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Lindsay Roberts

Oral examination

Religion | Lawsuit against ORU prompts investigation of scandalous "report"

Issue: "Elephant in the room," Nov. 3, 2007

Oral Roberts, the 89-year-old evangelist and founder/chancellor of Oral Roberts University, came back to Tulsa from retirement in California and, amid repeated standing ovations, vowed to students and staff in chapel Oct. 22: "The devil is not going to steal ORU."

He said all allegations in a lawsuit against ORU and several principals, including his son, Richard, the school's president, were false. Richard, 58, announced days earlier he was taking a temporary leave of absence from his duties while ORU's board of regents investigates the allegations. The elder Roberts said he and regent Billy Joe Daugherty, a well-respected ORU alumnus and popular pastor of the large Christian Victory Center church across the street from the 5,300-student campus, would serve as interim co-presidents.

Regents chairman George Pearson said Richard Roberts and wife Lindsay would continue to live in their university-provided home and to be paid his $228,000 salary (see story below). They also would continue their duties as president and executive vice president, respectively, of Oral Roberts Ministries and Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association, the latter primarily a $14 million radio and television ministry.

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The breach of contract lawsuit by three former professors claims they were wrongly fired or forced to resign in retribution for giving the regents an eyebrow-raising document found by a student repairman on an administrator's laptop (see "Bills, bills, bills," Oct. 20). The document was at least partly written by Stephanie Cantees, sister of Lindsay Roberts and a community liaison officer for ORU. It purports to list financial improprieties by Richard, his unlawful deployment of faculty and students in a local political campaign, and questionable relationships and activities that make the Robertses and ORU "vulnerable to scandal."

Richard Roberts dismissed the paper as largely a collection of untrue rumors gleaned from a community monitoring effort. Lindsay Roberts, 51, denied carrying on contacts with "underage" males, as the report alleges. Cantees has declined to comment. The report meanwhile became "evidence" in the lawsuit, even though the plaintiffs said they don't know whether its contents are true.

Oral Roberts told reporters ORU would begin mediation promptly with the three former teachers who sued-John Swails, Tim Brooker, and Paulita Brooker. However, their attorney, Gary Richardson, suggested it was too late, especially since officials refused to acknowledge they had done anything wrong.

Adding up numbers

A 2006 tax information return for the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association lists compensation at $105,617 for Richard Roberts and $77,018 for his wife. That is in addition to $371,505 Richard receives from ORU and other entities and $119,800 Lindsay receives from affiliates, according to the return. Oral Roberts, a retiree serving as trustee, is listed as receiving $83,505 from OREA and $78,367 from affiliates.

The investigators

Are heads of ministries the best ones to investigate heads of ministries? When ORU board chair George Pearson announced the regents' executive committee would investigate the allegations against Richard Roberts and ORU and make any changes necessary to tighten financial management and accountability, groans could be heard in blogdom and some leadership circles. The majority of committee members themselves are heads of ministries, some of whom have had questions raised about their financial dealings.

Board chair Pearson is son-in-law to Kenneth Copeland and heads Kenneth Copeland Ministries. Other members include Copeland; Creflo Dollar (World Changers Church International); Marilyn Hickey (Marilyn Hickey Ministries); Charles Green (Harvest Ministries); Jerry Savelle (Jerry Savelle Ministries); John Hagee (Cornerstone Church and John Hagee Ministries).

The only non-minister is Michael Hammer, chairman of the Armand Hammer Foundation.

Edward E. Plowman
Edward E. Plowman

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