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Scandal Brewing at Oral Roberts U.


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Bianca
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« on: October 05, 2007, 05:40:13 pm »








                                      Scandal brewing at Oral Roberts U.





By JUSTIN JUOZAPAVICIUS,
Associated Press Writer

 TULSA, Okla. - Twenty years ago, televangelist Oral Roberts said he was reading a spy novel when God appeared to him and told him to raise $8 million for Roberts' university, or else he would be "called home."
 
Now, his son, Oral Roberts University President Richard Roberts, says God is speaking again, telling him to deny lurid allegations in a lawsuit that threatens to engulf this 44-year-old Bible Belt college in scandal.

Richard Roberts is accused of illegal involvement in a local political campaign and lavish spending at donors' expense, including numerous home remodeling projects, use of the university jet for his daughter's senior trip to the Bahamas, and a red Mercedes convertible and a Lexus SUV for his wife, Lindsay.

She is accused of dropping tens of thousands of dollars on clothes, awarding nonacademic scholarships to friends of her children and sending scores of text messages on university-issued cell phones to people described in the lawsuit as "underage males."

At a chapel service this week on the 5,300-student campus known for its 60-foot-tall bronze sculpture of praying hands, Roberts said God told him: "We live in a litigious society. Anyone can get mad and file a lawsuit against another person whether they have a legitimate case or not. This lawsuit ... is about intimidation, blackmail and extortion."

San Antonio televangelist John Hagee, a member of the ORU board of regents, said the university's executive board "is conducting a full and thorough investigation."

Colleagues fear for the reputation of the university and the future of the Roberts' ministry, which grew from Southern tent revivals to one of the most successful evangelical empires in the country, hauling in tens of millions of dollars in contributions a year. The university reported nearly $76 million in revenue in 2005, according to the IRS.

Oral Roberts is 89 and lives in California. He holds the title of chancellor, but the university describes him as semi-retired, and his son presides over day-to-day operations on the campus, which had a modern, space-age design when it was built in the early 1960s but now looks dated, like Disney's Tomorrowland.

Cornell Cross II, a senior from Burlington, Vt., said he is looking to transfer to another school because the scandal has "severely devalued and hurt the reputation of my degree."

"We have asked and asked and asked to see the finances of our school and what they're doing with our money, and we've been told no," said, Cross who is majoring in government. "Now we know why. As a student, I'm not going to stand for it any longer."

The allegations are contained in a lawsuit filed Tuesday by three former professors. They sued ORU and Roberts, alleging they were wrongfully dismissed after reporting the school's involvement in a local political race.

Richard Roberts, according to the suit, asked a professor in 2005 to use his students and university resources to aid a county commissioner's bid for Tulsa mayor. Such involvement would violate state and federal law because of the university's nonprofit status. Up to 50 students are alleged to have worked on the campaign.

The professors also said their dismissals came after they turned over to the board of regents a copy of a report documenting moral and ethical lapses on the part of Roberts and his family. The internal document was prepared by Stephanie Cantese, Richard Roberts' sister-in-law, according to the lawsuit.

An ORU student repairing Cantese's laptop discovered the document and later provided a copy to one of the professors.

It details dozens of alleged instances of misconduct. Among them:

A longtime maintenance employee was fired so that an underage male friend of Mrs. Roberts could have his position.

Mrs. Roberts who is a member of the board of regents and is referred to as ORU's "first lady" on the university's Web site frequently had cell-phone bills of more than $800 per month, with hundreds of text messages sent between 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. to "underage males who had been provided phones at university expense."

The university jet was used to take one daughter and several friends on a senior trip to Orlando, Fla., and the Bahamas. The $29,411 trip was billed to the ministry as an "evangelistic function of the president."

Mrs. Roberts spent more than $39,000 at one Chico's clothing store alone in less than a year, and had other accounts in Texas and California. She also repeatedly said, "As long as I wear it once on TV, we can charge it off." The document cites inconsistencies in clothing purchases and actual usage on TV.

Mrs. Roberts was given a white Lexus SUV and a red Mercedes convertible by ministry donors.

University and ministry employees are regularly summoned to the Roberts' home to do the daughters' homework.

The university and ministry maintain a stable of horses for exclusive use by the Roberts' children.

The Roberts' home has been remodeled 11 times in the past 14 years.

Tim Brooker, one of the professors who sued, said he fears for the university's survival if certain changes aren't made.

"All over that campus, there are signs up that say, `And God said, build me a university, build it on my authority, and build it on the Holy Spirit,'" Brooker said. "Unfortunately, ownership has shifted."

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Bianca
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« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2007, 03:27:51 pm »








                                                 Oral Roberts president to take leave





By JUSTIN JUOZAPAVICIUS,
Associated Press Writer

 TULSA, Okla. - Oral Roberts University President Richard Roberts asked the school's board of regents for a leave of absence Wednesday amid accusations of lavish spending at donors' expense and illegal involvement in a political campaign.
 
The 58-year-old son of the evangelist who founded the school said he would continue in his role as chairman and chief executive of Oral Roberts Ministries.

"I don't know how long this leave of absence will last, but I fully trust the members of the Board of Regents," Roberts said in a statement released by the university. "I pray and believe that in God's timing, and when the Board feels that it is appropriate, I will be back at my post as president."

An Oct. 2 lawsuit filed by three former ORU professors says they were wrongfully dismissed and accuses Roberts of misspending at donors' expense, including numerous home remodels and a senior trip to the Bahamas for one daughter on the ministry's dime.

It also accuses Roberts of illegal involvement in a local political campaign, which would violate the university's nonprofit status.

The professors say they were forced out after turning over this information to the board of regents.

Their suit was amended last week to include new allegations that documents were shredded and destroyed days after the initial lawsuit was filed, and hours after ORU and Richard Roberts fired the school's comptroller.

The amended complaint also included an internal ministry report, titled "Scandal Vulnerability Assessment," documenting allegations of misconduct by the university and the Roberts family. Only a partial report was included in the Oct. 2 lawsuit.

The more detailed account alleges Richard Roberts' wife, Lindsay, spent the night in the ORU guest house with an underage male "on nine separate occasions," and was photographed 29 times with an underage male in her sports car, among other allegations.

The internal report was prepared by Stephanie Cantees, Richard Roberts' sister-in-law. An ORU spokesman said Cantees would not comment on the report.

An ORU student repairing Cantees' laptop discovered the document and later provided a copy to one of the dismissed professors.

In a statement, Lindsay said she lived her life in "a morally upright manner" and had never engaged in any sexual behavior with any man outside of her marriage as the accusations imply.

"The last three weeks have taken a serious toll on me and my family," Richard Roberts said in a statement Wednesday. "The untrue allegations have struck a terrible blow in my heart. The untrue allegations of sexual misconduct by my wife have hurt the most."

Gary Richardson, attorney for the dismissed professors, said his clients "stand ready and prepared at the appropriate time to prove the truth of those allegations, and also prove the truth of the fact they were fired after providing the information off Stephanie Cantees' computer to the board of regents.

"I want to know why they fired these guys," Richardson said.

Oral Roberts, 89, said last week that the allegations against his family had blindsided him, "but we have been through some tough experiences in building Oral Roberts University in the 1960s, and we have surprised them all and have built a university that we believe is for the glory of God."

The Roberts family ministry grew from Southern tent revivals to one of the most successful evangelical empires in the country, hauling in tens of millions of dollars in contributions a year. The university reported nearly $76 million in revenue in 2005, according to the IRS.

The elder Roberts founded the 5,300-student school, known for its 60-foot-tall bronze sculpture of praying hands, in 1963. He famously told viewers in 1987 that God told him to raise $8 million for the university or he would be "called home."

The week the lawsuit was filed, Richard Roberts said at a chapel service that God told him to deny the allegations. He said God told him: "We live in a litigious society. Anyone can get mad and file a lawsuit against another person whether they have a legitimate case or not. This lawsuit ... is about intimidation, blackmail and extortion."
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