Cover Story

'This is me, this is real'

Ex-employees dispute broadcaster Bob Larson's public image

Issue: "We can't be the last to tell," Jan. 23, 1993

DENVER—Satanists and the demon-possessed show up frequently in Bob Larson's ministry, and they love to dial 1-800-821-TALK for apocalyptic showdowns with the energetic radio talk-show host. For two hours every day, via satellite from Denver, about 175 radio stations across the country carry Larson's slugfest with the supernatural, Talk-Back With Bob Larson.

"What do you want? Mr. Milquetoast?" he says in a promotional tape. "Hey, flip the dial. This is me, this is real, this is Talk-Back.

He blasts "white, middle-class, plush-pewed Christians"-many of whom pay his salary-if they don't share his courage or convictions in going eye-to-eye with evil.

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Larson clearly understands the theology and moral teachings of Christianity. He can explain salvation through grace concisely, and he is an articulate advocate of evangelical views on such issues as abortion and sexual morality

But 13 past Larson associates interviewed for the story-nine speaking openly, four confidentially-challenge Larson's public image.

Larson Has refused to speak with the two writers of this story. Ten of his employees, both past and present, also declined to be interviewed, some citing a fear of retribution, others citing loyalty.

Current and former employees and other associates of Bob Larson Ministries portray a self-absorbed man who verbally and emotionally abuses employees and exaggerates the number of people he helps.

They tell of Larson watching a computer screen for a running tally of donations even as he counsels the distressed.

They tell of Larson exploiting the purported victims of satanic ritual abuse, whose often-horrific stories he rarely, if ever, verifies.

They tell of Larson demanding signed confidentiality agreements from employees, particularly those who help write his books.

Larson has refused to provide for this story evidence to support his theory of a nationwide cult that breeds babies for human sacrifices and rapes teenage girls in the name of Satan. Some who question him, he says, are sowing discord in the body of Christ and are intent on destroying his ministry.

Ramona Kotschwar of Culbertson, Neb., remembers that as a high school senior, Larson announced his plans "to become a doctor and make lots of money."

Larson never became a doctor-he dropped out of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln in 1964, about two years after graduation from high school-but he has made lots of money.

On Talk-Back, Larson frequently bemoans the ministry's financial condition. But in the years 1989-91, the ministry paid Larson salaries totaling $607,806, according to Internal Revenue Service records. In 1991, the ministry provided an expense account of $76,300, which is more than Billy Graham's salary. Larson's expense account was #35,750 in 1990, according to the records, which by law are open to public inspection.

Other records show that those totals do not include royalties from his 21 books and consulting fees paid to Larson by the Canadian arm of Bob Larson Ministries.

Bob Larson Ministries belongs to National Religious Broadcasters and is certified by EFICOM, the organization's Ethics and Financial Integrity Commission. But as a not-for-profit member of NRB, BLM has no choice in the matter. NRB bylaws require all non-profit members to be certified by EFICOM.

An EFICOM spokesman said only that Bob Larson Ministries is a member in good standing, and would not comment on whether EFICOM has received any complaints about Larson.

Bob and Kathryn J. Larson exchanged marriage vows in Hamilton, Ontario, on Jan. 23, 1968. Eighteen years later, in the same year Larson condemned divorce in his Book of Family Issues, the Larsons began receiving counseling for their troubled marriage. Four years later, Larson asked his wife of 22 years to move our of their home and initiated their divorce.

Records from the Larsons' divorce case are now sealed in the JeffersonCounty (Colo.) Courthouse. They were obtained legally prior to the seal order by a Colorado resident who provided them for this story. They offer a glimpse of Larson's lifestyle that the ministry's tax records don't reflect.

While the 1990 tax records show the ministry paid Larson $131,879 and allowed him an expense account of $35,750, Larson certified to the court under oath that his income in 1990 was $403,310.

Larson's papers in the divorce case also report that:

  • The ministry provides an automobile, on which he pays personal income tax.
  • The ministry pays a $1,876 monthly mortgage note and $350 per month for utilities from a housing allowance.
  • Larson spends $1,000 of his own money per month for concerts, theater, sporting events, ski travel, and other recreation.
  • Larson donates $1,339 per month to charities-roughly 4 percent of his reported income of $403,310.

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