Warrant issued for Teen Mania founder
Religion | Ron Luce fails to appear at Colorado hearing related to Compassion International’s lawsuit against the Christian youth ministry
by J.C. Derrick
Posted 10/01/15, 09:24 am
A Colorado court has issued an arrest warrant for Teen Mania Ministries founder Ron Luce for failing to appear at a hearing last month, according to court documents.
The 4th Judicial District Court in Colorado Springs, Colo., issued the warrant on Sept. 8 (as noted on a document released by the court), the day of a show cause hearing in connection to Compassion International’s lawsuit against Teen Mania. Compassion International filed the complaint last November and is seeking a $174,124.73 judgment.
Luce declined to comment when I reached him by phone, but the court confirmed to me the warrant is still outstanding as of Wednesday afternoon. Compassion International also declined to comment, citing the ongoing litigation.
More than 3 million teens have attended Teen Mania’s weekend Acquire the Fire events over the last three decades. Compassion International paid Teen Mania for stage time at these events and would make appeals for attendees to sponsor needy children. Amid ongoing financial issues, Teen Mania canceled many of its events in 2014 and 2015—including one in Baltimore last weekend—leaving Compassion International without the opportunity to secure sponsors.
“It was a breach of contract,” said Brian Chinn, who was Teen Mania’s director of international operations until March 2015. “They’re now at a point where they can’t pay back people. People are being suckered.”
The Compassion International lawsuit is the latest in a string of Teen Mania financial problems, including foreclosure on its 472-acre East Texas property in early 2014. Charity Navigator ranks Teen Mania as the nation’s fifth-most insolvent charity with a net worth of negative-$5.2 million.
Teen Mania, which, according to its website, is down to three employees working with Luce, continued to schedule events, even though many of them have ended up being canceled. Reviews of the Acquire the Fire Facebook page show many people have trouble obtaining refunds.
“I spent $600 out of my personal bank account in faith,” wrote Jolie Roth, who said she had registered for a Pittsburgh event in March. After repeated inquiries, she received a call in July: “They just told me that they have no more money left. … I started crying because this did hurt me financially. Ironically, I was trying to sell some of my clothes when I got the call.”
A woman named Tammy Skalsky claimed she had been trying to obtain a refund for two years. Roth said she is considering a class-action lawsuit.
“At this point, people need to understand you’re not going to get any money from them—you’re just not,” Chinn told me. “I’m concerned more people are going to get hurt.”
In July, Teen Mania did hold an Acquire the Fire event in Myanmar (also known as Burma), which Chinn said was strange considering all the outstanding bills. Chinn said last winter teens had paid the ministry for mission trips, but after the money was spent elsewhere, he was only able to purchase airfare for the trips because of a $1.4 million estate gift to the ministry. He said the money was quickly spent.
Teen Mania’s Global Expeditions website currently lists scheduled trips to Mexico and Guatemala.
The board of directors of Teen Mania has continued to experience turnover during the last two years. It currently includes George Babbes, a professor at Azusa Pacific University; Chris Hill, senior pastor of The Potter’s House in Denver; Steve Riggle, pastor of Grace Community Church in Houston; Marcos Witt, a musician and former pastor at Lakewood Church in Houston; Jim Williams, president of LandPlan Development Corp.; and A.C. Musgrave, president of Petra Chemical Companies and Petra Industries Inc.