Rick Wiles Responds to Allegations of Wrongdoing
Last week Apostasywatch posted a link to a statement by Dr. Igor Shafhid alleging serious financial wrongdoing by Rick Wiles of Trunews ministry. You may read the statement here > Why I have Disassociated Myself from Trunews and Radio Host, Rick Wiles
After weeks of silence Wiles took to the airwaves Monday to offer a status report on the tent church and blast his critics with a promise of legal action. You may listen to Wiles broadcast in its entirety here>
Monday August 3, 2009 - Rick shares the latest information about the "America's Hope" tent project
Click here for audio TruNews Audio August 3 2009
During the broadcast Wiles interviewed a Mr. Charles Harrison who is the president of Del Tents in Williamstown Kentucky. Mr. Harrison assured listeners that the 80'x110' oval crusade tent was presently under construction in his factory and would be ready by August 31 at the latest. In his March 3rd broadcast, Mr. Wiles had told listeners that the tent was fully paid for and would be ready 30 days from that date. No explanation was offered as to the reason for the 4 month delay. Mr. Harrison explained that once the tent was completed, his company would ship it to Florida and could have it up and ready for occupancy in three days. Mr. Wiles said that he was aiming for an early October start for the tent project as the cooler weather would preclude the need for air conditioning and hurricane season would be over by then. Curiously Wiles also remarked that even though a suitable site has been made available for the tent he has yet to begin the process of obtaining the government permits required for such a project.
After the interview with Mr. Harrison, Wiles phoned another individual who verified that he was holding 1,000 chairs in storage for tent project. These two telephone interviews were the extent of Mr. Wiles attempts to answer the allegations against him. The big question however remains unanswered: Is the Trunews ministry a legitimate tax exempt charitable organization as Wiles claims or is it not as Dr. Shafhid has alleged.
The tax exempt status of any ministry should be simple enough to answer. All Mr. Wiles needs to do is let his listeners know the legal name under which his organization is incorporated as a 501c3 tax exempt charity. This information would allow anyone to verify that his ministry is registered with the IRS and with the state of Florida as required by law. It is unclear why Mr. Wiles refuses to release this information. What is clear is that requests for financial transparency from his donors have been met with the following statement:
Regarding your demand for internal documents, our written policy states that donors have no legal or civil rights to demand access to any of Trunews’ internal records, documents, files, accounts, statements, memos, correspondence, emails, logs, diaries, contracts, legal records, or any other written or electronic document. Accordingly, your demand for access to our private records is denied.
Mr. Wiles may or may not be within his legal rights in refusing to release financial documents. At this point we don't know because we have no way of knowing how his ministry is set up under IRS guidelines. A 501c3 charitable organization such as the Red Cross or United Way allows donors a tax deduction for their giving but these organizations are required to make all financial records available to the public. A 501c3 church organization offers the same tax deductibility but is not required to make public its financial information. Furthermore, no church is required to incorporate under the 501c3 statute in order to offer a tax deduction to donors but if tax deductions are offered, the organization must meet the IRS definition of a church. Requirements include such things as holding regularly scheduled meetings that are open to the general public. Churches that are not incorporated under the 501c3 statute but offer tax deductibility are known as 'free' churches. It is unclear whether or not Mr. Wiles Trunews ministry meets the IRS definition of a church for the purpose of tax deductibility but again we do not know because Wiles will not answer the question.
After claiming to put to rest the concerns about his tent project, Wiles spent the remainder of his broadcast vilifying Dr. Shafhid and his wife along with anyone else seeking the truth about this matter. He repeatedly stated that he is in the process of bringing legal action against the Dr. and those he termed 'co-conspirators'. Wiles read from the book of Nehemiah and identified his accusers with Sanballat and Tobiah the evil adversaries of those who were called to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
The comparison of Wiles tent project to Nehemiah's call to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem may sound good to his undiscerning listeners but there seems to be no instance in scripture of Nehemiah using the secular legal system to silence his critics. On the contrary Nehemiah stated explicitly that he made his prayer to God and trusted Him to quell his adversaries (see Nehemiah 4:9). Mr. Wiles seems willing to follow the scriptural example of Nehemiah only when it suits him but refuses to fully trust the Lord for the completion of his own project.
Rick Wiles threats of legal action have also been extended to us here at Apostasywatch. Within 48 hours of our posting a link to Dr. Shafhid's website statement we were contacted by Mr. Wiles who demanded that we immediately remove the link or face legal consequences. We advised Mr. Wiles that he had no legal basis for any action against us and that we had no intention of removing the link. In a subsequent email exchange we offered to allow Mr. Wiles an equal platform to tell his side of the story. Since he partially addressed the issue in his Monday broadcast we have provided the link to that audio as we promised to do. We do not believe however, that the issue has been fully resolved and it won't be until Mr. Wiles is willing to provide verifiable documentation regarding expenditures related to the tent project and be more forthcoming about the tax exempt status of his ministry.
Apostasywatch has attempted to be fair in our reporting if this issue. We have also advised Mr. Wiles that as a Christian he has no business taking a brother to court before unbelievers. We have asked him to repent of this action, answer the questions and if necessary submit to an arbitration led by a few Christian brothers to resolve the dispute between him and Dr. Shafhid. We believe this would be much preferable to a secular court action. At this point the ball is in Mr. Wiles court.
Below are copies of all our email correspondence with Rick Wiles.
From: Rick Wiles > firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Defamation, Libel, Slander
Date: 07/30/2009 09:54 PM
Your website has posted a slanderous statement by Mr. Igor Shafhid making false accusations against Trunews and me. I must notify you that Mr. and Mrs. Shafhid are conducting a campaign of defamation, slander, and libel against Trunews and me. This matter is headed to litigation in a Florida court. We demand that you remove the libelous statement from your website immediately. All correspondence and telephone communications between you and Mr. and Mrs. Shafhid will be subpoenaed during the lawsuit. I hope you will comprehend the seriousness of the offense committed by Mr. and Mrs. Shafhid against this ministry. Furthermore, the Bible clearly warns against making false accusations. If you do not remove the libelous material from your website, our legal counsel will be compelled to take action. I am confident you will make the right decision.
West Palm Beach, FL
Sent: Friday, July 31, 2009 8:21 AM
Subject: Re: Defamation, Libel, Slander
I have not posted any libelous or slanderous statement about you on my website. I have merely posted a link to Mr. Shahfids statement from his website. I have no intention of removing the link and you have no legal basis for forcing me to do so.
If you would like to respond to his charges I will be happy to post your response right next to his allegations. In your response I would hope that you would directly answer his questions regarding the money raised for the tent church and the questions regarding your tax exempt status.
From: Rick Wiles email@example.com
Subject: RE: Defamation, Libel, Slander
Date: 07/31/2009 08:09 AM
Our attorney is preparing a response to Mr. Shafhid. It will be filed in Palm Beach County Court. We asked you to remove the link. You have refused. Do you have an attorney?
Subject: RE: Defamation, Libel, Slander
Date: 08/04/2009 08:05 PM
I apologize for the delay in responding as we have been on the road and have had limited internet access for the last six days.
I must once again restate my position in this matter. Apostasywatch.com has published no libelous or defamatory statement against you or your ministry. We have simply reported the allegations against you. As a newsman yourself I'm quite certain you understand the difference between someone who makes an allegation and someone who merely reports that an allegation has been made. Surely you understand that we incur no legal liability for simply reporting the news. If you don't understand this I'm sure your attorney will be glad to explain it to you. Part of what we do here at Apostasywatch is report news of interest to the Christian community, much like what you do on your broadcast. The allegations being made against you are news and we intend to report this matter to the Christian community all the way to it's conclusion.
For the record I have never met Dr. Shafhid nor have I ever spoken with him by phone. The link to his statement was sent to me by one of my readers. Subsequently Dr. Shafhid did contact me by email and I have responded to that email. That is the extent of my contact with him.
Allow me also to reiterate my offer to you. If you would like to respond to the specific allegations being made against you I will be happy to post that response on my website. If you have already responded to these charges either by text or audio I will be happy to link to your response. Or if you prefer I would be willing to contact you by phone for an interview in which I will allow you to give specific answers to the questions regarding your tent church and the tax exempt status of your ministry. I think any reasonable person would see that we are attempting to be completely fair in our reporting. If you choose not to avail yourself of this opportunity we will simply report that your response is a threat of legal action against Dr. Shafhid and myself.
In your first email to me you reminded me of the scriptural prohibition against making a false accusation. At this time I would remind you of another scriptural prohibition, that of taking a fellow believer to court before unbelievers.
1Cor 6:1 & 7
Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?..........Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather [let yourselves] be cheated?
As a brother in the Lord my advise to you is to repent, answer the allegations and if necessary allow a small group of believers to arbitrate this matter between you and Dr. Shafhid. I would be happy to help facilitate such an arbitration which would be much preferable to all involved and much more beneficial to the body of Christ than allowing unbelievers to judge between two brothers.
It is my prayer that you will seriously consider all that I have said here and avail yourself of the opportunity to make things right between you and Dr. Shafhid
Steve Lumbley 2009
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