Alleged Abuse Threatens to Topple a Televangelism Empire

Many a famous televangelist has fallen from grace due to some ill-advised or criminal behavior—cheating on one's wife, pilfering money, frequenting gay prostitutes, etc. And now it appears that ultra-famous pastor Creflo Dollar, founder of World Changers Church International, is about to face a similar fate. The bestselling author and wealthy televangelist stands accused of assaulting his 15-year-old daughter—though you won't be surprised to hear that he is loudly proclaiming his innocence from the pulpit of his 30,000-plus member megachurch.

The incident in question occurred early Friday morning when he and his daughter argued after he told her she could not go to a party. According to a police report, he "charged at her, put his hands around her throat, began to punch her and started hitting her with his shoe." The 15-year-old apparently called 911 at some point around 1 a.m. to report the attack. A deputy who interviewed her noticed that she had a scratch on her neck, and Dollar's 19-year-old daughter corroborated her sister's version of events and also said that her dad had "grabbed her sister's shoulders and slapped her in the face and choked her for about five seconds." The girl tried to free herself but apparently did not fight back. When Creflo threw the girl to the floor, the 19-year-old ran to get their mother, Taffi. (Yes, her name is Taffi Dollar.) But Taffi said she did not see the fight.

Dollar was arrested and charged with misdemeanor counts of simple battery and cruelty to children, and he is now free on $5000 bail. That leaves him able to preach at his church, and yesterday he used his time in the pulpit to strongly deny he'd done anything wrong. He was welcomed with a standing ovation and said, "I will say this emphatically: I should have never been arrested." He added,

I want you all to hear personally from me that all is well in the Dollar household. The truth is that a family conversation with our youngest daughter got emotional. And emotions got involved and things escalated from there.

Actually, even if you didn't punch and choke your daughter, the fact that she's calling 911 to claim that you did probably indicates that all is not well at your house. But the fact that he then took the time to dispute the fact that she had a scratch on her neck makes him seem like he doth protest too much, especially since he spoke in a very condescending tone when he said this:

The truth is she was not choked, she was not punched. There were not any scratches on her neck. But the only thing on her neck was a prior skin abrasion from eczema. Anything else is exaggeration and sensationalism.

Hmm, that's a little hard to believe, seeing as decade-old eczema scars don't look much like fresh scratches. But way to throw your beloved daughter under the bus! Instead of simply saying it was a misunderstanding or a private family matter, you accuse her of lying in front of tens of thousands of people. Stay classy, Creflo Dollar.

It certainly doesn't help that he's got not one but two daughters willing to tell police he strangled one of them. But he's such a good Christian that he doesn't blame the girls for being so wrong, he says, "I will never put any fault on my children, as Jesus would never put any fault on me." Well, actually I'm pretty sure Jesus would put fault on you if you beat the shit out of your child, but you're the Bible expert here, I suppose.

Taffi Dollar is a co-pastor at the church where they teach "prosperity theology," and she seems to have implicitly sided with her husband on this issue. She also spoke to the congregation before Creflo took the stage, but she didn't say anything about the incident. As for the congregation, they seem to be rallying around their pastor 100 percent. They yelled encouraging words as he spoke like, "We love you!" and "We've got your back!" But they really seemed to connect when he talked about how hard it was to raise kids in this "culture of disrespect." The audience was reportedly nodding in agreement with that statement, though it's hard to believe that strangling is really the best way to teach anyone a lesson about respect.

It remains to be seen how these allegations will affect his ministry-slash-money-making-empire. He's known for living quite a lavish lifestyle, and he's been under suspicion for financial wrongdoing before. Dollar was even investigated by Congress at one point about five years ago, but nothing official ever came of it. Of course, abusing one's child is a bit harder than financial wrongdoing to dismiss as no big deal. If he's convicted he could have a very hard time maintaining the kind of moral authority necessary to sell himself as an expert Christian moneymaker and family man. He certainly won't be the first, however. In fact, so many televangelists have gone down in a blaze of scandal that there's a detailed Wikipedia page dedicated to the topic. So should Creflo Dollar finally tumble to the depths of zero dollared hell, at least he can take comfort in the fact that he's got plenty of company down there.

Pastor Creflo Dollar denies choking, punching daughter, says he should not have been arrested [Washington Post]