Reverend Carl Keyes, the "Ground Zero Pastor" who gained a high profile as a fundraiser and charity organizer after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, is under investigation for channeling up to $4.8 million of donation money to his personal coffers.
Keyes raised $4.8 million through several charity fundraising initiatives. More than half of that was intended for victims of 9/11. He also raised funds for Hurricane Katrina relief, African poverty relief, Appalachian poverty relief, and from the sale of church properties via his organizations, Aid for the World and Urban Life Ministries.
While some funds have helped in the various relief efforts, the AP reports that large sums were redirected to Keyes' mortgage, his son's student debts, a vacation home, lavish fundraising events, and church property renovations.
Keyes' charities have been cited by the IRS on several occasions for accounting discrepancies, and the Urban Life Ministries has recently lost its tax-exempt status. Staff report that Keyes blurs the lines between various funds, projects, and charities. He also appears to blur the truth, wildly overstating his past success and fame to convince investors to throw good money after bad.
Religious charities have done immeasurable good, and most religious charity organizations pay particular attention to their accounting departments. Many religious charities define their goals as supporting religious causes, such as evangelism and church building and maintenance. However, there are several examples of religiously-backed charities that use their volunteer network to support non-religious efforts like hunger relief with the bare minimum of overhead cost. Did you know that Salvation Army and Habitat for Humanity are both Christian?
But one bad apple can ruin the barrel. Christian pastors are livid over Keyes and his kind, perhaps even more so than other decent human beings, because it reflects on non-profit organizations. To steal people's money is one thing, to do it in the name of Jesus is a special kind of evil.