On Saturday, The Daily Beast explored the problems plaguing Morningside USA, an “apocalypse-proof” gated community for evangelical end-times preppers founded by infamous televangelist Jim Bakker.
“A gated, stucco fortress in the southwest corner of Missouri’s Ozark mountains, Morningside is an evangelical Christian community built to rent condos right through the end of the world,” reported Kelly Weill. “Morningside is the name of Bakker’s Christian broadcasting empire, as well as the Missouri residential community from which he broadcasts. But it’s mostly made news in recent weeks because of its founder’s legal woes: various government agencies have accused Bakker of promoting a fake COVID-19 miracle cure.”
According to the report, the legal problems — and the pandemic itself — are devastating the community.
“The story of Morningside’s development involves two failed historical theme parks and two dozen criminal charges,” wrote Weill. “Bakker, now 80, was a star of the 1980s televangelist scene and even expanded into a biblical theme park until feds convicted him of an elaborate scheme to illegally skim millions off the amusement park. A former church secretary also accused him of sexually assaulting her and buying her silence, although he claimed to have only had consensual extramarital sex with her, and was never charged.”
“Twenty-four convictions on fraud and conspiracy charges in the amusement park scandal and four years in prison later, Bakker was released from lockup in 1994,” wrote Weill. “In 2008, he opened Morningside, a church complex/Christian broadcast studio/evangelical utopia on the former site of a follower’s Renaissance faire-themed amusement park. It was the ultimate survivalist sales pitch: Bakker claimed it could withstand an imminent apocalypse, and offered a variety of dwellings onsite. Higher-end homes included condos overlooking a shopping mall-like central meeting area, which also featured a chapel, a General Store, a cafe, and a 15-foot statue of Jesus.”
The problems began amid the legal fight over Bakker’s pitch of colloidal silver solution as a cure for coronavirus — something that has triggered investigations from the Federal Trade Commission and multiple state attorneys general.
“As a result of his legal woes, Bakker claimed to have been cut off from credit card processing companies,” wrote Weill. “In mid-April, he began begging followers to send physical checks, suggesting his legal fight was so expensive that he’d have to sell parts of Morningside unless his followers sent more money.”
“Morningside appeared to be saving some money the way many American businesses are: cutting its staff,” wrote Weill. “The recently laid-off employee said she was among many workers to lose their jobs when Morningside started practicing social distancing measures, like having its televangelist hosts film programs from home. ‘They had to let go of pretty much everyone except essential workers who were helping with production of the show who were essential like video editors or camera guys, or guys who worked in shipping,’ she said.”
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