The founding pastor of a megachurch in Singapore that preaches a "prosperity gospel" has been convicted, along with five other church leaders, of fraud after a judge concluded he had used US$36 million in donations to fund his wife's international pop star career.
Pastor Kong Hee of the evangelical City Harvest Church and five aides maintained that the purpose of the so-called Crossover Project was to broaden the church's appeal and evangelize using secular pop music. But as details of the wife's public pop persona emerged — including a music video where she bumps and grinds in underwear alongside hip hop artist and songwriter Wyclef Jean — some churchgoers began to suspect the music was less about Christian values and more about corruption.
The singer, Ho Yeow Sun, a church leader who became known as the Chinese Geisha of pop and goes by the name Sun Ho, was not charged with wrongdoing. This week, Ho, 43, lamented her part in the saga, telling the online news arm of CHC that she was forced into a world whose values were "poles apart" from those of the church.
"People in the church world were upset with me, asking how could a pastor's wife do this, and people in the entertainment world were suspicious of me," said Ho. "Many times, I asked God how long more I had to do it."
Ho said she thought about quitting the projectseveral times, but that when fans would approach her after a concert, she believed it was "worth it."
"So much happened during the Crossover but one thing I remember most clearly is this: standing on the stage each night, after I share my testimony, and seeing the souls come forward, telling myself, 'It's all worth it, it's all worth it.'"
At one point in the project, Ho worked with Jean to develop a unique genre of "Asian-reggae" in her single "China Wine." That partnership came to an end in 2008 when Jean exited the project after negotiations faltered over his US$1.75 million producer fee.
In court, Kong said that his wife's success in the US was key to greater impact for the Crossover Project and would give City Harvest Church a "greater open door for the gospel to be preached … in every territory around the globe."
He also claimed that church members were "very, very supportive, very happy, very positive, very grateful that God was able to use her and they kept praying for her, they kept praying for the Crossover Project."
Indeed some members have supported the leaders throughout the case that began in 2012, and said they believed in the Crossover Project to help reach nonbelievers.
The presiding judge in the trial, See Kee Onn, didn't agree. On Wednesday, he found Kong and the leaders guilty on three counts of criminal breach of trust. Those charges were related to the embezzlement of S$24 million (US$17 million) from congregants meant for building and other investment-related activities, and then the misappropriation of a further S$26m (US$18.5 million) to cover up the first crime from auditors.
"Evidence points to a finding that they knew they were acting dishonestly, and I am unable to conclude otherwise," the judge told the courtroom.
Singapore is not known for treading leniently on people accused of corruption. Kong could face life in prison for the criminal breach charge, while the four others could land in jail for up to 10 years and receive a fine for falsifying accounts.
Kong and Ho founded CHC in 1989, and since then it has grown to a congregation of approximately 17,500 people. The megachurch bases its values on Charismatic and Pentecostal teachings, and has several affiliated churches abroad, including in the US, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, and Australia.
If this does not get the skeptics going wild on the moon debate, we don’t know what will.
In the video presentation below, NASA engineer Kelly Smith explains about many of the risks and pitfalls surrounding the new Orion Deep Space Mission to the planet Mars.
Surprisingly, chief among Kelly’s concerns is whether or not his spacecraft can successfully pass through the perilous Van Allen Radiation Belts. Such is the prospective danger in fact, that NASA will have to send a dumbie craft first in order to ‘test out’ what the potential radiation effects will be on future human crews, as well as on the ship’s delicate sensors and equipment.
Hold on. Why the guessing game by NASA? Why don’t they just use the same 1969 technology they are said to have used on the first Apollo moon missions?
SuperPerformance72 explains, “This video released by NASA about the upcoming Orion space exploration craft, shows a NASA scientist admitting that they still haven’t worked out how to properly shield the spacecraft from the radiation emitted from the Van Allen belts.”