Controversial businessman offers millions to churches
By Bob Allen
April 19, 2005
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A man once known for barnstorming the country trying to sell dealerships for a machine he claimed would make free electricity from air is now offering churches grants up to $50 million to help bring “Christian values” to America.
In an introductory video on a Web site promoting “The Kingdom Grant,” Dennis Lee claims to represent a consortium of Christian businessmen planning to put $50 billion a year back into communities in order to “re-instill Christian values in the United States.”
He urges pastors to apply for awards of $5 million for every 100 members in their congregation. That means a church with 500 members would receive $25 million a year.
The Kingdom Grant site, featured in a Web ad in the April 19 issue of the Missouri Baptist Convention newspaper The Pathway, also promotes a pastor’s conference planned for May 5-6 in Springfield. Upon learning of the controversy surrounding The Kingdom Grant program, Pathway Editor Don Hinkle ordered the ads pulled until questions concerning the promotion could be answered satisfactorily.
Details of the plan are sketchy, but various reports indicate that Lee, who owns several businesses with the same Newfoundland, N.J., address listed for The Kingdom Grant, toured churches in 2004 sharing information about his Better World Technologies.
In a letter to churches, Lee claimed to be “on the brink of bringing out a new technology, which operates on a limitless supply of clean energy that may provide all the world’s energy needs, without any need to use fossil fuels.”
Since “energy and economy are virtually synonymous,” the letter continued, the device could generate huge wealth, which could in turn be poured into ministry.
Lee’s testimony, along with demonstrations of devices, reportedly lasts about two hours. While Lee said he normally charges $15 admission to one of his seminars, all he asked from churches was a voluntary passing of the offering plate to “cover some of our costs.”
In 2001 Lee toured the United States with seminars offering free energy for life for a one-time investment of $275. Lee, who reportedly had several brushes with the law over the last 30 years—including two years in a California prison in the mid-1990s—ran into more problems on the tour.
The attorney general in Tennessee got a temporary restraining order to bar him from doing business in the state. Washington state issued a cease-and-desist order accusing him of marketing unregistered securities and defrauding potential investors. He was arrested in Kentucky on charges of violating state consumer-protection laws. Vermont, Maine, Oregon, New Mexico and Alaska also reportedly filed legal action to prevent promotion of Lee’s free-energy claim.
Detractors describe Lee as a con man with a penchant for preying on evangelical Christians. According to one news story, he reportedly once cost religious broadcaster Pat Robertson $150,000, when Robertson pulled out of a retail-discount-card deal in 1978, accusing Lee of false advertising, operating a pyramid scheme and unauthorized sale of securities.
Lee, however, describes himself as a victim of a “conspiracy of technology” by powerful utility and government interests that would face financial ruin if his machines were to win acceptance. In his letter to churches, Lee said a “well-known prophet” 25 years ago forecast that he would “turn the business world around” and “finance the most fabulous revival that has ever hit the face of this planet.”
On a ministry Web site called Kings & Priests, Lee and his wife pledge to donate all profits from their energy technology company “to the Body of Christ.” In order to outwit attempted debunkers, they propose a series of 100 public demonstrations with 1.6 million people agreeing to witness technologies they claim will produce electricity for free.