands to the church, hoping that it’d help cure her.

Religious organizations are tax-exempt, of course, and as anyone who’s seen Going Clear will know, the IRS’s definition of a religious organization is very vague. To test how vague, Oliver ends the piece by announcing that he has set up his own church: Our Lady of Perpetual Exempion. The idea being that if the IRS find his donation requests unlawful, they must find those of the televangelists, the same.