In 1986, PTL employed 2,500 people worldwide and made $129 million in annual revenue, according to John Wiggerit’s The Rise and Fall of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s Evangelical Empire. Their Christian-themed resort, Heritage USA, was the third most-visited attraction in the United States that year, behind only Disneyland and Disney World, and the PTL network reached 14 million households. The Bakkers reportedly owned several residences, two Rolls Royces, a 55ft houseboat and a private jet.
On March 19, 1987, Jim resigned from PTL after the church secretary Jessica Hahn alleged the pastor sexually assaulted her in December 1980. Jim insisted the meeting was consensual and he was never charged with a crime, but he admitted to paying Hahn 265,000 $ from church funds to keep silent. An investigation into the department’s finances revealed that Jim had also sold so-called “lifetime memberships” to their Heritage Grand Hotel – to more people than there were rooms – for $1,000 a person. Also, PTL couldn’t account for $92 million in revenue.
Already hard at work launching a new television ministry in Orlando, Florida, Tammy Faye told a reporter before Jim’s trial for fraud, “If our case is judged according to the truth, we will win. I ask God that everyone world please just tell the truth… I pray for all men who lie.”
“Not only is Jim on trial, people,” she said on her show, “but the church we know is on trial. Anything to do with Christian TV is on trial when Jim walks in in this courtroom.”
In 1989 Jim, who pleaded not guilty, was convicted of 24 counts of wire fraud, mail fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud and sentenced to 45 years in prison. He served five years, his sentence was reduced on appeal, and upon his release wrote the autobiography I was Wrongin which he reveals that when he was 11, he was sexually assaulted by a male member of his family’s church, leaving him very confused about his sexuality. In 1998, he married Lori Beth Grahamthey have five children together and he chairs the Morningside Ministry in Blue Eye, Mo.