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Churches, religious groups got most of Scrushy’s donations

BIRMINGHAM (AP) — An analysis by The Birmingham News found that churches and religious groups received most of the $716,000 in donations distributed by the Richard M. Scrushy Charitable Foundation in 2005, the year pastors and leaders of those groups regularly attended Scrushy’s fraud trial.

The trial in Birmingham ended with the HealthSouth founder and former CEO being acquitted. A separate trial in 2006 in Montgomery ended with Scrushy and former Gov. Don Siegelman being convicted bribery and conspiracy.

The 2005 charitable donations, revealed in tax records recently made public, show that of the 25 organizations receiving donations, only three had no apparent connection with a church or religious organization.

That was a switch from earlier years when money went to many different kinds of groups, the newspaper reported.

The transition from secular to spiritual donations reflects changes in Scrushy’s own life. He has gone from being the well-known leader of a major healthcare corporation to being the founder of his own church and the host of an early morning television Bible show seen in Birmingham and Montgomery.

The transition began in 2003, the year Scrushy was indicted on fraud charges. His foundation reported one donation to a church that year — $1.05 million to Guiding Light Church, a predominantly black church that Scrushy began attending in 2003.

In 2004, his foundation made donations totaling $882,000, around $700,000 of which was to predominantly black churches and groups that made up the so-called “Amen Corner” that showed up daily at his six-month trial.

Pastors of churches that received money from the foundation have said their backing of Scrushy during the trial came out of support for a fellow Christian they felt was innocent of the charges, not due to donations from his foundation.

The donations in 2005 also went mostly to religious groups.

Tax documents show the largest donations in 2005 were $164,000 to Guiding Light and $151,075 to Project One, an organization headed by Pastor James “Scott” Moore of Trinity Life Church in Bessemer. Trinity Life also received a separate $37,000 donation from Scrushy’s foundation in 2005.

Fraction of donations

Those numbers were a fraction of what the foundation gave in 2004, when it donated $313,000 to Guiding Light and $300,000 to Trinity Life, documents show. The foundation gave $11,000 to Project One that year.

Moore supported Scrushy during the trial and founded the Kingdom Builders religious organization with him. Moore has also been a regular guest on “Viewpoint,” the religious television show hosted by Scrushy and his wife Leslie.

Scrushy’s foundation gave $107,000 to World Outreach Ministries of Jacksonville, Fla., lead by Bishop Lewis Jones, who lived with the Scrushys during the trial and accompanied them to the courthouse most days.

Special Forces for Jesus, whose leader Sherry Connor was a fixture at the fraud trial, received $71,500 from the foundation last year.

“Willing Wenkins at Bethel Baptist Church” was listed as getting $25,000. Bethel Baptist received a separate donation of $18,000.

The Rev. Tommy Lewis of Bethel Baptist regularly attended the trial and is a member of Kingdom Builders’ Apostolic Council along with Scrushy and Trinity Life’s Moore.

Scrushy reported a $25,000 donation to Christ Temple Deliverance Church, whose pastor, Theo Bailey, has been a vocal supporter of Scrushy.

Three other churches whose ministers either supported Scrushy at the trial or appeared regularly on his TV show received donations ranging from $2,500 to $4,400. The filing with the Internal Revenue Service also showed that Scrushy took no payment in 2005 for his work as director of the foundation, which finished the year with $8.2 million in assets.

His daughters, Christa Plaia and Amy Adams, received $32,400 and $18,000, respectively, for their work with the foundation in 2005, the filing shows. The document said the two each worked an average of 40 hours per week for the foundation.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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