Jim Bakker's Son Tells His Story

ByABC News
July 13, 2001, 5:40 PM

July 13 -- Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker were America's reigning king and queen of televised religion, and their son Jay was their publicly adored prince.

But privately, Jay's needs often took a back seat to his parents' ambitions, and when Jay was in his adolescence, the burdens of his parents' fall from grace plunged him into alcoholism and rebellion.

Now, in an autobiography titled Son of a Preacher Man, Jay tells the story of how he battled to overcome his parents' demons as well as his own.

"I see this book as a small step but also a really important step of putting things behind me," he says.

The Good Life

Once upon a time it looked like no doors would ever be closed to the only son of Jim and Tammy Faye. Their ministry, PTL, was the most successful on television.

By preaching the promise of God's everlasting kingdom, the Bakkers raised enough money to build a kingdom of their own called Heritage U.S.A. part Christian retreat, part amusement park that eventually drew 6 million visitors a year.

To build the park, the Bakkers had to raise half a million dollars every day, and fund-raising sometimes took priority over child rearing. Jim and Tammy Faye tried to compensate by giving lavishly to their children.

"They got everything they wanted because we felt so guilty about having to work so much all they had to do is name a gift," says Tammy Faye.

Fallen Hero

In 1987, scandal rocked the Bakker household and the PTL empire. It became public that seven years earlier, while at a Florida fund-raiser, Jim Bakker had left his daughter on the beach while he went to a motel room and had sex with secretary Jessica Hahn.

This revelation of their affair cost Jim his ministry and turned him and his wife into national laughingstocks. Tammy Faye, in particular, was ridiculed for her extemely heavy eye makeup.

The humiliation was difficult for Jay. "I drank," he says, "I'd party just to get away from it I wanted to be someone else."