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"A penny for your thoughts"

Sunday, January 6, 2008


Reverend and Mrs Jimmy Swaggart

Take a walk back in history with me as we visit 1987. Swaggart was involved with a prostitute at a Metaire, Louisiana, hotel called the Travel Inn on Airline Highway, when some associates flattened the tires on Swaggart’s car, went to get cameras, and took photographs of Swaggart exiting the hotel with the prostitute.

"I believe Armageddon is coming, Armageddon is coming. It is going to be fought in the valley of Megiddo. It is coming. They can sign all the peace treaties they want. They won't do any good... It is going to get worse... My Lord! I am happy... I don't care who it bothers. I don't care who it troubles. It thrills my soul."
Jimmy Swaggart - September 22, 1985

Jimmy Swaggart was born in Ferriday, Louisiana on March 15, 1935. He was raised in the Pentecostal Church, learning about the bible and spiritual songs along with his cousins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Mickey Gilley. In 1945, Swaggart "gets the Holy Ghost" at church. He spoke in tongues for three days, had out of body experiences, and prayed intensely. In his trance, he foretold of a large bomb exploding, just weeks ahead of the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Swaggart found his outlet in preaching, and dropped out of high school to travel the south to sing gospel music and lead tent prayer meetings.

Swaggart made the transition from stage to video in 1973, and by the mid 1980's he had turned his love for preaching into a very large ministry. At its height, the Jimmy Swaggart Ministry included the 10,000-seat Family Worship Center, the Jimmy Swaggart Bible College, The Evangelist magazine and employed over 1500 people. His weekly televised service, "The Jimmy Swaggart Telecast" had over 8 million viewers in the United States and in 143 other countries. His ministry was raking in over $150 million in donations and sales. He was the most powerful televangelist in the United States, so he started exercising his power, at first by criticizing the Catholic Church, but then by tearing down his televangelist competition.

In 1986, Swaggart exposed fellow Assemblies of God minister Marvin Gorman, who was having an affair with one of his parishoners. He would do much the same in 1987, by exposing Jim Bakker's indiscretions with a prostitute. Swaggart went so far as to go on the Larry King Show and call Bakker a "cancer in the body of Christ." In retaliation, Gorman hired a detective and sent his out to dig up whatever dirt he could on Swaggart. The detective found Swaggart in a hotel in Lake Charles, Louisiana with a prostitute, Debra Murphree, and took some prized photos. Gorman presented Swaggart with the pictures in an attempt to blackmail him, but Swaggart wouldn't pay him. So Goran presented the pictures to the Assemblies of God leaders, and let them sort it out. Rather unsurprisingly, Swaggart was suspended from the airwaves for three months.

On February 21, 1988, Swaggart took the pulpit of his Family Worship Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and began his syndicated Jimmy Swaggart Teleministries show. Without divulging any details, Swaggart confessed, saying, "I have sinned against You, My Lord, and I would ask that Your precious blood would wash and cleanse every stain until it is in the seas of God's forgiveness." Four days later, Murphee was on a New Orleans morning news show, and said that while Swaggart was a regular customer of hers, they had never engaged in intercourse. Rather, Swaggart preferred to watch her undress. The crisis crossed over to the political realm as well. In an effort to drum up support in the Bible Belt for his campaign for the presidency, Pat Robertson accused then Vice President George Bush of spreading these lies against Swaggart.

Swaggart took a few weeks away from his Sunday broadcast, but eventually made his way back to the television, well before his three-month suspension was up. He said, "If I do not return to the pulpit this weekend, millions of people will go to hell." The Assemblies of God immediately defrocked Swaggart, and his ministry continued to suffer.

On October 11, 1991, he was caught with another prostitute, Rosemary Garcia, in Indio, California. Swaggart had propositioned Garcia on the side of the road, and they were pulled over by the Highway Patrol after driving down the wrong side of the street. When Garcia was asked why she was with Swaggart, she replied, Garcia said: "He asked me for sex. I mean, that's why he stopped me. That's what I do. I'm a prostitute." Instead of begging for forgiveness from his congregation, he instead told them "The Lord told me it's flat none of your business." His son Donnie quickly stepped in, announcing that his father would be temporarily stepping down as head of Jimmy Swaggart Ministries in order to have "a time of healing and counseling."

As of 1995, Swaggart's ministry had been reduced by 85%. Only $12 million a year came in though television and tour programs, but he was still making an annual salary of over $350000. Today, Swaggart Ministries is focused on the Family Worship Center, a short tour schedule, a handful of radio stations, and a website.

Debra Murphree, the former prostitute whose liaison with the preacher Jimmy Swaggart rocked an evangelical empire, has signed away three-quarters of the $210,000 that Penthouse magazine paid for her story. Ms. Murphree will receive about $54,000 for the article published in July 1988, said Louis H.

Debra Murphree, the former prostitute whose liaison with the preacher Jimmy Swaggart rocked an evangelical empire, has signed away three-quarters of the $210,000 that Penthouse magazine paid for her story. Ms. Murphree will receive about $54,000 for the article published in July 1988, said Louis H. Schultz, her lawyer. Agents, lawyers and the Internal Revenue Service will get the rest. Mr. Swaggart confessed to ''moral failure'' and was defrocked.

The story broke on February 20, 1988, four months after Swaggart had promised to confess his sin. On February 21, 1988, on his television show taped in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Swaggart tearfully confessed that he was guilty of an unspecified sin and made comparisons to himself and King David.

In the late 1980s, Jimmy Swaggart Ministries was the largest televangelism operation of its kind. His operation raked in more than $150 million annually. Every week, his television program, "The Jimmy Swaggart Telecast," attracted 8 million viewers. The downfall of Rev. Swaggart was probably one of the most spectacular in Church history. The seed of his downfall began when he helped defrock fellow Assemblies of God minister Marvin Gorman, who had been caught in an extramarital affair. When the PTL scandal erupted in 1987, Swaggart went on CNN and told Larry King that Bakker was a "cancer in the body of Christ."

In 1988, Marvin Gorman learned that Swaggart had been spotted regularly in areas frequented by prostitutes. He hired a private detective to take photos of Jimmy with a sleazy Louisiana hooker named Debra Murphree outside the Travel Inn in Lake Charles, Louisiana. When Swaggart refused demands for blackmail money, the photos were shown to church elders. The moment the media learned of the scandal, Jimmy Swaggart Ministries was doomed. His actions against Gorman and Bakker have become case studies in hypocrisy.

Jimmy Swaggart, America's leading television evangelist, has resigned from his ministry after it was revealed he had been consorting with a prostitute.

In front of a congregation of 7,000 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he sobbed and confessed to "moral failure" without actually going into any detail.

I have sinned against you and I beg your forgiveness

Jimmy Swaggart
"I do not plan in any way to whitewash my sin or call it a mistake," he told shocked members of his Family Worship Centre.

Turning to his wife, Frances, he said: "I have sinned against you and I beg your forgiveness."

Mr Swaggart's confession is all the more scandalous since he himself unleashed fire and brimstone against rival TV evangelist Rev Jim Bakker a few months ago for committing adultery with minister and secretary Jessica Hahn.

Rev Bakker was subsequently defrocked and fired from his multi-million-dollar Praise the Lord TV station.

This time it was Mr Swaggart's turn to repent after officials from the Assemblies of God church were given photographs showing him taking a prostitute to a Louisiana motel.

They were handed in by rival TV evangelist Martin Gorman who was also defrocked after Mr Swaggart accused him of "immoral dalliances" in 1986.

Mr Gorman, who ran a successful TV show from New Orleans, had launched an unsuccessful $90m law suit against Mr Swaggart two years ago for spreading false rumours.

He also suggested Mr Swaggart was trying to undermine rival TV shows.

Big business

TV evangelism is certainly a lucrative business.

The Jimmy Swaggart Hour is watched by up to two million families and donations raised amount to about $150m a year.

After the Bakker scandal, donations from the faithful dropped dramatically and the same is likely to happen to Jimmy Swaggart's show.

The resignation will also displease Republican presidential contender Rev Pat Robertson. He is currently trying to drum up support in the "Bible Belt" southern states ahead of the Super Tuesday primaries on 8 March.

Rev Robertson has threatened to sue anyone who calls him a TV evangelist and prefers to be described as a businessman.

In Context
Four days later Debra Murphree, the prostitute photographed with Jimmy Swaggart, told a New Orleans TV show he was a regular customer but insisted they had not had sex.

She said he liked to watch her undress.

Along with his son Donnie, Jimmy Swaggart continues to broadcast to 30 countries but viewer numbers are not what they used to be when he was preaching to more than 100 nations around the world.

Pat Robertson at first said the Swaggart scandal was engineered by his rival Vice-President George Bush to scupper his chances of entering the White House.

A week later, Mr Roberston retracted this accusation and flew to Louisiana for a public show of support for the shamed religious TV star.

Mr Robertson's presidential bid failed but in 1989 he launched the Christian Coalition, a conservative Christian pressure group that has some influence in the Republican Party.

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