Kong Hee, pictured here, is the founder of City Harvest church in Singapore, now one of their largest evangelical mega churches with over 23,000 members. The news is that he has been charged with financial fraud … specifically, funneling millions of dollars to fund his wife’s singing career.
The UK’s Guardian reports …
City Harvest church founder Kong Hee, 47, was charged with three counts of conspiracy to commit criminal breach of trust over a scheme to syphon at least S$23m (£11.5m) of church funds from 2007 to 2010 to finance the singing career of his wife, Ho Yeow Sun.
Known professionally as Sun Ho, the 40-year-old has put out several Mandarin and English pop albums and songs, including a 2007 collaboration with pop star Wyclef Jean called China Wine. She has not been charged.
Kong did not enter a plea and was freed on bail after his passport was seized. He faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.
He did not do this alone, apparently four other church leaders have also been charged.
The deeper you dig, the more familiar it all looks, the usual boxes can be ticked … mega church … leader with very lavish lifestyle and has a $20,000 a month mansion … turns out to be a complete fraud. The Washington post also reports this story, it was no small sum; apparently he used over $18 Million (US) of church funds to finance his wife’s singing career (that is $23 Million Singapore dollars).
One can only wonder what is going through the heads of the members. They have very clearly been the victims of a massive fraud, yet the church is still up and running and will no doubt continue to thrive. Past experience is an indicator of future behaviour, and so looking back we can see what happens when a powerful charismatic leader turns out to be a complete fraud. The classic example is of course Peter Popoff in the US who was exposed as a complete fraud, yet today still thrives and reaps a considerable flow of funds from the gullible.
What is also quite interesting is that the claims made for religious conversion, a process that will magically transform lives, is demonstrated to be a complete sham … and yet they still come.
Now, looking at this specific church, Joy Tong writes about them in “Religious commodifications in Asia: marketing gods” that “The church has “severe teachings” against gossip and slander which according to Tong has been used to prohibit members from talking about negative feelings or reservations held felt against church leaders or church policies”, so I suspect what may happen is that any attempt to parse this will be suppressed and tagged as Satan, and so beliefs will not crumble but rather will be re-enforced.
Part of their belief system appears to be what can best be termed the prosperity Gospel. You get rich, not by hard work, but by generous offerings, in order to receive “divine blessing”; by giving to God (their church not just any charity) as much as possible in their tithe, members can “reap the fruits of their investment as higher returns, both spiritually and materially”. Yep, yet another sign of outright fraud. This is of course simply a modern form of the medieval Indulgence, and just as then utterly unscrupulous fraudsters have worked out that they can tap into a huge flow of funds by simply telling people they will be rewarded “spiritually” by donating.
What I have also found out is that Students in their School of Theology (formerly known as City Harvest Bible Training Centre) are required to “address all pastors by their proper titles whenever they meet … failure to do so will bring about disciplinary action (You can see that here in their rules, see section 6.5.5) … yikes, that is very very controlling and very scary that they manipulate to this degree. So yes, this little storm may rock the boat, but sadly, with such controls in place, the ship will simply carry on sailing over the horizon carrying a lot of gullible idiots with it.