Harold Camping Capitalized on Fears, Atheist Group Says

Another humanist group has joined the call to demand an investigation into Harold Camping and how he deceived many people with his May 21 Judgment Day forecast.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter, dated May 31, to California Attorney General Kamala Harris, saying "untold numbers of people" have been duped by Camping and Family Radio.

"Camping convinced droves of his loyal listeners and adherents that the end of the world was rapidly approaching and that people had only until May 21, 2011, to 'find' religion," FFRF wrote, as it asked Harris to launch a probe for fraud and deceit.

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"Our organization seeks to hold Camping accountable in a more tangible way."

The organization, based in Madison, Wis., accuses 89-year-old Camping of capitalizing on his followers' fears and enlisting their pocketbooks in order to spread his doomsday message to the rest of the world, spending more than $100 million on ads.

FFRF is refusing to wait until November, when Family Radio's 2010 tax returns would be available to the public, to know how the millions of dollars in contributions have been allocated by Family Radio.

"The California Attorney General's Office has a duty to protect the public from predatory charities, and we hereby request that the Charitable Trusts Section investigate and, if appropriate, take legal action against Family Stations Inc., for its potential fraudulent misuse of charitable assets."

Camping is president and co-founder of Family Stations Inc. Over the past few decades, the broadcaster has made several predictions about when the world would come to an end. In his latest forecast, Camping said May 21 would be the day true believers are raptured to heaven while the rest of the world suffers the beginning of Judgment Day.

After that day passed, Camping offered several excuses and revealed his new conviction that Judgment Day came on the world spiritually and not physically, as he had originally predicted, and that the rapture and apocalypse would happen on the same day – Oct. 21, 2011.

When pressed about money, Camping defended himself and the organization last month, maintaining that they are "absolutely honest" and that the money is being used wisely to spread the Gospel.

He said he works as a volunteer and doesn't receive compensation from Family Radio.

But several of Camping's followers have come out, revealing that they spent their life savings, contributed significantly or quit their jobs for the May 21 doomsday campaign. When asked to return the money to them, Camping replied, "Why would we return it?"

"We're not out of business. We still have to go another five months. ... Maybe by Oct. 21 we'll only have $10 left."

FFRF questioned whether Camping and Family Stations really even believed the prediction. Leading up to May 21, Family Radio requested an extension in Minnesota to file their nonprofit paperwork on Nov. 15, FFRF pointed out. Moreover, employees at Family Stations had fully expected to return to work the Monday after the supposed rapture date and continued to solicit donations.

Notably, a number of employees at Family Radio, including Matt Tuter, have said that most of them do not believe in Camping's predictions.

Nevertheless, FFRF contends that Camping may have committed deceit or fraud "in persuading his followers to donate often large sums of money to his organization based on a claim ... while objectively conducting his business as though he knew it to be untrue."

"The magnitude of the devastation wreaked upon the lives and livelihoods of Camping's and Family Stations' followers warrants attention by the office charged with protecting the public against the illegal actions of corporations and nonprofits," FFRF asserted in its letter.

"If self-proclaimed 'prophets' are fraudulently enriching their coffers at the expense of their impressionable members, the Attorney General's Office must take action."

Last month, Seattle Atheists also called for an investigation for fraud, noting the suicides and the negative impact that the May 21 rapture dud has had.

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