Recent allegations against Oral Roberts University raise larger issues concerning the influence the university has around the nation.Three former ORU professors filed a lawsuit claiming they were fired for blowing the whistle on alleged improper spending, but claims that Richard and his second wife lived a life of excess at the expense of donor money are nothing new.
Patty, Richard’s first wife, claimed the same almost three decades ago in her book about the Tulsa school. She wrote of golf trips her husband took and her mother-in-law’s elaborate shopping sprees using jets to fly them around the nation.
Don’t look for any decrease in giving from the faithful followers, though. Patty’s claims caused little impact on the huge amount of money flowing into the programs, by some accounts around $75 million annually.
The facts brought little concern from seed-faith followers. These congregants adhere to Oral’s view of the Bible that God wants his followers to be rich. Oral has written that Jesus was wealthy in his day and this justifies the opulence.
The wife of former student Joel Olsteen has gotten the message. She is the famous Houston lady who faces charges for slapping an airline stewardess who didn’t clean her first-class seat properly.
ORU graduate Ted Haggard spared no expense to make his now-famous contacts with a gay lover in an exclusive hotel. Haggard was said to have spoken weekly to President Bush.
Some suggest that allowing trustee John Hagee, the San Antonio minister, to investigate this saga is like asking the fox to guard the hen house. Hagee, like Richard, is on his second wife after abandoning the first for a much younger model.
Hagee is pushing the nation to go to war against Iran. John often announces on TV that President Bush is God’s man and Christians need to support his foreign policy. According to PBS, Hagee implied God sent Hurricane Katrina to America because we forced Israel to give up occupied territory. Hagee has raised millions to support efforts to allow Israel to occupy ancient biblical lands. He has held rallies in Washington with powerful GOP leaders in attendance at his pro-Israel rallies.
The allegations against Roberts are wrapped in the original complaint from ORU professors that students were used in political campaigns in Colorado and Tulsa. The document claims ORU used its tax-exempt collections to engage in secular GOP campaigns.
This issues smells of the influence of the university’s most famous graduate, math major David Barton. Barton is the point man for the Religious Right to correct the nation about the “Myth of Separation of Church and State.”
Barton advises churches to engage in election activity and suggests that political parties that aren’t with him are against free speech.
To Barton, Hagee and Richard’s followers the use of the church to engage in secular politics is not prohibited, but a biblical mandate. If anything, the disclosure of Richard’s activity with GOP candidates in Tulsa will only hasten the frenzy to send more money.
The charges that Richard Robert’s wife has cell phone access to several young males on campus might not be as interesting as the other access the university has to seats of power through its graduates and contacts. After all, Oral always taught the seed theory. Sowing seeds into government power might bring a harvest the nation doesn’t want.
Don Wilkey is pastor of First Baptist Church in Onalaska, Texas.