- (Photo: AP Images / Maura Lynch)
Family Stations, Inc., a ministry known for promoting its founder's May 21, 2011, Judgment Day prediction, spent more than $5 million on billboard advertising the year the big event was predicted to occur.
In 2009 and 2010, the organization, led by radio host Harold Camping, spent more than $137,000 and $732,000 on advertising, respectively, though tax documents for those years do not indicate whether those amounts include the cost of billboards. In 2011, the cost of the signs was listed separately from the amount spent on advertising, which was nearly $700,000.
The Oakland, Calif.-based organization used 1,200 billboards nationwide to promote the prediction, according to CBSnews.com. It also spread word about the event in 84 languages through its Family Radio network as well as through the use of caravans.
The ministry was believed to have spent as much as $100 million on the caravan and billboard campaign, according to The Los Angeles Times. The signs said things like "Noah Knew" and "Save the Date! Return of Christ May 21, 2011" and directed people to a website, WeCanKnow.com.
Tax documents also reveal what appears to be a changing of the guard in the position of ministry president.
Camping is listed as president of the organization on all three tax documents, each of which are signed by Gary Cook. Cook signed the papers for 2009 and 2010 as the organization's accounting manager, but on the 2011 documents he signed as the ministry's president.
Susan Espinoza, Camping's daughter, refuted claims in November 2011 that her then 90-year-old father had retired from working with the ministry. Prior to receiving Espinoza's comments, CP was told by a documentarian who spoke with Camping that the radio host had retired.
"He no longer hosts the Open Forum, but he remains the General Manager of Family Radio," Espinoza wrote in an email to CP at the time. "Mr. Camping often jokes that he is 'retired' now because he works from home instead of going in to the office. It is not a word he would ever use with a reporter."
Family Stations' total revenue in 2011, most of which came in the form of contributions, grants and gifts to the ministry, was more than $21.9 million, though it is unclear how much was brought in prior to the May 21 prediction failure. The organization's expenses were nearly double its revenue that year at more than $43.5 million in costs.
Camping, a former civil engineer, first falsely predicted the world would end on Sept. 6, 1994. He later predicted in 2005 that around 200 million people would be raptured at 6 p.m. on May 21, 2011, while those left behind would suffer five months of torment afterward.
When his prophecy didn't come to pass, he explained that a "spiritual" judgment had occurred but the physical rapture would happen on Oct. 21, 2011. Shortly after that final date came and went, however, Camping apologized for misleading his followers and for saying God had stopped saving people after May 21.
The Christian Post was told by a Family Radio representative that its leadership is not taking interview requests at this time.
Barry Bowen contributed to this report