Bias Watch

Televangelist Jim Bakker claims religious freedom laws allow him to sell fake coronavirus cure

Jim Bakker
Jim BakkerPhoto: YouTube screenshot

Televangelist Jim Bakker, who went to jail decades ago for scamming his television congregation, is back in hot water for the same thing.

Bakker is being sued by the state of Missouri for selling a “Silver Solution” product that supposedly cured COVID-19, SARS, and sexually transmitted infections, and prevented HIV. His lawyers argue that Bakker’s “religious freedom” allows him to sell the concoction because he believes it was “divinely inspired.”

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The New York State Attorney General’s office, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Food and Drug Administration all warned Bakker’s company about promoting the product as a cure for the highly contagious virus.

He has been pushing his cure-all “Silver Solution” for at least a year now. Earlier this year, Bakker had “naturopath” Sherrill Sellman on his show to shill for Silver Solution and asked, “This influenza, that is now circling the globe, you’re saying that Silver Solution would be effective?”

“Well, let’s say it hasn’t been tested on this strain of the coronavirus,” Sellman replied, “but it’s been testing on other strains of the coronavirus and has been able to eliminate it within 12 hours. Totally eliminates it. Kills it. Deactivates it. And then it boosts your immune system, so then you can support the recovery.”

“Jim Bakker is being unfairly targeted by those who want to crush his ministry and force his Christian television program off the air,” Bakker’s attorney said in a press release. “The video recording of The Jim Bakker Show clearly shows the allegations are false. Bakker did not claim or state that Silver Solution was a cure for COVID-19. This case is about religious freedom.”

“Our sincerely-held religious beliefs require us to encourage our partners to prepare spiritually, mentally, and physically for the second-coming of Christ, and assist them in doing so by bringing experts to our broadcasts to teach how to accomplish this goal,” Maricela Woodall, president of Bakker’s Morningside Church Productions, said in a court declaration in the case.

“An integral part of this expressive ministry and practice, as well as the doctrinal teachings of our religion, includes educating our partners concerning, and offer them, products, including Silver Solution, that we believe have been made available to this generation by God. We believe in providing practical tools and supplies to prepare for the end-times, in connection with the solicitation of funds for the ministry.”

Bakker also pushes buckets of dehydrated food and other survival gear on his show to prepare for the end of the world.

“Each of the products offered on The Jim Bakker Show, including Silver Solution, are products that Pastor Bakker and Morningside feel divinely inspired to offer to the world,” she wrote.

His attorney argued in court documents that charging Bakker with fraud “requires excessive entanglement with religion, including the secular resolution of purely religious questions” and “constitutes impermissible regulation of their religious speech and religiously-motivated expressive conduct.”

Bakker, the former head of the PTL Club and developer of a Christian theme park, resigned after being accused of raping an employee and was later convicted of fraud charges as his religious empire crumbled around him in the 1980s.

Bakker spent five years in prison for bilking his followers out of millions of dollars to support a lavish lifestyle. His wife, Tammy Faye Messner, divorced him and became an advocate for LGBTQ rights before her death from cancer.

Bakker, after being released from prison and staging a comeback in televised ministry, went in the opposite direction. He is an ardent supporter of Donald Trump.

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