Televangelists didn’t disappear in the ‘80s—there are actually more of them than ever. They ask for private planes and piles of money from people who can’t actually afford it in exchange for vague and ephemeral promises of future prosperity and health. Fuck ‘em, says John Oliver.
According to televangelists, donations are “seeds” that God will let you harvest many times over—if you just use your faith to put $1,000 on a credit card and believe real hard, God will wipe out your debt.
Or worse: the more “seed money” you give, Oliver notes, the better your chances of being healed from cancer. Don’t go to a hospital—they’ll just give you poison. There have been cases of believers actually dying after sending thousands to televangelists instead of spending that money on medical treatment.
Oh, and all those thousands of dollars from people who don’t actually have thousands they can afford to donate? Completely legal and tax-free to the televangelists, who are registered as churches or religious nonprofit.
End result: Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, who make a living ripping off cancer victims and other people in need, have a plane and live in a $6 million (tax-free) mansion. God must reallylove them, ‘cause he’s blessed them with a whole lot of other people’s money. Only three of America’s 350,000 churches have been audited by the IRS over the past couple of years, and “church” is so loosely defined that anyone can become one.
So John Oliver did. Say hello to your newest bullshit TV church, Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption. It meets every week in the Last Week Tonight studio in New York so its members can engage in their chosen form of worship: silently meditating on the nature of fraudulent churches.
This is legal.