APor 09/11 2052 Televangelist Ethics
CHICAGO (AP) -- Representatives of religious broadcasters met
Friday to complete a code of ethics designed to head off scandals
like the one that forced Jim Bakker to resign as head of the PTL
"It's like writing the Constitution in some ways -- everybody
knew we wanted one and that we needed one. The question was
exactly how to go about it," said Elaine Sutherland, spokeswoman
at the New York headquarters of the National Association of
About 50 members of the 90-member board of directors were
attending the meeting here, including Executive Director Ben
Armstrong and President Robert Cook, spokeswoman Anne Dunlap said
The association met last month in Oklahoma City and revealed
some provisions of an ethics draft adopted by the group's
Among them was a call for an annual review of fund-raising
programs, with the possibility of punitive action against
broadcasters who refused to submit to such screening.
But Ms. Dunlap said the draft the board began working with
Friday contained no punitive measures.
"That's not to say the last draft won't," she said. "Right
now, it's just not there."
The 1,300-member association also called last month for
establishment of a commission to administer its policy on ethics
and financial responsibility.
Before the board released the draft ethics code, it met with a
group that Cook characterized as an "ad hoc group of people
concerned about ethics" in the broadcast ministry. Among those
attending the Oklahoma City meeting was evangelist Jimmy Swaggart
of Baton Rouge, La., who outlined his own plan for screening
That plan targeted Oklahoma evangelist Oral Roberts, who
earlier this year declared God would take his life if he failed
to raise $8 million by the end of March. Roberts later said his
life had been spared because he reached the goal.
Cook said at the Oklahoma City meeting that Roberts'
activities generated interest in the ethics issue.
But he said the "downfall of our brother Bakker" pointed up
the urgency of adopting a formal policy spelling out ethical
conduct and financial responsibility.
Bakker resigned his PTL ministry in March after admitting to a
1980 sexual encounter with cult secretary Jessica Hahn.
Cook said the entire broadcast ministry should not be tainted
because of "some people's failure to be responsible."
"The bulk of our people are not caught up in the problems of
the Bakkers," he said. "The bulk of our people are doing their
jobs without concern of wealth."
TV evangelists nationwide own 210 television stations, control
five cable television networks and have 2,200 radio programs,
according to Razelle Frankl, author of "Televangelism: The
Marketing of Popular Religion" and an assistant professor of
sociology at Glassboro State College in New Jersey.
She said rough estimates place their regular television
viewing audiences at 20 million households.