Televangelist Morris Cerullo's latest legal fray

TV network claims the preacher never paid balance on previous contract

Morris Cerillo (from Facebook)
  • Morris Cerillo (from Facebook)

Television evangelist Morris Cerullo is appealing to a higher power — the courts, to force Michigan-based religious broadcasting television network World Religious Relief, Inc., to resurrect airing Cerullo's faith-based programming.

Cerullo, a longtime San Diego-based televangelist and former owner of the El Cortez Hotel, is no stranger to controversy.

In the early 1990s, Cerullo used $7 million in proceeds from donations to purchase a portion of disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker's PTL Ministry. Later that year, Britain's Independent Television Commission pulled the plug on Cerullo's Victory with Morris Cerullo for claiming to have special healing powers, a violation of the country's television program laws.

More lawsuits followed, including one from a former executive for allegedly implementing "unethical and fraudulent fund-raising techniques."

Then in 2005, Cerullo, whose supposed mission was to convert Jews to Christianity, was indicted on three counts of tax evasion after investigators said he filed false claims for three straight years, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.

Now, Cerullo is back in court, this time at the plaintiff's table. According to a lawsuit, filed November 22 in San Diego Superior Court, Cerullo and his Morris Cerullo World Evangelism, Inc., says World Religious Relief took money intended for a new television contract to pay off a disputed debt, unbeknownst to Cerullo and his ministry.

The conflict between the two sides dates back to 2011, when World Religious Relief said Cerullo and Co. failed to pay money owed for broadcasting their programming. Cerullo disagree, the conflict went unresolved, and the balance allegedly owed went unpaid.

Then, in May of this year, believing the issue was resolved, Cerullo entered into another contract with World Religious Relief to run his religious programs on the network at a cost of $2000 per broadcast for the span of one year, a total of $52,000.

To kick off the programming, Cerullo wrote World Religious Relief a check for $17,000 to begin running the Victory Today show. Instead, however, the network informed the evangelist that the money would be used to pay off his 2011 debt and that no new shows would air until the entire balance was paid.

But Cerullo claims the ministry will never be able to pay the debt if it can't get donations from new programs.

"World [Religious Relief] knew that [Morris Cerullo World Evangelism] raises funds for its operations through donations solicited on its television programming and that donations from prior campaigns on World's network totaling in the multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars. And World was also aware that the processing of donations through television programming required that Morris Cerullo World Evangelism incur expenses to market upcoming airings, and to staff to operate call centers during the airing of its television programs."

Cerullo is asking punitive damages be awarded, that the new contract be honored, and he wants interest paid on all amounts due.

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