TBN Denies Coverup

The world's largest Christian broadcasting network denied a report that its founder has sought repeatedly to prevent a former male employee from going public with allegations of a sexual encounter between them in 1996.

Paul Crouch, 70, president of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, reached a $425,000 settlement in 1998 with the former worker, Enoch Lonnie Ford, who contended that he had been unjustly fired from the network and threatened to sue, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.

Crouch later won a closed-door arbitrator's ruling against Ford, 41, when he tried to violate a provision of the settlement that barred him from discussing the alleged encounter, the newspaper said. In court papers, Crouch has denied the allegations, and ministry officials have described Ford -- who has a history of drug problems -- as a liar and an extortionist.

In a statement released Sunday, TBN said Crouch denies wrongdoing and agreed to settle the case "reluctantly" on the advice of attorneys and spiritual leaders, who said it would be better to reach a financial settlement than fight his accuser in court.

"The importance of the settlement does not rest on the money paid, but rather on Dr. Crouch's vehement denial of the allegations made against him as well as the agreement of the accuser to keep confidential and refrain from repeating his false claims and accusations," the statement said.

The Times quoted Sandi Mahlow, a Tustin, Calif., housewife and close friend of Ford, who defended him. "Lonnie had a lot of bad traits; one thing he isn't, and that's a liar," she said.

In a follow-up article Tuesday, the newspaper reported that the ministry has received unsolicited support from Christian leaders, including Doug Wead, who served as an adviser to former president George H.W. Bush; author Josh McDowell; and singers Pat Boone and Carman.

"We prepared for the worst and prayed for the best," aware that the allegations would surface during the weekend, said Paul Crouch Jr., eldest son of the religious broadcaster and a network executive. "So far our prayers are being answered. Most of the e-mails and calls have been very positive."

-- From wire reports

Black Baptist Reelected

The nation's largest black Baptist denomination has reelected the president who pulled the group out of an administrative and financial scandal.

At the annual meeting of the National Baptist Convention (USA), meeting in New Orleans, the Rev. William Shaw of Philadelphia was chosen over the Rev. Franklyn Richardson of Mount Vernon, N.Y. About 35,000 people took part in the meeting.

Shaw, 70, was elected to a second five-year term. Richardson, 55, was making his third run for office.

Shaw pledged to continue rehabilitating the denomination, whose business affairs were torn apart by predecessor president Henry J. Lyons, then a pastor in St. Petersburg, Fla. Lyons served nearly five years in prison for grand theft and racketeering and is now a Baptist pastor in Tampa.

Shaw ran on a record of paying off a debt of nearly $3 million on the denomination's headquarters in Nashville, improving financial controls and rewriting the constitution and bylaws. He has given up his $100,000 president's salary, a move he said showed his commitment to the denomination.

The National Baptist Convention, with a reported 5 million members, and the Church of God in Christ are the nation's two largest black organizations of any type.

-- Associated Press

Poll Looks at Teens

Teenagers are far more likely to seek out friends for help with ethical decisions than to ask a member of the clergy, a poll shows.

Eighty-three percent of teenagers polled said they would turn to friends for help in making such choices, followed by their parents (68 percent), teachers (27 percent), the Internet (24 percent) and clergy (14 percent).

Harris Interactive conducted the poll for Junior Achievement, an organization that educates young people about business, and Deloitte & Touche USA LLP, a major accounting firm.

The poll showed that almost one-third of teenagers surveyed think they have to "bend the rules to succeed." Twenty percent gave that answer in a similar poll last year.

"These poll results indicate that teens are getting mixed messages, so we continue to believe that ethics education must begin early, during formative years," said James H. Quigley, chief executive of Deloitte & Touche, in a statement.

David S. Chernow, president and chief executive of Junior Achievement Worldwide, said, "It is imperative that we as adults emphasize the importance of ethics to our young people in order to keep our free enterprise system, and our nation, strong."

The survey of 624 students was drawn from a larger Harris Interactive poll that was conducted via e-mail and weighted demographically to represent the nation. Conducted in July, the survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

-- Religion News Service