John Oliver Calls Out Televangelists Who Exploit Religion to Make Millions


On Sunday, Last Week Tonight took on the shady world of televangelism, an industry that—unlike actual congregations doing real work to help others—is built on promises to “heal through faith” in exchange for hefty, tax-free donations. As John Oliver described, the business thrives on the premise that “wealth is a sign of God’s favor and donations will result in wealth coming back to you.”

The most vulnerable people are often targeted, while celebrity televangelists rake in millions.

To help expose the industry’s fraudulent doings, the show conducted a seven-month correspondence with leading celebrity televangelist Robert Tilton that revealed a disturbing set of tactics he employed to convince people to send money his way. Oliver even established his own satirical church to show just how easy it can be to scam worshipers. Welcome to Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption.

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Editor-in-Chief Clara Jeffery said it well to our team recently, and that team 100 percent includes readers like you who make it all possible: “This is a year to prove that we can pull off this merger, grow our audiences and impact, attract more funding and keep growing. More broadly, it’s a year when the very future of both journalism and democracy is on the line. We have to go for every important story, every reader/listener/viewer, and leave it all on the field. I’m very proud of all the hard work that’s gotten us to this moment, and confident that we can meet it.”

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