YORK, S.C. -- Kevin Whittum, a wheelchair-bound teen-ager ordered evicted from a home for handicapped children at the PTL television ministry's Heritage USA, is suing PTL and its former leader Jim Bakker.
Whittum, who is 28 inches tall and suffers from a rare bone disease, spent Friday, his 19th birthday, signing legal papers for the suit filed in the York County Court of Common Pleas, his attorney Melvin Roberts said Saturday.
The suit asks that PTL be directed to revoke an order evicting Kevin, his adoptive father David Whittum -- Bakker's first cousin -- moth- er Ione and adoptive sister Carolyn from the home by Sept. 10.
The suit alleges that PTL Chairman Jerry Falwell, who took over the ministry when Bakker resigned, is misrepresenting the source of the ministry's funds, according to court documents. It claims that Kevin's House should be allowed to remain a home for handicapped children, as Bakker told contributors, although the Whittums are the only family living in the 14,000-square-foot home.
Kevin's House also is entitled to all donations made to the home, the suit contends, and it demands a full accounting of the money.
"We've had various estimates, but we have no idea how much we're talking about," Roberts said. "If the money has legally and properly been spent -- and we have no problem with that -- an account would show what the truth is. Kevin may be surprised. He believes he's entitled to know."
Federal investigators are probing allegations that much of the $3 million Bakker received from PTL viewers in behalf of Kevin's House was spent for other purposes. Kevin Whittum sometimes appeared with Bakker on the former "Jim and Tammy Show" when Bakker sought donations.
Roberts said the only money being sought is resumption of David Whittum's $17,000 salary as caretaker of the house and legal costs.
Named in the action are Jim Bakker, Falwell, PTL Chief Operating Officer Harry Hargrave, PTL Chief Executive Officer Jerry Nims and Falwell spokesman Mark DeMoss.
David Whittum told the Charlotte, N.C., Observer last week that the suit names Bakker because Bakker had promised on his PTL television show that the Whittums would be allowed to live in Kevin's House. "The Bible says not to take your brother to court," Whittum said. "It would be wrong to take a brother to court if you're going to be vengeful about it. But I'm not vengeful. I'm taking him to court to get something done that is right."
PTL officials said about $3 million was raised to construct the home but poor design of the lavish two-story structure prevents it from becoming a home for handicapped children.
Under Falwell's administration, PTL fired David Whittum from his caretaker job on Aug. 11 and said the family must move out of the home in 30 days. PTL officials said the Whittums could relocate to another house on the ministry's grounds.
DeMoss, who supports the decision to move the Whittums, said Kevin's suit should be directed at Bakker rather than the current PTL administration.
"It is very sad to see Kevin exploited by the Bakkers and it is sadder still to see him now exploited by attorneys," DeMoss said. "Kevin is not being evicted from PTL but rather relocated to a house more suitable for one family."
Bakker stepped down from the multimillion-dollar television ministry March 19 after confessing to a sexual encounter with a church secretary. PTL filed for protection from its creditors June 12 under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code.