A day after the White House confirmed televangelist Paula White would be joining the administration last Thursday, President Donald Trump’s personal pastor says he wanted to build her a megachurch similar to the Crystal Cathedral in Los Angeles where she would be in charge.
“He wanted to build a house of God,” White told the Washington Examiner about plans Trump had in 2006 to build the glass cathedral. “He said, ‘Let’s do this, let’s build this before we’re too old,’” said White who is also referred to as White-Cain due to her marriage to the band Journey’s Jonathan Cain.
Trump had already gotten an architect and was excited about her leading the church but she said the time wasn’t right. Her ministry at the time was flourishing and she was on the verge of a second divorce which came in 2007.
Trump had a strong desire, however, to build a church.
“It was part of a dream,” she said. “He said, ‘Let’s build a crystal cathedral for God.”
The Crystal Cathedral in Los Angeles was originally commissioned by late televangelist Rev. Robert H. Schuller. The building had served as the backdrop of the world's longest-running evangelistic television program in the world, "Hour of Power." After bankruptcy, it was sold to the Catholic Church and reopened in July as Christ Cathedral.
While White, who has been serving as spiritual adviser to Trump for 18 years, didn’t take up Trump’s offer to lead his version of the crystal cathedral, she recently accepted his offer to work in the White House in an advisory role at the Office of Public Liaison with the Faith and Opportunity Initiative established in May 2018 by the president. Under different names, the faith-based office began under President George W. Bush and continued under President Barack Obama.
The Faith and Opportunity Initiative was established by executive order to assist faith-based and other organizations in their efforts to strengthen the institutions of civil society and American families and communities.
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“These organizations lift people up, keep families strong, and solve problems at the local level. The executive branch wants faith-based and community organizations, to the fullest opportunity permitted by law, to compete on a level playing field for grants, contracts, programs, and other Federal funding opportunities. The efforts of faith-based and community organizations are essential to revitalizing communities, and the Federal Government welcomes opportunities to partner with such organizations through innovative, measurable, and outcome-driven initiatives,” the order says in part.
Earlier this year in May, White installed her only child, Bradley Knight, as senior leader at her predominantly black congregation, New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka, Florida, which is now known as City of Destiny.
At the time, she said she would continue to operate Paula White Ministries but will preach for her son as often as he needs her to. She noted further noted that she had big plans to plant 3,000 churches and provide oversight for pastors as well as launching a university. If this arrangement still exists, Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a campaign finance watchdog said it could be problematic for White. White is also still listed as senior pastor on City of Destiny’s website.
When asked if White had divested her financial stake in the church by The New York Times, a White House spokesman said they would not comment. It was confirmed however that White would not be paid a salary.
“My sense is if she is leaving her church position and making a clean break that there would be no I.R.S. problem,” Wertheimer said. “If she is continuing in an official public role for the church while working in the White House that would cause a tax status problem as she would be using the church for political purposes.”