Scandal Tests Faith at Oral Roberts University

University president accused of using school money for personal recreation.

ByABC News via logo
February 18, 2009, 10:40 AM

Oct. 9, 2007 — -- Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla., a school built on faith, is now having its faith tested.

Accusations have surfaced of money laundering by Richard Roberts, the university's president and son of its founder, Oral Roberts.

Three professors, John Swails, Tim Brooker and Paulita Brooker, were fired for allegedly voicing concerns about the university's involvement in Tulsa's recent mayoral race a move that would jeopardize the school's tax exempt status.

"We turned it over to the board of trustees, and at that point we all found ourselves separated from the university," Swails said.

The professors' lawsuit alleges that Roberts took money from the university's coffers and remodeled his family home 11 times in 14 years, spent more than $26,000 on his daughter's senior trip and even required university employees to complete her homework.

The suit also alleges that Roberts' wife, Lindsey, spent more than $39,000 of the school's money on clothing and ran up more than $800 monthly in cell phone bills, which included hundreds of text messages in the middle of the night to "underage males who had been provided phones at university expense."

"I am not intimidated by blackmail and extortion," Roberts said in response to the accusations.

Roberts is the son of Oral Roberts, who started his namesake's ministry in Southern tent revivals and grew it into one of America's largest evangelical empires. He founded the university in 1963 in Tulsa, building a futuristic campus for a university he hoped would last forever.

Now, with that future in jeopardy, Roberts told his congregation last week that God had told him to fight the allegations.

"He accused us of being extortionists, blackmailers and that that it was God's words about us," Tim Brooker said.

But the professors believe something different.

Swails said, "I suggest that wasn't the Lord that told him, because the Lord is telling us different things."