Monday, March 26, 2018

CA mega-church has a fit over proposed conversion therapy legislation

Bethel Church service
A Bethel Church service via Facebook
Bethel Church's finances and Jesus-healing are highly controversial. Monday, it has had a fit over some proposed legislation in California that would ban conversion therapy for everyone (the state currently bans conversion therapy for minors). Bethel is a huge church with enormous funds available. They have issued a statement to “educate” citizens. Bethel's take on the three bills is actually fairly accurate. Conversion therapy is banned and Bethel does not like that. They assert that pray-away-the-gay is effective. They also believe (contrary to medical science) that gender dysphoria can be cured.

The three bills at issue are relatively straight-forward.

AB-1779 simply modifies existing law.
Under no circumstances shall a mental health provider engage in sexual orientation change efforts with a patient under 18 years of age. age, or with a patient, regardless of age, under a conservatorship or a guardianship.
AB-2943 makes conversion therapy an unlawful business practice. The exchange of conversion therapy for money would be illegal:
This bill would include, as an unlawful practice prohibited under the Consumer Legal Remedies Act, advertising, offering to engage in, or engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with an individual. The bill would also declare the intent of the Legislature in this regard.
AB-2119 requires children in foster care to receive gender-affirming therapy if they have gender dysphoria. It bans any form of conversion therapy. According to Bethel's statement:
Any professionally-guided exploration questioning that [gender identity] belief, or encouraging the child to embrace their biological gender would be prohibited.
What the folks at Bethel don't seem to get is that they are embracing a form of conversion therapy that is at odds with every mainstream medical and counseling peer organization. “Professionally-guided” conversion therapy is an oxymoron.

While I was at it, an exploration of Bethel Church was in order. The operation, run like a commercial enterprise, consumes a staggering amount of tax-deducted dollars. Receipts and expenditures are a secret known only to highly compensated church leadership.

Bethel Church's website screams “cult” — very similar in tone to Scientology or the Unification Church (Moonies). It is a massive operation, structurally and financially. They claim to have missionaries around the globe. The church operates out of a $100 million campus in Redding, CA. They have a television network and world-class video conferencing facilities. Several church members are on the Redding city council. Last year, the church donated $500,000 to the city and shortly thereafter received approval for a new campus in spite of dozens of formally submitted citizen concerns.

Bethel Church promises healing. They have Healing Rooms and they heal via television. The blind have regained sight, the lame have walked, stage four colon cancer disappears. Multiple sclerosis, gone. Those are the claims. For some reason a disproportionate number of healings are for the cure of plantar fasciitis (heel pain). Call me a cynic but this is a grift.

The church operates several schools including a pre-K to 8th grade; Randy Clark School of Healing and Impartation; and the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry. Oh, and they have a record label. The K-8 school is scary.

The majority of Bethel's loot is obscured. However, in 2016 Bethel Media took in $8 million and Bethel Music had revenues of $14 million. From Bethel Music, leader Bill Johnson received a “year end bonus” of $325 thousand payed to Johnson Family Farm. In total “current officers” received over $1.3 million and the music label is just a minuscule part of this operation. Most of the money is obscured from view because a church is not required to file an annual report with the IRS.

Suffice it to say that church leadership rake in untold millions of tax-deducted dollars. Apparently, leader Bill Johnson's wife, his two sons and their wives are all on the payroll.

Bethel Church is the perfect example of why churches should be required to file the same annual reports as every other nonprofit organization. It won't happen because Congress is scared to death of Christianity, Inc.

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