Two members of President Donald Trump’s evangelical advisory group are locked in a nasty legal dispute involving allegations of a multimillion-dollar Holocaust fundraising scam.
Mike Evans, a Texas author and Christian Zionist activist, this summer filed a federal lawsuit against Jentezen Franklin, a Georgia mega-pastor who has been featured at Trump campaign events. The two men had in 2017 launched a fundraising project to benefit Holocaust survivors in Israel and raised millions for the cause, but Evans’s suit alleges Franklin turned over only $1.2 million — withholding more than $3.3 million he’d raised.
“We regretfully have not been given any options, in that Franklin has used our work to fundraise and has refused to send the money,” Evans wrote The Washington Post Wednesday, alleging Franklin acted “exploitatively” toward survivors.
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Georgia accuses Franklin of fraud and conspiracy, and alleges Franklin was “trading on Evans’ personal reputation and credibility in Israel” and using him to meet influential Israelis.
Franklin is head of the 14,000-member Free Chapel church, based in Gainesville, Ga.
Evans’s accusations are “absurdly false,” Darrell Miller, an attorney representing Franklin and Free Chapel, told The Post in a statement. “Our clients have not misappropriated a single penny from Mike Evans, his organization or any other charitable endeavors.”
In a September motion to dismiss Evans’s suit, Franklin argued that whatever agreement the two men had was not an enforceable contract, and that Evans would have no standing to sue anyway because any money was meant for Holocaust survivors and not Evans. Franklin said in the motion that he has visited Israel on his own for years, donated to other charitable projects there, has his own networks in Israel and didn’t need Evans.
“The value received by Pastor Franklin and his ministry is the knowledge that they are doing God’s work,” the motion reads.
Evans and his lawyers, the motion continues, “contend that any Christian ministry that agrees to participate in a humanitarian project abroad must continue to do so even if other humanitarian needs are greater in different parts of the world.”
One of Franklin’s lawyers, Andrew Brettler, told The Post that the millions raised by Franklin went to Evans, fundraising costs and to other groups in Israel working on similar causes.
Several members of Trump’s advisory board, according to Evans, reached out to offer to help him settle the suit with Franklin. The board is an informal group of evangelicals who advise a president they see as supportive of their key causes: minimal oversight and limits on religious organizations, social conservatism and support for Israel’s government.