APor 09/11 2052 Televangelist Ethics CHICAGO (AP) -- Representatives of religious broadca

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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 ministry. "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 Religious Broadcasters. 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 in Chicago. The association met last month in Oklahoma City and revealed some provisions of an ethics draft adopted by the group's executive board. 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 fund-raising activities. 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.


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