In years past, James Randi and others have exposed the falsehoods surrounding the claims of so-called faith healers like Oral Roberts and Peter Popoff, yet the evangelical healing movement is still big business despite the inherent dangers of placing one's health in the hands of someone with no medical training.
Self-professed prophets and healers have caused numerous disfigurements and deaths. Jack Coe was criminally charged after commanding a boy with polio to remove his leg braces, which caused the child agonizing pain and permanent physical harm. The standard was set for all faith healers when Rev. Coe's case was dismissed because Florida law exempts so-called "divine" healing from the law. In 1967, a woman at a Kathryn Kuhlman revival removed her brace after the preacher claimed her spinal cancer had been cured, only to have her spine collapse the next day, resulting in her anguishing demise a few months later. In a study of those Kuhlman claimed to have cured, absolutely zero had any relief whatsoever.
These preachers became wealthy as a result of their claims, as have Kenny Copeland, Benny Hinn, Pat Robertson, and many others. These false prophets have become so feared and revered that 31 states currently exempt religious 'healing' from child abuse laws- in fact, over half of my readers live in states where a preacher can exorcise a child, persuade the parents to refrain from seeking medical treatment, or a slew of other abominations without fearing criminal prosecution. Yes, all of you who live in California, Oregon, Colorado, and Minnesota, you can hire an exorcist or other paranormal fraud to suck the supposed demons out of your epileptic kid, and if the child dies, you're off the hook.
Luckily for the healing ministers and psychics of today, they don't really have to worry too much about their truly faithful complaining whilst being robbed blind. Employees are planted as sick guests, there are hidden cameras, and of course, those people who walk the floor pre-show, asking questions that will help the star of the show convince the crowd of his or her greatness and encourage all to gift, and large sums, thank you very much.
There are those who are daring enough to periodically infiltrate these events, and last month the Canadian Centre for Inquiry got their paws on 4 invitation-only tickets to Peter Popoff's big gig in Toronto last month. After being coached by James Randi himself, the group walked in and reported what they saw. they noted Popoff loyalists engaging guests in order to obtain information, and an elderly man refused by security because it was obvious that his diseases of aging couldn't be actually cured. And there's more:
"Popoff engaged in his classic laying on of hands "healings", hosted testimonials which were a surreal blend of miracle cures, family reconciliations and spontaneous increases in bank account balances! The night's climax involved him requesting large sums of money, namely $1000 from each audience member, to benefit from his divine intervention. We actually captured footage of him asking for attendees to put "their best seed" into envelopes he passed out."
To me, this smacks of fraud. It's a clear and calculated deception aimed at emptying the bank accounts of hard working people, in this case Canadians, under the guise of supernatural intervention. As much as people ridicule those of faith, it's often what they resort to when their lives are failing and they've been taught no other way to cope. People don't need to be punished for their beliefs by someone who claims to have their best interests in mind; to be told that God won't save them if they don't give what could be months worth of savings to a millionaire should be considered not only morally, but legally wrong.
Why does the claim of religion grant blatant confidence thieves a free pass when it comes to prosecution? The ability to skirt the law by claiming divinity is the exact reason why sociopaths like Peter Popoff get into the game in the first place. Most of these folks were taught the game by Oral Roberts, or people who had learned it from him. It's the same scam that l. Ron Hubbard ran, but with a different spaceman at the helm. The only goal is to make money, regardless of who gets hurt, becomes destitute, or dies.
The only way these men will be stopped is if they are expected to verify their claims and are no longer exempted from laws prohibiting the practice of medicine without a license, among all of the many others they are not subject to. If Pat Robertson and Peter Popoff were charged with fraud for every time they did that weird headshaking thing and absolutely nothing positive occurred, they may just stop stealing from people in the name of God.
There's absolutely nothing divine about financially abusing the vulnerable, and if you'd demand the prosecution of a contractor who takes your granny's money without doing the job, why not go after these guys? The problem is that religious conmen have their hands ready to crush the balls of every politician in north america that attempts to demand them stand to account. the issue is church and state, and as long as the preachers have such an incestuous relationship with lawmakers, Peter Popoff will continue to add to his fleet of Porsches paid by the families of the sick and desperate.