INSIDE EDITION Investigates TV Ministers' Lifestyles
They are some of the most popular TV preachers in the country, packing their mega churches each week and taking in millions every year. They urge the faithful followers to donate generously and in return the Lord will bring them prosperity.
There's no denying some people have prospered handsomely—the pastors themselves. They live like rock stars with huge mansions, private jets, and fancy cars. Their lifestyles are so lavish, six of them have been investigated by the U.S. Senate.
One preacher, Paula White, lives in multimillion dollar homes in New York City and Tampa, Florida. And another preacher, Creflo Dollar, gets around in style, flying in private jets to preach around the country. He owns a mansion in an exclusive Atlanta suburb.
Not one of them would would sit down for an interview about their opulent lifestyle so INSIDE EDITION's Lisa Guerrero caught up with Creflo Dollar at an event in New York City. She asked him, "How do you justify your million dollar mansions and private jets to your donors?" Dollar had no comment.
But when it comes to opulence, few religious leaders compare to Kenneth Copeland. He lives in an 18,000 square foot home outside Ft. Worth, Texas worth $6 million. It has beautiful water views that comes complete with a boat house. But that's not all.
Copeland is an avid pilot, and his pride and joy is a $20 million Cessna Citation jet. It's the fastest private jet money can buy. He said he needed it to better serve the Lord, and proudly did a fly by for his followers after the church bought it.
But that's not the only plane used by the church. We found a fleet of planes registered to the church. And you won't catch him waiting in line at the airport, because he's got his own. The Kenneth Copeland Airport is located right next to his mansion.
"I think Copeland is unbelievably greedy", said Ole Anthony of the Trinity Foundation, a church watchdog group that worked with the Senate Committee investigating Copeland and other TV preachers. .
"Televangelism is a $2 to $3 billion industry, untaxed, unregulated," said Anthony.
That's right—by law, religious groups like Copeland's are exempt from federal taxes, and they don't have to report how they spend their money to anyone.
Copeland and his church takes in tens of millions a year, through donations and selling books and DVD's to his donors.
When Kristi Parker's mother died of cancer, she said she found diaries that showed her mother sent Copeland most of her life's savings, hoping her faith and donations would heal her deadly disease.
"She sent them a lot of money, a whole lot of money", said Parker.
Guerrero asked Parker, "What do you think of Kenneth Copeland's lifestyle?"
"TV doesn't do it justice. Their office furniture is probably worth more than most people's houses. It make you sick." said Parker.
Copeland, like the other preachers investigated by the Senate, refused INSIDE EDITION's request for an interview, so we caught up with him at an event in North Carolina.
Guerrero asked, "Can you explain to us why you are living such a lifestyle of luxury off of church donations?"
An assistant to Copeland said, "We don't have any time for this," and tried to usher Copeland away. At the same time a hotel employee tried to block our camera.
Guerrero continued to try to get answers from Copeland.
"Why won't you answer any of our questions? It's a simple questions, sir," said Guerrero.
Copeland then agreed to chat and said, "I'm going to give you a simple answer. My life follows scripture. We've never asked anyone for money. We give. We believe we're open."
Guerrero then asked, "Sir, you have a fleet of private jets. Why is that necessary? How many jets do you have?"
Copeland answered, "That's none of your business."
Right after that he walked away.
Copeland told INSIDE EDITION that he cooperated with the Senate investigation, but the committee disagreed and said Copeland refused to provide the information it requested for its investigation. According to the committee, only two of the preachers did—Joyce Meyer and Benny Hinn. The committee recommended that the IRS look further into the matter.