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Jim Bakker's Scandals

Jim Bakker

The Jim Bakker Scandals:

Here's a man who reached millions as a TV preacher and pulled in millions in contributions from his viewers. But it all melted away after a sex scandal forced his resignation from the ministry. The scandal led to a deeper dive into his financial affairs and led to charges of accounting fraud, which resulted in his imprisonment. And it also left some questioning whether his "PTL Club" stood for "Pass the Loot" or "Preachers Taking Loot."

James Orson Bakker had a modest start, born in Muskegon, Michigan.

Jim Bakker childhood photo

He attended Bible College in Minneapolis...

Jim Bakker at Bible College

…where he met Tammy Faye LaValley. They were married in April 1961 and had a son and a daughter

Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye LaValley

By 1966, Jim and Tammy Faye were working on the Pat Robertson's "Christian Broadcasting Network". The audience was small. But the Bakkers helped to grow it with a variety show format, the 700 Club.

Jim Bakker on the 700 club

The Bakkers left for California in the early 1970's and came up with the idea of the PTL (Praise the Lord) Club, migrating east to North Carolina to launch the show.

Jim Bakker with his wife, 1970's

It grew fast, reaching twelve million average viewers and the Bakker's then had their own PTL Television network.

Money was flowing in and they built the Heritage USA theme park near Charlotte, South Carolina. And it became the third most successful theme park in the US. They also leased a satellite link to pump out their TV programming 24 hours a day.

Thanks to contributions requested from viewers, a million dollars a week was coming in.

And the Bakkers were living large.

Jim Bakker's wife

Some thought PTL stood for "Providing Tammy with Lipstick."

But the fund raising became the subject of newspaper scrutiny by the Charlotte Observer, which found the Bakkers were selling three night stays at a luxury hotel at their theme park, but there was never enough room for all the partnerships sold. Then it came out they raised twice as much money than was needed to build the hotel.

By March, 1987, Jim was found to have been using church secretary Jessica Hahn…

Jessica Hahn on the cover of Playboy his own personal amusement park.

She claimed she'd been raped. He denied it, but there was a payoff to keep her quiet.

Jessica Hahn on the cover of People magazine when the scandal broke

Here are Jim and Tammy Faye while scandal was raging:

He left the PTL, and Jerry Farwell succeeded him and later called Bakker an embezzler, liar and sexual deviant.

By 1988, Jim was indicted on various counts of mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy.

newspaper repot of Jim Bakker found guilty of fraud

He was conceited and sentenced to 45 years in a federal prison and fined half a million dollars. But an Appeals Court voided the fine and sentence while upholding his conviction.

Jim and Tammy Faye were divorced and by July, 1994, he was paroled after serving almost five years in prison.

Tammy remarried but died in 2007.

And in his own televangelical resurrection, Bakker came back from the career dead when he began broadcasting the daily Jim Bakker show on the DISH and DirectV satellite networks and some cable outlets.

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