US television evangelist tells sick Scots to expect miracles

A CONTROVERSIAL American televangelist who claims he can "cure" cancer is bringing his spiritual roadshow to Scotland, sparking a wave of anger.

Fundamentalist preacher Richard Roberts is due to host a healing session in Glasgow where he will tell the seriously ill to "expect miracles". People will also be asked for "offerings".

One of the country's most respected cancer specialists has denounced the claims as "cruel and damaging" and has questioned whether the event should go ahead.

Glasgow City Council has stated that Roberts could face prosecution if he makes unsubstantiated claims over his alleged medical powers.

A spokesman for the Bible Belt cleric insists he has already "healed" as many as 100,000 cancer sufferers around the globe and can offer hope to chronically ill Scots.

But Roberts was forced to quit his lucrative post as president of an American college amid claims he abused his position and embarked on "Imelda Marcos-style" spending sprees with the institution's funds.

The board of Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma passed a vote of no confidence in him after it was alleged he used college money to buy a fleet of expensive cars, keep horses, convert a study into a wardrobe for his wife's designer clothes, employed academics to do his children's homework and used the university jet to fly his daughter to the Caribbean.

Roberts will visit Glasgow's Destiny Church, an independent evangelical organisation, on May 6, and pledges that, through "the holy spirit", he will cure the sick.

A promotional leaflet states: "Bring your family and invite your friends and witness healing miracles from the Lord. Come expecting your miracle".

The event is free, but people will be invited to make financial "offerings" afterwards.

Professor Jim Cassidy, head of Glasgow University's Centre for Oncology, believed the event would give false hope to the most vulnerable.

He said: "Undoubtedly there will be lots of people who wish to take up this offer. People do clutch at straws, but this is likely to be quite damaging to them.

"It would be interesting to challenge the legality of these claims."

The cancer specialist was concerned by the idea of people feeling obliged to pay money to receive "healing".

"The idea that this individual can cure your cancer is quite cruel. I'd be keen to find out if there was way of stopping such a thing."

Glasgow City Council's Trading Standards Unit confirmed it was monitoring the situation. A spokesman said: "If Mr Roberts, or anyone else, advertises or promises a cure for cancer then he is likely to be in breach of consumer protection regulations.

"Anyone advertising a product, which includes a service, must be able to deliver."

Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society has attended similar gatheringsand described them as "dangerous and exploitative".

"I attended a meeting at Wembley held by an another American televangelist called Morris Cerullo.

"They didn't charge you anything to get in, but before long around came the little envelopes where you could provide your credit card details. There is a real danger that vulnerable people can end up parting with sizeable sums of money through sheer desperation."

Cerullo later caused controversy after a women he had pronounced "cured" of epilepsy stopped taking her medication and drowned in bath following a seizure.

Sanderson said: "Telling people they are cured when they are not is downright dangerous as well as being exploitative.

"We shall be keeping a very close eye on Mr Roberts during his time in the UK and challenging each and every unsubstantiated claim he makes."

Cancer Research's chief clinician Professor Peter Johnson said: "We would urge any cancer patient to continue with the scientifically proven medical treatments prescribed by their cancer specialist"

A UK spokesman for Richard Roberts said: "I have been at services where the crippled have walked, the blind have seen and the deaf have heard.

"But there is no guarantee that everyone who attends will be cured, it just depends on that night."

He added: "Richard Roberts has a healing programme in Tulsa and probably over 100,000 people have been healed of cancer over 15 years.

"These are documented cases and our advice to sceptics is to come along and see."

The Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association, an international organisation of which Roberts is head, has an estimated annual turnover of more than $14m (9.5m).

Much of the money is raised through appeals on numerous TV networks.

A spokeswoman for Destiny Church in Glasgow said they had total faith in Roberts as a man of probity and proven healing ability. She said: "Richard Roberts is not some wacky kind of preacher. I know when you watch some stuff on TV it can be a bit wacky but he is really sound.

"People who are seriously ill and are suffering from cancer should definitely come along."

How Roberts was driven out of his own college

ROBERTS is the son of Pentecostal preacher Oral Roberts, who founded the college that bears his name after claiming to have seen a vision of a "900ft Jesus" near Tulsa. He became the university's president in 1993.

In 2007 a number of senior academics resigned, accusing the president of lavish spending and "cooking the books" to conceal improper outgoings at a time when it was $50m in debt.

They claimed Roberts spent university funds on sports cars and redecorating his lavish campus quarters 11 times in 14 years, and deployed the university jet to take his daughter on holiday.

It was also alleged that Roberts' wife Lindsay awarded 13 scholarships to friends.

The embattled college head strongly maintained his innocence, and still does, but resigned in tears in front of TV cameras claiming God had told him to step down. A number of lawsuits taken against Roberts were settled out of court.