Flamboyant TV preacher Benny Hinn made a foray into Washington, D.C., in late January, offering to meet with U.S. senators.
Hinn, who has been criticized for his extravagant lifestyle and controversial claims of faith healing, was squired around the nation's capital by Robert K. Gray, a former official in the Eisenhower administration who now runs a real estate and public relations operation in Florida.
"Pastor Benny Hinn is one of our most famous international citizens," read a Gray message to Senate offices. "In addition to dozens of crusades in stateside cities in 2006, Pastor Benny personally preached to over a million citizens in major countries like Italy, Japan, England, Greece, Korea, Denmark and Australia. He also preached to several hundred thousand in areas as remote as Fiji, Trinidad and Indonesia."
Hinn offered to conduct a "five-minute prayer session" with senators. A staffer in Gray's office told Church & State in February that Hinn met with "several" senators, but she declined to name them.
Hinn's ministry has repeatedly been the target of journalistic exposes focusing on his high-flying lifestyle, shady finances and grandiose faith-healing crusades. About two years ago, NBC's "Dateline" ran an expose on Hinn's operation, noting that Hinn lives in a ministry-owned seven-bathroom, eight-bedroom mansion overlooking the Pacific Ocean valued at $10 million. He claims this house is a "parsonage."
The story also noted that when traveling, Hinn stays in five-star hotels and once bedded down in a suite in a London hotel that cost more than $10,000 per night.
His ministry owns a private jet, and Hinn gets around town in a Mercedes SUV and a Mercedes convertible, each costing about...