Richard L. Roberts announced today (Wednesday, October 17, 2007) that he was stepping down indefinitely as President of Oral Roberts University, after weeks of accusations that he used university resources to back a local politician and to lavish extravagances on his family. His announcement comes just eight days after Roberts adamantly stated on national television: “I have not done anything wrong for which I needed to step aside.” “I pray and believe that in God’s timing, and when the board feels that it is appropriate, I will be back at my post as president,” Mr. Roberts said, according to a transcript posted by the Tulsa World.
The riveting saga began on October 2, when three former professors at Oral Roberts sued Mr. Roberts and the university, accusing him of pressuring them to work on a local political campaign. The suit also claimed that the professors had been harassed and intimidated after they accidentally came upon a document that purported to list dozens of instances of financial and ethical misconduct committed by Mr. Roberts and his wife, Lindsay Roberts.
According to that document, among many other accusations, Mr. and Ms. Roberts gave out scholarships to friends of the family, and in an allegation that became public only last week, Ms. Roberts repeatedly brought underage men to spend the night with her.
You will find extensive coverage of the lawsuit, the development of the whole legal saga, videos and slideshows here.
ORU’s “Praying Hands”: For God or More Money?
Three former Oral Roberts University professors made public on Friday what their lawsuit against Oral Roberts University describes as “the exact packet of information” that they allege got two of them fired and resulted in one’s resignation. Previous versions of the lawsuit contained only a summary of the report, which was partially written by the sister-in-law of ORU’s President Richard Roberts.
The full, unsubstantiated report now attached to the professors’ lawsuit now contains new charges that Lindsay Roberts, Richard Roberts’ wife, spent the night in a university guest house with an underage male nine times, was photographed 29 times in her car with an underage male after midnight and after minors’ curfew, visited Victory Christian School with an underage male 81 times in 2004, smoked with an underage male at her house and repeatedly moved her “male 16-year-old friend” into her family’s house.
The amended lawsuit also contains a new defendant, The Board of Regents of Oral Roberts University, as well as two new legal claims. The professors now claim that the board has neglected to properly oversee ORU, Richard Roberts and administrators. The lawsuit claims that Vice-Provost Jeff Ogle sexually harassed a professor, who was allegedly forced to resign while Ogle was promoted. The lawsuit also claims that the university and Richard Roberts gave “a convicted sexual deviant unrestricted access to the students of the university.” The unidentified man was a “mentor” to ORU students and had confessed to “exposing himself to a 15-year-old boy in a school locker room.” “This further demonstrates the board’s wanton and arrogant disregard for the safety of the students under its care,” the lawsuit states.
Further, the former professors claim that ORU and Richard Roberts fired the school’s financial comptroller just three days after they filed their lawsuit, then proceeded to destroyed “voluminous materials and documents . . . constituting spoilation of evidence“
Additionally, the ex-professors claim that Oral Roberts University, the board and administrators conspired to fire them, did so and then “instituted a smear campaign” against them. The lawsuit charges that at least one conspiracy meeting happened on ORU’s plane, which is leased from Tulsa Jet Management, whose president is Tulsa City Councilor Bill Christiansen. The ex-professors are each still asking for actual damages in excess of $10,000 and punitive damages in excess of $10,000.
Interested readers will find a detailed report of these new charges in The Tulsa World here.
Earlier in the week, I reported here about the scandal that was emerging at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa (OK). In that article, I wrote:
“Twenty years ago, on his widely viewed national televsion program, televangelist Oral Roberts announced to his viewers that he had been reading a spy novel when, all of a sudden, God visited him and ordered him to raise $8 million for Roberts’ university, or else he would be “called home.” Of course, not wanting that to happen, Roberts’ viewers showered him with vast amounts of money for the university.
Last Tuesday, three former professors at Oral Roberts University sued the evangelical institution in Tulsa (OK), filing a petition in state court that accuses the university’s current president, Oral Roberts’ son Richard L. Roberts, of using university resources to back a local mayoral candidate and to bankroll an extravagant lifestyle for his family. The lawsuit also says that university administrators tried to cover up the president’s involvement in the mayoral campaign when the Internal Revenue Service began investigating the nonprofit institution’s interventions into local politics.
The university immediately issued brief a statement regarding the lawsuit on Tuesday that read, in its entirety, “It is important for ORU students and their families, faculty and staff, alumni, partners as well as the general public to understand that this lawsuit is largely premised upon a compilation of incomplete statements, unsubstantiated rumors, and innuendoes. ORU will address these allegations through the legal process.”
Later in the week, Oral Roberts University President Richard Roberts, announced that God had recently visited him as well, ordering him to deny all of the lurid allegations that are contained in a lawsuit that threatens to bury this 44-year-old Bible Belt college in scandal. As mentioned before, Roberts is accused of illegal involvement in a local political campaign and extravagant spending at the university’s donors’ expense, lavish spending that has included numerous home remodeling projects, use of the university’s jet for his daughter’s senior trip to the Bahamas, and a red Mercedes convertible and Lexus SUV for his wife, Lindsay. She, in turn, is being accused of squandering tens of thousands of dollars on clothes, awarding nonacademic scholarships to friends of her children and sending scores of text messages on university-issued cell phones to people described in the lawsuit as ‘underage males.'”
Ralph Blumenthal reports in today’s edition of the New York Times that Mr. Roberts was on “Larry King Live” on Tuesday night with his wife, Lindsay, who is also included in the accusations. He denied having taken any improper political role, saying: “I didn’t ask or coerce anybody. That’s not true.” He and Mrs. Roberts also denied wrongdoing to a list of other accusations in the suit. Denials were also made to reporters who flew to New York with the Robertses in the university’s jet.
The original CNN news report on The Oral Roberts Lawsuit, as well as this Tuesday night’s “Larry King Live” television interviews with Richard and Lindsay Roberts are presented below:
CNN News: The Oral Roberts University Lawsuit
Larry King Live: Richard and Lindsay Roberts Defend Themselves (Pt. 1)
Larry King Live: The Roberts’ Defense (Pt. 2)
On Thursday (10/11/2007), David Kuo published a detailed response at Belief.net to the statements that were made by the Roberts’ while defending themselves during their television appearance on “Larry King Live.” In general, their statements were characterized as half truths and outright lies, nothing more than an attempt to conceal the facts of what has actually been going on at Oral Roberts University behind a deceptive display of smoke and mirrors. Readers will find the particulars of the rebuttal that David Kuo has published here.
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