John Oliver’s Bogus Church Is a Huge Success: ‘Thousands of Dollars’ Received

Aug 25, 2015

Frederick M. Brown/Getty

By Marlow Stern

It was one of the better episodes of HBO’s Last Week Tonight in an already illustrious canon. During last week’s edition of the satirical series, host John Oliver targeted the fraternity of shady televangelists fleecing Americans for millions as part of “The Prosperity Gospel.” These hucksters demand “seed” money from their followers in exchange for the lord’s blessing and then use said seed money to treat themselves to lavish private jets, vacations, and luxurious “parsonages” in the form of mega-mansions. Oh, and to make matters worse, all of these donations and purchases are tax-free under the guise of religious exemptions.

After the episode aired, the IRS came under fire for conducting just three audits of churches total in 2013 and 2014, and zero between 2009 and 2013. Anything designated a “church,” including the Church of Scientology, is exempt from paying taxes by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which grants the free exercise of religion.

In order to prove how ridiculously easy it is to establish a tax-free “church” that pads its coffers with donations for “blessings,” Oliver established his own church—Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption—and asked his viewers to send cash donations to a P.O. Box that he’d then donate to charity.

“To be honest, slightly more of you responded than we were expecting,” Oliver said on Sunday night’s program.

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29 comments on “John Oliver’s Bogus Church Is a Huge Success: ‘Thousands of Dollars’ Received

  • Thanks David, That one worked. Don’t know who I am more angry with, the thieving preachers or those that fall for this crap. Atheism loses out each and every time with its honesty. The tricks these people use, that is scientific, is admirable in a way. The part in which Robert Tilton uses ‘tongues’ was pretty primitive but a later clip shows him holding his hand up with a red handkerchief in it is pretty well thought out and more discrete.

    My eldest sister asked me to go along to an auction once where items were ‘going to sell for as little as one pound’. I tried to persuade her not to go but when that failed I decided to go and keep an eye on her. She persuaded my other two sisters to come along and her husband too. The sale started as they normally do with a few items being sold for next to nothing and in a calm atmosphere but, I could see they were beginning to wind things up. The volume was slowly being turned up on his microphone and the small crowd where beginning to push their way to the front and getting louder by the second. I stepped back and watched. It was beginning to look like a feeding frenzy. Once the slow build up got everyone excited, the need for a microphone became apparent. It was only a group of about forty people so was not really needed. In response to the (expected) noise level from the crowd, the Microphone was turned up and the ‘salesman’ started to emit a loud shushing noise every few seconds. It went through you like an ice wind and got the people pushing and shoving each other as adrenaline worked through their system aided by this very annoying shushing sound that went on too long. I managed to grab two of my sisters from the madding crowd and calm them down by telling them to watch what was actually going on. Items were being pulled out of stacked piles and figures were being screamed out that no one could believe. The items were then being passed back to the assistants to put in black bin liners, as a package, but that was done out of sight behind the counter. When the bags appeared again, if you were of sound mind, you could see that they did not bulge like they should have done if all the items mentioned in the sale were in them. Never the less, they were flying off the shelves and money was flying back. Worried they might miss the next big deal, the crowd never checked the contents instead looking to double up on their great ‘deal’. Unfortunately my eldest sister was in amongst them and a couple of ‘heavies’ were starting to eye me up. It was all over in ten minutes and the sales group quickly packed up ready to run. A few people tried to complain when they saw what they had actually bought but weren’t paid much attention as the trucks were being loaded. The heavies stood menacingly close anyway. My sister bought one of these bags to find she had paid ten time the price for some ‘Poundland’ items. I felt exhausted. My anger had drained me. I didn’t have to say a word to my sister and didn’t.

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  • alf1200
    Aug 25, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    Ok. Tomorrow I am going to start looking at starting my own religion.

    My son has a specially made one of those under the stairs.

    You have to believe dogs exist. That’s it.

    Should anyone try to enter, they may well be convinced of the existence of dogs when they come face to face with a large hound!
    Attempted escape by running is futile!
    He is half greyhound! You will be licked to death!

    Just put on your coat, accept your duty, and pick up the lead!

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  • I put my comment in the wrong place but it’s here somewhere!
    The John Oliver video was GREAT! I may also start a Church! I would certainly enjoy a Jet Plane, although I don’t know where I might go. If there should happen to be a Hell I know where the “seed preachers” will GO!

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  • I’m planning to write to Benny Hinn and Joel Osteen and tell them that I have half-a-million followers gathered and ready to send them seed money. All they have to do is send their $1 seed starter kit for each of my followers and they are guaranteed to get that back ten-fold. Plus they can save postage by sending all the letters to me at one address for dispersal from my ministry. Praise be! Can I do this from Canada?

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  • If you use Chrome, you can download an app called Hola which allows you to falsify your actual location to another country. If you don’t use Chrome, I am sure Hola has add-ons for most browsers. It masks your DNS and gives you one local to the country you want to see content in.

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  • 24
    Stephen says:

    Sadly, this won’t work.
    Dogs are real. You cannot obtain the various benefits of religions, including tax exemptions, by teaching reality and reason. You need to demonstrate a belief in the supernatural / magic / made-up shit.
    That is just part of how screwed up religious privilege is. We don’t just tolerate teaching children nonsense without evidence, we give it special advantages over truth.
    Dogs from distant galaxies with magic powers who made the planets out of their turds; there’s the makings of a “real” religion. Real dogs, no religion. Tragic but true.

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  • See, it was bound to happen. A schism already and the church isn’t even registered yet. There will be greyhounds fighting terriers before you know it.

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  • ShesTheBeth: Your scheme triggered memories of the chain letter fad back in the day.

    Effectively religious scams use the charade of faith to promise a huge return on investment relying on the same psychology that draws otherwise intelligent people to pyramid schemes. The $1 John Oliver “got back” from Tilton served as a promissory note from God that future modest investments would multiply by factors of ten, twenty, a hundred. In the glazed eyes of credulous follower, the huge return on investment was backed by the full faith and credit of God himself as brokered by “His” charismatic self-appointed minister.

    Oddly enough, the psychological mechanism of intermittent reinforcement combined with credulous wish-fulfillment -call it “irrational exuberance” like Alan Greenspan- works the same way in many different systems or schemes of investment both legitimate and illegitimate: gambling, lotteries, [chain letters], pyramid schemes, leveraged investments in stock market bubbles, and so on. In God We Trust and In Bernie Madoff We Trust can reward human greed combined with susceptibility to suggestion in much the same way.

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